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.