The Crash

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The crash was so loud that both our dogs went racing from the room to the farthest corner of the house. Earlier that day my husband, Mike, and I had gone to a nearby Christmas tree farm and cut down our tree. In the evening after the lights were on, we were ready to decorate. Our son, Dan, joined in the fun, as we reminisced over 38 years of tree ornaments. Each ornament is a memory of a vacation, a milestone, a childhood craft session, and even funny things like my daughter Amy’s and my love of ketchup. Yes, we actually have a ketchup bottle ornament, courtesy of the Heinz History Center gift shop in Pittsburgh, PA.

Some of us love ketchup!

After we finished carefully placing the last ornaments, all three of us stood back, admiring our beautiful Christmas tree. As I placed the tree skirt around the trunk, the tree toppled over, with ornaments flying and lights tangling. In all our years of Christmas trees, this had never happened. After the astonishment wore off, we assessed the damage. Amazingly, none of the ornaments were broken.

As we looked at the tree stand, it suddenly dawned on Mike that its supports were not extended. In other words, the foundation wasn’t secure. That explained it all. Thankfully, this was an easy fix, and now our tree is once again upright, with lights and memories shining out brightly.

Our tree stands again!

All this reminded me how important our foundation is. Jesus told a story about a wise man who built his house on the rock, while a foolish man built his house on the sand. Storms came and hit both houses, but only one stood firm. What are you building your life on? Storms will come, but you can withstand them if you have a proper foundation. Let Jesus be your foundation, and you won’t topple over.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” Romans 1:16

Merry Christmas!

There All Along

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We made it to the middle and interrupted our mission for a soft pretzel break at the snack bar. My husband, Mike, also picked up souvenir pens for our granddaughters, Senna and Adina. We were having a blast making our way through the corn maze at Cherry Crest Adventure Farm https://www.cherrycrestfarm.com/. What a fun and fantastic set up.

When we finished our delicious pretzels, we picked up the trail again. Adina, Senna, Mike, and I were taking turns deciding which way to go. After a few dead ends and some turn arounds, we ended up going in a circle. We stopped, got our bearings and tried again. This time we made it to the exit and triumphantly crossed the bridge and walked out of the maze.

A little later, Senna made a surprising discovery. Within the souvenir pens, there was a map of the maze, hidden there all along! There was a silver bar on the side of the pen that pulled the rolled-up map out for viewing. We laughed so hard! There we were, going around in circles, when the way out was right there in our hands.

Do you know that there is a way out in your hands, too? The way has already been made for each of us to be reconciled to God. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) This is the way out, and it’s free. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) I truly hope you know this and put your trust in Jesus. He will keep you from going in circles.

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’” John 14:6

The way out is asking Jesus in.

Focus on the Can

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He couldn’t brush his own teeth. His hand was too weak to even grasp the toothbrush. However, he could hold it with my help. He could brush his teeth with my hand holding his and gently helping lift it to his mouth and helping with the brushing motion.

Have I mentioned that I’m a nurse? This patient of mine was deconditioned from being sick for several weeks. So, we made a plan together. I helped him do passive range of motion exercises. This basically means lifting and bending arms and knees and getting the body moving.

By the end of my 12-hour shift, he was showing off to his family, because he was able to lift his arms on his own! This is why I say focus on the can. There may be much that you cannot do, but there are always things that you can. Do what you can. Then do the next thing you can. Before you know it, you may be doing what you couldn’t!

“Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.” Psalm 139:16

Focus on the can.

Here are some pics of our camping adventure with our sweet granddaughters, Senna and Adina, who always have a can do attitude!

Peas Aren’t a Problem Anymore

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It was split wide open, and at first glance it looked rather destroyed. However, the pea seed we planted was actually growing! It was being transformed from a hard, tiny object into a living, thriving sprout. If you happened to read my blog last June, you would understand that this is a major feat.

This year my granddaughters are a year older and wiser. When they helped plant our garden, we talked about the seeds and how deep they should be planted and how far apart. They carefully dug little holes and placed each seed in its place. Then came the watering, watching, and waiting. You should have seen my excitement when instead of plain brown dirt, I saw green shooting up through the soil. This miracle always astonishes me.

There is a Bible verse that says, “I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” (Psalm 119:32 NIV) Another version puts it like this: “I will run the course of Your commandments, for You shall enlarge my heart.” (NKJV) We are fortunate to actually have written instructions for life from the Maker of life! The Bible tells the story of His incredible love and care us. Following His ways leads to growth, freedom, and so much more. Rather like my seeds, it splits us wide open, so we can grow and thrive the way we were intended.

“Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law.” Psalm 119:18

Following God’s ways leads to flourishing.

Trust Your Training

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It was a simple text message that shaped the next days and months of our lives. I was walking our pups at the park with my husband, Mike, when our daughter, Amy, sent me a message. She asked if I would run a half marathon with her. I looked at Mike and then answered, “sure!”. I don’t recall if I realized that it was a 13.1-mile race I had just agreed to.

My first “long run” was 3 miles, and I wondered how I would make it that far. However, by the end of training, 3 miles was a short run. We each had a specific plan, and we encouraged each other along the way. Not only did we run, we also did strength training, cross training, and even some swimming to build up our strength and endurance.

Amy ended up training to run a full marathon, 26.2 miles. I stuck with the half marathon. It took hard work and consistency, definitely consistency. One time, when wondering if I would be prepared, I heard the phrase, “Trust your training”. After over 12 weeks of training, we were ready.

On the big day, we both felt prepared and excited. Our family came along and cheered us on, which was a huge boost. My longest training run was 10 miles and now I was going for 13.1. Amy was doing double that distance! That’s when the phrase “trust your training” came back to mind. We had both done the work to get ready, now all that was left was to run.

I am very happy to say that we did it! Amy continues to inspire me. She is a marathoner! I am so very glad she sent that text message. We continue to train for other shorter races, and perhaps one day will even tackle a marathon or a half again! What are you training for? With hard work and consistency, you will get there.

“For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.” 1 Timothy 4:8

Trust your training.

Amy finishing her marathon with our family cheering her on.

The Ants’ Rest Day

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Every day he carefully stepped over the tiny parade. Countless leaf-cutter ants marched past the front of his lodge on their mission. My husband, Mike was in Costa Rica and saw this continuous line of ants every day until Sunday. That day he stepped out the door, looking to avoid stepping on the ants, but there were none. It seems the ants took a rest day.

I’m in the final week of training to run a half marathon with my daughter, Amy. She’s training for a full marathon! Part of training includes taking rest days. These are very important, because our bodies need time to refresh and replenish. It’s not good or healthy to work constantly or to always be on the go. So, I challenge you to stop. Be still. Try doing nothing for a time. Not even looking at your phone or watching TV. Simply rest.

On Monday, Mike again had to watch his step, as the ants were back on their march, carrying leaves back to their home. After a rest day, both Amy and I also pick up our training, going further and further distances on our runs. The balance of consistent training and rest is preparing us to accomplish our goals. What goals are you training and resting towards?

“Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates.” Exodus 20:9-10

Take a break.

Move the Trash Can

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A very good friend asked me what I would do if there was a trash can next to my chair, and every time I got up, I banged my knees against it. I quickly answered that I would move the trash can, of course. We were talking about how some people seem to miss the obvious.

I was feeling pretty good about myself, honestly, but then I realized there are trash cans in my own life that I keep bumping into. For example, recently I was planning to cook a meal for my dad. I tried and tried and tried to figure out how to make the timing work. Finally, I accepted that it was simply impossible to pull together on the planned day, so we got takeout instead.  Looking back, I wonder why it took me so long to realize the logical solution.

This made me stop and examine more things and move more trash cans, so to speak. Part of it for me is not doing some things to make room for doing other things, if that makes sense. What trash cans do you need to move in your life?

Mike with our two sweet granddaughters. He moved himself to sit between them. (He’s a smart guy!)

“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord upholds him with His hand.” Psalm 37:23-24

Let the Lord order your steps, and He will show you what trash cans to move.

Boundaries and Bridges

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He emphatically stated the importance of quickly removing the wet clothes from the field. Furthermore, he insisted that others could not use their property for drying clothes or any other reason. After washing their clothes, the missionary’s neighbors had laid them out on the mission station’s field to dry. The missionary’s response was the exact opposite of what I expected.

I had seen firsthand how these missionaries had built bridges to reach out and help people. For example, they offered free English classes, had outreach programs to a local orphanage, and simply cultivated friendships, all to share God’s love and the gospel. So why the fuss over someone laying out a few wet clothes to dry?

What I learned is that in this area, maintaining boundaries is crucial. If you allow someone to use your land for any purpose, that land becomes the property of the one using it after a certain amount of time. In other words, the missionaries had to carefully maintain their boundaries so they would continue to have a place there. If they did not hold the lines of their property, eventually it would no longer be theirs.

What a lesson for all of us! Proper boundaries help us thrive and enable us to continue to reach out to others. This may simply mean carving out some time for yourself. I’ve been doing this with exercise, as I aim to get more physically fit. I find that it definitely takes practice, but it does get easier and is well worth it. Hopefully the exercise will get easier, too! If you’d like to explore this subject further, a great resource is a book appropriately called Boundaries, by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. What boundaries do you need to set?  

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverb 4:23

Setting boundaries can help you build bridges.

Keeping the Good In

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There in front of us was a huge fence, about 10 feet tall and completely blocking the trail. Mike and I were taken aback. We were many hours into our hike, and it was too late to return the way we came.  We considered simply climbing over the fence to stay on the trail, but it was so overgrown inside this unexpected enclosure that we couldn’t even discern where the trail went.

It was a beautiful summer day, and we had thoroughly enjoyed hiking through the mountains, stopping for a picnic lunch, and leisurely taking our time. Now it seemed we would have to pick up the pace before darkness fell. So, we looked at our map, followed along outside the fence, then figured out what direction to take to a creek which would lead us back to our truck. We made it safely back with time to jump in the creek, cool off, and laugh about our unexpected adventure together.

Later, we stopped and asked a park ranger about the surprise fenced-off area. She explained that it was an out closure, used to keep animals out while plants and trees are rebuilding. It protects the growing area. It seems we need out closures in our lives at times, also.

The trouble can come when the fence is left up too long, and the growth becomes a wild overgrowth of weeds and thorns. Why am I thinking about all this now? I want to see smiles, handshakes, and hugs return. Smiles are contagious, and I’m convinced that we need them. I am concerned that we are creating a culture of fear – fear of each other. As someone wisely said to me recently, we should be allowed to hold hands. May I suggest keeping the fear out and letting the love in? As for me, that is how I want to live.

“Let all that you do be done with love.” 1 Corinthians 16:14

Keep the fear out, and let the love in.

Mike and I are thrilled that we get to enjoy hiking with our two sweet granddaughters now. Don’t worry, we always have a map and survival gear with us.

How to Grow

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It surprised me to see it had not changed at all. Nothing seemed to be happening. I gave my dad an amaryllis flower, which usually grows at an astonishing rate. I had one that had already grown several inches. His seemed to be stuck. Then I realized the location of his flower. It was sitting on a windowsill where bright sunlight hit it every day.

Surprisingly, this flower requires indirect light, so we moved it to a better location. It still remains to be seen if it will do better and bloom. This reminded me how important instructions are for growth. The cool thing about life is that God gave us an instruction book. The Bible tells us everything we need to know to live a joyful, purpose-filled, satisfying life, if we choose to do what He says. The choices we make are what make us.

My amaryllis

Some things may seem backwards, like putting a flower out of reach of direct sunlight, but we can trust that God knows what He’s doing. For example, He tells us to forgive others. Too often, I’d rather seek revenge. However, I’ve found that forgiving actually leads to freedom and allows love to occupy my heart, instead of hate. That’s just one example of how following God leads to the best life. Whose instructions will you follow?

“Teach me good judgement and knowledge, for I believe Your commandments.” Psalm 119:66

The choices we make are what make us.

Mike with our growing granddaughters.