He Loves Each One

Update: August 10, 2017

I’ve been thinking about Carol often this summer. I miss her. I think of her when I see my flower bed and my “pot farm” as she would call it. I think she looks down on my “pot farm” (plants in pots instead of a garden) and laughs. I think I think of her more because she didn’t get to meet my baby. I really hadn’t thought of it and now that I am I’m weeping.

She would have gotten such a kick out of her. Maybe she’s watching and getting a kick out of her now. Maybe she and Josiah are talking about the silly things she does and the amazing things she will do. I’m sure God has let them get a peek into the future.

It’s crazy. I don’t know how I would have made time for her this summer if she were still around. I certainly don’t want her to still be here in the pain and suffering she was for the years I knew her.

Yet I cry.

Original post: January 28, 2015

God loves each one.

It’s a truth I’ve been told. A truth I repeated and taught. Not one I always believe, especially for myself.

I saw this truth in a new light yesterday.
My neighbor Carol has become very dear to me over the past few years. It started with my husband plowing her driveway. He never charged her. This confused her.

“Why would you do that?”

He always said it was because he had a snowplow and she had a driveway that needed to be plowed. God loved her and so he loved her.

On one of these visits about four years ago she told him she had been diagnosed with stage 3-B breast cancer.

That’s where my story with Carol starts. I went to find out how I could help. We prayed. We helped her pack and winterize her house as she decided to go to Washington and do a special diet and other alternative treatments.

She came back to Alaska in the spring. Over the years my family and I helped with food preparations, cleaning, moving, and gardening. There were doctor visits and trips to the airport.

Carol lived a lifetime of adventures.

Mushing the Iditarod trail with a friend. Teaching English in China.  Always studying and learning. She and a friend were planning a summer long float trip on the Yukon river when she was diagnosed. I only got glimpses of her adventures, they were often overshadowed and forgotten by the battle to stay alive.

She had a wonderful sense of humor. Most days she made me laugh, all the way to the end.

She was full of paradox.

Carol was almost always cold yet one of her favorite memories and places was in the Alaskan interior with only her dog team at -40.

She didn’t want to be around people but she loved them, and as I recently learned was well-loved by many.

She had issues with everything in her life being someone else’s fault. She seemed to alienate people. She didn’t trust easily. She denied the existence of God.

She became so dear to me.

On many days of trying to help her – and her not allowing me – there was no reason for this love but the love of God Himself for Her. There were many days I didn’t want to go do another seemingly pointless task. God repeatedly reminded me I was serving Him, obeying Him so it didn’t matter if I thought it was pointless.

She went into hospice Thanksgiving weekend. God had been breaking down her isolation. The people serving and pouring into her were beginning to connect, to find out the others existed. Going into hospice really brought everyone together.

I was astounded to see the faithful believers God had placed in her life – for her whole life. I used to think, “How has she missed it all these years?”

Now I see something else.

God loved her all along.

I would have told you that was true. Now I see more clearly how it was true.

It took her weakened physical state for her to gain spiritual strength and healing. People come to see her, send her cards, and call. New friends have been made, many of whom share God’s love for her. She has come to know God’s love for herself. She has finally been able to forgive and let go of bitterness that she has carried for decades.

Carol dreamed of having a home. Through complicated details I won’t explain she started one this summer. When she went into hospice they moved her to a friend’s house. She wanted to get her house finished enough she could go home.

When she accepted Jesus’s forgiveness I realized God had a home for her. He hadn’t just started on it either. He knew she would be coming home.

I guess it is a living illustration of Romans 5:8. While Carol was denying His existence He was loving her. He was sharing with her the beauty of His creation. He was surrounding her with people who loved her with His love. People to love her and show her truth while she denied His existence for over 60 years.

I think it is His love that did not let her live in regret for wasted years. She is in heaven and knows only good and beauty. She can’t “what if?” or “if only”. She has no pain, no sorrow. She is at peace.

I choose peace.  I will celebrate.

Pictures for Carol

One summer day she was talking about her life, everything falling apart. I saw God holding out His hand catching every piece.  He was holding them to make something beautiful.

At an informal service for Carol a pastor shared the verses he read to Carol just before she died.

27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:

28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.

29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.

John 10:27-29

King James Version
by Public Domain

emphasis mine

Another picture I saw was of the beautiful aspen trees over her house being God singing over her. She enjoyed the breeze in them so but could never tell it was Him.

My son had this picture for her. He told her the message.

This is a picture I was given for you. You are in a black cloak. The black cloak is sin, unbelief, anything bad you have done and everything bad that has happened to you. The cloak blocks the beams of light, God’s love and forgiveness, from reaching your heart.
The man in white standing next to you is Jesus. He is waiting to take your cloak. Before He can take your cloak and give you His white robe of righteousness you have to ask Him to take it. He won’t ever force you to take it off. As soon as you are ready to take it off He will help you.
Removing the black cloak and putting on the white is submitting to Him without necessarily understanding it all.

She said, “Thank you for telling me but I don’t believe that.”

Now I wish I had drawn her accepting Jesus’s offer. The reality that happened the Sunday before Christmas – her finally giving Him her guilt and shame. His glory shining in and transforming her. Transformation she felt during her last three weeks.

Transformation that went beyond her. Sisters who hadn’t talked in years reconnected.  A neighbor was blessed to minister to Carol while her own sister suffered with cancer thousands of miles away, ministering to her heart where she had felt helpless.

I was so blessed to know Carol, to meet some of the people who loved her for years and for days, to love her myself.

God loves each one. Those who love Him and those who don’t.

My Life: December 2014

 Here we are the last day of 2014. Final post of the year.
I pray your year has brought you closer to God and family.

I love this time of year.  I love holidays and time with friends and family. I love reflecting on the blessings and lessons of the past year.  I also love dreaming and planning for the year ahead.

Looking around:

The trees are still up. Yes, trees. My daughter set up both small trees, the smaller of which ridiculously has three sets of lights on it.
Gifts have not found homes.20141231_094629
We expanded the living room, thus shrinking the dining room. Not sure when we’ll recover from that. Yes the love seat and the table are touching. Yes we need to use that side of the table.Shrunken Dining Room
The rest of the house is showing we have been in holiday mode and chores are not being done.
Time with family and friends has been especially precious.

Looking back:

A year of building,  working,  struggling, learning, growing
So many things to be thankful for, so many things to regret.

Preaching to myself. I am not my failures. I am a work in progress.
Preaching to myself. I am not my failures. I am a work in progress.
Lessons learned and lessons to continue walking out.

Favorite posts:

I share about losing a son and "seeing" him in heaven.I share about losing a son and “seeing” him in heaven.

Fire of Grace:

A prayer we prayed on our building site before we broke ground.
Fire of Grace: A prayer we prayed on our building site before we broke ground.

Looking ahead:

I love to set goals, make resolutions, daydream of ideals. I haven’t had time to do that. I haven’t had success in living them out. I haven’t even had success in being encouraged to keep trying. So I now try to focus on progress.
I sense God has a different strategy and I have to let go of the fact that it is not crystal clear for me to write-up in some idealistic way on New Year’s Eve.
I have a few plans for 2015.
My One Word for 2015 has to be Authority. God won’t let me get away from it.
I plan to use Dr. Caroline Leaf’s 21 day Detox plan to intentionally renew my mind.
I plan to keep writing My Life posts.
I have more to share on Ready. Set. RUN!
God is calling each one to be fully what He designed you to be. Get ready to run.
God is calling each one to be fully what He designed you to be. Get ready to run.

I’m stepping out to lead a women’s group at my church. I am looking forward to God using the amazing team of women I am working with to help me grow. That is one lesson I am learning and learning to walk- relationships are vital to my growth.

How is your house after Christmas?
How do you prepare for a new year?

Countdown to Christmas: Focus on Jesus- Are You Ready?

Here we are days before Christmas.
Are you ready?
Gifts may be bought and wrapped, or not.
Food may be planned and prepared, or not.
The to do list may be getting shorter, or longer.
image

Are you ready for Christmas?
Are you ready to celebrate your Savior’s birth?
Not only the birth, the life the death, the overcoming resurrection, and victorious reigning?

God with us.

The God humble enough to be a baby, caring enough to walk in our shoes, loving enough to die in our place, and holy enough to rise and reign forever.
If you’re ready I applaud you.
If you’re not ready please join me in getting ready.
Take the time to wonder.
Make time to receive His amazing love.
Make time as a family to recount the blessings of the last year.

Merry Christmas! Celebrate Jesus.

 

Countdown to Christmas: Focus on Jesus Preparing to Prepare

Preparing for Christmas can take on a life of its own. Some where in my past I became convinced that Christmas had to be “prefect”. Trouble is I wasn’t even sure what prefect was, I just knew I wasn’t, my home wasn’t, my children weren’t. So here’s this hoped for “prefect” season that does nothing but magnify my failings and I’m trying to sell my children the idea that Christmas is about Jesus.

Christmas 2012 snowI am very grateful God walked me through this when my children were young. I didn’t want to model Christmas being about stress and unattainable perfection on any level. I wanted to live that Christmas was about Jesus, not just say so. I will not say I have arrived. I go through the process I am going to lay out for you every year. Some years I do better than others. Some days I do better than others.

Here’s my process for preparing to prepare for Christmas.

Evaluate expectations: Are my expectations from God?
I create a great amount of stress for myself if I do not take the time to sort through what I am really expecting of Christmas. For me it’s a whole season, not a day. I am naturally idealistic. So I recognize my dreams and expectations and take them to God. What is doable this year? What is most important? Thankfully I can let many things go when we have this conversation. Time with Him and time with family are really all I want. Everything else is fluff. Fluff is okay as long as there is no stress attached.

Evaluate traditions. Does this bring God glory?

When I began having children I looked at every Christmas tradition through this lens. Does this give God glory? If I could not see a way it brought God glory I modified it or threw it out.
CIAJ slideThis is actually where my first book, Christmas Is about Jesus, was born. I wanted to do the advent calendar where there is a window to open each day. I wanted it to be more than counting down days until presents. Everywhere we went we were bombarded with things that have nothing to do with Jesus coming to bring us salvation. So I wrote the daily devotions to point us to Jesus each day and made ornaments so my children would have something to “open” each day. The ornaments also helped us talk about the devotion throughout the day. We usually hung them where we could see them from the table.
I am not saying fun activities like gingerbread houses or games are out. God loves families. He loves families enjoying each other and making memories. For me activities like pretending Santa was real were out.

Ask kids what makes Christmas special to them.

A few years ago while I was stressing over all the baking, decorating, making gifts, and whatever else was in my ideal Christmas that year God inspired me to ask the kids what made Christmas special to them. Their list was short and totally doable. It made letting my list go much easier. They wanted to look at Christmas lights, go to Gramma’s, and make gingerbread houses. Gifts at Gramma's
Now every year I ask after Thanksgiving and we schedule what’s most important to each of us. Anything else that happens is extra. Way less stress. Way more time for peace, the Prince of Peace.
What do you do to prepare to prepare for Christmas?

Countdown to Christmas: Focus on Jesus Week 2

Our first week of Countdown to Christmas: Focus on Jesus did not go as planned, or more accurately, as pictured in my head. I really neglected to plan.

We missed more devotions than we read.
We were far from having peace in our house the beginning of the week.
We spent 3 days focused on a new truck.
What I picture – what I long for, is quiet moments – hours, with the Lord in front of a beautiful tree and candle light. There it is easy to focus on Jesus.
I realized last night that with less than 3 weeks until Christmas we are not ready. AT ALL. No gifts. No plans. Almost no preparation. There has been no quiet contemplation in the peaceful setting I desire.
It has been better – though I didn’t realize it until this morning.
My husband plows snow for extra income. We don’t count on it but in the midst of our God Sized Project extra is good. He feels a strong sense of responsablity to his customers. They count on him. So when it snowed at the beginning of the week and the old faithful plowtruck barely limped through the plowing it was more than a little stressful. Our mechanic didn’t even want to hear the  truck had been on the road at all much less on a regular basis. Needless to say it is not worth fixing right now.
I share that because the search for a new truck brought the blessings and focus on Jesus that I had not planned.
The whole family together in a new level of transparency and connectedness prayed for God’s direction and provision.
I followed my husband in praying, declaring, and praising in a way we never have before. Since finding the truck we were blessed with His praise has not left our lips.
We were/are busy finding the truck, taking care of paperwork and getting it ready to plow but our focus is on Jesus. Amazed again and again at His goodness.
Blessings sometimes come wrapped in strange packaging. I am blessed with eyes to see the gift inside.
What unexpected packages have come your way?
Is there a way God can use them to turn your focus to Him and His promises?

Courage Is a Choice

Courage Is a Choice
Courage is a command; therefore a choice, not a feeling.

Courage is a command; therefore a choice, not a feeling.

Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God [is] with thee whithersoever thou goest. Joshua 1:9 KJV

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. – Phl 4:13 KJV

My Life August

God-Sized-Project-008-Week-13-&-14  Just the fact that this post contains almost all the blessing updates from the month gives you a good idea of my life this August.

Christian
More arguing and figuring than faith, I am sorry to say.

Much more letting go than I ever imagined I could or would have to do. Letting go of understanding, timing, expectations, desires, rights. Letting go means tears, lots of tears.

IMG_2236

Yesterday felt like something shifted. I saw this graphic by Intentional Living on Facebook. Saying, thinking and living from who I am instead of how I feel, feels wonderful. It is very freeing. I am sure I knew that, have been told that no less than a 1000 times but something actually shifted yesterday and I felt more free and encouraged than I have in months. If you are not already, or at the moment, you should try it.

I am living from who I amWife
This month its been more like general contractor and crew leader. The great thing is we like working together and look forward to doing it more. Most of our time together is focused on our shop, our God Sized Project. We work together on his days off. He makes sure I know what needs to be done and how to do it for the next week. The kids and I get as far as we can on it each week.

IMG_2288 IMG_2318Mom
This has been the crew leader. Most weeks this month, and half of last I think, the kids and I – especially the boys – have put in many, many hours on preparing for the concrete to go in the footings and now to get the entire floor ready for concrete. We are getting closer and so is winter. We will finish leveling the pad with sand today. Then we need to lay vapor barrier, insulate, lay heating tubes, and lay rebar. Then we will be ready for the final pour of concrete! I never would have imagined it taking us all summer to get this far. More letting go.

IMG_2324This is what the kids and I did to get the footings ready for concrete.imageIMG_2238 IMG_2246 IMG_2253 IMG_2285 IMG_2296 IMG_2323 IMG_2324image

This is the list we are currently working on.

I’ve been forcing myself to make plans for school, too. The plans are now in order, other than when I am going to make time to actually have them do their school work. I guess the boys are doing school now. They can log all their work for a construction class.

Author
Not really anything to say here. I miss writing. I look forward to things slowing down and making time for it again. I’m not sure how far out I am looking though. We are hoping to get the building closed in so the weather won’t keep us from working inside through the winter. I have no idea how long that will take.

Blessings Week 13
Aug 3 – 9

  • Hard working boys
  • family foundation
  • My almost 80 year old Dad being willing and able to help shovel

IMG_2335Blessings Week 14
Aug 10 – 16

  • concrete
  • pump truck
  • concrete trucks
  • fair weather
  • Use of generator and stinger
  • Dump truck

Blessings Week 15
Aug 17 – 23

  • Sand spread – 20+ yards the boys have shoveled every grain of it. My girl and I have spread most of it.
  • Plumber willing to design the heating system, get us parts at cost and teach us what to do and just at the right time!
  • Dump truckIMG_2334

My Life July 2014

Trust me. Learn to really trust me. There are harder things ahead. You are building more than a building foundation. I am building in you a foundation, immovable in me.

Not really the warm fuzzy message I was hoping for when I asked God what He wanted to tell me yesterday, but most certainly what He had to say.

image

Christian
Walking out the lessons I see in scripture and life around me is hard. I have always thought I was patient. Turns out I am not so patient. True patience is waiting in faith, that strong assurance that what God has promised He will bring to pass. Deep in my soul, my spirit for sure I have that confidence. Maybe it is just my flesh and my emotions that are  not patient.

We are in week 11 of our God sized project and have not poured concrete yet. My emotions do not always handle that well, my reasoning either. I do truly believe waiting is grace so I will continue.

I love the song Oceans by Hillsong. To have the faith to go deeper I must actually go deeper. To walk upon the waves there must be waves. To have faith and courage to slay giants there must be giants to slay.

Wife
July 30 is out 20th anniversary. I don’t always feel old enough to have been married for 20 years. In other ways I can hardly remember what life was like 20 years ago. Just the two of us, taking off for the weekend on the spur of the moment. I have no idea what we did with our evenings and weekends.

We have grown as individuals and as a couple over these 20 years. I am SO blessed to have a man who lives unconditional love and sacrifice day in and day out. He’s not perfect, neither am I. He is perfect for me. I would have no chance of being who I am today without my husband and his faithful love for me. We so love being together, love being married. We decided to live to at least our 100th anniversary.

Mother
I really struggle with this part. I am good at working, especially on projects. They can easily consume me to the point of losing track of the rest of my life. Trying to make the best use of every moment we can work on our building plus take care of the garden, work to get fresh food for the winter, take care of the yard, and help my neighbor I really struggle to make time for fun.

I don’t feel I do conection well in the first place so I really am not feeling I am connecting with my children lately. I know it’s a season, but it’s a longer season than I was anticipating, which doesn’t make any sense, but it’s true. I need wisdom on what to fit in and how to make relationships priority over work getting done.

Author
I have many thoughts, posts, and even a book or two rolling through my head. However I have not craved out the time to get many of them out of my head. I think it maybe should be a tradition for me to post some favorite old posts or something in July. This isn’t the first year I’ve struggled to get posts done in July.