Our 21st Honeymoon: A Moonrise, A Sunset, and a Sunrise

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Chris and I celebrated our 21st anniversary on August 3rd.  It is always so hot in August, and we are not fans of heat and humidity.  Why did we pick August to get married, we ask ourselves?  Last year we celebrated our 20th on the hottest day of the entire year!  This year we decided to wait until October.  God provided a beautiful beach getaway at Ocean City, Maryland, and it was lovely!!

I have only been to the beach a handful of times in my life.  Florida when I was a preschooler.  Ocean City, New Jersey when I was in Elementary School.  The beautiful white sand beaches of Belize after I graduated from High School.  Brigantine Island for our honey moon.  Duck, North Carolina with the family 6 years ago.  This time I think I really understood why people return again and again.

First we decided to walk on the beach and then the boardwalk to see what we could see.  We ended up walking 68 blocks that day and night, because we didn’t know much about Ocean City.

Finally we found a beautiful restaurant with great Italian food.  We could sit outside and watch the full moon rise over the ocean.  My first moon rise over the ocean!

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The next day we decided to drive rather than walk.  We drove to the very end of the board walk which was the most exciting part.

 

We saw lots of little shops.  We saw hundreds of fancy cars in a car show.  Chris got some Boardwalk fries and frozen custard.  We went to the Life Saving Station Museum.  It was amazing to learn about the men who would patrol the beaches at night, looking for ships in distress.  The accounts of rescues touched me deeply.  The men would risk their own lives, work for hours in freezing temperatures and horrible weather, and think of nothing else except the person they were trying to save.

“That is like you, Jesus.” I prayed. “Give me your heart for your people in distress.  But how do I save them if they don’t even know that they are dying?”

You don’t have to do my job.  You don’t have to save them, heal them, know everything about them, or make everything right for them.  Just love them and obey Me,” I heard Him answer.

Later we ate a delicious meal on our balcony overlooking the bay.  Then we walked on the bay as the sun began to set.

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It was my first sunset on the bay…

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Night falls.

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The next morning we woke up early and walked to the beach one last time.  The sun was about to rise.

I was surprised by all the other people gathered, watching the horizon.

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There is the first bit of sun peeking over the ocean!  My first sunrise on the beach.  We watched as it rose quickly into the sky.

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We shared the beach with the trucks and the morning fishermen.

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And a woman doing acrobatics.

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And two pelicans.

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I could feel His presence in the wind that carried the birds.  As we walked along the edge of the water, I could hear God’s voice in the waves.  They were unrelenting and drowning out all other sounds.  I can see why people love it here.  Away from the rest of the world.  Encounters with God come loud and clear.

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I am struck by how God reveals himself in His creation.  He is like the ocean.  Unpredictable.  Just when you think you have figured out where to walk to just get your feet wet, a large wave comes and gives you more seawater than you had bargained for. Uncontrollable.  The waves push and pull and can’t be stopped.

Unimaginably beautiful.

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Have Patience!

 

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I love shopping at Costco! It is usually a lovely experience…usually…

At first I was nervous about paying for a Costco membership, because I didn’t think we would get our money’s worth out of it.  Now I shop there twice a month.  It really has become inconvenient to NOT buy in bulk.

Frequently I shop with some of the children with me.  This particular Saturday morning Chris was able to come along too.  What a treat!  We had a delightful time trying all the samples, browsing the aisles, and filling our cart to overflowing.  We finally paid and pushed our heavy load out to the exit.  We found the place packed with shoppers with their carts, watching the torrential downpour happening just outside the large open doors.  We tried to maneuver our cart close enough to the exit to see what was actually happening outside.

A perfect summer storm!  Sheets of rain pelted down, unrelenting.  No one was willing to go out into it, yet new shoppers with full carts kept pushing towards the doors from the checkout lines.  A few people rushed in from the parking lot, wanting to start their shopping, only to find an almost impenetrable wall of people just inside.  With grumpy, disgruntled faces they tried to wiggle their way out of the rain.  I felt very in the way.

Chris decided that he would make a dash for it.  He was going to get the van and pull up to the entrance.  A good start to a plan.  Without discussing the details any further, he plunged out into the rain with his phone in his pocket.

I waited and waited with two very antsy boys and an ever increasing mob of people.  We were lined up by the door, but no one was going out.  Where was Chris?  I couldn’t see him through the rain.

“Do you have the big van out there?” a nice woman asked.  “I see it back there behind my daughter.”

I inched my head around the corner and saw our van sitting behind a rather long line of vehicles.  Yet no one was moving, no one was loading up their groceries.

“What is happening?” I thought?  “Should I wait for Chris to get to the entrance?  But no one is moving.  Is he waiting for me to come out to him?  He is always accusing me of being slow.  Maybe he is wondering where I am.”

Cooper and Chai were urging me to go out to the van.

“Come on, mom! Let’s go!!!”  they kept saying.

After several more annoyed looks from incoming shoppers, I decided to risk it.  It could rain like this for the rest of the day, and we couldn’t stay here forever.

“OK guys, we are going to run as fast as we can to Daddy.  Stay with me!  Ready?”  I said.  I was no wimp!  What is a little rain?

As soon as we left the building I realized what a mistake I had made!  The “little rain” soaked us to the bone in one millisecond.  It was too late to go back inside so I plowed on, pushing my load up the sidewalk which had been transformed into a river.  The water covered my shoes and was soaking my pants.

Through the sheets of water pelting me, I caught a glimpse of Chris’ face in the front seat of the van.  The van that was so close yet so…far…away.  He was shaking his head with a look of bewilderment that said, “What in the world are you doing, woman?!”

I knew that I had made a very bad decision, yet I had to keep going.

“Boys, help me push!” I yelled.

They tried to help until we came to the place where a drain pipe exited the side of the building.  Water from the roof was shooting out of the pipe like a fire hose.  The boys stopped moving forward and began to play in the water!

“This is the life!”  I heard Cooper say happily as I was still struggling to get our very soggy groceries upriver to the van.  I finally get there and Chris jumped out.

“What are you doing?”  He yelled with a crazy kind of laugh and immediately started loading groceries in the back.  The boys began to help, although it pained them to leave their fun.  We all threw ourselves into the van in a matter of minutes, dripping and soaking the seats.

“Cutie, I wanted you to wait for me.  I could see on the radar that this storm is about to pass, but I couldn’t call you because you left your phone at home.”

I was trying my best not to sink into a disgusted, self-loathing depression for all the groceries that I had just ruined.  I was thinking about all of us having to change all our clothes – more laundry! Arghh!  I was thinking about having to dry out the van.  I was thinking about my sopping wet hair matted to my head.  When it finally dried, the humidity was going to make it poof into a frizzy mess.

The words of Bishop Joseph Garlington came to my mind.

“If it’s funny later, it’s funny now,” Chris said as though he was reading my mind!  I was trying to see the humor in it, but I was just feeling foolish and oh so very wet!

Chris began to maneuver the van out of the parking lot.  Before we even turned out onto the street, the clouds cleared.  The sun came out and painted the most beautiful pinks onto the now blue sky.

“See, if you would have just waited a few more minutes!”  the sun seemed to say, as if to mock me!

What have I learned from this unfortunate event?  Clear communication is very important.  Discuss a plan thoroughly and understand what the other person is thinking.  If you are unable to obtain the needed clarification…simply wait!  Have patience!  Wait on the Lord and listen to His wisdom.  His radar is perfect and He knows exactly when those storms are going to clear.

I have gleaned a few more pearls of wisdom:

Don’t take advice from impatient pre-teen boys.

Don’t worry about the rude looks of other people or what they might be thinking.

Almost all of Costco’s products are wrapped in plastic so you don’t have to worry about a little rain.

Even a wrong choice is not the end of the world and can make a pretty good story.

 

Family History is Full of Blessings!

I have been taking a journey through the annals of time, through photocopies and photographs hidden in dusty filing cabinets, almost forgotten.  I have delved into old family papers to try and answer the questions: Where did I come from?  Who were my ancestors?  Who am I?  I have just scratched the surface, but I found some pretty great stuff!

My Mother’s Family

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My mother’s father (Harold Gisselman) was born to Erik and Anna Gisselman in Iowa after they immigrated from Sweden.  They later settled in Wisconsin.  I wrote about Harold in “Will I See My Papa Again?”  Harold was such a wonderful story teller and I wish he was still here to tell me all about his wonderful family and what his parents remembered about their lives in Sweden.

My mother’s mother’s side of the family holds a rare treasure called “Shilling Genealogy and History” by Anna Schilling Wichman.  She tells the story of her grandparents, Johann and Justina Schilling.  Johann was born in Brandenburg, Germany.  I was very excited to learn that fact since that is my husband’s family name and now my name as well!   He was a wine maker and barrel maker. That fact also excited me since we have a son named “Cooper” which means “barrel maker!”

They immigrated to Wisconsin in 1858 where he became a farmer.  When wheat raising declined, “With the help of his son, Frank, driving teams hitched to sleighs loaded with the family belongings, they came north through the state which at that time was almost unbroken wilderness, with only a few rough roads blazed through the jack pine and scrub oak.”

Johann purchased an 80 acre tract of land in the vast forests of Marathon County and built a farm that was sold to his son, Frank in 1894 for $1.00.  Frank Shilling was described by the author (who was also his daughter) as, “Always an industrious farmer and always a humble, faithful Christian.”  His wife, Anna, was “one of the sweetest, noblest women whose life has ever brightened this earth.”

This lovely couple had 8 children, one of whom was my great-grandmother Amelia.  Amelia was, “an industrious woman, strong in character, had an unwavering trust in God, which was her strength and shield, and enabled her to meet the adversities of life with calmness and fortitude.”  She became Amelia Seipp and had two children, the firstborn being my grandmother LaVera, “a woman of grace and dignity.”  I wrote about LeVera in “Happy 100th Birthday Grammy!”  LaVera married Harold Gisselman and had one child, Dana.  Dana married George Beyer and had two children.  That is me and my brother!

I am very thankful to know of my trailblazing, hardworking, God-fearing ancestors from Sweden and Germany who settled in Wisconsin.

My Father’s Family

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My father’s side of the family is more of a mystery to me.  My father was a historian and a writer, but he never compiled a history of his own family. How I wish that I could talk with Dad again about all that he knew of his past.  How I wish that I had more interesting questions to ask of his parents (Leonard and Edna Beyer) back when they were alive, more important than, “Where are Dad’s old Lincoln Logs?” or  “Can I watch TV now?”

I have to piece together their lives with the papers and photographs that my dad had saved.  A pile of matted photos, faded and yellowed with age, taken by Leonard Beyer tell me that he was an amazing photographer.  His photos of plants, animals, and landscapes were taken in Utah, Montana, Wyoming, England and Italy.  My daughter Areli has inherited his love of both traveling and photography (and his talent as well)!

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Leonard’s father was Andrew Jackson Beyer, who I know nothing about except that he perhaps owned an ice cream shop and possibly served as a judge.

His mother was Virginia Keyser.  I have extensive paperwork on the Keyser family, generated when they held a Bicentennial Family Reunion.  It was Dirck Keyser of Amsterdam, a prominent dealer of silk goods, who first immigrated to what is now Pennsylvania in 1688.  He responded to an invitation from William Penn because he was, “desiring to worship God in all freedom.”

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The Keyser family was quite proud of their earliest known predecessor, Leonhard Keyser of Bavaria.  He broke from the Catholic Church, of which he had been a priest, to become an Anabaptist.  The Reunion states that “he put aside the mystery and absurdity of the Latin tongue, and went among the people talking to them in their own language…what they should do to be saved.”

An account of his martyrdom was recorded in Martyrs Mirrors from two separate but very similar reports. “…in the year 1525, and forthwith continued his ministry with great power and zeal, undaunted by all the tyranny which arose over the believers, in the way of drowning, burning and putting to death.  Acts 9:20 In the second year of his ministry, Leonhard Keyser was apprehended at Scharding, in Bavaria, and condemned by the bishop of Passau…to be burned…When he came out into the field, and was approaching the fire, he, bound, as he was, leaned down at the side of the cart, and plucked a flower with his hand, saying to the judge, who rode on horseback alongside of the cart: ‘Lord judge, here I pluck a flower; if you can burn this flower and me, you have justly condemned me; but, on the other hand, if you cannot burn me and this flower in my hand, consider what you have done and repent.’  Thereupon the judge and the three executioners threw an extraordinary quantity of wood into the fire, in order to burn him immediately to ashes by the great fire.  But when the wood was entirely burned up, his body was taken from the fire uninjured.  Then the three executioners and their assistants built another great fire of wood, which when it was consumed, his body still remained uninjured…and the flower in his hand, not withered, or burnt in the least, the executioners then cut his body into pieces, which they threw into a new fire.  When the wood was burned up, the pieces lay unconsumed in the fire.  Finally they took the pieces and threw them into the river Inn.”

I cannot even comprehend what a legacy of devotion to God and courage I have inherited from Leonhard!

My father’s mother, Edna Specht Beyer, I also know very little about.  A few stories written by Edna give a peek into their lives.  “Something Very Personal” was an article about how they met and married.  “My Grandfather’s Place” was written about her paternal Grandparents who came from Germany.  Something wonderful happened to me as I read my grandmothers recollections.  Previously I had only ever seen her as a very proper, old woman.  As I read her writing, I realized that she wasn’t always old.  She was actually once a young woman very much like me, with a love for reading, writing, and teaching. The way she viewed her grandparents and their home was very similar to how I had always seen her and her home.  In fact, I had written sentiments so similar to her own, years prior in my article, “The Term is Over.”   She describes her grandparent’s house as a special place where nothing ever changed.  Her grandparents’ yards was like a magical fairy land to her as a child.

Edna and I also shared the same sorrow when we returned years later to see the place very much changed by new ownership and the wonder stripped to the barren look of any, common subdivision.  I feel so much closer to Grandmother Beyer now and want to know more about her heritage.  She actually felt that same way about her grandparents.

In fact she wrote, “It seems strange to me now that I remember Grandfather’s place so well but know so little about my grandparents.  How I would love to visit them again and get them to talk of their childhood in Europe, of their parents’ decision to come to America, of the long trip over in a sailing vessel, of the hard years in a new country… But of important things about their lives, I know very little except that they had always been honest, hardworking, God-fearing.”

It is a shame that neither Edna nor I thought to ask the really interesting questions while our grandparents were still alive.  Yet God holds all our past in His hands, and will reveal what is important in His good time.

It is also true that written accounts usually highlight the good and minimize the bad.  Exodus 20: 5b-6 (NLT) says, “I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands.”  We have all observed how the bad decisions and weaknesses of the grandparents and parents have a negative impact on the physical, emotional, and spiritual health of the children.  We all have those negative influences in our families. Yet Jesus died to set us free from every curse!  His blood brings healing from every destructive thing in our family lines.

God is such a loving Father that His blessings extend down family lines, not just for three or four generations, but for a THOUSAND GENERATIONS!

I have been asking for all those blessings to fall on my generation, on my children, and on my grandchildren.  I think God loves those kind of prayers, because He carefully chose the specific details of my lineage, and He would delight if I lived in the fullness of all that He had placed there!  I can also feel His joy as I discover those blessings, one by one.  May my children also experience that joy as they read my writing, years from now, when they remember all that they wished they had asked me.

God Encounters ~ Part Three; Maleficent offers a message of Hope!

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After going through a season of loss, it is hard to allow yourself to dream again.  There is something beautiful and freeing about surrender.  Lay all my dreams down and cling to God alone?  Sure, I can do that.

But what happens when I feel dreams stirring in my heart again?  Old dreams.  New dreams.  Forgotten dreams.

It should thrill me and fill my heart with excitement…but instead, I feel fear.  The fear of being disappointed again.  The fear of being wrong, of being foolish, of going around that same painful circle again.

God sent me a message that gave me permission to dream again.  And he sent it through a famous Disney villain – Maleficent!

If you haven’t seen the new live action movie, Maleficent, you might want to watch it before reading this article (I don’t want to ruin any surprises for you).  I never had any interest in seeing this movie.  I hate Disney villains!  They are so scary!  I don’t let my small children watch them.  Yet when the movie Maleficent came on the TV, I was drawn in.  Maleficent was a young girl with piercing eyes.

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She was a powerful fairy.  In fact, after the death of her parents, it fell to her to protect the fairy kingdom of the Moors.  She didn’t look at all like a fairy with great horns growing out of her head and massive, dark wings.  Yet she was wise and good.

I was captivated when I watched her flying with her strong wings,  joyous and free, shaping the clouds with the force of her flight.  I wished to do the same!  My recent obsession with eagles that I wrote about in “God Encounters ~ Part Two”, fueled the desire that I could enjoy that same freedom that Maleficent had.

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She trusted a young boy even though humans were usually enemies of her kingdom.  She and the human fell in love, and on her 16th birthday, the boy gave her, “true love’s kiss.”  Her trust was rewarded by abandonment and an empty heart.  Soon the boy forgot about her in his ambition to become King.

Years passed.  That boy had become a man and returned to Maleficent with kind words.  She forgave him and let him into her heart again, only to be betrayed. The man had intended all along to kill her, for whoever killed Maleficent, the great protector of the Moors, would be given the human kingdom that wanted to conquer it.  This man couldn’t bring himself to kill the dark and beautiful creature he had once loved.  So instead he drugged her and cut off her wings, thinking that this would be all the proof that was needed.

Normally I am not that deeply impacted by a Disney fairy tale, but this time I truly grieved for Maleficent.  To see her painfully crippled by the one that she loved hit close to home.  I could feel her pain.  What a tragedy for her to be earthbound when she was created to fly!  The sorrow and suffering turned into bitterness in Maleficent’s heart, and she cursed the daughter of her betrayer, Aurora.

Aurora was so sweet, so happy, so innocent, and so defenseless that Maleficent began to love the child despite herself.  She became Aurora’s sustainer and defender, her “fairy Godmother.”  As I watched Maleficent’s heart turn from unforgiveness to love, I still felt so sad.  Sad to see her only a shell of what she once was.  Yet that happens to many of us in this life.  I comforted myself with the thought that even if our physical bodies are broken and our circumstances are prison-like, we can still be free on the inside.  Our spirits can still soar above the clouds in God’s presence.  Still, we long to see restoration with our physical eyes.

Maleficent tried to renounce the curse she had put on Aurora, but she could not.  When Aurora turned 16 and fell into the death sleep, Maleficent showed no concern for her own life when she brought a prince into the castle to give Aurora “true love’s kiss” and break the spell.  It didn’t work!  Maleficent was heartbroken, coming face to face to with the fear that has always haunted her – there was no such thing as true love.  She promised to always protect the sleeping girl.  When Maleficent stooped to kiss the one she truly loved with a selfless devotion, the spell was broken!  Aurora was awakened!

The king, now a tortured and crazy man, did not even notice that his daughter was well again, so intent was he on killing Maleficent.  Aurora ran from the battle and came upon Maleficent’s wings, locked in a glass case.  They were still alive and flapping!  This was something I never expected!  Cut off a body part and it surely dies.  In the years that had passed, they would have decayed and been long gone…yet here they were, as strong and true as ever.

Aurora shattered the case and the powerful wings were reunited with their owner, carrying her above the battle.  Maleficent’s true identity had been restored, and it was a wonder to behold.  This was a miracle!  I was rejoicing!  This is the type of miracle that only happens in fairy tales…or is it?

Could this just be a message from God to get my attention, to lead me to the real miracle of the restoration of all things found in Is 35 and again in Is 65 all throughout the Bible?  This will really happen in all people and to the entire earth…someday.

But what about right now, inside of me?

Could it be that God is restoring my true identity – the parts of me that were stolen or crippled?  My true self, my purpose and all of the freedom and thrill and excitement that comes along with it?  Could God be storing up all of the dreams I ever had, all the dreams He ever had for me?

-before they got trampled and crushed by life.

-before I experienced betrayal and pain.

-before I hear the words “You can’t,” “You shouldn’t,” “You Never Will!”

-before I morphed into a shell of what I was created to be, a wingless eagle living in the dirt.

Could those wings of mine be alive and viable somewhere?

Perhaps I WILL feel the wind rushing around me!

Perhaps I will rise above the earth again.

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Perhaps I will see the miracles I once expected.

Perhaps I will be whole and strong.

Perhaps I really will be a fearless one!

Perhaps I  was born to fly!

And perhaps you were too…

 

 

 

God Encounters ~ Part Two: The Sky and the Ocean

It has been a difficult season for me, being sandwiched between the needs of my children and my mom.  I feel so busy, so responsible, and so drained that it is almost suffocating.

Yet, all this is pushing me deeper into God.  I am asking for strength and for wisdom.  I am asking for His love to flow through me when I am empty.  I am listening for His voice.  He has answered me with the most beautiful string of encounters with His presence.

                One – The Wind

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One February night I was having a quiet time in my room.  I turned on some “Bethel Without Words” and just sat in the music.  I felt God’s presence.  It was like a wind blowing through me and around me.  I was reminded of my childhood, when I used to climb the maple tree in my front yard.  I loved to climb as high as I could, until the branches got thin enough to sway gently in the wind.  I felt a breathless exhilaration.  I felt peace and joy.  I felt the wind.

                “That was me,” I heard God whisper.  “The wind was my presence.  I have always been with you, even before you knew me.”

The presence of God was so sweet.  It blew away my fears and left me feeling refreshed and new and loved.  I practiced trying to find this “Wind of His Presence” during the course of my day; when I was stressed about all I had to do, when I was worried that I wasn’t enough, when I felt my frustration rise and my sanity shaken.  I would close my eyes and feel the wind softly rock me back and forth, like a mother rocking her baby.  I was safe and loved, and this reality was where I wanted to live every hour of every day.

                Two – The Heartbeat of Love

About two weeks later I was enjoying worship at my church on a Sunday morning.  It is so easy to connect with the presence of God in that place.  I felt the wind again.  Then it began to pulse through me like a heartbeat.  I began to awaken to the truth that this love was also pulsing through everything everywhere…All THE TIME!  The universe was founded and built by His love.  It is operating and expanding by His love still.  This love is alive and active like the wind blowing, like a river flowing, like blood being pumped through every cell.

This was challenging my current world view.  I had seen the world as a very cold and hard place much of the time, full of dangers and toxins that I had to protect my children from.  Many scenes that flashed through my mind were not pretty; broken down cities full of corruption, once beautiful wilds polluted and dying, great mountains of decaying garbage inhabited by sick and hopeless humanity.   Yet God was telling me that His love was pulsing through all of this.  Scenes of great evil, people experiencing unspeakable horrors at the hands of other people, also flashed through my mind.

“There is no pit so deep that He is not deeper still…”

I knew that Corrie ten Boom had said this after living through a concentration camp, but now God was telling me that it was really true.  HIS LOVE IS EVERYWHERE!  Of course there is a lot in this world that IS NOT love, that IS NOT part of God’s original plan.

But His love is still there, bigger and stronger.  If only we could be aware of it.  If others have found His love in the depths of darkness, certainly I could find it in every circumstance of my life.  If His love can bring redemption from the worst of the worst, certainly He can do the same in my slightly messed up life!  When I began to look at the trials as potential miracles, my burdens began to turn to wonder.

              Three – The Eagles and the Wind

Eagle silhouette in Kachemac Bay where many birds can be seen

In the following weeks, I practiced feeling God’s heartbeat of love pulsing all around me and in me.  I imagined it flowing thought everything I looked at.  I imagined it touching everything I thought about.  Many times I would feel the wind of His presence, so full of love.

At the same time, I found myself searching the sky for eagles.  I know that there probably aren’t many eagles around here, but I was eager to see any bird of prey.  God speaks to me so often through nature, and right then I had an obsession with eagles.  It started when I wrote the article,  A Cure for the Negativity that is All Around , in which I told about a vision I had about 12 years ago.  I saw a nest full of baby eagles on the side of a rocky cliff.

God said, “You are eagles and you are to raise your children like eagles.”

Eagles play a huge part in the visions that Rick Joyner tells about in the Final Quest Series.  The eagles seemed to represent the prophets, flying high enough to see clearly what others cannot see.  They instruct, encourage, and warn the other believers.  They bring refreshing winds of healing when they flap their great wings.  They set believers free when they devour the snakes of shame. They carried many scars from the battles they had fought with courage. The Final Quest books have impacted me deeply.  I have read them many times and felt challenged and uplifted each time.  A small, timid voice inside my heart would say, “Perhaps I am meant to be an eagle.”  My mind would quickly dismiss the silly thought…until I remembered that vision.

I still didn’t understand how I could be an eagle in the spirit, but I wanted to find out.  So I began to search the skies for a sign.  Perhaps if I caught sight of the noble creatures (even a hawk would do!), they could teach me something.  As I drove through the country to the farm I frequent once a week, I would see large birds high the sky.  I would marvel at their freedom and wonder what they were seeing.

“How I wish I could fly up there like an eagle!  How I wish I could feel the wind as they do and see as they see!”  I thought to myself.

As I watched, I realized that they usually didn’t work hard or even flap their wings.  They simply allowed the wind to carry them.

                “The Wind of my Presence will lift you up so you can see like an eagle.  Being in my presence is the key to the vision you desire,” I heard the Spirit of God say to me.

In a split second He married my two obsessions, the wind and the eagle. I wasn’t crazy!  God was taking me on a journey that I didn’t understand, but it seemed as though He wanted me to be an eagle as much as I wanted to be one!

The scripture I received at the Women’s Encounter brought all of these encounters into focus for me.

Psalm 27:4-5 “One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life (His presence – YES!  That is what I want more than anything!), to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.

For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.” (That’s where my baby eagles and I live!  That is where He is positioning me!)

Four – The Sky and the Ocean

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One Evening in April I was attending Women’s Prayer at my church.  The worship that night was simply a play list on a cell phone plugged into the sound system, yet I felt the Presence of the Lord so deeply.  I felt His love pulsing through me!  I felt His wind!  I imagined stretching my wings.  The beautiful wind lifted me high above the earth, above my circumstances, above the doubt and fear and anger of this world.  I could see that all was love, all was victory, all was good.

Right at that moment a song came on that I didn’t know, but the vocalist was singing about the wind of God.

“I can feel your wind blow through me.  All of me cries out for all of you!”

The words perfectly captured what was going on in my spirit. (Later the leader told me that she hadn’t picked that song and didn’t know why it had come on…but I did!)  I was soaring on the inside and feeling incredible freedom and peace.  Then I encountered the clouds in the sky.  I became the rain, falling to the earth.  I became part of the great waterfall that Hannah Hurnard talked about in Hinds’ Feet on High Places.  I was one of those happy drops of water, throwing themselves down from the High Places with thrilling abandon to be broken on the rocks below.  We continued to flow to the lowest place, down to the Valley of Humiliation to bring life and love to suffering humanity.  The water persisted in its journey until it reached the ocean.  And there I was, water in the depths of the ocean.  I could lay my life down to bring His love in the lowest place.

The wind and the rain

The Sky and the Ocean

             “This is what I am offering you.  This is the necklace from your dream.” The Father whispered.

Then I remembered necklace and my dream (God Encounters ~ Part One)!  The beautiful silver necklace with light blue jewels each inlaid with smaller dark blue gems.

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The light blue was the wind.

The dark blue was the rain.

The light blue was the Sky.

The light blue was the Ocean.

The Sky was limitless freedom and potential and vision.

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The Ocean was His Love and Peace in darkness and suffering, humility and servant-hood.

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My Father was offering me the vast expanse of the Sky and the deepest depths of the Ocean.

How could I, an imperfect mortal be worthy of such a gift?  How could I even understand such a gift?  How could I ever accept it and live in its reality?  Then the answer came.

                “You can’t work for this.  You are my daughter.  This is your inheritance.  Just accept it.”

So in my spirit that night, I accepted the gift that I could barely comprehend.  My Father, the King, placed the necklace around my neck and clasped it in the back.  It felt light.  This was no burden!  This was no heavy yoke!  This was the Sky and the Ocean…and it was mine.

 

 

 

 

Encounters with God ~ Part One: Dream Interpretation Please!

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I had an interesting dream in December, one full of symbols and a meaning I knew I needed to understand.  God was trying to talk to me, but what was He saying?

I was climbing up one of those attic staircases, the rickety kind that fold up into the ceiling when you are not using it.  I climbed up into the attic of my church.  It looked like a storage room for a museum, containing priceless treasures from all over the world.

                One of my pastors met me at the top of the stairs.  She had a smile on her face as she offered me a beautiful silver necklace.  It looked like it had belonged to royalty.  It had many large, silver bangles hanging from it, each one inlaid with a light blue rectangle with a dark blue circle in the center.  I hardly noticed the necklace, so it is a wonder that I can remember what it looked like at all. 

                I politely told my pastor, “No thank you.”  I really didn’t even consider accepting such a gift.  I was never one to wear large pieces of jewelry, and I just didn’t think it would suite me.  Plus I had my eye on something I thought was much more important and exciting.  Down the hall was an Egyptian Mummy.  As I child I had been fascinated with mummies, getting every book that the library had about the topic and pouring over the pages again and again.  I used to dream of becoming an archeologist and traveling to far-away places and uncovering untold treasures.

This mummy was encased in a very plain, clay sarcophagus.  It was apparent that I had already spent many painstaking hours chipping away at the clay to reveal the mummy underneath. I was excited about the significant discovery I was going to make, uncovering pieces of history that had not yet been revealed.  So far I had only uncovered the feet and the lower portion of the legs, dark and shriveled with age.  I was eager to return to my work.

Unfortunately I had left the sarcophagus in the walkway of the attic, and other people were coming and going.  I knew I had made a horrible mistake as some people brushed up against the mummy’s legs and feet.  I watched in horror as the fragile legs simply disintegrated into dust and blew away.  I felt devastated.

I pondered this dream for the next few days and here is what I think it means.  The mummy symbolizes human significance, the approval of men, the history books written here on earth.  Ever since childhood I have been intrigued by the work of men that can endure long enough for future generations to marvel and wonder.  Even now it is a deep need of mine to live a life that makes an impact and leaves a mark on the people of this earth.  However, if my focus is on achieving significance that is recognized by men, it will be like working carefully and diligently to reveal a mummy.  Anything can destroy that mummy.  It will not endure.

I immediately thought of my work to become a writer.  I long to be a writer.  I tell myself that my writing is mostly for myself, to document all the amazing things that God has done in my life.  Every time I type out a story, God’s goodness becomes more real to me.  Every time I read over something I had written years ago, I am overcome with the Goodness of God that I had forgotten but now remember again because I took the time to write it down!  I tell myself and others that my writing is mostly for my children, to give them a written history of what God has done in our family.  These things that I tell myself and others are very true.

Yet, my Big Dream (my Big Hairy Audacious Goal) is that my writing will go all over the world, impacting lives.  I want to be like the writers whose words have become a part of me and who have shaped the person that I am.  Many of them have died, yet their words live on, still rippling through time, shaping the generations.

I also want to be a writer who makes money from my writing.  It seems to me that the only way a writer can really make money and influence lots of people is to become known by the masses, to write a best seller, to have her name mentioned in households everywhere, or to have a blog article go viral.  I can’t imagine how this would happen to me, but it is still a dream.  I feel like every time I sit down and write something, however small and insignificant it may seem, I am that much closer to achieving that goal.  But is my work like chipping away at a mummy?

I think God is trying to keep me on track.  When I connect my dreams with the image of that mummy, I shudder with a cold chill.  That is not what I want!  I do not want to spend my life working for something cold and lifeless that most certainly will be blown away by any small wind of criticism, changing times, or fickle public opinion.  If this is my focus, I will most certainly fail.  I can only write something of significance if it comes from my relationship with God and is written to please Him.

Next my thoughts turn back to the necklace that I had so flippantly passed by.  That must be the treasure that God has for me, the goal of my life.  What exactly is that necklace supposed to represent?  Silver with light blue and deep blue.  A necklace fit for a queen.

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I am certain that the necklace represents the presence of God.  How could I pass up such a beautiful gift in favor of a mummy?  I have begun to evaluate my days with this test – am I going after the necklace or the mummy today?

Many times I think that His presence is my goal, but I get so distracted by getting things done.  Many times I think that all I need is His approval but find myself straining to gain the approval of others.  Many times I feel so discouraged by how little progress I make on anything measurable during the course of my day.  But it is the immeasurable things that really matter in this life.  I am determined not to miss those things!  This takes exercising my faith and spiritual eyes, because those things are invisible and so easy to pass by.  But in the light of eternity, they will grace me with the identity that will last forever…the Bride of the King.

In the months following this dream, I have had several encounters with God.  He began to slowly and gently reveal more about His presence and the treasure of this necklace…more about that in my coming articles; Encounters with God Part 2 and 3.

 

 

 

Will I See My Papa Again?

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It was a warm summer night and the sun had not yet set.  My brother and I were hanging out with our friends at the close of our youth group meeting.  Our youth pastor, Bryan, came up to us and said, “Your mom is in the office and wants to see you.”

That was very unusual.  My mom didn’t attend our church and she never came on a Wednesday night.  When we entered Bryan’s office, Mom told us that we had to call our grandfather, “Papa” as we called him.  He lived in Wisconsin and we only saw him and our Grammy twice a year; at Christmas and during summer vacation.  We loved them dearly, yet I didn’t understand why mom had driven all the way into the city to make sure that we called him on the church telephone.

“Your Papa is going into surgery early tomorrow morning, and I wanted you to talk to him before that,” Mom explained.

With the excitement of the approaching summer vacation and my graduation from High School, I had completely forgotten that Papa was scheduled to get a hip replacement.  He was in his eighties but still seemed fairly young to me.  He and Grammy loved to go hiking, yet in recent years his hip pain had made even walking very difficult for him.  The past summer, Papa didn’t breathe a word about his pain, yet I saw him trembling and breathing with slow, shaky breaths whenever he sat down or got up again.  Grammy was anxious to get back to their active lifestyle and urged him to get the hip replaced.

I wasn’t worried about his surgery.  He had gotten his other hip done a few years back, and it seemed rather routine.  I took the phone and told him that I loved him and hoped his surgery went well.  I thought my mom had been silly to insist upon this call. After all, we would see him in person soon.

That was the last time I ever had the opportunity to talk to my Papa, and how thankful I am now for that phone conversation and my mom’s intuition.  Days later we learned that something had gone wrong after the surgery, a nasty infection.  Papa’s vital signs went haywire, and he was about to die.  The doctors were doing everything they could to stabilize him.  In the scary chaos, they asked Grammy if they should put Papa on life support.  She looked at the love of her life, the man she adored, her partner for more than 63 years.  She saw him dying and thought the doctors were asking her if they should save his life or let him die.  Of course she chose to save his life.

She told me later that she didn’t understand what life support really meant.  If she had known at the time that it meant hooking her beloved husband up to all sorts of tubes and equipment, keeping his body alive in a sort of artificial limbo state; she never would have agreed to it.

Yet there he was, in the hospital bed, being sustained by machines.  Grammy’s heart was broken and so were ours.  Everything had changed.  No more hiking trips.  No more happy summer vacations listening to Papa’s funny stories.  No more Christmases with my grandfather and his white hair all mussed up from getting out of bed so early in the morning.

There could be a miracle.  I believed in miracles and I prayed for a miracle for Papa.  I thought about what a precious man he was.  He had met Grammy when he was 21 and Grammy was only 16.  He walked her home from the ice skating rink and never had eyes for another girl.  They waited 10 years to get married so they could save money to build a house.

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Harold and La Vera Gisselman on their wedding day

That adorable house was still their home and one of my favorite places in the world.  To read more about my memories, read my article, “The Term is Over” and “Happy 100th Birthday Grammy.”

He was called into the army during WWII, but never left the United States thanks to his excellent typing skills. That was a very good thing, because during that time, my mother was conceived!

Harold and Dana

After the war, he began working at a bank as a teller and worked his way to becoming the bank president.  He was known by many of the people in the small city of Wausau, and was affectionately called “Chick” even though his name was Harold.  He was always easy with conversation and jokes and was great fun to be around.

He was a very honorable man and attended a Methodist church.  He didn’t talk much about his faith.  In fact, when I had a life-altering salvation experience at the age of 14 and started attending a Charismatic church, he didn’t seem that interesting in talking about it.  I wondered if he really had a relationship with Jesus.  Had he ever asked Jesus to forgive his sins and take him to heaven?  I didn’t know.  The thought of never seeing my Papa again terrified me.

That week I graduated from High School.  The graduation ceremony was lovely.  I had some of my closest friends back to my house afterwards to celebrate.  We stayed up most of the night, talking.  There is so much to talk about when you are on the verge of the rest of your life; with missions trips, college, and careers all on the horizon.

Then we got into a circle, grabbed hands, and began to pray.  We prayed for each other, prayed for our futures.  Then I began to pray for my Papa.

“God, I ask that you would do a miracle and heal Papa.  If he doesn’t know you, Jesus, DON’T LET HIM DIE!  Heal him and speak to him and let him know your love.  If he does know you, if he is going to heaven, then let him die.  I don’t want him to have to suffer indefinitely, unable to talk or really live.  If he is saved, please take him to heaven,” I prayed.

I looked up at the clock and it said 2:30am.  It was time to wrap up this party.  My friends returned home and I fell asleep in my living room, curled up on the recliner.

In the morning my mom gently shook my shoulder.  “Last night your Papa died,” she said.

I was so sleepy, that I didn’t respond except to let out a sad, “Ohhhhhh.” Then I rolled over and went back to sleep.  I couldn’t explain the peace that I felt.  My mom expected me to be quite distraught, and she hated to give me the news on the day after I graduated.

Later, when I was fully awake, I asked my mom, “What time did Papa die?”

“It was 1:30am,” she answered.

My heart sank.  He died before I had prayed that prayer.  I didn’t have any assurance that I would see my Papa again.

Then I remembered.  Papa had passed away at 1:30am Wisconsin time.  That was 2:30am our time here in Pennsylvania, the exact time that I had asked Jesus to carry him to heaven!

 

The Wonder of a Little Girl

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My Annalise is quite a special little girl.  She has bright blue eyes that sparkle with life.  She has cute little dimples in the corners of her mouth when she smiles and one on her right cheek as well.

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She loves to run around the house in bouncy, toddler circles.  She loves to run on the sidewalk outside our home, her small arms pumping with the joy of childhood.

I am certain that she must be one of the most beautiful creatures in the universe.  There is no sound more beautiful than her high-pitched voice exclaiming, “Mama!”  when she sees me.  There is no feeling more wonderful than when she puts her chubby, little arms around my neck and rubs her soft cheek against my cheek, slowly and lovingly.  I can feel her long, dark eyelashes brush my skin.  She snuggles in and expresses her joy by sighing, “Ohhhh, ohhhh,” like we do when we hug her.

Throughout the day, I will call out to her for fun, “Lisie, Lisie!” which is her nickname.  She responds, “Mommy, Ahmmy!”  I can’t hide my absolute delight in her.  I smile wide and my eyes tell her that she is the light of my life.  She smiles back with those dimples and a look that says, “I really am something, aren’t I?”

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Recently I gathered some pictures to decorate my mother’s new room.  She just moved to an assisted living home in March.  Now when I visit my mom, my attention is always drawn to a particular picture on her bookshelf.  It is an old photo of me.  I look to be about three, just a little older than Annalise.  I have noticed that I have the same bright blue eyes.  I have those cute mouth dimples.  And there it is, the smile that says, “I really am something, aren’t I?”

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My mom had told me many times that Annalise looks very much like I did at her age.  Mom also says that she acts a lot like me, sweet and kind but also feisty.  I wanted to believe it, but it wasn’t until I saw that picture did I begin to think, “I was just as precious and marvelous as Annalise.  I was loved and cherished just as Annalise is.”

I don’t know why I had forgotten that.  Somehow the years and my life experiences had told me a different story; that I wasn’t that special, that I had to work really hard to get people to like me, and that I had to worry about losing that approval.

God is taking me back to that little girl.  The one who was the most beautiful creature in the universe.  The one who captured her Father’s heart with one glance of her eyes.

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The one who already had the perfect love that could never be earned, the love that could never be diminished, the love that could never be lost.  That little girl is me… and I really AM something, aren’t I?

A Bedroom Makeover that took 18 years (and a Mother’s thoughts on the graduation of her firstborn)

I have been dreaming about decorating a little girl’s room for some time now…18 years to be exact.  When I was pregnant with my first child, we didn’t know the gender of the baby.  We chose a neutral Noah’s Ark bedroom set to put on our baby registry.  Our baby girl seemed to be delighted with her bedroom.  This also worked for our next baby, a boy who was born 18 months later.  Areli and Cole shared a room and the animals in muted colors worked great for them.

However, when Areli turned three she became a big girl almost overnight.  She was totally potty-trained and moved into a big bed.  As I searched for the perfect comforter set, I began to dream of decorating a room for her.  Perhaps soon we would move to a bigger home and Areli could have her own room, a GIRL’S room!

I found a lovely comforter and sheet set called, “Mariposa.”  It had butterflies on a purple and yellow back ground.  For the next few years I played with decorating ideas.  I would paint imaginary walls in my mind, first bright yellow, then lavender.  I would experiment with different colors of curtains.  I decided that I would frame the adorable Anne Geddes baby butterflies in white frames and put them up all over the walls.   The most beautiful little girl’s room began to take shape, and I was so proud of myself.  Areli was going to be thrilled!

The years passed and we never did get a home big enough to give Areli her own room.  We never had the time or money to paint walls and decorate, and then we rented for several years.  Boring white walls became the norm for us.

Finally we moved into our own home and Areli got the largest bedroom…to share with two brothers.  Eventually the brothers moved out and a sister moved in.  There was even a baby in there a few times.  Yet we never seemed able to patch the cracking walls and paint over the dull and faded yellow.

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I still held on to my dream of a purple and yellow room for Areli.  However, Areli was now growing up and developing her own dreams.  I realized that purple, yellow, and butterflies had nothing to do with her dreams.  She preferred green, blue, horses, football, and photography.  She had developed tastes that were totally different from mine!  How did this happen?

This is all that is left of my dreams.

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A picture that is being stored in the attic and faded old sheets that used to be purple.

This year Areli turned 18.  She has grown into a beautiful and capable young woman.  She is so very like me, yet so totally different.

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She has different tastes in books, movies, clothes, and interior decorating.  She still loves green and blue and football and photography.  She helps so much around our home.  She loves and serves her family everyday with grace and endurance.

It was finally time for a bedroom makeover – ARELI STYLE!

Chris had a week off of work right around Areli’s 18th birthday.  He spent much of it fixing her walls, painting, and hanging window treatments and decorations.

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Areli picked the color “Electric Lime.”  When I saw it on the wall for the first time I thought, “Oh my!  Was that really what Areli wanted?”

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SHE LOVES IT!  Her dream had become a reality!  Now she has the perfect girl’s room in which to do her school work, hang out, and rest.  She still has to share it with a younger sister, but I think she feels like it is finally truly a room for HER, designed by her.

Areli graduates from High School in less than two weeks.  She has worked ahead and has already finished all of her classes with straight As.  She is going to work on her photography over the summer and get a job in the fall.  Her plan is to attend a Discipleship Training School with Youth With a Mission the following year.  I am excited for her!  The sky is the limit and the possibilities are endless.  With all the missions organizations all over the world, she could do anything and go anywhere.  Her future potential is boundless!

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However, all this is very sad for a mom.  When I think about my home without Areli in it, I just want to cry.  How will I make it without her?  She helps me so much with all the household duties and taking care of the younger children.  More importantly, she is a wonderful friend, an oasis of womanly wisdom in a sea of boys.  She is the person who always understands me.  She is my companion when Chris is working long hours.

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The other day I had a precious hour of free time before bed.  I decided to spend it connecting with God, sitting on the love-seat in my bedroom.  I was going to read and pray and write in my journal.  When I entered, I found Areli sitting on my love seat, reading a book that I had always loved, and taking notes in her journal.  I felt my heart swell with joy as I realized something.  Areli had fully absorbed all I have tried to teach her.  She has heeded my instruction, and she has also watched my life and followed my example.  She has taken ownership of her faith and she deliberately seeks out truth.  She has worked to learn and remember what is important.

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She is so much like me yet so different from me…and so much better.  My ceiling is her foundation.  She is strong and mature…and almost ready to fly.

I want to whoop and holler in excitement for Areli…the successful efforts of my mothering!  I want to curl up in a ball and sob for the same reason…for the beautiful “Electric Lime” room that will soon be half-way empty and for the vacant place in my heart.

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I am so glad that we finally gave Areli that bedroom makeover that I had always been planning…even if it did take 18 years.  Secretly I am hoping it might help her to stay a little longer, and beckon her to return to this safe haven again and again and again.

 

A Fresh Start for Mom

In November my mom started acting strangely.  We were all together for Thanksgiving, but she wasn’t herself.  The children haven’t seen their grandma since that day.

Since then, Mom has been in and out of 4 different hospitals.  Her mental and physical state has fluctuated wildly.  I have long since lost count of how many doctors, nurses, physician’s assistants, and social workers I have talked to.  None of them could tell me why this was happening or how exactly they planned on fixing it.  The plans were not so much focused on bringing abundant health, but more on stabilizing her.  And the plans changed almost daily.

I would visit mom when I could.  None of the hospitals were places that I enjoyed spending several hours in, let alone weeks at a time.  Stark, barren, clinical.  Very little that was cheery or beautiful to look at.  Very little to do.  No fresh air or access to the outdoors.  Mom and I were both dreaming of a better environment in which she could convalesce.

When I was in my mom’s house one day, collecting some clothes to bring to her, I notice this pretty decoration.

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It was the stone that she had received at our church on Mother’s Day.  It carried a message that I hoped would be true for her life.  I prayed that she could have a fresh start.

It was finally decided that she was stable enough to be released to assisted living.  Mom and I were both so excited!  I had found a lovely, friendly place that would become her new home.  It had a large “apartment” for her.  It had a nice dining room and common area with a fire-place and piano.  It had a courtyard where she could do some gardening.

I prepared for her to be transferred.  I gathered necessary and homey items from her house.  When I was out shopping I found this little sign and thought it would give Mom a positive message to look at, day after day, in her new room.

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I was hoping that it would give her comfort when she felt the pain of what she had lost.  I prayed it would give her hope in the difficult days of transition.

It really could be possible that once Mom adjusts to her new home, meets new friends, and participates in new activities, she will be happier than before.  Perhaps with the burden of taking care of her home and herself is lifted, she will feel a sense of freedom.  Maybe her loneliness will fade away and she will enjoy life afresh!  Perhaps God will draw her to himself like never before and will make her Valley of Trouble into a Door of Hope (Hosea 2:15).

I was sure praying that all of that would be true, but I felt worried too.  Was it too much to ask for?  Too much to expect?

I found out on Friday that the Assisted Living Home couldn’t take her until Monday.  My heart dropped.  Another weekend in that boring hospital with the screaming lady right down the hall.

“Oh well, God, work all these things for Mom’s good,” I prayed.

I got busy putting together all the details.  I compiled stacks of paperwork.  I worked on checklist after checklist.  I wrote everything important on the calendar for Monday to be sure I wouldn’t forget.  As I was writing on the little square that represented March 20th, 2017, I realized that I was writing around the words that were preprinted there…

First Day of Spring!

                My heart leapt!  My eyes filled with tears of joy!  Even though the delay seemed like a trial, it was God’s plan all along.  His plan was good.  His plan was full of Hope.  His plan was for a Fresh Start!

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Will you all pray for my Mom?  For abundant health and life?  For a heart after God?  For an awareness of God’s goodness?  For a recognition of all His good gifts He gives her with each new day?  For a Fresh Start and a Spring Season?

Thank you!!!!!