The Term is Over: the Holidays Have Begun

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It doesn’t take much.  Just a cool breeze, the smell of bread in the toaster, or the sound of a train whistle.  I am transported to my carefree childhood summers, spent at my maternal grandparents’ home in Wisconsin.  The memories flood my mind and I am filled with a sense of peace and order…and a terrible longing to go back there again.  Not just to the home, but to the time when I didn’t have the responsibilities of adulthood on my shoulders.  To the time when my days consisted of sitting in the sun reading an old book I found in the attic (like Louisa May Alcott’s Old Fashioned Girl), or feeding chipmunks out of my hand, or playing Cowboys and Indians in the yard.

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The memories are a bit fuzzy and golden with age.  I remember more of the good and less of the bad.  I remember the cleanliness and order of the home, the cool wood floors and the shaggy aqua carpet.  I remember the wall paper in the kitchen, decorated with pictures of fanciful boutiques.

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I remember eating Papa’s homemade rhubarb jam at the kitchen table that boasted an eating surface made entirely of glass.  How enchanting that table seemed to me.  It was like the table in Alice in wonderland through which a shrunken Alice saw the all important key.  The tragedy of being able to see your heart’s desire but being unable to reach it was not lost on me.

I remember the sun room that served as the bedroom for my brother and me on those summer nights.  We would lie on the perfect sofas, full of swirling colors and patterns from the 60s and listen to Alice and Wonderland on the record player as we were falling asleep.

I said goodbye to my grandmother at her funeral on a frigid Wisconsin winter day.  I felt like I wanted to say goodbye to her home as well, which contained most of my memories of her.  My husband drove me to 921 Humbolt Ave.  Grammy had sold it years before, but I was surprised by how different it looked.  Sure, it was surrounded with snow rather than all the greens and reds and oranges of summer.  But it just wasn’t as beautiful as I remembered it.  And there was a hot tub outback were Grammy’s cucumbers used to grow!  Was it that my memories were just better than reality…or had the place really changed so much under new ownership?  One thing was clear to me; I could never physically return to the place that had brought me such joy.  I could never relive the memories in that house of the people who were so dear.  I felt a grief flood my soul at the irrevocable loss.

I felt a similar grief and bewilderment when I drove past the childhood home of my father after his passing.  I had wonderful memories of that little house as well, the home of my Grandmother and Grandfather Beyer.  The yard was like a fairy wonderland, full of trees and ferns and mosses, dotted with bird seed for the always welcomed feathered friends.  The inside was always exactly the same.  Every piece of furniture, every old and charming knickknack, just where it had been the last visit, always polished and dusted.  The only change I remember over the years was the addition of a large TV the sat on the floor.  My brother and I thought we had hit the jackpot as we watched the early years of MTV on that TV.

Grandfather always had to show us some wildlife slides, play a classical piece on his record player, or read us the Robert Louis Stevenson poem about how the robin ate the “fellar raw.”  He would always let out a loud chuckle after he read that line. Grandmother wanted to sit on the sofa with us and read Snip, Snap, and Snur.

Their kitchen always smelled like coffee and contained one of my favorite treats…malted milk tablets.  The upstairs had beds for all of us, a strange bath tub, and a little kitchen that we never used.  We visited during the Thanksgiving holiday each year.  I remember my mom addressing what seemed to be hundreds of Christmas cards, spread out over their living room.

When we drove past the home after my father’s internment, I was shocked at what I saw.  The yard had been cleared of most of the trees and looked barren.  The house was tiny and rather unpleasant.  What had happened to the 75 Prospect Street that I remembered.  It was gone forever…and I mourned that loss.

But are they truly gone?  Need we mourn when something beautiful on this earth passes away, or is destroyed, or is changed beyond recognition?  I found a lovely picture of hope in The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis.  It is one of my favorite books containing one of my favorite descriptions of heaven.  The Pevensie children, along with their Narnian companions, find themselves in a beautiful land after Narnia had been destroyed.  They grieved for their beloved land, but they began to notice that this new place was oddly familiar.

  “Kings and Queens,” he (Farsight the Eagle) cried, “we have all been blind. We are only beginning to see where we are.  From up there I have seen it all – Ettinsmuir, Beaversdam, the Great River, and Cair Paravel still shining on the edge of the Eastern Sea.  Narnia is not dead.  This is Narnia.”…

            “The Eagle is right,” said the Lord Digory. “Listen  Peter. When Aslan said you could never go back to Narnia, he meant the Narnia you were thinking of.  But that was not the real Narnia. That had a beginning and an end.  It was only a shadow or a copy of the real Narnia which has always been here and always will be here: just as our own world, England and all, is only a show or copy of something in Aslan’s real world.  You need not mourn over Narnia, Lucy.”

I believe that it is true.  We need not mourn over what we lose here in the shadow lands.  All that is stunning and marvelous and true and real and loved in this world will be healed and restored and renewed and made to be all that it was intended to be from the beginning.  All that is precious to us in this life is being kept safe for us in the “real” life that we will someday enter into, if we trust Jesus to take us there.

Then we will say, like the noble Unicorn in Narnia, “I have come home at last!  This is my real country! I belong here.  This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now.”

We will hear Aslan (Jesus) say, “The term is over: the holidays have begun!”

And it will be a holiday full of sights, sounds, aromas,  and tastes that are as familiar as being home for Christmas, cozy and surrounded by family.  Yet they will be brighter, fuller, more majestic, and more magnificent than anything we had ever imagined.  After millions and millions of years, the wonder of it all will still be fresh and new.  All mourning will be long forgotten and our joy will be everlasting!

Blue, White and Yellow = The Goodness of God

It all started in my parents’ basement; the part of the basement that was used for storage of boxes of old stuff, stacks of newspapers, flowerpots with dirt still in them, tomato stakes, and odds and ends.

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I found this lovely example of blue and white china down there, and I claimed them as my own.  I placed them in my room among my eclectic collection of all things I considered pretty as a young girl.  It was one of the only decorations I took with me when I got married and moved into my first apartment.  It took an honored place on my grandfather Beyer’s old bookshelf, one of the only actual pieces of furniture we owned in those early years.

Somehow that piece of china took hold in my mind as a representative of a happy home.  I developed a picture of my dream home over the course the next few years.  It was a big farm-house with a wrap around porch, a happy place for our happy family.  The most important rooms of the house (the kitchen and dinning rooms) were painted a warm, sunny yellow and adorned with white trim and white shelves.  And what graced those white shelves?  Blue and white china!

We lived many years in rentals or in a home we thought we would soon sell.  I lived with the Realtor beige and white, still seeing those yellow walls in my mind.  In 2007 we purchased a nice home in Pennsylvania.  It wasn’t a farm-house, but it was big with a porch in front.  I didn’t have “THE dream home” or the yellow walls…or the white shelves, but I started to collect the china.  My in-laws purchased my next few plates at an antique store for my birthday.  I had nowhere to display them, so I carefully packed them away.  I started picking up pieces here and there, at thrift stores or yard sales.  A tea-cup with delicate blue flowers, a plate with a cozy cottage and a bridge, a pitcher with an unusual design of blue triangles.  A dollar here, fifty cents there.  Each one a treasure, each one unique, each one a representative of God’s goodness to me.  He has the entire universe to run, yet I felt Him share my joy with each special find.

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Some friends had a china cabinet in their basement that they didn’t use, and they offered it to us.  I was overjoyed!  I had a place to store my treasures where I could see them each day.

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It was my birthday in February of 2010.  That was the glorious year that IT happened!  My husband bought me bright yellow paint!  I could hardly believe my good fortune!  Our weird sage/aqua walls in the kitchen and dinning room were going to be transformed to yellow!  We still had many young children, so we  had to prep and paint after they went to bed.  We continued to paint until 3 o’clock in the morning.  Chris was a trooper.  I was high on excitement and hardly felt tired.  I was getting my yellow walls!

It was quite a shock at first.  It wondered if I had picked the correct yellow color.  But the sun was shinning inside my home 24 hours a day, seven days a week!  “Daffodil” yellow grew on me until I couldn’t keep from saying, “I just love this!”  It is amazing how small things can make such a dramatic different.  Slowly I acquired some white shelves and more blue and white china.  Now I am surrounded by beauty everyday, and it has improved the quality of my life.

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Some days I marvel at the fact that we are still dwelling here, in this beautiful home.  We were close to foreclosure during the hard times.  While we were living through those difficult months, we thought back to the miracle that this home was.  We knew that God had given it to us, and we knew that He could take it away. Chris was walking on our porch one night, feeling the heartbreak of loss, when God spoke to him.

This is YOUR home, and you will sell it when YOU want to.

When Chris told me that, I was so touched by the loving heart of my Father.  He owned everything, everywhere.  He had bought our very lives with the blood of His son.  He did the miracle to get us this house.  Yet He said that it was ours, and that we could choose when we wanted to sell it!

God was true to His word and worked out the details so we could continue to own this house, our dream home!  He has done many more miracles to enable us to put food on the table day after day, pay all our bills month after month, and go shopping for blue and white china year after year.

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Each piece reminds me of His incredible concern for every small detail of my life.  Here I am, living my dream!  My husband doesn’t care a thing about blue and white china; but to me, it symbolizes the amazing, unending goodness of God.

 

 

My Adventurous Husband with the Crazy, Impossible Dreams Might Just Be Right

 

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My husband, Chris, is very different from me.  In fact, he is quite the opposite.  He is spontaneous and impatient, prone to making rash and risky decisions.  He is also very driven.  When he has a certain goal in mind, all else fades to the background as he plows through valleys and climbs over mountains to reach that goal.  When he gets an idea in his head, it seems like an obsession to me.  I am a steady and reliable creature of habit.  I like to dwell, remain, and stay in my comfort zone.  I feel no need to go trailblazing into unknown and possibly scary territory.  To change my course is like trying to alter the flow of a river.  I have found that trying to deter Chris from a goal is like trying to stop a freight train once it is barreling down the tracks.  It is much easier to jump aboard and enjoy the ride!

We faced our first major financial decision as newlyweds.  Our apartment had washer and dryer hookups, but we had no washer and dryer.  We would spend hours at the Laundromat.  Chris reasoned that if we could put our Laundromat money towards payments on our own washer and dryer, we would be much better off.  I agreed, but when I saw the large price tag, I was terrified.  We ended up in our car in the Sears parking discussing the pros and cons. The worry of making a bad decision brought me to tears.  We ended up buying the brand-new, super-capacity Kenmore beauties, despite my abiding nervousness.  Eighteen years, 6 moves, and eight children later, they are still washing 2-3 loads a day!  Chris was totally right!

In 2006 we were renting a nice house on Market St where I found my Little Piece of Heaven.  Sure, I wanted to move eventually, but I figured that God would bring that opportunity right to us at the proper time.  But Chris was obsessed.  He was unsatisfied with our living conditions and upset that our rent money was going into someone else’s pocket instead of building up equity for us.  He talked to realtors.  He got lists of homes sent to him every week on the internet.  He kept finding houses that he wanted me to look at. The available four bedroom homes priced around $100,000 were not at all what I would call attractive or comfortable!  I didn’t want to look at these homes, not to mention consider living in them.  But I did it, because Chris asked me to.  We even put offers on two of them.  They had been on the market for a long time.  We thought we could get a good deal, fix them up and then sell them for more…all in an effort to get closer to our real dream house.  Both houses were snatched up right before our offers came in.

Chris didn’t give up, however.  He talked to other realtors, looked at other houses, and kept viewing homes on the internet.  None of the homes interested me at all.  Basically, I had given up on owning a home.  One day Chris came across a picture of an older home, shrouded in dark awnings and overgrown shrubbery.  He set up a time to see it.  He walked in the front door, took one look at the high ceilings and beautiful woodwork and thought, “This is it!”

There was just one mountain of a problem.  It was more than twice what we could afford.  He set up a second time to view the house and wanted me to come along.  I so desperately wanted to refuse him, and I almost did.  I didn’t want to go see another ugly house.  I definitely didn’t want to go see a beautiful house, fall in love with it, and then have to face the reality that we could never afford it.  But I did it, because Chris asked me to.

The house was built in 1924 and was in a beautiful neighborhood with tree lined streets.  I toured the gorgeous home, loving every detail of it! I tried NOT to love it…but I couldn’t help it.  I took a paper containing the specs of the home that included a tiny black and white picture of the exterior.  In my mind, that dreary picture was a picture of my dream home.  I placed the paper on top of my filing cabinet.  Every time I passed by and caught a glimpse of that paper, I would pray that God would do a miracle and give us that house!  Every time we passed the exit on the highway that would take us to the house, longing would fill my heart that someday that exit would lead to my home!  Every night before bed, the children would pray and ask God to give them that house!  Chris’ obsession had become a family obsession!

The realtor went to the owners with a crazy idea.  Even though the house had only been on the market for two weeks, he urged them to consider a sellers agreement, where we would make payments to them directly and take over the mortgage in a few years. It seemed like an eternity before they responded…THAT THEY WOULD!  Amazing miracle number one! Yet our soaring spirits sank a bit as we heard the terms.  The monthly payment was way too much, and we had to come up with $10,000 upfront.  Chris countered with $300 less per month.  They accepted! Amazing miracle number two!

Time came to sign the paperwork, and we still had no money to put down. Chris continued to plow ahead, scaling that mountain and signing away!  I was terrified and thought back to the washer and dryer purchase so long ago.  How small that decision seemed compared to this one was!  I sat with the realtor, the paperwork, and a kitchen timer in front of me.  I was timing contractions that had been coming every twenty minutes for baby number six.  I was about to have a baby, and here I was, facing one of the biggest decisions of my life!  I wanted to call it all off, or have a conference like we did in our car in the Sears parking lot.  I wanted to cry my heart out and beg Chris to back out of the whole thing!

Quietly a peace descended upon me, and my emotions stilled.  My contractions stopped.  I saw the hand of God moving heaven and earth.  I saw that it was He who had put that obsession into my husband’s heart.  I signed the paperwork and believed that God would work out the rest.  Amazing miracle number three!

I didn’t have any more contractions for almost a week.  My grandmother joyfully offered to give us the money we needed and a bit more!  Amazing miracle number four! Chris’ mom flew in from Colorado in anticipation of the new baby’s arrival.  That night my water broke, but there were no contractions.  In the morning, we thought we would pass the hours by showing my mother-in-law our new home!  It was a hot and humid day in August. I walked around my home, and I began to get contractions.  They increased as I showed off my four large bedrooms and gigantic bathroom on the second floor.  They increased even more as I went down to view my spacious and clean basement with shelves and shelves of storage space.  Finally, we all gathered outside to return to our rental house.  I leaned on the truck with one intense contraction.  It was hard to escape the pain with heat emanating from the sun above and rising from the blacktop below.  I thought, “What have I done, coming here while in labor?  I need to get home!”

We arrived home in plenty of time to fill the baby pool in our bedroom and call the midwife.  Our little Cooper was born a few hours later, healthy and happy!  Some weeks after that, we began to move into our new home.

june 2014 229We are still in this home, paying the mortgage (our mortgage!) eight years later.  That is the real miracle!  We have weathered job losses, economic downturns, and debt reduction programs.  We were close to foreclosure during the hard times, yet we are still here!

Three years ago Chris became obsessed with another goal, to become a business owner.  He talked to a business broker and received emails about local businesses for sale.  He read books about entrepreneurs and conversed with friends who were business owners.

“Oh brother,” I thought. “Here we go again!”

He inquired about a Signarama shop just blocks from our house.  He went to visit with the owner and saw the shop.  He was convinced that this was it.  He wanted me to see it all and tell him what I thought.  I really didn’t want to!  But I did, because he asked me to.

When I saw the shop I thought, “This is definitely NOT it!”  A sign shop, full of vinyl to make signs?  How boring!  I never had any interest in being a business owner, nor ever thought about making signs.  Chris began the slow process of turning my course.

We talked with the regional VP of Signarama to learn more about the franchise.  What emotions surfaced when I thought about this proposition; spending all we had plus going into debt to acquire a business?  Terror!  Pure fear!  Fear of not having enough to pay our bills.  Fear of heading towards foreclosure again!  Fear of making a big whopper mess-up of a decision!  Quietly peace descended upon me, and I heard the voice of God.

“Do not fear making mistakes.  Mistakes aren’t as powerful as you think they are.  You see them as huge giants that can rob you of your destiny.  That is not true.  Your mistakes cannot negate my promises or my power or my faithfulness in your life.  I can cause all your mistakes to prosper and use them for good.  In fact, your mistakes are your servants.  Use them to learn about me, yourself, and your destiny.  Use them to draw near to me.  Do not fear making mistakes.  Make all decisions in confidence and faith.  I AM able to lead you and keep you in my perfect will.  I AM faithful!”

So we took the plunge into business ownership.  It has been harder than we had ever imagined.  Some of my fears have come to pass, but I realized that they weren’t so bad after all.  God is in control, and He is bringing us through this into the abundant prosperity that He has promised!  Chris is learning to slow down his freight train to prayerfully consider my wisdom.  I am learning that my adventurous husband with his crazy obsessions might just be tapping into the very heart of God!

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“The moment you are in is pregnant with possibility.  DON’T kill it with fear.” – Bill Johnson

            I won’t kill it with fear!  I will move forward with faith and confidence!

I WILL ENJOY THE RIDE!

           hershey park