Sunday, March 30, 2014

One Word: Grateful

It's been a little too long since I have posted.  I guess it's because I have been so busy Celebrating Spring. A couple of weeks ago, we were blessed with a wonderful Spring Break Family Week. Our Scientist and Engineer miraculously (seriously...thank you, Lord!) had the very same week off for Spring Break and I'm sure I don't really have to tell you what an incredible blessing that was for our little family.

As a matter of fact, we loaded up the Blessing Jar that week. From the moment we picked our Scientist up at the airport until the moment (sigh) we dropped him back off...we laughed, played games, cooked, ate, watched movies, stayed up late, slept in, and just had the best time being together. I truly could sum it up in one word: Grateful.

I can sincerely say we Celebrated Spring all week long with great gusto. Thankfully we finally got a bit of a break in the weather. We still had a good chill in the air most days...but the sun shone and the temps rose enough that it felt like Spring just might find us after all!

Of course after our relaxing happy reunion...it was a little tough saying goodbye. We really enjoyed our time together. We like each other and like being together...so that Saturday was a pouty day. So pouty that even the Heavens cried as rain fell down on us as we drove to the airport.

And then...on the way home...I just had to laugh as SNOW began to flurry around us in mid-March in the Midwest. It almost seemed a fitting ending to our Spring Break during this long cold snowy winter.

As the fun week ended and we all returned to our daily routines...I found something new to celebrate:

The tiny green shoots of what will soon be delicate yellow daffodils. A sure sign that Spring is truly coming. For real.

It made me think of this verse:
The whole earth sprouts newness and life in the springtime,
    and green shoots break through the well-seeded garden soil.
~Isaiah 61:10 (VOICE)

So a wonderful week of family time followed by the first honest-to-goodness signs of Spring...yes..that's something to celebrate!

And even though snow did fall right along with the temperature...we have enjoyed the rest of this month with the hope of warm spring breezes and sunny days to come. As those green shoots grow taller and taller, I am reminded that soon the days really will grow warmer and brighter.

After that special family week, I took some time to return to my regular schedule and focus on some other projects and needs instead of writing. Then just as I was ready to return to this blog...we learned of some fairly life-changing news. This required my attention and once again this blog sat quietly for the past week.

I'll share more as we go along...but we do expect to be living in a new home...new state...with a totally new experience by the time we Celebrate Summer. And while at this very moment I have no idea where we will be living...or what we will be doing, I have every confidence that God is not shocked or surprised by this turn of events.

I believe He has been planning this for quite some time and has already provided all that we will need in the months to come. Hubby and I have been blanketed in peace as we move "Toward the Unknown"...which is unknown to us...but not to our Heavenly Father. And there is it again... one word to fit this situation as well: grateful.

I'm grateful for the comfort God provides at such a time as this.

This Spring has brought us many surprises including weather we were not expecting and changes we could never have seen coming. But just as those green shoots are sprouting up with the hope of beauty to come...so I believe God's plans for our lives will be.

I have every faith that while things look uncertain at this time...something more will develop. Beauty will unfold from a tiny seed...that will sprout...and grow...and open up into something lovely only our Almighty God could create.

Just as I anticipate delighting in the blooms to come on those green shoots...I also look forward to watching God's plan unfold for our family. And that just makes me: Grateful.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Something to Celebrate

As I wait for warm spring breezes to blow in...and pretty little yellow flowers to pop up out of the ground...and the sun to shine down and melt away the last of our recent snow...I'm thinking of ways to celebrate the sweet sweet spring that is to come.

I was thinking about how this happens sometimes in life. When something harsh...difficult...or uncomfortable comes along...we are SO ready for it to be over. We just need to get through it. In an effort to survive it, we might focus our thoughts on the days to come instead of the days we are currently living in...which can...at times...cause us to miss out on something wonderful going on right in front of us.

Mom would say "don't wish your life away". And I am so guilty of that at times. I get tired of my circumstances and just want to move on. So much so that I spend way too much time dreaming about what's to come and how great it's going to be instead of learning to love where I am right now.

I know that God has me right where He wants me right now. But honestly...sometimes I don't like the place He (Almighty God and Creator of the Universe) has chosen for me. Sometimes I think there are greener pastures (with...ahem...warmer weather) that I would prefer He had chosen for me instead.

As we enter this time of Lent and prepare our hearts for Easter...I can't help but think about what Jesus was going through at this very time when He walked this earth. Jesus was more clear than anyone what God's plan was for Him. It would be the most difficult thing anyone could ever experience. And yet He went forward with the plan knowing full well what God was asking of Him.

Thinking about that pretty much shames me for all the whining about the "endless winter" that those around me have had to endure.  Hubby and the boys have taken the brunt of that these past few months. I feel really bad for them. You should too.  But they are troopers and have hung in there with me and love me even when I am bogged down in the midst of a long, cold, snowy Midwest winter.

But getting back to Jesus...the only One who truly knows the meaning of the word suffer.  I plan to spend the 40 days of Lent really truly thinking on Jesus and all that He went through leading up to the greatest sacrifice anyone has ever made.

What Jesus did then was not for his own gain...not his own self....it was completely 100% for others...every single person on this earth but Himself.  With that in mind, I am going to Celebrate Spring by kicking off this Lent season with a plan to Do For Others.

I will be looking for ways to honor Jesus' sacrifice on the cross by doing something each day for someone else. I won't be sharing these experiences on this blog this time. No...this is something between Jesus and me.  I really want my focus to stay on Him.

So as we eagerly await the warm spring breezes...bright sunshine...and beautiful yellow flowers of spring, I encourage you to think of the hardship Jesus endured during this time leading up to his death. He went through it all for you...for me...for us.

And that's something to really Celebrate each Spring!

Monday, March 3, 2014

March: Celebrate Spring

As you know...we have had a long, cold, snowy winter in the Midwest this year and I have been really looking forward to Spring. So much so that I decided to focus on Celebrating Spring during the month of March on this blog!

For a few days last week, the sun came out from behind the wintery clouds and shone down on our little part of North America in such a lovely warm way. The air turned warmer, and people started sticking their noses outside a bit.

I even saw a couple of people in shorts (and winter boots). We are a desperate people. We are SO ready for Spring. And then March 1st arrived...and the sun went back behind the clouds...and the weather cooled off yet again. I'm pretty sure if you listened closely you could hear us all yelling "NOOOOOO!"

But the Polar Vortex blew in again and dashed our teeny tiny hopes of spring weather arriving anytime soon. Before the first day of the month was done...we had rain that soon turned into sleet. We awoke yesterday to the sounds of sleet hitting the windows. The icy glaze that covered the ground soon turned white as snow began to fall and the temperature fell right along with it.

So I sit here today...thinking about how I plan to Celebrate Spring this month while I gaze out of a second floor window at a white blanket of snow and feel like I am trapped in Disney's Frozen castle. I could almost break out into a chorus of "Let It Go" except the cold has always bothered me anyway....

But really...no worries...because I am letting it go and not allowing this long cold winter to get to me. I know Spring has to come at some point and until the warm breezes and beautiful daffodils arrive, I will write about it....and celebrate it right here.

Please join me this month as I await the arrival of butterflies, birds, fresh green grass, and sunny yellow flowers...and all of the wonderful ways we Celebrate Spring!

*Updated*

Here are my March Celebrate Spring Posts:
Something to Celebrate
One Word: Grateful

Friday, February 28, 2014

Waiting...Again

I woke up today struggling a bit with something. And it's something over which I have absolutely no control. Zero. Na-da. None what-so-ever.

My worrying or "struggling with God" about it isn't going to influence the outcome one iota. I know this. My head knows this. But my heart...

Yeah...this emotional girl wants to hold onto this one and mull over every What-If scenario I can dream up. So I ponder...wonder...fret...and then find myself feeling frustrated...helpless...and a bit overwhelmed. 

I know in my heart of hearts...deep down in my soul...that God has got this. He's figured it all out. It's already handled. All I have to do is wait. Apparently a really really really long time. 

And the fun part? Our family has been down this exact road before. Just a couple of years ago we had to wait for an answer almost six months past when were told we would get that answer. 

And now here we are in the same boat again. And I am not excited to be in this boat. I'm not even that fond of boats to begin with....

When I woke up this morning with all of this on my mind, I didn't feel too joyful and was struggling to find my Rosie Outlook in all of it. 

But...you know...I'm really trying to stick with my goal that it's not about me, so I decided to focus on others today. I posted on my Facebook page that I would be spending extra time in prayer this afternoon and if anyone would like prayer to please send me a message. I also added that I would pray for anyone that liked my post as well. 

Oh my! What a blessing that turned out to be! I ended up with over 30 people to pray for and the requests are still coming in (and I will pray for each one of them). You know it's hard to feel too sorry for yourself when you are praying over other people and their concerns. It was just the refocus I needed today.

Not only that, but a couple of people even offered to pray for me in response to me saying I would pray for them. It blessed me. I felt loved. It reminded me of something Jesus' brother James wrote in his letter to the believers in Jerusalem. In James 5:16 he wrote:
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other.  

So I wrote each name and request in my Prayer Book, lifting each name to Jesus as I wrote them down. It is my hope that each person felt peace and the blessing of God upon them today. 

I don't know for sure how long this wait will be...several months as least...maybe more. I'm sure in that amount of time there will be other days of wondering and worrying, but when the emotions take over, I'm going to take the focus off of me and pray for others. 

Praying for one another is one of the most loving acts we can do. It's a special way to Celebrate Love. And really... I can't think of a better way to survive the long wait...or end this month of Celebrating Love, than by praying for someone. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Symbol of Love

I have started and deleted this post several times in the last couple of days. I want to share this story with you but I don't want it to come off too materialistic or too sappy lovey dovey.... I'm going to try my best to tell it in just a Celebrating Love kind of way.

Quite a few years ago, my grandparents decided to go through their house and get rid of items they didn't need or use anymore. Without mentioning it to anyone, they loaded up their truck and set off for a local resale place. One of the items on the truck that day was an old Singer treadle sewing machine.

When I learned that Grandma Teacher and Grandpa Farmer had sold that old pedal operated machine, I was so sad. That old Singer had provided a livelihood for Grandma and her mother, Great Grandma when Great Grandpa passed away. Because it held such sweet sentimental value, it was a beautiful piece of our family's history. And now it was gone.

Many years have come and gone since Grandma and Grandpa sold that old sewing machine...and every once in a while I would see one like it or someone in the family would mention the story of Grandma and Grandpa selling it. Each time...without fail...I would get a little pang of sadness. I don't know why it bothered me so...but it did.

Saturday, Hubby and I decided to spend the afternoon antiquing. We don't do that very often. As a matter of fact it had been years since we had browsed through an antique store together. We don't own a lot of antiques, but we do enjoy searching through dusty old buildings and sharing in the delight of coming across something that sparks a childhood memory or is just unique and interesting.

Much of our Saturday afternoon was doing just that. We pointed out items that looked just like something from years long ago and we shared stories and laughter all afternoon. Hubby picked up an old extension light that he planned to put to good use in the garage and I found an awesome old purse that I carried to church the next day. We also discovered a couple of small items that would bring a smile to a family member's face and we felt quite successful with our handful of small purchases.

And then we spotted this:

When I saw it...I just stopped in my tracks. It looked so much like Great Grandma's sewing machine! It was so beautiful and it was marked way down! It was the lowest price I had ever seen on one of those machines. But really...it's not like we needed it. And let's be honest here...I certainly wasn't going to use it. 

Truthfully, I barely used the modern day sewing machine I owned for years early in our marriage. I'm not sure the two or three pairs of pants I hemmed and the three or four Halloween costumes I sewed on that machine were worth whatever we paid for it.

Could I justify wanting to purchase this sewing machine just for the sentimental value? We continued through that store and then moved on to the next one...but...of course...I kept thinking about that beautiful Singer. And you know...it could actually be my Great Grandma's machine. It's possible. Although there's no way to know for sure...we do currently live just an hour and half north of where my grandparents sold it. 

It is certainly plausible that it made it's way to this little shop in this little town in the years since it was sold. I like to think it did. I like to consider the idea that maybe...just maybe...this machine...this very piece...once belonged to my Great Grandma.

As Hubby and I left the final shop for the day, I mentioned that I was still thinking about that sewing machine. Hubby asked me if I really wanted it, but I said no...I really couldn't justify purchasing it. So we made the turn toward home. When I brought it up one more time...Hubby turned again...this time back toward the store. 

It was still there, so we loaded it up and brought it home. I wiped it down and Hubby helped me put it into place. We looked it over again marveling at all the wonderful details and sharing in the sweetness of the moment. It was home...maybe back in the family...right where it belonged.

Hubby has been very gracious to me over the years. He has given me many beautiful, thoughtful gifts. Some of them are very special. This is one of those very special, beautiful, thoughtful gifts. It was a true gift of the heart. We didn't need. I doubt I will use it. It was really just a very sweet way to Celebrate Love...for me, our family history, and my memories.

There are several reasons why this old Singer is special to me:
It represents a Great Grandma that I never even got to know here on earth.
It honors two women in my family that persevered through a terribly difficult time.
It is a reminder to me that I am never without options even when life might seem a little hopeless.
It is a symbol of my husband's sweet love for me. 

I hope you understand this story isn't so much about the object...it's about all that it symbolizes...it's about the feelings it evokes...and the memories that flash through my mind. 

And I know it's a bit sappy...but it comes straight from my heart...and well...what can I say? My heart...can be a bit sappy at times.

Call me sentimental...I'm okay with that.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Forgiveness Is Such a Gesture of Love

It was the weirdest thing...this morning I was reading my Bible when a painful memory from the past hit me...and it hurt all over again. Has that ever happened to you? Something that happened long ago...and you thought you had let it go...but then out of nowhere there it is again smacking you in the face? UGH.

I hate when that happens.  And when I was reading my Bible no less!

You know...that ugly hurt stopped me for a minute. For just a minute I was right back there in the conversation again. I was hearing the hurtful words all over again and I almost...just almost let them hurt me again!

I really thought I had long forgotten it. I thought I had moved on and let it go. Apparently not.

There I sat with my Bible open and I looked down and saw God's Love laying right there in my hands. I was reminded right then and there that it is HIS words that matter. It is what HE thinks of me..and what He says to me that should be my focus.

So...I pushed that negative thought aside and went right back to reading God's loving words. Within seconds that old hurt was gone and I was once again filling my mind and my heart with the love that can only come from God.

As I sit here thinking about how the wound of that conversation suddenly burst back open this morning, it crosses my mind how thoughtless the person was that said those afflicting words. But then again..as I ponder it some more...I'm sure there are plenty of people that could bring up a conversation with me in which I said something harsh that hurt them.

Thinking about that doesn't make me feel any better than how I felt this morning when I was reminded of that being done to me. It leaves me with an icky feeling I really don't like. And I truly am so sorry for any words I have ever said to anyone who hurt them. I don't want to be that kind of person.

You know forgiveness really is such a gesture of love. All of us have needed it bestowed upon us at least a few times in our lives...and all of us have had to decide if we would offer it many times as well. It's one of those amazing gifts we eagerly hope to receive, and yet at times it can be very difficult to dole out.
Oh the irony...

The funny thing is as I sit here writing this I truly do not even remember the hurtful words that came back to distress me this morning. I honestly can't remember them.

Thank you, Lord. Thank you for taking that painful moment in time from my mind. I hope it never returns to my memory.

Today I forgive those words and just want to forget they were ever spoken. I really do believe that a great way to Celebrate Love is to offer forgiveness.
Even when it's for a long ago past event that suddenly came to mind.
Even then.
Maybe especially then.

And don't worry...it wasn't YOU. (wink)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Beach Blessings

The beach. There's just something about the beach that soothes my soul in such a spiritual way.

As a kid growing up in the Midwest, a visit to the ocean was no quick trip.  However, I remember many summer travels to the local lake where we would spend the day soaking up the warm sun, swimming in the cool water, and enjoying a picnic lunch sitting on beach towels spread out on the soft sand.

Even then those trips to the lake were pure summer delight for me. I have always loved the beach.

I was eight years old the first time I stood on an ocean beach. Our family had loaded up our car and took a road trip to Florida during Christmas break. It was a very special family vacation as we took in all kinds of wonderful new sights along the way.

And even though this trip included my very first visit to Walt Disney World...it's our stop at the beach that I remember most.

There I stood watching in awe as the ocean waves rolled toward us. After traveling all that way...and then spending some time at the Happiest Place on Earth...we were taking in the majesty of the Atlantic Ocean. All of the sudden I was no longer watching those peaceful ocean waves...much to my surprise...I was actually swept right up in them!

Quickly my dad ran in after me and pulled me out of the cold salty foam. With shaky legs...in total shock... I sank down onto the safety of the beach...drenched...still watching the ocean...in my dripping wet clothes.

And thus began my uncertainty about the ocean...but oh how it solidified my love for the beach.

I have a couple of friends who love it as much as I do. Two of my dear friends call the beach their "happy place". For me it is a balm for my soul like nothing I can explain in words. I have never been more relaxed or content than when I am sitting under a large umbrella with my toes in the sand. To me that is just pure bliss. I love it so.

After a particularly challenging time with my husband's work where he had to be away much more than any of us liked, we saved our money diligently to take a very special family trip to Hawaii. That trip was on the top of my Bucket List. Hubby and I worked very hard to make it happen. It was everything I hoped it would be...and then some.

Our boys were elementary school age and they reveled in playing in the ocean with their Daddy. I spent the better part of those two weeks under an umbrella...with my toes in the sand...reading great books or watching Hubby chase those giggly little guys into the warm water. It was pure joy.

We took in the local sights and enjoyed learning about the Hawaiian culture. We ate wonderful food and drove completely around the entire island. We danced at a luau and made fresh leis. And we spent hours and hours at the beach. Memories of that trip will bless our family forever.

Years later we would go through a very difficult and extremely stressful summer. It was especially trying for me. One night Hubby and I decided we needed to get away. At that time we were living in the Southwest and the Pacific Ocean was just a few hours away. I made some phone calls, booked a room, and a couple days later we packed up the van and drove toward the coast.

We crossed over the scariest bridge I have ever been on in my entire life...but it was worth it. Our room turned out to be really nice (they gave us an upgrade!), but the highlight for me was four beautiful glorious days under an umbrella with my toes in the sand. It was a very peaceful, healing, renewing time for me as I watched my now almost grown teenagers run and splash in the ocean with their dad.

I just sat there...watching them...taking it in...and praying. That was a great time of chats with God about what was going on in our little family. We had big changes coming...some we had planned for and others we had been waiting to find out about for months and months. It was all so uncertain and we had no idea what we would be facing or what our lives were going to be like in the very near future. We didn't even know where we would be living in just a matter of days.

Yes, it was a very difficult time. And sitting on the beach was so good for me. That trip was so wonderful for all of us and to this day we look back on it with such fond memories of special family time. It renewed us all.

Even though this winter has been extra cold and snowy by Midwestern standards, we were gifted with a week-long, warm, sun-filled trip south in December. We celebrated Dodge and Darol's 50th wedding anniversary and enjoyed some much needed family time. And we got some precious beach time in as well.

I smile now as I think of the afternoon that I watched my big boys delight in the wonder and fun of playing in the ocean with their dad once again. I soaked up the sun under a big blue hat and watched with great joy as I listened to their laughter and "hollers" for me to watch. Yes...it was precious time.

We all thoroughly savored that afternoon beach fun. It renewed us as we returned to what would turn out to be a very harsh winter in the Midwest.

One of my favorite beach photos was taken last summer at a lake far far away. We were there to return our Scientist to college. We would be moving him back into his room on campus the next day. It was one of those days filled with loving family togetherness with tinges of excitement and sadness. We love being together and college move-in day is always an emotion-filled day for all four of us.

The hotel where we were staying sits right next to a beautiful lake. Much of the beach area along the lake had been busy with clusters of families and friends laughing and playing all day long. But as if God knew Hubby and I needed a little quiet beach time...in the early evening...a rain shower kicked up and that little patch of rain sent every single person scurrying for shelter.

As the last drops fell from the sky, Hubby and I grabbed our beach chairs out of our van, and slipped down to the empty little beach on the lake. We set our chairs in the sand and sank into them. Hubby held my hand as we talked softly about the changes coming. Our hearts were a bit heavy that night.
And I found myself quietly praying...just as I had many other times as I sat on the beach.

As the water lapped near our feet...we watched the sun slowly sink in the evening sky. Once again we felt the peace of God.  Truly, the quiet beauty we experienced that night was a blessed gift from our Heavenly Father.


The other day as I was reading in Acts, I discovered I'm not the only one that feels the peacefulness of praying to God on the beach. I read this in Acts 21:5:
When it was time to leave, we left and continued on our way. All of them, including wives and children, accompanied us out of the city, and there on the beach we knelt to pray. 

It turns out that Paul was heading back out to sea. He had more ministry to do. And some of the disciples...along with their wives and children...went to the beach to see him off. As they said their good-byes, they knelt in the sand right there on the beach and prayed together.

Reading that verse really touched me. I love that it is in the Bible. It made me smile and I underlined that passage with my pink ink pen. Sometimes I pray on the beach...just like the apostle Paul did.

How about you? Where do you find a prayerful peace like no other? Where do you go to experience renewal and find God's Blessing?

As I focus on Celebrating Love this month...I just wanted to share with you some of my special Beach Blessings from God. For me...each and every visit is special and the beautiful renewing peace that washes over me is something I really really love.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

So It's Not A Perfect Marriage

Here we are on the eve of Valentine's Day and I have committed to Celebrating Love on this blog this month. I woke up this morning with grand intentions to write something lovely and inspiring about true love in honor of February 14th...and then...Hubby and I had an early morning tiff just before he left for work.

Very lovely and inspiring don't you think?

It was a silly fight over nothing...coupons on the counter. Seriously...that's how bad it is around here. This is what we are down to arguing about...coupons on the counter. And honestly, as ridiculous as it sounds as I write it down...I really struggled to get over it.

I just knew I was right...justified...and did I mention right? Ugh. So much for my "It's Not About Me" theme today. Hubby didn't throw that in my face, but he could have. I probably wouldn't have received it very well because minutes (or maybe even seconds...it's all a blur now) after he left, God threw it in my face gently nudged me "uhm...remember...it's not all about you."

No...I didn't want to hear that from the Lord right then.

This is the thing about loving marriages...they are not perfect. True story. I would say mostly because a marriage is made up of two pretty imperfect people...with imperfect motives...and imperfect focus...and imperfect attitudes.

Hubby and I met when we were 16 and 14. Our relationship started out as a friendship...developed into really close friends...who dated...and here we are married to our best friends. We grew up together. We know each other pretty well. Too well sometimes. Shockingly not well enough at other times. Hence the tiff.

This crazy argument has hung over me all day. It made me sad and mopey...and I had no intention of being sad and mopey when I woke up this morning. I had no intention of arguing over something silly this morning either...but we did...and the whole spirit of my day was changed.

Instead of writing about Celebrating Love, I found myself going back over our conversation and declaring to myself that I was right. I was refusing my goal of it not being about me. And it's embarrassing, but true, I allowed this attitude to affect my Bible study time and my prayer time.

Then I got busy with my day's To Do List and I didn't think about it for a while. But the gloomy feeling stayed with me anyway.

As the afternoon wore on and I completed my tasks...I grabbed the offending pile of coupons off the counter and went through them. I threw away the ones that were expired and I sorted the rest of them and put them in our coupon folder. Step One complete.

Then I had a decision to make...what was Step Two going to be? Continue to harbor hurt feelings over something not worth it or was I going to move on...just let it go? And you know what popped into my mind as I mulled this over? So...our marriage isn't perfect. Shrug.

And there you have it. The majority of the time it kind of feels like it is. We go days...weeks...even months really without a tiff, but then our imperfectness creeps out and there we are facing the ugliness of a misunderstanding. I don't like it. Hubby doesn't like it. So why do we do it?

Because it's not a perfect marriage...but it is a real marriage built on friendship, love, and the God who created marriage. And that's why we will be okay. We don't need a perfect marriage. We need to be loving and forgiving. And I know without a doubt that we can be.

Hubby is so much more important to me than coupons. He is so much more important to me than me being right. Our marriage is so much more than a silly little argument. It is filled with love and forgiveness.

So no...our marriage isn't perfect...but on this Valentine's Day Eve...I can truly say: I love my husband and our marriage.

And it really does kind of feel perfect to me. Sigh.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Heart Friends

Today I want to Celebrate Love by introducing you to a very precious family. I am using their real names, because they face a very real battle every day, and I am hoping by sharing their story maybe some of you will want to come along side them and fight with them.

The Inspiring Olimb Family:
Rachel, Asher, Beck, and Jeremy
Meet my friend Rachel. For a long time, Rachel was a friend of a friend. Now I am so blessed I get to call her my friend. We have only met face to face once. We aren't best friends...or even good friends, but we are Jesus loving, Cystic Fibrosis fighting friends. And we are prayer friends. 

When I first heard Rachel's story, I immediately had such a heart for her.  One day, my friend mentioned her friend Rachel and her little boy named Asher who was born with Cystic Fibrosis. Here and there, during quick chats, our mutual friend shared more bits about Rachel, her husband, Jeremy, and little Asher.

Over time, other mutual friends would mention Rachel, her husband, and son as well.  God kept bringing Rachel into my life.  He had a plan that would touch my heart and make us friends.

One of the greatest blessings I had as a teacher in a Christian school was that we had prayer time every day. For a few minutes, right after lunch, my students would gather around, and they each had an opportunity to share one prayer request with the group.

ONE prayer request. That's all they got. (I figured that rule out pretty quickly when I began teaching or prayer time would have lasted the rest of the school day.) Without fail...at least once a week, but usually more often, one of my students would ask for prayer for Rachel & Jeremy's son Asher. 

Then our friend gave me a card with Asher's picture on it.  I hung it on our prayer board in my classroom and Asher became a part of our daily prayer.  Next came the news that Rachel was expecting another baby - another boy! And then very sad news...this little guy would also be born with CF along with some other life-threatening issues. 

Rachel and Jeremy named him Paxon and we all began to pray. Their family prayed, friends prayed, my students prayed, and strangers prayed. Paxon arrived a little early and lived 11 days. Our hearts just broke for Rachel, Jeremy, and Asher. We grieved with them and we continued to pray.

Rachel and Jeremy went forward with their plans for their annual TeamAsher Silent Auction and just a few weeks later held this huge fundraising event that benefits the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. That is where I finally got to meet Rachel face to face! After months of being prayer friends, and Facebook friends, we finally became In Real Life Friends. 

The moment we met, Rachel reached out and hugged me, and I knew without a doubt that she was my kind of people.

That day at their auction, Rachel and Jeremy played a video that gave Hubby and I a tiny glimpse into their lives and what their little family goes through living with this difficult disease.  


video

Although we had heard of Cystic Fibrosis, we didn't really know much about it.  Since meeting this sweet family, we have come to learn so much more.  While we can't even imagine what daily life is really like for them, seeing this video was an eye opening experience for Hubby and me. That was the day we truly began to support their efforts in working toward finding a cure.

video

As God would have it, we would move far far away from this sweet family. And they would go on to become the parents of a third little guy they would name Beck. He is beautiful, adorable, and clearly Asher's brother. And sadly...Beck was also born with Cystic Fibrosis.

As I watch Rachel's little guys grow up in pictures and on video...I pray for them...I pray for her and Jeremy. I pray for that cure. I know there are so many worthy causes out there...there are so many children suffering...so many parents hurting. These aren't even the only friends we have whose children are fighting an illness.

But today God has laid it upon my heart...to share their story with you. If you live in the Gilbert, Arizona area, please attend their upcoming annual auction: SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 22, 2014.

The 2014 teamASHER+BECK Silent Auction will be an event you will not want to miss. They will be offering an abundance of wonderful goods and services to bid on and all of the proceeds go toward the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation's fight to finding a cure.

This is no small-time affair. Last year's auction raised $21,543.09 for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and another $5,392.59 was added (from t-shirt sales and a 50/50 drawing) to Asher and Beck's medical fund for the boys' on-going medical expenses.

Here's a link to the 2013 video from that auction. It's full of Asher and Beck cuteness and another reminder to me why I'm writing this blog today.

If you would like to support TeamASHER+BECK, but will not be able to attend their awesome auction, then click this link to donate to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in honor of Asher & Beck.

Click this link if you would like to learn more information about The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

No...I don't get to have heart to heart chats with Rachel over coffee...I don't attend a Bible study with her...or go shopping...or do lunch...and we don't chat for hours on the phone. We aren't that kind of friends. We are two mommas...raising our boys...trying to do the best we can with the job God has called us to do. We are heart friends.

And I write this blog today as a Celebration of Love for a friend: Rachel, my heart friend.


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Love Never Fails

Well here I am snuggled under two blankets with the furnace blasting and several inches of snow piled up outside on our lawn. It's been a cold snowy winter in the Midwest and according to a well known ground hog we aren't anywhere near done with it yet.

This weather makes Sister happy and I am truly happy it makes her happy. It makes me...cold. I'm not fond of being cold. I am often cold and it's actually painful for me at times. I don't know if I have ever mentioned this...but I'm a fan of sun and heat. Sun and heat does not make me cold.

But today I am in the Midwest and it is cold...so I will layer up...drink lots of hot tea...maybe make some soup...and think on love. That will warm me up.

And that brings me to what I want to write about today. I've been thinking about what love really is.

So in my Quest to Celebrate Love this month, with the help of the apostle Paul, I made a list just in case you were wondering what love really is.

1. Love is waiting...even when you want attention right now...or a response right now...or understanding right now.
Love is waiting for God's perfect timing.

2. Love is kindness...even when your feelings are hurt...or you are tired...or things aren't going your way.
Love is showing a little kindness.

3. Love is contentment...even when this isn't where you want to be at this point in your life...even when others have what you think you want...even when it seems there is no end in sight for your situation.
Love is finding contentment in your life at this moment.

4. Love is humility...even when you know how to do it better....and quicker...and you know it.
Love is being humble.

5. Love is honoring others...even when you don't feel like they have honored you.
Just love them and honor them anyway.

6. Love is others-focused...even when you feel like it's never about you...even when you would really like it to be all about you and your feelings...even when you think it's your turn.
Love is focusing on others.

7. Love is forgiving...even when you want to be really mad...even when you are totally justified for wanting to be really mad...even when you have every right to be really mad.
Love is forgiving anyway.

8. Love is letting it go...even when you want to dwell on it...brood...and think about it some more.
Yes, sometimes love is just letting it go.

9. Love is truth...even when it hurts...even when it's hard...even when you want to avoid it.
Love is truth.

10. Love is protection...because when you provide it or when your receive it, it's comforting.
Love is protection (giving it or getting it).

11. Love is trust...even when you are scared...unsure...or unconvinced.
Love is pushing aside the fear...and trusting.

12. Love is hope...even when it seems insurmountable...or feels impossible...or is just unimaginable.
Love is imagining it anyway.

13. Love is perseverance....even when you have tried so hard for so long...even when you really just want to give up.
Yes, love is when you keep going and don't give up.

Truly, Paul said it better in 1 Corinthians 13:4-6
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 

So I encourage you to wait, show kindness, find contentment, offer humility, honor and focus on others, forgive and just let it go, speak truth, protect, trust, have hope, and persevere. If you do...that is love... and you will not fail...because we are promised in I Corinthians 13:8 this very truth:
Love never fails. 


Monday, February 3, 2014

February: Celebrating Love

As crazy as it sounds, it really is true that we have already completed an entire month in 2014!

So on to February we go...and a new month means a new theme for me. Of course, I really felt I had no other choice than to Celebrate Love all month long...because what is better to celebrate than love in February?

Now...now...now...before you start rolling your eyes and clicking on something else...I'm not necessarily just talking about mushy lovey dovey kind of love (although I happen to think that kind is awesome)...no I'm talking about celebrating all the kinds of love this month.

Oh I'm sure I will share a few sappy stories along the way...but I have so much more to say about all the wonderful kinds of love that this life offers us.

As a matter of fact...as you probably know...February 14th is a very special day to celebrate love because it is Arizona Statehood Day. I'm sure you knew that Arizona became the 48th state on February 14, 1912. A little known fact about me is that I once lived in Arizona and I just love that state and quite a few people in it. So naturally it seemed right to Celebrate Love this entire month.

And really why not focus on something that not only do we get from God, but He has equipped us to be able to give as well?

A great description of this love is found in a letter the apostle John wrote to a group of Christians that were caught up in false teaching about who Jesus truly was. John knew Jesus personally. He had lived daily life with this incredible man. He was also a first hand witness to the miracles Jesus performed and the truly sinless life Jesus led on earth.

This is part of that letter written in 1 John 4:7-12:
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 
This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

Whether it's the Valentine mushy kind of love, Arizona Statehood kind of love, or the love of a Heavenly Father offered to his blessed children...there is plenty to celebrate this month...and that is something I just love.

*UPDATED*
Here are my February Celebrating Love posts:
Love Never Fails 
Heart Friends
So It's Not A Perfect Marriage
Beach Blessings
Forgiveness Is Such A Gesture Of Love
A Symbol of Love
Waiting...Again

Friday, January 31, 2014

Just For Fun Friday: The Blessings Jar Update Edition

Hey it's FRIDAY! So Just For Fun, (and because it's the last day of my Celebrating Fresh Starts month) I'm sharing an update on our Blessings Jar project:
I'm thinking we are gonna need a bigger jar!

So my guys have embraced this project with me and I am already blessed without reading what's inside...although...do you know how many times I have stood in front of that jar when I'm home alone during the day and contemplated opening it up and reading them? How am I going to make it eleven more months until I get to read what they wrote?

And in full disclosure...I'm guessing at least half of those pieces of paper are mine...

May your 2014 Fresh Starts be greatly blessed as well!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Keeping Up With A 90 Year Old Wonder

Several years ago I had the privilege of sitting next to a very enchanting lady I call Wondrous. We were at a breakfast that was, in part, honoring her husband for work he had completed some 50 years before. She and I had the best conversation over eggs and bacon. She was so lively and entertaining...and I delighted in every minute of our visit.

As we finished up our delicious meal, her face lit up as she dug into her purse.  Much to my surprise, Wondrous pulled out a brand new iPhone. With a giggle in her voice, she announced to me that she had recently purchased this amazing new smartphone. She was super excited because it could do all kinds of extraordinary things and one of the best features was a built in camera!

Then Wondrous jumped up from the table with a sparkle in her eyes as she headed off to take some pictures. I have to admit, I sat there a bit wide eyed and speechless as I watched this 90 year old fireball nearly skip across the room. It was then and there I decided when I grew up...I wanted to be just like her!

Wondrous does not let her age stop her from embracing new ideas and new technology. She most certainly does not let her number of years on this earth get in her way of experiencing life to the fullest. That breakfast was nearly three years ago and I doubt I will ever forget how inspirational she was and how much meeting her changed me.

When I think of all of the changes in technology that Wondrous has had the opportunity to embrace in her lifetime, it really is quite remarkable. She probably remembers when her family installed their first telephone in their home. She has watched cameras shrink to a minuscule size and yet grow immensely in ability over the years. It wouldn't be until her adult years that she would have the opportunity to purchase her first home computer and now as she strolls through her "twilight years" she can carry a tiny little version of a phone/camera/computer in her pocket!

Funny thing is I don't think Wondrous knows she is in her "twilight years" and I really don't think she strolls through anything! No..at 90 years of age, she bought a smartphone and learned how to use it. She doesn't let life move on without her and I don't want to do that either!

So yesterday...in her honor...I added another Fresh New Start to my life. I set up a Twitter account. I know...Twitter has been around for quite a while, but honestly it's something I didn't really "get" and I had little interest in finding out about it.

But then yesterday morning I was reminded of the day I had the pleasure of meeting that fascinating and ageless 90 year old Wonder and I decided to check Twitter out...figure it out...and see if it's something that delights me. If it doesn't...I can always delete my account, but if it does...then I don't want to miss out on the fun.

As I wrap up Celebrating Fresh Starts this month, I look back on the new ideas I have added to my life and I feel good about how I have kicked off 2014. I hope you do too. I hope this month has been a great new Fresh Start for you.

And if...by chance...2014 has not gotten off to a Fresh New Start...then don't despair. The beauty of a Fresh Start is that you can make changes, start over, or add something new whenever you are ready. Maybe for you it will be next month...or next spring...or even next semester.

So for me, January was the month this year that I celebrated Fresh Starts and wrote about them on this blog, but just because I will have something new to celebrate next month, doesn't mean I won't continue to work on the Fresh Starts that I began this month. Nor does it mean that I won't add any new Fresh Starts to my life for the next 11 months. As a matter of fact, I hope each month brings something new and exciting to add to my life.

Just like my darling friend Wondrous, I encourage you to embrace opportunities to add Fresh Starts to your life this year. Don't let life move on without you!

And you know, God gives us the very best Fresh Start we could ever ask for by offering us salvation through his precious son, Jesus Christ. I came across these verses in Psalms just the other day. It's part of a song that David wrote and sang to God after being saved from all of his enemies.

Psalm 18:20-21:
God made my life complete
    when I placed all the pieces before him.
When I got my act together,
    he gave me a fresh start.
Now I’m alert to God’s ways;
    I don’t take God for granted.*

Don't you just love those words?
God gave me a Fresh Start and I do not want to take that or God for granted.

P.S. 
*My Kings James Bible version loving Hubby would like me to point out that today's scripture is posted in The Message Bible version. Here's the King James version of Psalm 18:20-21:
The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness; 
according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me.
For I have kept the ways of the Lord, and have not wickedly departed from my God.

P.P.S. You can follow me on Twitter @myrosieoutlook

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

If You Give A Girl A Pile...

I've been on an organizing and rearranging rampage this month. And I have to say...nothing gives me a better feeling of a new Fresh Start than when I get the house picked up, cleaned up, and organized. After a few hours of working hard, I love that feeling of dusting myself off and sitting down to enjoy the fruits of my labor.

It all started with the Christmas decorations. I love dressing our home up for Christmas. I just delight in the beauty, traditions, and little sparkly lights...but after a month or more...I'm ready to put it away and clean. And as it does most years, it kicked off something in me.

So I packed up all of our precious decorations into large plastic tubs...then wiped, vacuumed, and rearranged the house back into order. Our boys kindly carried all the tubs downstairs for me and then left them "neatly" in a pile at the bottom of the basement steps.

Next I tackled our guest room which becomes Christmas Central during the month of December (unless, of course, we actually have guests during December...but this past Christmas we did not...so this room became my main staging area for storing and wrapping gifts).

I summoned up the courage, headed upstairs, and opened the bedroom door which I had closed the day after Christmas...because who wanted to look at that mess when walking past it to bed each night....

It was still the complete and total disaster area that I remembered. Strewn across the bed were package tags, ribbons, bows, scissors, tape, Christmas gift bags, and a three foot long plastic tub full of wrapping paper. Scattered across the floor were empty shopping bags and boxes, more Christmas gift bags, half used rolls of wrapping paper, and a large plastic tub with even more gift wrapping options. Propped up in one corner was a trash bag full of wrapping and shopping trash. And on the dresser lay gift receipts, clothing tags, and more package tags.

A couple hours later...I could finally see the top of the dresser, the floor, and the bed again. With that task complete, I headed downstairs to relax in the Hug Chair for a bit. As I sat there clicking around on my computer I felt so cold...and I seem to be cold every minute of every day this winter. It was then that I realized part of reason I've been so cold was because the Hug Chair was sitting next to a large picture window and the cold was just seeping right through it!

Prompted by my deep desire to be "less cold", I set about rearranging the living room and moved my Hug Chair to the opposite side of the room next to a heat vent. And yes...this required that I then move every single piece of furniture in the entire room including both sofas and Hubby's "Xtreme-size" throne recliner. (Yes, it's that large...at least it sure seems like it when you are under 5 foot tall with no upper body strength.)  Naturally, moving furniture also instigated a need for dusting and vacuuming...didn't I just do that?

With everything finally in place, I flopped into the Hug Chair and finally relaxed a bit...until Hubby came in and reminded me that there was a pile of Christmas decorations sitting at the bottom of the steps and it was inching it's way into his workshop area of the basement.

That...my friends... led to a full Saturday afternoon of organizing boxes into a corner of our basement...which led to more organizing of other corners of the basement...which ended in two huge boxes of donations for the Salvation Army.
Is anyone else thinking about this book right about now?
Of course while I was going through all our basement items, I came across a few items long forgotten that became a pile stacked on the steps to be carried back upstairs. Once the work in the basement was complete, I headed upstairs with my reunited items and promptly dumped them in a small pile in our front room/office area.

As you might have guessed, this brought me to a new project....in our front room/office area. It was about this time that I was thinking about that Proverbs 31 "Wife of Noble Character".
Verse 17 of that chapter says:
She sets about her work vigorously;
    her arms are strong for her tasks.

I don't measure up to this gal...but I do try and I was thinking about her yesterday when I found myself standing in the middle of that room surveying the situation. This is our Engineer's main hang out area. He has a desk and computer in one corner with a cabinet and a set of baskets to hold his school books and computer equipment (because evidently seventeen year old boys have a lot of computer accessories... and really...who am I to question that...says the girl that might know a thing or two about accessories...).

Our Engineer is normally an extremely neat person...especially for a teenage boy. But he had let his corner get a bit out of control. And again...I'm not judging him because across from his corner sits my desk area which may or may not have been a bit out of control as well.

So once again, I got busy rearranging, cleaning, sorting, and organizing. Just as I triumphantly completed the task, our Engineer arrived home from school. He quickly deduced what I had been working on...and I heard him utter "oh no." But as he came into the room and I showed him all that I had done...much to my relief...he was actually quite pleased with the Fresh Start I had given him for this new semester of school.

As we near the end of this Fresh New Starts month, I'm glad I took the time to give this home a face lift. It feels good and it was a much needed Fresh Start for our little family. I know I'm not anywhere near meeting the standards of that blessed wife in Proverbs 31...but I'm going to keep trying and maybe someday I'll hear the words of verse 28:
Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her.

And you know...I think I came pretty close when Hubby saw how I even organized the plastic shopping bags that we stuff into a plastic drawer in the laundry room...

Sunday, January 26, 2014

It's Not About Me

This blog post idea has been on my Celebrating Fresh Starts list all month. Up until today it's been a "secret goal" of mine for this year. So it is with great reluctance that I share with you that my personal theme for this year is "It's Not About Me".

It is not easy for me to share this because truthfully...I really don't want these words to come back and bite me. Say...next month when someone lovingly reminds me "I thought you said this year it wasn't all about you?" Yeah...announcing what is going on privately in my head to the tens of you who read this blog is a little uncomfortable at times.

But today after sharing this "secret goal" with a friend...I found the confidence to finally write this post. This theme is really two-fold for me.

First, It's Not About Me means that I'm going to try very hard to remember these words each time I just know I'm right...or want my needs met...or think my words are more important to be heard...or want what I'm doing to come first...or what I want to take priority...or where I want to go...or what I want to eat...or...or...or...etc...etc...etc.

I'm not promising I will be great at this goal...or even good...or even truly mediocre with it...but I'm going to give it a very real and honest try.

For this entire year, I'm going to really try to put myself second in the situation. I'm going to try to meet others' needs before my own. I'm going to try to listen to others instead of worrying about getting my say. I'm going to reach out to others instead of wishing someone would think of me.

I am going to give my best effort to focus on those around me and what they might need rather than worry about my "needs" being met.

Secondly, instead of getting my feelings hurt or taking things personally when something or someone "offends" me in whatever way...I'm really going to focus on the words "It's Not About Me" and try to remember that most of the time things that are said or done that might offend me are really most likely not even about me.

I'm going to try to remember to give the "offender" the benefit of the doubt that there might be more going on than I know about at that moment. I'm going to remind myself that maybe they didn't even realize their words or actions would offend me in the first place. Even if it feels like it was "on purpose"...I am still going to take an "It's Not About Me" approach.

You know Paul encouraged this way of thinking in his letter to the Romans. He said in Romans 12:10:
Live in true devotion to one another, loving each other as sisters and brothers. Be first to honor others by putting them first.

I love the idea of this goal being a loving way to honor others.

Even more importantly, Jesus said this in Matthew 7:12:
This is what our Scriptures come to teach: in everything, in every circumstance, do to others as you would have them do to you.

Oh how many times I heard this verse growing up! More than I could tell you, but living it...truly living these words of Jesus are not that easy.

In everything...every circumstance... every? Okay, Jesus. I'm going to give this a serious try.

And really there is even a third element to this theme and it has to do with this blog. Last year this blog and the whole reason I started it was ALL about ME. It was totally for me. I so worried what others thought...I was obsessed with checking the "results" after I posted something. Did anyone read it? Did anyone post a comment on the blog or Facebook? Did I get any likes?

And I was either super excited or disappointed depending on the reaction I got for each and every post. Hubby can attest to how crazed I was about feedback. I SO BADLY wanted feedback...well...good feedback anyway.  Yes, it was totally all about me.

Oh what a difference a year can make. God has really spoken to me about this. He worked on me a lot last year. And now I can step away from that fixation and make these writings more about encouraging others and just letting God guide me in what He wants me to share with you. All glory to God because It's Not About Me!

Paul also wrote in that letter in Romans 12:8:
If you have been given a voice of encouragement, then use it often.

And you know, what a gift to be able to use this blog as a voice of encouragement.

So...there...I've put it out there. I really have no idea how successful I will be with this goal...but it's something God has laid upon my heart. And since I've probably made the last 40+ years all about me...I'm thinking I can truly try to give God one tiny year in this life where it's really truly Not About Me.

This is probably the hardest Fresh Start I have added to my life this year, but I'm thinking if I can pull it off, it will be the most rewarding one I attempt in 2014!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Going For A Five Star Day

As you may recall...I was blessed with the opportunity to be a classroom teacher for five years. I loved it.

One of the adventures of teaching in a classroom is that the teacher has the responsibility of maintaining discipline in a room full of students who happen to outnumber her by 10... 20... maybe even 30 people. It can be a daunting task.

Thankfully, the schools where I taught had a school-wide system already in place for all of the primary and elementary aged students: the Five Star System. It worked remarkably well and was super easy to enforce. A win-win.

The Five Star System basically worked like this:
At the beginning of the school day, each student started the day off with Five Stars. These were not actual stars. They couldn't be held in a hand or used to light the way. No, these stars could not be seen... however, they were very real.

The goal of the Five Star System was for each student to end the day with the same number of stars that they began the day with - five. The students did not want to lose any of their stars...but, of course, it was possible.

If a classroom or school rule was broken...a star would be taken away. I had a little notebook on my desk (that even had a sparkly star on the front of it) where I kept track of the lost stars. Inside that notebook I wrote the name of the student and the reason for losing the star.

At the end of the day, each student would come to my desk with their daily planner. I would check to make sure they listed the work they did that day, and then I would mark on that day's page how many stars the student had at the end of the school day.

I even had a Five Star stamp. It had five outlined stars in a row. I miraculously found this stamp at the craft store Michaels shortly after I began my teaching career.

So I would stamp the student's planners each day with the five star stamp. If they lost a star, I would mark one star out and write next to it what behavior caused the student to lose that star. It was a very sad moment...for most kids anyway. There were a few optimistic ones who cheered the fact that they still had four stars left. But truly...most of my students were pretty destroyed to lose a star.

And things could get a little more dramatic if it was a particularly difficult day and more than one star was lost. Thankfully I had really well behaved students and in my five years of classroom teaching, I only recall a few one-star-days and maybe only one zero-star-day.

But...no matter how rough the day before was, the blessing of the Five Star System was that each school day brought a Fresh Start with five new stars. All the troubles of the previous day were forgotten as the students started off the next day with five stars.

I loved this discipline system. It encouraged and rewarded students for positive behavior. My students responded well to it and worked hard to please me and keep their five stars. They would beam with pride when they got all five stars stamped in their planners at the end of the school day.

It also gave them forgiveness for their transgressions and an opportunity for a Fresh Start the next day. If I had to mark out stars for poor behavior, we would discuss why each star was lost, and my students would routinely offer an apology and show great remorse for breaking a rule and losing a star. It was then that I would remind them that they would have five new stars the next school day and a chance to correct whatever problems had come that day.

Every once in awhile I would offer a little mercy with the Five Star system. A student might break a rule, but was immediately remorseful and quickly asked for forgiveness. If it was a child that I knew was trying hard, I might offer some grace and not take a star. I would use it as a heart-teaching moment. I would talk to the student about how God offers us mercy at times when we don't deserve it, and then I would give them some grace that day and not take a star.

Of course this reminded me of how the Lord deals with us. As His children, we want to please him and do well, but we mess up. We make mistakes and have to go to him for forgiveness. Thankfully, God is in the forgiveness business. He is more than willing to give us a Fresh Start...all we have to do is ask for it.

The Apostle John writes these words about God in 1 John 1:9:
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

And more than I'm sure we will ever realize...our Lord offers us an abundance of grace and mercy because He knows our hearts.

In Hebrews 4:14-16, we are reminded that Jesus gave us the greatest grace and mercy when he died on the cross for our sins:
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.


When I lay my head down tonight, I will spend some time in prayer with God...going over my day with him. It is my heart's desire to end the day with Five Stars from God. Not because I want the "stars", but because I want to please Him in all I do each day.




Sunday, January 19, 2014

Seventeen

Yesterday our Engineer turned seventeen years old.

Seventeen.

Let me say that again... Seventeen.

How in the world did my little guy...my youngest...my baby...grow up so fast?

Seriously...seventeen.

Um...yeah...I'm taking it kind of hard.
So is his dad.

Don't get me wrong...we are so very very proud of him. He is maturing and growing up into an awesome young man. He has given us very little trouble in these teen years and we are most grateful. He's an incredible kid.

But seventeen? Ugh.

With one son already almost out the door...far away at college...we are painfully aware of what is coming next.

Yes, we want our boys to learn, grow, mature, and eventually stand on their own two feet. We have raised them with this very goal in mind. I know there will come a day when they will do exactly that and we will be so very proud of them.

And yet...we already mourn that a little too because we really enjoy our boys. We love having them under our roof. We are a great foursome and we truly delight in being together.

The time is screaming by...these precious days are fleeting...and the next season is bearing down on us in an exciting and alarming way.

Birthdays bring a Fresh Start. Especially when you are seventeen years old with all kinds of exciting adventures awaiting you....and...your parents...

This is a sentimental time for us, but also an amazing start down the road to adulthood for our Engineer. We are blessed to be his parents. We are thrilled to be a part of this stage of his life as he works through the final years of childhood and ventures on to the next stage.

You know Psalm 127:3 says it well: Children are a gift from God; they are his reward.

Oh what a rewarding gift from God they truly are!

Seventeen.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Because God Declared It!

I love to be organized. Actually...the truth is more like I love to organize.

I enjoy the process of getting everything in order...I'm just not always as good at keeping things in order.

I love organizational supplies as well: baskets, plastic bends, my label maker, file folders, pink ink pens, paper clips, freshly sharpened pencils, and (one of my favorites) - calendars!

I keep several calendars every year. I have one on my computer that is linked to the one on my phone. Those calendars keep me on schedule wherever I go. They have all our appointments listed as well as all birthdays, holidays, and special events.

I also have a notebook one that I carry back and forth between my desk and the Hug Chair - depending on where I am working. I hand write my daily schedule into that one - including my daily and weekly To Do Lists.

The one hanging on the fridge in the kitchen has all our monthly activities and plans handwritten on it. That one is to help keep the guys informed with our comings and goings.

My aunt gave us a beautiful cloth wall hanging 2014 calendar with all the months printed on it. It was even personalized with our last name and I hung that in our kitchen. It's great when we need to see a whole month or the year at a glance.

Mom gave me a two year pocket calendar that I plan to use to keep track of what I will be doing on this blog. I have mapped out ideas I want to write about for the month on this calendar. I love that it is small and I can carry it with me to jot ideas or thoughts down as I go throughout my day.

I also have a little pink calendar book that I plan to use for a special project I will be working on this year. I'm just starting to fill in some of the pages of that one. It's so pretty and I love the polka-dotted pages inside.

For me, one of the joys of starting a new year is opening a new, blank calendar. It's a great visual reminder of a Fresh Start. Whatever issues, worries, troubles, or sadness marked up the pages of last year's calendar are gone. It's a new year.

As I flip through the pages of upcoming weeks and months...I'm struck with the possibilities and potential of those empty days.

Oh sure, two weeks into the year and I already have appointments, birthdays, anniversaries, a wedding, Bible studies, meetings, the guy's schedules, and reminders filling up some of the squares of the next few months...but as I thumb through the entire year...there is so much unknown for us.

It's exciting to think about the journeys...celebrations...news...friendships...and life changing moments that are to come. I don't yet know all the wonderful adventures that will be marked on these fresh clean pages.

Of course...those with a little less Rosie Outlook on life might also think of the "doom and gloom" that might come with this year. But I'm not. I am not planning on those days. I hope to skip through the sad, bad days quickly and soak up and enjoy all the good this year will bring.

By now you may know this...but my very favorite set of verses from the Bible are found in Jeremiah 29:11-14a:
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord.

I love these words so much. They were written by Jeremiah in a letter to the Jewish elders that King Nebuchadnezzar had sent into exile in Babylon. This letter was such an encouragement to those who had endured the exile, because after seventy years, God was going to return them to their homeland.

As I look over my fresh new 2014 calendars...there is so much I don't know about those blank pages. No, I do not know what this year will bring for my family, friends, or me... But I do know that whatever fills these days ahead, "burdens" or blessings...God is with us just as He was with the Jewish Exiles.

He stayed with them. Even throughout their seventy year exile. God had plans. It took seventy years to complete part of the plan, but God never left them. He knew the plans. And I love that he declared this! And God's plans were good. God's plans gave them hope...a future.

And just like those exiled people, we too can call on God...go to Him in prayer...and He will listen to us. As you look over the blank pages of your calendar for 2014...I encourage you to seek God with all your heart in all you do. Because God assures us that if we do this, we will find Him.

"I will be found by you,” declares the Lord.

These words are exactly why I can excitedly flip through my blank calendar and look forward to a great Fresh Start in 2014. If we seek God with all our heart...we have hope and a future.

I know this because God declared it!

Monday, January 13, 2014

My Mission of the Heart: The Prayer Book

Not too long ago, I realized that hardly a day goes by that I don't see or hear about something that I could pray about for others. I see requests on Facebook almost daily. Sometimes they are posted for all to see...sometimes they come to me in a private message. Sometimes the requests are for the person posting, but often they are for someone they know, love, or care about that is going through something difficult. And there are even times when someone shares a story of a complete stranger that is in need of prayer.

Of course Facebook isn't the only source for prayer concerns. I also get email, text messages, phone calls, and the occasional face to face request. However they come, I usually take a moment right then and pray. I don't want to tell someone I will pray and then forget.

As I was thinking about Fresh Starts, I decided I wanted to keep better track of these prayer requests. Some of them are just a one time prayer kind of request, but often they are matters that require ongoing prayer. And again...I don't want to forget these concerns.

So as part of my Fresh Starts focus for January, I started a little Prayer Book. It's not really a journal. I'm not writing out prayers in it. It's more of a list of prayer concerns that come to me each day.

When I decided to add this Prayer Book idea to my life, I knew I already had the perfect book to use. On August 14, 2011 my dear friend Praise Girl gave me this cute little blue book. It is a hard back book filled with empty lined pages.

I remember the night Praise Girl gave me this gift. It was late at night. I was the only one still up. I was packing. I was sad. We were moving. We were leaving our beautiful home in a beautiful town filled with beautiful people we loved.

Praise Girl came by to give me this little book and get one last hug. We sat on the steps and spoke in hushed tones...both of us in disbelief that tomorrow my family would be driving far away to our new home.

I took this lovely gift and put it in a bag that would rest beside my feet in our van during the long journey. Sometime the next day as we drove along dusty roads, I reached into the bag and pulled out the sweet gift and opened it up. The pages inside were crisp...bright...white...blank. 

But there on the inside cover I found these words handwritten by Praise Girl: "My sweet faithful friend... you are embarking on yet another journey.... yet another mission. Through many days and many miles - scenery, culture, and even relationships will change... But, the one true constant and ever firm hope is our God, our Lord, our Jesus Christ. Go with Him. Be filled with Him... He has a mission of the heart for you. Love you!"

Praise Girl's words to me were so comforting. They would sooth my soul many times over the next couple of years as I would pull this little book out and read them again and again. And yet... I left the pages blank. I didn't write in it. I wanted to save the little blue book for something special... but I didn't have any idea what that something special was...until I wanted to do a Prayer Book.

When I decided I wanted to keep a record of the prayer requests that come to me, I went to the shelf where I kept this special little Praise Girl gift. I pulled it down from it's place, opened it, and reread the beautiful words written on the inside. And I knew this was the something special for which this little book had been saved.

At the top of the first page, I wrote Prayer Concerns 2014 and under that I wrote January 1 and listed two prayer request I had received that day. I wrote these down in the book and prayed over each one as I did.

The next day, when I read on Facebook about a friend of mine in need, I wrote January 2 in my book, and listed her name and concern under it. It turns out that was a busy day as I went back to that book and wrote several more requests as they came to me on the second day of January.

We are just a couple of weeks into the new year and I am on the third page in my little Prayer Book. I can already look back and see God blessing the matters over which I have prayed. I'm also reminded to pray for some that have yet to be resolved or are ongoing concerns. 

From the moment that Praise Girl lovingly offered me this little gift... I was touched by her thoughtfulness, her words written inside, and her love for me. I am so glad I saved it until I had just the perfect use for it. I believe this little Prayer Book represents my journey here...it supports my mission to pray faithfully for others, which truly is... in Praise Girl's words...  "a mission of the heart" for me.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Praying It Forward Basket

I have a sweet basket of Christmas cards and letters sitting on my entry desk. I appreciate each and every person who sent us one. I am most thankful for the time it took to shop, purchase (and/or make) the cards, and write the letters. I cherish the photos that came with them. I am grateful for the money that was spent to mail them to us. And the thought...yes, the fact that each of these people thought of our family this Christmas definitely counts with me.

Our Praying It Forward Basket
Getting Christmas cards in the mail is a highlight of the season for me and I truly enjoy each one as I open them and reconnect with the ones who sent them. I treasure this correspondence more than my senders can possibly know.

So that is one of the reasons I have several boxes of Christmas cards tucked away. I save the pictures and many of the letters and the beautiful cards. They mean something to me.

This year as I focused on Fresh Starts, something from long ago came to mind...
One year when I was in elementary school, I remember Mom saving all of the Christmas cards we had received that year and she placed them in a basket by our kitchen table. Then each evening as we sat down to eat supper together, we pulled a card from the basket and prayed for the family that sent it to us.

It was a small gesture...took a few moments...and who knows what a difference it made? That memory stuck with me...and as I thought about the Fresh Starts I wanted to add to this year, I decided I wanted to do that with the cards we received for Christmas last month.

As you probably know by now, I do love finding good ideas and than adding my own twist to them to fit our family. So in true Rosie style...my twist with this idea is to make it an ongoing "Praying It Forward Basket".

As personal cards, letters, or notes of any kind come into our mailbox this year, we will open them, enjoy them, and then place them in the Praying It Forward Basket. Throughout the year I will take some time to reread each one and then pray for the sender throughout that day.

I may not do it every day, but I will read and pray over every item in that basket sometime in 2014. I might even contact the person or people I am praying for that day and ask if they have any special prayer concerns I could lift up to God for them.

I am excited about this idea because it really is a way to honor the time, effort, and even money that was spent to reach out to our little family. It's a way to love someone back...even if they don't know about it. Which reminds me of one of my favorite verses from 1 John.

My loved ones, let us devote ourselves to loving one another. Love comes straight from God, and everyone who loves is born of God and truly knows God.   ~ 1 John 4:7

So if you send me something in the mail this year...you can expect prayer for you and yours for a whole day in 2014. If you are looking for a Fresh Start to your prayer time or a way to love your friends or relatives this year...maybe you would like to try this idea as well.

It's just a way to love others and Pray it Forward in this new year.