My mother-in-law saw this story in the paper today! As we sit inside watching tropical storm Henri come blowing through, it's nice to know that my son's reputation and our company is getting good reviews out there. The funny thing about reading this is the fact that I had those same thoughts cross my mind when I was recently watching a video of a nest being removed. It made me feel sad. But safety first, right?
Sadness removing hornets nest
“You have a big hornets nest on that low branch of your maple tree hanging over the driveway,” my daughter Peg reported one day last week when she came to visit. She took a picture of it with her iPhone to show me and, sure enough, the nest was almost as big as a basketball. And it had been built when nobody was aware of it. Round, light grey and papery, it was a classic example of a perfect nest of its kind, and I wished that it was in a safer place so we didn’t have to deal with it.
When my sons found out about it, they said I should have someone come and remove it because hornets are vicious and unpredictable in their instinct to protect their nest. I knew I would have to get it taken care of but that nest was really an amazing creation, a true work of art built by a colony of fierce insects wanting only a safe place to bring up their young. I shouldn’t personify a nest of hornets but when you think of a queen bee setting up housekeeping with her horde of females collecting insects, caterpillars and nectar for the drones to help feed her young, it seems almost cruel to destroy the nest. If it were higher up in the tree, it might not have presented such a problem. But any truck or van coming into the driveway would probably brush against that nest and disturb the inhabitants so an unsuspecting visitor coming along next could be badly stung. Already they were buzzing just over our heads when we went out to get the mail from our mailbox.
The only thing left to do was to get someone to take down the nest.
My fearless neighbor Shelly across the street had dealt with a nest of her own when a colony of hornets built one on a branch over her pumpkin patch. She kept getting stung every time she went out to weed. She fiercely sprayed that nest, cut it down and destroyed it all by herself. She offered to come over and take down mine but I thought she was lucky that first time and I didn’t want her to risk being badly stung by my bees.
Once again I asked Wayne Daly who takes care of my lawn and shrubs to recommend someone and he said Family Pest Control of Wallingford could do the job.
Shortly after we called them, a young man named Caleb, whose grandfather had started the business which his father now runs, showed up to deal with the bees that he confirmed were bald faced (or white faced) hornets.
He donned a full bee suit, pulled down a stepladder from on top of his truck, sprayed the nest, clipped it off with loppers, and sprayed it again once it was down. He also sprayed the area where it had hung. He said any hornets flying outside the nest would return to the spot and if the nest was gone move on or ingest the spray and die.
Because I know that hornets and wasps are also pollinators, (though not as efficient as honeybees whose bodies are furrier and carry away more pollen) I felt guilty about having that nest destroyed. If it had been on a higher branch, I would have let it stay there. But low as it was, I couldn’t risk letting anyone inadvertently disturb it and get badly stung.
My neighbor Shelly, who had watched, with interest, the whole operation from her home across the street, had one thing to say about the whole process and that was “Maybe I should get a bee suit like that!”
By Phyllis Donovan (Record Journal)
Originally, the title of this blog was going to be "A Very Special Valentine" because it was back on February 14th when God revealed something that made me very emotional and overwhelmed with His love and presence. It was an experience that was simply amazing yet so hard to put into words. I am going to do my best to describe that day, which in fact was the conclusion to a very long journey. A journey that began well over twenty years ago.
I came up with the idea for the story (though the Mystery Girl had a different title back then) and wrote about half before I put it away. I got married, had my children, and dealt with all the ups and downs that life brings. It just was not time for the story to come out. Sometimes it is hard to see God's perfect plan and timing and it is so easy for us to get impatient when we do not see progress. That was me. I could not figure out why it just was not coming together. I wondered if I was even supposed to write it.
Then about six years ago I pulled out what I had written and began reworking the main idea, merging another story with it to make it more interesting. I came up with the title around that time too. It was a phrase that had a very personal meaning to me and I wanted to get an important point out to the young teens who might be struggling with the same issue of their identity in Christ. I did not get very far. In fact, after my dad passed away in 2015 I got such a horrible case of writer's block that nothing came easily. I wondered if I would ever be able to write again. I prayed for the Lord to bring inspiration again but all I got was a solid brick wall. Nothing. I thought that if only I could get a little doorway through that wall, or even just a window, to see the light come shining through once again. Old thoughts began to come back. Thoughts like "maybe what you have to say isn't important anyway," or "nobody wants to hear what you have to say. You're just a nobody in this world."
You see, ever since I had been a teenager, I had dealt with insecurity in who I was. There was a lack of confidence in what I said, always hiding in the shadows hoping that I did not displease anyone. I did not understand the depths of love and why God would love little old me. I always had a pretty good relationship with Him growing up, making Him my own around the young age of eight. I read my Bible every day and prayed, and I can truly say it was the Lord Who helped me through all my tough teens years. I simply do not know how teenagers get through those years without the help of the Lord. But the one idea that kept going through my mind all those years was that I was a "mystery girl" to all those who did not know me. That term was my companion for many years, and one day I shared my deepest thoughts with my husband. We talked it through and he gave me encouragement to share what I felt with others. He said it almost sounded like a good title for a book for teen girls and I liked his idea. I just did not know if I was ready to share it with the world or not. It was not time.
For about three or more years now, I 've been working on this book, writing a little before getting interrupted and putting it away for a while before getting the itch to write some more. The story began taking on its own form, then I would reread what I had written and find something that needed to be changed and work on that for a bit before putting it down again. It did not feel like I was getting anywhere with it. Then COVID hit, giving me time to sit down and do some writing. Finally, FINALLY, I finished it last summer, and thus began the long painful process of edits. Rereading it, making more changes, letting others read it to see if it flowed smoothly and made sense, cutting out parts that were not necessary to the story, then morphing the words to say what needed to be said. What was the hardest part was the idea that whoever read the book would be looking into my very soul, the deepest part of me that had haunted me for so many years. Did I really want that out in the open? I was still unsure about that idea.
Back in December, while we were dealing with our own issues of COVID in our home, I let Joe read the story. I wanted him to truly know that part of me and understand my heart. I think he took away a lot more than I ever imagined when he read what I had written. It was like something clicked inside of him and God began moving through him to show me love. Real, true love. Now, we have always had a good marriage. We always said, "I love you," and we have had a close relationship. I can count on one hand the few arguments we have had over almost 22 years of marriage. So, it was with great surprise that as the new year began he started to do some writing of his own and what came of it became something very special. It was a gift for my birthday. He wrote a little story entitled, "Cara's Five Perfect Days." I did not know what to expect but when I began reading, the tears poured down my face. It was only five chapters long, but I could only read one chapter at a time so what he wrote could settle into my head. In the last chapter Joe wrote about a scene where God reveals Himself to me as a loving Father. It truly was a gift of love. And as my book was completed around the same time, I found that in the process of writing my heart had begun to heal. I found the true meaning of love through Joe's gift and suddenly I understood how God truly viewed me and loved me.
So, that Valentine's Day, I was up in Vermont, visiting my mother. It was just Joe and I who had gone up and we had a very quiet weekend, catching up and enjoying our visit together. I went into the shower that Sunday morning to prepare for the day and that was when God revealed Himself. It was in the very same shower where I had shed tears of uncertainty and frustration as a teenager. His voice, though not audible, was heard loud and clear.
"This was where it all started and this is where it ends. You are no longer the mystery girl. You are my daughter, and I am your Father. And I love you."
I stood there with the water running over me, overwhelmed at the very thought that God had just revealed to me. It was like I was wrapped in a warm hug as peace and reassurance washed over me. And just like that I knew that I was healed. Because of my book. Because of God's timing. Because of Joe's expression of love. But most of all, because of God.
Overwhelmed. Loved. I am loved. There may be hard times just around the corner. There may be trials, struggles, and hardships, and yes, even times when I may feel distant from the Lord again, but I want to remember that day. That moment. The feeling that God, my Father, loves ME! I am a daughter of the King and I am not a mystery. He knows me. He knows my heart. And still loves me. That is the message I want to share with all the teen girls out there. Well, with all the women out there who share the same struggle. Maybe even some young men (and older men) who may struggle with where they stand with the Lord too. If I was 45 when my eyes were opened, then I'm sure there are others out there who need to hear it too. And I must say, my love for the Lord and for my husband is deeper than it ever was and my journey is only beginning.
"Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee." Jeremiah 31:3
Today is Thanksgiving. And so that is what I'm going to do. I truly have a lot to be thankful for. This year has had its many negatives but I do believe the positives win. So, today, I am thankful for....
-Peace in knowing I am saved, going to heaven, and that God keeps holding onto my hand.
- For our litter of kittens. We didn't think Mocha would ever have any but she finally did. The litter of five was born on my birthday...the best gift ever! We did lose little Murphy after a week long fight to keep him alive, but we had four strong, healthy kittens. We ended up keeping two. The other two went to live with Grammy and Grampy, who are getting great enjoyment and lots of smiles out of the mischievous boys.
-For our quarantine time. It was really nice when life slowed down. I was able to catch up on projects and be with the family. We grew very close and I loved every minute.
-For another graduate in our home. Alaina finished her 12th year at Heritage at 17 years old, and even though it was a tiny ceremony, it's exactly what she wanted. She began online college courses and is hoping to get into the Vet Tech program next year.
-For the amazing year we had with our pest control business. Last year at this time we were looking to sell because the year had been so bad. But even in the midst of corona, God blessed the work that came in above and beyond what we've ever had before.
-For our new car. Our Honda Pilot died in the middle of corona quarantine. I loved that car, but the timing could not have been better. We did not need such a big vehicle with everyone home. We did have a back- up vehicle until August, then God allowed us to get a 2017 Toyota Rav. It's the newest car I've ever had!
-For the opportunity to attend my best friend's wedding. What a joy it was to witness the long awaited answer to prayer for my friend Rachel. God brought her a husband after 20 plus years of praying for one. (This was the year!) Oh, the joy!
-For my new job as lunch lady at Heritage. I am enjoying the children, especially the little ones, and their funny comments. They love looking for Curly, Larry, and Herbert, the little creatures that "hide" in the lunchroom every day. The children's smiles and hellos brighten my day. And I love to be in the kitchen so it's a win-win situation.
I'm know I could list more but I wanted to post a poem I wrote a couple weeks ago. No matter what is going on in our world, there is always beauty to find, and God's hand is everywhere you turn. He is still in control. And that is what I'm thankful for the most:
After all the unrest
From the news of the weeks,
I went for a long, long walk.
Once in the fresh air,
My mind started to clear,
And all seemed right in the world.
The birds still sang their sweet happy songs,
The flowers still bloomed in the sun.
The bright yellow leaves
That still clung to the trees,
Waved gently to me in the breeze.
It was then that the Lord began speaking,
With that quiet small voice I know well:
"I am here, My child,
Do not be dismayed,
Of the way life seems to be going.
For I know the game man is playing.
The pieces are shifted around.
It may seem all is lost,
At such a great cost,
But My hand is still on the board.
Nothing goes on
Without my consent,
As it was from the beginning of time.
And since Adam and Eve
Chose sin over me,
Now all men must choose their side.
Yet, no matter what happens,
I'm still in control.
Do not let your heart fill with fear.
I'm still holding your hand,
You're still safe in my care."
And all seemed right in the world.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
The other day I was talking to my friend on the phone, catching up on the latest news about her job, her new home, and her new husband. We had a great conversation reminiscing about her wedding and then I found myself saying something very odd. I told her, "My scar is healing up quite nicely." Suddenly a thought occurred to me. "I know this may sound strange, but to be honest, I'm kind of proud of my scars."
She was puzzled and gave a little laugh. "Proud of them?"
I had to explain. "Yes, because it reminds me of an amazing day. Your wedding day. A long awaited answer to prayer. It was a day that was so beautiful and happy. Plus, it reminds me of how loving and merciful our Lord is. The incident could have been a lot worse..."
The incident I'm talking about is something that occurred on one of the best days I have seen in 2020. It has certainly been a roller coaster of a year. Too many things have happened that I would never care to see again in any other year. But seeing my best friend marry her soulmate this past August brought great joy to my heart.
The day dawned beautiful and sunny. Rae was beaming with happiness when I walked into the room and greeted her as she was getting her hair curled and pinned up. Her white dress hung from the light fixture nearby, a picture of purity and innocence, a long awaited dream that was finally coming true. We had only been 13 and 15 years old when we had first become pen pals. A man from my church had somehow gotten her address while visiting her church and asked me if I would care to write this young girl who needed a friend. I needed a friend too. We had both prayed for somebody to come into our lives, never imagining that a friendship of such long distance would work out so well. But God knew. Never underestimate what He can do. And how He is going to do it. His ways are never our ways.
In 1998 I married Joe, and Rae was one of my bridesmaids. Though she was happy for me, it hurt her to see me get married when she had no prospects in sight. It did hurt our friendship a bit as we both had very different lives after that. As my children came one after the other, she still had nobody on the horizon. For twenty-two years she watched me live a happily married life, even attending my daughter Alaina's birth in 2002. It was an amazing time for her, but still that ache in her heart put a little wall up between us. It was hard for her to relate to circumstances I told her about. It just made her want to get married all the more.
Fast forward to the end of 2019. She sent me a text about a gentleman she had met. She was not sure about what the future held for her and him, but there was something different about this guy. I could tell by her texts. I read between the lines. I had been praying for years with her, believing the Lord would bring someone special to her. Each year I would say, "Lord, let this be the year. Please let Rae find her soulmate!" Hope sprang up in my heart when her texts became more in depth about him. I heard the change in her voice, and in my heart I knew it was for real this time. My prayer changed to the plea, "Lord, please don't let this man break her heart! She has been through so much heartbreak already. Please don't let him hurt my friend!"
By the end of February, it was official. They were engaged. And very happy. An August wedding was set and wedding preparations began to unfold. She asked me to be her matron of honor. It brought tears to my eyes to think that it would be my turn to be by the side of my best friend as she said her long awaited wedding vows. As I looked into the specifics of what I was to do as her matron of honor, I found it was my job to put together a bridal shower. How was I going to do that being 14 hours away from her? I decided to ask Joe. Not my Joe, but her Joe. Isn't it funny that God decided to give her a Joe too? We have so much in common, being we both play the flute, love to write, love to read, etc, and now we have husbands with the same name. And the same sense of humor. Imagine that!
So, Joe (and Rae's mom and dad, as well as the two other bridesmaids) helped me put together a wonderful surprise shower for her and we pulled it off, completely giving her the surprise of her life. It had been years since we had seen each other, so to see her three good friends, two from the East Coast, standing there in front of her was a shock. The look on her face was priceless! It was a day we will never forget.
Fast forward to August 29th. The day dawned beautiful and sunny. Rae was beaming with happiness when I walked into the room and greeted her....oh wait, I said that already. It was worth repeating. My best friend was getting married! Oh, what an answer to prayer! The entire day was filled with answers to prayer. It was one of the most beautiful weddings I have ever attended. I won't go into all the details of the entire day but the joy and happiness of the bride and groom was a sight to behold. It all ended too fast and soon the two were getting ready to walk through a sparkler line where they would climb into a horse drawn carriage and leave for their honeymoon. I had my phone camera on and was handed a couple of sparklers. I held the phone up to capture their walk through and then it happened. Somehow the sparkler I was holding broke. Now, I was wearing quite a high necked dress so it really puzzles me as how this all happened, but the burning sparkler piece fell onto my neck, and down the front of my dress. Meanwhile, I still had the camera on, though all you can see is the grass. You hear a gasp, then, "Joe! It fell down my dress!"
I glanced down and saw the chiffon at the bottom of my dress beginning to light up. All I could think of was the fact that I was going to be engulfed in flames in a matter of seconds. Joe thought so too. He quickly snuffed out the flame on the skirt part, then without even hesitating, reached into my dress and pulled out the burning piece of sparkler. You may smirk, but he did it with such rapid speed and unconcern for burning himself that he is my hero. He told me later that he would know when he found it by feeling the burn. I wish I could say I enjoyed watching the newlyweds leave in their carriage but the pain set in after that. I took off across the field, up over the hill, and hurried to the pavilion where they were packing up all the food from the reception.
"I need ice! Do you have any available?" I asked as soon as I got there. I had left Joe in the dust as I had raced for relief. Upon hearing what had happened, the ladies quickly gave me a bag of ice that instantly took away my pain, as long as I kept the cold pack on the burns. Then I remembered that I had tea tree oil in my car. The roller kind that would be easy to rubbed over the burns. I quickly asked Joe to unlock the car. I spread the oil all over my burns and then put the ice back on. I sent a text to the other bridesmaids telling them what happened, not realizing that Rae was part of the group chat too. I did not mean to worry her like that. I did not want to spoil her wedding day with the news that I had been hurt. But she quickly responded, telling me that she and Joe were praying for me. As did the other bridesmaids. And within two hours of the incident the pain was totally gone. It did not look pretty, but that would heal in time.
It has been a month and a half since that day now, and my scars have faded. The biggest one is just a little white spot under my collar bone. But that scar serves to remind me of many things: it reminds me of answered prayer - our timing is not God's timing. His ways are perfect. He will provide above and beyond what we can even think or imagine. It also reminds me of that wonderful day when my sweet friend Rae said her vows and became one with her long awaited husband. It reminds me that God works out every detail, right down to even the smallest one, like having me put the tea tree oil in my purse so I would have it for that very moment. And it reminds me that the incident could have been so much worse - I could have gone up in flames and burnt more of my body then just a little part of my neck and chest but He was so merciful to me. And for that very reason I can say that I'm proud of the scars He gave me as a reminder that God is always good. And God is always right. But last of all, I am thankful and proud for the scars He took for me on the cross so that I could become a daughter of the king. He is an amazing Father, isn't He?
I love animals but you already know that. I write about them all the time and post pictures of them too. So don't be surprised that this post is also about animals. I truly believe God gave them to us for enjoyment and entertainment, but He also put them on this earth to teach us some things.
Look at how many times He talks about different animals in the Bible: foxes, sheep, doves, sparrows, roaring lions, fish, unicorns (rhinos) and even leviathan! There is so much to learn from the creation of the Master Artist. And once again He taught me something I wanted to share with you.
Two weeks ago a hurricane blew through our area. There were some pretty strong gusts of wind and I stood outside with JJ listening as the wind approached. It sounded like a semi bearing down on us as each gust began, growing louder as it got stronger, doing its worst as the trees bent over backward, then eased off again. (Hmmm, ladies, kind of like labor pains?) We wondered how the trunks did not crack under the pressure. Branches fell around us, whipping leaves all over the place. We decided to go inside where it was safe from falling debris. I prayed for safety of our house and us as I stood looking out, asking the Lord once again to keep the trees from falling on anything important.
Can I say that I hate heavy wind? It brings back scary memories of the tornado in Indiana in 2002. Ever since then I have been nervous of the wind. But God has always been faithful and has taken care of us every time.
So, I stood at the slider looking out when suddenly a little family of Tufted Titmice landed on the deck. Oblivious to the storm around them, that little momma hopped around on the deck looking for food for her hungry family. She discovered some soggy bread we had left out the day before and began the task of feeding each impatient baby, stuffing little pieces into one mouth then getting more for the other one.
I could not help but marvel at her calmness. She was not scared of the howling winds around her. Her family was the most important thing at the moment and she knew her Creator was in control. He had provided her family with food and she knew He would take care of her family through the howling storm.
It was exactly the encouragement I needed that day. Those little birds gave me hope. The words from a song I heard recently says it all:
Hope has a way of turning its face to you just when you least expect it.
You walk in a room, you look out a window, and something there leaves you breathless.
You say to yourself its been a while since I felt this,
But it feels like it might be hope.
Hope is an amazing thing to have. It's the lifeline we hang on to when things are spiraling out of control around us. It's our anchor in the midst of the storm. And God is my Hope, my Anchor, and my Lifeline. Do you have Him as your hope? If not, grab a hold of Him today. It's the safest place to be in the midst of that storm.
Her cries tore my heart as I drove to the vet. Her sweet multicolored face looked out from the bars, her eyes meeting mine as the merows grew louder. She had known what was coming as soon as she saw the cat carrier. She was long overdue for her shots but with all the drama of our other cat and her kittens, Kia got put on the back burner. And she liked it that way.
But then it was her turn. As soon as she knew what was coming, she tried to run but I caught her and put her inside. And the desperate cries began immediately. Siamese cats have a unique cry that comes straight from the deepest part of the throat. It almost sounds like a baby crying, which sets off the button inside my mom brain that something is wrong and I need to fix the problem. But I couldn't.
It just wasn't time.
As she lay in the carrier crying and staring wide-eyed out at me, I found myself telling her, "It's going to be okay, Kia. I'm right here. I know you don't like this but it's for your own good. It's just not time."
It was obvious she didn't like the situation. Her eyes said it all. "I hate this. This isn't what I planned for my day. I'm uncomfortable and scared. I'm out of my comfort zone. I see you out there! Why aren't you doing anything to help me out of this horrible place?"
Because it just wasn't time.
And then it hit me. How many times are we in the same boat in life? We are cruising along happily in life when suddenly God puts us in a "carrier" and takes us out of our comfort zone. We cry and plead for Him to get us out. We say, "I hate this. This isn't what I planned for my day. I'm uncomfortable and scared. I'm out of my comfort zone. I see you out there! Why aren't you doing anything to help me out of this horrible place?" but He doesn't make a move to open the door to escape. He just whispers soft, comforting words. "It's going to be okay, my child. I'm right here. I know you don't like this but it's for your own good...
It's just not time."
We don't always understand why we have to go through tough trials. But God does. He sees the plan from beginning to end. His timing is perfect. He won't ever leave you through it all. And He will open the door to let you out of the fiery trial as soon as it is time.
Let's face it, people, my hubby is a hero. Now, heroes come in many forms, such as firefighters, emergency workers, doctors, nurses, teachers, and even to little children who love big trucks, the garbage man. Yet, on all the signs that I have seen along the sides of the roads during this isolation, none of them ever have pest control workers listed. It is obvious to me after seeing how many calls are coming in for the business that pest control is essential. With everyone at home right now, the fact is they are seeing more bugs. And so they call. And Joe comes to their rescue.
Joe is not only a hero because he helps people get rid of their mice and ants (as well as play the psychistrist with hysterical men and women who are convinced the no-see-ums will attack them in the night), but he is also a hero when it comes to working around the house. Our house. That was one of the qualities I wanted in a man that I married because it was something my father did when I was growing up. I loved the smell of freshly cut wood, and the fact that anything broken was always fixable in his eyes. He always had some project in the works which gave him something to keep him busy when he was not in his office designing chips at IBM.
The busiest time for Joe is spring and summer so the home projects are put on hold during the months when everyone else is traveling and on vacation. So, I have had to learn to wait a little longer for things to get fixed around here during those times. But some things do not wait for the maintanence man. They just continue to break down. Therefore, Joe becomes a bigger hero to me when I need to call him during the middle of the day because a faucet decided to break in my hand and shoot water all around our bathroom. Let me explain:
I was in the bathroom washing my hands when I noticed the water was still leaking after I turned the water off. The faucet had started doing this a few days before. I had found a way to fix it by giving the handle a little nudge backward to turn off the steady stream until it became a drip. Now, I always knew we had hard water, what with all the spots and white film that coated my dishes when we need to add more salt in the water softener. Plus I had seen how other faucets had become corroded from the minerals from our well water.
I should have known better. I should have listened to the warning bells inside my head. But I still nudged the handle. I felt it give way and water began bubbling up around my hand. Within a few seconds it was not just bubbling, it was spraying up as the silver knob fell onto the sink. Quickly I covered the hole with my hand and pushed down as hard as I could. With my free hand I reached underneath the sink to try and turn the water off that way. The knobs would not budge. The water was still coming out and my hand was hurting. I grabbed a towel and used that to press down. It helped slow the water a little, but I was still stuck. Panic set in. How was I going to get out of this mess? I'm locked in this bathroom and nobody knows I need help. How do I open the door and get the kids' attention while I hold back the floodgates?
I changed hands and with my left hand I began banging the side of the wall, meanwhile hollering out the words HELP ME as loud as I could. I figured my loud noise and shouting would draw someone's attention. It felt like a millions years passed but finally one of my children came to find out what was going on.
We ended up changing places so I could grab the phone to call Joe as I raced downstairs to find the emergency water shut off. With his instructions I was able to turn off the water to the house and we temporarily fixed the flood gates. Granted, we did not have any water in the house for the rest of the day, but I had seen enough of it for the time being to not want anymore for awhile.
To make a long story short, Joe was my hero that night and fixed the faucet, and he also fixed the water nozzles underneath the sink. We can now turn the water on and off with a simple twist of the knobs. (He informed me that the old ones did not work anyway. Say what? Why were they even under there then?)
For us, life is always an adventure. We never know what lies around the next bend. It could be a a flood in the house, a graduation of another child, or just a quaratine picnic at the park because that is the only place you can find to eat your hibachi. But it's all good. If you have not already figured out what the title of my blog means, I'll give you a hint: today marks our twenty-second anniversary. Twenty-two years with the man God put into my life to be my spouse. He has spent twenty-two years helping people get rid of bugs (first computer bugs and now wild scary hairy bugs), fixing things in our home, working audio/video stuff at church, and just being a hero. My hero. I may not say it often enough, but I am glad he is the one God chose for me to make this journey of life with. I am glad he is like my father in so many ways, including the fact that he loves the Lord first and foremost. So, Happy Anniversary to us! And may we celebrate many more years together as Joe continues to be everyone's hero.
A last note: As I was just looking at the pictures below, it occurred to me that we had no idea what was going on below the surface of the faucet. It looked great on the outside, but it was being destroyed from the inside. Don't let that happen to your marriage. Be careful to guard both inside and out. Don't let corrosion break up a beautiful thing!
Jericho. The massive, walled city that Joshua and the people of Israel faced as their first obstacle to overcome after Moses died. To man's earthly point of view, it looked impossible to penetrate. The men of the city were trained soldiers, armed and ready for battle. They had years of knowledge under their belts and knew how to deal with their enemies.
Then came the whisper. A tiny thought or conversation that began as a small spark of news which suddenly caught fire and spread throughout the entire country. Burning fear into the hearts of the people. Fear that has a way of holding a grip so tight that it paralyzes from the inside out. And that was how it was when the two spies entered into the city, which still had their gates open at the time.
Rahab. A woman often talked about, even looked down upon because she was just one of the city's many harlots trying to make a living. I say one of the many because in a city that size, I am positive she was not alone in her profession. For some reason she was not married and had to make a living. So she found a way. The only way she knew how.
And so the fire spread. From one house to the next the word got out that Israel's God had helped them escape from slavery in Egypt, cross the Red Sea, and defeat the kings of the Amorites. The fiery fear grew so hot that it caused their hearts to melt, disintegrating any courage that may have remained in even the strongest men. And the city bided their time, knowing that one day it would be their turn to face the nation established by Jehovah God.
Then the two spies arrived at Rahab's doorstep. Why did they go there? Did they end up there because they were simply looking for a room to stay, or were they there to give her business? The Bible does not say, but for reputation's sake, I would hope they were on the up and up and just wanted a room. Maybe they had overheard that it was a hotel and not a brothel. Yet, for whatever reason they chose that home, it is obvious that God specifically led them to her door. Maybe Rahab had even prayed to Israel's God when she had heard they had crossed the Jordan and were not too far away. She knew what was coming in the near future and was prepared for the men.
So she took them in. She heard the soldiers were searching for the spies and hid the two men between the stalks of flax drying on her roof. She misdirected the soldiers when they questioned her and sent them out of the city in pursuit of the men she was hiding. It gave her time to talk to them. It gave her time to share her heart and plead with them not to hurt her, or her father, mother, sisters and brothers. She knew God was in control. She knew He was going to give them her massive city. Nothing was too big for the God of Israel.
Thankful for her help, the two spies agreed to spare her life.
"When God gives us the city, we will deal kindly with thee. Anyone who is gathered on this side of the door will be spared. But anyone who leaves or is found outside, they will be killed and it won't be our fault."
Rahab agreed. She knew they had listened and she would do her part in helping them escape. When it was safe for them to leave, she took a red cord and tied it to her window in her house. The window that was on the very edge of the wall of the city. An easy escape. Who said God was not in this?
"Leave this cord in the window," one of the spies told her before climbing down. "That way we will know which house is yours and it will lead us to come rescue you and your family. Remember, anyone not in the house will die."
"According to your words, so be it." She would do what they said. She watched as the two men escaped into the woods near the city and left the cord in the window as a marker of her home. She trusted their word and their God.
People must have noticed the cord hanging there. Someone probably questioned her, wondering why she left a long, bright red cord dangling out her window?
"Are you trying to draw attention to our city?" they may have asked. "Why red?"
She did not say why. She probably just shrugged. The people left her, thinking she was crazy. And as her city was closed up tightly due to the rising fear of the coming Israelite's, she did not worry. She held onto a secret that nobody else, except her family, had. The red cord meant salvation. It was her lifeline of hope in a world of fear and panic. It was her one way out of fiery destruction. They were shut up inside the walls of the city, with the fear raging through all the hearts of the people, dreading the morning when they would wake up and find the enemy at their doorstep.
And that morning came much too soon, though the enemy just marched around the walls one time and left. The next morning they did it again. For six days they marched once around the city only to head back to their camp. Maybe it set the people on edge inside the walls. Maybe they began to think they were safe. But Rahab kept hanging onto the promise that she would make it out alive. And she did! Because on the seventh day, the enemy marched around seven times, and this time made a lot of noise. The walls began to tremble, and the ground shook as God took His hand and flicked the walls down, like a toddler with a tower of blocks. Yet, the house of Rahab remained untouched. The spies hurried inside to rescue her and her family. They brought them out to a safe place and returned to pillage the rest. It must have been a hard thing for Rahab to watch everyone she knew die, but she knew in her heart that God was the One true God and He was the reason for saving her. It was her faith that saved her.
After reading this story the other day, I could not help but see a lot of similarities of our current situation. The news is full of 'horror stories' that can quickly turn a spark into a full fledged fire that consumes an entire nation. But here is something to think about: in this time of fear and panic, with our country "walled up" just waiting for the "enemy" to attack, is your heart melting in fear because of the fiery news or are you hanging onto the promise the scarlet cord has to offer? That red cord represents Jesus and His salvation. Our way out of death and destruction. God is so much bigger than any fear or enemy! He is in control and always has been! Just keep the faith and keep your eyes on HIM!
Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash
For the last year or so, we've had a strange way of calming people down in our house when we think they are getting too rowdy or crazy. I am not sure how it all began, but one day I noticed my eldest putting his hand on the shoulder of the overly energetic person and saying, "Calm." The habit began to grow, and I soon found myself getting calmed when I would suddenly begin singing a song to a phrase someone said, or if I told a joke that was a little lame. My husband, who is the king of jokes, (and pulling out the Ipad so he could play an annoying song on YOU TUBE after a comment reminded him of an old show he used to watch as a little kid) found himself getting calmed through the work day. One day he even called to inform me that he had been calmed about 100 times that day.
"Did you need to be calmed?" I asked, knowing quite well he probably did.
"Nay, why would I need to be calmed? I'm always serious!" he informed me.
I told him to calm.
After awhile it was not necessary to calm the person on the shoulder. It came to a point where all that he needed to do was stretch the hand out in a swift, forward motion to show the person he needed calming. There were times I wished I had a 'calm' button for my car. I could just push a button near my steering wheel and a little light on the back window of the car would glow with the letters, CALM. That would be to inform the one tailgating me he shouldn't be so crazy. I don't know if that would have worked, but it sure would have been worth a try.
So, I had to run some errands today. I had some checks for the business to deposit, grab the mail, and get some food for my large family, who are eating more now that they are home all day. As I drove along the roads, I was shocked to see how little traffic there was. Driving through little neighborhoods revealed houses with two or three cars parked out front. On any normal day, all those cars would be on the road, honking, tailgating, rushing hither and yon, doing whatever everyone does during the day. But not since this corona virus hit. People have taken to sheltering in their homes, not going out unless, like me, it was absolutely necessary. I must say that it was kind of nice. It was peaceful. And I must say that it was actually....calm. I got a feeling that it was as if God had come to a point where He felt like it was time. Time to slow the world down. Time to get people to stop for a little while and clear their heads. Time to listen for His voice in this shaky time. Time to stretch forth His hand and tell the world to calm.
Psalms 46:10-11 says, "Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.
Please know that I am not downplaying this virus in any way. I know how contagious it is, and I know people are dying from it. I truly am sorry for all those families that have been effected by this horrible virus. I am taking precautions to keep myself and my family from getting it. But I am enjoying the quiet times I am getting. I am enjoying not having to run to five different places every day. I actually finished my book last night. The story part, that is. Now comes the editing, and editing, and editing. You get the picture. But my point is I was able to stop long enough to clear my mind and actually write. I am getting time with a my children. I am getting time with my new little kittens. I am getting time with my Lord, which is the most important thing right now. Because if He is slowing me down, then He wants me to learn something. He wants me to be still, and KNOW that He is God. What are you doing during this time to get reconnected? Are you taking the time to be still? Because God has something He wants to show you. And you won't be disappointed.
(photos credits by Marc-Olivier Jodoin on Unsplash)
Note: This is a devotional I did for a baby shower. I thought it might be encouraging to other moms who did not attend that evening. It's always good to hear that you aren't alone in your struggles of motherhood.
I am honored and humbled that Anna asked me to speak tonight, but I’m also scared to death to speak in front of a crowd. So, let’s begin with a word to prayer:
Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for this time we have to gather together in joyous celebration of Charina and her precious baby boy. Please fill me with Your peace as I speak to these ladies, and may I be a blessing and an encouragement, especially to the young moms as they do this thing called motherhood. Blessing this evening and our time together tonight, in Your precious name, Amen.
On the table you will each find an index card and a pencil. There should be one for each of you. I am going to read a little story, and in it are the nine fruits of the spirit, found in the book of Galatians. They may or may not be the exact words, but something that means the same thing. Write the words down as you hear them read in the story.
They wanted to dig to the center of the earth! I debated whether or not I should say no. I did not have the patience to deal with dirt covered children, mud caked into my carpets, or yet another change of clothing per child. I was always the one to take the easier route, meaning if it meant work for me than it wasn’t worth it. I mean, really, with life as a full time, stay at home mom, with five children, that meant work enough! Cooking, cleaning, dishes, laundry, homeschooling (at the time), constantly stepping on and picking up Lego bricks left on the floors, settling arguments over ridiculous issues…the list goes on.
As I struggled with the thoughts of frustration such a mess could bring, I asked myself, “What could it hurt? They’re actually getting along out there!” Not once had I heard a screech or a raised voice indicating a battle was ensuing. No, it was actually a peaceful moment. Besides, a little extra laundry wasn’t the end of the world. And a dirty floor could be washed – again. I figured I would be kind in this matter, so, in the end, the joy of watching the children play nicely and creatively won over.
“Let them be kids,” I thought meekly. “Childhood goes by too quickly to put too many restrictions on fun, creative play. And I love hearing their happy voices outside my window.”
So, I let them dig to the center of the earth. It was a spot in the yard hidden behind the bushes near the stream. I could see them gathered around in excitement as the oldest dug with all his might. They took turns shoveling and tossing the dirt away as the hole slowly grew deeper. I went out to check their progress, and the children excitedly showed me how far they had gone. My oldest was up to his waist in the muddy pit.
“Great work!” I commented. “When you reach the center of the earth, make sure you tell me so I can toss a rope down for you can climb back home.”
“But I don’t know how to climb a rope!” one of the boys said.
“Just tie it around your waist and walk up the side of the hole. It takes a lot of self control to climb, but I know you could do it. You’re strong like that!” I replied.
A great big grin spread across his face as he turned back to watch his brother dig even deeper. Their lively voices were full of eagerness of finding great treasures inside the earth. Anticipation grew with each brightly colored stone they pulled out. The shovels were not gentle on them, but any blisters that formed on their hands were ignored. It was pure, childish delight. They spent the entire afternoon outside, with a childlike faith, believing they would find lots of rubies, diamonds, and dinosaur bones once they reached the center.
I’m sad to say that they did not reach the center of the earth that afternoon, nor did they after eating dinner on the back deck that night. Daddy hosed them down with cold water before letting them anywhere near the inside of the house. Wasn’t he thoughtful? After a bath, they climbed into bed, tired and sore from all their hard work. They all fell asleep immediately that night, making bedtime sooooo easy for me! I wish every night was like that!
That story was a true story, which happened about 12 years ago. It was always something that made an impression on me, the way they worked together! It was one of those proud moments where I felt like I might be doing something right because they were actually getting along! It was one of those moments as a mom where I let go of my own struggles to keep a perfect house, to constantly keep my children looking somewhat presentable, and to always keep everything perfectly organized. And it was a moment where I let my children be children. Their dreams were so innocent, and the smiles on their faces were far more priceless than any gems they hoped to discover in the ground. But not every day was like that.
There were many mornings I would wake up after a long night with a sick child and all I could think about was how much I wished it was night time already so I could climb back under the covers and go to sleep again
Other mornings I would wake up to hear their voices through the walls, and dread the day because I did not want to face the children’s arguing and bickering, the lies, stubbornness, or mischievous things my children would do. They each had their own struggle to deal with. And as their mom it was my God-given job to help them learn how to deal with their struggles and learn how to overcome them. To give them over to the Lord.
But one of my own struggles was not knowing how to help them all the time. I struggled with my flesh getting in the way of teaching them the right way. Yet, if I was supposed to teach them that God is good and can help them through their struggles, I needed to allow Him to help me through my own struggles which included a lack of patience, not always having joy in situations, not feeling peaceful, not always being kind with my words, not being gentle, etc.
Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
Inside my basket, I have something that represents each fruit:
Love – I have here a little stone sign to remind us that love never fails. I Cor 13:4 says, “Charity (or love) suffereth long, and is kind.” I John 4:8 says that God is love. True, Biblical love is a choice, not a feeling. When it comes to our children, we may not always feel like loving them, but we need to make that choice to show them love because God is love. And His love will never fail.
Joy – I like joy. It means feeling great pleasure or happiness. What brings you happiness? I like getting flowers. (hold up roses) Seeing these red roses bring me joy. Romans 15:13 says, “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost.” Find joy in the little things your children do and say, and write those moments down. It will be those memories that will help carry you through the tough times, and 12 years later you can laugh and reminisce about it with your children at the dinner table.
Peace – Isaiah 26:3 says, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” (Pull out baby lullaby toy.)I found this and immediately thought of peace when I heard it. I love watching a baby sleep. They look so peaceful and sweet and it’s hard to believe something so small and fragile could make so much noise when awake and hungry. We are to rest like that too. When we keep our mind on the Lord, trusting Him to take care of all the little details and in between things we don’t have control of, we bring a peace to our home that our children will feel, and they too will be at peace.
Goodness/Kindness – Goodness is also considered being kind. Ephesians 4:32 says, “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” Showing kindness to our children is a given, but we need to also show them how to be kind to others. Have them help you make cookies to give to someone, or write some notes to shut-ins and include a picture from the children. And always, always, say thank you to people for things they do to you. (Pull out thank you cards.) This will teach your children gratitude in all areas of their lives.
Patience – Patience means the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset. Wow, that’s a tough one! This does not come easily to any of us. Patience means waiting. Psalms 37:5 says, “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him…” So for patience I picked up a little tool that represents waiting…or the passing of time. No one likes to wait for an answer. We want everything now, like our children who come in the kitchen half an hour before dinner saying they can’t wait for dinner or else they’ll die. We as their moms need to teach them to wait without getting upset. We need to learn to tolerate their childishness without getting upset. Now that is a challenge I still struggle with. But be careful when you pray for patience because God does have a sense of humor. He will bring some crazy events your way that will make you realize how easy it was before you prayed!
Self Control – Next comes self control. Proverbs 25:28 says, “He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.” If we don’t have self control, situations can get out of hand. We are unprotected, like that city that has no walls to keep out the enemy. (Pull out bag of chocolates.) We may eat too much and then feel guilty afterwards, another symptom of the lack of self control. By showing our children how to control hunger, anger, our tongue, etc, we are teaching them something that they will carry with them into adulthood.
Gentleness - Titus 3:2 says, “To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, showing all meekness unto all men.” (Pull out loofah.) It is a natural thing to tend to the needs of our bodies gently and with great care. I even found a soft loofah that doesn’t scratch and leave red marks all across the skin. We need to tend to the needs of the children as gently as we tend to ourselves. This includes their need of spending time with them, and listening to them when they need to talk. We need to teach them to respond gently to their siblings, with kind words and respectful attitudes.
Meekness – When I think of meekness, I think of Jesus on the cross. He never complained about what the people were doing to Him. He was humble. He was like a lamb. (Hold up the soft lamb.) I Tim 6:11 says, “But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, and meekness.” Again, some of the qualities we’ve already covered are mentioned in that verse. Keep yourself humble in front of your children. Apologize to them if need be. Show them humilty and they will learn to be humble and meek.
Faith- Lastly, but not least, comes faith. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Salvation requires faith. Not only believing in Jesus, that He died on the cross for our sins because we needed a Savior, but also believing God can do great things when we go to Him in prayer. Pray with your children. Let them see God move and answer prayers. (Hold up journal.) We walk by faith and not by sight it says on the front. Keep a journal and write down what God does for you. Show your children when they need to be encouraged to trust the Lord for something they are praying for. Show them God still works today.
So, in closing, I wish I could say that there weren’t going to be hard days as you train your little ones. You’ll have your struggles. You’ll have those moments where you’ll want to run away. But if you ask the Lord for wisdom and strength, He will be there right by your side each step of the way. Keep your basket of the fruit of the spirit handy, and remember that since God created that fruit, it’s good to partake of. And take great joy in the times that bring a smile to your face as you listen to your children play peacefully together. They all need times when they are allowed to dig to the center of the earth. They may be looking for rubies and diamonds, but to you, their mom, seeing the smiles on their faces is a priceless gift. And you will be rewarded with a far greater treasure as you see the fruit of the spirit grow in them as they grow into young adults.