The other night I was doing my daily Bible reading and was enjoying the part of the story when Joseph finally tells his brothers that the man under all the frills and Egyptian make-up was him. "I am Joseph," he announced to his stunned brothers.
The story of Joseph is one of my favorite stories of all times, but I always find that particular part of the story so amazing! It never fails to brings tears to my eyes every time I imagine him coming to that point when he just could not wait any longer. They had passed all his tests to see where their hearts were at this point in their lives, and he must have been satisfied with it because suddenly he just HAD to tell them. It was time to give the big reveal! Too bad there weren't any cameras around at the time because the looks on their faces would have been fun to see.
Yet, after the surprise was over, they had to face the fact that their father needed to know. And telling him that Joseph was alive meant they had to confess to what they had done and tell the truth. Joseph had sent a gift of wagons to carry all of them back to Egypt, as well as donkeys laden down with goods to keep them alive until they returned to him. There was no keeping the secret any longer, but I've often wondered if they confessed right away when they saw their father, or if they just simply told him that Joseph was alive and waiting for them in Egypt? It says they relayed all that Joseph had told them, but did they keep the part about how Joseph got to Egypt out of the conversation?
So, Jacob, after finally coming to the realization that he was going to see his son again, after twenty plus years, he begins his journey, only to stop along the way to make sacrifices to the Lord. It is there that God comes to him in a vision during the night and speaks to him. He reassures Jacob of the promise of making him a great nation, and that Joseph is indeed alive and will be there when Jacob dies.
This part made me pause for a moment....God knows everything, right? God sees the past, present, and the future. He knew Jacob would make this journey to see his son, the one that he thought had died by the hands of cruel beasts of the woods. God could have told Jacob so many years before and let him know that he would see Joseph again! Wouldn't that have been the kind thing to do?
It kind of reminds me of the story of the Wizard of Oz...the "good" witch kept guiding Dorothy along the way, never telling her that she could simply click her heels, which would allow her to return home. She could have saved her lots of grief and worry along the way if she had just told her upfront the solution to all her problems! But no, there were lessons to be learned, and things to do along the journey.
And so it was for Jacob. And especially Joseph. If Jacob had been told the truth that Joseph was alive in the beginning, he would have gone after his son, rescued him, and brought him back home saving them both from horrible grief and misery along the way. If that had happened, what would have become of them in the long run? Would they have died when the famine hit the land because there was no food prepared for the hard times? God knew. He had hand picked Joseph for the job because He knew Joseph's heart. And so God did not tell Jacob because He needed His plan to be fullfilled. He wanted Jacob to wait.
This is where my title of the blog comes in - The Waits of Life. You probably thought I misspelled the word, but there is no mistake. The weights in this world are often God telling us to "wait" for the answer. For His timing. He may not answer for a day, a month, a year, or even twenty years, like Jacob, but He will give an answer when it is right. And in the meantime, the time in between is often used to shape us, mold us, and refine us so we can be exactly who He wants us to be when the time is right for the answer.
I hate waiting. I hate not knowing what is going to happen, or what decision I should make regarding an important matter. I had one of those days yesterday. It was one of those strange days, where lots of things happen that are not normal. One of them was finding a little purple finch under my bird feeder. He was hurt and unable to fly. I took him in my hands and got him warm. He closed his eyes trusting that I was not going to hurt him and rested. I ended up bringing him inside and nestled him in a cozy towel inside a box where my kitties could not get him. I could see he was not doing well so I prayed that if he was going to die, that the Lord would take him quickly and not let him suffer. Within an hour he had passed. The verse about God seeing every sparrow fall went through my mind. I am thankful God answered my prayer quickly for the sake of the bird and I did not have to wait a long time to know what to do with him.
But there are other matters I need to wait for such as salvation for family members and resolutions to financial matters that still lurk under the surface, never seeming to go away. These weights can be heavy on the shoulders. It can seem like they are pushing me underneath the waves and I can't take a breath of fresh air. Yet, God knows. He knows my past, present, and future. He is using this time to make me to be who He wants me to be, shaping me, molding me, and refining me. He wants me to hand these weights over to Him, to let Him carry me through these tough times as I wait for His perfect timing for answers.
"Casting all your cares upon Him for He careth for you." I Peter 5:7
"Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly of heart; for My yoke is easy and My burden is light." Matthew 11:29-30
I want to meditate on these verses today as I learn to give Him the weights in life, and learn to wait on Him. Won't you join me today?
The title says it all. It's the start of a new year, a new chapter in the journey of your life.
I do love the feeling of starting over, so to speak, with an unwritten page in front of me, wondering what is going to be written on the lines of my life. I could easily pick up the pen and write in what I want to happen, what I think should happen, or I could hand the pen over to the One in charge of my life and trust Him to write what is best for me. Philippians 4:6 says, "Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:".
God is not going to steer me wrong, but I need to keep on seeking His face. Seeking Him daily for wisdom, for help with life decisons, for courage to stand up for Him, and for the others in my life that He has called me to pray for. So many times I have failed the Lord and I fall short of His glory all the time. Yet, He keeps on picking me up, just like a father that tenderly helps his child up after falling for the 100th time as they learn how to walk.
Anna sang a song on Sunday that I love and the words go like this: "I ask You: "How many times will You pick me up, when I keep on letting You down? And each time I will fall short of Your glory, how far will forgiveness abound? And You answer: "My child, I love you!" And as long as you're seeking My face, you'll walk in the power of My daily sufficient grace."
As long as I keep seeking His face. As long as I keep putting Him first in all that I do and say. Then will I walk in the power of His grace. His daily grace. Now, that is my New Year's resolution....to really seek His face this year. To be a shining light to all those around me in this dark world. And to be a prayer warrior for all those who need me to stand in the gap for them, friends and family. May God help me keep this resolution close to my heart. Amen!
Hello everyone! Joe was suddenly inspired to write a little story about popcorn balls. We had been at the store and I remembered that it was the one that always had those little prepackaged popcorn balls we all love to eat this time of year. To his dismay, they were completely out of stock. He tried another store only to find they were out, too. The lesson we learned this year was that we need to get them right after Thanksgiving. But something triggered an idea for a story in his mind and he wrote this up, with a little help with editing from me. So, here you go. Enjoy this little story called, The Great Popcorn Ball Christmas.
Snow fell outside the living room window as David and Esther decorated their seven-foot tall tree with lights and ornaments. Abigail, their four-year-old daughter danced, in joy as she watched the large flakes quickly cover the yard. Her long curly hair bounced in her excitement as she hopped over to where they worked.
“You’re like a little bunny today!” Esther, her mother laughed.
Abigail’s nose wrinkled as she grinned. “Can we make a snowman? Can we? Can we?”
Esther could not help but smile back. “I’d love to, but I need to make cookies for Daddy’s work party. Maybe Daddy can take you outside after we’re finished here.”
David looked at Abigail, glanced at the clock, and then looked back at his bouncy daughter. How could he say no to that adorable smiling face with the wrinkle in the nose?
“Well, in a half hour the snow should be deep enough, and we should be done with the tree. Then we can go out to play.”
“Yay!” replied Abigail excitedly. “We’re gonna build a snowman! We’re gonna build a snowman!”
Abigail bounded over to Elliot her brother, who was sitting on the floor in front of the television playing on the gaming console. In a loud voice she asked him, “Wanna build a snowman?”
Elliot rolled his eyes without even looking up from his game, “No, I have to beat this level before Eric does. Otherwise I’ll owe him my dessert from my lunch bag when we go back to school.”
“Maybe I will have to pack you two desserts next time,” Esther said as she passed the two children on her way to the kitchen.
Abigail grew bored watching her brother play and went back to David. “Can I help decorate?”
David had just placed the star on tree, but noticed it was leaning to the side. “Sure, Abby. I can use your help fixing the star.” He lifted Abigail and put her on his shoulders. “Just push the star toward the kitchen.”
Abigail gently pushed the star in the direction her father instructed. “Like that?”
“Yes!That’s perfect!!” He set Abigail back on the floor and glanced out the window. “Hey, Abby, look! The snow is much deeper now! Let’s get ready to go outside!”
With an excited gasp, Abigail cheered as she twirled around before racing to get her snowclothes on. The two quickly bundled up and hurried outside into the winter wonderland. They made what Abigail called “a huge” snowman, because it was taller than her. They played outside for a couple of hours, and were soaked to the skin from the wet snow.
When they finally tired of their outdoor antics, they both came inside dripping from the melting snow. After hanging up their wet outerwear, they went to the kitchen to make some hot chocolate so they could warm up their cold bones. The rest of the family joined in as they sat at the kitchen island, drinking their hot drinks and sampling Esther’s fresh baked cookies.
Suddenly David’s phone rang. He glanced at the caller id and saw that it was his sister, Brianna. He answered and discussed the events of the week as he sipped his hot chocolate. Brianna confirmed she would be arriving in the afternoon on Christmas Eve. David was very excited about seeing his sister and her family. It had been almost ten years since they had been able to spend Christmas together. He and Brianna talked about their favorite Christmas experiences and traditions.
“Do you remember getting popcorn balls in our stockings?” she asked him.
David exclaimed, “Oh, yes! I loved those! I had forgotten all about them because I haven’t seen them in the stores for years!”
Brianna responded, “Yes, they are really difficult to find.”
For about twenty more minutes, they continued to reminisce over Christmases gone by, but at the back of David’s mind was a plan to get popcorn balls for everyone. It would put the finishing touches on what was already starting to be a perfect holiday.
The busy work week flew by as David was preoccupied with getting the year end details straightened out before his vacation. It was not until December 23rd that David suddenly remembered his plan - to search for popcorn balls. After looking at the clock, which read 5:45am, he quickly went in the shower to get ready for his noble quest.
When he was ready, he left a note for Esther and kissed her cheek while she was asleep. He then went outside to warm up the car, dusted the snow off, and then shoveled the driveway enough to pull out into the road.
So, David excitedly began his quest. He went from store to store, only to find that they had all sold out of stock since the week after Thanksgiving. Yet, he still felt hopeful his efforts would be fruitful.
David decided to try a small family grocery store. He saw the owner picking up a broken jar in an aisle. As if he knew David had a question, he peered up at him over the top of his glasses. “Can I help you find something?”
David replied sheepishly, “Um, do you have any popcorn balls in stock?”
The owner began to laugh. “If I had a dollar for everytime someone asked me that this week, I could take my wife on a trip to Hawaii.”
Dejected, David politely thanked the man and left. Would he ever find them?
At the next store he noticed another man also asking about popcorn balls. It seemed they both had the same idea. After making five more stops and seeing the same man at each stop, David decided it was time to bring up their mutual quest.
David introduced himself to the man and found out his name was Tyrell. They discussed their lack of success during the day, and the fact they both used to love getting popcorn balls in their stockings every Christmas growing up. David noted a look of discouragement in his eyes that went beyond their search for popcorn balls.
In an effort to give it one more try, Tyrell suggested a more efficient way to search for the popcorn balls. If they each took a side of town, they could search faster and more efficiently, alerting the other if they discovered a place with popcorn balls in stock. They exchanged phone numbers and then continued on their journey with their hope in their quest renewed.
David tried eight more stores that day and then gave up. His dream of giving his family the perfect Christmas had been dashed. Defeated, he drove home.
In his driveway he texted Tyrell, “Any success?”
Tyrell replied, “None. You?”
“No. But I hope you and your family still have a great Christmas.”
After what seemed like a very long pause Tyrell responded, “You too. God bless you and your family with health and happiness.”
“Thanks. You too.”
That was the last response from Tyrell. The nagging desperation in his eyes haunted David. It was as if Tyrrell had the weight of the world on his shoulders.
Trying to muster some semblance of holiday cheer, David went into the house. Esther met him at the door and saw the frustration on his face and his empty hands.
“ No luck in finding the popcorn balls?” she asked.
He shook his head. “I looked everywhere! I guess everyone and their brother wanted them too! I just waited too long.”
Esther gave him a hug. “Why don’t you join the kids and I in the living room as we watch a Christmas movie. It might take your mind off of the long day.”
By the time David’s head hit the pillow, he had almost forgotten about his failed search and drifted off into a dreamless sleep.
The next day his sister Brianna arrived with her husband Walter, and three children, twins Charlene and Darlene, and Nancy. They arrived in an airport limousine, which pulled up in front of the driveway. David was excited that their long awaited Christmas holiday could begin and he was going to enjoy every minute with them. Even though there were no popcorn balls, it would still be like the holidays he and his sister remembered.
Christmas morning arrived. It was everything he had hoped for, and they had a great time opening their stockings and presents, and ate doughnuts that Grandpa and Grandma had brought over when they came to join in the festivities.
David’s dad set a wrapped box next to David and smirked. “Your sister told me to get this for you.”
David slowly opened the present with a sense of anticipation. As he opened the top flap, a plastic bag fell at his feet. As if in slow motion, he reached down to pick up the bag to discover it was a popcorn ball.
David was so excited! All he could say was, “Yes!” Upon further investigation, he found the entire box was filled to the brim with popcorn balls.
After marveling at the treasure before him, he looked around and said, “I can't eat them all, anyone want one?”
One by one, David tossed one to everyone in the room who wanted one until half of the box was empty. But there was a nagging feeling that tugged on David's heart strings as he stared at the remaining treats in the box in front of him.
David grabbed his phone to text Tyrell, “I found them. I have about fifteen popcorn balls I can bring you.”
Tyrell responded with one word to start, “WOW!”
Then he texted, “Hold on a second. Let me ask my wife if it’s okay.”
David waited and then another text popped up. “She said sure. And I will give you money for gas and pay you for them as well.”
David replied, “Just text me your address and we’ll discuss that later.”
David told his family the story of the man he had met at one of the stores. Although his family found the entire situation a bit unusual, it seemed like it had the “Christmas spirit” about it, so they waved to David as he loaded the box of popcorn balls into the car and left to drive to Tyrell’s house.
Tyrell met David outside and was happy to see him, but he didn't ask about the popcorn balls right away. Tyrell invited David in and introduced David to his wife and his four children. David noticed that their little boy, who’s name was Tyrell Jr, was obviously having cancer treatments, having had lost all his hair and looked very frail.
David approached the young boy, who was about the same age as his son Elliot. He smiled at him and asked him if he had enjoyed his Christmas. Tyrell, who was not shy, began talking his ear off and told him about all the things he had received that day. David wondered how Tyrell Jr could be so happy for someone obviously so ill. If his family was to go through what this family was going through, it would be a miserable time. Yet this family seemed so happy!
Tyrell interrupted his son’s conversation and pulled David into his home office to talk privately. “I can’t thank you enough for bringing these.” He held up one of the popcorn ball bags. “I had wanted to give my family the best Christmas ever and felt like I had failed. I’m sorry if I seemed down and out the day you met me. We had just received a disturbing diagnosis for Ty Jr. and it had upset me.”
Tyrell cleared his throat and his eyes grew glassy, “This may be his last Christmas with us. I thought it might help if I kept myself busy going from store to store searching for popcorn balls. I should have been here with my family, treasuring each moment with them because it might never come again.”
David choked back tears at the revelation. There was peace in this house, one he could not explain. It was a peace he didn't have in his home. Although his family was happy, and he had a good career, he didn't have this same peace in his life. He could not help asking, “Why do you seem so happy when you have such difficulties in your life?”
Tyrell shared with David his faith in Jesus, and led him to a salvation experience in Christ.
Back at home, David related the events to his family. They had mixed reactions, but were largely positive. Yet, no matter what the others said, David now felt the peace in his own heart and knew that his life was forever changed.
In the coming weeks and months, David developed a close friendship with Tyrell, and the two became like brothers. David’s family began attending services at Tyrell’s church, and one by one his family accepted Christ as their Savior. Both families grew close together and were there for each other through the tough times and good times.
Decades later, David and Esther stood outside the door, arms full of Christmas presents, as they said goodbye to Tyrell and his wife. Tyrell Jr, who had beaten the odds of cancer, also stood in the entryway, with his son close beside him.
“This was one of my favorite Christmases,” David commented as he began to head down the steps.
Tyrell Sr. tipped his head. “One of them? Which one was your favorite?”
David smiled, "My favorite was the great popcorn ball Christmas.”
“Yes, mine too! And don’t forget that was also the Christmas when we met and became brothers!” Tyrell Sr reminded him.
Tyrell Jr turned to his dad. “That was also the time I prayed for God to give you a miracle for Christmas. I thought the miracle would be Him healing me, which He did later, but God gave you a best friend, saved his family, and gave us some popcorn balls.”
Tyrell Sr. hugged his son, and said, “God has truly blessed me. I love you, son.”
His son responded, “I love you, too, Dad.”
David smiled at the show of emotion in front of him. “This is a fine way to end a great day, but if I don’t get home soon I will be falling asleep at the wheel.”
Esther nodded in agreement. “And I want to get home in one piece, please!”
With that, they all said goodnight and got into their car to head home. When they reached the house, David opened the trunk to bring in all the gifts, and at the bottom found a strange looking box that he knew he had not put in there. On the top of the box was a note that said, “I found them.” Upon opening it he saw a pile of popcorn balls ready for eating.
Tears filled David’s eyes. He was grateful for all that God had done for him in his noble quest because he had found so much more than popcorn balls….he had found everlasting life, and a remarkable friendship that lasted a lifetime.
Psalms 119:164 "Seven times a day do I praise thee because of thy righteous judgments."
Yesterday at church, Pastor Bish gave us a seven day challenge that I decided to do this week. He quoted the verse above and said something like this: "If more people were to praise the Lord during the day instead of complain about things, this would change our entire attitude."
I felt like this would be a good thing to do this week, seeing that it is Thanksgiving week and so I said I would do the challenge. Though it is later than I planned to post this, I have still been stopping today to thank the Lord for the many things that He has blessed me with in my life.
This is going to be a different type of post because I will be adding to it each day, but my hope is that my focus will get off of the negative things around me and boost my spirit with thankfulness and praise for the goodness of the Lord.
Won't you join me in stopping seven times each day this week and thank the Lord for something good He has done in your life? (Note it is hard to find just one thing to be thankful for each time so excuse me if there are multiple praises and thanksgiving.)
Day One (Monday, Nov 20th, 2023)
7:00AM - I am thankful for a new day where His mercies are new, and for hot water for my shower.
9:30AM - I am thankful for the ability for me to go shopping and get provisions for my family. He supplies all our needs!
10:30 AM - I am thankful for a little extra $ to buy things for friends that will bless them and put a smile on their face. It really is fun to give!
2:00 PM - I am thankful for the beautiful birds that come to my bird feeders and fill the air with color and song. God really is such an amazing artist with the earth as His canvas.
4:45 PM - I am thankful for fun lights and lanterns to make my house cozy when the sun sets at 4:30 these days.
7:00 PM - I am thankful for the health that my family has had. We never had a broken bone, even though we thought that Caleb would surely be the one to do that with all his crazy antics. We never had any serious diseases, for which I am very grateful.
9:45 PM - I am thankful for my husband who I can talk to, who gives me helpful advice about tough decisions we have to make in life.
10:30 PM - I am thankful for my soft, warm bed to sleep in.
Day Two (Tuesday, Nov 21, 2023)
6:30 AM - I am thankful for warm little kitty bodies who sleep against me during the night.
8:00 AM - I am thankful for the smile (if you can call it a smile that early in the morning) on my son's face as he heads off to school with a good and positive attitude toward his school day.
9:30 AM - I am thankful for a reliable car that gets me around to do all the errands I need to do everyday.
11:30AM - I am thankful for my salvation and being raised in a Christian home.
2:30 PM - I am thankful for a cute little office where I can do my work for our business.
6:00 PM - I am thankful that none of our children had any horrible diseases, nor have we had any broken bones and our visits to the doctor were minimal.
9:30 PM - I am thankful for times when we can gather in our living room with our children and hang out and chat about different things about life, work, and just have fun.
Day Three (Wednesday, Nov 22, 2023)
7:00 AM - I am thankful for the rain to water the earth.
9:00 AM - I am thankful for days like today (before a holiday) when everything in my kitchen smells good.
12:30 PM - I am thankful for my kitties who make life very interesting with their antics.
2:30 PM - I am thankful that Grammy Gwen is doing much better after being so sick last week.
5:30 PM - I am thankful I had the energy to get everything done that I did today.
10:00 PM - I am thankful for the time I can rest because after 17,000 plus steps, I am exhausted and hurt all over.
Day Four (Thursday, Nov 23, 2023
7:00 AM - I am thankful I did not have to get up to an alarm today, though my mind woke up early and wouldn't stop thinking about the day.
I was very busy today as I prepped for our Thanksgiving meal with our guests, so I did not have specific times I stopped to thank the Lord for things. But here are a few things I am thankful for about this day:
I am thankful it was such a beautiful day outside and the sun was shining.
I am thankful my huge turkey came out nice and moist.
I am thankful that we could be a blessing to our youth pastor and his family and enjoy a meal together.
I am thankful for children who can step in and help me peel potatoes, set the table, and do other things that I just couldn't fit in.
I am thankful we had enough food for all and plenty of dessert to go around.
I am thankful that my mother-in-law did not end up in the hospital this Thanksgiving time.
Day Five (Friday, Nov 24, 2023)
7:00AM - I am thankful for a day to work with my mother-in-law and catch up with her this morning.
8:30 AM - I am thankful that I can sing and write songs
10:00AM - I am thankful for electricity and lights to see by
1:30 PM - I am thankful for the news that some hostages were released in Israel and that the temporary cease fire has given my friend some time of peace for her and her family.
3:30 PM - I am thankful for the snow that I got to see on my travels through Vermont.
4:00 PM - I am thankful for the little nap I took in the car to help me feel revived.
6:30 PM - I am thankful we reached my family's house safe and sound
Day Six (Saturday, Nov 25th, 2023)
8:00 AM - I am thankful for a new day to spend with my mom and siblings
10:30 AM - I am thankful for the crisp, clear air of the mountains
11:30 AM - I am thankful for the amazing beauty of the mountains around me
1:30 PM - I am thankful I had enough ingredients to make plenty of dessert for the party
3:30 PM - I am thankful that my sister-in-law was feeling well enough to come to our Pinkham Thanksgivng
5:00 PM - I am thankful for the kitties that surround me and make me laugh at times.
9:00 PM - I am thankful for bedtime after a long day
Day Seven (Sunday, Nov 26th, 2023)
8:00 AM - I am thankful that it is Sunday
11:00 AM - I am thankful I got to join my brother, sister, and mother at church today.
2:00 PM - I am thankful for lunch time to help stop my growling stomach
3:30 PM - I am thankful for my husband helping pack the car so we can get on the road before any bad weather
5:30 PM - I am thankful for rest stops to take a bathroom break on the road
8:00 PM - I am thankful that our travel was smooth and we got home safely.
9:15 PM - I am thankful to be back in my own bed to sleep, with my kids and kitties close by.
This is the end of seven days of gratitude, but in no way does my gratitude and thankfulness stop here. I hope this is just the beginning of telling my Lord just how grateful I am for all He has done for me.
I'm sure we have all done it sometime in our lives...made a dinner or two that was simply one of those ones where your husband looks at you and says, "Do I really have to eat this?" I must say my husband is amazingly thoughtful though, and is careful with his words when it comes to my cooking. Over the years I have learned what he likes and what doesn't appeal to his pallette. I try to cook things specially for his taste, but back in the day when we were young and just married, I was just learning how to cook. I wanted to be a good wife. I wanted to cook healthy, low-fat meals, so I bought the no-fat cream cheese, the whole wheat pita breads, and the low-fat mozzerella. It all sounded good in the recipe I was using, but seeing those small, brownish pizzas on our plate was another thing. I took a bite. I felt like I was eating cardboard, but struggled through the rest of it. I glanced at Joe and he was eating it too, so I figured it must be okay. We had a few more left and I wanted to diligently plan ahead for the next day so I asked him, "Would you like me to pack one or two up for your lunch tomorrow?"
He looked at me with eyes of fear as he thought about having to eat more of these pizzas at work the next day. "Um, sure?" he answered.
It suddenly hit me that he was not enjoying them either. He was just eating them to please me and make me feel good. My heart sank.
"They really aren't that good, are they?"
He shook his head.
"I don't really like them, either," I told him.
I quickly stood up and carried the tray to the trash where I dumped the terrible healthy, cardboard pizzas. We were both relieved we didn't have to eat anymore of that!
We still laugh about that time now, though I must admit, I've had a few other failed dinners since then. But nothing like last night...this was completely different. And it wasn't entirely my fault. Maybe.
I had my dinners all planned out for this week, but things changed when I heard I needed to make dinner for my in-laws last night. I changed out my meal idea for the evening and opted for my meatball soup with homemade bread, which was something that could stretch for a lot of people. I have been having a hard time learning to cook for smaller groups now that my children are here and there and yon most nights, so I was excited to make a big pot of soup for a crew. I went out to the store to get my ingredients. I stood in front of the ground chicken and a thought briefly crossed my mind that the chicken didn't look as bright and fresh as it should. The date said it was good until the 21st which meant there were still six days until it expired, so I brushed the thought away. I got four of them and the other items I needed and went home.
I began making dinner early so I could get the food over to my in-laws before church that evening. I opened the first package of chicken and slight smell of something off hit my nose. Now I know that chicken always has a little smell to it, so I kept thinking that it was just the normal smell of raw meat. I opened the other packages and they didn't have as strong a smell, so I put the first one aside and made my meatballs with the other three. But something just wasn't sitting right in my spirit. There was an odd smell in the air that still seemed off. I just hoped it was the first package of meat I decided to throw away. As I rolled the meat into little balls and dropped them into my pot of boiling broth, I prayed over the meat. I know this sounds stupid, but God can change anything after a prayer of thanks, right? I prayed that there was nothing wrong with this meat and that nobody would get sick from food poisoning if they weren't good afterall. :(
As the meat cooked, I made up my bread dough and popped it into the oven to rise. My mind was not thinking clearly having been a little stressed over what was boiling on top of the stove and I didn't realize I set the oven a little hotter than I wanted to allow my bread to rise. When I took it out half an hour or so later it seemed hard and dry on the top, almost like it had been cooked a little bit. Needless to say, I pulled off the top part to reveal still soft dough underneath, so I managed to make about fifteen rolls with the good stuff. The other half of th dough ended up in the trash.
Ben came upstairs to see what was cooking for dinner. He often comes in to see what I'm making, but I think he does it to see if it passes his liking or not. He was very happy when he saw the huge pot of meatball soup cooking, so he went back down to his room to eagerly wait for dinner.
It was almost 5:00 when I decided to taste test a meatball and see if it was all right to eat. With my dairy issues, I didn't want to eat a whole one because of the parm inside it, so I took one bite and chewed it. It had a funny taste to it, but I had to prove that it wasn't just my own fear cautioning loudly in my head. I took the other half of the meatball to Joe and asked him to try it. As he chewed it I asked him, "Does it taste okay?"
He nodded, then glanced at my face in question. "I think so. Why?"
I shrugged as I began to head back in the kitchen and then I heard him shudder and say, "Ugh!"
I turned around. "Does it have a bad aftertaste?"
He was looking at me now like I had sprouted horns. "Yes!"
"Oh man, now we can't eat that soup. I wasn't sure if the meat was good from the start, but the expiration date said it was good until next Tuesday!"
"You mean you fed me bad meat? Are you trying to poison me?"
"No! I just needed your opinion without knowing the facts that might have changed the ending here."
And then he tells me, "Well, the air has had a bad scent in it, like bad meat for awhile now..."
I wish he would have told me that before I had made the soup!
But now I had a new problem! I still had to make dinner! I still had to feed my family plus my in-laws... Tomorrow's dinner idea came into my head. I had the ingredients for stove-top parm pasta, so I dumped the nasty meatball soup down the disposal and began making a whole new meal with different pots and pans for all the items needed. About a half an hour later Ben came back up and stood in front of the stove in confusion. I had pasta boiling in a different pot on the stove, as well as sauce and two other pots in the back. He glanced at me with a raised eyebrow.
"What happened?" He looked around the room still in obvious confusion. "Weren't you cooking meatball soup?"
I wanted to tease him about how that was yesterday and how he had missed an entire day between then and now, but I was worn out and didn't feel like teasing anyone. I just wanted dinner to be done so we could move on from this disaster.
Well, it all moved smoothly from that point, but I learned something here. Maybe a few things....first of all, if there is a check in your spirit about the meat sitting on the shelf, don't buy it. Move on to a different type or brand. Stick with your gut.
Secondly, if there is a smell in the air that doesn't sit right in your head, don't use it. Stick with your gut.
Thirdly, if there is something you want your husband to try, explain the situation and he may have some insight that can help you decide whether something is safe or not. Two noses are much better than one. ;)
Life has a really bad habit of stealing time. It quietly sneaks around, snatching away the hours one after the other like it has nothing better to do. But now it isn't just hours, it's the years that seem to be fleeting away. Let me show you what I mean:
My oldest is now married and has been happily settled down with his wife now for five months, but it was just yesterday when I was holding him in my arms for the firist time, marveling that such a tiny little human had come from me!
My second son is an adult, still living at home, but learning to make his way with his job, learning to pay bills, and trying to figure out what he should do with his life. But it was just yesterday when he had so much energy that we had to constantly tell him to sit on the couch and calm himself down, or stop breaking things! My prayer for him is to find what God wants him to do and put all his energy into that so he can live for Christ and be blessed. No matter what it is, God can guide him to that next step.
My oldest daughter is engaged, with a wedding date set for next July. She is very excited, though extremely busy as she plans all the little details she wants for the day her dad gets to walk her down that aisle. But it was just yesterday when I was holding her little hands in mine as she learned how to walk across the room, her doll-face beaming in pure joy as she stepped out into a new phase of her young life.
My fourth child, my second daughter, is learning to be a pilot. She is very adventurous, a bit like me when I was that age, but I would say a lot more daring. In another month or so she will be taking her flight test to get her small plane pilot license. But wasn't it just yesterday when Joe used to hold her up on his shoulders and pretend to fly around the house as he sung the Superman theme song?
And lastly, my fifth child. My baby boy, who is no longer a baby, but the tallest person in the house. He is the only one left to drive to school every morning, and come next January, he will be able to get his driver's permit and will be driving me to school every day. The children always wanted me to be the one to teach them to drive, but I am not sure I want to do it again. I might send him to driving school if that will help us all a little bit with the stress of it all. But wasn't it just yesterday he was driving around in his Little Tykes car in the driveway, waving to us as he went past the walkway?
The fact of how things have changed really hits me hard on nights like tonight. Now we never took our kids out trick or treating, but we created our own tradition at home, calling it "Hide from Halloween Night". I would make homemade pizza and fudge, turn all the lights out, and we'd watch a movie or two while eating pizza on a picnic blanket. The other day I asked the kid, if they wanted me to make pizza and fudge. They were all in agreement, but I keep hearing that more and more of them are going to be away doing their own thing tonight. Either working or hanging out with their friends. I grew a bit sad and asked one of them if I should even make anything special.
"Of course! It will still get eaten! We love homemade pizza and fudge!"
So, it is with a sad, but grateful heart that I move forward to make that fudge and pizza. Because, even thought they won't all be here, I still have children at home and I will cherish each moment I have them around. Because tomorrow, they might be off on their own. Thank God for memories and pictures. :) God bless you!
The play was finished, and I breathed a sigh of relief. It was over. I could relax as the rest of the service continued. The little K5 graduates were very cute as they walked down in their red gowns. They had no idea what was going on but were excited about the award they would each get. Their smiles were contagious, infecting the entire crowd watching them.
As the names of the students were called out, my mind wandered to the drama that had just been performed. I was so proud of my students – they had done an amazing job that night, something that I’d had plenty of doubts about in the previous weeks of practice. In fact, I had almost considered canceling the entire production because it was just not getting anywhere. I had felt as if over half my class had not even attempted to put any effort into learning their lines or listen to my directions on how to act their part on stage. I acquired many new gray hairs during the last three months, thanks to the many moments of grief and frustration I experienced over my students’ behavior. I felt like we were just not connecting.
It is a teacher’s job to tie heart strings with their students. To connect with their heart. Each one learns differently. Each one has something inside that makes them tick. Something that makes them come alive and blossom. They all have their strengths and weaknesses, and we need to work with both. Connecting is so important. And I felt like I was not connecting with them all through the year. There were the few easy ones who did everything that was expected, but then I had the ones who either had no choice to be in my class, or they had chosen the drama elective because they preferred that option over the other elective choice. They thought it would be fun. And it was, at first. We played games to help them be comfortable with each other, games that encouraged teamwork and cooperation and working together. We did improv, which many loved, but some hated and did not want to even put any effort into trying to think of something to say. It was blah to them.
And that’s fine. Not everyone is an actor. Not everyone was made to be on the stage, front and center. Some like being in the shadows, doing all the behind-the-scenes work. Some like to work on costumes and make-up. Some like making the sets and doing all the work of moving scenes and setting up the stage. Some like writing the play and content to be dramatized. To be honest, I would have loved to find each one’s strength in these areas, but we had a small stage, a small group, and just me. Maybe it would have been better if I had five actors on the stage and the rest doing stage work, but there was not enough room to do all this. Besides, when we did a smaller production after the first half of the year, many complained they did not get the bigger part and felt like they had wasted their time. I just could not keep everyone happy. So, I gave them each a survey after we came back to school from Christmas break. What did you like about the production? What didn’t you like? How could we improve on what we did? Do you want a big part or a small part in the next play? I wanted to hear from them and connect with them. I wanted to get it right this time.
After reading all their comments, I revisited my original play script and rewrote it to fit my entire class. It took hours to do. I wanted to make sure every single one of my students had a part in this next play, and that none of them felt left out. They were all important.
I spent each class time getting my students up in front of each other, reading scripts or doing improv. I seriously watched each one, taking notes as to who could handle the heavier roles, and who needed to keep to one line. By the time I was done, I had a part for all twenty of my students. I announced my decisions to the class the week before we got started and though some groans were made, there was a lot of excitement in the room. Most of them were excited, but some had no idea how they were going to learn their lines because they claimed they had a hard time memorizing things.
Especially Billy. He looked at me with doubt in his eyes, or maybe a bit of fear and hopelessness. “I can’t memorize very well. I won’t be able to do it.”
“Oh, come on,” I said. “You have to study for tests and quizzes, don’t you? You must be able to remember some things!”
He just grimaced at me. “I don’t think you want me in the play. I won’t be able to do it.”
“You can do it and you will. You are smarter than you think.”
He just rolled his eyes as he shook that red hair of his in disagreement.
March marched on much too quickly. We only had one hour a week to practice, and I had so much to do to get ready for this play. I began gathering up props to use during practice time, but since our main stage was used as our church platform, we did not have the freedom to practice as I would have liked to. The pianos, pulpit, choir bleachers, and four chairs took up most of the area. I decided the best thing I could do was to set up the auditorium floor with the props and backdrops haphazardly hanging from chairs to give them an idea of what it would look like and where to stand. It was not an easy task. I needed to get there a half an hour early to get everything set up, so we could have the full hour for practice. I grew a bit frustrated with this but did the best that I could do with what I had.
After April break, I requested two days for practice. This play would not be presentable if I didn’t have more time to work with my students. I had told the ones with just a few lines that they needed to have them memorized after break. Not many did, but I figured we still had time and gave them some grace.
Then April flew by, and we found ourselves in May – the month when the production was scheduled to be performed. Panic set in. How were we going to get this colossal task accomplished? I mean, Billy had not even tried to memorize his few lines yet. He and the other two boys that had a special part in the play were not even listening to me as I instructed them on how to stand, how to project their voices, how to slow down when they spoke so all could understand what they were saying…it was like I was a wall. If it wasn’t for the eye rolling, I would have thought they were not hearing me. It was as if I was hurting their pride in saying that they needed to work on their acting. Which they did…that was why there were in drama class - to learn how, right? (sigh)
It often got so loud in the room that it was impossible for me to hear the students as they were acting out their parts. The other students who were not on stage often got into trouble as they sat in the audience waiting for their part. Which meant they were late on coming in on their cues. I really wanted this class to do well. I wanted each to do their part. I was trying to so hard, but they acted as if they did not care to be in my class. Maybe it wasn’t what they had thought it would be. I hated having to blow my whistle to get their attention because they didn’t even hear my voice as I tried quieting them down.
Poor Ben. He could always tell how my class went when I came out late, after having put all the props away again after practice. My face is an open book, and I can’t hide anything.
“It went that well?” he would ask sarcastically.
“Oh, Ben, I don’t know how this play is going to come to be. These kids are not easy to work with and I can’t get through to them.”
“I know, Mom, I know. I’m at school with them all day long.”
Seeing that Joe was the main sound guy at church, I had to discuss with him the idea of microphones and sound for the play.
“How many parts in the play are there? Eight?” he asked.
“No, not eight. Twenty parts.”
He looked at me in complete shock. “Twenty? Are you crazy?”
“I had to make a part for each student, even if it was a little part.”
“Oh, boy, that isn’t going to be easy. We are going to need more mics. And I need you to make an excel sheet of all the scenes with the characters who speak at each scene. Label each song as a separate part of the scene….” He went on to explain exactly how I needed to do this. More hours of work went into dividing up each scene into parts. More microphones were ordered. He spent hours getting those microphones to work together, knowing that up to ten mics would have to be on at the same time so feedback would have to be cleared up. He was at the church until midnight a few nights working on this for me. I began to be sorry that I had given out so many parts. I wondered if it would all be worth the effort when all was said and done.
The week of the actual production arrived. The stage was cleared off and I had the go ahead to get it set up with everything I needed for the backdrops. All three major scenes were set up and I finally could work with my class on exact places for their parts. I put tape down so they would know where to stand. We worked on our songs over and over again, and I made a big poster board of each verse so they could read them from where they stood. We were ready physically, but I wasn’t so sure they were mentally ready to perform.
He still didn’t know his lines and he and his two friends were not happy with their parts.
One of them asked me, “Why do we have to die in the play?”
“Because you are one of the reasons that the main character has to do what he does. You are very important to the story line and without you the story has no meaning.”
“But we don’t want to die! Can’t we just be props on the stage, like a rock or a tree or something? We don’t want to die!”
I liked their enthusiasm. They had come a long way from the first weeks of practice, but they still needed to understand their parts were vital to the story. I wasn’t going to change anything at this point. We had already lost one of the students from my class, so we were down to 19 parts at this point. One of the other girls had picked up the lines from the one who had left so that had been an easy fix. I was not going to change anything else to please the few kids who didn’t like their part. It was going to be as planned, no questions asked.
Two days before the play we had a dress rehearsal. The other classes came in to watch and the practice went okay. Even Billy did his lines amazingly well, not even using the little book I gave him with cheat notes in it. That was a huge shock to me. He kept looking at me for approval. When practice was finished he asked, “Did I do good? How was I that time?”
“Billy, you did awesome! You really surprised me by remembering all your lines!”
He just smiled at me with that look of his as he went on his way.
We had a problem with the sound during the practices though. The mics were not cooperating and the poor students working the sound booth didn’t know how to fix the problem. After work Joe had to spend more time getting the sound just right so we could hear the characters talking, and not just feedback. The other practices went okay, but I was not feeling like it could be their best. I put the matter into the Lord’s hands.
I said, “Lord, You are the One Who gave me this story. It is not about me and the students, but about glorifying You and lifting up Your Name and what You did for us on the cross. Please work out all the details, all the sound issues, and help the students to do their best when up on that stage Thursday night…”
And He did. Though it was not perfect, and Billy did forget one line, the entire play was amazing, and I was so proud of my students. They came through and showed me that they could do it. That they had been listening and learning from me.
But best of all was the moment when Billy came up to me at the end of the service.
“Good job,” he said to me. “Can I shake your hand?”
“Oh, well, sure! You did great tonight, Billy,” I said as he shook my hand.
His friend, who was standing next to him, held out his hand too. I shook his hand too and then Billy surprised me.
“Can I give you a hug?” His eyes spoke volumes as he looked at me.
I felt tears come to mine as I nodded and gave him a hug. Suddenly, every little tear, feeling of frustration, and gray hair was worth it all for that moment of connection. I had made a difference in his life and that was all I could think about the rest of the evening. Billy had learned something very valuable, but so had I. It’s not about what we do, but the why we do it. For the sake of the children. Because it is how God wants to connect with us. Heart to heart.
Here you go, Mom! This story is for you! :)
So, this little guy somehow got his tail completely wrapped around a branch on my weeping cherry tree yesterday. It was tied like a knot and he wasn't going anywhere. All the wood chips on the ground and the bark- free limb was clear evidence he had been trying for awhile. I grabbed a glove and worked at freeing his tail to no avail. It was too tight! So, Susy grabbed my tree clippers and we clipped the branch on either side of him. With one big leap he was free and the piece of wood fell to the ground. I was happy to see him go, but sad he didn't even say thank you.
It was gusting loudly oustide my window the other morning and sleep was impossible. Forever traumatized by the Indiana storm of 2002, wind has struck a panic chord in me every time it goes above 25 mph. I lay in bed listening as the gusts grew stronger. I begged God to wrap His arms around our home and protect us. Trees surround our property and I often wonder how many storms they can endure before cracking and breaking inside. Is this the storm that is going to finally break the weakened tree and bring down even the tallest, strongest looking one?
Then something hit the house. It did not sound like something large but it was enough to get me out of bed to take a look out the window. I noticed a few small limbs on the ground, some even stuck straight into the ground from the force of their fall, but nothing too large to be concerned about. I gave a little sigh. Everything looked okay.
Suddenly I heard the loud crack. My eyes went to the woods just beyond the stream and I watched a massive tree break in the middle and come down safely in the woods between our house and the neighbor's. My heart thumped for a minute as the thud of the tree hitting the ground echoed in my head. "What if's" began to form in my mind but God stopped me. He simply whispered to me, "I brought that tree down for you. Simply so you can see that I am in control and I am taking care of you."
Tears came to my eyes. God had gotten me out of bed just so He could show me that He had us under His wing. He was there taking care of us.
Oh my heart and the peace that flooded my soul.
And it was because of a tree.
I must admit that this year has been a hard one, but in reality, ever since 2020 it has been a challenge with all the new changes to life. 2020 was the Covid year, when the whole world seemed to go topsy-turvy and threw us for a loop. Then along came 2021 (twenty-twenty won) when we were still in a bleary-eyed state of uncertainty and were wading through the mess, feeling like 2020 had beaten us.
Here we are coming to the end of 2022 (twenty-twenty two on repeat). The storms and hardships have been far more than some could take. You know that saying we have for the month of March? Depending on how the weather is the first week determines whether it goes in like a lion or like a lamb. Well, 2022 definitely came in like a lion and did not stop charging. The tough times have worn us down, possibly even weakening some of us deep inside where we can't see. Disappointments in plans; death of loved ones; sick pets we had to say goodbye to; family issues; sickness and diseases; financial difficulties as inflation went up; news of people you trusted who let you down; you name it, hardships all around. It's a rough world we live in. The devil is walking around the world like a lion seeking those whom he may devour. He wants to take our peace away so that we run to worldly means of escape. He wants us to forget about the Lamb, the One we are waiting for as the year comes to an end.
But the Lamb HAS come.
And it was because of a tree.
Jesus was born in the town of Bethlemhem, the town that raised sheep for the temple sacrifices. Jesus was a Lamb pure and holy - the Son of God. He was the only One able to lay His life down for the entire world. He was born to die.
On the old rugged tree.
A tree that brought peace.
Like that tree I watched fall to the ground yesterday.
As I wrote this blog, it all became clear how it all tied together and made the event of yesterday that much more special. God once again reached down and gave me a "kiss from heaven" showing me how much He loves me. And I'm at peace as I see the Light at the end of the tunnel of 2022. God is in control and whatever comes in 2023 I know He will be right beside me, giving me the strength to deal with whatever comes my way. He is always there, taking care of us as we continue to strive to live for Him. Amen!
Happy New Year to you all! :)
"I hope something good happens to you today."
I could not stop staring at the little words on the window of the side of the car beside me as I waited at the stoplight. It was as if the message was just for me, speaking a little whisper of hope after a terrible morning, the third day of literally a "yucky" week all around. I did not know how much more I could take of any more bad news, sickness, and other things just filling my life with craziness. The tears had poured down in anger and frustration, leaving my eyes a red mess, but I didn't care anymore. I just wanted God to step in and give me peace again. I just wanted a little kiss from heaven to know that He was still there, holding my right hand just like He promised.
That's when I saw the little sign. As I read it over and over again, a little spark of hope lit inside me. I prayed, "Please Lord, I really would like something good to happen to me today. Please Lord, I really need it." There had to still be good out there and the truth was, God was still good even though life seemed anything but good at the moment.
The lunch hour was long and my patience was thin. A little beep on my phone signaled someone had messaged me. I had a minute to stop between putting nuggets and warm-ups into the warmer for students' lunches so I checked my phone. It was from my friend in Israel, my old pen pal I had not heard from in a while. She wrote me a long message of how she was doing and all that God was doing in her life. She reminded me that God had not changed and He was still good. We could hold onto His promises and trust Him to do great things just like He did in the past. He will continue to do the same for us now. It was a message of hope and encouragement, something that made the little flame of hope inside me grow a little stronger.
Joe was home with a stomach bug and we had church that night so I decided Chinese sounded good to me. It was while I was eating I thought that I should go downstairs and find a large envelope for something I needed to bring to church with me. It was an odd thought but after dinner I went down and was sorting through the shelves when I stumbled upon something that I really needed to see - it was some old files from years ago that I had been searching for to help with some of the "issues" at hand. Again, the little flame of hope began to burn brighter and it was like God said to me, "See, I am still here, holding your hand. I heard your prayers and I am watching out for you. Child, you are mine and I will always be here beside you." That little folder set the flame ablaze again.
When I got up today I had a song in my heart. I felt the flame of hope burning once again. The morning didn't seem so terrible though things have not really changed, but God's got this. And He showed me, through the littlest things, that something good did happen to me that day - little whispers of love from heaven were given to me reassuring me that because I am His child I can trust in Him.