Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year

May the year to come be filled with innumberable blessings, and God's grace and peace!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Advent--Glory to God in the Highest!

"Good news! Rejoice! What God's angels (and The Angels' Candle) proclaim is not some distant birth that matters little to us. No, this is up close and personal: 'Unto YOU,' the angel says. That angelic announcement continues to be proclaimed: 'Good news! This is for you...for now...for here...for everyone...forever!' Rejoice!"
~Arden Mead, copyright 2007 Creative Communications

The beauty of Christmas is that Christ came for them...for their children...for their children's children...for us, our children, and our children's children...for all of us.

"But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoptions as sons." (Galatians 4:4, 5 NKJV)

Rejoice, my friends! For unto us is born a Savior!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Some Advent Thoughts

Throughout the time of Advent, I have had this continual desire to have times of peaceful reflection and waiting on God. Just to prepare my heart for Christmas, and meditate on the return of Christ. But that was not to be. Every time I turned around, there was something else added to my schedule. My kids had another project for school. There was another item added to my agenda. Another memo written on the calendar. Something always came up that needed my attention. It has frustrated me so much!

But in the middle of all this, God spoke something to me so clearly today. That's the point of it all. The world didn't come to a standstill when Christ was born. Yes, there was the angelic announcement and the shepherd's visit. Later, the star led the wisemen to Christ. But those few people are the only ones whose lives paused for His coming. The rest of the world went on with their daily schedules, totally oblivious to the incredible event that had occured in the stable that night, or how that event would eventually change the world. The point is that Christ comes in the midst of our regular lives. He is there in the center of it all--all the craziness and chaos. He is there. IF we allow Him. IF that is what we are truly desirous of, He will indeed make His presence known. Life doesn't have to come to a stop for Him to be present.

I know this is quite an elementary idea, but it struck me as profound. Yes, I do need to take those quiet times to be alone with Him and remember what happened on that night so long ago. But even more important, I need to allow Him to be there in all the times of busyness, allowing Him to make them times of joy and not times of stress.

For that is the beauty of Christmas: Immanuel, "God With Us

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Advent--Do You See What I See?

" 'Behold!' the Christmas angel said. The shepherds heard, 'Behold!' And they did as they were told, for the shepherds had a lot to see. And so do we. The message The Shepherds' Candle proclaims to us is to keep our eyes open. In the midst of all that's going on these bright and busy days, don't miss the miracle. God's glory is near!"
~by Arden Mead Copyright 2007 Creative Communications

There are so many wonders to ponder at Christmas. The story of Christ's birth is a series of miracles: An angel appears to Zechariah. Elizabeth conceives a son in her old age (she who was called "barren"). An angel appears to a virgin and declares that she will give birth. An angel appears to her husband-to-be, and assures him that Mary's pregnancy is of the Holy Spirit--he should continue with his plans to marry her. A warm birthplace is found in the midst of a crowded city. The Savior of all mankind would come to earth, and be found sleeping in a stable. A humble place, yet still a shelter. Angels appear to shepherds. Simple men, yet full of faith and ready to adore this new king.

The Advent season today is no less full of miracles, as we ponder the wonder of what God did over 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem. Do we see the miracles? Or are we too busy to open our hearts and our eyes?

Friday, December 14, 2007

A Friday Prayer

My Jesus, how often I feel very small and inadequate before great tasks and responsibilities. What can I do but bring all that I have, even though it isn't much, and place all this in Your hands, wait for Your blessing, breaking, thanking, and receive back again with amazing power to reach all who depend on me, fill them with goodness and still have more than what I started with. May I never hold back my gifts from You. May I believe that Your blessing multiplies my smallest gifts to maximum powers. May I rejoice that You return the task to me and I have the personal thrill of seeing many satisfied by my ministrations. I adore Your wisdom, Your power, Your sharing. Amen.
~Fr. Gerald Keefe

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Advent--Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room

"If the Prophecy Candle urges us to listen, the message of the Bethlehem Candle is: 'Prepare! Open your eyes; be aware of what's really going on.' What's really going on? The Lord is coming, that's what! Just as surely as Jesus once came to bustling Bethlehem (which was not fully prepared), so surely He is coming again!"
~Arden Mead, Copyright 2007, Creative Communications

The focus of Advent, week 2, is the prophecy of John the Baptist in the wilderness. John knew the time for the Messiah was at hand. He was in their midst. John's message was: "Prepare! Get your hearts ready, for the One you have been looking for is about to make Himself known."

Preparation means drawing closer to God. We cannot do that without taking time to allow the Holy Spirit to examine us. And as He reveals our true "selves" to us, we are drawn to repentance. A heart full of self and sin does not have room for Christ. It is true, too, that a life full of busyness and activity is also a life that is too full of self and the world.

May this season find us emptied of anything that would hinder us from being full of Him!

Advent--Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord

"The first candle of the Advent wreath is called The Prophecy Candle. It urges us to listen. God has a lot to say to us. In fact, what God has to communicate is so important that finally God has to say it in person. 'The Word became flesh'--a human being, the One whose birth we anticipate in Advent and celebrate at Christmas."
~by Arden Mead, copyright 2007 Creative Communications,

In the Church calendar, we have begun the season of Advent. Each night at supper, we have our youngest child light the first purple candle in the Advent wreath. We have special scripture readings in church. We sing, "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel". But what does it all mean?

The word "advent" means "coming". During this season, we prepare our hearts in a special way as we anticipate the coming of Christmas: Christ's first coming as a babe in a manger, born to Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem. Just as the prophets foretold so long ago.

But we also remember that there will be another coming of Christ. We prepare our hearts for that day, and take these four weeks to draw ever closer to Him.

I have really been struggling with it lately. It seems that no matter how hard I try to set aside the time to focus on all that it means, other things come along to distract me and turn me away from the true meaning of Advent. My kids' school teachers seem to have this passion for adding "just one more" project before their Christmas break. Someone needs me to do "just one more" thing to help out with some special event. There needs to be "just one more" batch of cookies for this or that occasion. I have felt quite down and lost in the midst of all this. I am trying so hard to get the perspective back, but it is difficult!

May this season be one of our world, yes, but also in our hearts!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Still Here

I know I haven't been blogging much the past couple of weeks. I hope to be back in the frame of mind for blogging soon.

In the meantime, just keep me in your prayers.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

In Honor of Luke Emch...

Some of you may remember my post from Memorial Day, in which I mentioned Luke Emch. Luke was a native of our area, who lost his life in Iraq. My sons and I were privileged to hold a flag in his honor as the funeral procession carried his body to the cemetery.

I was recently contacted by a woman who puts together condolence books for the families of our fallen heroes.

Below is my account of the day we held the flag, as well as the e-mail post from this kind woman--who is also the mom/mother-in-law of military personnel. I have posted this with her permission.

I feel humbled and quite honored!

March 12, 2007

The funeral for Navy Hospitalman Luke Emch, of Tallmadge (Ohio) was held this morning at 10 a.m. He was 21, and was killed in Iraq on March 2nd. The funeral procession was to go past our town, on its way to the Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery, though a specific time was not given in the paper.

The boys and I walked to the overpass a little before 1 p.m. We took a couple of flags with us. "Harry" held the smaller one (about 8" X 18"). While we were waiting, we had many, many drivers honk, wave, or both. It was so neat! They saw that flag, and responded. We were just about to give up and walk home, when I could see the flashing lights of the motorcade coming toward us.

"Clyde" and I held up the other, larger flag (3' x 5'). As the procession went under the overpass, the faces of all the drivers and passengers turned upward. Almost every person in that procession waved at us. It was something I will never forget.

I'm so glad we took the time to let that family know that, even though we don't know them personally, we honor their son, and that he gave his life for his country.

I just wanted to share our experience with you.
Hello Joni,
I came across your blog post about Luke Emch this morning.

I too never had the privilege of meeting him. But this afternoon another
military Mom and myself around going to deliver a condolence book
to their family.

I am an Air Force Mom and Air Force Mother in Law. My son Vincent is
23. We live in Twinsburg. He met his 23 year old Air Force wife Dana a few years
back, while stationed at a base in Nebraska. The kids were married in May of 2006.

For several years now I have belong to an online military condolence group.
Folks from all across the country and some even outside the US, send condolence
messages to a person who has agreed to make a condolence book.

The group that made Luke's book are Marine Moms from Texas. The book was
then mailed to me as I volunteered to deliver it since I am quite close by.

I woke up this morning and thought I would do a web search on Luke's name.
Just thinking to read some words of friends who might have known him.
What I came to was your blog journal post from Memorial Day.

I want to let you know that I am printing up the words and including them
in the book to his family. Along with your web site URL. Your words touched me,
and I know they will be even more touching to Luke's family.

From knowing several other military Gold Star Moms, the thing is that their kids
not be forgotten. You have honored Luke and his family with your post.
THANK YOU !!!!!!
Warm Regards,
Deb Estep

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Thankful Heart

This will most likely be my last post before Thanksgiving. Things are a bit hectic around here, as I'm sure they are in your corner of the world. (Except my Canadian friends, who celebrated Thanksgiving last month!)

Things I am thankful for:

--my wonderful husband of 18 years...the man of my dreams...and even more incredible, the man of my real life! I am such a fortunate woman!

--my two growing boys. Yes, there are days of frustration, but there are more times of laughter and joy. They bless me in so many ways.

--our families (parents, siblings, in-laws, cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and, of course, our great nephew!) We are surrounded by so much love, even though miles separate us.

--our church home. I am amazed at how at home I feel there after such a short time. I thank God for bringing us there, and the new friendships and relationships we are building.

--my wonderful friends from all over this country, and in other countries. Whether I know them face-to-face, or only through cyberspace, they are each and every one so dear to me.

--Most of all, for all God has done for me...I cannot even begin to list them all. Thank You for never giving up on me. And for the above-mentioned people who show Your love to me in so many ways.

"Give thanks, with a grateful heart
Give thanks, to the Holy One
Give thanks because He's given Jesus Christ, His Son

And now, let the weak say, 'I am strong'
Let the poor say, 'I am rich
Because of what the Lord has done for us'


Words and music by Henry Smith, copyright 1978 Integrity's Hosanna! Music

Friday, November 16, 2007

Friday Saint Quote

I thought this really summarized the essence of my previous post. Have a great weekend!

"Beauty when unadorned is adorned the most."

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Real Beauty

The following essay was written by my cousin's 14 year old daughter. I am posting this on both my blogs, simply because some of you read one blog; others, the other blog...and this is too good for anyone to miss. (The author's name has been withheld by request.)

* * * * *

Letter About Beauty

I hate it when the girls show off their bodies. They show off all of their legs, as in, if their shorts went any shorter they’d be wearing underwear. I guess they think they’d be accepted if they wear basically nothing. It bothers me that their shirts are like bras; it shows all of their stomach and a lot of their chest. What’s with this? It drives me insane! Why can’t they be modest for once? Why do their parents even let them wear this stuff anyway? Why do they even make those clothes in the first place? Who came up with that? Why does everyone strive to be “beautiful”? Why do we all want to be skinny? Yeah, everyone does think about being beautiful and skinny. Even beautiful, skinny girls think that they’re not skinny or pretty enough. What’s with “Oh I wish I had her clothes”, or “Why can’t I get into a size 0 like she can?” Or even “Oh I love her hair! I wish I had her hair.” Or “She always gets the hottest guys, why doesn’t any good looking guy want to go out with me?”? I hate that! But yet, I do that too, just like you do. So this is why I’m writing this to you. I’m going to try to stand up against those lies. You are beautiful, I’m beautiful, she’s beautiful, we are all beautiful. Even when we grow older and the outside appearance may not be as beautiful as it used to be, lets make sure that we’re always modest, and that our inside is beautiful. There are some girls out there who have the most beautiful outward appearance, but inside is the most hideous person on the face of the earth, just by her attitude and her thoughts. We need to be confidant in ourselves. Girls, we need to remember to not show off our bodies so those guys can see it, just wait for your husband, only he should see that. I love the way Emily Downs puts it in an article in Focus On The Family’s teenage girl’s magazine, Brio, she says that “As females, we need to stop putting so much of our worth in outward appearance. Our Lord created humans in His image, not just the thin, perfect-looking people, but every one of us in all our shapes and sizes. God doesn’t see beauty the way today’s media do. He created tiny girls and curvy girls.” God did create us. He doesn’t make junk. He made you the way you are; he made me the way I am. Even the models are not as thin as the pictures in the magazine. They use computers to fix up their hair, eyes, their size, they get rid of their zits, they make their boobs bigger, or their legs more tan, or they get rid of the spot that they missed when they shaved. No one is perfect.
We don’t need to show off our bodies to be beautiful, in fact that’s just disgusting!
We don’t need to have perfect hair; we don’t need to be a size 0. We just need to be ourselves. Proverbs 31:30 says “Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Also Psalms 139:14 says “…I am fearfully and wonderfully made…” The bible says that we are created in God’s image! If you think that you’re ugly, and not good enough, that’s just like insulting God because he made us like this! So think positive, be modest, and most importantly of all, be the girl who God made you to be!

And to this, I loudly reply, "Amen!"

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Continuing the Journey, Part 3

The Bible is clear that there will be a day of judgment. It will be the day when our deeds will come under the microscope, and judged for what they truly are: gold...or straw (see I Corinthians 3:5-17).

"...Each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is." v. 13).

We will be held accountable for our actions. God will "test by fire" how we built our own lives, and how we are helping build others' lives. (See also Romans 2:1-16)

Yet while this is true, I see another aspect of judgment in the Bible. It is an ongoing, daily "judgment". It is what David wrote about in Psalm 139:

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting." (vs. 23-24)

If we are truly continuing on the journey with Christ, we need to have Him examine us each and every day--and often, many times throughout the day. Are my works pleasing in His sight? Am I walking in the way of the Lord? Was this day worthy of a "well done", or was it a "wood, hay and straw" day?

I'm not talking about walking in eternal condemnation. This is actually a life of freedom! Think about it. If we are allowing the Lord to search us, which leads us to repentance, it allows us to draw even nearer to Him--to become more and more like Him each moment of the day. That doesn't sound condemning to me! It sounds like freedom from self and sin!

May we each be able to echo the words of Paul:

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing."
(II Timothy 4:6-8)

Let us run worthy of the One who called us on the journey!

*all Scripture quotations from the NKJV

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Continuing the Journey, Part 2

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified."
(I Corinthians 9:24-27)

Recently, there was a big story in the world of track and field. A runner admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs. She gave news conferences, and spoke words of remorse amidst shedding of tears. She later returned her Olympic medals. She will forever be seen as the "really good runner who cheated to win". A very sad story, to be sure.

However, in the Christian journey, or "race," if you will, there is no way to win if we "cheat". We must follow the rules set up by the Sponsor of the race. To do any less is to be disqualified.

In the story of Pilgrim's Progress, Christian sees many other travellers who try to make it to the Celestial City their own way. One by one, though, they somehow fall by the wayside. Their way may seem good in their own eyes, but they never make it to the goal. They do not receive the prize.

The joy for those (who continue this Christian journey) is that we have a fan club of sorts. The saints who have gone before are our "great cloud of witnesses," cheering us on as we endeavor to endure and journey on. And the greatest joy of all: at the "finish line" is our Lord.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."
(Hebrews 12:1-2)

Monday, November 05, 2007

Continuing the Journey

"Jesus then said to the Jews who had believed in Him, 'If you continue in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.' "
John 8:31, 32

Yesterday, I saw my husband reading his "Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture" and asked what he was studying. He said this passage was one that had puzzled him for some time. He was wondering what the Early Church writers had to say about it. After I read some of it, I said, "I feel a blog post coming on!" :o) He kindly loaned me his book. And here comes the post!

"Beloved, our condition needs much endurance, and endurance is best produced when doctrines are deeply rooted. For just as there is no wind that is able to tear up an oak tree by its assaults because it sends down its root deep into the earth, so too the soul that is nailed by the fear of God--not just rooted but nailed--will not be able to be overturned...Our Lord wanted to test the faith of those who believed so that it might not be merely superficial, and so he digs deeper into their souls by a more striking word...And so, when he said, "If you continue," he made it clear what was in their hearts. He knew that some believed but would not continue. And he makes them a magnificent promise, that is, that they shall become his disciples indeed. These words are a tacit rebuke to some who had believed and afterwards withdrawn because they could not continue."
~Chrysostom, "Homilies on the Gospel of John"

This passage of Scripture, and the commentary on it from Chrysostom, are quite a challenge to all who would call themselves Christians. It is not enough to believe, or to begin the journey. We must continue on the journey, even when the way seems hard. Even when we don't understand what in the world God is doing in our lives. Even when everyone around us says it's not worth it to keep on. Even when it seems we are walking in darkness and God is nowhere to be found. Even when it would just be easier to go our own way.

There are too many who want to carry the label "Christian" because they think it makes them look good. They want to be grouped with other conservative people who live decent lives. Or they simply want others to think well of them. But is not enough to be baptized. It is not enough to walk to an altar and say a prayer. It is not enough to say we believe. It is not enough to live a "decent" life. It is not enough to be a member of a church. It is not even enough to attend church every week--or more often. We must continue to follow Christ. As Chrysostom noted, we must become deeply rooted, so that we cannot be swayed by the winds of life. Our lives must be "nailed by the fear of God". Anchored so strongly that nothing can move us.

How do we know if we are continuing? It is when our heart continually longs for more of Christ, His ways, and His word. It is when our burning desire is to know that we are drawing ever nearer to Him, and becoming ever more like Him. It is a longing for more of His likeness to be seen in us.

If we say we are going on vacation to, say, is not enough to buy the maps, fill the car tank, and sit in the car. Even starting the engine and driving down the street is not enough. We have to get onto the freeway, and go. We can't stop part way, and decide we've had enough. We'll never get to Florida that way! Of course, we could come home and tell all our friends how we prepared for the trip. We could tell them how we drove through several states. But we cannot tell them about Florida and that we actually went there, unless we really made the journey.

And so it is with our life in Christ. We cannot simply begin and prepare. We must keep going! The journey will not truly end until He returns or we die. Those are the only legitimate ends to the journey. Anything else is an aborted trip...and we haven't made a complete journey.

"It is a small thing for a disciple to come to him; it is a much greater thing to continue in him. Therefore he does not say if you 'hear' or 'come' or 'praise' my Word. He says, 'If you continue in my Word.' What do you think, brothers? Is continuing in the Lord hard work or not? If it is hard work, look at the reward. If it is not, you receive the reward for nothing. Let us then continue in him who continues in us."

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Happy All Saints' Day!

Christ beside me,

Christ before me,

Christ behind me,

Christ within me,

Christ beneath me,

Christ above me.

~Saint Patrick

More information on All Saints' Day


Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy All Saints' Eve!

"I love You, O my God, and my only desire is to love You until the last breath of my life. I love You, O my infinitely lovable God, and I would rather die loving You, than live without loving You. I love You, Lord and the only grace I ask is to love You eternally....My God, if my tongue cannot say in every moment that I love You, I want my heart to repeat it to You as often as I draw breath."

Friday, October 26, 2007

Thoughts to Ponder...

Today, my quote comes from a saint who is more familiar to most of us: Saint Paul.

"Be watchful, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love."
I Corinthians 16:13, 14 RSV

Be watchful: be vigilant, and aware of the devil's schemes. Be alert!

Stand firm in your faith: don't be easily swayed by the tides of change in the world.

Be courageous: don't let Satan or his forces bully you into a corner, cowering in fear.

Be strong: know that you have the mightiest Warrior of all on your side!

Let all that you do be done in love: what are your motives?

* * * * * * * * * *

"Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord."
Psalm 31:24


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Another Saint Quote

It is not hard to obey when we love the one whom we obey.
~Saint Ignatius

Monday, October 22, 2007

Monday Saint Quote

God has been very good to me, for I never dwell upon anything wrong which a person has done, so as to remember it afterwards. If I do remember it, I always see some other virtue in that person.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Tuesday Saint Quote

It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Another Way to Help Greensburg, Kansas

I received an e-mail today, telling of a recipe book a friend is putting together for people in Greensburg. If you would like to contribute, send recipes to Please note that she would like to have this ready before Christmas, so needs recipes ASAP.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

A Day of Sadness

Yes, another school shooting. And not too far from where we live. It was all there was on TV yesterday afternoon. (I was sick, so the TV was my babysitter!) Well, the school shooting in Cleveland and the train wreck up in Painesville.

Then of course, today all the national media had all the child psychologists in, to ask "why is this happening"?

Sin, my friend. The fall in the garden. A world looking for answers in all the wrong places. Broken families. Broken kids. Sin.

It saddens my heart.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Another Psalm in My Heart

A friend recently said she likes to pray through the Psalms. I haven't done that in quite a long time. I do like to read a Psalm, or a portion of one, every day, though. They are really ministering to my spirit.

Today I read this one:

"I will lift up my eyes to the hill--from whence comes my help?
My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.

The Lord shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul.
The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in

From this time forth, and even forevermore."

Psalm 121

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

This Psalm is incredibly comforting to me today. I can rest peacefully at night, knowing that my Lord never sleeps, and is always watching over me. He protects me both day and night. He knows everything that is happening in my life.

Rest in the peace of these words today, my friends!

*mountain photo by Craig Hiller

Monday, October 08, 2007

A Psalm in My Heart

"Happy are those who act with justice
And always do what is right!"
Psalm 106:3

Friday, October 05, 2007

Friday Saint Quote

St. John of the Cross...

"One act of thanksgiving made when things go wrong is worth a thousand when things go right."

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

God's Amazing Ways

As most of my readers know, I was able to attend our niece's wedding about a month ago. I didn't give every detail, obviously. But there was one thing that happened that I've been waiting to share with you. It was precious, special, and'll see...

At one point in the ceremony, a group of three people came forward to give prophetic words over the couple. I grew up in a Pentecostal church, and have been involved in many Charismatic services. Still, I have to admit, I am often skeptical of such things. Too often, the "words" are just generic, nice things. Which isn't really wrong, but also isn't prophetic.

As one "word" was given over them, I got this spiritual sense of God saying something so powerful, though. I can't remember the exact words, but the essence of it was that they were to be a Kingdom couple. A couple to show God's Kingdom to the world, and to spread His Kingdom. Even as the words were being spoken, I looked up above the gazebo. And there, fluttering its wings ever so gracefully, was a beautiful symbol of God's royalty: a monarch butterfly. It flew back and forth over the gazebo several times, then fluttered away.

You can call it what you will. I saw it simply as God confirming the spoken word. God's Kingdom being lived out through this young couple, who were devoting themselves to each other, and to God, as man and wife.

I'm not sure what God has for Kim and Randall. I just know it's going to be a fulfillment of those very words. I'll never look at a monarch butterfly the same again...

Isn't God amazing???


Monday, October 01, 2007

A Monday Pondering

Let me explain the situation, then I'll tell you what's stuck in my "ponderer" today...

Hubby was sick a couple of weeks ago. After a couple of days of waiting it out, he asked me to call the doctor and make an appointment. Turns out our dr. isn't in the office past noon on Fridays. And he was going to be gone all week the next week. We called a local "quick clinic", and got him in there. He was examined, given a strep test, and handed a couple of prescriptions to have filled. Later, when we were discussing it, he told me how much they charged him at the clinic, and handed me the receipt. When I went to record it in our checkbook, I mentioned that the receipt was for $20 less than what he had said he was charged. He found the printout he was given, and the amount on there was the higher amount, too. I called today to straighten it out. Between our original phone call, the message she left on the machine, and another return call, the gal at the clinic thanked me no less than 7-9 times (I stopped counting!) for calling them to point out the error and make it right. I could tell she was surprised that someone would do this.

I've had similar experiences when I've handed a clerk back an extra dime when I was given too much change. Or when I've offered to pay for something I inadvertently knocked off a store shelf. They are amazed that someone would do such a thing.

Why is that??? I'm saddened as I realize how far downhill society has gone when store clerks are shocked at my honesty.

Any thoughts from blog land?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Way It Always Is...

It's pretty easy to create a new tradition at our house. Well, when it comes to simple, every day matters.

For instance, one time when I made stew, in addition to the crackers, I thought it would be nice if we each had a slice of cheese (mild cheddar or Monterrey jack!) and a few slices of apple. Ever since then, that is the way our soup must be served each and every time! I recently served chicken noodle soup (good for what ails you), and I put peaches on the side instead of apples. All my guys noticed it and mentioned that we were "making a change" this time. Isn't it funny how we are creatures of habit?

What's sad is that we do this to God, too. Don't get me wrong. I know that He is the unchanging God of the universe. He will never stop being all-loving, all-merciful, all-powerful, all-knowing, etc. And He has set ways that He wants us to do things, too.

But I think we get the idea that God has to answer every prayer the same every time. Or work in our lives the same way every day. Look at creation, though. In the beauty of it all, there is a pattern, and yet a uniqueness to each thing He created. (Take snowflakes, for instance!) Or even better, walk through a busy mall or store, and do some people watching. God was definitely showing off His creative genius when He made each of us!

So why do we expect Him to work in our lives the same way each and every time? Wouldn't that get a little boring? I think we like to hope it's that way, because it gives us a sense of "knowing" and stability.

"Well, I prayed for this same thing a few weeks ago, and this is how He answered. So that's what He is going to do this time."

"I prayed for Him to provide money once, and I got this check in the mail. I'm in a tight spot again, and watching the mailbox daily for the next check!"

I think God answers in different ways for a few reasons. Not the least of which is to keep us on our toes (kind of like a surprise ending each time). Or maybe just to show us a new way He cares for us. Or to allow a different person to be blessed by the way He uses them to minister to us.

I like a schedule. I like things to be on an even keel, and unchanged. But isn't it fun to see how God will provide (or answer, or bless us) each and every time? In other words: let God be God!

Maybe I'll take a slice of orange with my soup next time!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Dr. Mom

Sorry no new posts for a few days. We're all trying to recuperate from illness at our house. (see more at my other blog) I'll be back soon! (Hopefully!)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Long-Awaited Post

Lest you all think I had forgotten to post about my trip to the is here at last! I was having computer issues with the pictures, so had to wait until I could use a library computer. Their high-speed connection works much better than my antiquated dial-up!
I began my journey early on Friday, Sept. 7. My flight left Ohio at 6:30 a.m. Yes, that's a.m. I'm not a morning person, so 4:30 came a bit too soon for me! The flight was fairly uneventful, other than some serious turbulence over Illinois. (My seatmate had me a bit scared. She was looking quite green!) I arrived at my final destination around 10 a.m. Mountain Time. The best part of the flight? From Denver on, as we flew over the beautiful Rocky Mountains.

When I arrived at the airport, I had a great surprise. Not only was my sister there, with my niece and favorite great nephew--my parents, one of my other sisters, two more nieces, and my nephew were there, too! Baby Isaiah had a sign pinned to him that read, "Welcome, Great Aunt Joni! Love, Isaiah".

My sweet niece took me to her home, gave me a snack, and sent me off to bed. I didn't sleep for long, but did feel much better. Due to the 2-hour time difference, I felt hungry almost all the time. My stomach couldn't figure out why I was eating at these odd times!

There was a lot of work to be done for everyone that day. My sister was setting up all the decorations for the reception, as well as overseeing the decorating team for the wedding. Thankfully, one of our sisters and her family were able to assist in all that work. The rehearsal was that night. It went well, but was looong. The rehearsal dinner was a relaxed time eating pizza at a nearby park. Isaiah and Aunt Joni were quite ready for bed!

Wedding day dawned bright and beautiful. A few of us were invited to the bride's new home for breakfast. While we were there, my oldest sister's family showed up. (Have I mentioned how wonderful it was to see my family?) Then back to my niece's house for a quick "gather everything we'll need for the day", and then we headed over to my sister's house. She had made a nice lunch for anyone who needed nourishment. We gobbled something down, then headed to the wedding site.

The wedding was held at a vineyard. It was a beautiful setting. The chairs were set up on a lush green lawn, with the actual ceremony held in a white gazebo. The backdrop was a beautiful view of the Book Cliffs. The reception was in the "barn", which is used for the wine-making process. It had a large, open room that was used for the meal.

The afternoon was spent getting the bride and her bridesmaids all "dolled up"--hair arranging, makeup application, photos and video--it was quite the time. Most of my time was spent tending to sweet little Isaiah, who did quite well considering all the confusion and noise!

At last, everyone was in their finery and ready to go. Mr. Isaiah was the ring-bearer, even wearing a teeny little tux! His daddy carried him down the aisle, and he sat in his bouncy seat throughout the ceremony. What a great little fella!

The ceremony was beautiful and simple. Two favorite moments: hearing the bride's two older sisters sing together. It was so wonderful, hearing them singing God's praises in beautiful harmony. The other favorite moment: the kiss. You see, Kim and Randall saved their first kiss for their wedding. It was a tearful, special moment when the pastor told him to kiss the bride!

The reception was wonderful, though I probably missed some important moments (cutting the cake, etc.). I sat outside with my two older sisters and their families, as it was quite warm and crowded inside. The hardest part of the day? Saying goodbye to my parents, sisters, brothers-in-law, nieces, and nephew...the visit was just too short.

My flight out left at 6:30 the next morning, and I was off to Ohio. Other than sitting in Denver for three hours, the trip was fine. One bad part of the whole weekend was that I was already dealing with this allergy stuff. I could barely talk all weekend, due to the hoarseness caused by sinuses draining. (Ugh!) By the time I made it back home to my hubby and kids, I hit the couch and was "out"!

So there you have it--the Reader's Digest version. I hope you enjoy the pictures. I had more, but thought I should try to limit it.

And, as a side note, you will notice that my profile now has an actual picture of me (eek!) and my wonderful great nephew. As you can tell, he was in a fussy mood when the pic was taken. But still, it was special just to meet him and get to cuddle him!

The mom and the bride

Proud parents

First kiss


Thursday, September 13, 2007

I Surrender All

This song has been going through my head all day. I dedicate this post to my husband...and to all who are facing tough situations today.
"I Surrender All"

I have wrestled in the darkness of this lonely pilgrim land
Raising strong and mighty fortresses that I alone command
But these castles I've constructed by the strength of my own hand
Are just temporary kingdoms on foundations made of sand
In the middle of the battle I believe I've finally found
I'll never know the thrill of victory 'til I'm willing to lay down
All my weapons of defense and earthly strategies of war
So I'm laying down my arms and running helplessly to Yours

I surrender all my silent hopes and dreams
Though the price to follow costs me everything
I surrender all my human soul desires
If sacrifice requires
That all my kingdoms fall
I surrender all

If the source of my ambitions is the treasure I obtain
If I measure my successes on a scale of earthly gain
If the focus of my vision is the status I attain
My accomplishments are worthless and my efforts are in vain
So I lay aside my trophies to pursue a higher crown
And should You choose somehow to use the life I willingly lay down
I surrender all the triumph for it's only by Your grace
I relinquish all the glory, I surrender all the praise

Everything I am, all I've done, and all I've known
Now belongs to You, the life I live is not my own
Just as Abraham laid Isaac on the sacrificial fire
If all I have is all that you desire
I surrender all...

Copyright 1992 Magnolia Hill Music Words and music by David Moffitt and Regie Hamm

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Please Be Patient

I really am planning to do a wonderfully informative post on my trip to Colorado. But right now, this blogger is battling the affects of allergies. My brain is a bit too foggy for lengthy posts. Thanks for your understanding!

Monday, September 10, 2007

I Have Returned

Yes, I'm home safe and sound from the adventure to our niece's wedding. More details will follow in the coming days. Thanks to all who prayed for me!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

God Is Bigger

Do you remember that children's song, "He's Got the Whole World In His Hands"?

Hold that thought.

A few years ago, my brother-in-law preached a sermon entitled, "God Is Bigger". I can't tell you how many times I have replayed the words of that message in my mind. The basic gist of the message was this: It doesn't matter what you are facing or going through. God is bigger! If it seems small in your eyes, God is bigger. If it seems insurmountably big in your eyes, God is still bigger. Whatever it is, God is bigger!

I have seen two camps of people. One group thinks that God is only concerned about the big things in our lives: disasters, cancers, hurricanes, tornadoes, wars, etc. Large-scale stuff.

Then there's the other side that thinks God is concerned with those things, yes, but is even more concerned with every tiny, minute detail of their lives. These are the people that pray for parking spots, ask God if they should really buy that brand of toothpaste, etc.

The truth is, though, both camps are right! God does care about the big stuff and the little stuff. And the beauty is, He is bigger than all of it. Nothing catches Him by surprise. Nothing is too big for Him to handle. Nothing is too insignificant. He sees the "big picture", too, which is beyond our scope. He knows what we will face the next minute, the next hour, the next day, the next decade...

There are those who will say, "Well, if He's bigger than it all and knows what will happen, why doesn't He stop the wars, disasters, etc.? Why doesn't He heal everyone? Why doesn't He..." The list goes on and on. I believe man brought all the "bad stuff" on himself. The bad stuff is the result of our sin. The world was perfect before all that. Sin marred it. I don't want to get into a deep theological discussion here. I just know we can't blame all the "stuff" on God.

What I do know is this: God walks through all the "stuff" with us. And I would much rather face it all in His grace and strength than try to go it alone. I'm thankful He is bigger. I'm thankful I can put it all in His hands, and know He will take me through.

"He's got the whole world in His hands
He's got the whole world in His hands
He's got the whole world in His hands
He's got the whole world in His hands."

Why did I go ahead and repeat every line? Because I think we all need to hear it over and over again! You will probably remember that each verse singles us out: He's got you and me sister. He's got the mamas and the daddies. He's got the little bitty babies. And on and on. He's got it all in His hands.

Because God is BIGGER!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Think on These Things...

I thought this was an appropriate verse, as we prepare ourselves for worship this weekend. Getting ourselves re-focused after the craziness and busyness of our week...

"...Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."
Philippians 4:8 (RSV)


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

My First Bloggy Award!

My friend Paula passed along an award to me. Paula received the award, because she is such an encouraging and inspiring person, and her blog fits this description:

"This award is for those bloggers who are nice people; good blog friends and those who inspire good feelings and inspiration. Also for those who are a positive influence on our blogging world. Once you’ve been awarded please pass it on to 7 others who you feel are deserving of this award."

Thank you for passing on the award to me, Paula! I feel very honored. These are the seven people I'm awarding:

Mrs. Darling

A special thanks to each of these ladies for the ways they share their love of God and family, and for being great blogging friends!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Christ In Me

This post is sort of a piggy-back off an earlier post, "A Journey Pondering."

I'm thinking today about what an awesome responsibility it is to have "Christ in me." How do I live out that reality? Yesterday, our parish priest spoke of not leaving Christ there (at the church) every week, but taking Him with you...out into the world. He exhorted us to take the life of Christ with us and share it with all around us. How do we flesh that out? How do we diffuse the fragrance of Christ to those around us?

I look forward to your thoughts on this...

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Season of Change

It is now officially the new school year. We have two days of school "under our belts". Whew.

The first day was a little emotional (mostly for me!). The boys were excited and nervous. It was a hot, humid day. By the time they came home, they were worn out from the heat, and happy to have made it through their first day.

However, that night, #1 son was not happy about having to return again the next day. After five years of being home schooled, that seemed like an awfully long time to be away from home! Much talking and much prayer, and he was back to bed.

Yesterday seems to have gone well for them, for which I am truly grateful. #1 son hasn't mentioned anything more about not returning.

I'm doing pretty well, all things considered. The first day was pretty rough. Second day was a little easier. It's definitely nice to have them home for the weekend!

Thank you, dear readers, for your prayers and encouraging thoughts. We'll make it through, one day at a time!

Additional note: I am adding comment moderation to my blog. I found that I sometimes miss comments left on older posts. I'll check in frequently for new comments, though!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Big Day

Yes, today is the big day for us. The boys started school. After having home schooled for five years, this is a big adjustment. (Probably more for me than for them!)
Keep us all in your prayers!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Idle Worship

I don't know if you're aware of it, but there is a phenomenon sweeping the world of Christiandom. It can be called many things, but I'll call it "seeking the whoopee!" The members of this movement are not always easy to identify at first. They arrive at a church as a newcomer, usually. Sometimes as a "mature Christian just looking for a place to worship". (Their words, not mine!) Sometimes they settle in slowly, and just blend in with everyone else. Sometimes they immediately want to sing/teach/lead. (I've found this to be the case more often than not.) Usually they want to be really chummy with the pastor/priest or anyone else they deem to be in leadership or positions of importance in the particular worshipping community. They may even become regular "givers". (Most don't like the word "tithe".)

But then it begins. If they don't gain quick access to a "position" of some type, they grumble: I was
always asked to sing/teach/lead at my old church! If the pastor/priest/deacon/other leader-type person doesn't pay them special attention, they are being "ignored". If there is something in a sermon/homily that doesn't stroke their ego or support their own private theological positions, then they begin speaking against whoever preached/taught. They become disgruntled if the music isn't as lively as they want it (or as slow and worshipful, or whatever!).

But the final word before they make their grand exit is usually something like this: "I just don't
feel the moving of the Holy Spirit here," or "God's presence just isn't that real to me here." Usually followed by an accusation against the pastor/priest/deacon/leader-type person...and then they're gone. Off to another place to see if they can find some more "super spiritual" folks just like themselves!

If you think I'm exaggerating, remember that my husband was a pastor for awhile. I am actually playing it down a bit!

The main issue is that too many church-goers see the whole Christian experience in a very me-centered (well, not
ME...them...) way. You know what I mean. It's all about their feelings, their spirituality, and what they can get out of a service. If it isn't giving them chills, tingles, or filling them with the urge to have a "whoopee!" experience, then it just cannot be of God.

The problem with this attitude is that it is all focused on man! For some reason, I don't think that's how it was meant to be. Do you?

Anyone who wants to sit in a pew or chair (or even on the floor!) and just receive is just dead wrong!

It may sound really simplistic, but the words to the song are true: It really is all about Jesus! It really is all about His death and resurrection. It really is all about Him receiving praise and glory and honor as we gather, read His word, and receive of His body and blood. It really is about serving the poor in His name. It really is about showing the world we are Christians by our love. Because the One to whom we give our worship gave the example of being a servant as the way to show the world His love in us.

It's time to settle in and do the work, my friends, as we follow the One whose name we take when we call ourselves "Christian".

I know this is pretty heavy for a Monday. I look forward to your thoughts on this, too.

"We fall down, we lay our crowns at the feet of Jesus.
The greatness of mercy and love at the feet of Jesus.
And we cry, 'Holy, holy, holy'
We cry 'holy, holy, holy'
We cry 'holy, holy, holy is the Lamb' "

*Words and music by Chris Tomlin copyright 1998


Saturday, August 18, 2007

Ecclesiastes 3

A friend sent me this link this week. I definitely needed it! I hope it blesses you, too.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

All Those Fun Changes

Have I mentioned that I hate change? Okay. Well, I do!

We're in the midst of many!

Hubby started his new job this week. But he's also still finishing up at his old job. So this means? Days at new job. Nights at old job. Tired hubby. Trying to learn the new job. Trying to rest. Anxiously awaiting August 25th--last day at old job. What a week he's having!

I'm trying to get the kiddos all set to start school next week. Label each and every little thing with their names. Check the school supply list umpteen times to make sure we didn't miss anything. Check the dates another umpteen times to make sure we don't miss an important event. Label more stuff. Hair cuts. Are we ready for school yet? Only one more week!

In the midst of it all, new things starting at church. Preparing my mind for going on a trip in about three weeks. (Flying alone?!)

Much in need of God's peace.......

"Saranac Lake, Morning," by Homer Dodge Martin, 1857

Monday, August 13, 2007

Savior or Lord?

A few years ago, there was a big debate in the world of Christian scholars. Someone had written a book about Jesus being Savior, but not Lord. Then there were more books written about Jesus being Lord, but with less emphasis on Him as Savior.

As humans, we really don't like the term "Lord," since it means Someone has authority over us. Americans especially don't like the idea of bowing to anyone. We are individualists, living in our free nation, and we want to be our own "lords."

But then again, we don't like to see ourselves as weak, in need of Someone to save us. We're self-sufficient in this country! We don't really need anyone! As long as we're pretty good overall, don't murder, lie, cheat, or steal, then we've got it all under control.

Well, it's a theory, anyway.

Actually, I find great freedom in calling Him both Lord and Savior. As my Lord, He looks out for my best interests: what He knows is the very best for me. Yes, it means submitting my will to His, and letting Him be in charge. But since He has my best interests in mind, I can't lose!

As for calling Him Savior...whew. There's more to that word than I could express in hundreds of blog posts. The bottom line is: it's a relief to know I don't have to try to save myself! That sure takes a burden off my shoulders! Don't get me wrong, I do have a part in all this. But the work Christ did on the cross paid for the sins of the world. That includes me! (And you!) In response to that great gift, of course I will live out a life of serving others. Jesus said as much at the Last Supper, as He washed the disciples' feet. He was teaching them how He could be both Lord and Savior: Master and Servant of all. The crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension again show the beauty of Him being Savior and Lord.

There's no debate to it at all. The One who loves me most is the One I long to serve and submit to, as well as recognize the amazing gift of His saving grace.

How great is Your love, O Lord!