Monday, December 28, 2015

Chocolate cake roll Christmas

I was pretty excited for Christmas Eve for one specific reason --- I had tried some new recipes and I was really excited to see if they had worked.

Thankfully, the cinnamon rolls that morning were great. Now, I had one left to try. I was terrified to see if my cake roll really had worked out.

I used a serrated knife to cut it just like I had seen done in all those videos I watched to see how to make it beautiful, and the first piece flipped away. The filling and the chocolate cake made that perfect spiral, just like I wanted.


Plus, I received the BEST compliment a cook can ever get. I know she's biased, but she's also not known to give compliments she doesn't mean, so when my mom said, "This is the best dessert I've ever had," I believed her. And it made my day.

So, here is the Kraft recipe I used. It is tucked away in my recipe book for all future Christmases. I think I started a new tradition.

Chocolate Cake Roll
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
6 Tbsp. butter
4 eggs
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2/3 cup water
4 ounces cream cheese
3/4 cup powdered sugar
3 cups whipped topping

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Line 15x10x1-inch pan with parchment paper.

Microwave 3 ounces of chocolate and butter until melted. Add sugar and mix well. Beat in eggs. Add 1/4 cup flour and baking soda and beat until just blended. Add remaining flour alternately with water, beating well after each addition. Spread into prepared pan.

Bake 15 min. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of powdered sugar (which was supposed to help it not stick to the towel you roll it in, but it still stuck for me). Flip onto a towel and roll up; let rest for 10 minutes, until just warm.

Make filling by beating together cream cheese, rest of the powdered sugar and 1.5 cups of whipped topping.

Unroll the cake and fill with cream cheese filling. Roll up.

Melt together the rest of the whipped topping and chocolate. Frost top of cake roll with this mixture. Can add walnuts to the top as well.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Worth the memories

Tis the season for spending money.

Although we finished our Christmas shopping quite a while ago, I still feel like we've done nothing but drain our savings lately as we plan a few trips. It's never easy for me to let go of our hard-earned cash, so I've had to look at it a little bit differently.

I decided that as we spend money on trip planning that I shouldn't look at it as spending money on tickets or hotel rooms, instead I am looking at it as spending money on memories.

The past few years we have gone to Sandals for vacation, and when I look back, I don't think about the payments we submitted for the trips. Instead I remember the time spent together reading on the beach, trying exotic cuisine at dinner, dancing in the cabaret and sailing. I remember laughing at the peacocks walking by, soaking in the sun in the pool and watching the sun set from our balcony.

I know that the short trip we took this weekend to see the lead singer of one of our favorite bands play a solo show wasn't about spending even more money before Christmas. Instead, we will remember that it was the first time I saw live the first song I ever listened to by the group. I will remember laughing with the woman seated next to me as she oggled over the singer. I will remember the odd bathrooms that had a shared hand-washing station between the men's and women's rooms.

Life is about creating memories. Yes, we could save all our money for "someday," and we could stay home. But instead we save for today and enjoy the blessings that God has given us and use them to create memories and enjoy this life. We thank God that we do have the ability to plan trips and to enjoy this points in our marriage. These times will be special ones that we will always look back on, and that's worth the money to me.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Storing up treasured memories

I logged on today and noticed it's been a couple of weeks since I last blogged. I guess life has been busy; I don't really have an excuse for it.

At this time of year, we think more about Mary, the mother of Jesus, than any other. And one of my favorite verses talks about Mary storing memories and precious thoughts up in her heart. I've talked about in past years that I like to do that too. When a special moment, even a small one, happens, I try to store it in my heart so I won't forget when times are not quite so good.

Here are a few moments that I stored up in my heart this week:

-My great big bulldog crawled onto my lap and tried to fit as much of her body as possible there, and she promptly fell asleep. She could be anywhere but she just wanted to be cuddled up next to me.

-Nate ended up taking his dinner to the office and he called, saying he was "showing off" my jambalaya. That always makes me feel good when my cooking is appreciated.

-A volunteer at work left me some goodies, and who it was made me so happy. This person unexpectedly has become quite special to me.

-A dance student that I have taught for a few years stepped up onto pointe in her brand new shoes. She hadn't necessarily been at the top of the class, but at that moment I saw such talent and potential that it made me smile.

- As our little family laid on the couch, Nate had my hand and moved his thumb against my wrist. It's a precious little thing that filled my heart up.

What are some moments you have treasured lately?

Thursday, December 3, 2015

I got the chicken cordon bleu

On our way home from Thanksgiving with family, Nate drove, like always. About halfway we pulled into an Arby's to grab some dinner.

"Chicken bacon swiss, no sauce," I said, and he repeated it into the speaker.

He ordered the chicken cordon bleu, and the woman inside repeated back the order. It came out as a crispy chicken sandwich and the chicken cordon bleu, so Nate corrected that I wanted the Chicken Bacon Swiss.

We waited about 15 minutes at the drive-through window for our order, and I asked if the worker had gotten my request correct. We checked the receipt when the credit card was scanned, and it said chicken bacon swiss but with no special notes.

"What does it have on it?" Nate asked.


I hate mustard.

"I'll trade you if it has mustard on it," he suggested.

We got the bag from the restaurant and pulled forward as I unwrapped my sandwich and tasted the yellow stuff. Honey mustard. Yuck.

"Do you mind?"

"Nope," and he took my sandwich as I unwrapped his.

"Yum," he smiled.

I munched on his sandwich as he ate my order, and I told him "Thank you." I thought just how blessed I am that my husband tends to order a back-up for me that he knows I will like instead of what I get. He doesn't just trade me when I don't like something, he honestly prepares for me to not like something and orders accordingly.

It doesn't happen that often anymore that I don't like what I get, because my pickiness with food has decreased, but he still is willing to take on whatever I don't like and to give me what he wanted.

And he gave more later when I fell asleep on the drive home (I try not to do that often so I can keep him company), and he drove us safely back without someone to chat with or to share a smile with about what was discussed on the radio.

And then he unpacked the vehicle in the middle of the night.

That is a true man --- a selfless man who not only gives and doesn't get in return but who gives and doesn't get without malice or judgement. He never holds it against me. He never makes me feel bad about it. He just gives.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Jesus as Levitical offering

It's Christmas time, so our pastor has turned to Leviticus...


But as it started it makes sense leading up to the birth of Jesus. It's a book full of ways that the Israelites could be close to God, from thanks offerings to sin offerings. And then Jesus came and he fulfilled all those offerings at once and forever.

A grain offering was of flour, with oil and frankincense, and was an offering of thanks and submission to him as a ruler. It was a thanks for providing "our daily bread."

That's why we give offerings in church today. It's a way to worship, to thank him for providing for our daily needs, giving back some of what he has so generously given us.

The burnt offering makes sense when it comes to Jesus. Those offerings covered sin, just like Jesus' death was the offering that covered all our sins. But how does the grain offering point to Jesus?

Jesus is the bread of life. "This is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me." This was unleavened bread, with no honey, so that it didn't decay. It was salted bread so it was flavorful and preserved. Jesus is everlasting and will fulfill our needs. He is our daily bread, and we are to feed on him and his word every day.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Lessons from volunteer time

So many places and so many things could not be successful without volunteers, and everyone should see where their passions lie and get involved in those causes. It's so important to give of their time.

I work with volunteers in a lot of areas of my life, and I am a volunteer, and I've learned some lessons from those experiences.

-People want to feel wanted. It's that simple.

-It's OK if things are done differently than you expect as long as they are done. People go about jobs in different ways, and I shouldn't make people do something the way that I would do them if they get to the same result.

-We give 100 percent when we're paid. But does that mean we're not supposed to give 100 percent in paid positions? I see it with myself, that when someone is paying me I will put forth my best foot but that doesn't mean I shouldn't give 100 percent when I volunteer to do something too.

-People become blunt as they get older. I see this often, in a variety of ways, and I think it's OK. People learn how they truly feel, and they become unafraid to express their opinions and emotions. It's up to other people to take or leave those comments.

-Everyone is different. Even if interests overlap, all people are different, have different experiences, have different emotions and should be accepted for who we are.

-Sometimes the gruffest people need the most love, and if they see that they are loved, they can become your strongest supporters.

-Listen, don't always talk. Sometimes people just need to be heard and don't need your opinion.

-Accept mistakes and move on with kind reminders. We all need reminders sometimes.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Abram didn't want the problems in Canaan

Abram was given the land of Canaan.

If God gave me a house, I would be thankful and overjoyed.

But what if someone was already living in the house? What if there was a famine where the house was and there wasn't any food? Well, we might start looking for solutions to those problems, and we probably wouldn't just move right into the house.

That's what happened with Abram. Instead of immediately settling in Canaan, he kept traveling and headed to Egypt to find food. Maybe God had an amazing plan to provide for Abram had he stayed, but he missed it because he tried to solve those problems himself.

In Egypt, Abram also let his fear of the future lead him into sin. He lied about his wife being his sister because she is pretty and he thinks someone might kill him to get to her. He let Pharoah have his wife, and then he didn't have any way of getting out of this trouble.

God knew Abram had a mess on his hands. So he plagued Pharaoh's household. It says "God touched Pharoah so he couldn't touch Sarai." He gave Pharoah a disease so he didn't want to get intimate with her. He gave her back to her husband.

So Abram went back to where God had originally told him to go. He had too much stuff and have away part of his land to his nephew. And think about what he had to deal with from his wife after he gave her away to another man. Plus, Sarai eventually have her Egyptian maidservant --- who wouldn't have even been there had they not gone to Egypt --- to her husband so she could have a baby. There were a lot of issues that came about because Abram didn't immediately obey as he should have.

Sometimes we don't immediately obey. We question the gift of the house because it doesn't seem perfect. But if we just listen, God will work it out. And if we do make a mistake, we go back, go home and trust him to deal with the problems. He is so much bigger than we think.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Good-bye to my vet

He was laying there in that same beige recliner that had been his for years. His head was tilted back, his mouth open, his face gaunt, his breaths like gravel.

I walked into the trailer and my grandpa lay there, but he wasn't the same.

He had hardly moved in days, water having to be squeezed into his mouth with a sponge, soaking his desert-like tongue and dribbling down his throat. But even that was too much. The inability to swallow that small amount caused him to choke, but the lack of muscle throughout his body didn't allow coughs to expel it.

I fought the urge to just walk away. I wanted to help, but it seemed like helping by wetting down his dry mouth was only causing him more pain. I tried to squeeze out enough water that would moisten his lips and tongue without letting it run down his throat.

He just stared at me. I could feel him watching me and thinking something, but his atrophied body wouldn't let him say what it was.

"I love you," I said.

His hand that I was holding moved. It hadn't moved in days, but it had something to say now. His dry fingers, just skin and bone, held my warm flesh tightly as he slowly took it and put it on his chest. Twice he tapped his scrawny frame, right above his heart.

"He says, 'I love you too,'" my grandma said from the next chair.

My grandpa's hand dropped back to the recliner, having used all of its minute strength to convey that last message.

I talked to him and prayed over him, and he stared back. Mom and I curled up on the floor and couch that night, not wanting to leave, waking every few minutes when we couldn't hear breaths being taken from his chair.

The next morning I said good-bye. I went back home only to receive a message the next day that Grandpa hadn't made it through the night. That truly was good-bye.

I think about this on Veterans Day, because my grandfather fought in the Korean War. He would tell story after story about his experiences if you just let him talk, but he wouldn't say a word if you actually asked a question. Even 50 years later, it was still too raw, too hard, too traumatic to conjure up those memories on purpose.

Grandpa never felt appreciated for what he did. Not many veterans do. However, at his funeral service, his casket was wheeled in by his beloved family. It was covered in an American flag, and he was given a 21-gun salute.

"He finally got the appreciation he never felt when he was alive," my mom said through glassy eyes.

His service was appreciated. His life was appreciated. His love was appreciated.

Even at the end, when he wasn't himself on the outside, I could still look in those eyes and see him looking back at me. He wasn't necessarily a man of love during his life, but I knew in those last moments he was.

So happy Veterans Day to my late grandpa and to all those who serve. We see you.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Does your correction really help?

I started out the blog writing sermon notes, and something else caught my attention.

The pastor asked a question about who watched a certain TV show and said the name wrong. Someone piped up and corrected him on the show name. Then he said a date wrong, and someone piped up that he said the date wrong when everyone knew what he meant. The microphone went out and batteries needed changed, and people giggled and made fun of the guy who brought the pastor new batteries but dropped them.

Usually, church is a positive atmosphere and we let go small misspeakings. But once someone started the correction, it opened everyone else up to bringing up correction and a lack of decorum.

That's what happens so often. It just takes one person to bring up a mistake, to gossip, to laugh at something inappropriate and everyone else joins in. Kids get in trouble all the time when they feed off of one child who is misbehaving. Adults need to grow up and think about their actions too.

It all goes back to that adage --- if you don't have something nice to say,  don't say anything at all.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

"Band of Brothers" marathon

Nate signed up for a free Amazon Prime trial, and we've been sampling some of the Instant Videos available on there.

I watched a couple of seasons of "Sex and the City" until I realized I just couldn't take any more of the smut and lack of content that the show really is. You don't especially notice how bad it is until you sit through episode after episode.

However, it has been nice to be able to watch "Band of Brothers" for once. I've seen the first couple of episodes several times, but I guess I haven't really gotten that far in the series until now. Nate and I watched several installments last night, and the show really makes you think.

"Band of Brothers" makes you think about where this world is headed. Honestly, with everything that is happening abroad right now, it's very similar to the start of World War I and World War II. We a group of people in the Middle East that are convinced that everyone should be like them, and they're willing to die for the cause and to take others out with them. How long before we step in? How long do we tolerate this insolence and lack of respect for human life? How long until World War III?

And if we end up in World War III, what is this generation compared to that generation of brave men. If we have another world war, who will be able to fight for us? A few of the boys that were fighting in World War II weren't able to make it through --- they were soft mentally, emotionally and physically and couldn't take that awful world. The majority of these young men though were tough. The didn't want to be there fighting, but they endured the cold and the terrible sights, and they kept going.

We are raising generations of soft boys --- not allowing any fights, not letting anyone lose in sports competitions but praising participation, letting them sit inside and play video games. These boys often aren't ready for adulthood, let alone fighting in a soul-ravaging war.

I like "Band of Brothers," because it tells the story of an important moment in history and the important men that were there. I love hearing and cherishing the stories of people who have learned lessons in life. I have talked before about the importance of gathering stories and listening to our elders. So often, when people get to "old age" or enter care facilities, they are seen as unimportant. We don't visit them, we don't think they have anything left to offer, we don't see their needs. What they often need is to be validated, to be understood, to be listened to. The older generation has seen plenty in life, from hard times to good times. They have plenty to say, and plenty valuable at that.

I can't say I don't spend a lot of time watching shows that are completely useless, but "Band of Brothers" isn't that. It has a story, it has lessons, it has a purpose. It's worthwhile.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

He made us perfectly

One of my sweet dance students told me she hated high school. The older students were mean and unwelcoming, and she didn't feel like she could be herself because people would look at her weird.

It about broke my heart.

But I remember those days. I remember so vividly how it feels to not be comfortable with who you are, to try to act differently and to be the person you're expected to be. Because at that point in your life, you don't know exactly who you are and who you will become. You're willing to try on different masks and costumes to see what feels right.

However, as I've gotten older, I realize that I knew who I was all along. I just wasn't sure it was who I was supposed to be.

Yesterday, we had a wonderful baby shower for my best friend at my house. And getting my best college friends back together, it all seemed right. We have two new mamas, one new mama-to-be, one foster mama and a dog-mama (me). As I sat listening to them talk about God and giving advice on the future, it just showed that we are all exactly where God wants us, and when we're true to ourselves we're doing just what we should be.

I wrote a little while ago about how I feel OK with my decision to not always be the talker. And as I went around and set up for the shower and packaged food for people to take home and cleaned up, I know that I'm the one who was gifted to be behind the scenes. I'm the one who doesn't need to talk but needs to serve. I'm the one who doesn't need to be noticed but needs to give.

In high school and college I tried to put myself out there more. I tried to be a social butterfly and to grab more attention and more friends. It didn't seem to fit, and it didn't really work. I found my best friend and my core ladies, and that's all I need. I don't need to have 500 friends, I just need close ones.

God has gifted us all with different abilities. They are innate. They aren't like anyone else's. We just need to be true to who we were created to be by God. He made us perfectly.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

DSW has wonderful customer service

Treating people well always works out.

Especially in the commercial sense.

So I ordered a pair of shoes online from DSW, and I was debating on purchasing a regular or a wide calf version of these boots. I didn't want ones that were tight all the way up my leg, because tight boots then tight pants never seems to look good to me.

Since I was going for a riding boot style, I went for the wide style.

I got them last week, and they were too wide. Poo.

The post office closed in two minutes, so I grabbed the box, hopped in the car with Nate and took off. I addressed the box to the address on the invoice inside and sent it off.

Well, then I wondered about the address, since often there is a different return address. I had looked it up on my phone on the way to the post office, but there wasn't an address in the returns part of the FAQ page.

I kept looking and found a returns address, but you had to move from the mobile version of the website to the full site. And it was a different address.

I called customer service and the woman on the phone didn't even know the address that was on the top of the invoice, and she acted like it didn't exist.

Well, the shoes were delivered earlier this week but didn't show up on my account, so I called again. The person on the phone this time was very helpful, and after checking my tracking information couldn't figure out who had signed for my returns shoe box.

"We don't know where they are so we will just refund you the money."

Wow, that was it?

So, since they were extremely helpful, I purchased the shoes again, this time in the regular instead of the wide size, and I will tell people the wonderful experience I had. And I will certainly look for shoes from there again when I need them.

Customer service pays off.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

This is one messed up world

NoHatred. Cheating. Murder. Robbery. Assault. Scandal.

This world is one messed up world.

Starting in Genesis, we see sin enter the world quickly after its creation. This week's sermon was on sin entering the world.

In the Garden of Eden, the serpent tried to get Eve to focus on the one thing she couldn't have --- fruit from the Tree of Life. It's not much different for us today. Satan also told Eve that she wouldn't die if she ate of the forbidden fruit, same as he lies to us today about what is off-limits to us. 

Eve started to roll around what the serpent had told her and decided nothing would happen to her, so she ate the fruit and gave some to Adam. Adam was there the whole time and did nothing to stop what was going on. He was supposed to be the guardian of the garden, but he failed to do his job.

This is still common today --- men in the US tend to step back and let their wives lead and suffer for their own mistakes. But the man is supposed to lead. He is supposed to be the guardian of his home and his family, like Adam was supposed to be.

So right away, multiple sins have entered the world. It wasn't just the act of eating the forbidden fruit. It was also the failure of Adam to do the job God gave him. There was commission of sin and omission going on.

So what do Adam and Eve do next? They cover up their bodies. They feel guilty and hide, when they should have confessed. That's what we need to make sure we do, confess our sins instead of hide behind a cover. Because what is slightly ridiculous is we think we can ever get away with our sins anyway. God is everywhere and knows everything. He always knows what we've done anyway, so instead of suffering with guilt we might as well fess up and go on with our lives and learn from our mistakes.

We have to remember before we sin though that it's not all fun and games. There are consequences for our sins. Adam and Eve had to leave paradise and we forced to toil and struggle for livelihood. Eve had to go through painful childbirth, and she was cursed to desire to be leader of her home but her husband is really to be in charge. All their children, all the children of the world, have to deal with Satan on Earth.

But we do have hope in sin. It's not going to go away I n Earth, but it's not forever. Jesus came to Earth and died as the ultimate sacrifice for all our sins and rose again to beat death.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

To talk or not to talk

I have always been an introvert.

Working in the journalism industry taught me how to ask questions and become a conversationalist, and my current job has helped me to keep up those skills as I work with volunteers and the public. However, I have to force myself to be bubbly and talk. If I chose, I would very rarely actually talk to people unless they are very close to me.

I have pretty much always seen my quietness nature as a bad thing. People laugh at the way that I like to stay home and ask me if I'm mad because I'm quiet.

As I was catching up on my Bible reading this morning, I was working my way through several chapters of Proverbs. I must say that this book about wisdom seems to encourage me to be myself instead of forcing myself to talk.

Over and over in Proverbs, it states that wisdom is not talking and folly is talking. What you say can't be taken back, but what you can't be faulted for what you don't say.

"Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble." (Proverbs 21:23)

"The wise lay up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool bring ruin near." (Proverbs 10:14)

"Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to run." (Proverbs 13:3)

Remember, when your mother told you "If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all"? Well, it seems like she was taking that lesson from the book of Proverbs. If you want to be wise, make sure you say only those uplifting, important, thoughtful words. Don't just talk for the sake of talking.

I think my dad is the ultimate master of this. My dad is not a man of many words, but when he has something to say, you had better listen. If he sits down with the intent of speaking, he has something on his mind and it is not just a random thought, it is something he has spent the time pondering and that he believes is worthwhile. That is a model we should all strive after.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Baiting hooks and breaking worms

On a fishing day held for local students, I went to take some photos for work.

They ended up needing a little more help when the TK students arrived, so I stayed and partnered with a local DNR officer named Bob to help the kids cast and to remove fish from hooks.

I am not an experienced fisherman by any means. I go fishing with Nate, but that entails me bringing a book and going along for the ride to enjoy some beautiful weather. I haven't had a fishing license for a couple of years, because I get as much enjoyment from watching as I do from participating.

That lack of experience didn't exactly help me out today.

I took a child to the container of worms, and he picked one out to use as bait. I picked it up and tried to get it on the hook, but I couldn't get the hook through the slimy earthworm.

I turned to Bob, "I don't know how to bait the hook."

He came over and told me the worm was too long and promptly pulled it into two pieces...with his bare hands. He threaded the end onto the hook and left a little part to wiggle.

I took the pole to the water and attempted to cast into the water for the child, but the line caught inside the reel and I got about two feet, into some bushes.

"I'm less than no help at all," I laughed while saying to Bob.

He just looked at me like he agreed.

The next time a child needed help, I figured out how to release some line ahead of time to prevent it from sticking and got it in the water where it needed to be. I even grabbed a worm and pulled to break it into two. My hands slid off the intact worm that curled around, upset that I squeezed it.

I grabbed all my guts and pushed hard in the middle, pulling. It came apart! I dropped half back into the dirt container and squealed a little to myself as I threaded it on the hook and tossed it in the water, handing the rod back to the nearest child.

I texted Nate, "I'm baiting hooks and breaking worms in two."

"Atta girl," he replied.

I knew he would be proud of me.

The kid with the fishing pole looked at me, "Your hands are dirty."

I guess all comments can't be positive.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The mom in the airport bathroom

I walked into the airport bathroom a week ago and slipped past a young mom dealing with her crying toddler.

I didn't think much about it.

Then I saw an older woman lean over quickly, put her hand on the small of the momma's back and say, "You're doing great. We raised four."

The woman smiled and walked out of the bathroom.

The moment this woman acknowledged the other mom, the younger woman's face softened. I didn't noticed how frazzled she had looked until I saw a sense of serenity and gratefulness come across her features. It was like she was visible and accepted. It was like the worry about how people saw her and how she was failing was erased.

All it took was a moment of acceptance, of encouragement, of understanding from a complete stranger to make this mom's day a little bit easier.

Imagine the difference you can make with just a couple of seconds and a six kind words.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

A photo on Pike's Peak

It's been a whirlwind couple of weeks, from traveling to Colorado to a huge festival at work. In fact, right now I should be cleaning, including the mound of dog hair that is lying at the bottom of the steps. I swear, Novie has turned into pig pen as fall starts to rear its head.

Instead of starting with cleaning, I figured I would blog for the first time in a couple of weeks.

We went to Denver to see Dave Matthews in concert, which was a lot of fun, especially for Nate. And the next day, we encouraged our friends to take part in some touristy activities with us.

We were sitting at the patio, eating a delicious breakfast made by our friend's wife, and started throwing out suggestions.

"What do you want to do today?" Nate asked.

"We could go to Boulder or drive into the mountains. We go do Garden of the Gods," his friend said.

"We could do Garden of the Gods," Nate said.

"I've never been there," his friend answered.

"What!? We've been there multiple times and we don't even live here!" I said. "We're definitely going to Garden of the Gods."

So, we packed into the car and headed to the gorgeous park outside of Colorado Springs, with its red peaks shooting up out of evergreen trees and wildflowers. It was a beautiful walk, although by the end by hands looked like my dad's --- sausage fingers --- from the altitude and heat.

Nate and I have a tradition of taking an annual anniversary picture, holding the picture from the previous year. So it's a picture in picture in picture. I stole the idea from someone on Pinterest.

Nate suggested that since we would be in Colorado a few days before our anniversary that we should bring the photo and take it in a beautiful locale. What better place to do than from the top of a mountain?

So we kind of forced our friends to join us on the touristy trip up Pike's Peak. We paid the outrageous amount to take the cog train up the mountain that afternoon, and it was a fun experience. However, my shorts and T-shirt weren't fantastic when we started to hit 12,000 feet. The air was crisp, about 40 degrees, and the wind started to whip through the train. Thankfully, my fantastic husband brought his sweatshirt for me to wear, because yet again, I wasn't prepared. Although he was cold, he let me wear his second layer.

We reached the peak, and floaty-headed, climbed down a few layers of rocks with our photo to get other peaks in the background.

Fresh-made donuts, a sleepy ride down the mountain, a drive home, pizza --- it was a wonderful, early anniversary celebration.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The joy of painting

Yesterday, Nate and I were priming the one side of the house that we have scraped, and I must admit I was starting to feel a little stressed.

It's not that painting is bad work, I rather enjoy painting. It's when I look up and see what we have done and think about how much is left. I know that this will be a job we will probably be forever doing, because if you only paint one side a year there will always be painting to do.

I heard Nate talking to someone, and then he came over with a smile on his face. Our neighbor is moving, and he had approached Nate to say good-bye.

"He said that he painted his house with his wife 50 years ago and they had a ball," Nate said.

"Was he joking?" I answered, assuming that this man was remembering the annoyance of painting a house.

"No, he was serious. He said we're really lucky to be able to do this together."

What a thought. When this man looks back on his life and remembers painting his house with his wife, no matter what he felt at the time, it's a cherished memory. It's these moments that someday I will look back on with fondness, and I appreciate having someone remind me that I should enjoy even these little times that I get to spend with Nate.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Giving of your body

I remember when I was a kid and I had been in and out of the hospital several times that needles didn't bother me.

I had an IV when I got tubes, when I got tubes and had my tonsils taken out, when I got tubes and had my adenoids taken out, when I got dehydrated and had to be hospitalized. I was in the hospital so many times before I was 5 that I got birthday cards from nurses and I had "Hospital Dolly," who accompanied me through it all. Needles and all things medical were old hat.

That changed as I grew older. Needles became scarier, and eventually even finger pricks started to make me sweat.

That's why I put off donating blood for so long. I didn't even want to think about a needle in me for a second for a shot, let alone for 10 minutes while blood was drained out. I could feel my body growing warm even with the thought.

However, I finally had a volunteer at work who didn't really give me a choice. I told her I would think about it, and I got a message that she had made me an appointment. I asked Nate to come along, and I did gave blood for the first time in May.

A week or so after that I got an e-mail that my blood was sent to Colorado to be donated to someone in need.

It was that quickly, and it made an impact on someone's life.

I was walking to give blood today, and I thought about that donation. I figure, although it still makes me sweat, donating blood is a pretty easy way to help people. It's like donating your hair, it's something that doesn't really take anything to replace and it's not putting you out much, but it can make a huge difference to someone in need. Giving blood takes an hour and some guts, at least for me, but it is such an easy way to really make a difference in someone's life.

Plus, when I give blood, it takes a lot less time to replace it in my body than it does to regrow out my hair.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Poor green tomatoes

Today it stormed pretty good, compared to the drought we'd been having the rest of the summer. It was actually good, and I didn't mind the dark day.

However, when I got home, my heart dropped as I pulled into the driveway. All of my 15 tomato plants were tipped over, and I feared they had been ripped out by the root with the pounding rain and high winds we'd experienced.

As I tried to right them, I could hear branches crunching and snapping, and green tomatoes dropped off and rolled through the rest of the garden.

Tears came to my eyes as I looked at my precious plants, and the hard work that I had put in since March drained away.

I did the best that I could, but I ended up with an armful of non-ripe tomatoes that had fallen off the stalks -- which I put in the window to see if they would ripen -- and I can't imagine the poor plants are going to produce much with all their broken and drooping stems.

It made me sad and disappointed, and for a second I realized what farmers grow through when their hard work is smashed by rains, hail and tornadoes. How much more grief did they have than my small patch.

I said a quick prayer, "Thank you Lord that we have the money to buy tomato sauce even if these tomatoes don't ripen. Thank you that this is not our livelihood."

Monday, August 17, 2015

Cookies and cell phone screens

Getting ready for our fantasy NFL draft last night, I was going to make a giant cookie cake and decorate it like a football field.

I doubled the usual recipe, and since the usual recipe calls for a 9x9 round pan, I put the batter in a 9x13 pan. I let it cook nice and long and pulled it out when it was done.

"Are you sure that's done in the middle?" Nate asked.

"Yep, I checked it."

I let the cookie cool, and as it did, I slowly became concerned that it might not be as done as I thought. It was a thick cookie, and I cut it to make sure it was done but the goo at the bottom stared back at me.

"My cookie isn't done," I called up to Nate.

"What do you do?"

"I don't think there's anything I can do."

So I plopped the entire cookie into the garbage and worked on a second one with an hour to go before we were to meet at friend at a local restaurant/bar.

This time, I spread the cookie on a 16x16 pizza pan and it baked up quickly.

Before we left, Nate ran to the store and I finished up folding some laundry. He came back a few minutes later and asked me where my phone was because he tried calling me three times. I ran around the house trying to figure out where I had it, and finally stopped to think the last time that I had seen it.

"Oh no."

I ran outside, where it was pouring rain and found my phone sitting by the garden, where I had forgotten it while picking vegetables.

It was still on, and I took it apart to let it dry while we were gone. No harm, no foul. The phone still worked.

I put the phone back together and left the case on the counter when we went to bed. About 6 a.m., I woke up to a crash as my phone fell between the bed and wall and landed on the wood floor. I grabbed it and stuck it back under my pillow. Then I wanted to see how much time I had left to sleep, so I lit up the screen.

A bunch of black lines appeared over the icons and background. 


Nate looked at me with eyes half open, "what?"

I showed him my now-broken screen.

We both rolled over and went back to sleep.

Cookies, phones --- life happens, and we just have to deal with it.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Today's top 5

Although I had to work on a Saturday and I've been plagued by a headache that won't quit for 24 hours, I want to do a list of things I'm thankful for today.

1. My husband. I think he always tops the list. However, today he unloaded the dishwasher without me asking, he helped me make steak quesadillas for supper, he started the laundry, and what made my day was that I sat down for a minute after work, and when I started to get up to go water the garden, he held me down because he wanted to converse. And he really did want to. When your husband just wants to spend time talking with you, that's a beautiful thing.

2. Volunteers at work. Although I'm not much of a people person, the volunteers at my job are so wonderful that they make my days brighter. One dedicated volunteer came back to visit today after he moved into his child's house as the volunteer battles terminal cancer, and it was just wonderful to see him.

3. Sweet corn. Although my husband doesn't like it off the cob, I certainly do. And we both enjoyed the sweet corn salsa that has now topped fish tacos and steak quesadillas. It's the small things.

4. The promise of fall. Autumn is not my favorite season, but as the summer concludes I do excited for college football to start, and it makes my husband so happy that fall is growing on me as well.

5. Kitchen abilities. Cooking and baking really bring me joy, and it brings me joy that I can bring other people joy just by delivering some baked goods. It's a win-win.

What are the little things that have made your day special?

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Prayer first

My first instinct when I see something I don't like it is to ignore it.

Some people want to jump in and fight. Some people want to argue and debate a point to make sure that everyone agrees with them. Some people cry. Some people watch in disbelief.

I walk away. I flip the channel. I X out of the browser.

It hurts too much to see people hating police. It's too hard to see gender roles blurred beyond belief. It's too scary to see people standing up for a place that kills babies and sells parts of their bodies. So I don't watch; I don't listen; I just go about my happy little life.

Part of it is also that I know that I'm not a good debater, and even if I end up fighting for my point, I'm not going to get anywhere. I'll probably just make the other person mad and realize an hour later I should have said this or I should not have said this. It's easier for me to just not add to the conversation and to seclude myself in my perfect part of the world.

The other night, a friend started to cry about an issue that I didn't know how to fix. I rubbed her back and said "I'm sorry." I tried to be the positive one and point out things that would make her feel better.

When she walked away, I realized what I should have done. I should have immediately taken her hand and prayed with her. It wasn't a good moment anymore to pray with her, but I started to pray myself.

And that's when I realized --- how often do I feel lost about a problem and just ignore it or try to be positive when I should really be doing is praying. We have the most powerful being to talk to about all our issues, and we so often overlook it. Why isn't praying the first thing we do?

I mean, think about it. President Obama is probably the most powerful man on earth, the U.S. president usually is. If we could bring all our issues to President Obama and feel like we could really make a difference through the conversation with him, we would take everything to him. We would ask him to fix all our problems, especially if we knew that we were on the side of truth and he agreed with us. He could do so much more than I could, so I would ask him to do it instead of trying to take it on myself.

But what I really have is someone so much more powerful than the president of the United States. And I know what is breaking my heart is also breaking God's heart. I know that he hates seeing where this country and this world is going. I know he doesn't want it to go there, because so much that is happening in popular culture is wrong.

So instead of avoiding the issues, when I see something that hurts I need to take it to God. Lord, please protect our police officers and help parents teach their children to respect authority. Please help us see that the gender issues in our country are not what you intended when you created man and woman. Please help us to defund Planned Parenthood so that innocent lives are not taken. Please work in the lives of our leaders and help them to stand strong for what's right, even if it doesn't look "good" on their political resumes. Please just cover this country in your grace, and help us all to stand up for what we know is right, wherever that leads us.

Please, Lord, don't give up on us.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

We don't know how to paint a house

We went to Sherwin-Williams because we need to repaint our house, and a worker came up to ask what we wanted. The conversation went about like this:

"What kind of paint would you like."

"We don't know."

"What kind of primer would you like?"

"We don't know."

"How much paint do you need?"

"We don't know."

We were open to whatever knowledge the paint store employee had to offer us, because we've never owned a house, and other than me helping my parents do a small amount of house painting when I was a kid, neither of us have experience with it.

We just laughed when we got in the car with our purchases, because the other couples that came in to the store during the quarterly paint sale looked just like us. I'm betting that most people who come in have the same answers to every question, "we don't know."

When you've never had to paint a house, you don't quite know what you're in for. It made me think of the Christian life. When you become a Christian, you have never needed to clean up your life. You don't really know how to go about doing it.

"What would you like to change in your life?"

"I don't know."

"How are you going to do it?"

"I don't know."

"How long is it going to take for you to clean up your act?"

"I don't know."

The great part is, there is a perfect God who can lead you through the process. He knows exactly how to help you clean it up. And the best part is, he will be by your side the entire time. Unlike the Sherwin-Williams employee who sent us on our way with our purchases and some good advice, Jesus stands by us all the time and helps us out in the process.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Keeping my mouth shut

I tend to be very quiet when I first meet people, and it takes me a while to open up.

This weekend though, I realized that a couple of times I was being mean to my closest friends. It's like when I open up and realize that I have strong friends, that I can be overly honest and even mean. I think that it's funny at the moment, but I realize later that although those comments are friend-breakers, I'm sure it's not a friendship grower.

In a marriage, the closer you get, the more you try to bring positive and not make fun of the other person --- either in public or in private. There is nothing about making fun of someone that helps a relationship. I wouldn't do it to my husband, so I'm not sure why I think it's OK for me to do to my friends.

There is a difference between helping to strengthen someone by being honest about a flaw that is jeopardizing them, and there's even a difference between joking about a small flaw that doesn't matter. However, there is a line that I sometimes cross that really can come across mean, even if I don't realize it at the moment.

Sometimes my best trait might be that I don't talk all that much, and maybe I need to make sure that I keep my mouth shut a little bit more, even around my friends.

So to those out there I've hurt with off-handed comments, I'm sorry. I'm working on it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A weekend back home

I was just looking forward to seeing my newest niece this weekend, but it turned into a whole lot of love and laughs even beyond that.

I met Harper Delaney right when I got home, and the little peanut was just too sweet. She didn't worry about being passed to a stranger, and she started to wiggle her lips, trying to make sounds like everyone around her was doing.

Ella bean ran over, apple in hand, to give me a hug and grabbed my mom's legs as she tried to get away from my 90-pound bulldog. She warmed up to Novie quickly though and the next day declared "Novie is my favorite."

We had a little sleepover, and Ella stayed up way later than she should have asking each of us to come up for hugs before she went to sleep. Who can resist though?

The next day included family pictures where we re-created a photo all my cousins' took 20 years to give to my grandparents for their 60th anniversary. Then my mom and I headed to visit my grandma, who has been struggling with stage four colon cancer. The perk of that visit though was that it ended in prayer, and we saw my uncle and cousins that I haven't seen in quite a while. My uncle has become a Christian, and one of my cousins talked about walking to church the night before. That much talk of Christianity and God is an unexpected pleasure with my extended family.

My dad and I ended up sharing lunch at our favorite rib place, which I think will be some of my treasured memories of times spent with my dad as an adult, and then my mom and I did a little shopping. The day concluded with time at my sister-in-law's house and dinner with Nate's and my two nieces on that side of the family.

The next day I got to see my in-laws and then headed to my grandparents' house for their anniversary party. Sixty years together is something to be proud of. It doesn't matter if those years haven't been perfect, because the more difficult, the more surprising that a couple can make it that long together. Think how many people just give up.

The party was full of my extended family, including my aunts and uncles, cousins and their children. The generations just keep going and growing. It's a different group of people than were there last time we were all together, which was for Nate's and my wedding three years ago, and there are several new members. Life keeps going.

The trip ended up being full of fun and time with loved ones, and I got the unexpected pleasure when I returned home of a quick visit with some of my best friends and their kids and foster children.

Life changes, but those who you love will always be there, and that's so nice to know.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Fearing TV

There was a patch of time where I was really nervous at home at night. I kept hearing things and I would wake up several times in the night, and I just couldn't settle down once the sun set.

I'm very susceptible to irrational fears, and I realized that I was more scared after I would watch some of my regular shows --- "Bones," "Castle," "Criminal Minds," "Pretty Little Liars." I had some regular shows that focused on fear and death. I guess that was going through my mind.

I decided to stop watching most of those shows and to focus on more positive ones that weren't focused on things that scared me. I turned to a lot more food-focused, decorating and comedic shows this summer, and it was a few weeks before I realized that I hadn't been scared in a while. I was doing OK by myself at night, and I was even going to the basement to do laundry.

I tested out the theory and watched "Pretty Little Liars," thinking that I hadn't been scared and it wasn't a big deal. That night, I felt on edge again.

Let me say, I get it, I'm way too old to have irrational fears like this and to be nervous in the dark. This is a little kid problem. But it is a problem for me, and it was one that needed addressed, and I'm very pleased that fears haven't been an issue for a while.

It also made me realize the impact that what we put into our minds has. We often think that as adults it doesn't matter what we watch or listen to. We think we are mature enough to overcome even bad influences. It's not true though. God didn't tell only kids to watch their hearts, he told all his followers.

If a little TV show can truly put me on edge and make me fearful, what else am I letting influence me in negative ways?

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Work Q&A

Today is the last day in our Work Matters series at church. Throughout, people have asked questions about work and the pastor is answering those questions this morning.

1. What do you do when a father puts his work above his children?

Although being a stay-at-home mom is popular in our church, I'm sure the same question applies to women who also prioritize work over family. It's easy to neglect your family, because you get paid for work and don't at home --- at least monetarily. Like King David, his family started to fall apart when he was at war constantly instead of raising his children right. Eli had a similar story, putting all his time into churchwork instead of helping his sons do what's right.

Fathers are to be the spiritual leaders of their houses. They are to spend time reading Scripture, talking over meals,  teaching on car drives.

2. What should our response be to someone that refuses to work or sees no reason to hold a job?

There are some people who can't work, for intellectual or physical reasons. There are others who won't work. The pastor looked at it an interesting way --- don't be jealous of these people. We all know there are people who work the government and get money when they could be working. We tend to be jealous that they have big screen TVs and have fun all the time but don't work for it.

Don't be jealous, because that's not how we were created. We were created to work and we get much out of it. There is a joy in accomplishment that we were created to experience. We should pity them that they aren't receiving that joy, those times of growth, the lessons we learn, the enjoyment of putting skills to use.

There is enjoyment in paying your own way instead of taking handouts. Nate is fantastic about this. He doesn't take handouts. He doesn't even like our parents paying for meals when we visit. He likes to know we can pay our own way.

3. Please deal with the false idea this teaching on work has no application to retired folks.

The teaching on work went beyond just those with jobs. The series is about all kinds of work, from work at home done by moms to chores done by kids to service done by retired people. No matter our age or occupation, we are to serve God and glorify him in all we do. An elder here says "We don't retire from something, we retire to something." We're not supposed to give up our jobs when we retire and just be self-indulgent. That is how our culture views retirement, but that is not how the Bible sees retirement.

4. What does the Bible teach about salary? How much profit should a Christian make?

Profit is a reward for risk and contribution. Depending on what we contribute, we will make different amounts of money. However, we must do so honestly.

5. How can I share the gospel at work?

-Nobody can stop you from talking about your weekend. "We had family over and went boating and then at church we talked about..."

-Nobody can stop you from asking somebody if they go to church.

-Nobody can stop you from inviting people to an event. "Our church is having a cookout with games for kids..."

-Nobody can stop you from doing good toward others.

-Nobody can stop you from offering to pray.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

A beautiful little dinner party

You know what they say, that doing things for other people makes you feel good in return? Well, it's totally true.

I have wanted to do something for my friend who recently had a baby, and finally we planned on them coming over for dinner.

I didn't plan a crazy elaborate dinner, instead I figured a simple menu of homemade taco and pepperoni pizza as well as homemade monkey bread, which I have never tried before.

It started out quite enjoyable, because Nate had the night off so I roped him into helping me prep dinner, which we rarely do together. I made the caramel sauce for the monkey bread while he measured out the Bisquick mix. After I mixed everything up, I rolled balls for him and he covered them with a cinnamon-sugar mixture and plopped them delicately into the caramel sauce. He immediately made a joke about my dough balls not staying together and how he had to re-roll each of them.

"Now I know why I don't usually ask you to help me," I said.

"I'm just a perfectionist," he answered.

We just smiled and laughed and continued on, and it was delightful.

When the monkey bread was finished, we started on the pizzas, and I asked him to flatten the dough onto one of the rectangular pans. He didn't know what to do.


"You've never made homemade pizza before?" I asked.

"I've topped them, but I've never made the dough before."

"Well, it's time you learn then."

I laughed as he pulled out the dough ball and got it stuck all over his hands. I had to peel it off and spray it with olive oil so that it wasn't quite so sticky, and I just smiled as I shook my head. After the dough baked a few minutes, he just let me finish the pizza toppings up.

Our friends made it over with their wonderful new baby, and we ate quickly while he finished up his nap. The party moved to the living room when little Silas decided it was time for him to eat, and we just talked and laughed at the baby, and I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that I was the first person to ever coax smiles from the five-week-old.

I mean, I know that I made dinner, but really, when they left, I felt so refreshed and happy. It was wonderful to spend time with them and wonderful to hopefully provide them a relaxing evening out of the house.

It's so much better to give than receive.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Biblical productivity

This is an interesting topic for church --- productivity. Because did you know a lack of productivity is not just a work problem but a spiritual problem?

I stumbled into this yesterday. I had things to do but I just didn't really want to do them. OK, well I was fine with doing everything but cleaning. I really don't like cleaning so I tend to put it off. I kept am eye on the clock while watching TV and put off my chores as long as I possibly could while knowing I could still get them done.

But that isn't what God wants me to do. It's easy to be productive at work because I have a boss and I'm getting paid. But at home it's easy to just last on the couch.

However, even at home we have a boss -- God -- and he is paying us with time on Earth. We're supposed to use that limited time wisely. Ephesians 5:15-17 says,  "Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is."

Wherever we are, we are supposed to make a difference, not fritter away our time. John Wesley said, "God wants us to do all the good we can, by all the means we can, in all the ways we can, in all the places we can, at all the times we can, to all the people we can as long as we can." Although we're not saved by God works, we're still supposed to be known by our good works. Think about those amazing Christians who die, what are they remembered for? "She was always going people." "He never stopped." "She never thought about herself but was always giving to someone else."

But productivity in itself is not the answer. It's why we're productive --- for God. "For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?" Luke 9:25.

Thursday, July 2, 2015


A person very close to me shared this devotion, and I asked if I could post it here. Reading it brought tears to my eyes.

"I was eight years old when I went with a friend to Good News Club. It was in a woman‘s home that I did not know. She told us some stories and gave us a snack. Then she shared the gospel with me.

“For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance; that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” 1 Corinthians 15:3-4

I believed that what she was saying was the truth and I knew right then and there that I needed this “Jesus” and that I wanted to be with Him in Heaven someday.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23

“This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:22-23

“In my Father’s house are many rooms; it if were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you may be where I am.” John 14:2-3

I knelt on her cold concrete basement floor and told Jesus that I was a sinner and that I wanted Him to be my Savior. I can still remember the cold on my little 8-year-old knees.

“If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raise Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9-10

“If we confess ours sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

I walked home about two miles that day by myself, carrying a Bible that she gave me, to a home where the Lord’s name was only used in vain. To parents who never took me to church and would have laughed or possibly would have been mad if I had told them what had happened to me. After that day, I never went back to Good News Club and I still never went to church. I didn’t do anything any differently than I ever did, but I knew something had happened to me that day. Christ was faithful to do what He had promised.

“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the work of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is  a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession-to the praise of His glory.” Ephesians 1;13-14

Fifteen years went by and I had my first baby and I began to think about this Jesus who had died for me. I wanted this baby to learn about Him. I wanted my life to be different. We began to look for a church. We found Bettendorf Christian Church and I began to learn more about Jesus. There was more than eternal life He wanted me to have. There was a gift that was available to me as well.

“wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 1:4b-5

I was obedient to Him in baptism. Jesus did the work on the cross for me. He is the one who has the authority and power to give me eternal life without requiring me to do one thing to deserve it. I believed!

“having been buried with Him in baptism and raised with Him through your faith in the power of God, who raised Him from the dead.” Colossians 2 12

Almost fifty years later, I am still on my long walk Home and He is still walking with me.

“being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

Heavenly Father, I humbly and gratefully thank you for what you have done for me. I look forward to seeing Mrs. Fleener in the crowd of witnesses when I finally make it home to you. Thank you that my job was to believe and that Jesus did all the rest of the work for me. It is in His name that I pray, Amen.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

From caterpillar to monarch

A monarch caterpillar changes a lot from the moment it emerges from its egg to the moments before it enters its chrysalis. It eats and grows 2,700 times larger than it originally started out.

Then, it has the urge to change. I can’t imagine it knows exactly what’s happening, but it understands that it can’t keep eating and stay the same. It knows deep down that it isn’t supposed to live like this forever.

It creates a web, grabbing hold of the only home it’s ever known, probably a milkweed plant, and it puts its trust in a small black piece that is securing it to its habitat.

It starts to shake. It’s a scary moment when change is upon you, and it fights the change for a little bit. It quickly realizes that the change is inevitable if it wants to live, and it begins to shed off its skin. It doesn’t feel the greatest, I’m sure, to rip off its outer covering, and it’s trusting that the next stage is going to be better than what it has now.

It pulls up a new green shield, and it wears this shield for a little while, while it learns what it takes to be successful in the next stage.

Pretty soon, that monarch is going to hatch. It’s just a baby, but it’s going to learn that it needs to pump liquid into its wings and that it will eventually have to trust those wings and take flight.

That caterpillar didn’t know when it started to feel the need for a change what it would turn out to be, but it trusted and jumped and went through the pain to become something beautiful.

Thank you God that we know that even when we have to go through pain to shirk off our human skin, we know that what you have in store is so much better and so much more beautiful.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Where is society heading?

Whew --- what a week for Christians.

I'm not going to get into the whole homosexual marriage debate. I do however want to talk about our culture today.

There is a lot going on in America to make sure that everyone and everything is accepted. It's been happening for about 100 years. Some is good, and some is not so good. But where do you draw the line?

It seems like we're on the way to just saying everything is OK, whether it's right or wrong.

I guess all the changes in culture were just on my mind anyway, because my Bible reading has led me into Judges. That book is basically a back-and-forth between Israel and God. Israel rebels and starts following false gods and doing "what is good in everyone's eyes." Then something bad happens, and the people want to follow the real God again. Their leader dies, and they start to follow false gods and do "what is right in everyone's eyes." Then they need God and ask for his help again. And back and forth is goes.

Then I read a passage where that stopped. Basically, God got fed up. He said, "No. You've had your chances and you keep turning your back on me. You're done. I'm done. Deal with it yourselves."

I feel like this is where our culture is heading. When the U.S.A. started, the leaders of the country followed God. Then the citizens started to rebel and are now at the point of doing "what's right in everyone's eyes." I can't imagine it's going to be too much longer before God goes, "No. You're done. I'm done."

When I see what's happening in the U.S.A., it brings tears to my eyes. I just keep saying, "I'm sorry, Lord." I can't imagine how painful it is for him to see his children rebel so much, in so many different ways. So many things in our culture today are accepted and expected --- and they shouldn't be.

I think we need to re-establish right and wrong in society, whether for Christians or non-Christians. There is a such thing as right and wrong. That is OK. We should be able to establish the right and wrong and stand up for those ideals. Otherwise, we're at a place where we are going to have to deal with our actions and pay for our mistakes.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Northern Lights

I got a call at 1 a.m. from my husband, and I groggily answered.

"I'm watching the Northern Lights," he said.

"I've always wanted to see those; I'll go look," I said.

"You're going to come? I'll wait at the pumphouse then," he said, his voice perking up.

I got into the car and tried to wake up as I drove a few miles to the lake. I couldn't see anything right when I got out of the car, but Nate said I just needed to wait for my eyes to adjust to the dark light.

Then I saw them. The horizon turned a light green color, and waves passed through every few seconds or so.

The dark sky was lit up with stars and with the Northern Lights, and I just soaked up the beauty standing next to my husband.

That's when I realized what day it was.

"Happy birthday," I said, smiling.


"I'm glad you called."

"I debated for a long time about waking you up."

"I'm glad you did."

Life is often about saying "Yes." Instead of staying home, get out of bed and enjoy those spontaneous moments you won't forget. Go check out those Northern Lights.

Monday, June 22, 2015

A sluggard's attitude

I sometimes do have lazy tendencies. I'm not always moving or doing or cleaning; I often love to just chill in front of the TV.

However, I wouldn't consider myself a sluggard. That is the definition of lazy in the Bible, and verses basically say that sluggards get what they deserve. They don't get to eat because they don't work. They're foolish people who don't look beyond their desire to chill or sleep in.

Overall, I'm not a sluggard. But I started to break it down into different parts of life. Even if I'm not a sluggard overall, I'm definitely a sluggard in some parts of life. And one of those parts is my spirituality.

Instead of doing my daily Bible reading, I often just go to sleep, just like a sluggard avoids work. Instead of praying, I say a quick "thank you" and turn on the TV. Instead of taking time to help someone, I just think of all the things on my to-do list, which could be done a lot faster if I just buckled down and did it.

There are lots of places we can be sluggards --- relationships, home chores, saving money. In each of those places, we have to remember that if we don't put in enough work and dedication, we get what we sow. And if we don't sow, we don't get anything.

So even if you're not a sluggard overall, where does your slothfulness hide?

Friday, June 19, 2015

Extra effort to make a difference

I just finished "Forgotten God" by Francis Chan, and after each chapter he writes a biography of an amazing Christian.

Most of these people were famous for ministry work, and Chan encouraged people in the book to really search how they are making a difference for God. What would your biography look like after one of those chapters.

Of course, it made me think what legacy I'm leaving behind. I don't have any children, haven't taken care of orphans, haven't moved to a foreign country, haven't started a ministry, haven't sold my house to give the money to the poor. Unfortunately, we are too selfish at this point to have children, and we use our extra funds to have fun and travel while paying off loans. It doesn't sound like we're worthy of a biography in that book.

But then I started to think about where I am. I think I can make a difference right where I am, although I'm not always sure that I am.

We so often focus on the homeless, the hungry, the orphans, the poor --- those are the people we're encouraged to reach out to. However, there are not a ton of people that fit that description where I live. So how do I make a difference?

I decided that instead of feeling guilty that we haven't started a ministry or moved to a foreign country to care for orphans, I would do the best with where I truly think God has put us.

I work with a lot of senior citizens with my volunteer coordinator position, and I have always felt called to be friends with seniors. I think they have so many wonderful stories to tell and so many lessons to share. Yet, so often, these people are overlooked and thought of as unimportant because their prime was long ago.

One of my best friends in my life was a man named Jack. Jack was in his 80s, and yet we corresponded daily and weekly via e-mail. He never felt like he was worth my time. Yet, he showed me so much and gave me so much advice and taught me so many lessons. He was truly a wonderful man.

He was worth getting to know. And you know what? Our volunteers at work are worth getting to know, and they are worth the effort. I love spending time with them, and maybe I can make a difference in their lives.

So I figured, maybe I just need to put in a little extra effort. Maybe instead of just seeing them at work I need to build these relationships outside of the office at well. If they know that I'm not just using them for their volunteerism, maybe that will make a difference to them. Maybe if I share a conversation, a meal, a prayer, they will be able to see that I care about them and will wonder why I care about them beyond my job.

It's difficult when it comes to building relationships with those you work with outside of work, because I know I'm not supposed to get my faith mixed up with work. However, it is. My faith is mixed up in all of my life. How do I get to know these wonderful people and not talk to them about God?

I guess I leave those conversations for outside of work, when I see them as just me, and not work-me. That means, though, that I have to reach out outside of work. I have to continue these relationships, and that means a little extra work. I need to make sure that I am doing the most with what God has given me right now, right where I am, right where he wants me to be.

There's a reason we're still here, and we need to make the most of it --- however, He sees fit.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

A positive, bad dream

The other night I had a bad dream --- I don't remember exactly what was happening but I was scared of something/someone.

In the dream I started singing "Jesus, name above all names..." and the fear went away.

I half woke up at that point, surprised that I dealt with fear by focusing on God and quite pleased that's where my subconscious took me when I was scared while asleep.

Now, if only I dealt with stress and fear in my awake life the same way. I obviously know it's the best way to handle things, but sometimes my consciousness gets in the way.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Seinfeld spontaneity

Because I have to work this weekend, I was able to take a day off in the middle of the week. Since Thursday was my only day without something scheduled, I decided that would be my free day.

"I wish I had known, then we could have gone to see Jerry Seinfeld," Nate said.

A few months before, some of our friends asked if we wanted to go with them to see Jerry Seinfeld's stand-up comedy. However, it was in a town a couple of hours away, and I didn't want to drive that far when I had to work the following morning.

This changed things up though, and Nate ended up finding some last-minute nosebleed tickets that we could have.

So, in last-minute planning, we ended up heading south to see Seinfeld with friends.

On the way, we found out the only person in our foursome that was supposed to work the next day had also gotten a day off due to a funeral.

"We should have just spent the night since none of us have to work," she said.

I started to look up to see if any last-minute deals could be found online, but it seemed like $120 was the cheapest room close to where the show was. I told the others in the car, and our friend said she only had one-day contacts and couldn't see without them. Her husband started to talk about how he likes to have a little more of a plan.

I used to be like that, but a few moments of greatness thanks to spontaneity have made me a believer in spur-of-the-moment activities. But we let it go.

However, at dinner, the topic of staying the night again came up. I looked at our friend and asked if she could deal with being blind for the drive home before she could get her new contacts. Her husband suggested that a little contact solution might make it worthwhile.

So a quick hotel booking on Orbitz, a trip to Target for contact supplies, a hilarious Seinfeld show and a spontaneous night on the town --- what a wonderful Wednesday night.

Spontaneity created a night of memories. Next time you have the chance to do something on the spur-of-the-moment, don't let your need to plan get in the way. Just go with it.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Life is not about full-time ministry

Is ordinary work important work?

That is certainly a question we all struggle with. I think many Christian children are brought up to think only full-time Christian ministry was work for God, and that was what serious Christians did. But that is not necessarily true. There are lots of vocations needed that aren't churchwork.

1 Corinthians 7:17 says, "Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him."

Even Jesus gave value to ordinary work. Yes, he gave three years to full-time ministry, but for much longer he worked as a carpenter. If that was valueless, he certainly would not have done it. If he is our perfect example, it shows ordinary work is also important, when if we are capable of so much more, like Jesus was.
Ordinary work is the way we can reach people; we can love them through our regular work. When we put in effort and serve others through our everyday jobs, it is important and impactful.

This actually goes back to the original topic of my blog. I wanted to talk about the importance of everyday moments. Work is everyday. It is every day. It is a collection of little moments in which we can make a difference. It is all in how you look at your work. If you see your ordinary work as a way to serve and worship God, you can make a difference and you can shine in the eyes of God.

My best friend's dad farmed all the years she was growing up. He worked diligently. He helped provide food for thousands of people. He provided jobs. He provided a good influence on his employees. He was gifted in that area, and that was where God needed him. Out was ordinary work that turned into a lifetime of everyday moments that were acts of worship.

We've heard the passage of the Bible about how we are all parts of a body and together we are a complete being in the church --- that's what makes the church work. But that's also outside of the church. We are all gifted in different ways, and God gifted us for work, for different jobs, so we can make a difference in our daily lives. We need Christians in different jobs to make society work. I like that the pastor said, "Some of God's best work is done by people in ordinary work, not church work."

This week's memory verse is James 4:7-8: "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded."

Saturday, June 6, 2015

God oversees all

We pulled up to Krystal's house, and the "It's a Boy" sign on the front door noted the extreme joy and exhaustion that were at home inside.

I thought it would be weird to see my first college friend with a baby, but when the little guy was curled up on her chest and she lightly tapped his back to try to get him to burp, it seemed completely normal. She looked like she was supposed to be a mother, and her husband looked completely at home holding his son and swaying him back and forth.

Then my best friend took a turn holding the three-day-old infant, and her face just lit up. The baby growing inside of her is going to be in wonderful hands in just a few months.

Life and its changes are certainly interesting. And what is even more interesting is the fact that God knows exactly what is going to happen while we walk around shocked at where our lives turn out. I didn't think that I would end up in a small town away from where I grew up, at ages 27 with no kids, working in the conservation field, married to my high school sweetheart and living in an old craftsman home. This is not where 8-year-old me would have thought my life would be at this point, but I absolutely love it.

Krystal and her husband have already had stresses of parenthood and the scares that come along with it. Even putting their little guy down at night, they worry that he might not be able to cough should he get spit-up caught in his throat. She said they have to remember that God is bigger than those "little" things and that he loves their son even more than they do.

Our God is an awesome God who is in charge of every little thing, from new babies to changing jobs to growing gardens. His eye is on the sparrow and the infants of the world. His eye is on the 20-something adults and the senior citizens and those who are the brink of death. In all our phases of life, he is there and he is greater.

I'm thankful for that.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Asparagus memories

My co-worker looked over at me at a volunteer event last night, and she looked from me to my dad standing next to me. Her eyes lit up when she realized who he was.

"I just realized I have met you before!" she said. "I saw you smile and realized it was Kiley's smile, and I knew you were her dad."

Yes, my father and I have the same smile. We have the same puffy cheeks and the same puffy eyes, and the same squinty smile. In fact, I look a lot like my dad, although my dark eyes will always reflect my mom.

It was a wonderful couple of days spent with my dad this weekend. He drove hours just to visit for a little more than one day. When he got here, I almost didn't know what to do. Usually, people who want to visit just enjoy shopping, but my dad certainly wouldn't enjoy that. I rattled off a few ideas, and when I mentioned asparagus hunting, he looked intrigued.

Apparently my dad has never been asparagus hunting. He said my grandma would point it out on the roadway when they were kids, but they never stopped to get it. So we put on some boots and long sleeves to protect from ticks and headed out with a knife and plastic bag.

First, we had to find some asparagus so I could point out to him what we were looking for. Walking along one road ditch where I knew some asparagus was, we found two stalks that were just right for eating. Not bad at all.

Then he spotted some across the road, where I hadn't looked before. This first patch garnered a small handful, and continuing along the steep slope by a farm field we found more and more and more and more. In fact, we had so much my small hands couldn't hold the bundle, so Dad tied the bundle up with a piece of grass.

After a few more stops, we ended up with more asparagus than I had ever seen come from the wild.

It is so fun to find wild edibles like asparagus. Not only do you not have to pay for it, but it's also an enjoyable outdoor activity. We spent time in the sun. We got to bond. We have a shared experience and felt accomplished.

I'm all for technology, but having my job in conservation, I have learned a lot about the importance of slowing down and spending time outdoors. God provides us with so much outside our houses and away from our technology. He provides us with food and with opportunities for memory-making.

I saw a meme on Facebook the other day with a picture of two children standing in front of a lake. The picture said, "They'll never remember time spent in front of the TV."

You know what, that's true for children of any age. I certainly appreciated the time I spent with my dad outside that day, and I created a memory that I will have forever. I may be my dad's grown-up kid, but I'm still his kid, and I appreciate that he spent that time with me making memories.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Sermon notes --- How work touches eternity

Sunday morning today started off with work, as I served in the church coffee bar. Making coffee, arranging cookies, refilling sugar and creamer, washing and drying dishes.

That work is not only for the people who come in and feel loved by the goodies in the coffee bar, it's for Jesus. I had to remind myself of that yesterday too, when I was cleaning house. That not only serves my husband and my guests --- like my dad who is visiting today --- but also Jesus. That work is glorifying God because I am working in my capacity as wife, a job that he gave me.

The pastor today is taking about how work connects to not only today but eternity. Jesus came to Earth to not only save our souls, but someday he will also come back and will resurrect our bodies. At the same time, Earth will be restored and renewed as well.

The new heaven and earth will be much like our earth now, except with all sin and all effects of sin removed. Think about how amazing that will be. We love our earth --- that's why everyone wants to be healthy and live a long life. We want to stay here. But think about how wonderful our world will be without sin and sickness and pain.

That goes for work in the new heavens and earth. If I worked in a coffee bar, I wouldn't dread the cleanup process and emptying the garbage. I wouldn't get upset as I picked up at home and had to do load after load of dishes. It would be perfect and pleasing. Work there will be as it was originally meant to be.

Our work here also touches eternity I'm a different way. What we do with our lives, which includes a lot of time spent at work, will be examined and tested. What was done for God will be rewarded. If the time we spent at work was not given to God and was not done for God, it will not be counted toward our eternal reward. So spend your time, including your time at work and working at home, working as if directly for God. That will be credited to you. It will not be forgotten.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sermon notes --- Working for God

We work for Jesus.

Look at your job --- no matter what it is. If you are a truck driver, recycle scrap metal, teach kids, patrol the streets or answer phones in the church office, you are serving God through your job. Since God created work, we are showing him respect and worshipping him by participating in what he created.

In our jobs, our faith should shine through in a variety of aspects.

We live in a culture of disrespect, from kids not respecting their elders to wives not respecting their husbands to the public not respecting the authority of police officers. As Christians, we are to respect people as God's creation. Respect does not mean agree with or like but to respect the authority of. That is true in the workplace, and our faith should make us different in that aspect.

Respect also includes a good attitude. The Bible says bond servants are to be well-pleasing and honest (not stealing). Then our faith shines through.

So often we live our lives without much thought. We don't realize that such little things as supporting our bosses or staying positive in a difficult situation or taking problems to the person instead of taking behind his or her back can make such a difference. Life is fast, but I think if we slowed down and thought before acting we could make such a difference. People are watching much more than we realize.

But it's not just conscious decisions that we make. We also need to work on our relationship with the Holy Spirit. If the Spirit is active in my life, I will naturally act differently. I will naturally react in a way that is God-pleasing. Because we are sinful creatures we have to remember we aren't different on our own. We are different with the help of God.

Basically, Christian employees should be the best employees. We should be sought-after, because working for God means we try to be excellent in all our work. Are you sought-after?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Vacation: Part 6 --- Trying ackee

One of the reasons that we love all-inclusive resorts is the opportunity to try new things with no downside, especially in restaurants. Since it's all prepaid, if you don't like what you order, you order something else or go somewhere else and eat something different.

In Jamaica, Nate was telling me about something called ackee.

"You mean acai?" I asked.

He insisted that this fruit in Jamaica was called ackee, but I knew he was just mispronouncing it, so I spelled it for him and told him it was pronounced a-si-ee.

Then we passed by a tree on the Sandals resort that grew the national fruit, and a sign in front showed that it was an ackee tree. Yes, ackee.

I had never heard of that fruit before.

We ended up ordering an ackee and smoked marlin calzone at the pizza place one day, and I expected a purplish fruit to be inside. What spilled out was cheese, sauce, pink smoked marlin and what appeared to be scrambled eggs.

The calzone was absolutely delicious, and I continued to poke around to try to find the ackee. I didn't see anything beyond these yellow chunks, and we finally concluded that this was indeed the ackee. It wasn't sweet --- it was kind of savory and even a little salty.

The next day Nate tried ackee and saltfish, the national breakfast in Jamaica. Fish, peppers, onions and ackee don't sound like a great breakfast, but it was in fact quite delicious. Nate's dad had told us to try it, and he was right. It's oddly good.

That's why I love to try new things. Yes, sometimes I don't end up liking them. However, other times I find something that I end up absolutely loving. It's so worth it to expand your palate and your experiences by trying a little bit of everything.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Vacation --- Part 5: Ow


I rolled over and the skin on my shoulder scrunched, causing pain on my sunburned skin, so I rolled onto my back again and fell asleep.


I had rolled onto the other side in my sleep and scrunched that side's tender, burned skin. I fell back asleep on my back again.


OK, seriously. How many times was I going to unconsciously roll over and cause pain? I might as well get up and start the day at this point.

"Want to play tennis?" I asked Nate.


I went to get dressed and winced as I pulled my sportsbra over my head.


I just looked at Nate and laughed at my painfully red skin.

"OK, so clothes really hurt. I'm not sure how I'm going to play tennis and lift my arms up!"

"Yeah, I was kind of surprised that you wanted to."

Well, that left the option of changing into my swimsuit, and that process was even more painful. I did it like a Band-Aid and just went quickly, but I had enough pain to make me quite content with staying still the rest of the day.

Breakfast. Relaxing in the shade of the grape tree. Lunch. Relaxing in the shade. Champagne on the patio.

We were invited to a martini tasting event as a part of our room package, and I decided to put on a strapless maxi dress that I had just purchased. I wanted to wear it, but I was a little skittish since the strapless look wasn't great with my "tan" (burn) lines. I got over it and went out anyway, figuring most people had probably gone through a burn before.

The tasting was fun, because we got to talk to people from Tennessee and even from Britain. We met one couple from Nottingham --- yes, like Robin Hood's Nottingham. They said they lived only a few miles from Sherwood Forest and regaled us with the tale of Little John's tree which is a huge tourist attraction and is dying but held up by steel beams so it tourists aren't disappointed.

Dinner of escargot and duck pate, plus duck breast for the main course. A quick show at Le Caberet and finally an evening of dancing in the martini bar. A vacation that includes dancing? Can't get better than that!