Monday, November 30, 2009

The old oak table

2:22 p.m. Today's project was to get started on repairing our 25 -year-old oak dining room table, which has developed a deep crack in the support for one of its huge claw-foot legs.
When Steve, assisted by Pavel (Heidi's boyfriend), took out both expansion leaves and turned the table upside down Saturday night, poor Heidi was visibly shaken! "There's never NOT been a table in the dining room!" she cried out. And for a young lady who was four when we moved in 21 years ago, the dining room table is a symbol of family solidarity, a place for large and small meals, homework sessions with mom or dad, Bible studies several of us have led, Thanksgiving and Christmas meals, even the many political meetings I've hosted. The kitchen table is our daily center of life, but the dining room table made the kids feel just a bit more grownup and see themselves as full partakers in memorable occasions. Heidi has always done a great job of setting and decorating the table with both precision and flair as she's grown up. That's "Mommy's Little Hi"for you!
One problem Steve and I had was that the time to correct this problem is now, but neither of us knows a thing about wood! We called upon our son-in-law's dad, a talented worker in wood, and he came right over today. I'll post a picture of the lovely handmade tree topper he and his wife gave us for an early Christmas present.
In no time, our friend had figured out how to take the table apart with Steve's socket wrenches, and then disassemble the part that needs re-gluing. Isn't it nice to observe a true craftsman at work, really enjoying himself? We'll have the part back tomorrow, thanks to his expertise!
Speaking of craftsmen, Steve was able to find the leak under our kitchen sink and fix it today, saving us the untold grief and expense of a plumber call. Reminds me of all of his home and vehicle repairs over nearly 30 years--I have been a blessed wife! [Even though I've been known to jokingly grouse about never getting a new washing machine or dryer, I know when I've got it good!]
We are making decent progress decorating our house for Christmas, and I'm busy gathering my tableware for the Women's Ministry Christmas Dinner Friday. Heather and Nick are preparing for their annual Christmas party, and Heidi is in charge of her girlfriend Shea's bridal shower, both on the 12th. And most amazing of all, my 82 year-old dad has requested, and I've mailed, a recipe for an apple pie he wants to learn how to make with his eight extra apples !! Daddy has been cooking very healthfully for the past 15 years, so on to the new challenge of baking!
Whatever we do, we are to work and serve "as bondservants of Jesus Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with goodwill doing sevice to the Lord and not to men..." (Ephesians 6-7). I've been reading Ecclesiastes in the New Living Translation the last two weeks, and I particularly like what King Solomon says about diligent work and its rewards in Chapter 5. Verse 12 says, "People who work hard sleep well, whether they eat little or much." Verses 19-20 say, "It is good for people to eat, drink, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their lot in life. And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life--this is indeed a gift from God. God keeps such people so busy enjoying life that they take no time to brood over the past."
Work and live unto the Lord, who has given us all things richly to enjoy!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Steve & Dana's Excellent Adventures

2:30 p.m. Today's project was to finish Steve's Christmas present: a computer scrapbook of our many travels around the country in the last decade. I just finished it, relieved to say, without contracting a migraine like I got last summer making one up for Nick and Heather's first anniversary! I'll put in the order tomorrow in conjunction with my payday. The physical scrapbook will arrive mid-December. We pensioners need to be crafty about money going out--everything has to be on a strict schedule.
With Steve's short-term memory, problem solving skills and comprehension fading, I try to utilize a variety of methods to engage different learning modalities--sight, hearing, hands-on --to enhance his ability to relate to others and to stay involved in the daily scene. He does surprise me at times, like last night, when we were discussing the crack in one huge supporting leg of our oak dining table. It's not going to make another year without collapsing--wouldn't that be a fine Thanksgiving memory? Some solution needed to be arrived at!
As we pondered how to fix it or get help, Steve said, "What about , uh, John?" I said, "Oh yeah! [son-in-law] Nick's dad! He does wood work!" So John Love will be coming over on Monday to take a look-see and suggest repairs! that was a real breakthrough for Steve, and we were both delighted.
I've needed to resort to giving logical, step-by-step instructions to help Steve formulate actions for daily activities, and admittedly, it gets annoying! (And tiresome for me). But imagine working on household projects and pastimes with a loved one who has lost much of their logical ability. You can't lightly mention an idea and leave your conversational partner to fill in the gap, or supply the missing piece of information as you would in normal conversation. In other words, "A" doesn't automatically lead to "B." And one habit that's hard for me to break is taking things for granted, like his knowing every time where his sandwich bread is kept, or remembering that it rained yesterday, so we probably didn't need to water the garden. To ease the moment, I suggested that he check and see if the soil seems dry...patient tactfulness 24/7! (And only God is that patient and tactful, amen?)
Jesus said in Luke 21:19, "In your patience possess ye your souls." I like the way Chuck Smith comments on this verse. " 'Possess your soul' " is the idea that you should keep your soul under control. Self-control takes patience when things don't seem to be going well. Hang in there."
And that's just what I do, seeking strength and love--His love--every moment I will to seek it! When I choose to "be myself," hurt and pain result. Every Christian has been there, tired of the effort, though it is a very little effort, because God the Holy Spirit does 99.9%! We have a kind and gracious friend in Jesus, don't we? We need Him because we all can say with the Apostle Paul, "In me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells."
So I am hoping that the travel album will give Steve many hours of enjoyment and spur spontaneous conversation as our years go along. We have truly been blessed with many opportunities to see our great land. We will try to plan some more adventures, and who knows? a second album may need to be created!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Transition to Christmas

5:26 p.m. Today's project is to take down all of the fall/Thanksgiving decorations and replace them with the Christmas theme I wait all year for, every year!
It seems funny that all of my warmth-evoking fall items, with the exception of the ivory table runner, fit so easily into one laundry basket, and then onto a shelf in the linen closet upstairs. The cloudy raininess today even seemed to signal a transition to the cool, bright, event-saturated Christmas season.
The guest bathroom downstairs is the first to be decorated, so I ran a quick washload of hand- and full-sized Christmas towels and a truly gaudy bauble-splashed shower curtain to take out the storage creases. Even the hanging clips are bells, snownmen, trees and a Santa or two. I set up the handcarved Merry Christmas-lettered wooden table plaque, a gift from a student 15 years ago when I taught at Grace Christian School. Four Christmas-themed pillows now grace our ivory-colored couches, an angel and a manger scene on one couch, snowmen and trees on the other, in blue tones that coordinate with the berber carpet.
JESUS IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON, declares the wooden hanger now on the front door. We will probably wait to plug in the lit animated angel on the front porch until after we've brought our tree into the house next Wednesday. Our tree will be a bit shorter this year, because Steven is no longer at home this year to help carry it in. Kriss is planning to help his dad this time, because he has a day off Wednesday the 1st. Not only does Steve need help with the lifting and setup of a 10 foot tree, but gentle assistance in taking logical steps is needed. Remembering how he set up lighting for 21 years in our current house is more of a strain now with his Alzheimer's and gets frustrating for him, but I remind Steve that we're working together, and we can have the kids help us as well.
We are now looking for the dark-stained bread dough manger set, one as old as my daughter Heather, but still impressive, though the wood manger covering broke long ago. The three wise men weren't present at Jesus' birth, I know, but the traditional creche scenario is too ingrained for any changes now!
Stocking holders are next to be set up, while Steve hunts for the extension cords that will make the lighting work. And let's not forget the transformation of the hutch into a holiday village with the snowy white batting and musical buildings! Every year I wonder, "do we do this each time?" (And I push to the back of my mind the dreary January takedown of this Christmas wonderland!)
In our family, we have no doubt Whom we are celebrating, and Jesus is the centerpiece of all activities. Numerous manger scenes are displayed around the house, including ones that stay up all year. One of my fondest memories is the way our little ones would snatch the tiny "Baby Jesus" out of one very old manger set to sleep with! Each morning, I'd track the inch-long infant doll down, gently scold the child, and put it back in its "straw" bed. The next night, it would disappear again! With 5 young children, the competition became pretty active. Our children learned to love Jesus at an early age, knew their Bible stories, and accepted the Lord as their Savior during their elementary years.
We very much enjoy the fun of handcrafted decorations, ornaments and handmade heirloom pieces from our families. Sending cards, baking, hosting parties, attending events at church and in our city make for some wonderful memories. And the music of Christmas is the best of the entire year! I love the way Ephesians 5:18-19 tells Christians to party: "Do not be drunk with wine, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."
And that's how we roll here at the Kruckenbergs'!

Friday, November 27, 2009

I NEVER oversleep!

5:26 p.m. Today's project was to hop out of bed by 6 a.m., have morning devotions and coffee with Steve, and head out of the house with Heidi for Victoria Gardens, our favorite "shopping experience" in Rancho Cucamonga. We like Black Friday as well as anyone, but had no urgent "big ticket" items driving us to get in line at Walmart or Kohl's by 3 a.m. We like to mosey, saunter, use our discounts, purchase specific items, and lunch at Richie's Diner. Besides that, the early birds are pulling out of their parking spots by the time we arrive!

As it happens so often in life, things did not turn out that way. We had had a wonderful Thanksgiving, complete with too many desserts and lots of fun, but it ended after 10:30, and Steve and I still had cleaning to do. When I thought I was finished, I discovered two more goblets to wash. I hit the sack around midnight, pretty exhausted. I had left my cell phone on loud, in case Steven had an accident on his way up to Fresno, which didn't happen, praise the Lord. But he did call! At 3:59 a.m., I heard a text alert, and ran into our master bath, to read this message:

C28 black friday deal on their website10buck tees u can buy me a christmas present i wear xl

Can you believe that? C28, the Christian clothing store, is owned by our family friend, Aurelio Barreto. I support their mission, and we do wear their clothes. But how was this a 4 a.m. emergency? Ugh!

So I stumbled back to bed to sleep for a couple more hours, and woke up about 7:30! OH NO! I heard some movement outside our room, Heidi getting ready. I went downstairs, and there she was dressed nicely, eating her breakfast and saying, "I would have gotten you up, but figured you were already up!" Well, I read my chapter of Ecclesiastes, posted my scripture on Facebook, drank 1/2 a cup of coffee, and ran upstairs to "freshen up," makeup, and dress up. Heidi drove as I did my daily portion of our Esther Bible study in the car.

What on earth had happened?! Had I turned off my alarm in my walking sleep state at 4 a.m.? I know I set it for 6:30! I just now went upstairs to check out the issue, and it was the old AM/PM mixup--something I usually double check.
I really think that the Lord allowed this to happen for my own good. He knew I needed the rest and saw to it that I got it after a very long day on my feet. Our heavenly Father is so good--all the time!
Keep in mind, all who serve Him, that Psalm 4:8 says, "I will both lie down in peace and sleep," and Psalm 127:2 in the New Living Translation gives comfort to us worriers, and shows what scientists now know about restoration in rest: "It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones."
God truly does give us all things richly to enjoy! How He loves us!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

All together now!

8:50 p.m. Today's project was to host a Thanksgiving feast for my sister's and my family--our family. The Lord had His hand on every aspect of the week's preparation, even the three breadmaking trials!

Last night, we followed the family tradition of picking up Subway sandwiches while Heidi and Pavel's apple pie was baking. I fried up bulk sausage, chopped up and sauteed the celery and onion, mixed it with Mrs. Cubbison's herbed stuffing cubes and put the dressing in the fridge. Then Steve and I enjoyed a relaxing evening on the couch, indulging in hot apple crisp made with leftover apples from the kids' pie. A scoop of cookie dough ice cream melting over the top gave just the right touch! We then enjoyed a sweet and sentimental Hallmark movie, "Silver Bells," and each others' company.
This morning, around 4 a.m., I woke up and began praying over many things and people, but particularly that Steven had gotten home safely from Fresno. The subject of making yet another batch of whole wheat rolls came to mind, and I pondered getting up by 5 a.m for devotions first, then I'd tackle it! But I must have dozed off because my eyes popped open again at 6!
No problem. I ran downstairs, checked that yes! Steven was "breathing" soundly in our guest bedroom/office, and put on the coffee. I picked up the King Arthur wholewheat flour, checked their recipe, different yet again from the other two, and amazingly, found the nonfat dry milk it called for, left from a batch of granola I'd made this summer! Mixed it up, got it kneaded and rising, and sat down for devotions. How apropos that today's scripture for posting on my Facebook home page was from Psalm 26 on November 26th! Verses 6-8 state, "I will go about Your altar, O LORD, that I may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all Your wondrous works. LORD, I have loved the habitation of Your house, the place where Your glory dwells."
And proclaim we did! Before our prayer and meal, each person, or married couple, opened their keepsake card, and described the photo, then told what they are thankful for. Family, jobs, and healthy children were high on each person's list of thankfulness. Steve and I closed with pictures of our mothers, and that made me tear up with love and longing for our Ruby and Pearl. But the exercise was enjoyed by all of us. Pavel led us in prayer, and we loaded up our plates with yummy dishes all of the women had made. Thanksgiving dinner just keeps getting better each year!
After dinner, we enjoyed desserts, and were our usual loud, wisecracking group. I told Heidi's boyfriend, "No one has ever taken a nap after Thanksgiving dinner in this house!" Ten of us played "Scene it!" in raucous competition before the young'uns headed off to a movie--another Thanksgiving tradition that gives Steve and me time to get the china and goblets handwashed and restored to the hutch.
As we "took a load off" of our feet and enjoyed a 1957 Grace Kelly movie on Turner Classics, I reflected that all had gone beautifully, God had been honored in our home, and testimony was given to the joy of living for Christ in any and every circumstance.
Philipians 4:6 says, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God that passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."
I'm learning!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


3:22 p.m. Today's project was (and is) to get the house clean, polish the wood furniture, buy a few last minute items from Vons, and get the logistics in order for tomorrow. We'll have a full house of family, including spouses and significant others. With our five children, Steve has experienced the blessing that the Bible describes in Psalm 128:3: "Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the very heart of your house, your children like olive plants all around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the LORD."

We have large extended families, too. My side, the Grays, will join us from San Diego, because their traffic is pretty light. The Kruckenberg side has found the traffic from Orange County unbearable, and we have to concur, having made the trek a number of times. Brutal both directions. Kriss and Marisela had better get an early start from Long Beach if they expect to be here by 2 p.m.!

The day before Thanksgiving is for me a kind of quiet, nervewracking, suspenseful kind of day. "Did I forget anything? The leaf needs to go into the dining room table, don't forget to polish it first! How much cleaning should I do, since I'll be making stuffing tonight (a big mess!) Should I fry the sausage for the stuffing now? Or just do all of it at once tonight?"Adding to today's trials, I can add the stench of another dead rat up in the crawl space above Heidi's room, thankfully to be removed by our rat man later this afternoon, praise the Lord! I've noticed this year that we always have a rat die when we are expecting a blessed gathering of family--last August's birthday party was an example of the enemy throwing any nuisance he can into Christian gatherings. "Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world," I John 4:4 says, and amen to that! And the rat man is actually here...He got TWO dead rats. Can you imagine what that would have smelled like?
I can also say, that all of this food preparation reminds me of my mother, Pearl Gray, pictured with me in Hampton Beach, New Hampshire, where my dad was stationed in the late '50's. She was an aficionado of the paper bag-wrapped turkey, as was Steve's mom Ruby. Both of these fine ladies have gone to be with the Lord, and are sorely missed. I especially chuckle remembering one Thanksgiving fifteen years ago, probably, when Mommy arrived early, and had been relaxing while I scurried around. She looked up and said, "Dana, can I do something?" MISTAKE! "Yes, Mommy, you can peel potatoes!!" And she did it, cheerfully. I have a funny picture of her, and you know, she peeled potaotes for the next few years, just to keep our joke going. Her sense of humor and oddball remarks kept up even after she had her stroke and was a bit hard to understand. Three years after her passing, I still think of things I want to tell her or ask her!
Big family events with tons of food preparation can put me in quite a tizzy, but I need to remember that it's awful hard to ruin a stuffed turkey, and people are very appreciative of the cook's efforts. 30+ years of roasting turkeys and making Thanksgiving meals should have taught me a little bit, at least, but that exta adrenaline helps turn in a better performance, as athletes and actors know!
May the Lord bless our gathering and be honored by our conversation and fellowship!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Have patience, dear!

2:54 p.m. Today's project was to bake a batch of whole wheat rolls from a 37-year-old recipe I came up with in the early 70's, "the hippie years," in Paonia, Colorado. Dana's Health Bread --a little B.C. conceit here--contains wheat germ, and today's version is sweetened with Pavel's family's honey! I would love to have my own honeybees, if it weren't for that pesky bee-sting allergy Heidi and I have...
Yesterday, my friends shared the frustration I had with a recipe from the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook, one that called for brown sugar, and had some odd directions. Not wanting to be a "bread snob," I gave it a try. Let's just say that my loyal husband Steve has been eating up the oddball tiny rolls and giving out great compliments! Ain't marriage great? Hidden in the "until death do us part" vows apparently is a line for the husband that he shalt eat all concoctions from his wife's kitchen! And for the wife's part, she shalt acknowledge all of her disastrous dishes, and never repeat them! That's one of the ways "the two shall become one flesh," known as COOPERATION!
I have high hopes for this batch of rolls, because the dough felt right as I kneaded it and it rose perfectly. 24 rolls are on their second rising in the bulk muffin tin I got at Smart & Final a year ago. I would recommend this very wise purchase, especially if one is prone to taking goodies to church gatherings. I also get lots of use from my mini-muffin tin, just right for tiny "ladies' " brunch snacks. Now I am patiently awaiting the rising of the rolls, to be sung to the old tune of "bringing in the sheaves!"
Lots of good news and much- anticipated answers to prayer came our way today! Mercury has decided to repair the Saturn from Marisela's car accident; my new insurance agent told me that he can get standard life insurance rates for me--5 year cancer survivor-- from Mutual of Omaha; Steve's State disability claim has not been ended--they are just awaiting a form Dr. Guzman filled out; my flowers and lettuce have germinated; and Kriss/Marisela's wedding announcement is due to be published, with picture, in Friday's Press Enterprise! And, glory to God, Heidi came home safely from Mexico, albeit a tad bruised from her ride in the bed of Scooter Kamio's pickup truck over rough roads to the beach!
Yesterday our oldest son Sean--born in Colorado, by the way--emailed me to ask what time dinner is Thursday! We are on good terms, but we rarely see him, busy as he is with business courses at RCC and the neverending job hunt. Not much going on here in the Inland Empire--our economy was so skewed, based too heavily on the construction trades. All other fields are more than crowded with applicants, such as the automotive tech jobs Sean is seeking. Of all of our sons, he is the one who took most after Steve, with interest in and talent for mechanical things. Like Steve, Sean can completely overhaul a car's engine, and improvise, fix or build just about anything. I sorrow over the news of manufacturing jobs going overseas, when so many of our young people have the kinds of skills suited for production. Lord, I pray Your mercy on our nation once again!
When we birthed our children it was with an optimism and forward look to their walking with the Lord, and the upward mobility that American parents have toiled for throughout our history. It is tempting to forego that dream as we see a chaotic economy and the guarantee of taxes on them such as our generation has not seen in this lifetime. But we and our believing children can say with David in Psalm 26:11-12:
But as for me, I will walk in my integrity;
Redeem me and be merciful to me;
My foot stands in an even place;
In the congregations I will bless the LORD.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Actively at rest

4:32 p.m. Today's project was to head into the countdown towards Thanksgiving with actual accomplishments under my belt!

After devotional time, I took down our living room curtains for a wash, amazed at the dust they can collect in a few weeks! The trick with these is to get them back on the rods in the correct order, so I actually did two washloads, one for the dining room, and one for the front window, to keep from getting mixed up. I'm on a timeframe, ok? As I put them back up, I saw that they are getting a little frayed, showing their 21 year age at last. A pretty good run, I'd say. Some time next year, I'll start looking for as close a match as I can find to replace them.

Meanwhile, I proceeded to wrap up the decorating of son-in-law Nick's and daughter-in-law Marisela's Christmas stockings. The stockings are not pictured for "security reasons" because Nick's wife Heather follows this blog! (And Marisela does too, occasionally!)I put on some special decorations that will make the stockings unique, and hopefully a cheery representation of our love for them!

Speaking of Marisela, I needed to get information to and from Mercury insurance regarding their inspecting the Saturn she crashed on Thursday night, so I handled that while in the KMart parking lot, and before making a partial layaway payment on Christmas gifts. Note well: I could only make a partial payment, but it shows goodwill and effort, so that will have to do for now until the Lord sends some income! I'm so glad that I Samuel 16:7 says, "For man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."
We got the kitchen window blinds washed, dining room table polished, and the table runner launderd along with the curtains. Tuesday will see the lawn mowing, dog and dog bed washing, and pie baking. Wednesday looks like housecleaning and making turkey broth and stuffing. Early Thursday morning should find me making whole wheat rolls, an art I have neglected since I went back to teaching full time ten years ago. And that 24 lb. turkey better be thawed after 6 days in the fridge!
All of this labor calls for physical health and relaxation, especially getting rid of my 3-day leg cramp. I am so glad that I had a therapeutic massage scheduled for this afternoon at Dr. Pena's chiropractic office, and Shirley did her magic. Leg cramp and headache are now gone!
A huge benefit of dropping stress, even for an hour, is the easing of the mind to think more prayerfully and clearly. Those wheat rolls had been bugging me in the back of my mind, because you certainly don't want to have a lack of rolls, or rolls that are less than yummy, on the Thanksgiving table! So a little idea came to me: do a trial run, making a half batch with the Better Homes and Gardens recipe I found, a new one to me. I had also found my recipes from 30+ years ago that were wonderful, but let's see how this one goes. You know, it's not easy to halve a bread recipe that is written in mixed fractions, but you play with the hand you're dealt! I was a little bit anxious that my marvelously unstressed shoulders would be wrecked by kneading the ball of dough, but instead it felt good to handle, a little bit of upper body exercise for my day!
As I write this, the dough is rising in a warm oven, and not looking very "risen" after about an hour so far...Then the dough will get "punched down" and rest in the muffin tin until baking.
Women's Bible study is tonight at 7:00, so that will be a time of refreshing and rest for me, to focus on the Lord instead of my tasks for two hours.
I am so glad that nothing depends on me; all depends upon God! The details of life, our deeds and labors will pass away, every one of them, but eternal salvation is a finished work Jesus accomplished on the Cross. You and I who know Him can rest in that, today and forever!
Hebrews 4:9-10 says, "There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His."

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thanksgiving keepsakes

1:41 p.m. Today's project was to make up keepsake cards for our family's Thanksgiving dinner. Each year the Lord gives me an idea to bless our immediate and extended family, focusing on Him and His goodness, thanking Jesus for His working in our lives. Whether some of us might be reeling from devastating circumstances, or celebrating joyous news, we thank Him--NOW.
This year's inspiration came from a box of photo keepsake cards I received as a gift at my school's retirement recognition in June. The large cards have a space to slip a 4x6" picture into. I combed through boxes of old and not-so-old photos to find a memorable one for each of my kids, their spouses, my dad, sister, niece and nephews. Most all have rsvp'ed; any who didn't can receive one in the mail later.
In this digital age, when we store our images on the computer, I was grateful that I've long been a shutterbug, and have thousands of pictures to select from. I chose random, sometimes silly, but spontaneous shots, like Kriss' then-fiancee Marisela watching him dig into his serving of French toast on Christmas morning, or a gathering at Marie Callendar's restaurant in Redlands for my dad's 80th birthday.
I wrote in gold ink under each name, "Describe this memory. What are you thankful for?" Simple, but conversation-provoking, possibly funny, knowing that any given memory could trigger a wistful thought, if not an outright sad one. But we will be inspired, no matter how our emotions run. After all, a great Thanksgiving feast this year will undoubtedly make me wonder what the event will be like next year for Steve and me. "Don't borrow trouble, " the old saying goes! And in Matthew 6:34 Jesus Himself said, "Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." Kruckenbergs, Gray, Abbotts, Roelofsz', Loves and significant others will be together at our old oak table; that's what matters--NOW!
This has been a difficult, disappointing year for many of my friends at church, some of whom have lost loved ones, some of whom have been abandoned by their spouse, or had their home foreclosed upon. The devil wants us to have a black cloud over our heads here in my house too--but not so! I know whom I have believed, and He is able to keep me until the day either He returns for me, or I go home to be in His presence! ( from II Timothy 1:12)
This year has also been one of wondrous events, magnificent harbingers of hope! Several weddings have taken place recently in our circle; Steve and I have been blessed by two weddings in little over a year ourselves! Many new babies have been born to couples who see no need to fear the future, and two new great-nieces are on the way! The hopeless don't start new homes or bring new life into the world! These young people are saying, "I know whom I have believed!" (Even if they don't realize it!) AMEN to that!
Habakkuk 3:17-18 says, so poetically,
Though the fig tree may not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls--
Yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

It's officially Christmas!

4:22 p.m. Today's project was to fill up a shoebox for Operation Christmas child, a ministry of Samaritan's Purse that our family has participated in since it began. I remember Franklin Graham himself coming to Harvest to dedicate the collected boxes, an incredible edifice of bright red, green and white boxes stacked on the stage of the huge sanctuary.
Our children would help us shop at nearby KMart for the many small toys, Christian books, school supplies, candy and needful clothing items to fill their boxes. One year, we had selected a "13 -year-old Boy" as one of our recipients, and managed to fit a pair of new sneakers into a box! Respecting the OCC guidelines of safety, no liquids, warlike toys or meltable chocolate, our box contents were limited only by our prayerful imaginations. A small donation, a picture of our family and a handwritten note would complete our box. The kids were so excited to take thir gifts to church!
In later years, Operation Christmas Child became a charity supported by community groups too, such as Arlington High School in Riverside. The distribution center in Orange County is only one of many around the country. And the videos showing impoverished children joyfully opening, treasuring, and sharing their gifts would melt the hardest heart.
My dad has been an enthusiastic donor the last several years, so he brought over his items today; happily, our fences were mended! Steve wrapped the box and lid in nice gold wrap, and we'll take it today to Chick-Fil-A. Not only do they serve the best chicken, but this Christian restaurant chain is closed on Sundays so people can worship! This year's shoebox deadline in November 23rd, so hurry!
Today began a whirlwind of activity that I look forward to each year. I just love all of the housecleaning, decorating and cooking for Thanksgiving, which we always have here in our home. We're down to just one child at home, and even Heidi is ministering in Mexico until Tuesday, but she's good for an apple pie and scalloped potatoes. Desserts are coming with my sister's family, my daughter Heather and daughter-in-law Marisela. I do hope to return to making whole wheat rolls now that I'm at home full time once more, and definitely am trying a new pumpkin pie recipe. I have found one that uses sweetened condensed milk instead of thin, runny evaporated milk, so maybe the center will firm up faster! We'll see- I'm open to any ideas from great bakers out there!
My first, immediate Christmas project is to decorate two plain stockings, in time to put up the week after Thanksgiving: one for son-in-law Nick, and one for new daughter-in-law Marisela. I was sharing with Kriss that our five children have the original small stockings I made for them, and they won't be updated, ever, but the new additions to the family get fancy big ones! (Kriss and Marisela will also be receiving the traditional "1st Christmas together" bauble with their names on it!) "A wedding a year," that's my saying these days!!
Steve's and my circumstances may be reduced this year, but our love of family gatherings and Christmas spirit is stronger than ever, as we treasure our time remaining!
I just love what the Lord said in Job 42:12a: "Now the LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than at his beginning..." Yes, God HAS blessed, He DOES bless, and He WILL bless!
Blessed be the name of the Lord!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Near tragedy--> Total triumph!

3:35 p.m. Today's project was to procure a huge turkey and all of the traditional fixings with virtually no money. I would trust God to show me what to do and where to go; nevertheless, sleep evaded me because of an unpleasant "conversation" with my Heidi last night and the sadness I had that it was not resolved before bedtime. Ephesians 4:26 admonishes us, "Be angry and sin not; do not let the sun go down on your wrath." So when I heard her get up around 5:30, I also went downstairs, and we worked it all out. It was time for tears to dry up for a while! Heidi needed my help to call the Jurupa automated substitute line because she was feeling unwell and didn't have the number.

When I had gone back upstairs to get her the Subfinder number off my cell phone contact list, I saw 2 messages from Kriss sent about midnight. His wife Marisela had gotten into a serious car accident avoiding a raccoon on the road. She hit a guardrail on a dark on-ramp to the south 605, spun around, and the Saturn ran into a pole! The text message continued that she was all right, but the car was smashed. Praise God--a car can be repaired or totalled, depending on what Mercury Insurance decides, but Marisela's life is invaluable. How I thank God for His mercy!

After resting until 7:00, I sent out a prayer request right away on Facebook, and went ahead and posted my daily scripture. I was walking over to the coffee pot to get it perking when I noticed a bluish glow on the stove, no mean feat because I don't put in my contacts until I get dressed later in the morning. (I don't need them to read, study, or putter around in the kitchen).

On closer inspection, I discovered to my mortification that I had left the small simmering burner on at the lowest flame--all night long! Homegrown green beans were the dinner vegetable for our company last night. I took the pot to the dining room table around 6:30 and never turned the burner off! Glory to God, I praise Him that there was nothing flammable anywhere near the stovetop, and even the adjacent saucepan that I generally keep there was barely warm! My first thought in my shock, "The gas fumes could have killed us all!" quickly gave way to "The house could have burned down!" How apropos was Psalm 25:1-2 that I had posted minutes before: "To You, LORD, I lift up my soul. O my God, I trust in You."

We can trust God when our inadvertent actions endanger us, and we can trust God when we are we are sound asleep and totally unaware of danger! WE CAN TRUST THE GOD WHO NEVER SLUMBERS NOR SLEEPS!

Have your kids read the book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst? I'm sure there's a copy of it still around the house, a real favorite of my five, and could I ever relate to it today, as I moved from near-death level events to a steady stream of nervewracking failures and frustrations!
At Vons, I found a very large turkey, close to 22 pounds, but shy of the 26 I'd hoped for. Oh well, I'll eat a little less! When I went to get some Eggland's Best eggs, I had to open 5 packages before finding a completely uncracked dozen--very odd, and very time consuming. Otherwise, I used my coupons, got my Turkey Day side dish ingredients, and went home to drop off the groceries.
I called my dad, which would normally be a blessing, to discuss putting together a shoebox for Samaritan's Purse's Operation Christmas Child, and the deadline rapidly coming up. Surprisingly, he began to make comments that had me in tears, so Steve took over the phone--it was not a good day for a discussion of how I could accumulate savings on a fixed income, especially since I had just told him that California failed to pay Steve's disability checks this month to the tune of $2,000! I'm sure we'll be back to normal in a day or two, but my eye swelling wouldn't be going down...
Next I got a call from CVS pharmacy, regarding a prescription Steve's neurologist had called in, to say that the insurance would not pay for it. Supposedly, we should have 30 more pills! Uh, we don't!! I called the doctor's office, and she offered to give us samples to tide us over for a month and told us that the mail-order Rx program was a hassle for them, too. Chalk up another project for next week: returning to just getting Steve's numerous meds from the pharmacy, just for safety's sake. It's not like Steve can just up and not take his meds--it's serious stuff that has to stay in his bloodstream! And I assure you, that we are not peddling the pills on the street!
Back at home, Steve and I welcomed in a life insurance agent who, thank you, Lord, uncovered a few of our old policies that had expired, and signed us up for better coverage, promising to look into coverage for me, a nearly 6 year breast cancer survivor. That appointment ended on a positive note, so off I went to pick up Steve's Aricept samples.
Wouldn't you know it? The first song on KSGN-FM 89.7 , as I drove down the street was Mandisa's spectacular song, "He is with you." More tears, but tears of acknowledgement of God's sovereignty this time, and reassurance of His providential working in ALL things.
An hour later, as I pulled into the driveway, Marisela called me, feeling pretty sore, and giving me a blow-by-blow description of her accident, including the way her life flashed before her eyes, and we talked about the Lord's great mercy and dramatic saving of her life. She needed our permission to talk with Mercury insurance also. We ended the call with a prayer of thanksgiving--tears again, but tears of overwhelming gratitude for saving this dear daughter's life!
Christians don't go about pretending that we are illness-, conflict-, poverty-, and suffering-free, far from it. My day today illustrates this! But my God is bigger than my day, once again, and always, to the end of the ages!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Dinner for four

1:43 p.m. Today's project is to get the house ready because we are expecting company for dinner! I started dusting yesterday, and got the house vacuumed, but polishing the dining room table and its chandelier, mopping, shining up the counter and scouring the bathroom and kitchen porcelain areas had to wait until today. It's all done now, and I am sitting "for a piece" while Steve walks the dogs. Thank you, Lord!

If it weren't for the fact that I had foolishly frozen ten huge chicken leg-thigh pieces all in one package instead of in portions of two-or-three-to-a-gallon Ziploc bags, there wouldn't be an entire extra meal available. Monday, after my return from Fresno, I had to face the task of thawing the meat out and using all of it at once. Remember, we only have three people at most at the dinner table now, and Heidi eats out with friends or with Pavel most of the time!

I searched around kind of thoroughly Tuesday afternoon for my tried and true "No Peek Chicken" recipe, but could not find it, although I had enough ingredients on hand to make two 9x13" pans of it. What on earth? Neither the recipe card nor the church cookbooks it had been printed in materialized. Ugh--I did not feel like checking out another chicken & rice recipe, so I just rinsed off the meat, sprayed the crockpot and turned it on high, still having no idea what I meant to do! (This is so unlike me!) I browned the legs in oil, in shifts, because the pieces were huge and thick, making a "hot mess" on the stove, but not getting injured even once by splattering fat. It helped that I had on long sleeves, that's for sure.

Leaving the browned meat on platters, I stirred together melted butter, one can each Campbell's cheese and cream of mushroom soups, evaporated milk and diced celery, while I just kept praying for some kind of idea. One inspiration was to stir in some spinach & artichoke cream cheese spread for a speck of vegetable content! By the way, it was after 1:30, leaving me less than four hours to make the best use of the crockpot. So, into the crockpot went one layer of sauce, 5 chicken legs, then another layer of sauce, and 5 chicken legs, sauce, and prayer for a decent result. I had the crockpot on high so that I could add parboiled rice later.
Now, I just needed someone to eat this food!! If Thanksgiving weren't just around the corner, I would have served one and frozen one casserole and been done with it. But there won't be a bit of space in my fridge, freezer or outside chest freezer by next Tuesday night, once Heidi and I start our baking. I felt like the king of Jesus' parable in Matthew 22, who could not get anyone he'd invited to come to his dinner, so he had servants go out and ask anyone they found! Steve and I could neither consume or store the casseroles--someone would need to join us.
I thought about my friend Monica whose house I'd just left She is the creator of the lovely decorative packaging of the gifts I'm selling. She and Jeff could use a nice time out with friends at this time of great duress in their lives. Monica is a fantastic cook and hostess, but we all can appreciate a meal we don't have to cook! She'll be bringing a wheat-free dessert--may it be chocolate candy--so we will enjoy a fun evening.
Steve and I have known the Tomcheks for at least 27 years, and the Lord has undertaken in incredible ways for all of us. She was a regular at the home Bible study I taught back in the 80's. We'd kind of lost touch for a while until last spring, when I spotted her on Facebook, and we ended up attending their Friday night summer couples' Bible study. Jeff is a real wisecracker, totally hilarious, and will keep Steve well entertained, in case Monica wants to join Heidi, Heather and me for the "Project Runway" finale at 7 p.m. (It's tivo'ed, so I can watch it tomorrow if need be). But honestly, Christ-centered conversation after dinner is even better, with reminiscences being served up with dessert!
I'm still looking for a vegetable sidedish, since this is not a good time financially to go food shopping. I may settle for the mixed greens I have in the fridge. But, since the Lord has seen me through in so many ways this week, even this day, I have no doubt that we'll enjoy a veritable "feast," with fellowship as the main ingredient!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The original is still the greatest

3:41 p.m. Today's project was to stay home and work with Steve around the yard and in the garden. I had two rows of lettuce varieties to plant: "Bibb," with its large, curvy leaves, and "Salad Bowl," displaying tons of curly, interconnected leaves. Quite a little procedure, not like the ease of broadcasting flower seeds at all! I had to poke holes 2 inches apart, drop in two seeds (to guarantee one would come up: my rule, not the seed company's) and then pat the soil firmly down on them (the seed company's rule, not mine). I then dug out two new irrigation rows with my handy hoe for the future time when the roots will have gone down into the soil. They'll give us lots of salads (which I eat every day for lunch)throughout the winter months. Here in Riverside, I guess "winter" means the possibility of rain in January and February!
I was delighted to see that the flowers I had planted last week were already up in darling little bow-shaped clusters which I won't look forward to thinning out. The scallions are growing taller, but not filling out much, like my children in their lanky adolescent stage. The cilantro is very slow, but coming along, and the carrots now have 3 inch tops that remind me of ferns I saw in the forests of Colorado so many years ago.
Time to thin out the carrots. I found myself very curious as to their color. The green onions I picked last week were perfect tiny replicas of mature onions, even had that oniony smell and taste. So, about every 1-1/2 inch or so, I pulled the babies up. The miniscule carrots had the carroty smell, but were a pale whitish-pink, I guess not unexpected, but kind of a disappointment. (Am I in just a bit of a hurry?) Steve and I each ate one, and they're carrots, all right. You sow carrot seed, you get carrots! Sow a good deed, get blessed, maybe not by the recipient, but certainly by God! Hebrews 6:10 says, "God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love, which you have shown toward His name..."
I should have just stuck with my original plan to stay home, but it's hard to keep a good woman down--or out of her car! So while Steve walked the dogs, I drove down to a printer to place an order for our names to be printed onto the beautiful Christmas cards I had bought on sale at Berean Christian Store in Redlands. On the way down to Sloan printers, I realized I was on empty, so I got gas at Brockton & 14th. Went on over to Sloan, and found their doors closed--permanently. What a shame--they are good people whom I used for my school board campaign printing in past years. So now where? Over to Kinko's, near Magnolia and Jurupa, now FedEx, but they told me that since there is foil on the cards, the heat of the printer would melt it. What? But the girl did recommend PIP printing over on Market.
Meanwhile, parked in the Kinko's lot, I tackled another issue. I was finding out that my health plan didn't reimburse for out-of-network chiropractors--great. I guess I'm improving anyway, I thought as I went over to Vons to see what was up for Thanksgiving and get a couple of items since I was down at the Plaza anyway. Looks like I'll be able to get a 26 lb turkey later this week, pretty cheap. I just have to clear out a huge chicken and rice casserole sitting in the bottom section of the fridge--company for dinner tomorrow should take care of that!
I called PIP while strolling around in the store, having decideded not to make any more stops in person. They laughed at FedEx Kinko's apparently ludicrous statement about the foil on the cards, and said they could do it 1 day turnaround. Now that's my kind of business, skillful and on top of things! "Seest thou a man diligent in his business?" Proverbs 22:29 asks. "He will stand before kings." He'll also earn his customers' respect and get the orders and referrals!
On the way home at last with some good news about the cards, my frustration melted away, and I had gotten some plans together for Thanksgiving, anticipating a large crowd, which I love! New daughter-in-law, new potential son-in-law, and new potential nephew-in-law will be in attendance with the rest of us--good times!
Let the celebrations begin as we focus on home and family in special ways through the end of the year. How I thank the Lord for creating families originally!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Foolish things confound the wise

3:54 p.m. Today's project was to get up nice and early, finish my Esther Bible study lesson, pray with Steve, get our breakfast cooked and taken care of, and attend our women's study at church. Even though I was there just last Tuesday, it seems like long ago. Guess that being out of town on a Sunday and attending another church gives me that feeling. We have always made a practice of attending church with whomever we're visiting, whether in Ventura, Palm Springs, Fresno or Florida, enjoying the ways different Bible-teaching churches conduct their services. But it is good to be back home!

One thing about being home with loved ones is that along with cozy, affectionate, familiar routines come familiar stressors, irritants, and responsibilities! On my way out of the driveway, I stopped to put out a piece of mail, and discovered that no one had brought in Saturday's mail. No time to run into the house, so I just put it into the car with me, after a quick perusal. Well, happy day--my California State tax refund--a real check this time, not a ludicrous "voucher"--had arrived, so I made a plan to deposit it before heading off to a friend's house after Bible study. Steve had some tasks planned, so I was comfortable to be gone a few hours. I'd check in to make sure he had lunch in between errands, anyway.

In our video presentation, Beth Moore challenged us to confront our worst-case scenario fears that can allow the devil to torment us constantly, and to trust that God will be with us no matter what. She also talked about being one decision away from making a major life change that can revolutionize our ministry and usefulness to God and others. I have to say that I made such a decision and sea-change this year when I retired from teaching to be home with Steve, providing the companionship that a wife is called to, ever since God saw that, in Genesis 2 :20, after he had named the animals, "For Adam, there was not found a helper comparable to him," and created Eve.

Even though I had pensions to count on, and an annuity for additional income, we had no idea when or if Steve would qualify for permanent Social Security disability benefits, nor how long his State disability benefits would last. The total was a long way away from my salary! One thing we did know was that, despite his surface appearance of normalcy and reasonable social skills, Steve would not be working again. Memory, organization and logic were slipping away daily, despite all of the medications and supplements. Prayer and encouragement from scores of fellow believers sustained us. But I knew what I had to do. I could not in any kind of good conscience leave Steve alone to watch tv, or fritter away his time online...he needed the stimulation of companionship and structured activity that I provide as his wife.

Steve's neurologist told us that Steve is "lucky" that I'm a teacher with training and skill in motivating and directing the thinking of others into constructive behavior. Frankly, those skills are stretched to the limit daily as I minister to Steve. But I have seen his frustration level go down as I break ideas and tasks into manageable steps coated with generous layers of encouragement and praise. I use a variety of approaches and methods so he feels useful, depended upon, and successful in at least one major task a day.

Spiritual growth is evident, too, as Steve is now journalling after his scripture reading! We enjoy a leisurely pace in the mornings, giving us both all the time we desire to read and study the Word of God, together and separately. Life is not necessarily without frustration on both of our parts, but we are enjoying time together day after day that most couples wait to enjoy in their sixties and seventies!

My worst fear, like that of any wife, had been that Steve would lose his ability to work, and that we would lose everything he worked so hard for. Many wives of fit and able husbands are experiencing that today in this economy. We have faced that fear down, and God even led me to quit my job. But we trusted God, bathed each decision in prayer, and God has met our every need.

There's nothing "lucky" about my education and career skills coming into play at "such a time as this!" (Esther 4:14b) Instead, it's God's perfect timing and arrangement. As He is so prone to do, God turned "common sense" on its head and called this married couple to be unemployed, so He can provide!

I Corinthians 1:27 says, of believers who trust only Christ instead of worldly wisdom, "God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and the weak things of the world to shame the things which are mighty...that no flesh should glory in His presence."

Monday, November 16, 2009

Turn, turn, turn

8:36 p.m. Today's project was to get back home in good time, with no traffic, and enjoy a relaxing evening with Steve and Heidi. I'll go to Bible study in the morning after a good night's rest!

I had a wonderful visit with Steven, our youngest, and feel very encouraged about his living up in Fresno. He is really doing it the old-fashioned way--working two jobs, going to school full-time, eating, sleeping, and studying, with a social life to be found with his roommates at the apartment. Best of all, he fellowships at church on Sundays for about 5 hours (!) and again for the high school ministry on Tuesday nights. And he's still a character!

The ostensible purpose for my solo trip was to seek the Lord's will for my son, work on financial aid for his college tuition, and most important, to make sure he is in a right-on, Bible teaching church. Even though he has shown tremendous growth in the Word and spiritual discernment this last couple of years, I wanted to see for myself. The People's Church is a wonderful fellowship, with community outreach to the poor and missions around the world. The church service was definitely youth oriented, but grounded in the Word and led by the Spirit. When I hit the road at 9:25 a.m. this morning, I was actually reluctant to leave, so overjoyed was I with the rightness of Steven's situation! The Lord is more than able to guide, direct, and provide for Steven's needs; His will be done!

I admit to another reason for going by myself: a change of scenery, and a need to take a break from the constant arranging of activities for Steve with his Alzheimer's-caused diminishing mental abilities. I just felt the need to spend time having calm, logical conversations, not having to repeat myself or give instructions, and to enjoy the hilarity of young people that I find so enlivening. It also would have been confusing and difficult on Sunday at a huge new church for Steve, moving quickly from one activity and group of people to the next, getting acquainted with Steven's ministry friends. Also, I foresaw a challenge for Steve to stay awake and engaged through the very long morning, 9 :00 to 1:00 p.m.!

It's not that I need more freeedom, because I come and go, doing whatever is needed for our home, business or ministry back here in Riverside. Steve is nowhere near the point of being unable to stay home alone. I just go out for short periods of time, and take him with me whenever possible, so he gets out during the daytime. The panic and anxiety he manifests are manageable for the time being, and God has given me a supernatural calm to keep a pleasant but challenging atmosphere here at home. How I thank Him, because that is definitely not my natural personality! I'm a high-energy, goal-oriented, project-focused, always-busy lady with not a lot of patience, so God is doing a work that only He can do!

One thing I have found out, other than that I enjoy driving long distances, is that the car is the perfect, private place to pray, ponder, and plan, just mulling things over with God, without the need to keep another person, no matter how beloved, engaged in conversation. I can also let any tears that have been storing up for weeks flow freely, and not even bother to wipe my face!

When the tears are all out, it's back to normal, and I enjoy a perfectly nice rest of my drive, whether listening to an audio novel on my iPOD, praise music, or talk radio--it's all good once again! I reach my destination refreshed, energized, full of plans and fun, glory to God!

At our wedding ceremony on July 11, 1981, we had the song "Turn, Turn, Turn" by Peter, Paul and Mary played, with words from Ecclesiastes Chapter 3 which mean so immeasurably more to me now than on that day:

"To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven...
A time to weep,
And a time to laugh...
A time to mourn,
And a time to dance. "

Steve and I are blessed to have done all of these things and so much more--and our story has not yet been all told! I want to know how it ends--stick with me.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Steven's World

3:22 p.m. Today's project was to enter in and partake of the most significant part of our son Steven's world: The People's Church of Fresno. I had heard so much about this church, from God's leading him to join, to his call to ministry there, that I was very eager to visit. I am blessed to be reporting from Steven's new hometown for another day!

We arrived at 9:15 in the high school building after a long and bracing walk through the huge, beautifully landscaped parking lot. Indeed, "huge" describes quite a few aspects of this fellowship, including Oasis, the high school ministry Steven helps lead. While he went to a brief leaders' meeting, I walked about taking pictures and being greeted by everyone I encountered.

An outgoing and lively leader called the service to order at 9:45, and a very diverse group of college and hugh school students all rose to pray and worship. I enjoyed the young worship group, so full of the Hoply Spirit. I was impressed by the many events planned for the kids. The "Nacho Libre Luchadora" theme night is one outreach coming up, where kids can invite their unsaved friends for nachos, of course, and dress in appropriate costumes, play games and have Christ-centered fun. Other events planned include tackle football with other church groups, since many of Fresno Christian High's football players students attend Oasis, with powder puff competition for the girls; and doing construction at Biola during Thanksgiving break.

Small group time: all of the kids had signed up for one of four breakout groups: Prayer (which I attended), worship, digging deeper in your walk, and studying the Word. The session on prayer was taught by Marta Escarcega, Director of the 7 Mountain Worship Intercession Network in Fresno. This retired school principal had been called by God to begin the work, after a ministry of intercessory prayer spanning decades, even teaching the subject for a Christian university in Israel.

Steven had introduced us, we exchanged information and cards, and Marta's session began. Each attendee shared briefly their experience with prayer, including a girl who serves as chaplain for Fresno Christian's football team, a young man who has been on the prayer battlefield for his friends, some who had seen miraculous answers to their parents' prayers, and those who had never known prayers to be answered. Talk about a diverse group!
My goal was, and is, to continually grow in my personal prayer time, because, even with many years of participation in intercessory prayer, for Harvest Crusades, church needs, prayer chains for emergency needs, journalling, and the keeping of a prayer notebook to record 20 years of prayer requests and praise reports, I still see room to grow and the Holy Spirit convicts me daily of allowing distractions to invade my mind! I couldn't wait for the session to begin!
Marta taught us the difference between 5 major types of prayer, and gave examples of the power emanating from intercession here in Fresno. The Mayor herself has called for prayer over their city, and prayer events abound. 7 Mountain ministry and others go up to city workers at lunch time and offer prayer out on the sidewalks, with very encouraging, grateful responses.
I was fascinated when Marta described prayer implements, warning that not all methods are appropriate in all places. She herself had climbed to the top of City Hall and blown a shofar, the Jewish ram's horn, over the city last week! Amazing, just like the pastors of Fresno who meet in 14 clusters by location to pray monthly over the city.There is prayer for the sick at a doctor's office every Saturdy morning. I could go on and on, but she and I will be in touch...I sense a real change about to influence my teaching ministry...Lord, do Your work in me, and the women whose lives I touch!
The next 5 weeks will see a continuation of the breakout groups at Oasis, and I expect that Steven will report much growth in the kids' walks with Jesus. He was so at home, circulating among the kids and other leaders, ministering and fellowshipping, that the heart of this mom is at peace. Even though he is 6 hours away, my baby boy has been called here!
As Steven came to fetch me to go to the regular service in the main sanctuary, I told him and Marta both that I had sensed something different about Fresno-- a peace and calm I couldn't put my finger on during my last visits. We agreed that we know what it is:GOD'S PEOPLE ARE PRAYING!
II Chroncles 7:14: "If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sins and heal their land."

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Solo Road Trip

7:42 p.m. Today's project was to drive to Fresno to visit our youngest son Steven, today through Monday. The plan to drive up on Saturday instead of Friday, like everyone and their brother getting out of town, worked wonderfully. I had not one traffic jam!

I had lain awake much of last night, anxious over the "tule (sp?) fog" that Fresno is famous for, wondering whether the bad month is November; considered the scenario for my family if I never returned; congratulated myself for paying all the bills, which I would be mailing this morning on my way out; ditto, for filling up the gas tank and packing the car last night; then moved on to feeling guilty for getting away by myself; then being comforted by praise songs and prayer that finally allowed me to rest until 4 a.m. when either Heidi or Shea got up!

5:30 came soon enough, and I jumped out of bed--no great thing, because I was already awake--and began my devotions, only occasionally interrupted with "now I can put this in the car!" episodes. Then I took a few moments to harvest some fruit trees and water my flowers on Farm Town, no lie, and checked Fresno's weather prediction: all sunny, yes! and got hubby Steve up for prayer and breakfast.

Once on the road, I was greeted with beautiful blue sky, fabulous scenery through the national forest and over the Grapevine, and clear roads. Steve and I had figured out the iPOD docking station I'd bought for the trip, so I listed to hours of an audio novel, a western called Don't Go To That City:They Call it Cheyenne. When I ran out of an clear FM signal to play the iPOD on, I tuned in to KARN, 89.7, featuring contemporary Christian music.

On previous visits to Fresno, we'd seen billboards with a cartoon granny promising great food at Apple Annie's restaurant in Tulare, so today I just went for it, since it was only noon and just 47 miles to go. I'd made great time for having left at 8:35. Time for a break and a treat. I hadn't eaten much of my scrambled eggs in the morning, but wasn't starving, so I just ordered jalapeno poppers and an apple dumpling a la mode. It was a treat, all right! The poppers were hot and crisp, but I saved most of them to take to Steven, and dug into the giant dumpling. Wow--I ate all but the enclosing pie crust and was more than full. Steve and I will have to have a proper meal there next time we go up north. Delicious food, and friendly "country" atmosphere.

Fresno, here I come! Funny how I used to think that this populous university town was just a hamlet in the middle of raisin fields! Quite a bit bigger than Riverside, it's a regional capitol and county seat. Every time I visit I appreciate it more. Its proximity to Yosemite and Shaver Lake are also benefits. As for school spirit, as the Fresno State Bulldogs go, so goes the city!! Sadly, they lost in Nevada today, so folks weren't quite as peppy as usual! I know that Robert and Joe will come home late tonight disappointed.

Steven guided me to his parking spot, since all of the apartments look alike to me, and helped me unload. I travel with the same amount of food, all-occasion wardrobe, aerobed, linens, books, beauty products, devotional materials and tech gadgets that many people move in with, but why be uncomfortable or have to run out and buy things? Hmmm? It only makes sense.

The reason I wanted to visit with Steven in person, instead of the usual texting, was (other than needing facetime with my baby) there are a lot of issues we need to decide on concerning his college arrangements. We've both been fervently praying he can continue to attend his private Christian school. I have no doubt that God led him to Fresno, with two Christian roommates, and a ministry now to high schoolers at his church. Can't wait to go to both the high school and the regular service tomorrow! And I wanted to visit one of his jobs, which I did, enjoying a great prime rib dinner at Cool Hand Luke's. Maybe I'll visit Bally's gym where he's a trainer, too, before I leave. And MOnday morning will probably find me over at Fresno Pacific U.

Financing Steven's school is the only tough thing right now, but "is anything too hard for God?" I think not! The kid's a hard worker who puts Jesus first in everything. And God honors those who honor Him.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Back to the Earth, again

5:24 p.m. Today's project was to pick up my friend Pamela and take her to Loma Linda for a consultation. The radiology department was beautifully designed, comfortable for patients and visitors alike, with lots of choices of hot drinks for a cozy-chilly day like today. It felt good to put on the fringy sweater Steve gave me for Christmas last year!

I have always appreciated the Christian emphasis of Loma Linda, their world-class standards of excellence, no more so than when my mother lay there paralyzed, gravely ill with Guillame-Barre disease. The nurses and hospital social worker prayed with me, shared scripture and encouraged me in what sadly became a losing battle to save my mom's life. No finer care could have been given, and no more kind and loving attitude can be found than our family experienced up on the 9th floor.

A reminder of the Seventh Day Adventist approach to health came to me unexpectedly as I sat waiting for Pam, and struck up a conversation with the receptionist about asparagus, of all things. She had been talking to another woman about its healing properties for gallstones and even bladder disorders. "Esther," as her badge read, made some copies for me of a research report describing how to puree cooked, even canned asparagus, and take a small amount per day. Results had been proven in a clinical trial, apparently, but this became a springboard for our discussion of how vegetables contain all of the healing elements for many diseases. She bemoaned how sickly her adult daughter had become, taking prescriptions for several separate symptoms without ever getting a diagnosis! Esther is a true believer in healing naturally, using good foods. I can't say I disagree.

Flashback to the 70's and my hippie days in Colorado! Adele Davis' massive tome Let's Cook it Right, and Jethro Kloss' Back to Eden, both of which were written in the 1930's and are still in my kitchen, were our life encyclopedias. I learned to pick and boil herbs for tea, use goldenseal to heal all manner of ailments and corn tassels to heal urinary tract infections. I drank fresh raw milk, and made butter from the quart of cream on the top of the gallon! I also remember selecting whole grains for bread baking, and picking wild fruits by the roadside for canning. My compost pile was huge, and my organic garden very productive and almost pest-free. I'd even diffentiate which crops grew best with cow, horse, or pig manure, and dug in each variety accordingly!

At 58, I'm finally back to organic gardening, although fresh manure isn't quite as readily available.We have been composting for three years in preparation for this spring's "return to basics." Our vegetables were delicious, and groundwork has been laid for a much more abundant harvest in 2010. We do have a few winter varieties and flowers in the plot, but will really gear up in January.

The next generation's interpretation of our old "back to the earth" movement has manifested itself in my daughter Heather and husband Nick. They and their housemates are very much into the environment. Jen and Damien garden beautifully in their backyard, using trellises to grow veggies upward to save space. When we debate the extent Americans need to "go green," I always retort, BUT I HAVE A COMPOST PILE!! SO THERE! Real mature...

"The earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof," Psalm 24:1 says. God has provided so much for us, and we can enjoy both vigorous exercise in tending the soil and nutrition and good taste in eating its produce. We can make choices for our families that feed us well and give us an activity to enjoy together, generation after generation. We can give away the surplus to those who are unable to grow their own fresh food. We can learn to preserve summer's bounty for the next three seasons--God has truly gifted mankind!

As I drive up to Fresno in the morning to visit my son Steven, I'll be passing through fields planted by those who have earned their livng providing food for our nation and the world. May they be allowed to continue to prosper in that endeavor, using their hands in cooperation with the creative hands of the earth's Maker.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The source of true confidence

5:03 p.m. Today's project was to go to the Jurupa Unified School District office and pay our health insurance premium, which, though 5 days late, we were able to pay without a penalty, praise the Lord. Much as I enjoy being retired and home with Steve, I so miss those dear members of the JUSD family of employees! Steve and I visited with Lucinda, who was a close former colleague in 2003-2005 when I worked in the School Readiness program there in the D.O. I was touched to hear that the superintendent and top administrators have assigned themselves furlough days, not making the other employees feel the pain more than they are willing to. If the Lord makes it possible for me to return to employment outside the home one day, I'll make a beeline to the JUSD personnel office!

Steve and I went on from there to follow our monthly tradition of getting a nice lunch out in Mira Loma's massive shopping center. This time we chose "On the Border" Mexican restaurant, and loved it, leaving stuffed, with tonight's dinner in a big sack. We went on to pick up an iPOD station for my Jeep, some Christmas gifts for the kids, got groceries at our favorite Vons out there--the gas station was being renovated, so :( for that-- and toddled on home.

What gave us a supernatural peace this afternoon was the assurance of God's hand upon our lives, reinforced by the laying on of hands and anointing with oil that Steve and I received from our pastors this morning. Pastor John had arranged for us to come into his weekly pastoral meeting, be seated in the midst, and each pastor and elder prayed in turn. I was so blessed by the respectful acknowledgement they gave to Steve's role in the Body--the ministries he'd had and what his presence meant, and still means, at the men's events. They prayed for me as well, aware of the changed roles in our marriage, the concerns and burdens I now carry singly, but never alone, FOR GOD IS WITH ME.

The love that flowed out from those men of God was stupendous, yet characteristic in every way of our fellowship. In seven years I have yet to meet a mean or unfriendly person, and I am aware of horrifying trials and harshly unfair circumstances our members have suffered. It is no candy-coated life we believers live, but the Holy Spirit within allows us to live real life gracefully, peacefully, and lovingly through our trials, with enough overflow to help meet the needs of others. How will I keep going? GOD IS WITH ME.

Isaiah 30:15b says to His people, "In quietness and confidence shall be your strength."

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A thing of beauty is a joy forever

3:43 p.m. Today's project was to help my daughters with their vehicle needs. I accompanied Heather to a body shop in Corona, the aftermath of a fender bender, so she made plans to drop her car off again on Monday. And I got to spend some sweet time with my daughter. Yes!

Heidi needed two front tires, and decided to use the tire place downtown that had served us so efficiently--and cheaply-- when we replaced the RV's shredded tires last month.

I wasn't comfortable with her standing around by herself in that area of Riverside, so I followed her in my Jeep. Also, if they were busy and there'd be a long wait, we could go off and have a little snack or coffee together. Frankly, I was hoping this would be the case, like any mom of a grown daughter looking forward to spending some mom and daughter time!

MG Tire is no slacker, though--they pulled her car right in, and told us, "20 minutes." No sense in leaving, sigh...The receptionist politely changed the tv from a Spanish channel without our even asking, having no way of knowing that I speak Spanish and that Heidi could use the opportunity to learn a bit more for her mission trips to Calvary Chapel's Mexico ministry, Casa del Pastor.

So, Click! There, of all the shows on earth, one I thought was defunct, was Jerry Springer!! I kid you not--within the time it took to get up and go sit in my car, three nuts were in a wild fist fight with the crowd egging them on. I think the 7 foot "security guards" could have broken it up instantly, but what would be the fun in that for the crowd, who were there for just that reason? Lord, help this nation!

All went well for Heidi's car, and we headed back home. After organizing my business supplies, I headed out to the garden to water the seedlings, which are coming along nicely. I spied a faded, unopened bag of seeds and thought, "Why not just plant these flower seeds? Doesn't look like there's going to be a heavy frost any time soon, and they'll make a nice row in the middle of the garden if they last that long!" I won't plant the "serious" garden until next spring, so there's space to spare.

I kept staring at the planting instructions looking for depth to plant, how far to space apart, etc., but found nothing. What was up with that? Eventually I found the fine print instructions that said to use a commercial spreader or to "hand-broadcast" (scatter) the seeds lightly on the ground. Wow--just like biblical times! "A sower went to sow some seed..." The air was very still, so without incident, I scattered the 44,900 seeds the package claimed to contain, raked them over lightly, and sprinkled them with my watering can.

Isn't it amazing that plants of such incredible beauty as flowers, call for so little care? By contrast, tending my vegetable garden was an intense daily undertaking, even keeping me up nights consumed with plans for the next step, or the next assault on the pests, just neverending! Vegetables reward a family with nutritious food, healthy, renewed soil and daily exercise, so the work entailed is justified in my view. But it is pleasant, for a change, to reap a lovely reward for minimal effort--to "let go and let God," as we say so often. Truth be told, Jesus reminded us in Luke 12:27 in his discussion about worry, that somehow flowers do just fine with no worry or fuss at all! "Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, and yet I say to you even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these."

The simple, relaxing joy provided by beautiful flowers began for me today, and teaches me a precious lesson on trusting God, and letting Him do His wonderful work.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Obey the Word

4:32 p.m. Today's project was to meet with my pastor after Bible study. I wanted to talk with him before scheduling a time for the pastors to lay hands on Steve and anoint him with oil in the Name of Jesus.

I brought up the numerous generations of Kruckenbergs who had succumbed to Alzheimer's and the depression and oppression also manifested, and my concern for our children and grandchildren as the reason for the Holy Spirit's urging me to call for the pastors and elders to pray. James 5:14-16 says, "Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, that you may be healed. The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much."

Should we think of this inherited Alzheimer's in the same way as heart disease or diabetes? Possibly. But I'm seeing this dementia as the final iteration of the emotional and mental disturbances that long precede it, and that devastate families and other relationships in a way that no inherited bodily disease could ever do.

Generational curse? Hotly debated by Bible scholars. I'm willing to say that generational oppressive and depressive tendencies can be behavioral or physical in nature. And only God knows how or why destructive tendencies come into families. And He alone knows when the first ancestor manifested the tendency, and which generation will see deliverance from the pain!

My prayer is that the next generation be delivered from Alzheimer's, and that Steve experience a healing of peace and assurance that God is with him, not judging him, but loving him as he is. I do know that we as a family are engaged in spiritual warfare, and is there ever a good time for that? I certainly don't invite it, but I am willing to stand up to the enemy in unity and under the leadership of our pastoral staff!

Again, Ephesians 6:12 declares, "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places."

In obedience, we will stand against the enemy in unified, believing prayer in the Name of Jesus!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Armed and ready

6:16 p.m. Today's project was to stay home, or to at least focus on house and home! After a weekend of travel through 3 counties, I experienced violently aching shoulders and a sore upper back upon waking this morning, so I took some Advil, and vowed to stay put.

Steve woke up with a head cold, so our morning went slowly, but we spent our time with the Lord, praying and reading the Word, praising Him and preparing for my dad's visit later this morning. Daddy wanted me to look up bladder cancer on WebMD, and get some basic facts. Then he and Steve took off for a visit to Borders to enjoy finding some books and having coffee together.

An 82 year old taking a 54 year old on an outing? Not too common, is it? Quite a reversal. I am so blessed by my dad's love for Steve. They enjoy each other's company so much--Daddy never had a son! I did a little gardening, clipped coupons, and did actually go out--a mile up the road to Kmart, to put some Christmas gifts on layaway. I was fourth in line, but overheard ladies behind me saying that the line stretched to the end of the store last night!

I cannot remember the last time I used layaway, but times are tough in our home. December's deep discounts won't do any good if there's no money! On the other hand, coming up with a few dollars every other week is doable, or I pray it will be for jobless, hurting families. Most are probably still in shock, stumbling along, reaching out in the darkness for any financial relief.

As I stood in line, I reflected that I am in the same boat as the others--but not really. My husband's multiple firings were due to the ravages on his brain caused by Alzheimer's, and would have happened in a good economy or bad. And I will say that the Lord has provided resources for us to make it through. I count so much on prayer and moral support from fellow believers in Christ, not to mention Steve's brother's family going through it right now, following in the unfortunate footsteps of past generations of Kruckenbergs.

The Lord surprised me by turning my attention to the spiritual implications of Steve's mental illness with a call from Steve's older sister Sharon, which was unusual, especially since we had seen each other Saturday. When I asked what was up, she shared about a church service Sunday night where the pastor spoke of generational curses. She had been remembering tragic incidents repeatedly patterned in their family history, and was prayerfully piecing her thoughts together, and seeking agreement in prayer to begin spiritual warfare.

I found myself in the prayerful consideration stage, looking for scriptural confirmation, when the Lord brought Ephesians 6:12-13 to mind: "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you might be able to stand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand."

As we talked further, the words I had written in my journal hours earlier dawned upon me ! I had asked the Lord to heal Steve of his inability to absorb His lovingkindness, and to erase the remnants of wickedness from his childhood. That was no coincidence!

Sharon and I closed in prayer, and I will be seeking the laying on of hands from our pastors for Steve. My appointment with our senior pastor will follow women's Bible study tomorrow. May the Lord lead us to the right actions to take in Steve's behalf! I am trusting that with pastoral counsel and guidance, and the pure words of scripture, that we will begin the breaking down of strongholds in Steve's life and the lives of my children and grandchildren.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Running but not weary

7:30 p.m. Today's project was to take our grandsons to San Diego after church and return home with enough energy to attend our Home Fellowship at 5:30.

God multiplied our time on this unusually busy Sunday morning, with Steve's and my devotions completed in phases as we settled sibling squabbles, prayed, made four different breakfasts, got the boys off the computer, made sure they dressed nicely, and had them pack their suitcase for the ride home. We even managed to read the funnies!

Xavier had been sick last week, so he had a pocketful of cough drops to take along and water to sip along the way. He and his brother would be borrowing Bibles--might make good Christmas presents this year. Off they went in their Aunt Heidi's Mazda. When Steve and I got to church with their forgotten Bibles, we rushed up to the secondary Sunday School area where a sign greeted us: Jr. High meets in the sanctuary today." "That's right!" we remembered. "Most of the kids are gone to the Jr. High Retreat!" So we sat in the row in front of Pavel, Heidi and the boys. "I can watch you from here," I laughingly told our younger grandson Xavier. Adrian was sitting quite nicely, attentive to the worship service just beginning. What a difference the two years between 12 and 14 make!

Then Xavier's coughing flared up, and I made a plan to take him to sit outside with me in front of church during the sermon. This did not go over well, as he attempted to claim that he wasn't coughing, hack, hack!! Right...So at the last song, when Xavier got up to got to the men's room, I greeted him in the foyer and he reluctantly, to say the least, allowed himself to be led out and seated with grandma on the front bench.

We followed the sermon perfectly well, he resigned himself to obedience, and was content. Parents, never lose the determination to make your children and grandchildren do the right thing, the polite thing, the considerate thing! God has given you this ministry, and we are to acquit our duty with honor and courage, especially in their teen years. When you're prayed up, you can stand up!

On the way home, we schemed with the boys to get the most food for the least money from our handful of saved-up coupons from Carl's Jr. Would it be "free burger with purchase of one combo," "buy one get one sandwich free," or "free medium drink and fries with sandwich purchase." By the time we got to the drive-thru, we ordered enough meals for two hungry teens and two adults for just $12.00. One thing about these slow economic times, the competition for the consumer's dollar is fierce!

Time came to hit the 215 south, and both boys were asleep by the time we got to Perris. An hour and a half later they woke up in time to greet their mom in the parking lot of another Carl's Jr. where we settled on stools, Kippy and I had a sorely needed cup of coffee and we all enjoyed a great visit. Xavier was still hacking, but the boys were now in Mom's capable hands.

God saw us home safely, allowed me a brief nap, and Steve and I freshened up for Home Fellowship. So much of my time had been spent in the car over the last three days, what with picking up and returning the boys, the baby shower in Orange County yesterday, and traveling back and forth to Moreno Valley for fellowship today. But I am blessed, because each effort of this weekend "road warrior" was rewarded with teaching from God's Word, sweet fellowship with the saints, and precious family time. I am looking forward to a day at home tomorrow, however!

Lest I feel too put upon, I'm recalling the passage we studied at Home Fellowship this evening, Mark 1:29-45, where Jesus heals Peter's mother-in-law, casts out demons, heals and preaches to multitudes, and cleanses a leper. Despite the tremendously busy and lengthy day before, Jesus still got up long before dark to pray--no sleeping in for Him! May we follow His example and be found faithful because Isaiah 40:31 promises:
Those who wait upon the LORD
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.