Sunday, January 31, 2010

Unwarranted fear?

1:39 p.m. Today's project was to get a new microwave oven from Best Buy. Ours still works, but we have begun to wonder, or more accurately, freak out, about potential microwave radiation leaking from a major crack in the oven's door.
Over the last few years, reports have come out about people being hit by leaking radiation just by standing in front of a cooking microwave. We began to be more conscious about not standing there, but as hyper as I am, to stand in front of the microwave for even 20 seconds is an egregious waste of time. Why, I could be putting a load of laundry in the dryer, or running down the driveway to get the morning paper, or putting butter in a pan to fry up eggs, or take my vitamins, or do a million things! "A watched pot never boils," all our mothers told us, and neither does anything cooking in the microwave.
My question was, "Is this a rational fear?" So much fake science is out there, motivated by politics or huge jury awards, that whole industries and companies have been destroyed. Remember the gel implant scandal? Alar in food products? Eggs being bad for you? Caffeine--deadly! Caffeine--okay! Global cooling when I was in college? Global warming now? I don't have much faith in the "alarm du jour!" But that crack kept getting wider, and the cooking times longer, so we felt the appliance had to go.
Even though I like to stand on Proverbs 28:1, "The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion," there are times for even a Christian to be wisely afraid. J. Vernon McGee, in his commentary on the book of Hebrews, wrote, "I hope that you are afraid of a rattlesnake. If I see one coming down the street, I don't simply move to the righthand side of the road--I give him the whole road!" So we want to use the brains God gave us; on the other hand, cowering at the sight of a shadow or at the threats the devil is constantly flinging at us is dishonoring to the God who saves us and keeps us as well.
Last night, Steve and I, along with Heidi and Pavel, were watching "Myth Busters," a very cool show that exposes popular myths and proves them wrong (or even right occasionally). The saying they were trying to debunk was "Many household objects contain more germs than a toilet seat!" I had heard before that kitchen sponges are the most vile of common objects, and quit using them many years ago, opting to use thin dishcloths which I change every day and launder. I also use the powerful germicide Shaklee Basic G. that kills every kind of heliobacter, e.coli, etc. , you name the virus or germ, it's toast. I credit that product, as well as my continual loud challenge, "Did you wash your hands?!!??" even to teenagers and young adults, for the very few cases of flu our 7 person household has contracted over the last few decades.
Well, the most filthy household object, after several lab tests and petrie dish warmings, was indeed the kitchen sponge, followed by a computer keyboard, doorknob, and then a toilet seat! You can bet I lightly sprayed Basic G on my keyboard without delay, and I'll probably be wiping down some doorknobs, too. (I have a bathroom cleaning circuit I adhere to a few times a week already). And Heidi and I agreed that we definitely never put our purses down on a public bathroom floor!
We could all sit around scared to death of spiders, germs, people, fatal illnesses, sudden death or injuries to loved ones--any one of those things could affect us. Personally, I find that my imagination is without a doubt the most deadly of all to my peace of mind, and that's probably the case for you, too! What I trust in however, is Jesus' promise to me, given in Hebrews 13:5-6:
"For He Himself has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.' So we may boldly say:
The LORD is my helper;
I will not fear.
What can man do to me?"
Let's do the wisest thing of all: trust in the Lord!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The privilege of prayer

3:46 p.m. Today's project was to rally approximately 300 believers on Facebook to pray for an emergency in our family. Four-week-old Rylee, pictured here with her father Chad, had stopped breathing last night, needed to be resuscitated by paramedics, and transferred from the Emergency Room at St. Joseph's Hospital to CHOC, where she underwent a spinal tap!

The response from friends was tremendous, as I knew it would be. A few people wrote out the most lovely prayers, like this one from
Linda, a friend from Calvary Chapel Moreno Valley, who doesn't even know the family: "Father, I lift up little Rylee to You. You are in charge and know what is going on in her little body. I pray that You will heal her, restore her to good health. Lord, be with her mom and dad. Give them peace as they go through this trial. In Jesus' Name. Amen." Now that's effective, fervent prayer! (James 5:16).

What a joy to see the outpouring of love from scores of believers today, willing to pray, believing in the power of God, and counting it a privilege to bring this little girl to His throne in her hour of need! And later today, how thrilling it was to receive a text from Chad simply saying, "She's doing good." Praise You, Father!

It is said repeatedly, and lamentably, that Christians don't spend nearly as much time praying as we ought, or as we could be. We want to pray, we are blessed when we pray, our hearts and spirits are uplifted when we pray. so what is it that gets in our way? Matthew 26:41b recounts what Jesus said to the dozing disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane when He had asked them to come apart with Him to watch and pray the night before His crucifixion. "The spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak."

Often when I pray, I'll fidget, get distracted, and have to give the topic my mind has wandered to back to the Lord to deal with! Then I return to my train of thought, speaking or quietly waiting to hear from Him, whether it's assurance, comfort, guidance, warning, or correction. I don't want to miss any one of those aspects of my Lord's communication to me, even if I find myself confronting my own sin, or informed of a sin issue in the life of a loved one. I want all He has to tell me because, even if the Holy Spirit's prompting is jarring to my status quo or discomfiting in some way, I find a definite peace and path as a result.

Today's prayer for Rylee, (known as intercessory prayer) is a joyful and special privilege we believers have. Imagine ourselves selected to join one another in acknowledging God's faithfulness and representing our knowledge of Him to others, and glorifying Him corporately in agreement: "God, You can do anything! Grant our requests for this family! We ask this in Jesus' Name, Amen." And we trust God to do what is right, what is best, what is needed in the lives of those we intercede for.

Will I always love God's answers? No. But I will always know that His answers are holy, righteous, and the best answers for me now and forever. I love you, Lord my Father!!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Taking care of business

3:27 p.m. Today's project was to go to both of our banks, to make a deposit into our account and order copies of bank statements, and then put some money for books into Steven's account. Boy, am I glad that we have only one child left in college--at one point, in 2006, we had 4! Kriss still had a year to go at Long Beach State, Heidi was wrapping up at Redlands, Heather was at Brooks Institute of Photography, and Steven was at Cal State San Marcos! Sean has just about completed business courses to go with his automotive repair certificate at RCC thanks to the GI Bill; anyway, he's been on his own since he joined the Marine Reserves in 1993. So I guess we are seeing light at the end of the tunnel! If Steven decides to seek the Masters in Kinesiology required for physical therapy, grad school is on him!

When I gave the cash deposit to the young guy at Altura, he looked at me a bit funny, probably because I'm not a regular, having only just discovered the branch on University, or could be because my name isn't on my son's account. I would assume anyone can put money into another person's account! If he thought I seemed fishy, he could have asked for ID. You'd think a credit union would be glad just to get deposits these days! Was a notation made? Did I get reported to higher-ups sitting watching the camera up above the lobby? Oh well!

I loaded up my Jeep with Mary Kay products, actually most of my inventory, and boxes of samples for my next stop, the Upper Echelon hair salon in MoVal. I had put my personal labels on each packet and tube of skin care, mineral powder foundation, lipstick and lotion last week. The salon has been great for sales, because the owner, Chris, has allowed me to give facials to the patrons and set up seasonal display baskets. Several of the hairdressers are clients of mine, buying the on the spot as well as hosting a parties and keeping catalogs to share with their clients. I hand out samples each time, and also take my compact or compact "pro" (the extra large version) and put on my makeup right there during my blow dry. We regulars are just part of the group!

Even if I don't sell anything, I try to add an element of fun and glamour in a place where those things count. Plus, if your hairdresser uses a product line, you are going to be curious as to why she likes it. Marriages, births, deaths, Steve's and others' illnesses, tough economic times--we help each other through. It's a little community there, a place where all comers can seek support. I am also quite free and open to share my faith. In fact, one hairdresser and client of mine, the hilarious Sue, was telling her client how she gets though her boyfriend's cancer crisis: "I believe," she declared. "I'm a born againer!" Amen to that!

When Irene was finished with my color and style, I went next door to the nail salon for a pedicure. Talk about a contrast! Whereas Upper Echelon was hopping, American Nail has been s-l-o-w. Lisa recently bought the business from April, the manicurist I had witnessed to last year, and to whom I'd given a Vietnamese Bible. (April is now doing nails at WalMart, I discovered last fall). In exchange for free product, April would allow me to use her facial room for patrons for several hours. I brought in business to them with the flyers I handed out to the neighboring businesses in surrounding strip malls.

Today, I met Nancy, Lisa'a assistant, who really had a sweet spirit. When I asked her, "Do you believe in Jesus?" she spoke very passionately about God answering her prayers, and the way he was bringing her family through, and how grateful she is for each day she wakes up! That was so refreshing, an unexpected treat for my day.

Once again, I brought out a full array of lipstick color samples for both of them to choose from, along with hand cream samples. The owner began to share her oily skin issues, and while my toenails were drying, I went out to my car and gave her a full set of "combination/oily" skincare samples and a catalog. More opportunity awaits for women to get help with their skin care needs!

Samples are an expense that doesn't necessarily translate to sales--that's the chance an entrepreneur takes. But the Lord has used them to make an opening for new friendships and future sales. I'm reminded of the verse, "By your patience, possess your souls." (Luke 21:19). Sometimes we just have to wait through dry periods in various areas of life, but when there is comfort, peace, or even an eventual breakthrough, how well we realize that the Lord has not forgotten us--or our hopes!

Today my daughter Heidi called to tell me that a gal who runs a shop we patronize, MG Tires downtown, wants some Mary Kay samples and a catalog. Heidi was scheduling a Monday brake job as follow-up to the tires she bought on referral from us because of the tire we'd bought for our RV. Bingo! A chain of mutual benefit that the Lord organized, because I certainly had forgotten to follow up on the handcream I'd left months ago! Hopefully, when I go over to MG, a sale will be in the offing. And to put the icing on the cake, the owner is a believer, too!

Ecclesiastes 11:1 says, "Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days." Thank you, Lord!!

"Cast your bread

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Fresh fellowship

7:05 p.m. Today's project was to meet with the director of our church's children's ministry, in order to organize childcare for a new quarterly event for moms.

Ivett and I know each other, but had never had a time to sit and really get acquainted. Reason being that I am involved primarily in women's Bible studies and events. With the exception of Vacation Bible School (here and in Wales) and puppet story time at Moms' Mornings, I haven't been called to teach youngsters. My daughter Heidi teaches 5 & 6th grades, and also knows Ivett and her husband, Pastor Sammy, from the Young Adults' group.

Have you ever felt very comfortable with a person from the start of the conversation? With other believers, all it takes is the mutual acknowledgement that without Christ we are nothing, to establish all the common ground necessary. " are all one in Christ Jesus," Galatians 3:28 says. I offered a prayer for guidance at the start of the meeting, and our discussion was fruitful. Ivett's counsel was invaluable for the details of asking the right women to watch the children ages 0-6th grade, getting new childcare workers fingerprinted, deciding if or when to ask for help through the church bulletin, and choosing curriculum for the various age groups.

As a couple of moms, we had fun discussing our kids, both the ups and downs, and our mutual reactions to strong odors like paint, burning candles, and for me, gasoline. When I told Ivett that attendants used to pump gas for ladies, she was amazed. Talk about the proverbial generation gap, she is two years younger than my oldest son!

When I left for a little shopping at Kohls nearby, I felt that the Lord has His hand on our plans for the children of Calvary Chapel. I also was pleased to know a sister in the Lord much better!

My positive day continued back at home, as Steve got the dogs bathed and I headed out to the garden, feeling so excited after all of the days of rain! I needed to plant my nine broccoli seedlings and a row of spinach seeds. But when I went outside to the plot, I realized that some real sprucing up was necessary. I hoed out the irrigation rows flattened out by the rain. Lots of grass blades had come up--lovely in the nearby yard, but a weed in my garden, so I tossed the grass clumps over the chain link fence. Bailey and Jada chased after the flying clumps at first, but soon grew bored. After all, grass is only edible to a dog when they need to upchuck!
A random thought occurred to me as I weeded: the wisdom of our God who sees to it that the ground is covered with greenery, whether it's greenery I deplore wholeheartedly or greenery I nurture zealously! Not one bit of soil was misplaced in the planted rows despite a full 7 days of rain because the plants' roots held the soil in place. On the other hand, the gravelly hard-packed soil path we walk had been flooded.
In Genesis 1:29, God says to man, "See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be be for food." Food to sustain life is available from our heavenly Father, but we humans have the honor and privilege of working alongside the Lord, following His plan for sun, rain, seasons and crops, too! As most of the earth's inhabitants do, Adam had a job, Genesis 2:15 reveals. "Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden to tend [cultivate] and to keep it."
God could cause food crops to grow in neat, orderly, well-spaced rows without any inedible plants in sight. But that was not His wise plan--we people need to work, whatever our work is. And God had placed man in a very pleasant setting, the Garden of Eden, with every plant needed for life. But man sinned--and thus the curse fell on him and all of his descendants: "Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you..." (Genesis 3:17-18)
Won't we be delighted that one day there will be a new heaven and a new earth with no death, sorrow, crying or pain (Revelation 21:1, 4) "Behold, I make all things new," the Lord says in verse 5.
I'm ready!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

New walking shoes!

8:53 p.m. Today's project was to enjoy a full day at Disney's California Adventure and Disneyland, and then have dinner with Kriss and Marisela at Downtown Disney at 6:30.
Adding to my anticipation was getting to wear my new walking shoes that had just arrived from the Magellan's--real leather, brown, pretty, and flat except for the rubber grid soles. Since Magellans is a traveler's catalog, these shoes are designed for walking all day. Perfect! If there is one thing you do at Disneyland, it's walk.
The first letdown was quite literal: my thin, ivory ribbed "trouser socks" began to fall down just as I locked the Jeep. Do-over! Praise the Lord I had hedged my suspicions about the socks' elastic grip by bringing along some regular knee-hi hose. (Dowdy, I realize, but they sure make your shoes more comfortable to wear with slacks and long skirts). Now we were ready to go.
Steve and I headed over to the amusement park section of CA Adventure, first riding the tame "Mulholland Madness" roller coaster. A nice high ferris wheel and some swinging air ships almost made Steve forget that he had passed on the wild roller coaster "California Screamin." And I think we'll try the river rafting ride during the summer. Even though today's weather was very beautiful and mild, it was still cool at 11:00. Besides, with passes, we can take advantage of all of the attractions in our own sweet time.
Lunch was actually the first disappointing meal we've had at the Happiest Place on Earth. Pizza Oo- Mow-Mow's barbeque chicken pizza slice didn't give Steve much to eat, and my large pepperoni salad was okay, a little too full of raw purple onion slices even for this onion lover. But Steve was able to have the rest of my salad and the croutons, so we had enought to last us until I spotted a candy shop over in real Disneyland, and we bought a thick square of white peanut butter chocolate swirl fudge. Absolute heaven!
"We" is a misnomer, however, because Steve got one bite and I surreptitiously nibbled at the remaining 90% in between and during rides in Adventureland. Honest and unabashed, that's me! (And needing to walk an additional two miles). I am sure any female readers will identify with me here: there was chocolate involved!
At about this point, 2:30 or so, even though I didn't want to admit it, I was beginning to notice some soreness in the back of my right heel that kept stabbing at me with every step. My new walking shoes? Say it ain't so! But it was true. One shoe was rubbing badly at the heel, and we still had the whole Disneyland portion of the afternoon left to go. I just had to keep going, now with a slightly funky limp that I tried to disguise with short steps. I distracted myself by frantically moving us from ride to ride just so I could take a load off!
The Indiana Jones ride, new to us, was dark, loud, scary and twisting, very cool. The Haunted Mansion was as creepy-funny as ever, and the Jungle Cruise had the same corny narration I remember from the days of taking our now-adult children, and before that, my Grad Night party in 1969! Steve and I have just not been Disneyland fans. I guess we've just been too busy with our large immediate and extended family, ministries, and jobs.
Steve and I both realized today that God is the One who caused us to save these fun experiences for "such a time as this" (Esther 4:14), now that we are treasuring the relationship we have, and looking for ways to rejoice like never before. Unlike most couples who can assume that each party will be rational and conversant almost all the way up to the inevitable end of life, we don't have have any such assurance. After almost 29 years of marriage, we are focusing on "us." Careers are gone (or perhaps on hiatus in my case); all the children but the youngest are self-supporting, and Steven is pretty much on his own in Fresno. The Lord is opening up new avenues of ministry for me, but they fit nicely into Steve's and my routine. Praise God's holy Name, because He has done great things, too many to number, putting every part of my life into a coherent, cohesive picture that I never could have anticipated. And honestly, I don't deserve such mercy--no one does. That's why Jesus died for me. I can now avail myself of His mercy and love, and let Him guide my life as He wills!
Eventually, the shoe became too much, so we enjoyed two complete circuits--and a nap-- around the park on the Disneyland Express train, got coffee and water on a park bench on Main Street, and made our way back to the tram and to our car. We met Kriss and Marisela at the Rainforest Cafe at Downtown Disney for a delightful dinner and visit. She liked the birthday gifts we gave her, and I was blessed to see how well those two are adjusting to married life.
At the moment, I'm not sure whether to return the shoes, which I really like, or give them another try with socks on. I'll think about that tomorrow, for the blessings and trials of today are sufficient--for today!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

New information

3:59 p.m. Today's project was to enjoy a fine morning at women's Bible study with friends and new acquaintances, wrapping up our lessons in the book of Esther. It is truly wonderful to see God's providential hand in the background of all of mankind's endeavors, knowing that He had a plan for the deliverance of His people all along. Two of the ladies had baked "Haman's Ears," a triangular shaped cookie filled with jam, which is served at Purim to mock the infamous enemy of the Jews.

After filling up my gas tank for a trip to Disneyland tomorrow (with a birthday dinner for my daughter-in-law Marisela and Kriss at Downtown Disney); sending a fax to my life insurance company; and picking up a pair of slacks with a new zipper installed, Steve and I enjoyed a peaceful afternoon at home.

My sister-in-law Sharon called to let me know that she had collected new information from a geneticist about all of the Kruckenberg children's odds of developing early-onset Alzheimers. Apparently, Steve's and Larry's children have a 50% chance of developing it, but the older siblings Linda and Sharon, because they have already passed age 60 without developing the disease, don't run the high risk of passing that to their kids.

One key point Sharon wanted to make is that if any of our children are diagnosed with Alzheimer's they can lose their group and life insurance, and I would extrapolate, by the way genetic factors have been used in court cases (now outlawed by the privacy act signed by President George W. Bush) that even a parent's diagnosis, if undisclosed, could be used to mount a fraud case against them. Dire warnings indeed! Praise the Lord for our family's prudence in having all of us insured for both life and health already.

Neither Steve's primary care physician nor his neurologist has made a diagnosis, but state that he is being treated as if he were an Alzheimer's patient. And with the improvements we've seen in Steve over the last few months, I'm beginning to think that they have been wise to take that approach. The Lord knows those who are His, and He has known every detail of Steve's life since before conception. No matter what I may consider or decide about this information, I have a Bible full of assurances that this "news" about Alzheimer's and genetics is not "news" to my God!

"Man proposes, but God disposes, " an old saying goes, confirming Proverbs 16:33: "The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD." 50% chance of contracting a disease? A Christian does not fear, 50, 60, 75 or 90%! We walk in newness of life in Jesus Christ, and whether we are able or disabled, we are bold and unafraid!
Isaiah 49 :16 says, God speaking to His people, "Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, but I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands."
I'll go with God's unblinking love and watchcare, thank you, Jesus!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Every beat of your heart--a public service

5:27 p.m. Today's project was to distribute the American Heart Association letters that I had addressed and enclosed with a stamped envelope addressed to me. I will then be responsible to send in the checks altogether.

Seemed odd last fall when a lady from the organization asked if I'd participate in the "Dear Neighbor" letter writing campaign. The packet would arrive in January, and they'd like me to get the letters to my neighbors before the first of February. I agreed, thinking, "Well, February's a long way off!" Of all of the contributors they must have in our area, how did I get selected for the task?

Maybe there's a nationwide roster of recently retired teachers, suddenly with time on our hands, not shy about talking to people, and used to instructing others and persuading them to do the right thing. That just occured to me--we are perfect for the task!! Teachers are also used to filling out paperwork, so getting my letters signed, stuffed and stamped was pretty easy.

Steve and I drove to the bottom of our street, figuring we could work our way up. We ended up zigzagging between the giant fancy houses across from our original 1998 vintage neighborhood and back over to our side. Most people weren't home in the late afternoon, but I was blessed to meet the captain of the Riverside Fire Department's Paramedic Unit. [So that's what the ambulance is always doing in his driveway!] and his wife is a registered nurse. "Now we know where to come in an emergency!" I chuckled.

I believe that there is a place in a Christian's life for helping out secular or civic causes, if time with the Lord, family and faithfulness to other duties permits. Ephesians 2:8 says that "We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." And walk we did!

I want to share with you the warning signs of stroke, courtesy of American Heart Association:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden, severe headache with no known cause


In Matthew 5:16, Jesus said: "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify Your Father in heaven." Jesus went about doing good, and so should we!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

What a difference a day makes!

3:39 p.m. Today's project was to enjoy a wonderful morning at church with Steve, relax and do minimal tasks at home, before heading out for Home Fellowship at 5:10 p.m.

Church was very full today, the bright sunny weather after a week of rain undoubtedly giving some folks the pep and impetus to get to the service. Pastor John's message about the character of God was summed up in I John 4:8: "God is love." From God's love springs our ability to love one another. That message resonated in the hearts of a number of attendees who came forward for salvation!

Lovely results abounded outside our home today. My leaf lettuce is grown into full heads ready to be picked when I feel like going out onto the damp soil. (I'll give it one more day of sunshine!)Steve was able to pull some weeds and sweep up the assorted debris from the storm scattered all over our driveway. And faraway Mt. San Jacinto to the southeast has a lovely coating of snow that we really appreciated this morning as we pulled into the church parking lot in Moreno Valley. (The above view is a telephoto from our front yard).
Yet, this huge storm that created beauty, green growth and recreation for our county has caused a huge problem for the town of San Vicente, Mexico, where Calvary Chapel operates a home for abandoned women and children. One of our short term missionaries sent us dramatic footage from Mexican television of the only bridge, at the only road to that hamlet, collapsing from the intense weakening of the soaked soil under the asphalt. For a town with serious problems--like no regularly running water--this has to be a major blow.
I can assure you that just as the Lord built Casa del Pastor (House of the Shepherd) into a thriving Christ-centered community of hope and restoration, He will see to it that all of the women and children's needs are met today, this week, and until he calls His people home! Our missionaries Lisa and Shelly have taught the women to trust God for everything, and God will not fail them now, even if travel and procurement of supplies has been impeded!
Habakkuk 3:17-18 says, NLT, "Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the crops die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!"
Isolation, figurative or actual; lack of basic needs, literal or emotional; uncertainty of what to do next--have we not all faced such crises in our own lives? I certainly have! In 1988, I was told in no incertain terms that today's uber-healthy Steven would be born deformed and mentally retarded; Steve is supposed to be on the fast track to dementia, but is improving instead; cancer was expected to lower my life expectancy, but I passed the strictest of tests by qualifying for life insurance at regular rates; and greatest miracle of all, God saved me from my sins and brought me into the family of God on January 6, 1980!
Let all of God's children today say, no matter what your circumstances are, "I will rejoice in the God of my salvation!"

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A question of character

2:32 p.m. Today's project was to travel over to church at 7:30 a.m., and prepare for the Moms' morning session set to begin at 9:00.

Steve and I had shopped at Sam's Club last night after a nice dinner with friends, picking up a large fruit platter, a bag of sliced apples, and a dozen cinnamon buns. It had been a harrowing, sleepless previous 36 hours due to youngest son Steven's statewide travel escapade, so it was "destination bedtime" by 9;30, a real record for me!

Our program went well, opening with refreshments, fellowship, Robin and Joanna's sweet worship, and announcements of lots of opportunites for participation in women's ministry. We had plenty of heartfelt sharing, along with real introspection and reflection on the spiritual warfare delineated for us in my study on Ephesians Chapter 6.

Our morning ended with watercolor painting for moms and tots to enjoy together, and a rousing chorus of "Jesus Loves Me." Time to go home and get some rest! I got the food leftovers put away, and some laundry started: the towels and sheets I laid down for the dogs to walk on in the house were just filthy after the rain. But I won't complain, because my friend Malinda has to wash down her mud-caked HORSE! (I told her she'd better wait until all next week's rain is gone, so she doesn't have to do it twice!)

What to do to relax, when I'm not quite sleepy enough for a nap? First catch up with my buds on Facebook, tend my farm--it's looking pretty spiffy there on Farm Town! Then I remembered that the East-West Shrine game is on, featuring the nation's top college senior football players. Why am I watching? Because Steven's good friend and roommate Robert Malone is the punter for the West team!! He will soon be selecting the NFL team he wants to join, having received a number of bids already. Isn't that cool? His mom Kathy is a former teaching colleague and friend of mine, who is actually in Orlando watching her son play. Such a proud moment!

Since I had quite a few leftover gala apple slices, I found it imperative to bake an apple crisp, and listened to the game as I cut the butter into the baking mix, added brown sugar, and let the cinnamon I sprinkled onto the apples work its way in. Yumma!

I love sportscasters! They are a kick to listen to, in any sport, because they keep up a clever , continuous line of patter in between plays to hold the viewers' attention and inform us about the individuals on the field. You can enjoy their comments even if, like me, you'll never actually understand football, despite two sons (Sean and Steven) having played it, and having attended all the Redlands High Terriers' games for 4 years, and my college games at UCLA and U of Redlands for another four. When the boys were still at home, it was college football on Saturdays and NFL on Sunday and Monday night. I just don't get it, sorry!! I make up for it by yelling and screaming for whichever team we are supposed to be supporting that day. Hey--I know my limitations. Anybody got a question about Shakespeare??? I'm all over it...

The commentators were mentioning that they asked the NFL coaches how they decide whom to select, and the answer was, that they have to meet the young men, interview them at length, find out their strengths and weaknesses, and their work ethic, even to the point of using private investigators! They do not want to make a $50-60-million mistake in offering a contract.

Isn't it instructive that it's not the talent, skill or size that gets the contract offered, because those facets of the players are obvious. It's character, character, character!!! Funny how that came up in a secular discussion, an issue we moms discussed this morning in regard to disciplining our kids! I had taught about making sure our children are saved, because if we build that inner character, we will have the privilege of watching them grow in grace, in knowledge of the Word, and eventually, in ministry! When a child "increases in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men," as Luke 2:52 says about the boy Jesus, it's evident to one and all.
I would absolutely congratulate a friend on the major accomplishment of her child, no matter what. But knowing that Robert is an active Christian is a credit to his parents, to the Lord, and worthy of high commendation.
Steve and I, like serious believers everywhere, have put character before achievement throughout our children's lives, and are blessed to see them knowing right from wrong, getting on the right path after a fall, and leading others to salvation. Put first things first! For the Christian, personal achievement will follow personal commitment--commitment to Jesus Christ.
James 4:10 says, "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up."

Friday, January 22, 2010

A tense 24 hours

3:20 p.m. Today's project was to pray for Steven's trip home that began at midnight, all the way from Fresno around the 58 and 395 freeways, because the short route through the Grapevine was closed due to snow.

I went to sleep around 10, and then woke up quarter of 12 a.m., and kept texting Steven every couple of hours, and praying. There was no use sleeping, so I read quite a lot of my Karen Kingsbury novel On Every Side, about a law firm that specializes in removing religious symbols from public places, and the way a small town's believers deal with it. Meanwhile here in town the rain was just pounding, and the enemy filled my brain with horrors of every kind. You cannot imagine my relief when I texted him at 5 a.m., "Where are you?" and he answered "home." I am so grateful for God hearing and answering prayers of so many family and friends!
Steven got up again at 7:30, made up some oatmeal, and set off for Hollywood for his 11:00 photo shoot for MuscleTech. When we messaged again, he had stopped to pray with 3 homeless people on the street near the studio, and they laid hands on him, for anointing at the Fresno Unite! all-city high school retreat, whose bus leaves Fresno at 4:30 today. Steven completed his session, and now is officially sponsored by the supplement company! May he continue to represent the Lord in the bodybuilding arena. I'll again paraphrase from Romans 12--let each of us use our particular gifts and talents to build up the Body of Christ!
We had a short-lived sigh of relief, for Steven immediately hopped back on the road and up the now-cleared Grapevine for a speedy trip back home. He went at a non-mom approved speed and went through a snowstorm, but now at last checking, he's only 60 miles from home. He did ask for prayer, because he is beginning to get drowsy, and we all know that the last leg of a trip is when people tend to give in to drowsiness. (Our Heather fell asleep and ran into a median on her way back home to Venturs where she was attending photography school, not 5 miles from her apartment a few years ago!) Time to get all the sibs and Steve "doubling down" in prayer!!
Obviously I won't rest until Steven has arrived at his church. He'll probably be able to sleep well even amidsdt the excited racket of a bus full of teens; I know I would in his shoes!
Praise report right now!! (4:15) Steven is home and headed over the few blocks to his church for the 4:30 bus boarding time! Lord, You are so good!
Now Steve and I can go in peace to meet our friends Robert and Debbie Snyder at Jason's Deli for dinner; I can return home and finish tomorrow's Bible study; and I promise you I will get an exceptionally good night's sleep!!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

So glad I'm home!

5:49 p.m. Today's project started out to be revising and finishing up my Bible study for Moms' Morning on Saturday on a rainy day when staying inside was definitely the preferable option!

Steve settled down in the offfice to watch "The Gospel of John" on his portable DVD player, since I had to use the desktop computer with printer for my writing, and it sits in the middle of the kitchen and the family room, and no radio or tv would be "welcome." Peace and quiet are a writer's friends! The day was so dark that even with my kitchen lights on, I had to plug in a bright desk lamp to shine from the counter over my shoulder so I could work.

I had almost finished my comments on verse 17 of Ephesians 6 when I got a text from married daughter Heather: "Are you home?" "Yes." "Can I come over?" "Of course." What was up, I wondered, getting some more typing done, maybe she wants to watch a show on our DVR.

Just a few moments later, there was my wet, somber baby girl, and I asked, "Come to watch Project Runway?" "No Mom," she cried, "everything's all wrong!" Whoa!

We hugged ourselves over to the couch, I closed off my document, and it all came tumbling out. It was a very familiar issue for young marrieds: making sure not to get too busy with outside commitments--even church--that precious time together gets shorted. Those are busy years--finishing school, getting careers launched, serving in ministry--many, many young Christian couples have found themselves in the same boat. It's simply a matter of transition, from the hectic pace of dating, going to as many events and get-togethers as possible so you can see one another, to the more measured, orderly pace of getting to know one another, communicating in every way, building a home. There's no substitute for time, none.

We worked on some options, possible time frames for changes, and even made out a grid. One thing we realized is that with some free evening time while Nick is at grad school, Heather needs to develop a new hobby--learning to sew her own vintage clothes. We prayed together, I fed her some of my cheese meatballs, and off we went to Joann's yardage store to begin her new adventure!

A delightful two hours ensued, with Heather learning everything from the bottom up: selecting a pattern, her material, getting it cut, and then adding scissors and notions. I also bought two crosstitch designs, a magnifier, embroidery needles, floss, and some 14-count Aida cloth for a new undertaking of my own, now that my quilt is finished.

The old peppy sparkling Heather returned! After visiting with her sister back at our house for a few minutes, she took her notes from our talk (and some chicken breasts I gave her) and went home with a plan and a project.

I'm so glad I'm at home!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Laugh at yourself

5:29 p.m. Today's project was to gather up gifts and hurry out of the house to the City of Orange to visit Chad, Rachel and new great-grand-niece Rylee, after sleeping in until 8:00! We wasted no time after our morning devotions, and left at 10:15.

Steve and I didn't even need our Fastrak because the traffic was light and the dry 91 freeway was moving quickly--no rain! We hadn't gone out blindly; KFI weather had repeatedly stated that a downpour, with winds and flooding, especially in the Station Fire burn areas, would begin in the afternoon. By 11:15, we were cuddling the tiny redhead and catching up with our nephew and his wife, both devoted believers. We followed Chad and Rachel to pick up their son Cody at preschool, so we could give him a huge "bouncy ball" we had purchased for him at Aquarium of the Pacific. We were blessed that the Lakeview offramp on the east 91 is on the way to Riverside, but to see 3 year old Cody yell, "Christmas!" as he got his ball out of the bag was worth any amount of travel! (And my getting a bit wet in the rain that had now started.) But, amazingly, as we got back on the road home, the rain lifted, so thank you, Lord! It was a quirky day, weatherwise.

Last night was different, because the rain was steady as Steve and I picked up one of our widows to take to our Piecemakers get together at church. It was a special night, because I was finally going to finish my "2 hour quilt" after four years! My faithful friends pictured above, along with 3 or 4 others who couldn't be there, had joined me in getting each stitch sewn, loaning me expertise and a machine to replace my cheap WalMart machine that fell apart any way, after being repaired weekly by DeAnna! They laughed at me and with me, to the end. Some weeks, if my mentor and instructor DeAnna was not able to attend, I cheered them on through at least four full-size quilts apiece, helped with retreat craft projects, and enjoyed untold amounts of tea, baked goods, and above all, chocolate! Christine made the ringbearer's pillow for Heather's wedding, and Vicky routinely alters clothing for church members at no charge. Our leader Jill keeps us somewhat in line, like herding cats, I'd say, with just the right amount of "needling".
What would have happened if I had felt inferior, stuffed the unfinished quilt in a closet, and just come and watched these home arts experts do their magic? I certainly wouldn't have learned anything, and their opportunity to graciously and patiently teach me would not have "materialized," pardon the pun! We have become close in so many ways--seeing each other through births, weddings, illnesses, victories and defeats. They are my creative and loyal core of "Heart to Home" crafts instructors each year. Our husbands are friends as well. We vacation together, enjoying fellowship, helping each other as vehicle and RV problems pop up. The encouragement the guys give unstintingly to Steve has been critical to his improvement--he's back at Men's Bible study again!
Romans Chapter 12 gives an extensive discussion of the way that God designed the Body of Christ with members who all differ from one another in their talents and gifts. Verses 4-6a say, "We have many members in one body, but not all members have the same function, so we being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace given to us, let us use them..."
And enjoy a good laugh with one another as well!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Fun in the rain

1:51 p.m. Today's project was to join some hilarious retired and homemaker girlfriends for a game of "Apples to Apples" and a full-on lasagna luncheon with all the trimmings and homemade desserts. And these ladies can cook!

It is really pouring today, as predicted, so we just need to be careful, and not run any unnecessary errands, like buying pea and spinach seeds and broccoli seedlings at Home Depot on the way back from MoVal to Riverside...I was rewarded for my fanaticism by getting poured down on in the parking lot going in and coming out! Good thing I had on my lightweight, waterproof, hooded jacket. This trusty black jacket served me well in London a few summers ago, where a group of us on a missions trip that included Heidi, walked for miles and a good hour in a downpour that made this rain look like sprinkles. Others around the country might chuckle at us too, as my son Kriss joked on Facebook today, "Welcome to Seattle!"

Jesus said in Matthew 5:45, that our Father "sends rain on the just and the unjust." The heavens are truly opened up today; I pray I fall into the correct category!

Just awoke from my little nap to let in the rat inspector, who just gave our crawl space a clean bill of health. I am awaiting Heidi's safe return home from an undoubtedly rough day of teaching kids who needed to go out and play. I must say that of all the enemies of weekday rain, elementary teachers would have to top the list. That is one aspect of teaching I don't miss, as I harken back to El Nino several years ago, when my repertoire of indoor classroom games was running pretty low and my patience even lower! Say a prayer for teachers and kids this week, as well as moms of preschoolers--cabin fever is predicted along with the rain!

Our garden is definitely looking lush and bright green, the dogs got their walk during a morning break in the precipitation, and the broccoli seedlings are sitting on the walkway behind the garage, under the eaves. They will have a little protection before getting transplanted to the garden when things dry out.

Imagine our thoughts about rain if we didn't drive cars to work or take our kids to school, activities that call for masses of people to travel long distances. Imagine waiting on rainfall throughout the growing season, rather than enjoying the luxury of consistent irrigation in this semiarid region. We would all be clapping and cheering at this storm's arrival!

Let's revisit Jesus' quote in its entirety, that puts rain in the "plus" column, as a gift from God:

"I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust."

Let it rain--but be safe out there!!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Looks like a snare to me!

3:42 p.m. Today's project was to write the Bible study for our Moms' Morning event on Saturday. The topic the Lord gave me is disciplining our children and the text is Ephesians 6:1-4. Then, on the topic of the spiritual warfare that comes against the Christian family, Ephesians 6:10-18. We should have some rich discussion, as I've found when teaching that passage to other groups! Saturday, our focus will be on young families. I enjoyed a fruitful time of study and writing.

Heidi was off today for Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, so she enjoyed family favorites "Project Runway" and "You've Got Mail," before heading out to spend this rainy day with Pavel. The rain let up a bit, so Steve took advantage, getting the trash out before this evening. The dogs were brought in when the downpour started. Otherwise, they were cozy in their Dogloos.

The challenge for me was to make sure Steve had enough tasks to keep him busy inside, since he normally does hours of work in the yards and garden, not to mention walking the dogs. But I suggested he take down and pack away the "English Christmas Village" still displayed on sparkly "snow" batting on the hutch.

I was pleased to see that he worked completely independently. Normally, Steve would be asking me questions at each step, and my studies would be interrupted, something I've learned to cope with, thanks be to God.But what a pleasant surprise! He got all of the figurines and buildings packed up, boxes taped and stored in the upstairs bedroom. The only glitch that hinted of his Alzheimer's-induced forgetfulness and leaving things out of place was that I needed to remind him to take the stepladder back to the garage. I seriously think that the nutritional supplements he has been taking for a few months have caused improvement. Will God heal him? I don't know. But I'm sure not about to limit Jesus!

Since my study was wrapped up for today, and these dark days just whisper "Nap," I took my sleepy self upstairs. I had just finished emailing college son Steven some student loan paperwork, real dreary stuff, and texted him to check his email. He texted back right away that Muscle Tech, his bodybuilding sponsor, wants to do a photo shoot at 11:00 a.m. on Friday in Hollywood, and did I think he could get back up to Fresno by 4p.m. to get on the bus? I texted back, "confused."

Steven 's church, along with four others, is holding a massive 500 student high school retreat, "Fresno Unite," in the nearby mountains this weekend, and the bus leaves at 4! Even in the best driving conditions, without a full 5 days of rain predicted for LA,Steven couldn't get back up the Grapevine and the 99 that fast. And since he's one of the leaders of The People's Church high school ministry, I wrote him back, "Reschedule the photo shoot due to a prior obligation! Maybe it's not God's timing. Otherwise, there goes your ministry opportunity and your trustworthiness. You also don't have chains to drive up to the mountains by yourself later." He replied that this is Muscle Tech's annual photo shoot and they want to feature him for an amateur contract! This is big.

As I was lying on my bed, spiritual warfare was on, and I was in tears of determination and Holy Spirit-led fighting! The text messages were flying! I wrote, "This is a snare of the devil. I Peter 5:8; Ephesians 6:10-18a." I knew he knows these scriptures or would look them up, as being very strong in the Word. A bit later, with me praying frantically, he texted back that he'd check around church to see if anyone is going up late that he could ride with. I'm still not satisfied, of course, because the devil would like nothing better than to keep an effective leader away from a retreat designed to unite the Christian youth of Fresno, so they can meet and stand together on their campuses!

"Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour." (I Peter 5:8) And Ephesians 6:13 commands us, to "Take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand."

What will Steven decide? We will see. A year ago, I would have been thrilled to see Steve's achievements and recognition go up to a much higher level. He has talent, discipline and ambition to represent the Lord in the bodybuilding arena. But more importantly, he has the Word of God to take him there in the right timing, and in the right way.

Believing moms, give your children the scriptures! That's where the battle is faced, fought, and won!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Reach out to draw in

2:21 p.m. Today's project was to hand out flyers and Hershey kissies to young moms at our church before and after all three services, inviting them to our Moms' Morning event next Saturday January 23rd.

Steve and I had a great morning with our devotions and a good breakfast featuring my "Pre-prepared" scrambled eggs with sausage, spinach, Herdez salsa and Velveeta cheese all mixed in, still nice and creamy even when reheated in the microwave. Two avocade slices filled out my plate, while Steve had toast and a banana.

As usual, many things happen on the same day. Steve was sleeping on the couch in the family room, having arrived in the early morning hours from Fresno. He would be meeting with his diet coach this afternoon to start the slim-down phase of his eating plan for a bodybuilding competition in April.I never would have thought people were in the professional business of diet design (except for celebrities) in the bodybuilding world, but I suppose that being a champion, or continuing to be a champion in Steven's case, calls for meticulous attention to detail. Perfecting the human body is both art and science!

As a believer, Steven has the same obligations in regard to his bodybuilding that he has to his university work, his paid employment, and his ministry to high schoolers at The People's Church: diligence and excellence in every detail. We are to do our work "as unto the Lord, not as unto man," (Ephesians 6:7). But I for one am glad that it's not my own strength that raises the standard of my work, but that "I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13) And Christ is the One Who gives us the heart and mind to serve Him and our fellow human beings in the first place!

As we walk with Him, listening to and reading His Word, the Holy Spirit encourages each one of us on the right path--for us, not for any other believing adult. God may call me to counsel and guide a sister who is going astray, but not if my heart or motive is wrong. (Or if I have not taken the time to know my scriptures!) I have pretty much all I can handle living my own life connected to Jesus and trying to listen to His voice amid the daily din!

I had the honor of meeting and talking with many young mothers today, as did my co-laborers Joanna and Charise, because God has found us faithful to design an event of spiritual worth and significance to their daily lives. Being a mother of small children is no easy task, but the love, patience, and just plain time put in yields a harvest of righteousness in the next generation. My daughter Heidi taught a devotional at this weekend's Young Adult Retreat. Steven is a leader in high school ministry; Heather leads in high school ministry at her church also. Both Kriss and Sean were leaders in their public high school's Christian club. Are they, or their dad and I, perfect? Of course not. But we "know whom we have believed, and are persuaded that He is able to keep what we have committed to Him..." ( II Timothy 1:12)Their father and I have believed in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ--and committed our very lives and the lives of our precious children to Him, for He is faithful!

May the young moms who join us on Saturday have hearts that burn to bring their little ones to Christ! Then the ministry of Moms' Mornings will have fulfilled its purpose.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Pick up the phone!

6:06 p.m. Today's project was to drive to Redlands and find out why my 82 year-old dad did not answer his phone all day yesterday.

This was quite urgent because my dad and I talk on the phone at least three times a week, and all I could get was a busy signal! Daddy does not talk on the phone much at all, mostly for business matters and his doctor appointments.

You can imagine the scenarios Steve and I discussed on our way over. We had given Daddy a cell phone, so why hadn't he called to say, "My house phone's out--call me at this number." Was he hurt, ill, robbed and injured, tried to call and the phone fell off the hook?

I asked all of my Facebook friends to pray, which I knew they would, because Daddy is healthy and independent, but he does live alone. Some comfort came to me because the mail people in Redlands are instructed to check on any senior citizen living alone, who has not picked up their mail from the day before. The mail carrier then delivers the mail to the door. If no answer, they call the police. Isn't that wonderful? Hopefully many more communities will follow suit!

Not having received an emergency call as next of kin, I felt hopeful. When we pulled up to the door, the dogs were not barking frantically as they would be if they hadn't been fed for a few days--that was a good sign! I even had Daddy's housekey at the ready...just in case.

So Steve and I rang the bell, and as my dad opened the door we both yelled out, "Where have YOU been?!" simultaneously. "Daddy, your phone's out!" I yanked out my cell phone, called his number, and got no ring, just to prove it, and after I hung up, he picked up the receiver and there was no dialtone. He hadn't even realized it, because he doesn't use the phone that much. I asked why he hadn't called me when he hadn't heard from me? At least that way, he would have found out his phone was dead!


All's well that ends well, Shakespeare wrote, and in this case, at least, with a technician on the way, and Daddy's cell phone turned on, it was true. Steve and I could scoot on home with peace of mind, glad to know my dad is alive, well, and enjoying a good life in his own quiet way. We are exhorted to pray for all men, and for those who are in authority, "that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence." And that's how my dad lives! May he be granted many more years.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Book Club

4:37 p.m. Today's project was to start on my Bible study for the young women at Moms' Morning next Saturday. I had already shared with our women's leadership what the passage would be--Ephesians 6, the topic of child discipline as part of the spiritual warfare of believing families. Now there would be no turning back, so I'd better get my commentaries, my teaching notes from a past study on that powerful passage and my Bible and dig in!
But the Lord had a fun surprise for me today, a call from my friend and book buddy Charlotte, who has read a whole pile of fiction books I traded with her just before Christmas. She wanted to drop by and return them. Like me, she is a retired teacher who reads voraciously and is devoted to women's Bible studies. Unlike me, Charlotte spent her entire 38 year career teaching in Christian schools--even running her own small school-- beginning with Maranatha Academy in Costa Mesa. She recently suffered a layoff from struggling Riverside Christian School on Monroe Street. (I taught there myself from 1997-98).
What to do with our newly-found free time? Charlotte subs about twice a week, but I have not been called, because public districts have to give preference to pink-slipped teachers over retirees. The private schools I'm listed with are also using former staff members, so it is obviously not God's will for me to go back to the classroom at this time. After all, I did retire early to be home with my disabled husband, and that is my priority. Proverbs 19:21 says, "There are many plans in a man's heart, nevertheless the LORD's counsel--that will stand." And for now, teaching and writing ministry, Bible study, gardening, helping my grown daughters and loving and spending the next few good years with my husband are the Lord's counsel for me!
Charlotte brought over several new [to me] Karen Kingsbury novels, and I gave her a handful of Amish inspirational stories--all good reads, the kind that stir up "love and good works" in your heart along with those of the well-drawn characters. The writer to the Hebrews, in Chapter 10, verse 24 would approve.
We visited for a good hour and a half, catching up with news of all of our friends and each other. We went out to the garden and harvested a 1/2 grown carrot, a bunch of cilantro and a couple of kinds of lettuce. We also found a ripe lemon on our tree. Hope it tastes all right--it's still early days for citrus. Charlotte and our labs took to each other quickly--Bailey and Jada recognize a dog lover every time.
After Charlotte left, Steve took a break from yardwork and we split a huge calzone Heidi and her boyfriend Pavel had made earlier in the week, yum! As one kind of preparation for marriage, they are learning to cook together. Of course, Heidi does remember the many recipes for meals, desserts and snacks I taught her to prepare, but I love the ambitious dishes they are trying. Heather and her hubby Nick did the same thing when they were dating a few years ago--it's just so sweet to see!
I procrastinated a bit, putting together a photo album of my son Kriss' wedding. With exhortation and prayer from a Facebook friend or two, I finally did sit down with a delicious cup of black coffee from my new Gevalia machine (their "breakfast blend") and a couple handfuls of Reese's pieces candies to begin composing my Bible study for the young moms.
Pamela and Helen did just what Hebrews says--they stirred me up to do my "good work." May God be glorified above all!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

How did we find him?

1:54 p.m. Today's project was to meet with Robin, head of women's ministry at our church, and connect with one another around ways to best serve the needs we encounter. Our talk coalesced around the formation of a helps ministry. This would be different than the ministry already overseen by our pastors that meets food, shelter and safety needs while evangelizing and/or exhorting the needy in biblical principles. (Although we would certainly defer to and coordinate with the pastoral staff).

We are praying about me being available on call, and forming a team of godly, reliable women who would visit, encourage, assist and uplift hurting women who have no other support, are isolated, perhaps ill, but need someone to show them the love of Christ and a sister's heart of compassion and friendship. I would be honored to help provide that caring touch that Jesus Himself so exemplified. "As He is, so are we in this world," I John 4:17 says. We can love others because we are in Him, having boldness, not fear, as believers.

I am keeping this new opportunity to serve in prayer, and an exciting prayer it is at my stage in life where I have the time, and Steve, although benefitting from our companionship, does not require supervision. God's timing is always correct; His "gifts and calling are without repentance." (Romans 11:29) How grateful I am that God has chosen me to be saved and sanctified by the blood of the Lamb, and that He would consider me fit to serve Him in any way at all!

Steve is in a very good place, relatively speaking, with his Alzheimer's, able to be independent with some added structure, reminders, and detailed directions from me, functioning almost like a regular retiree. We were actually skipping crazily yesterday down a walkway at California Adventure, so his physical coordination is fairly good, also attested by his two mile walk with the dogs each day.

Not so with Larry, Steve's older brother who, at age 57, has lost his ability to speak in sentences and requires assistance in the home for his basic needs. When we visited yesterday, we met Antoine, the home healthcare assistant who is present three days a week, to relieve Sharon, the oldest sibling, and Mike, our brother-in-law. We wondered if he'd know us, but his eyes did light up, even though he never spoke our names. I showed Larry our Christmas photos, but he soon lost interest, probably because I had to turn the pages for him and was describing people and places he no longer recognized. Cousins Charlene and Stephanie were there, adding to Larry's enjoyable time.

I would be kidding myself if I thought that Larry is always as cheerful and alert as he was at seeing his beloved little brother Steve and being in the midst of talkative, exuberant family members. There wouldn't be a need for professional care if that were the case. He has undoubted acquired compensatory skills to mask confusion and to appear involved in conversation. I know that Steve definitely works hard to be a part of household and church activities, asking questions and trying to focus on others' words and actions. In social settings, Steve will generally emulate the actions and mood, or "vibe" of others present, to the point that strangers wouldn't realize he has a problem. I give him so much credit--what a struggle it must be!

One very blessed thing I have noticed about Steve from the earliest days of our courtship, is that he never forgets the lyrics to a praise song! Now, I love to sing, but even with years of choir training, and serving on worship teams, I'll have lyrics slip my mind while I'm worshiping. But not Steve! Thirty years after we met, he is still confidently praising His Lord! Steve must have thousands of songs at his disposal--every word at the ready. As for new songs? He picks them up quickly and memorizes them within a few hearings. And he sings in tune! Many were the times we sang to our kids and taught them the hymns of the churches we grew up in, along with the praise songs that Calvary Chapels use.

Alzheimers is said to shorten life expectancy, and maybe it will affect Steve in that way. But heaven will welcome this well-equipped choir member with open arms!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Happy to help

9:36 a.m. Today's project was to hop out of bed early (6:30) so I could follow Heidi to the Mazda dealer across town. She has taken the day off to get her car serviced. $76! That's why I buy American: Moss Motors only charges me $19.95--$21.95 for an oil change, tuneup, wiper blade change, and wash for the Jeep! Granted, that's with coupons for "valued customers," but $76 is Mazda's "special" price, too! Oh well, adults can make their own decisions as long as they pay for them. I just welcome the opportunities that have arisen for helping both of my daughters, along with expanded opportunities for women's ministry and writing! I will be also be assisting Heidi in a more important way--praying for her as she writes her devotional for Saturday morning at the Young Adults' retreat.

We had pretty smooth traffic going west on the 91, a surprise to me at 8 a.m. Traffic coming east was slow, though. Pavel, Heidi's boyfriend, was commenting last night that on his way to work from La Sierra to San Bernardino, he does hit traffic, and I remembered my much shorter drive from home in the 7:00-7:30 hour to the radiation facility at Waterman and Highland six years ago as busy, but not bumper-to-bumper. If busy traffic means jobs, then I'm all for it! The Lord knows our Inland Empire has been among the hardest hit by this deep recession, with so many jobs having been dependent on the construction industry. We would all do well to thank the Lord for income, and pray for, help, and encourage those who are in the process of losing everything! We might even be led to "take a portion" of food, clothing, or offer babysitting time to jobseekers, much as the Jews did in this week's lesson on Esther 9:19.

I am definitely grateful for the ability to be at home with Steve, which I believe is totally by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and made possible by God's provision of several sources of income. I see a lessening of depression over his Alzheimer's, and a willingness to take the initiative with tasks at home, beyond the written suggestions I provide each day. Even though he has always been one to love fellowship, Steve had shied away from Tuesday night's Men's Study because of embarassment at falling asleep. He has now rejoined, so we have wonderful Tuesday nights together, with me at Piecemakers down the hall from the men's study.

Steve is most excited about our Disneyland passes, and is planning for us to go later today--inclement weather not withstanding! I think we'll leave about 2:00 and see how the weather is in the O.C. at that time.

We do have a more serious errand down there, which is to visit Larry, Steve's older brother, now, at 57, in the full debilitaing throes of Alzheimer's. Larry now resembles a very frail elderly man, and needs constant care. Steve's oldest sister Sharon will be there, for her "shift" that begins at 3:30 while Larry's wife Michaele works. Will Larry recognize us? We don't get together that often, because the raucous August party we throw here annually would just be too much for him (I could have given the littlekids' banging on my piano a miss myself!) and Steve got sick the day of his family's post-Christmas get-together.

Other siblings take turns with Larry, as they all live in Orange. Sometimes I wonder if we should assist, but I'm not sure whaat effect this would have on Steve, and I'll observe and measure that today. My stated determination is to keep Steve upbeat and optimistic in the Lord, looking forward to the adventures of each day we have together. I also am seeing subtle improvements in his communication and memory, thanks to some supplements a dear sister from my Bible study heard about a short while ago, and a few cholesterol/heart medications Steve's doctor has put him on, in a kind of experiment. Now that I'm seeing some results, I'll take the list down to Michaele--no sense recommending extremely expensive health food store supplements if there's nothing but hype and disappointment to be gained.

Perhaps, as King David prayed for his sick baby son in II Samuel "Who can tell whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live? " Perhaps the Lord will intervene miraculously for Steve!

Otherwise, we will both face the inevitable, with courage only possible for believers in Christ--true courage, not worldly bravado, courage born of knowing a gracious God who always acts in his children's best interests with eternal purposes in mind.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Bound and done!

5:21 p.m. Today's project was to meet my dear friend DeAnna over at Joanna's fabric and craft store off of Day Street, to purchase quilt binding for my "two hour quilt" that's taken four years!
The trip was contingent on my final recovery from the migraine that had plagued me all day yesterday, ending in vomiting, sorry to have to mention. I had missed Bible study last night and today, so getting past the nausea and dizziness was top priority. I also was due at a meeting at church to help formulate a new ministry for moms, and I did not want to miss discussing and giving my input! "Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors is safety," scripture says, and we will follow the Word in the Women's Ministry at Calvary Chapel Moreno Valley!
I just love my friends I've made over the thirty years I've been in the Lord! Each one is so unique, from physical appearance, age, shape, family background and current circumstances. My girlfriends, in particular, come alongside me and help me in areas of lack, such as sewing (!) and I come alongside them with my talents of biblical encouragement and teaching the Word.
DeAnna taught the two-hour quilt class the second year of Heart to Home. Having previously taught classes for the Singer Company in Redlands. She is able to troubleshoot and take apart any machine, and quilts beautifully. DeAnna makes quilts for her own grandchildren, the children and grandchildren of friends, and today she mentioned quietly that she'll be making a lap quilt for a young lady who serves them sweetly at their family's favorite restaurant! She is truly all heart.
After a few years of daily babysitting her grandsons, she and Kenny were able to take a 7-day trip with our RV crowd to Shaver Lake in August and then a much-deserved month of travel to Florida to see a shuttle launch. We rejoiced for her, while we missed her sweet smile and handiness at Piecemakers.
Our Tuesday night Piecemakers' group meets while our husbands attend Men's Bible study down the hall. Those friends have encouraged Steve with patience and good humor, and now he has returned to the Bible study, confident once again!
Tonight all eyes will be agape at the possible completion of my "forever quilt " and those ladies are the reason I've kept it going. That quilt is a picture of the slow, patient development of friendships and support for one another.
Hebrews 10:24 says, "Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another and so much the more as you see the Day approaching."
And that Day is approaching!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Works every time it's tried

3:59 p.m. Today's project started out to be putting away the Christmas ornaments, from a tree that got itself cut up and put into the "green waste dumpster."

That project was nearly accomplished when I took a break for lunch. My salad of fresh greens from the garden, cooked chicken, and buttermilk ranch dressing smelled and tasted funny, and I ended up dumping it out. Then on came a bout of the "headache that wouldn't go away." Add a slight dizziness, and I knew I was about to get my quarterly migraine! I quickly asked my many believing Facebook friends to pray. I really wanted to attend Bible study tonight at seven.

Carefully heading upstairs to lie down, I remembered the generic Imitrex medication that is very effective in stopping migraines if taken early enough in the process. I hadn't experienced a migraine for a bout 6 months, so I'd forgotten to be alert to the warning signals: a headache that Advil can't handle is the main one, and a dizzy feeling can accompany it. I took the pill and lay down.
A text message dinged from son Kriss, saying that he and his wife Marisela couldn't join us at Disneyland this week. I answered okay, and thought, "I'll just text all the kids and ask them to pray, too." Then came a couple of hours of rest, with a window open and a cool fan blowing on the foot of my bed. I was truly "dead to the world."
I'm up now, still a bit headachey, but upright and drinking some coffee as Kriss recommended. We'll see how the evening unfolds, whether Heidi and I can make the nice dinner I'd planned and then join the ladies at 7 p.m. for study. I am trusting what Isaiah 58:8-9 says to those who serve the Lord in righteousness:
"Your light shall break forth like the morning,
Your healing shall spring forth speedily,
And your righteousness shall go before you.
The glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;
You shall cry, and He will say, 'Here I am.' "

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Fresh greens

2:43 p.m. Today's project was to see how the garden is progressing, other than just looking out of my office window! I hadn't gardened since last Sunday, when we had our grandsons out to help us weed.

I got up from prayer yesterday morning, looked through the office blinds and began to head out there but checked myself. "I have to get to the wedding!" Today I was treated to a wonderful sight. The flowers that I'd thinned last week hardly look like it because they're back in full force, enjoying the mild weather. Can't wait until they bloom! I just saw one pretty nasturtium so far.
Some of my leaf lettuce was ready for picking, a gorgeous light lime color. I even have pea pods filling in since last week, volunteers from last summer's garden, totally out of season. I have to hand it to those peas, normally a summer crop: they are "instant in and out of season," just like God expects us to be in sharing God's Word, always ready and willing! (II Timothy 4:2) When I consider that I was bellyaching just last week about my slow lettuce, commiserating about it with my married daughter whose housemates have a garden, I have to laugh, amazed at the steady pace of growth God designs. Just like my children each made their progress toward the day of delivery, it's His timing that will come to pass with my winter crops!
Personal responsibilities that seem to steadily increase or at least persist, activating visions for women's ministry at church and writing a Bible study on the Letter to the Hebrews are this year's priorities. How grateful I am that God has been quietly working behind the scenes in His creation, needing no help from me at all! Diligence in all areas of life is an expectation for all believers, but God gives us the free will and freedom to prioritize our duties and to pursue our interests. I praise the Lord that I was able to retire, be home for Steve, and have more time for ministry than I have in many years. I am also enjoying renewed friendships from past years, enhanced fellowship with our Piecemaker and RV'ing friends, as well as being allowed to mentor and encourage struggling women of all ages.
God is working in many areas of my life in seen and unseen ways. My heavenly Father, whom Isaiah 28:29b describes, as "wonderful in counsel and excellent in guidance," will do just that for me and for you--counsel and guide!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The end of an era

4:20 p.m. Today's project was to rise up after a fitful night's sleep in which I dreamed that we found Steve's lost dress shoes, and figure out what to do about Steve's lost dress shoes!! We had to get ready and formally dressed for Shea and Mike Rendles's wedding at 11:00.

We had gone to bed on edge because Steve had lost the simple black dress shoes we bought him for Megan and Thomas Renck's wedding in September. This happened after we needed to watch a Youtube video on tying a necktie, a skill Steve had successfully done his whole life until recently. We pre-tied it and that hurdle was cleared, praise God. Just a bit stressful!

I had gotten out Steve's best wool suit earlier in the week, making sure there was no need to get it cleaned, and that his longsleeved white shirt was clean and unwrinkled. Therefore, I thought he was all set for the wedding. Not until last night when we were setting everything out did I think about his dress loafers. No reason why I would--he just has the one pair, and it was a fair assumption that they'd have been in his closet since September 13th.

Well, you know what they say about the word "assume!" I apparently am a slow learner, because assuming logical conclusions to given events and sensible actions has been a thing of the past around here for a while now. My brain keeps up its logical, step-by-step habits, so I need to remind myself that Steve isn't tracking that way any more. I also need to apply the Lord's thinking as Jeremiah 29:11-13 makes clear to His people Israel:

"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for me with all your heart."

We were both seeking and praying, and I went to bed pondering what to do. Get up early, run down to Payless and get another identical pair? (Unh-unh!) See which son might have borrowed them? (None of them had). Have Steve wear tan suede shoes with his suit? (Nope). Or get down the new black athletic shoes I had stashed in my side of the closet for his Valentine's gift? I was resigned to this option, showed them to Steve, and he liked them. The shoes wouldn't look right with a dress suit, but that was the best we could do. Was that the answer? Logically speaking, yes.

But God had a different answer after all. When Steve went upstairs after breakfast to brush his teeth, he yelled out, "I found my shoes!" What?! We'd torn our bedroom apart last night! He had no explanation for why he had boxed up the shoes and hidden them under the foot of our bed. He had even searched under the bed with a flashlight, but apparently never checked that area. Praise the Lord--His thoughts are not anything like ours, but, also unlike ours, His results are always perfect! Steve and I went on to have a great time at both the wedding and the reception.

This post is titled "end of an era," because it truly is. Sweet Shea has been our houseguest for several months, becoming so dear and precious to our family. I had joined in prayer with her over every aspect of her life--school, the long job hunt, wedding plans. I was honored to provide a motherly shoulder to cry on, just like with my Heidi and Heather. Watching Shea struggle prayerfully and courageously with joblessness, homelessness, and even car-lessness, encouraged us all, and built up my faith. When she suddenly got two mall jobs, and then a good permanent job with Loma Linda University Medical Center, you could have heard us screaming with joy around the block!

Shea is now Mrs. Mike Rendle, and I couldn't be more proud and happy for their godly union! But it is tough to lose a daughter to marriage, even an "adopted" one!
But she still needs to come back over to get the last of the clothes from her closet--she's only gone for a while. And that's a praise report!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Mrs. Cleanjeans

2:30 p.m. Today's project was to restore some order to the house, continue the Christmas takedown, and clean the kitchen floor in preparation for the various members of Shea's family and bridal party who might be stopping by to help her move her wedding reception favors to Grove Community Church for a 4:00 p.m. setup.

My dad came over as I got back from depositing some Mary Kay earnings at the bank to pick up his Christmas gift: washable (! ) leather walking shoes. I had bought his first pair 1 - 1/2 sizes too small, but a perfect fit for our oldest son Sean. So I ordered a new pair for Daddy and hid a surprise black pair for Steve's Valentine's Day gift.

I got started on my reorganization jag when I could not find a tube of Neosporin ointment for a small cut; in fact, the first aid kit we'd kept in a kitchen drawer was gone. Steve looked for it in the RV, but came back with two much nicer containers that I must have moved the contents of the old cracked box into. And there was the generic ointment.

Looking up in the cupboard above this desktop computer, I found myself in a classic predicament. The cloth basket in which we keep everything from finger-and-toenail clippers to baby medicine measuring spoons--yes, our youngest child is 21, and youngest grandchild, 12--was a bulging mess, a mix of canine and human medicine. I knew that even the Coppertone sunscreens were expired. Checking the dates on meds was sure to be convicting, and even potentially dangerous. How many strengths of Naproxen would we ever use? Seems the Express Scripts Rx mailing service had an overstock and must have sent most of it to Steve. (We're Advil people, anyway).

It was time to give lots of items the heave-ho. Doesn't the Lord often use fairly minor happenings to bring a major case of neglectfulness to our attention? He loves His people that much! Psalm 121:3 says of the Lord, "He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber." There is nothing like the care of our Lord!

My predicament was this: if I were to move one thing, and not remove every item from the cupboard, it would all tumble down on my head! Aack! I would have to go all the way and completely reorganize that cupboard and the three medicine containers. Out went the Coppertone, duplicate empty boxes of cold medicines and vitamins, wart removers, medicine droppers, ancient Q-tips, expired prescriptions and old unopened laxatives. Cough drops and Tylenol cold meds were consolidated. Peroxide, wart and ear drops, witch hazel and current tanning products went to the guest bathroom medicine cabinet, along with a spare Union Jack nail clipper I bought in London a few years back. The other fully stocked first aid kit is now back in the RV.

In the kitchen first aid kit went treatments for the kinds of regular ailments we get, as well as an eyeglass repair kit, bandages, and tape for said bandages. Antibiotic ointment, spray, Zicam, eye drops, and a wrist support are there also, with Immodium and Digestive Advantage IBS pills for a couple of family members. The Sea-band anti-travel sickness armbands went into the RV. Allergy medication is ready for the spring onslaught.

On the plus side, I saved the purchase price of flea drops that I would have had to spend, in order to apply to Bailey and Jada for prevention. Doggie toenail clippers and the ear and eye drops they occasionally need were there. My cleaning was already showing a profit!

I'm feeling pretty good about my efforts, but as I looked at the shelf above, I saw craft and painting items and curling ribbon on one side; business items on the other. Is there anything worse than filing paperwork? Moving arts and crafts supplies around isn't very fun either, but I expect I'll glean some finds there, too. If no particular occasion arises for creativity, I just get in crafty moods and will put together anything that appeals to my whim, "just in case" someone needs a cheery little something. Looks like clearing that shelf is now on my radar screen!

First, however, a genuine paperwork hassle is speeding my way. By making an appointment with a Christian attorney to work on a living trust for Steve and myself, I'll be forced to gather our documentation in a timely manner. It's an incontrovertible fact of life that "due diligence" always comes due!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Nothing like I remember it

3:21 p.m. Today's project was to overcome a night of sketchy sleep and go with Steve to Disneyland, activating our deluxe annual passes. I emphasize "deluxe" because we can go on a Sunday afternoon when our kids are off from their jobs. Of course the nicest part is that senior citizen pensioners like myself can go on weekdays , too, when there are not that many people.

Naturally, while we were in the parking structure crawling along in huge lines to get to our space, it didn't seem like a small crowd. Flashing the pass with prepaid parking certainly eased my discomfort, though. Now the challenge is to use the passes enough times to make up the parking fees, and eat enough meals there to take advantage of the 10% discount. It's on!
The tram ride went along for about a hundred yards when another tram operator radioed ours that a child was hanging off the side of our tram. So the whole thing had to halt while the operator walked slowly and deliberately the full length of the tram to rebuke the child and presumably, the parent. "Train up a child in the way he should go," Proverbs 22:6 promises, "and when he is old he will not depart from it." (Nor will he or she fall off a tram, embarass their parents, or irritate the operator and other passengers!)
It took us a while to find out where to get our photos snapped for the passes, so we took in the sights of California Adventure, which we'd never visited before. My daughter-in-law said there are some cool rides in that park, but we wouldn't have time. So we had our pictures taken, just about as flattering as a driver's license! We listened to "High School Musical 3: Senior Year" live onstage at Sunshine Plaza for 18 seconds, then strolled around, enjoying the Hollywood backdrops, and ate a really good lunch at Studio Catering Co. The chili burger I ate caused no repurcussions whatsoever--way to go!
When we got to the entrance of Bug's Land, I had to chuckle when I saw one of the banners, which read, "It's tough to be a bug!" It reminded me of the subtitle of our Bible study on Esther, "It's tough being a woman." The comparison would have to end there, but that's what happens with a mind that's continually seeking random hilarity.
A while later, Steve and I congratulated ourselves on correctly retracing our steps and finding the Jeep! You don't want to know about the hours we spent looking for it in the Rose Bowl parking lot last year after a UCLA game! Today was blessedly smooth, worthy of praising the Lord, because He really did "make straight paths for our feet" (Hebrews 12:13a), allowing us to be on the freeway by 2:07 p.m. and home by 3:00. I even had a conversation with son Kriss all the way from Anaheim Hills. It warms a mom's heart to recognize that things are working smoothly for newlywed children, and seeing that they have goals and plans that they've thought out for their new, more responsible phase of life. We have been blessed by Sean's, Heather's and Kriss' choices of mates, and I think Heidi will not be far behind, since she and Pavel are already studying together on the principles of biblical marriage...
One reason to get home early was that Heidi wouldn't be home to feed our labs, because she is going to a wedding rehearsal for her friend Shea. I really didn't want to pester the neighbors with Jada and Bailey's barking for any longer that the usual 1/2 hour before their 5:00 meal, trying always to be good witnesses for Christ! Steve also had time to walk them this afternoon.
I am grateful that Steve and I can enjoy a new fun pastime for the year of 2010, because we don't know how the passing of another 12 months will affect him. I have a sense that the supplements and prescriptions are keeping him fairly level, able to relax and enjoy strolling around, taking in the sights, and next visit, we'll be going on some thrill rides. Not necessarily a fan, I'll have to allow the Lord to stretch me so Steve can enjoy a rollercoaster or two.
Our companionship is sweet, now that we are taking much-deserved time for one another. Often we'll hear people will say, "If I could just freeze this moment!" usually when their children are small, or in the early days of marriage. It's said with a knowing unreality, even as the speaker looks forward to other great days to come.
But I actually DO wish I could freeze this moment!