Sunday, February 28, 2010

From mixed up to fixed up

10:44 a.m. Today's project was to get up before dawn (5 a.m.), go to first service at 7:45, and then head on down to Long Beach to help Kriss and Marisela get situated in their new apartment, their first home!

Just as the service ended, I got a text from Kriss asking us to wait until 12:00 to leave, because they want to have lunch with us, and we'd just be unpacking; the heavy lifting was done yesterday, by all the brothers Marisela is very grateful for!
At first, I expressed my crabby feelings about getting up two hours early for no reason, especially after a night when I couldn't sleep--I was worried about safety on the road, but trusting the Lord to see us down there safely.
I realize that I need to trust God in the happenings we consider "mixups," because He knows when we need to be in Long Beach, and certainly knows which church service we should attend on a given Sunday! Yesterday, I posted Psalm 52:8-9, which I need to consider making my own!
"I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the mercy of God forever and ever. I will praise You forever, because You have done it; and in the presence of Your saints I will wait on Your Name, for it is good."
Let's look at the picture painted here. A green tree is young, flexible, able to adjust to breezes, temperature, and grow stronger for it. Olive oil has long been the anointing oil of God's people. We read of the anointing for cleansing and service performed by priests and prophets in the Old Testament (Psalm 133:2 describes Aaron's anointing as the first High Priest of Israel; also check I Samuel 16:13, David's anointing as future king of Israel). In the New Testament, James 5:13-15 describes anointing the sick with oil as elders lay hand on the individual. We still anoint with olive oil and pray for one another as believers.
I want to be fresh and flexible in my relationship with the Lord! I want to be filled with the Holy Spirit, anointed for service at any time, for any reason. And I won't be fit for God's use at all unless I trust Him--period.
Waiting is a huge part of trusting my Heavenly Father who knows what is best for me!
And since the Lord always adds a "sweetener" with every act of obedience, I wouldn't have gotten to see the magnificent view pictured above if we'd driven by 2 hours later!!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Honey's Homemade Granola

Hi Girls, here is the basic granola recipe! Use nuts or dried fruit your family likes; just keep the measurements accurate.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
5 c. old fashioned rolled oats
1 c. wheat germ
1 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. non-fat dry milk
1 c. corn oil
1 c. raisins/dates and/or Craisins
1 c. nuts: pecans or slivered almonds
1 c. sunflower and/or sesame seeds
1 c. honey
Mix. well. Spread out on 2 oiled cookie sheets (I use parchment paper). Bake 10 minutes, stir, then bake another 10 minutes. Let cool on racks, break into chunks, and gobble!
Much love,

What to do on a rainy day

3:57 p.m. Today's project was to put together a card and a donation for Heidi's friend, who is raising funds to go to China as a teacher. Like so many of the young adults whom we have been blessed to laugh with, feed, host, house and occasionally mentor, this young woman is sold out for the Lord! I was going to attend the spaghetti fundraiser, but not only can I not eat pasta --alert, alert! wheat product!--it's raining and I honestly wanted to spend the day with Steve.

So I put some cash in an envelope with a card of encouragement. I chose this passage from Jeremiah Chapter One, v. 5-9 for her:

Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying: "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born, I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations."

Then said I: "Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I cannot speak, for I am but a youth."

But the LORD said to me: "Do not say, I am a youth, for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of their faces, for I am with you to deliver you, " says the LORD.

Then the LORD put forth His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me: "Behold, I have put My words in your mouth."

I pray she will be encouraged by these verses, raise a substantial sum, and soon be on her way to obey God's call!

Meanwhile, Steve and I finished our regular devotions and breakfast, and settled down to work on the written Bible study from small group. I think Saturday mornings will be the best time for us, since our online devotional doesn't come up on the weekends and we won't be adding time to our already thorough weekday devotions. Thankful for Jeff and Monica's understanding counsel, we worked on the lesson together, with Steve looking up verses in the New King James version and me using the New Living Translation. We both answered questions for ourselves, and I was the scribe. We were pleasantly surprised to find it only took about 20 minutes. Truly, "two are better than one," as Ecclesiastes 4:9 tells us, "for they have a good reward for their labor." And no where is this more true than in marriage, where the strengths of each person redound to the benefit of the other, to make an unstoppable force for God's glory and a witness to his love!

As the rain went on, so did our day. Heidi went out to pick up an ice cream cake for the fundraiser and I left to buy honey for my project, "Craisin" granola. It's a housewarming gift for Kriss and Marisela when we go to Long Beach tomorrow to help them with their move to their first home, a one-bedroom apartment downtown near Alamitos Blvd. It's a dream realized after 5 months of paying off bills and saving so they could move out of her parents' house. Once again, I have to accept the fact that Kriss has a new hometown, Long Beach, the urban setting he's adapted to and thrived in since 2001 when he began attending CSULB. A mother's prayers are yet to be answered in some areas, but I am so proud of these two and excited for this new chapter of their lives!

As the granola was just about ready to go into the oven, Pavel arrived with a ginormous framed birthday card made of photos of all of us friends and family, posed in a rebus-style puzzle to spell out, "Happy Birthday, Heidi, we love you!" Truly ingenious and Heidi loved it!

My five children are scattered all over California this rainy afternoon, but they have never left this one place--my heart!!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Small group

2:55 p.m. Today's project is to have the house ready and welcome Heidi's friend Charise and Heidi's boyfriend Pavel, for her birthday. They will meeting another U of Redlands friend, Phil, at "The Counter," which serves the best burgers in L.A., apparently. I have wrapped and decorated one of her gifts, a silver bracelet made of hearts with the I Corinthians 13 qualities of love carved into them. I'm holding off her other gift until Monday at dinner, when Heather and her husband Nick can join us.

Last night, Steve and I attended a sweet, small Married Couples' group, originating from Harvest. Our hosts are Jeff and Monica Tomchek, a couple we met at a home Bible study when we were all young marrieds. The leader asked us all some bio information and a "fun fact," which all of us enjoyed. I was particularly blessed to hear Steve not only give his personal stats, but fluidly recount his go cart accident from the '70s! I spoke next, and felt compelled to share our situation concerning his Alzheimers. The new couple were surprised, and I could tell Jeff and Monica had noticed a difference just since spring when we did the last couples' study.

It may seem superfluous to bring up Steve's disease, but the whole point of small groups is to be open and transparent. The power of the small group is the closeness and confidentiality that forms, the "group cohesion" the military prizes. I like to think of a group's "culture," or "personality," probably a throwback to my teaching days, when each of my classes, whether kinders or sixth graders, were always "The Kruckenberg Kids." I actually had one of my students, worried about a kid who just would not mind or cooperate, say to me quietly, "he just doesn't fit in with us." Of course, within a couple of weeks, he did fit in with us!

With the house church model of the Book of Acts to emulate, Christians have a wonderful guide: "Continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their bread with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all of the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved." (Acts 2:46-47) Above all, we are to emulate Jesus Christ in our relationships with others, our dedication to all aspects of their well being, and our personal commitment to each members' growth in the Lord.

I John 4:17 challenges us: "As He is, so are we in this world." No one can love like Jesus, but we can allow the Holy Spirit to inspire and lead us to say the right word, come alongside to help, and always, always, to pray!

This morning, Steve opened the study workbook and took almost an hour to write his first answer, and was visibly upset. (This after the regular hour of devotions he has daily!) Since the instructions were that each one of us was to write our own answers, and Steve now has trouble with the physical act of writing, our return to the group was not looking too likely. No way am I going to force an activity, no matter how spiritual, on my husband whose life has already been devastated by the depressing feelings of inferiority that come with his inability to hold a job, due to early dementia! He's come way too far to endure a setback like that. [And we attend men and women's Bible studies and a home fellowship group already].

As my hairdresser was blowdrying my hair, Monica, called to let me know that a handmade housewarming card she made for me was done, and I mentioned that I was just about to call them myself! When I told her of Steve's difficulty, she said so sweetly, not to worry, that we could do our lessons together, with him dictating what I would write. But that would cause us lots of extra hours of work, on top of the women's study workbook I begin on March 1st, so it was decided that we can mutually get our answers, and I'll write them down.

Monica then called back, during my flat-ironing phase, and mentioned that Jeff was going to tell the young couple with the newborn son the same thing, to do their lessons together, because we don't want them to get discouraged either. Also, if Steve didn't fell comfortable reading aloud, that's okay, too, because neither does she! That's what I call "coming alongside " your group members! I would say the we can expect to be part of a loving, accepting small group with a compassionate home pastor.

And the Lord would have nothing less!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

What to do on a sunny day?

3:37 p.m. Today's project was to take our Jeep in for its scheduled quarterly oil change, tune-up and tire rotation. With only two and one half hours to get both of us out of the door, I felt compelled to stay on task, as it were, no extra "side activities" or mental rabbit trails that pretty much characterize my morning devotions! "You will keep him [or her] in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You," Isaiah 26:3 promises. So stay, mind, stay!
I am currently reading in Jeremiah 31, with full and extensive notes in the New Living Translation. At this point in the narrative, the nation of Israel has been taken away to Babylon in captivity, and God is revealing through Jeremiah the full future restoration of the people to Himself, and their land, by "the LORD of Heaven's Armies," (v.35) whom we know to be Jesus Christ.
The Lord's plan of redemption and forgiveness is described in verse 33: "For this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day," says the LORD. I will put My instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people." The people had suffered grievously for their sins, because, though He loves with an everlasting love, and draws us with His kindness, God is a God of justice and righteousness. He will neither let sin go or gloss it over! (Or He wouldn't be God!!)
Normally after my scripture reading, I post a portion of the Psalms on Facebook and then I journal, followed by physical out-loud prayer; but today, grieving for the condition of our nation, I went on to write in my journal first. I prayed for truth to reign supreme, for the enemy of our souls to be bound and no longer have power over any of us!
When I went to my Facebook home page, I posted Psalm 51:16-17: "You do not desire sacrifice or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart--these, O God, You will not despise." How well these words fit in with Jeremiah's words to Israel! Outward rituals did them no good, and they even failed to follow through on those! Only a true heart commitment to God will do--true repentance. As always, I marvel at how verses that just come up in order in my reading, and then on the daily portion I post--are definitely not random to the Holy Spirit!!
As I was writing the scripture reference, up popped on the chat screen a message from an old friend asking if I had time to chat about some things she was hurting over and confused by. Since this was obviously led by the Holy Spirit, of course I took the time, not even thinking of my schedule. We had a long and blessed conversation and both of us moms of young adults were encouraged by the promises in God's Word and the need for faithfulness in prayer.
Steve and I were actually 15 minutes late to Moss Motors, and found out that our name wasn't even on the appointment book! But they were ready for us. Their van dropped us off at a nearby shopping center, where we walked around in the welcome sun and got Steve's hair cut. It was a joy to later drive off in a reliable, well cared-for vehicle. I love the efficient, productive use of time!! [I'm a tad task-oriented!!]
Back at home, however, I still wanted to be outside, so we gardened-- watering, repairing irrigation rows, and picking salad greens to bless the host couple at our marriage Bible study that starts tonight.
As we appreciate the bright, warm day today, remember Jeremiah 31:35: "It is the LORD who provides the sun to light the day, and the moon and stars to light the night..."

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

See it His way

3:12 p.m. Today's project was to join my sisters in the Lord for a heartfelt, hilarious and raucus housewarming party for our friend Pat in her lovely mobile home. She was moved to tears, so blessed! As a"sweetener" from the Lord, I was forced to walk about a quarter mile from the visitor lot to her space!! (So no need to go out in the cold with Steve and the dogs right now!)

A few minutes before I arrived, I took a few minutes to talk to my son Kriss outside of a Hallmark store so isolated that I felt a wave of pity and bought my gift bag there instead of at the Super Target at the far end of the parking lot. "I'm in between a planning meeting at church," adding, tongue -in-cheek, "and with my sorry life as a retiree, I'm now off to a party!!" [This was at 11:00 a.m.!] God is good, and this part of life is a reward for the hard years of work and childrearing. I enjoy looking back, but I enjoy looking forward much more, because God is the One who has my life all laid out, and He does not mess up or mess around!
A few weeks ago I had a shocking and discouraging disappointment that caused me to seek counsel from wise sisters and then, with much prayer, came acceptance and the will to go forward. But it was the Lord Jesus Christ Himself Who came alongside me.
The first night after I got the news was not even sleepless, mercifully, but restful. The second night, the Lord gave me a dream; actually, I would characterize it as a vision, and I am not one to experience such things, other than in the broad meaning of "having a vision for" a work or a ministry, that kind of thing. But as I shared from Acts 2:27-29 and Joel 2:28-29 a few days ago about Steven, I believe God still speaks in visions and dreams today.
In the dream, I was hosting a large wooden booth in a kind of downtown fair in Riverside, with an assortment of knick-knacks to sell. At one point, all of us vendors took a walk to see a new park that was opening, strolling down Mission Inn Ave. For the quick walk, the only thing I took was my cell phone. It started to drizzle, so I turned back, thinking about my purse that I'd left in the booth.
When I returned, my purse was gone, and not only that, but the shelves of the booth had been swept clean!! In my horror and disappointment, the Lord's voice came to me so clearly, "MY DAUGHTER, I HAVE SOMETHING SO MUCH BETTER FOR YOU!"
Upon waking, the vividness of the dream and the Lord's voice reassured me, allowed me to fully accept the new paradigm, and to go forward joyfully. I don't know what the "better" thing is, but God does. I'm ready to trade in trinkets for diamonds, while appreciating what He gives me today and grateful for every moment I'm breathing and moving.
Jesus is the Gift--His work is His glory!!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Today's Deal

1:45 p.m. Today's project was to pick up my contact lenses from Dr. Pabalan's office on Brockton Ave. in Riverside and deliver some eye makeup to my friend, optician Sherry. As is often the case in my life, other tasks in that part of town (Magnolia Center) needed to be accomplished.

I had heard from my friend Joanna Snow, co-developer with Jennifer Gutierrez of the "Titus 2 Mamas" coupon, freebies and deals website, that Jack in the Box is offering a free grilled sandwich with the purchase of a large drink just for today. With fast food becoming a rare treat, this freebie was a no-brainer! At 11:00, however, this was the question: do I go by Sherry's at 14th and Brockton first, and then swing by to get the sandwiches for Steve and Heidi and me, so they would be hot when I got home; or, utilize my always -in-the-car insulator bag to keep the stuff warm, and Steve's lunchbox to store the two giant drinks that I had to buy to get the sandwiches, and get the food before the lunch rush at 12:00?
Beating the lunch rush came out the winner, so I breezed right through the drive-through on Central, packed up the sandwiches and steadied the drinks. Then I drove over to buy a new black printer cartridge at Staples on Merrill. The store was empty at the moment, so I was checking out within 2 minutes! Naturally, I had a cartridge to recycle, on top of my teacher discount. I have honestly told them that I retired, but they said they'd keep on sending my discounts-- PTL!--I saved about $7.00 on a $19.00 cartridge.
I love being retired!! Proverbs 16:31 says, "The silver-haired head is a crown of glory if it is found in the way of righteousness." Even though mine and many of my contemporaries' "silver hairs" remain brown, black, red and blonde these days, we are definitely enjoying the advantages of aging. One of the great perks is doing errands during the work day in light traffic, and waitng in very short lines in stores, drive-throughs, and banks! (And Disneyland, relatively speaking).
Finally arrriving at the optometrist's parking lot, I found a space right in front. There I had a planning conversation with Marianne from church about publicity for the Heart to Home ministry, and our meeting is set for Wednesday. But, lest it seem that tomorrow is reserved for serious matters, I'll head from the church office to my fellow retiree Pat's housewarming party!! That will be a gracious gathering of Christian sisters, games and lunch.
Once in her office, Sherri got my lenses and we began to discuss the recent spate of early deaths (55 and under) of men in our church, and the strong exhortation Pastor Tim gave to the men on the worship team recently. "Go to the doctor! Don't make excuses," he had warned. "And cut back on your food; eat more vegetables and fruit!" True, so true."There is nothing new about what Tim said--far from it!" I said, "but I think that, seeing how the fresh salad I served at Home Fellowship was devoured on Sunday, people want to eat better, but can't figure out how, won't take the time or think it's too expensive!" Personally, I intend to follow up with walking at least part of the way with Steve and our dogs every day. [Ironically, the fast food was still nice and warm in my car during this conversation!]
Still feeling pretty jolly about accomplishing so much on my circular trip, I pulled out onto 14th street from Brockton to head up home. Now it was 12:30, so I did expect some lunchtime traffic. However, each of the 5 or 6 traffic lights took 2-3 cycles to get through; ridiculous, I thought. As I inched up past the old Press-Enterprise office, I saw the problem: everyone and their brother was pulling into the Jack in the Box parking lot at 14th and Olivewood for the same deal I was carrying home!! Sheesh, a full-on traffic jam!! I guess fast food is a wonderful treat for everyone else too, in these lean financial times, just like for us. And FREE is hard to pass up!
Finally seated with Steve and Heidi at the kitchen table, we enjoyed the fairly warm sandwiches, and thanked the Lord for His provision--and for the Titus 2 Mamas with their sharp eyes and sharing hearts!!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Surviving through the night

5:04 p.m. Today's project was to spend a nice day with Steve after a hectic week. We had wonderful fellowship and good company (Pastor Paul and our son Sean, on Tuesday and Wednesday; Disneyland on Thursday; the brother from Therma-Cool, doing A/C repair, and Henry Ortega our computer tech on Friday; Paul and Pavel on Sunday midday; then Home Fellowship Sunday evening!) Add the emergency back problem that overcame Heidi yesterday, and this was a day to go back to bed until 7:45, after I checked on her at 7. Praise the Lord she was able to go to work today!

At lunchtime we had run out of lettuce for Steve's sandwich and my salad, since every bit of the last-picked batch of our garden's bounty was gobbled up at Home Fellowship last night. Once I had my variegated handful of leaves, I remembered the oddball plant that had sprung up out of an avocado seed buried within the compost we had spread onto the expansion rows on the far end of the garden. The find was unbelieveable, because a non-avocado was sprouting OUT of THE SEED, apparently taking nutrients from its rich contents!!
After three decades of growing avocado plants for household adornment (one of my many hobbies) I am very aware of the appearance of their leaves at every stage. As you can see from the photo, this looks more like a mint plant, or spinach. With that in mind, I tore off a piece of a leaf and smelled it--more like green beans, but inconclusive. Now, at an advanced stage, I saw the tubers that are definitely common to avocados as they root in soil. Maybe there will be a mystery plant and an avocado tree in our garden! (Although that's the new Roma tomato section!) I plan to have "botanist" Pavel take a look at it soon--just hearing about it a few weeks ago got his attention. This mystery plant is a real survivor!
The main project for the afternoon was to take Steve to his neurologist to get the results of the home sleep study he undertook last Monday night. The doctor took my breath away! Dr. Rai said, "You do have sleep apnea, and I'm surprised that it is not as mild as I had predicted. It seems that you stopped breathing 23 times--once every 3 minutes." "What?!" I cried out. "So what I thought I observed groggily during the night was actually happening, and then I'd elbow Steve to get him to start up breathing again." And now I feel guilty about the times I'd not really been awake, and would fall back asleep when the snoring stopped! Steve is alive today, all because we have a God Who "neither slumbers nor sleeps!" (Psalm 121:4)
The next step is for Steve to spend the night at the neurologist's sleep lab, from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. next Tuesday night. The reason is to discern the exact level of air pressure he'll need for his new "bi-pap" machine. I expressed concern about the noise, but Dr. Rai said the new machines are definitely quieter than the snoring, a soft, rhythmic sound of air flowing in and out of the lungs. On the other hand, what choice do we have? Seems like a matter of survival for my husband...I'll get used to any noise that arises from a lifesaving machine!!
God has created a powerful drive for survival, the way that we humans work for our daily needs, including the way we wives are "helpmeets" (KJV) for our husbands. Genesis 2:18-25 commands me to fulfill that role for Steve with love, energy, compassion and identification with every one of his joys, needs and ambitions. "In sickness and in health," we both vowed, and Steve has seen me through cancer and menopause, too, with nary a complaint! Getting used to a new sleep routine seems a pretty minor sacrifice...
Humorously, I have to ponder that other survivor, the mystery plant in our garden, refusing to just wither and die, getting sustenance from the nearest available source! Much is quietly going on in God's creation while we sleep. Last night at Home Fellowship we studied this passage, Mark 4:26-27, where Jesus said, "The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how." Amen to that, from someone who loves to grow plants of all kinds!
I have no idea what the Holy Spirit is doing in the background of His children's lives; I'm just grateful that He does it!!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Just do it!

2:39 p.m. Today's project was to wake up with all the energy needed to prepare refried beans, salad from our garden and dessert for this evening's Home Fellowship, "stirred up [to] love and and good works" (Hebrews 10:24) by a great morning at church. I always know we'll have an excellent verse-by-verse teaching message from Pastor John; outstanding worship by Mark Murdaugh and his team; and I was also expecting our friend, Pastor Paul Havsgaard, to meet us for second service. Glorious!!

We did have a wonderful service, topped off by bringing Paul over to visit with John and Robin. But the smoothness of the morning was dissrupted early in the day. I had had very broken sleep, thanks to Steve's tossing and turning, a more frequent occurence with his Alzheimers now. So you could say I woke up a bit crabby! The welcoming sound of perking coffee gave me a smile, and I emptied the dishwasher with aromatic anticipation. And once I got moving, the arthritis in my lift hip eased, and I then looked forward eagerly to my time with the Lord. In addition to setting out Steve's Bible to the correct page, with his meds, banana and water, today I needed to get the large cans of Rosarita refries and Bush's black beans stirred together in the crockpot to simmer until 5:00. Steve began his devotions and we were soon into our 7-day-a-week routine.

I heard Heidi get up about an hour later, as she usually does on Sunday, take her shower, and I went upstairs to take something, or get something, or take my shower; at my age the memory slips a bit! There she was standing in the doorway of her bedroom, wrapped in her towel, crying really badly, sobbing! Her lower back was in hideous pain, and she hadn't hurt herself that she knew of. I was a bit shaken, knowing that the pain had to be fierce for her to break down, laid hands on and prayed while I embraced her. My morning had come to a halt!

I ran downstairs to get her some Advil and water, and toasted her a bagel with margarine so she wouldn't be taking meds on an empty stomach. She managed to dress herself and get back to bed, and Pavel came over later to pick up her Sunday School lesson for her sub Jordan to teach 3rd service. We got her as comfortable as possible, and the three of us went to church. Afterwards, before I left the parking lot, I called to see how she was doing, and Heidi said she wasn't sure Jordan had gotten her text. So I re-parked, got out, and went to find the 3rd service children's church leader Sarah Underwood, to notify her; then ran up to "the hill" where Heidi's 5/6 classroom is. Praise the Lord, there was Jordan going over the notes, and Pavel waiting to make sure there weren't too many students for one teacher to manage. All was in good order, I later let Sarah and Heidi know. Back at home, Steve and I hustled around "spot cleaning" the floor for company, and picked up all the piles of tax prep paperwork!

We had invited Paul to stop by the house after church and visit with Pavel, whose own parents came here separately from Romania, the country where the Ark International orphanage was founded for the rescue and salvation of street children. Paul gave us a lovely album of the ministry that I plan to share that with our Home Fellowship tonight. He and Pavel had a good visit as Steve and I listened and contributed, in between washing off fresh picked lettuce and making my salad for tonight. Heidi's back isn't much better, but at least Pavel brought her lunch from Chipotle, her favorite restaurant.
Yes, God disrupts or delays our plans momentarily, or even permanently, but always for a better blessing or more excellent opportunity to serve one another! Oddly, I had been praying for Heidi and me to become closer, and it took this back incident to show me that we are close, and that she can cry in my arms about any number of important things (and also share the victories and longings) and because she knows that my prayers will always be at the ready!
Motherhood is a very special, priceless calling. We are truly God's hands and feet to our own children, and often to other children as well, without hesitating one bit! As any mom would, I drop everything to help my beloved sons and daughters in any way possible, impossible, or improbable. [An example of the "improbable" would be my painting body dye onto Steven's back and neck for his bodybuilding competitions, with him dressed only in a Speedo! TMI! TMI!]
Women in our culture are so frantic to avoid aging, and as a disclaimer, I use and sell skincare products myself!! But if we truly want to be timeless in our face and form, we need to be "about our Father's business," as Jesus was on this earth: praying, witnessing, helping, comforting, healing, ministering and feeding others out of whatever talents and substance God has given us to work with. Try applying "youthful" energy tempered with "mature" judgment to your family and to the Body of Christ, and then stand back and watch what happens!
II Timothy 4:2 says, "Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching." This description of pastoral duties fits a mother's role quite well, doesn't it?
And the time you apply to learning the scriptures thoroughly yourself so you might encourage others will give you "the face of an angel" to those fortunate enough to be in your life!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A huge bright spot in a dreary day

6:54 p.m. Today's project was to gather a myriad of papers and slips together to sort and record for our 2009 taxes. I had put it off for as long as possible because this is the first year I'll be doing the entire task myself. Those pre-appointment packets were Steve's specialty--I would just help him gather the documents, he'd fill out the pages, and I could go on with my Saturday chores. Oh, well, I just needed to block out the entire day.

We had a very bright spot of Spirit-filled sunshine in the house overnight, namely, Baby Steven home from Fresno. Thanks to his having a diet coach in Hemet, he comes home every two weeks to get checked by this Christian professional and to have his pre-competition diet adjusted. Steven's bodybuilding competition is in April, so he's in the slim-down period after bulking up to 260 lbs at 5'11. HEFTY! The diagnosis: fewer carbs now, and only on alternating days, for the final 20 pound loss. A win in the competition will secure lots of magazine spreads by his sponsor MuscleTech, so every bite he eats from here on out is critical. Steven certainly knows what it means to "count the cost!" (Luke 14:28)

What made his visit exciting was his recounting to Steve and me all that the Lord is doing in his life! Street evangelism to the homeless, witnessing at work, bring friends to rededicate their lives, utterly on fire! As head track coach for Fresno Christian High School, he has to give a short devotional every day before practice, and the examples he gave me were right-on! (I really liked the references he gave about his childhood, especially his mom's influence, haha! All that yakking, needling and lecturing were not in vain, apparently!) The People's Church high school group helps lead includes troubled youth bused in from a group home; they are seeing a gradual breakdown of defenses and the beginning of hope in those boys' hearts. Steven had a rather terrifying vision of the sin in this world from the Lord on Tuesday night, and has had a hard time getting to sleep since. But a wise pastor assured him that he needs to study the Word as much as possible and get prepared for the work God will be calling him to do, and they will be sitting down together soon!

Yes, God still speaks to his people in visions and dreams, according to Acts 2:17, where the Apostle Peter quotes Joel 2:28: "And it will come to pass afterward [after the restoration of His people Israel] that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions."

A funny question was asked of us by our family doctor, Richard Guzman, a couple of weeks ago, when in answer to his question of "Where's Steven lately?" we mentioned some of Steven's work up in Fresno at church and the Christian University he's attending. He said, "do you think he's going to be a minister?" We didn't know how to answer that, because I don't even know if our doctor is a believer, but God can speak a prophetic word through anyone He chooses... amen?

Now you see why it was just so great to have Steven here overnight. After getting up at 5 a.m. for two hours of cardio and black coffee, he joined a very late breakfast with Steve and Heidi and me-- loud, boisterous and "full of beans" as usual (only make that tuna, eggs and chicken breast!)

Off he went back home--admittedly it's sad for his mom that Fresno is his home now. Fresno is the place God is using him! And who am I to fight against God??!But how can I be sad, really, when Steven is following the Lord and being led by the Spirit? How else could he actually survive far from home on three poorly paid jobs?

Steven's determination to serve, sacrifice, and achieve his goals is an inspiration to me--I better get to work now!!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Fix it day

2:24 p.m. Today's project was to admit one air conditioning/heating technician to our garage to get rid of the obnoxious rattling sound that has kept us from turning on the heat in the house for a week. Steve and I got up extra early because the tech was due at 7:30 this morning.

After a "mental health day" at Disneyland yesterday, it was time to get back to business, the business of keeping home essentials working. One other issue I'd avoided for three days was the virus that seemed to be taking over our main desktop computer. After my bank had to block my Visa card due to bogus-looking charges from a strange "security tool" company, I had to take action.
I arranged for a young man from our church, Henry, to come over after 12 p.m., the same time that the technician was due to return with a new blower for the A/C unit. That gave me time to get home from a successful and lucrative facial with the owner of a nail salon.
Steve and I had a pleasant surprise when the technician asked us where we go to church. Turns out he got saved at Harvest in 1991, and helps out at the crusades every summer with the t-shirt sales that help fund the events all over the country. So, even though nobody relishes spending money for repairs, God "sweetened" the episode by sending us a believer!! And while he was here, I asked him to program the thermostat, something Steve used to do, and which I had attempted, pretty poorly.
I know that my hassles and inconveniences that are due to Steve's inability to reason or remember tasks that were once simple for him to do or figure out can be overwhelming, when you add paying all of the bills, getting tax documentation ready--I promise, this weekend--and managing all kinds of disability paperwork, doctors and medication, and keeping up with our finances and Steven's college issues. And of course it is my joy and privilege to be available for my children's multifaceted needs. Fun or frustrating, it all takes time!
When I am tenpted to feel disgruntled, I remember that I Corinthians 10:13 assures me (NLT), "The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, He will show you the way out so you can endure."
Praying for others in much more dire situations, such as my brother-in-law whose Alzheimers is now affecting his ability to know how to get up out of a chair and walk, is a way I can bless the Lord and show my gratitude for the life He has given Steve and me--today, not tomorrow or next year ! For every problem I face, God has any number of blessings--like fellowship with two Christian technicians today, and praise reports of ministry anointing from our son just arrived safely from Fresno.
We can't outgive God--in any respect, way, manner, or means!! HE IS FAITHFUL!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Nobody's perfect

8:42 p.m. Today's project was to enjoy a beautiful day with Steve at Disneyland. After dropping off our grandsons' Bibles at Berean Christian Store to have their names engraved on the covers, we eased on down the 91/57 and arrived at noon.
First stop was the picnic area, where we ate our pack lunches, including fresh lettuce from our garden, a whole wheat bun, turkey and cheese sandwich for Steve, chunk chicken salad with ranch for me. With a little forethought and creativity, you can make a fresh, all-natural, wholesome meal for two for the price of buying a snack for one at Disneyland! I felt like the Proverbs 31 woman rising in the dark to provide food for her household--grateful to God for both His vision and provision, and satisfied with my work!
Our first ride was "Star Tours," Steve's favorite. We realized that we hadn't visited Fantasyland yet, so off we went to Sleeping Beauty's Castle, Pinocchio's wild ride, the Teacups, and the Alice in Wonderland ride. As you can imagine, we had stepped into a world of strollers, strollers, and more strollers. But the kids were all cute, and I especially noted the grandparents taking their little ones by the hand--sheer bliss and a pleasure I look forward to one of these years. "Children's children are the crown of old men," Proverbs 17:6 says, and now that Sean's sons Adrian and Xavier are young men, it's time for some tots! (After all, I have four more children, two already married! Can a girl hope, I ask you?)
Steve and I then took a leisurely canoe ride through a miniature world based on the popular Disney movies, especially "Aladdin." Next we headed to a section a forty minute line that wasn't boring at all, because every square inch of the cavern we progressed through was covered with "Old Hollywood" backstage memorabilia. Plus, the air conditioning felt good!
Finally we arrived in view of riders going around, and then to the boarding deck .Suddenly, a person ahead of us said, "Seems awful quiet out here," and the ultimate letdown came: the ride had broken down!! An apologetic announcement was made that they would have it all fixed in 25-30 minutes, and we all sighed, except one lady who demanded to know if she's get a free "Fast Pass" to come back later, since she'd already been in line for 1/2 hour by that point. (Hadn't we all?) The attendant told us that we could choose to wait or come back later; he had no special consolation passes to hand out. Tons of people left, and since most of them had little kids, I can understand it. Steve and I stayed, fascinated by the mechanical goings-on. Plus, we had nothing else planned, and it gave me time to post TOON TOWN BREAKDOWN on Facebook, complete with picture.
I was shocked and surprised at seeing something break down at Disneyland, the Perfect Place, a place I have been vistiing since it opened in 1955! What was going on? Unheard of, in my experience. At the age of 58, iI'm realistic; itt's not like my illusions were shattered. Or were they?
We know that all of men's righteous acts are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6) if not done to honor the Lord in HIS way, and that all of man's magnificent works, buildings and artistry will one day be destroyed, along with the earth( Revelation Chapter 8). And there will be a new heaven and earth in which righteousness dwells (Revelation 21). And unlike Disney, which operates its "magic kingdom" at a very professional level in this world, no provision or plan of God will ever fail!
Our patience was rewarded when the ride was re-started. exactly 30 minutes later. We enjoyed the silly sights and sounds and each other's company. As much as we enjoyed today's escape from the daily routine, we Christians know the best is yet to come! Steve and I will enjoy each other's company in Heaven forever, in the City where Christ Himself is the light!!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Lunch with a heart

5:09 p.m. Today's project was to welcome former associate pastor at Harvest Christian Fellowship and senior pastor of Calvary Chapel High Desert, founder of Ark International, and director of the orphanage he founded in Romania: Paul Havsgaard.

That's a long introduction for a man whose heart is just focused on loving kids in the Name of Jesus. He began visiting Bucharest and ministering to street kids a few times a year, and then he and wife Kathy moved there, where they founded an orphanage, rescuing street kids from sewers and street corners, doorways and park benches. Most of the kids earn their subsistence living by begging, reasoning, "if I don't bring home enough money each night to my parents, I get beaten; so I'll just go out on my own!" He has also had opportunity to minister to those considered the lowest of society, the gypsies. In the 12 years the home has been established, he has built such a solid reputation that police officers bring children to him, and social workers are part of his staff! Paul serves a mighty God!!
I would ask that we pray for this servant of the Lord, because he badly tore his knee in a fall, and is here in the States for treatment and therapy. And I am sure all of his grandkids are delighted to have him here in Riverside as well.
As Steve and I heard story after story of God's faithful provision, whether food, supplies or a signature on mandatory paperwork, it is clear that this is a man who chooses prayerful obedience and listens to the voice of the Holy Spirit. One time, the foundation was able to give a place to sleep for the night to a traveler, a total stranger passing through. When Paul mentioned that they were praying for help with a bureaucratic roadblock, the lady said, "That's the division where I work!!" Their paperwork went through in 20 minutes, glory to God! It reminded me of Hebrews 13:2, "Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing, some have unwittingly entertained angels." I look forward to receiving some pictures from one of the albums of the kids, some of whom are grown now, doing active missions work on the streets of their own city!
After so many instances of being used by the Lord, Paul simply told us, "One day I am going to have to write a book about all I have learned from the street kids." That will be a memoir worth reading, with a message of salvation for all who trust in Christ!
II Chronicles 16:9 states, "The eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him."
God has indeed shown Himself strong in Paul Havsgaard's behalf!
Please look up Ark International online and prayerfully consider making a donation!!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sean, yesterday and today

2:55 p.m. Today's project was to have our new microwave oven installed by Steve and our oldest son Sean. It's been operating nicely on the kitchen counter for about three weeks, awaiting a convenient time for Sean to come over. Steve had begun the project the afternoon we bought the microwave, but lost track of the way to remove the old one from its spot above the stove. So we called our most mechanically inclined child.

Steve adopted Sean, my son from my first marriage, as soon as the State law allowed for it. We had to be married for one year before the home inspection visit could be scheduled. I remember the social worker's visit as clearly as if it had been yesterday. We were in our first house in the La Sierra area of Riverside at the time. Steve and I, and the boys (Sean, 7 and Kriss, 1) tolerated her chain smoking, the three of us answered questions, and the stability of our home was approved. Then notices of the pending adoption had to run in the newspapers in both San Bernardino and Riverside counties after our marriage so that Sean's biological father could respond if he chose to.

We had been blessed by our friend from Calvary Chapel Riverside, Corona attorney Kurt Seidler, who agreed to handle the adoption at no charge. Cindy Seidler is still a friend, our daughters having grown up together at the home Bible study I taught in that house for 6 years.
The legal procedures went smoothly, with no problems at all, and we celebrated on February 21, 1984, five days before Heidi's birth!
I guess I'm inclined to ruminate on memories about Sean, because, of all of my children, Sean is the only one with Steve's excellent mechanical abilities, a case of "nurture trumping nature." . The two of them spent hours, most evenings after dinner, with Steve fixing our cars, appliances, anything and everything, Sean observing and then trying anything he was able to do. Eventually, Sean was changing the oil and doing repairs on his own vehicles and all kinds of handyman work.
A veteran, Sean also had his own armed security business in San Diego years ago, and runs an auto mechanic business these days.
Steve and I were cub scout leaders at Harvest when Sean was involved. With Steve's expert guidance, Sean's Pinewood Derby cars were winners, as would be the case later when Kriss became old enough to participate. The resemblance stops there, however! While Kriss is able to do some basic car maintenance, he never was one to get that grease under his fingernails! He is definitely the musical and artistic type, with strengths in written and verbal communication, and applies those skills to business management. Heidi has good automotive instincts and she does share her dad's love of cars, but applies her logical mind and eye for detail to her teaching profession. Heather is a creative and social being, which serves her well in her vocation as a political liaison and her avocation of photography. Baby Steven? A pure athlete, totally physical, possessing people and street smarts--an evangelist, healer and youth minister. Ever seen a 9 month old baby go up and down stairs independently? I wouldn't have believed it either till Steven came along!!
Our God Almighty really shook up the ability genes when He gave us our five children! Proverbs 22:6 says, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it." This verse has been explained to mean that we parents are to train up EACH child in the way that child should go. In other words, don't put Kriss under a car or make Sean run a clothing store!! If Heidi had to gladhand the public, or Heather was trapped in a room with 10 year olds, I think you'd hear some screaming. And Steven? Don't make him sit down for long anywhere!!
What I am still learning from my children is that God is not limited in any way--not by birthplace, genes, birth order, or ethnicity. He takes the elements He designed for us to physically, socially, or culturally inherit, and works them for each person's good, in whatever way they will be most useful to His kingdom! Those who had a tough, deprived childhood end up with a glorious testimony of God's mercy and goodness to them throughout their lives. Those who grew up with everything handed to them may need to face tragedy later on...God is sovereign. His ways are unfathomable to us, except when we are privileged to see the effects that redound to His glory and our highest good.
In Isaiah 55:9, God reminds us that "as the heavens are higher than the earth, so My ways are higher than your ways, and My thoughts are higher than your thoughts."
As a mother, I had all kinds of dreams for my children and thought I knew what was best, and so I prayerfully guided them accordingly. But their gifts, talents, and relationships with the Lord are their own, not mine, no matter how well I know them and constantly, fervently pray for them!
Mychildren's stories are not all told yet, any more than mine is!!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Found it!!

3:53 p.m. Today's project was to find Steve's disability check that I lost on Saturday during a moment of frenzied mail sorting.

We had just come home from Lake Havasu that afternoon. Instead of taking all of the mail into the house to go through later, I took the whole pile directly to the dumpster, like always, and held the "keeps" in one hand and the "throws" in the other. I saw the check, and assuming it was in the correct hand, threw out all of the junk mail, took the other pile in, and went about clearing and cleaning out the RV for the next few hours. (And of course I had to load our fireworks pictures onto the computer!)

While the second of two washloads was going, I sat down at the kitchen table and sorted things out, and could not find the check! I went through the paper recycle basket in the kitchen, the one in the garage, and then back out to the blue dumpster!! I tipped it, shuffled the papers around, inspected and re-inspected every unopened business-sized envelope, and then went in to fix Steve some chili and cornbread, aggravated, but not giving up. I prayed and searched again later, with a flashlight, but it was not in the RV, the garage, my purse, the bathroom, or any other place I'd been on our property!

Not a good feeling, losing over $1,000, but the Lord gave me a peace about the situation. "Peace I leave with you," Jesus said in John 14:27a, "My peace I give to you..." The peace I felt was two-fold: either that I would find the check, or, that we could make our monthly bills without it, if it never turned up! The God I serve is so gracious, so loving!
Sunday morning found me still determined to find the check, but more wrapped up in exchanging our Valentines' gifts and cards, and getting to church by 9:45. As the service started, I worshiped as usual, but when collection time came, I was pondering this question: Should I tithe the amount I usually would, trusting that God will help me find the check? Or, on the "flip side of the coin," should a person pay tithes on money they actually don't possess? (This is the problem with an overactive brain--arguing both sides of the question at once!!) I mentally threw up my hands, and not wanting to write out a potentially bouncing check, I focused on Pastor John's excellent message on standing for the Lord based on Daniel Chapter 3, the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego testifying and surviving the fiery furnace.
After church, Steve and I filled up the Jeep's gas tank and went to CVS, and then home, where I went back out to the dumpster in my good clothes and heels, never one to give up or waste time changing clothes in my hot pursuit of that check! Little did I care that the neighbor across the street was out with her daughter selling Girl Scout cookies in full view of the spectacle. Aaargh! Still no check!!!
The afternoon flew by, and soon it was time to change into dressy clothes for the Married Couples' Dinner our church sponsored in Murrieta at the Calvary Chapel Conference Center. Steve and I had a ball with our friends from the Home Fellowship we attend, and a nice evening together at home. Heidi and Pavel were out on Newport Bay on a dinner cruise, lucky ducks! But I wouldn't trade my 28 years of marriage for all the excitement of courting days!! No way.
Today dawned with our good morning devotional routine, my hair appointment and a $97 sale of Mary Kay products to the nail salon owner next door. Then it was time to pick up Steve's Sleep Study equipment at Dr. Rai's office. More on that tomorrow--I am totally untechnical, but I believe Steve will manage to put it on tonight anyway!
Before we left for the doctor's office, we had prepared a large black trash bag to put all of the paper recycle bin's contents in, part of a last-ditch effort to find that check. So I got it all set up, and Steve kindly offered to begin the ultimate search for his check that I lost...
He found the check in perfect condition, and we will get it endorsed and deposited today!! Like the parables of the shepherd looking for the lost sheep and the woman searching for her lost coin (Luke 15:1-10) we weren't about to give up. I've joyfully written out my tithe check and find myself not only grateful, but more trusting.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day 2010

2:20 p.m. Today's project was to exchange cards and gifts with Steve, my dear husband of 28 and 1/2 years. Since it's a Sunday, we had our celebration in two parts: gifts before church and cards after. We had a funny moment, because Steve had accidentally gotten me a musical BIRTHDAY card, very hilarious, but it's put away until August. [He nicely bought me a Valentine's card after church, quite lovely with a beautiful poem in it]

Steve really liked his black Propet walking shoes--comfortable and nice looking. And he had bought me a Borders bookstore gift card worth $25.00. Happily, another "gift" I had ordered came by mail in good time, a nice, light cotton robe to throw on over my nightgown in the mornings. In case you might wonder how Steve could purchase a gift, I gave him some cash, and shopped at Vons while he walked a short distance in the Riverside Plaza to Borders. I am delighted with my giftcard because I am such a reading fanatic! We'll go together and have a nice cool coffee drink one day soon.

Expecting surprises from my steady, industrious husband has not been a very wise thing to do, since he has always been forgetful and needs reminders, probably like many men do. I hear tell of brilliant romantic guys (like my Heidi's Pavel and Heather's Nick, and our sons Sean, Kriss, and Steven) who cook up fabulous plans and the most thoughtful gifts on their own, and am tempted to sigh... but I am genuinely happy for others, because both God and I know the absolutely faithful, devoted husband Steve has been! None better. And he has come up with wonderful clothing and jewelry for me over the years, most recently with a little help from my daughters.
It's odd experiencing the first Valentine's Day not being a teacher! I pass by the rows of card packs, bags of individually wrapped candy treats, and the boxes of little hearts with the sayings on them, and almost reach out to throw them into my cart, before thinking, "I'm retired!" I miss the fun parties, the fancy Valentine card holders I'd have the kids make, and the exchanges, not to mention the teacher gifts. On the upside, I save a bundle every holiday NOT buying all the candy and gifts! Heidi made out pretty well this year with a balloon and some stuffed toys. It certainly does sweeten the elementary teacher's daily stress to feel loved and appreciated!
Our Home Fellowship leader Mark Murdaugh mentioned in an email to all of us, encouraging attendance at the Married Couples' dinner, that he sometimes regrets events that of necessity
exclude some of the sisters and brothers. It's not easy being single on this day, unless you're young; too busy serving the Lord and surviving financially, like our youngest son Steven to even consider a relationship; or have chosen to be a single person for life. I can think of at least two friends who wouldn't have it any other way, because they are living the life God has called them to, and He is meeting their every need.
Come to think of it, God meets my every need, as well! God depicts marriage as a metaphor for the relationship between Christ and His redeemed people; we are His bride. Ephesians 5:25 says, "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her." And when at last believers are ready to be received into the presence of Christ, the Lamb of God, Revelation 19:7-8 exhorts, " 'Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.' And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints."
That's one wedding I will be proud to attend, with everyone from all generations and nations who have professed Christ as Savior! Much as I delight in the intimacy and commitment of my earthly marriage, nothing "this side of heaven" can compare with the marriage supper of the Lamb!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Fire next time

5:14 p.m. Today's project was to come back home from a fun 2- 1/2 day trip with Steve and several couples from church to Lake Havasu in Arizona. We left at 11:00 on Thursday morning, after topping off our propane tank at U-Haul.

Since I drive the RV now, vacations aren't quite as relaxing as they used to be for me or for Steve. He was always so skillful at parking it and doing the technical stuff, and praise God he is still doing a great job on the mechanical end! His poor judgment, fear and confusion make driving out of the question--too dangerous. But I am doing better with each road trip when when it comes to pulling into gas stations, camp sites, and lining up with the hook-ups.
Even though I posted my daily portion of Psalms by texting Facebook, and sent some pictures of fireworks, it certainly felt strange to have no internet connection whatsoever at the La Paz County Park! Since we were with friends, mostly Piecemakers from Calvary Chapel Moreno Valley and their husbands, we had plenty to do and lots of snacks! It's fun to help everybody get their rigs set up, tour inside each one, whether a tent trailer, a Class C (all in one body) like ours, or elaborately outfitted giant 5th wheel trailers, there's plenty to admire. On Friday morning, most of us had arrived, and were sitting in our lawn chairs between the Carbajals and the O'Dells. I felt a bit guilty about not bringing our labs when I saw the three dogs which were there camping with their owners, but our daughters took care of Bailey and Jada's needs while we were gone, and the dogs do come with us when we take our grandsons.
Leaving the portable DVD player behind (by accident) caused Steve to get outside more, and gave me time to read a cute novel about an Ohio Amish girl falling in love with a boy from the "Englischer" community, just lightweight enough for a vacation read. I do enjoy the scriptures sprinkled throughout, as well as the closeknit families portayed. I can identify with the large families, the dedication to their church, and the "traditional values" they practice. Like them, I know that "children are the heritage of the Lord, and the fruit of the womb is His reward."(Psalm 127:3)
Friday, after hastily putting together early dinners, we all piled into vehicles and headed over to Lake Havasu City for the annual fireworks demo put on by the Western Pyrotechnics Association. We got there in plenty of time to get good seats in the stands, stock up on the ubiquitous kettle corn, and settle in for the highly touted display.
I noticed a few differences from similar events you might attend in California. Lots of smoking in public, and the hilarious live narrator/commentators mocked the "only two Democrats" in the crowd! (It's McCain country, after all).Everyone was friendly and took delight in preparing us first timers for the thrill to come. Later, I heard from a couple of our friends that they heard some foul language and rudeness, but that was definitely the minority at this family event.
One very odd sight was a woman followed by a teenage girl I took to be her daughter wearing red, lit-up, flashing "devil horns." Not sure what they were trying to convey--Halloween is a ways away, in case they were confused! I imagine that our group sent up a quick prayer--who knows what was on their minds...
On with the show!! The first sets were warm-ups, but better than any 4th of July I've been to except one in Telluride, Colorado in the '70's. When the real show started, the fiery blasts that simultaneously went off actually knocked us back--cool!!! "Spectacular" wouldn't even describe the displays. Can't think of any adjectives, actually, to describe the brilliant, blazing, musically coordinated effects.
I can only imagine the temperature inside those infernos, and never want to find out, either in this life or the one to come!! I am so glad that Steve and I and our children know the Lord, and pray that we can maintain a good witness, through good times and bad. My hope is that we might, with Christ as our Captain and Lord, "bring many sons to glory" ( Hebrews 2:10) before He returns! Because the Word of God makes it very plain what the fate of unbelivers will be, described in passages like Revelation 20:10-15. No earthquake, no flood.
It's fire next time.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Finishing well

5:51 p.m. Today's project was to take my friend to her last radiation treatment. What a fine day for celebration and a real sense of accomplishment! She has some more steps to accomplish, including starting powerful medication to prevent recurrence, but this was a huge milestone. She was grinning from ear to ear when she showed me her certificate of completion and the beautiful gold pin with the symbol for radiation on it.
We were together from about noon until 3 p.m., and enjoyed a wonderful time of fellowship the whole time. Pam is a published writer, an unspoken goal I have had for many years, but the time, effort and expense of accomplishing that goal have never come together for me so far. The Lord knows what He would have each of us to do, of that we can be assured! "He knows the way that I take..." (Job 23:10). I am so proud of Pam's perseverance--staying up until 3 o'clock this morning working on final changes, for instance! I can't wait to hold her book of stories and poems in my hand.
Meanwhile, another courageous person was working very hard to make plans come to successful fruition. While I was helping Pam, my husband Steve was independently completing the tasks on a sheet of legal paper the two of us had listed together last night, items to be loaded into the RV for our trip to Lake Havasu tomorrow morning. For a person with Alzheimers, this was a huge undertaking, more indication of his growing confidence and abilities that are slowly returning. I checked in with him a couple of times, once to schedule a time for our eldest son to come install our new microwave; and later to let him know when I'd be back.
Steve had stayed on task all afternoon! Heading home at last, I was able to enjoy the cerulean post-rain sky, instead of experiencing anxiety as to whether the RV was in a shambles and seeing myself having to redo everything. Again, the joy of accomplishment!
Being a housewife, I did rearrange a number of items, perfectly normal for me, anyway. The RV was not in chaos, by any means. I was placing items more to my liking, to my preference. I thank Steve for his good job. I don't feel compelled to flatter Steve with false praise; that way, my praise is genuine, meaningful, and TRUE.
God gave me the grace and privilege today of seeing two of His people beat the odds and live to fight on another day against insurmountable odds. Cancer and Alzheinmers are usually death sentences, in all honesty. But the days we all have need to be lived to the fullest, with purpose and determination, asking the Lord to help us "get it right."
Philippians 4:13 is what Pam and Steve demonstrated today: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A peaceful night's sleep

4:17 p.m. Today's project was to take Steve to an appointment with his neurologist Dr. Rai. We were referred by our family practitioner Dr. Guzman after he decided that Steve's nighttime gasping for air, choking, and very loud noisemaking are worthy of a sleep study, which Dr. Rai performs in his practice. We all decided that the sinus blockage which has caused snoring and loud breathing will need to be dealt with surgically later on. Because the potential for sleep apnea is more pressing, it was determined to prioritize the sleep study. The thought of Steve using a noisy C-Pap machine is pretty awful, so I pray that other answers and solutions can be found.
I'm glad to see that Dr. Rai and I are getting along better these days!! Last summer, he had me in tears, by flatly refusing to fill out paperwork for Social Security on Steve's condition, and then stomped out when I continued to demand some answers and guidance for Steve's deterioration. He and Dr. Guzman must have had a collegial "chat" because he was still supercilious the last time we met to review medication, but he was more willing to listen and let me finish a sentence. For my part, I was also quite chipper, because Steve qualified for Social Security without the neurologist's help. My God doesn't need anyone's permission or cooperation to do a work that benefits one of His children!! Ecclesiastes 5:2 is a good word for all of us: "Do not be rash with your mouth, and let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven and you on earth; therefore let your words be few." ( That means you, Dana! )
It's not the quantity of words that can get us in trouble, although the more we rattle on, the higher the probability of saying something offensive or breaking a confidence grows. I would say that the quality of our words and the spirit in which they are said, are what the Holy Spirit longs to help us control! That's why we pray, and should definitely make early morning communication with our Father top priority. Psalm 63:1 says, "O God, Thou art my God, early will I seek Thee." I love the old King James version for that verse!
But Hebrews 4:16 urges us to take advantage of the Lord's willing ear and strong, rescuing, willing arm for our own good. "Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."
Don't know about you, but I need help every minute to speak, act and live in a godly manner. I'm making up for my confrontation with Dr. Rai by being more respectful, and a better witness for Christ. We all have people in our families, workplaces, church circles, and neighborhoods that could use a lot sweeter "you" or "me" in their lives. Let's humble ourselves and follow the leading of the Spirit.
The doctor appointment today should eventually lead to a better night's sleep, but speaking with a Spirit-controlled tongue will allow me the wonderful night's sleep that only a clear conscience affords!

Monday, February 8, 2010

What plans?

5:16 p.m. Today's project was to sleep in until 8 a.m. after a very late night cleaning up the kitchen after our Super Bowl party. After devotions and breakfast, Steve and I would be going to the Jurupa district office to pay our health insurance bill, tool on down the 15 south to deliver some Mary Kay products to my friend Michelle and a friend of hers in Corona, and then go to Disneyland.
By late morning, after completing 3 minor errands, items on my itinerary had to be rearranged, and then eliminated. I needed to pull college son Steven's bacon out of the fire by putting a deposit into his Altura account (a loan, not a gift!); Michelle called at 12:30 to say that she had been in a DMV office in Orange County since 8 a.m. and did not expect to even have her named called for another hour, and then she'd let me know when she was headed back. [I've been hearing from friends that all of the DMV offices have been complete mayhem with only one Friday open each month due to furlough days]. As for Disneyland, it finally clicked that teacher daughter Heidi was off of school for a holiday regular people don't get, Lincoln's Birthday. So, figuring the Jurupa business office might be closed, the health insurance check got mailed, and forget Disneyland! No way were Steve and I going to stand in long lines on a school holiday. Are we spoiled or just sensible? And honestly, with a camping trip to Havasu planned for Thursday through Saturday, the afternoon had to be used to get the RV filled up with gas and propane.
Since I was down on Central Avenue already, I went over to Von's for a few things, and as always, handed out makeup samples at the checkout counter. God finally showed me why this whole day had to be broken up when I circled back through the Plaza parking lot to check on a familiar-looking gentleman seated at a lunch table working on a laptop. It sure looked like Paul Havsgaard, former Assistant Pastor at Harvest before pastoring Calvary Chapel High Desert, and who then was called to Bucharest, Romania to open up an orphanage for the multitude of street children there.
I pulled up in front of the store, rolled down my passenger window and called his name, reasoning that if the man wasn't Paul, he wouldn't look up!! But he did, and we had a wonderful time of fellowship through the window. Paul is here to gather support for the orphanage through March. He is going to arrange through Facebook to have coffee with Steve and me next week.
Paul is very familiar with, and complimentary of, our pastor John Milhouse, and also knows Steve's second cousin Shane Herman, head of the Calvary Chapel pastors in Romania before he and Randi came home, due to a health problem, with their much-prayed-for adopted Romanian son. Now Shane has started Calvary Chapel Kaleo in the El Centro area.
Isn't God good? If we let Him guide and provide, He always tucks a little joy into our day. Steve and I did take care of the RV later, and are here at home enjoying our good Monday evening routine.
Job 22:21-23 has wonderful assurance for us: "Now acquaint yourself with Him, and be at peace; thereby good will come to you. Receive, please, instruction from His mouth, and lay up His words in your heart. If you return to the Almighty, you will be built up; you will remove iniquity far from your tents."
And today, I needed every bit of God's guidance. Seeing how He shaped my meandering ways into a predetermined time of fellowship and encouragement, perhaps I'll let my plans be a little looser, so HIS plans can rule and overrule!!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Olive plants around the table

7:14 p.m. 7:14p.m. Today's project was to make all of the preparation for a Super Bowl party that might never materialize! Yes, that's crazy, but old habits die hard!! When you have a family of seven in 1988, it's hard to believe you're down to only three by 2009. But that's what happened to me when Steven, our youngest, moved to attend Fresno Pacific University last August.
I had my chili cooking overnight, too many kinds of chips to count, the makings of nachos, spinach dip in a shepherd bread, nut and Cheezit mix, Raisinets, imported French berry lemonade and limeade, hot wings with sauce, all of which were in the house two weeks ago. We weren't expecting guests that we knew of, and didn't even have an invitation to take food elsewhere. Last Sunday afternoon when our Home Fellowship leader Mark asked for a vote as to whether we should meet at our usual 5:30, the whole group voted "no," with plans already made in most cases. Not us!
As usual, I had too much to do, including making new arrangements for a ministry. I waited much too late to call around and invite friends. (Nor did anyone invite us, sad to say!) I threw around a few hints on FB, where some people were having their families over, some never watch football at all, and some were invited elsewhere; and I asked a few last-ditch questions of a sweet friend or two at our Mimi's breakfast yeasterday morning. No dice--no invites!! Waaah!
Heidi (our 25 year old daughter who still lives at home) and her boyfriend Pavel had meetings for high school retreat all afternoon, and a party to attend, so boo-hoo for Steve and me! Looked like we would have the privilege of a private party today, not at all a bad thing...we figured that all of the extra food would be just the thing for our trip to Havasu in the RV on Thursday--Saturday, so it would be a win-win. Subdued, but a win nevertheless. The assurance of God's goodness in all situations is what Psalm 101:1-2 reminds me of: "I will sing of mercy and justice; to You, LORD, I will sing praises. I will behave wisely in a perfect way. Oh, when will you come to me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart."
We had the news we had hoped for by the time we headed out of the church driveway! Kriss texted us that his plans had fallen through, and he was thinking about coming out to Riverside. YES! The kids all know our home is open, so of course he and Marisela were welcome. Now fullof joy and excitement, Steve and I picked up some Coke, extra tortilla chips and nuts, and tore around the house sprucing up and starting the Velveeta+salsa nacho sauce in the mini crockpot. Steve ate a small bowl of Honey Nut Shredded Wheat, I had a salad to tide me over, and Steve walked the dogs.
We had a fun afternoon, ate tons, and caught up on all of our lives. I'm not sure we watched much of the game, but we enjoyed planning the move the couple is making to their first apartment in downtown Long Beach on the 28th. We'll be joining them, along with her family whom they live with now.
One odd incident was the appearance of Mormon missionaries at the door! On Super Bowl Sunday? I guess they figured most people would be home. Kriss and his dad went to the door, and when they didn't come back right away, I went over in curiosity. They introduced themselves to me in a break in the conversation, and I assertively but politely said, "We are born again Christians in our household, and though we have many fine Mormon neighbors, we have disagreement with your doctrine. But thanks for coming by." They pleasantly left. [If it had just been me at home, I would have gotten my Bible and led a full discussion!]
But the happy moment for me came as we were headed back to the kitchen, and Kriss said, "I just told them that we are evangelicals here, and happy with that." WOW!! Made my day!
Heidi and Pavel came in by the 2nd half of the game, adding cheer and fun to our gathering. I was very proud of Heidi today, because Pastor Sammy told me that she is putting together a mother-daughter event for 5th-8th grade girls!! He also mentioned how the Lord is using both her and Pavel. My heart is overjoyed to see my children "walk in truth." (3 John 1:4)
Psalm 128:1, 3-4 says, : "Blessed is every one who fears the LORD, who walks in His ways. ...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."

Saturday, February 6, 2010

My sister's birthday

1:36 p.m. Today's project was to call my little sister Dona on her birthday and see what's she's been up to and get an update on my nieces and nephews and their families. They all live in San Diego, with the exception of Brady, who is working on a career as a screenwriter in Hollywood.

By writing "little" sister, I can clarify between my actual sister in the flesh and my millions of Christian sisters around the world and here in town! I had sent Dona an e-card from Dayspring Christian cards, a very nice one with music, but I accidentally hit "send" instead of scrolling down to select the date to send it! Nothing wrong with sending a greeting a day or two early, but two weeks? Kind of rude and thoughtless to my way of thinking! So I wanted to call and give her a "fresh" greeting!

Dona and I have only seen each other during college breaks, and then on vacations when I would have her kids up here to visit, or have Heather spend the week with her age-match, Karissa; holidays; or visits with our mom and dad who were watching our two oldest sons, Sean and Chance, since 1969, when I went off to UCLA and became a sorority girl, living and working in Westwood. I came home quite a bit at first, but by the end of the first quarter, I had settled in with tons of new friends. Dona didn't graduate from Redlands High until 1972, choosing to attend San Diego State. By that time, I had left UCLA, despite being on the academic Dean's List repeatedly, for the "hippie" lifestyle in Colorado! Oh, the peyote and pot-laced "back to the earth" movement of the 70's, spawned from the original Haight-Ashbury flower children of 1960's San Francisco! What wasted years, and even fatal choices so many made.
But as the hippie movement faded, I believe the emptiness the young people felt led to their acceptance of Jesus Christ as Savior in such huge numbers that the Jesus Movement was born. I did not return to California until 1976, now married and with a son of my own. After that marriage ended and I finished my college degree in 1978, I went to work in the business world, outwardly little the worse for wear, but inwardly feeling the emptiness of the unsaved. Yet it would be two more years before this godless sinner went up to an altar call, accepted Christ. I never looked back! Steve and I met, married, and began a family which would increase by four siblings for Sean; all five are born-again believers.
Meanwhile, my sister had been struggling as a single mother while finishing her A.A., and then her B.A. on her own, with real determination. She married and divorced, and now had four children.Today she is single, quite contentedly so, and has a career as a social worker. Her four children have professed Christ as well. Dona has a ball with her grandkids, as I do with mine.
Jesus asked in Mark 3:33, " 'Who is My mother, or My brothers?' and he looked around in a circle of those who sat about Him, and said, 'Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and My mother.' "
Was Jesus dissing family relationships? Of course not! We love our siblings and parents, and miss them terribly when they move or pass away. But Jesus is making a statement of an even closer relationship than blood ties: the relationship we have with Him, when we are born again and indwelt by the Holy Spirit. He lives within His people,in the hearts, souls and minds of Christians! "There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother," Proverbs 18:24 says.
That Friend is Jesus ! Come to Him today for a love such as you have never known. Only then will you be able to truly love your physical family with the love they need--the love of God!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Stepping out in faith

2:48 p.m. Today's project was to get the house ready for a visit from our youngest son Steven and his friend Eric from Fresno. He is actually here to see his diet coach in Hemet, a Christian professional whose job is to get bodybuilders ready for competition like the event Steven is readying himself for in April.

The exciting news is that Steven and Eric, also a trainer at Bally's and kinesiology major, are starting a business at the end of the month--opening up a gym where they will teach physical education to mentally handicapped adults. Eric's brother is a psychologist who has a group home, but until the gym opens--in the building next door, amazingly, whose tenants are moving out, talk about God's timing--the clients have no physical activity program. So Steven and Eric will work with them in the morning, and in the afternoon and evening, take on private clients to train.

The spirit of entrepreneurism is alive and well, never doubt it! I believe that God's people soon will be the only ones left with the courage to step forward and say, "I'll do it!" We have has our role models first, the Lord Jesus Himself, as we read in Psalm 40: "I said, 'Behold, I come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart.' " And see how the prophet Isaiah respond to the the call of the Lord, who said, "'Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?' Then I said, 'Here am I! Send me.'" (Isaiah 6:8) Isaiah reported the words of God to the backslidden nation of Israel, in no uncertain terms, and at great cost.
There is a great cost to starting your own business, whether in a brick-and-mortar store, like my parents who owned service stations and a convenience store, or like the gym my son is opening. I even have costs in my home-based business! A business requires huge sacrifices of time and cash and even greater responsiblility. You're it! Thankfully with God, a believer making a go of a business is never alone or without guidance: "Where God guides, He provides," I've heard Pastor Chuck Smith say many a time.
There is a cost to following Jesus, too. He told His followers in the passage Luke 14:25-33 to "bear his cross and come after Me or he cannot be My disciple." (v. 27); and asks in v. 28, "Which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it..."Jesus was not speaking lightly when he spoke of His followers being in opposition to family members, even sacrificing their own lives to follow Him. All of us have experienced family and friends distancing themselves from us, a real shock! But we have also seen the blessing of having them come to Christ later on in many cases, as they "see (y)our good works and glorify your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:16)
For Steven and Eric, the inspiration and excitement of starting a "good work" for the mentally handicapped adults will carry them far, and perhaps some of their current or past clients will hear about them and sign up. However, there will be days of disappointment in this rough economy as they try to recruit private, paying clients. "Nothing ventured, nothing gained," is a saying we all know. And it's a true one--there will either be spectacular failure, or spectacular success!
Even though most people like to be in the comfort zone of a steady paycheck, there will always be those who will strike out independently and, with God's guidance, take the tough road of setting achievement and earnings benchmarks for themselves.
And if believers are willing to take personal and financial risks, sacrifice personal leisure and security, and do neverending work in an honest way, the Lord will send His blessing, encouragement--and, as I've seen even on a miniscule basis--sales!!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A critical step to healing

1:38 p.m. Today's project was to take Steve to our long time doctor and friend, Richard Guzman, to address the breathing problems Steve has experienced for many years.

Steve was actually scheduled for sinus surgery almost 10 years ago, but just before the operation, he cracked his wrist at work! We all agreed, "You're not going to have a cast and a messed up nose at the same time!" So the very bad and noisy breathing, gasping and choking episodes that disrupt our sleep have continued. It has just been a busy decade; dedicated to the Lord, but busy nevertheless with our large family, career and ministry responsibilities.

Now that I have been enabled by the Lord to stay home with Steve, he has made blessed improvements in his cognition and memory, as well as his physical health and mood. Holly, Dr. Guzman's nurse, remarked at the new sparkle in his eyes and his confident manner. God has truly been glorified in making our life choices not just possible, but astoundingly successful! "To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven," Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us, so the timing is right to address a different facet of Steve's health.

As the doctor paged through the long-ago notes in Steve's file, he came across the recommendation for surgery on the sinuses and the actual date it was supposed to be performed. He remarked that while both mouth breathing and a constant feeling of a stuffy nose during the day point to sinus issues, the night time noise episodes and pauses between breaths point more to sleep apnea, a potentially dangerous condition. We can do without many things in this life, but breathing isn't one of them!

Family history comes into play here, again, like with the Alzheimers, unfortunately. Steve's dad underwent sinus surgery decades ago, and his older brother has a C-PAP machine. I won't get ahead of myself worrying about future remedies, however. Dr. Guzman recommended a preliminary sleep screening test from the neurologist. This test consists of attaching a monitor to Steve's finger that will measure breaths taken during the night, as well as blood pressure, heart rate, and levels of oxygen. Thank the Lord for technology--seems utterly amazing for one little device to yield so much information! After that test, if it seems warranted to Dr. Rai, Steve will go to the office for a full sleep study, and we'll see what the big-time meters and gauges show!

Diligent inquiry is a scriptural value that leads to truth. I like the examples of judges making "diligent inquisition" in Deuteronomy 19:18 to ferret out a false witness; and the psalmist's spirit making "diligent search" as he meditated within his heart (Psalm 77:6). We too need to inquire, and investigate, not just take statements and assertions at face value!

While Steve, Dr. Guzman and I were discussing healthcare, particularly the hoopla over swine flu [and our longstanding choice not to get flu shots of any kind] from a political perspective, the topic came up of the legal department at Loma Linda University, where we fought to let my mother recover from Guillame-Barre disease four years ago, to no avail, due to a friend having a more current power of attorney that allowed her to cause my mother to die in hospice instead.
(That tragic episode still crosses my mind every day, though the Lord has given me peace and even forgiveness toward the offender).

Dr. Guzman remarked, in an almost casual aside as we were all leaving the exam room, "Since you have a family history of Guillame-Barre disease, you should NEVER get a flu shot--it can trigger it!" Whoa!!

Steve and I were blown away by the protecting, providential hand of God, using our personal, perhaps quirky, health choice to save us the devastation of months of Guillame-Barre paralysis, organ failure, and speechlessness from overcoming me! I would have recovered from this condition as people do, but what havoc it could have wreaked on our family!

Meditate with me on Romans 11:33:

"Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and his ways past finding out!"