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Monday, May 31, 2010

The midnight barker



3:01 p.m. Today's project was to post up a "barking dog" notice on the front entryway to the house of the neighbors behind us. Two previous visits to the house, one late morning, another early evening, were met with furious barking behind the wall or total silence, but no answer at the front door. Two large trucks are always parked facing out to the street, blocking the garage, but no one ever comes to the door. Quite a mystery!

This dog barks furiously between 11:30 p.m. and 1:00 a.m. when most people are asleep and their dogs are inside asleep as well. (Our two come in no later than 9 p.m.) I am often awake reading, but like last night after 12:00 a.m. as my head hit the pillow, the barking started up! Heidi has been kept up, awakened long after her 9:30 bedtime, a shame, because she has to be up by 6 a.m. to teach school. Steve wears his C-Pap, so he really can't hear anything. He was always an extremely sound sleeper anyway. The barking takes place 3-5 times a week.

I hit upon the idea of typing up an official-looking notice and taping it up, to get the attention of the owners: it has the Times Roman type font, and large block lettering. I made it look a little friendlier by adding a Clip Art picture of a dog with its mouth open! The notice reads:

BARKING DOG
May 31, 2010
PLEASE HELP US OUT!
Dear Neighbor at [their address]
We have heard your dog barking at 11:30 p.m., 12:00 a.m. and even as late as 1:00 a.m., disturbing our sleep several times a week. Many of us get up early to go to work and school.
Would you please bring your dog in at night? At least into your garage?
Thank you,
Your neighbors
Pretty polite, don't you think? And the printing of the notice was an answer to prayer itself, because our printer died yesterday and suddenly began working! Steve and I were a little nervous as we planned our approach, because the raging dog could actually leap the wall from the backyard. So we took the rounded, broken-off handle of a small gardening tool with us--we wouldn't want to have a real weapon like a knife with us, and we don't own guns. Images of Lucy and Desi in some zany scheme flashed into my head, but you never know, better safe than sorry!
Heidi had also put a scary idea into our heads--that maybe no one lives there, there's something shady going on, and someone just throws food over the wall once a day to the "guard" dog. From there I went on to wonder if it's not one of those random electronic barking dog gadgets that goes off to scare away burglars--a chintzy alarm system of sorts.
Maybe forthright action would be God's preference instead of panicking from our foolish "vain imaginations!" (Romans 1:21, KJV) Off we went, with our paper, packing tape, and garden tool.
While Steve got out of the car, which I parked at the curb for a better getaway, I put the tape on the top and bottom of the notice and grabbed my cellphone. I even left the car running--hey, you never know--and we went right up to the door, were met with silence, and taped up our note in broad daylight. A neighbor a few houses down glanced at us, but with the California primary election only a week away, probably figured we were leaving campaign flyers. That is something we were known to do every four years when I was on the school board. In fact, our family could flyer an entire neighborhood in an afternoon!
I'm glad we took a second step in requesting assistance with the barking dog, but we'll see what happens. The notice, from a distance, looks like something serious, so hopefully the person or persons will take it down and read it. Actually, disturbing the peace is a misdemeanor, and our county has nuisance dog regulations in place for situations like this. Romans 13:1 tells us we all have to obey the law. And Jesus made it clear that even He had to submit to the governing authorities whan He produced a coin from the mouth of a fish to pay the temple tax for Himself and Peter. (Matthew 17:27)
We've been diligent to be decent neighbors, keeping our kids and dogs under control, and making things right when we goof up. I remember the time we came home to find our dogs howling after Heather's 2008 wedding, at 10:30 p.m. (We had left home at 1:00 p.m. after a frenzied time with last minute details, part of the wedding party staying for the weekend and other bridesmaids helping out. Steve forgot to put out Jada and Bailey's food, understandable because they normally eat at 5:oo). Nobody's perfect!
We're praying for a thoughtful, cooperative resolution to this problem, because I really hate to call Animal Control, or, worst-case scenario, the police. My reason is simply this:
I Peter 3:11b says that we are to "seek peace and pursue it."

Sunday, May 30, 2010

How are they doing?





7:20 p.m. Today's project was to get together with as many of our children as are in town for Steve's birthday lunch/dessert. Our oldest son Sean is out of town, and Steven is in Toronto with Muscletech. My dad joined us along with Heidi & Pavel and Heather & Nick, for a delicious lunch. Later in the afternoon, Kriss and Marisela, sans puppy Penny (who was at Marisela's mom's house) came by from Long Beach.

Heather gave Steve the Star Trek movie; my dad had given him a check; and Kriss brought an Abercrombie & Fitch flannel shirt, along with a dozen gourmet cupcakes. Steve has been quieter now, with trouble finishing sentences, but he loves to pop out some hilarious one-liners. Upon viewing a strange, knarled iron vine at the restaurant, we all were trying to figure out what the sculpture was supposed to be, and shouldn't it have more leaves? Steve said, "It's not getting enough sun!" We rolled with laughter.

"Children are the heritage of the Lord, and the fruit of the womb is His reward," Psalm 127:3 says, and we heartily agree from experience. But in their chosen fields of endeavor, how is the Lord rewarding my children's diligence?

Sean is finishing his automotive certification and works in home restoration. He will be remarrying in April, to an ICU nurse, Pam. Their kids are all the same ages so we are looking forward to this blessing! Steven is going forward in the bodybuilding world, runs a PE program for mentally retarded adults, very active in youth ministry, and a senior in college. Heidi is a teacher, and her fiance Pavel is a social worker; both have post-graduate degrees and are active in children's church leadership. They are being encouraged by the pastors to consider more of a commitment in future.

Heather and Nick had a neat announcement today. If a planned job advancement goes through for Heather, Nick will be able to quit his job, complete his master's thesis, spend time in ministry for their church in a liaison position that is right up his alley as an urban planner, and take a city internship. Eventually, when his profession is established, their dream is to allow Heather to be at home pursuing her photography full time. They are also very active in church ministry, especially in their giving. In a clear connection I see between giving to the Lord first and letting Him advance one's life, they may be looking at buying their first home next year! Hear Malachi 3:10:

"Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house, and try Me now in this," says the LORD of hosts. "If I will not open for you the doors of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it."

Kriss and Marisela are establishing themselves in the urban setting they love, even if it is expensive to get a financial foothold in their first year of marriage. But they are finding small successes and deals on a regular basis, and are keeping their obligations current. Marisela is looking to find a better job, and Kriss is deciding whether to stick with his comapny, huge retailer Abercrombie & Fitch, long enough to move up to District Manager, or, get a less stressful job and have time to pursue his music. Maybe this is the time for his wife to go back to college and get her teaching credential! Kriss is considering a change in career as well, maybe police work--Mom' ll be praying!
In their own way, each of our kids is growing in their marriages, marriages-to-be, careers and ministries. Each one thinks and plans differently for today's economic environment, staying true to their own gifts and talents, and true to their God. Missteps and mistakes will occur, as they did for us in the older generation. But with the Lord going before them, my children can expect a richly rewarding, exhilarating ride, with the love of their life at their side!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Wrapping up a year of hard work


10:47 p.m. Today's project was to attend our son Steven's final bodybuilding competition for the year, in Culver City's Veterans' Memorial Auditorium. This was a statewide competition, one Steven has been first bulking up and then slimming down for all year. He competed in the Men's Heavyweight and Novice Heavyweight divisions. Last month in Anaheim, Steven placed 2nd in Men's Heavyweight, very respectable considering his competition was older, more seasoned veterans.

There was a lot on our family's "plate" this week, helping and supporting his very lean diet--chicken breast, tilapia, broccoli, asparagus, egg white omelettes, oatmeal and coffee with Splenda. For the last four days, even the oatmeal was eliminated, but an occasional cheeseburger was allowed, go figure! It is the typical, edgy last week of prep, including driving to Hemet daily to consult with his coach Brad Maxwell, a Christian nutritionist and veteran bodybuilding judge. Steven says that the two of them pray and share scripture together, and he looks to Brad as a great mentor, exemplifying I Timothy 5:1 to "treat an older man as a father." Steven was driving down here from Fresno every other weekend to meet with his coach--no let-up in work, obedience to instructions, determination to win.

We had a couple of monkeywrenches thrown into the works this time, though. Steven had had a very bad cold, probably a sinus infection, that had caused him to retain water, and I had been praying for him most of this month. He was still retaining water this week, so that required him to soak in Epsom salt baths late at night--in our bathtub! At least he was quiet. On Wednesday, Steven had a truly relaxing day at the beach, just what the coach ordered.

Thursday, Steven blessed his older teacher sister Heidi, by speaking at 2 assemblies for the 4-6th grades on nutrition and fitness at Granite Hill School. Not exactly relaxing, but he inspired the kids to eat better, much as he does with the mentally retarded adults he runs a fitness program for at his gym in Fresno.

Another challenge came in the form of exciting news: Muscletech, Steven's sponsor, asked him to fly to Toronto, Canada, at their expense, for a photo shoot to advertise their product! (They send him thousands of dollars worth of product). We found out just before he arrived...

I have now experienced the major stress involved in getting an emergency passport! First to the county clerk to verify documents and the need to fly within 5 days. Then, because the 7 a.m. appointment was scheduled for the day before Steven's competition, he couldn't go get the passport himself. He had to stay home, and stay calm. So his dad and I spent the day Friday, from 4:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on the road to, and in, the Federal building in Westwood, Los Angeles, not leaving until we had the passport in hand! Another 3 1/2 hours on the road on the way home, and we had completed the task!

Today, his coach and a friend picked Steven up by 6 and drove him to Culver City to prepare for his pre-judging in the morning, get the last coat of Pro-tan applied, along with Mary Kay Bronze 607 foundation, and he was ready to go. When we arrived for the 6:30 evening show, Steve and I only knew that Steven had qualified top 5 in his category. Steven ended up taking number 5, but he is pretty sanguine about it, showing a new-found maturity. Last time, he was offended to get a 2nd place! He'll once again earn 1st place rankings, all in the Lord's timing. There's just a different lesson to learn this time.
Jesus had good counsel for those of us who always expect to earn the highest, first place in our endeavors, whether because of incessant hard work, gifting, or training. We need to take a more humble position, or a series of humble positions as we go through life, and learn to be grateful for those! If we are called by God to excel in our work and be recognized for it, so be it. That day will come. Or, an entirely different path will open up for us. Hear Luke 14:10-11:
When you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes, he may say to you, "Friend, go up higher." Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
Are Christians called to be exemplary? Absolutely, doing all things "heartily, as to the Lord." (Colossians 3:23) Teaching and learning? Bodybuilding? "Whatever you do, do it heartily!"
I worked very hard as a teacher and administrator, and went on many principal interviews. But I never was promoted to that position. Why? God had a whole different life planned for me, doing what I truly love, caring for my husband, creating a new ministry, and writing about the Christian life. God gets no argument from me!!!
Steven didn't win tonight. It was certainly not for lack of potential or hard work! He will either work his way up to national rankings as is his goal, or God will do something entirely different with his life. Either way, he'll serve the Lord.
Leaving our outcomes to Him is what makes life in Christ so exciting. He always does what is best for us--and exactly what we wanted all along, but never envisioned!!
What a loving God we serve!!

Friday, May 28, 2010

The loss of a young person

3:52 a.m. Today's project is to got to Los Angeles for a 7 a.m. appointment to get our son Steven's passport. We are finishing up our breakfast and will be on the road soon.

But when opening up Facebook to post my daily scripture, I saw that a friend of my daughter Heidi's, Robin, had lost her fiance Stephen. They had planned to be married on June 24, 2011, one day before Heidi and Pavel. I will be prayerfully pondering this tragedy--which people would call senseless--but which somehow God has allowed.

10:40 p.m. My prayer is that Robin, her family, and Stephen's family will be assured of Stephen's presence with the Lord today, be comforted in remembering the joy he brought to all of their lives, the love we have for them as the Body of Christ, and that loved ones who do not know Jesus as their Savior would come to Him now.

May we who grieve be able to comprehend what Ephesians 3:18-19a describes as "the width and depth and length and height...the love of Christ which passes knowledge..."

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Unreasoning fear



8:46 a.m. Today's project is to tackle head-on the unreasoning and unreasonable fear I have concerning driving to Los Angeles tomorrow for a 7 a.m. appointment at the Federal building, where I will turn in all of the documents in a sealed manila envelope to the US department of State, and receive my son Steven's passport in return. He's flying to Toronto for a photo shoot paid for by the supplement company Muscletech, his bodybuilding sponsor.

There is cerainly no lack of issues the enemy has plagued my mind with: getting my husband Steve up by 3 a.m. for a 4:30 departure time, so we can take advantage of the carpool lane considering that he is pretty disoriented in the mornings due to his Alzheimer's; unforeseen traffic delays, like the freeway construction that caused us to miss a flight to Seattle one year; parking, which I will look up to see if the building has its own spaces; some bizarre snafu when we do get up to the counter; and falling asleep at the wheel on the way home. Lastly, even with my up-to-date contact lens prescription, my eyes aren't that great in the dark.

That's quite a list! Returning home without the passport, or assurance of it being overnighted to us for the Sunday flight--another early morning drive to LA!-- would cause a firestorm back here at home. Unfortunately, saying, "It looks like it wasn't God's will for you to fly to Toronto," won't be much consolation for Steven, even if that is a scriptural fact!

Worry and anxiety are like gnats getting in a believer's eyes, momentarily distracting us from God's love and good plans for us! Like any other Christian, I am familiar with those two irritaing emotions! But this irrational fear is new to me, a person who has quoted (and lived) Proverbs 28:1 for 30 years:

The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.

Solomon said that there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9), and extreme fear is nothing new; in fact, that adrenalin rush helps in our self-preservation. But what God designed for dire physical emergencies wreaks havoc when there is no actual real-time danger: on our bodies, producing cortisol; our minds, robbing us of sleep; and our spirits, causing us to fear God won't take care of us! Fear has been causing my imagination to run wild with every bad scenario imaginable.

I couldn't help thinking of David, who became so frightened of King Saul that he ran to King Achish of Gath, and when he identified him, David "became afraid of what King Achish of Gath might do to him. So he pretended to be insane, scratching on doors and drooling down his beard. Finally, King Achish said to his men, 'Must you bring me a madman? We already have enough of them around here! Why should I let someone like this be my guest?' So David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam." (I Samuel 21:12-22:1, New Living Translation) Don't tell me God doesn't have a sense of humor! I am so looking forward to teaching I Samuel this summer to our ladies' Bible study!

Well, a merry heart does good like a medicine, Proverbs 17:22 says, because I just had an uncontrollable laughing fit over poor David's plight. May the Lord build and preserve my courage today, and my peace for all of my days!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Instituted for our own good


2:54 p.m. Today's project was to get up at 6:00 a.m. to take my son Steven to the Riverside County Clerk-Recorder's office to get documents and payments certified and sealed in an envelope for the US Department of State appointment I have on Friday at 7:00 to get his passport.
Whereas yesterday's post contained rants against the bureaucratic nightmares our family has faced with Steve's Alzheimers, I have high praise for the efficiency and courtesy of this county office! Heidi, Steve and I all got our passports there, and had them in hand in 2-3 weeks. Because Steven is having an "emergency" passport made, meaning traveling in 5 days or less, and I have to go as his authorized representative, issues got much more complicated.
As we drove towards the county administration center, I prayed, "Lord, please clear our way, allow our documents to be in order, and our time to be speedy." Things looked promising from the beginning, because there was a parking spot right in front of the door. We stepped right up to the "start here" desk, explained our need to have documents prepared for the Dept. of State, and were swiftly sent over to Window 8. The young woman at the desk couldn't have been more friendly, knew her business, had Steven initial a couple of changes (last name first, my maiden name instead of my married name, an extra box to be checked) and took the checks and money order. She returned from a back area with all of our documents, including Steven's birth certificate and passport pictures--why do those pictures make everyone look like a criminal?--in a sealed manila envelope. Then she administered an oath of allegiance, I guess, having Steven raise his right hand to swear that any and all statements on his application were true. Reminded me of my swearing-in at the beginning of each of my three school board terms to uphold the U.S. Constitution as an "officer of the State."
Much as we citizens like to grouse about the minutiae involved in dealing with any level of government, Romans 13:1-5 (New Living Translation) makes clear what the Christian's attitude must be in dealing with our civil servants:
Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. For the authorities do not strike fear in those who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. The authorities are God's servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God's servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong. So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience.
"God's servants" include both the less-than-friendly passport lady at the Post Office and the pleasant, efficient lady at the County Clerk's office. I'm thinking that category includes the municipal workers who shut off the power to my nephew and niece's home today, claiming that the home they own in Orange does not exist at that address! Oops, almost started another rant!
I think the Bible has a word for me, and all of us, on the subjects of inefficiency and bad attitudes from Jesus' own mouth, Matthew 7:3-5: "Why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove the speck from your eye'; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."
Boy, do we need a daily infilling and refreshing from the Holy Spirit and the Word of God!!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Later days


3:50 p.m. Today's project was to welcome my Dad over to visit from Redlands with our son Steven, here for his resting week before Saturday's bodybuilding competition. Daddy was due over this morning at 10 a.m., but arrived at 9 'o clock, typical for him. Steve and I were still having our devotions, so we welcomed him in and he relaxed with the newspaper. Once, I laughingly mentioned Daddy's 12:00 arrival for our annual 2 p.m. August birthday party to my brother-in-law Larry, and he said, "He's lonely by himself at home and really excited to see everybody, that's why he's early." Makes sense, and I pray that I will get a nice welcome from my kids when I'm in my 80's! One of my personal favorite scriptures says, "Honor your father and mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you..." (Deuteronomy 5:16a) Small wonder for this mother of five!
Steven returned from a checkup with his diet coach about 10:30, and we all had a chance to chat. Things are much more calm today, aided by my weekly prayer time with Monica, my prayer/accountability partner, before I went back downstairs. James 5:16 reminds us, "The effective fervent prayer of a righteous [wo]man avails much." Sorry, couldn't resist the feminine prefix! I know of so many praying moms, grandmas, wives, sisters and aunties that it just seems worthy of inclusion!!
I received a business-sized envelope from Daddy this afternoon, containing an updated Advanced Directive from his estate planning attorney, Kathleen Albrecktson of Redlands. It was necessary because of recent changes to California's laws. I looked it over, saw that he does not want life prolonged, but then noticed something out of order. The #1 and #2 people to notify are my sister and her daughter, who both live in San Diege, 2 1/2 hours away in good traffic from Redlands, and myself at position #3. This is odd because I live 25-30 minutes from Redlands Community Hospital! So I called Daddy, and yes, they had reversed the order of names. My niece is a working single mother of two, who would have to do who-knows-what to get off work and then get someone to watch her kids before commuting up to Redlands, and my sister in Chula Vista works full-time as well. Daddy said he hadn't noticed and would call the office soon.
It used to seem overwhelming to me, coping with all of my kids' school, health, sports and activities paperwork, at one point getting so bad that I had older sis Heidi fill out Steven's high school registration forms and emergency cards while I ran off to teach summer school! Of course, I examined and signed all of it, or did I??? Can't remember--he graduated 4 years ago, and all was in order for each annual registration day at King High, when a parent had to be there with proof of residence. Daughters are a godsend!!
When I compare children's paperwork with that of us senior citizens, I'm discovering that I didn't know what hassles were! It took me a year to get enough life insurance for the family's needs after I pass on. That's several physicals, blood draws (ick) and further requests for annual doctor exam results. And we have to keep up our longterm care insurance premiums. A couple of weeks ago I had an appointment to look at future in-home care for Steve. Nightly, he is still getting used to his C-pap machine, but doing better with it, handling it all himself.
Let's not even go into the years of phone, paperwork and personal appointment stress that went into getting Steve on unemployment, State disability, and ultimately permanent Social Security disability!
Just today, I went to CVS pharmacy twice, because the mail-order service that handles 3 of Steve's 5 prescriptions caused us to run out of one of them. I didn't notice that the girl had put in two medications, one of which we wouldn't need for months! So back again, to get my $30 co-pay back. The health food supplements we use for my arthritic joints and Steve's brain and circulatory functions--well, I have no idea what those items add up to per month, because you don't run out of them all at once. But we are very physically healthy and energetic, so natural supplements and fresh garden produce do pay off .
Did I mention all of my pension paperwork and appointments I had to deal with so I could retire last June? As my late 87 year-old mother-in-law used to quip, "Getting old is the pits!" When my kids tease me, I say, "I may be old, but what's the alternative?"
Just don't ask me, "What do you do all day now that you're retired?!" Last week, my teacher daughter told a school nurse who asked how I like being retired, "Mom goes to Disneyland a lot." I guess that sums it up!!
God has been so good to me, in so many ways, that I just have to poke fun at myself and my daily aggravations, and take the attitude that it's a privilege to live to be old...let's figure it out together, and have fun along the way!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Knit together


3:44 p.m. Today's project was to formulate a "plan for peace" in my heart and life, and it began with asking others to pray for a very difficult week. There's a lot of stress leading up to any competitive event, and our son's preparation time for the California Pro Figure bodybuilding event in Culver City is no exception! His dieting demeanor reminds me of a bride's weight loss imperative--and you know the term for those brides: Bridezillas!


I received a request for prayer needs from our pastor's wife Robin, who is experiencing a time of attack from the enemy leading up to the Ladies' Retreat, like all of us leaders are. Didn't have to ask me twice!! And from there, I emailed my younger daughter Heather for prayer, along with the good news of her Assemblyman boss' likely victory in his June 8 quest for a State Senate seat. The opposition party isn't even funding or supporting the candidate against Bill Emmerson!
One ministry we all can participate in is that of praying for and encouraging one another. We encourage one another with sincere compliments; thoughtful suggestions; inclusive invitations to events and meals; impromptu visits and phone calls; passing on good coupon deals; promoting another believer's business, or publicly celebrating their good news; even asking another believer for help, like I did today. I am so hopeful that a talented lady I know will be available to create a boat for my pre-school VBS Bible Center classroom! Romans 12:6 says, "Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given us, let us use them..." And let us encourage all to do so!!
The picture above shows Steve and me finding a way to keep our hands warm on our walk last night, covering them together in one knit sleeve! We're "knit together," you might say. [Good concept for Dee's crochet class!] The first scripture I recalled with this phrase was Colossians 2:2, "that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love." But there are personal references to this concept that are very dynamic in the Old Testament, as well. Judges 20:11 describes the men of the 11 tribes of Israel who set out to bring justice against the Benjamites, as being "knit together as one man." When David met with representatives of the tribes of Benjamin and Judah at his stronghold during the long war between himself and King Saul, he said, "If you have come peaceably to me to help me, my heart shall be knit with you; but if to betray me to my enemies, since there is no wrong in my hands, may the God of our fathers look and bring judgment."(I Chronicles 12:17, KJV)
But the most touching example is the beyond-the-grave friendship of Jonathan and David (which we'll be covering starting June 10th at my home Bible study on I Samuel that I'll be teaching!) I Samuel 18:1 says, "the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul."
Can we say that we love our fellow believers, family and friends "as our own souls?" That's agape, the self-sacrificial other-centered love that Jesus exemplified!
What are the results of being "knit together?" Colossians 2:19 "ties it off!" The passage warns against those who do not "hold fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God."
I like being knit together with you, brother or sister in Christ!!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Aging GRACEfully


3:36 Today's project is to celebrate my husband Steve's 55th birthday in a joyful, yet low-cost manner. Now that we are on disability, pension and investment income, we really have restricted windows of time to spend money on "extras." That's okay! The entire past week, God graciously sent us bonus income from a variety of sources, including my Mary Kay customers calling to buy products. He is faithful, always, and cares for His kids!
We enjoyed a wonderful worship service at Calvary Chapel Moreno Valley, along with our son Steven, here for the week. Heidi and Pavel sat across the aisle. Pastor John gave a challenging message on serving where God wants you, out of III John v. 5-8. In verse 5, Gaius is commended for his service of active hospitality: "Dear friend, you are being faithful to God when you care for the traveling teachers who pass through, even though they are strangers to you." (New Living Translation)" Kind of reminds me of our ladies' visiting and helps team! The fellowship afterwards was sweet as well, because we were blessed to see our sister in the Lord have a full sign-up for her Heart to Home crochet class; and one of our roommates for Ladies' retreat now has her full fees paid!
Steve and I dropped Steven off at home, because he has a strict bodybuilding competition eating schedule, and then we headed off to the "secret location" I had planned for Steve's favorite lunch, a cheeseburger platter with fries and Dr. Pepper at Farmer Boys. And we even had a coupon! Today is pretty low key, and Steve has already just enjoyed his hobbies of walking the dogs and working out in the yard. Heidi is now regaling us with stories about all of the chocolate treats at a bridal shower she attended...good family times.
For 55, Steve is very fit, active, and rarely sits still. He spends an hour and a half in devotions and Bible study each morning, especially enjoying the Horizon online devotional by Mike MacIntosh and the accompanying Bible-in-a-year program. It works so much better than his regular Bible, because his Alzheimers tends to cause his eyes to wander around the page. But talk about God's grace! Steve's life exemplifies it. He may not be able to work for a living any more, but he does a wonderful job keeping up the landscaping, the RV, and our garden. Yes, his encroaching mental disability is a reality of our lives, but we count on God's mercy to "grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (Peter 3:18) as the years come our way. Hear the prophet Jeremiah in Lamentations 3:22-24:
Through the LORD's mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
"The LORD is my portion," says my soul,
"Therefore I hope in Him!"

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Saturday's wisdom


2:44 p.m. Today's project was to run over to the grocery store and pick up a load of fresh asparagus, broccoli, chicken, frozen fish, canned tuna and 5 dozen eggs for Steven. (pictured) He gave me his ATM card. Why couldn't he go? After 2 hours of cardio and a visit with his bodybuilding training coach, he was told to stay home, as little stress as possible. "Make me an instrument of Your peace, Lord," doesn't the old hymn go? Not easy with our Type-A personalities!

Actually, taking care of that purchase helped me greatly, because I had good coupons and got 500 Bonus Points for my own "valued customer rewards." So that small effort will pay off in the next few weeks! !! "Cast your bread upon the waters," Ecclesiastes 11:1 says, "for you will find it after many days." How true that is! Many times in life rewards follow a lot later than sacrificial actions. Maybe it takes a good chunk of a lifetime to realize this--that delayed gratification doesn't mean the goal won't be met, or the blessing won't be yours--it just means later--in God's timing!
I was just pondering a few days ago, that even though King Solomon walked away from the Lord with--or because of-- all of his wives and riches (I Kings 11) he made a lot of factual observations about life, work, foolishness and wealth, and did show reverence for God. Some excellent observations I hear and read come from people who know who God is, but have never asked Christ to be their Savior. Many people are intelligent, well read and successful, but have not studied the greatest book of all, the Bible. Did you know that up until about 20 years ago, no one in the U.S. was considered educated unless they had a basic knowledge of the Bible? Or that the literacy laws were passed in our original 13 colonies so the children and all citizens could read the Bible? The "Old Deluder Satan Law" from the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1647 expressly legislated that all towns of 50 or more population had to establish a school so they could read the scriptures and not be decieved by that "old deluder" Satan. Revelation 12:9 calls him "the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world." Between the Bible and the McGuffey reader, those colonists laid the foundation for the greatest nation ever known on this earth! Yet the colonists already had a godly heritage--England sent out the most missionaries throughout the world of any nation, including to America!
Today, all civilized people can read and write, but what are we reading and writing? How well do we know what God has to say to us human beings? Are we willing to obey His Word, and what it says about Jesus Christ? Or what He says about Himself?
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosover believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16
You must be born again. John 3:7
Ask Jesus to come into your heart today--He is the only true source of all wisdom, for now and eternity!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Changes, changes


4:03 p.m. Today's project was to help our son Steven with his passport paperwork. I had stayed up until midnight working on the DS-11 form through a private passport expediter service, while Steven texted me information as I went along, between the private service and the U.S. State Department website. At least three do-overs, as I was sent back and forth between screens, but I finally got the online forms filled in and printed! Kind of reminded me of filling out his student financial paperwork for Fresno Pacific U, with us in different locations, texting and emailing back and forth. You gotta love technology--or does it actually create more work?
That's a question each of us has to answer for ourselves..."I wisdom, dwell with prudence, and find out the knowledge of witty inventions," Proverbs 8:12 says; but Psalm 106:29 says that the children of Israel "provoked God to anger with their inventions." ( both KJV). So are we utilizing the Holy Spirit's wisdom when we access the latest technology, or angering God by accessing sinful choices and venues? We need to pray to be in God's will for any and all ventures we undertake.
As Steven and I stepped up to the counter at the Post Office, we spoke very courteously of Steven's need for an expedited passport, but the lady said, "I have appointments all through July 6th." No budging, even though we had everything we needed. But she did tell us that the State Department Office in Los Angeles could do it. After a long telephone call, we had to accept a May 28th, 7 a.m. appointment, and I can go as an "authorized person" in Steven's place, as long as an "Authorized Acceptance Location" like the County Clerk Recorder, sees Steven in person and he hands in a signed permission letter. A real barrel of laughs, going into downtown L.A. in the early morning. I'll take my husband Steve with me. (The reason Steven can't go is that he has to have his final check-ups and prep for competition the next day). One good thing came of today's efforts: the $302 we were set to spend for the private expediter will be refunded back to Steven's credit card!
Since the County is on a Friday furlough day, it looks like Steven and I will have to head over to the Recorder's office on Monday. Within about 48 hours, our lives were turned upside down to help further our son's career. I'm not thrilled with the time-consuming nature of this Canada trip, but I'm willing to see what doors God will open. Big changes are coming...
On my way home, I called my friend who has been through one kind of change no one would wish for: losing her home and moving to a rental. Her new home is beautiful, very spacious, and close to my neighborhood. So I can pick her up to come to the I Samuel Bible study I'm starting on June 10th in Moreno Valley, the summer study I've done for the past four years. She is very excited to come, and will request Thursdays mornings off. She went through a very sorrowful period --as anyone would-- when losing the home where she raised her kids, but is showing true joy now, and a womanly pride in her new home. The Lord has blessed her for exemplifying Titus 2:5, being a "discreet, chaste, homemaker, good, obedient to her own husband..." and as 2:4 commands, she loves her husband and children prayerfully and devotedly. Such a good example of grace in the midst of changes, very unwelcome changes!
We're now enjoying the fun of Steven relaxing in the family room watching his favorite baseball team, the Phillies. He and Heidi and I have covered every topic from the value of studying Exodus and Leviticus, to parental permission for sex education in public schools, court cases the Pacific Justice Institute has won, cities we want to visit, 5th grade physical fitness testing, you name it, good times!! Now we'll see what's for dinner, and as promised, here is my recipe for the famous "No Peekee Chicken."
1 whole, cut-up chicken (or a pack of 10 thighs, my preference)
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can (measured in the soup can) uncooked real white rice
2/3 cup evaporated milk
2 Tbs. melted butter
1 small can mushroom pieces
1/2 cup celery
1 pkg dry Lipton onion soup mix
Mix rice, soup, evaporated milk, butter, mushrooms, and celery. Spread in a 9x13 inch pan. Put chicken on top of mixture. Sprinkle dry soup on top. Cover tightly with foil and do not peek! Bake 300 degrees for 2 hours. Serves 6 to 8.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

A mom's life turns on a dime


4:04 p.m. Today's project is to get youngest son Steven ready for a photoshoot by Muscletech, his corporate sponsor, on May 30. As an up-and-coming professional bodybuilder, Steven has enjoyed a year of free products as part of his contract. He has won a number of first place trophies in the teen and men's novice categories, and has twice taken second in the most challenging category, men's heavyweight. A lot is riding on his May 29th competition in Culver City.

It's amazing how I went from praying for Steven to overcome the physical stress brought on by the eating plan required to be at his perfect competition weight; to getting a tow truck sent his way when his car quit on him; to praying healing from a nasty cold all this week and part of last; to today's need to scan his birth certificate for a passport! You see, this photo shoot is in Toronto, Canada! When we were in Canada in 2006, you didn't need a passport; but after 9/11, the law has changed.

Steven's last photo shoot was fraught with actual danger. He had to drive home on a Thursday night in blizzard conditions from Fresno--no sleep for this praying mom through the night-- then get up early to drive to L.A. by 11:00 a.m. After that, it was up over the Grapevine in heavy storm conditions, back to Fresno in time to get onto a bus with the high school students he leads at the People's Church, for a citywide high school retreat. By the grace of God he made it. My hair would have turned white if the natural color of it hadn't been white already!! (A little confession here, good for the soul.) Psalm 51:6 reminds us that God "desires truth in the inward parts."

Steven was told at the Fresno post office that a passport will take 6 weeks minimum, so now he has located a website that will do it in 24 hours, if a scanned copy of his birth certificate (here in our house, naturally) can be attached to an email. So far my success is from slim to none. We all have been given gifts, but little-used technology details escape me.
Happily, Pavel is here and has scanned and saved it perfectly! God answers prayer yet again!
Whether your role as a mother calls for you to get up in the night with a tot with a 102 degree fever, changing all of your plans for the next day; your 6th gradergets into a fight at school; your teen gets into a car accident; or your adult children drop in for much-needed counsel, you and I are called to be prayed-up, filled with the Holy Spirit, and ready for anything! God is never surprised, but is always present to give that sense of peace, calm, and assurance that He has your children's best interests at heart. And there is no greater, more magnificent, loving heart that that of our Heavenly Father!
Here is a description of the way I feel after this challenging afternoon from Psalm 52:8,9:
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.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Remember His Faithfulness, Part II


4:31 p.m. Today's project was to take my 2005 Jeep Liberty in for its quarterly service a month early. Because I was fishtailing after a left turn onto Alessandro from Canyon Crest yesterday morning during the drizzle, I figured we'd have Moss Motors look at the tires. My brakes were fine, and so were the tires the rest of the day, as I must have driven 50 miles on errands, but it was best to have them check the tread. I really thanked the Lord for keeping me from hitting anything or anybody, and for bringing me through a very gratifying day of ministry.
When we got to the dealership this morning, the service manager measured the tires' tread, and only one new tire was needed, but not desperately. (Good, because even with valued customer discounts, we couldn't have afforded it!) But then I found out the real reason we needed to be at the dealership: the technician measured the battery, and it read FAIL! My battery was dead!! How good is God to let me go through my day yesterday, driving all over the county, and keep the battery running smoothly until we pulled up at the service bay! Now that component I had to take care of right away, chuckling about the way God had saved me tons of stress, even though we have AAA. I like my Heavenly Father's care much better--it's divine, actually! Oddly, our son Steven, who has an identical Jeep, just had his battery die last week! "Five years on a battery is pretty good, " the service manager said. I Peter 5:7 reminds us we should be humble, "casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you." So, so true, even as yesterday's $300 refund check from Mercury auto insurance made it possible to pay for the new battery!
The excitement of this week is still in play. Last Saturday, when my huge cartload of groceries had to be restocked because my bank deposit hadn't posted, included were several bottles of the nutritional supplements both Steve and I use, covered with "buy one/get one free" coupons. Oh well, they weren't drastic necessities and I could pick them up another day. This afternoon, I was filling our pill botttles with all of Steve's prescriptions and both of our supplements, when I reached into the back of the vitamin drawer, as we call it, and found first, an unopened bottle of B-complex; then, TWO unopened bottles of COQ-10, a very expensive heart and circulation supplement. Those were the very bottles of supplements I had been forced to go home without! Furthermore, the COQ-10 was of a much higher quality than what I was willing to settle for from the grocery store--it came from one of the nutritional supplement companies I order specialized items from, considering Steve's Alzheimers and my arthritis. Bargain or no bargain, there's no need to stash up consumable items that have expiration dates on them. God's faithfulness covered me once again. "He remains faithful, for He cannot deny who He is." (2 Timothy 2:13, New Living Translation)
This is my God, and your God, all you who call on the Name of Christ!!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Remember His Faithfulness, Part I


12:55 p.m. Today's project is to encourage the women in this evening's Heart to Home scrapbooking class by recalling God's faithfulness to His people with a short message.


While some classes don't necessarily lend themselves to specific devotional topics, all manner of handiwork imitates our Heavenly Father's infinite, eternal work that continues every second of every day throughout the universe. We glorify and identify with Him when we put our hands into creative work. Psalm 19:1 says, "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork." We glorify God when we tell others of the great things He has done. Just today, He kept my Jeep from sliding on a slick road! (And over the last two days, to our family's and friends' amazement, He sent $500 I jokingly stated that I needed.)

One craft that no one could dispute in the category of preserving memories is scrapbooking. This evening, the ladies will bring their photos, and our instructor Candace will provide the 8"x 8" books, stickers and embellishments. In the 90 minute class period, they will be well underway to completing their project. And even as they are recounting for one another the stories behind their pictures and enjoying great fellowship while they work, the Holy Spirit will be bringing their attention to how the Lord made all of these things possible, even their very lives and the births of their children.

Every human being should devote some time each morning to thanking God for another day to wake up in this world. For sure, all believers will wake up thanking and praising Him in the next! Revelation 4:11 describes the praise of the 24 elders who cast their crowns before the throne of God in heaven:

You are worthy, O Lord,
To receive glory and honor and power;
For You created all things,
And by Your will they exist and were created.

How much we have to thank and remember God for!

Deuteronomy 7:9 tells us through Moses what God says about Himself: "Therefore know that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments."

As much as we need God's mercy and forgiveness daily, how much more do we need to remember that His mercy and forgiveness are constantly available to us? All we need do is ask, never reaching a point where God won't forgive. For every time we sin, believers should have an accompanying memory of how God forgave us, and went before us to make things right, whether it was between ourselves and Him, or whether a third party was involved. Because ALL sin is against God (Psalm 51:1-4) we need to confess to Him first--and speedily! Then we go to the other person with a properly prepared heart...

Then, as the bitterness and harm of our sins work their way through to their just consequences, we are promised a greater memory yet, of how God transformed the moment and redeemed the time, so that He would be glorified in our changed hearts!

And I'll "scrap" to that!!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Quiet confidence


1:43 p.m. Today's project was to drive to Orange on this this dark, misty morning to see Steve's brother Larry, an advanced Alzheimer's patient, and now a resident of a Christian board and care home. A family member had told me that if Steve wanted to see Larry, we'd better go down there this week. So Steve and I talked about it a few days ago, and Steve felt ready and prepared for the visit. The difficulty lies in that Steve also has Alzheimer's, so it isn't too far a leap for him to project himself 3 years ahead and "see" himself in his older brother's position. When I had talked with him before about visiting, Steve said, "I'd like to remember Larry in his recliner at home, enjoying visitors." Thankfully, he had a change of mind.
The home is located on a very quiet cul-de-sac in Orange, and has no sign on the door. Before I had Steve get out, I ran up to the door and rang the bell. The operator, Carmen, was very warm and welcoming as I introduced myself and my husband. "Oh yes! Steve, the youngest one! He's the only one I haven't met!" [All of the other siblings still live in Orange where they grew up.] The house is a lovely ranch style, spotlessly clean, and filled with delicious cooking aromas.
Larry was sitting in a reclining chair between neatly made up twin beds, watching TBN, the Christian tv station. I noticed that's the only station on in the house. He was overjoyed to see Steve, and we sat down for a nice 45 minute visit. I showed him the video I'd made on my cell phone last night of our home fellowship worshipping together, and photos of the kids. Larry's so funny when he sees our baby Steven's bodybuilding picture, because he always makes Popeye arms and grunts like he's lifting weights!
We noticed a constant shaking of Larry's right arm; he kind of slaps it on his thigh, where his caretaker has placed a rolled-up hand towel. And he jerks not real violently, but very suddenly and often. In fact, Steve said at one point, "Let me ask you something: how long have you had the jerking? Because I get that, too." (And I even have that every once in a great while as my body is settling down to sleep at night...maybe it's not actually rare for the average person.) As expected, Larry couldn't give an answer, though he did put a couple of words together many times during our visit, at one time muttering, "This is the pits!" He nodded at the mention of Kriss' and Heather's weddings, which he had attended, and we had a nice chuckle over Larry's Angels t-shirt--he has always been a fan.
Steve then pointed out some mountain peaks on the tv screen, and reminded his brother of the trip they made with two friends to Colorado in his old yellow truck and camper. "Looks like the Rockies!" we all agreed. In fact, Steve spoke smoothly and at length; he initiated lots of conversation, and was completely relaxed while speaking with his brother, like he is with me when it's just the two of us! He really rose to the occasion, and the fact that Larry looked healthy and was so happy to see him gave him confidence--he could take the lead in their interaction. Peaceful, undisturbed one-on-one visiting: that's Steve's strength right now. Isaiah 30:15b, where God speaks to Israel of their return to Him, is also a touching verse for me in light of what I was honored to witness today: "In quietness and confidence is your strength."
We totally felt the prayers of scores of the Facebook friends I had asked to keep our visit lifted up to God...the Holy Spirit was there, especially when we laid hands on Larry and Steve prayed for him. An "amen" of agreement was all that was needed at the end!!
When we got back in the car, I asked Steve what he was feeling. "Hope." I was thinking, wow, I wasn't expecting that! "Hope for what?" I questioned in a neutral tone, holding my breath. "Maybe I'm healing. I mean, Larry and I are totally different." And they are. Steve forgets what to do, but when reminded, and helped with the logical steps, can do whatever he needs to do. But Larry has lost control of his muscles and physical reactions. Yet internally, neither of their major organs are compromised, as with cancer or heart disease. Additionally, Steve stays very physically strong and fit.
Scripture tells us that there is a battle for each of us between the internal person and the outward shell of our bodies! The Apostle Paul, a victim of much persecution and physcial affliction, brings this up in 2 Corinthians 4:16:
We do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
When I think of those people whose daily life consists only of what is right in front of their faces, things that are "seen," I realize that they have no hope, nothing past themselves in this life. Imagine basing your hopes on this temporary existence, which could end in the next minute! The believer looks far beyond today, or even twenty years from now, all the way to eternity, to sharing our real lives, that "inward man," our eternal soul, with Christ forever.
Steve and Larry don't know what's next for them in their disease; but I don't know what's next for me either--and neither do you! But we know Jesus as our Lord and Savior, and His promise of eternal life is all the future we need to know.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Fellowship with a side of mac 'n cheese


2:37 p.m. Today's project was to get Jessica Wardell's famous "Crockpot Mac 'N Cheese" started as soon as we got home from church. This dish is so delicious and comes out so perfectly, that I have made it for every holiday and even had friends lined up at the door of our RV eating it in shifts at Shaver Lake last summer! Double the recipe and you can feed 20!


Today we are headed out to our Home Fellowship's last get-together for the season, a huge barbeque for all of the families. Mark Murdaugh, worship leader at Calvary Moreno Valley, is our leader-what a great job he has done! The hosts, Gibert and Evangelina Reyes, are beyond gracious, providing for every need of the group. Gilbert and their son Gabe are worship leaders also, as is group member Edward Saavedra. So when our bunch worships, we WORSHIP! Psalm 133:1 is such a favorite of those of us who love nothing better than koinonia: "Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" And Christ-centered fellowship is the finest known to man this side of heaven. In fact, our home fellowships are a slice of heaven to me!

I remember how, years ago, when Ed Vaughn was my hairdresser, and we were attending Harvest, how he would tell me of Calvary Chapel MoVal's Pastor John's vision for Sunday night home fellowships, and how all of the church were assigned to groups. Childcare was provided at church. "What fun," I thought, because Steve and I met at a home Bible study in 1980, and I taught a women's home Bible study for 6 years. The two of us attended 4 different fellowships over the 20+ years we were at Harvest. It's just a natural way of being Christians, as far as we are concerned. So when we changed over to Calvary, we had to sit out the first few years, because we were attending Men's and Women's Bible studies on two different nights, and wanted to stay home with Steven on Sunday night, our family's traditional evening for prayer and Bible time over the decades. Once Steven graduated and moved to CSU San Marcos, we signed up. Each of our groups has been wonderful, with loving and mature leadership, a great time for couples and singles to meet around the Person and Word of Jesus Christ. We also enjoyed fantastic meals, some impromptu, others scheduled and planned, however the groups functioned best. We'd cover a specific portion of scripture assigned by the pastors, and meet from October through May. Heidi did childcare on Sunday nights for one or two years.

This session, because we'll need two years to cover the Gospel of Mark, we had the choice of staying with our group, or signing up with another one, no hard feelings either way! Our group voted unanimously to stick with Mark and Cheryl Murdaugh. We can't wait until next fall. And we will have a blast this afternoon. In a few minutes, I'll check on my mac 'n cheese, pack it up, and we'll be on our way.

Here's the recipe, double for a crowd:
8 oz. pkg. elbow macaroni, cooked al dente
13-oz. can evaporated milk
1 cup milk
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
4 cups grated medium cheddar cheese (or sharp, your preference) divided
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. white pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Spray inside of the crockpot with Pam. Then, in crockpot, combine lightly cooked macaroni, evaporated milk, milk, eggs, 3 cups cheddar cheese, salt, and pepper. Top with remaining cheddar and Parmesan cheese. Cook on low for 3 hours. If you don't have a slow cooker you can cook it in the oven for about 35 minutes.
Enjoy! Tastes best in a setting of godly fellowship!


Saturday, May 15, 2010

I meant it for a joke; God meant it for a blessing!


5:26 p.m. Today's project was to go shopping with a huge amount of coupons and freebie certificates, so I went all through the grocery store and came to checkout, having saved about $35.00. I slid my card, but it wasn't authorized! What? I'd made a substantial deposit into the night drop yesterday at 4 p.m. So I asked the checker to hold the cartload while I drove to another part of the shopping center to my bank. While there, I ran into Amy, a girl that Steven led to the Lord a few years ago, who now works in corporate for the bank--wonderful! I love to see young people go forward in life.

Anyway, they had not opened up the night drop yet, but the teller did it, and came back with my deposit (and 4 others) and posted it to my account. Back to Ralphs, same result, arrgh! but in the meantime, I had a good conversation with an old administrator friend of mine who retired last June also. I went outside to call the bank, and they said it wouldn't post until Tuesday! Oh well, I went back in and bought a few essentials for cash, and figured I'd just go shopping on Tuesday. It was a little embarassing, but I wouldn't have enjoyed those times of fellowship if I hadn't been delayed. God has a way of redeeming even the negative times--that's how much He loves us!
When I got home, I had a task to do, labeling and putting Mary Kay products into a bag to donate to a breast cancer event at the end of this month. My sales director will be making up gift bags from all of our donations. I just had to catalog each product for tax puposes, while watching the 2nd half of the "Ironman" video I'd started with last night, but got too sleepy to finish.
A while later, I told Heidi, after recounting my grocery/bank adventure, "You know what I could use about now? $500 to arrive in the mail today!" and laughingly went about other chores. Steve then went out to get the mail a while later.
Among the typical political ads, charity appeals, and bank statements, was a letter from the Jurupa Unified School District. "Oh no, " I thought, what's this?" (I still have my health plan through them as a retiree). I opened up the letter and found my check, and thought the worst, but the accompanying letter said, "We are returning this check to you because you are fully paid up for your benefits through September 10, 2010." Yes!! That was $355.55 right there! Fully wound up, I told Steve and yelled upstairs to Heidi, "Only $145 to go!!" We went through the rest of the mail, and there was a birthday card for Steve from my dad--always generous, and "coincidentally," a week early. Steve opened it up, and there was a check for $100!! We called Daddy right away, hysterically telling him how he had been part of the answer to my somewhat random prayer. He loved it, and bless God, his faith was built up today, too.
Now, only $45, or precisely, $44.45 to go! Since God never falls short or disappoints in any way, I'm pretty much almost faint with excitement! As I told Pavel when he came to pick up Heidi and to deliver 2 dozen eggs and an armload of homegrown gladiolus stalks ready to bloom,
"THERE'S NOTHING LIKE BEING A CHRISTIAN!"

Friday, May 14, 2010

Tell me again why we're doing this?


4:18 p.m. Today's project was for the two of us to get information packets and appointments for our colonoscopies. Steve, at 55, has never had one, and I am due for mine after dutifully going through with one at age 50, and an upper and lower GI five years later. So I'm due. It's a rite of passage for middle age, which apparently is based on our long life expectancy here in the U.S., 50 being considered the middle.
You could put that procedure off for 20 more years as far as I'm concerned, because the last time I had one, I was sick for 5 days. You don't mess with my innards, apparently! They found two benign polyps. So I'm actually glad I had it done, because polyps have been known to turn cancerous. My erratic digestion caused the need for the GI testing four years later, and guess what? There was actually nothing wrong with me! Over the last few years, I've narrowed things down to celiac sprue, an allergy to wheat, barley, and rye. I only know this because whenever I'm on the Atkins diet and drop all wheat and most other carbs, I feel great and function smoothly. In Psalm 139:14 the Psalmist says, "I am fearfully and wonderfully made," and I definitely agree, and I would add, that each one of us is unique down to our very cells.
We constantly hear, "Have X grams of fiber a day!" "Uh, no thanks!" I reply, in total defiance of conventional wisdom. I just hold onto the fact that God knows what keeps me ticking, and what keeps me housebound for days.
Steve and I drove across town to the medical complex near Parkview Hospital, reminiscing about the huge 1-year birthday parties we and our friends would throw for our babies at nearby Hunt Park. Our kids took swimming lessons there, and one of son Steven's soccer teams practiced there. I love driving through Riverside on surface streets, pointing out memorable places to Steve, commenting on everything we see:
"Is the Neptune society still there?"
"I would love to live on that quiet, shady street."
"99 cent tacos! Wow! Never seen that restaurant before."
"No more Grace Baptist School [where I used to teach]. Now Riverside Christian has their middle school there!"
"At least Sears is still open!"
"Look! I thought they closed that DairyQueen! Maybe they just open when the weather warms up..."
Steve enjoyed our drive, and looked at everything, but I know he heard just a portion of my chatter, and didn't remember anything about the locations. Granted, he'd be at work when I shuttled the kids all over town for their activities, but we used to drive up Arlington at least once a week for 14 years on our way to Harvest, and patronized the nearby businesses on the way home. (We lived in La Sierra on the far western end of town for the first 7 years of our marriage, and have been 8 years at Calvary Chapel).
When we arrived at the gastroenterologist's office, we received packets of information, and two separate prescriptions, with two separate dates for procedures as I had requested. My dad offered to drive us back and forth, and I'll take him up on driving me, but there's no way I can allow myself to be at less than my best mental condition when Steve is coming out of anesthesia, even though it will be more of a twilight sleep that people awake from pretty quickly. I have no idea how it will affect his brain...With those issues in mind, I've planned the procedure(s) carefully.
But the worst comes first! You have to drink a gallon of laxative drink, starting at 4 p.m. the day before, following a day of liqiud fasting. And believe me, you stay close to home. The rules are very strict about downing that gallon of liquid, but I hope it will be do-able. I pray Steve will be cooperative, and realize that there's no "wiggle room." I know the Lord will help us to get through! It's important to be declared cancer-free, or get early treatment which colon cancer responds to very well.
Perhaps it's time to "take the beam out of my own eye," as Jesus put it in Luke 6:42, and not project my horrible memories onto Steve, who has no digestive issues of any kind. There's no reason to expect him to have an adverse reaction, so I need to focus on his mental and emotional condition during the prep time and coming out of anesthesia.
May I project confidence for the outcome of Steve's colonoscopy, and for mine as well, knowing that God is in control! And Proverbs 4:25-27a gives me good, sensible and direct advice:
Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you. Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or to the left...
Thank you, Lord, and amen!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

This is our time




1:47 p.m. Today's project is to get my mind around writing a bio--or would that be an auto-bio?


It's required by Tate Publishing, for my Galatians study they want to start production on this July. I'm not seeing a way to worm out of this project that seems a bit dreary at best and self-serving at worst. Funny, years ago when I was asked by Assemblyman Ray Haynes for the same thing, as part of his "Woman of the Year" award, I had no problem whipping it out. Guess that's because I was still in political office, where you either promote what you've done to help the public, or find yourself un-elected!

A reminder came from my daughter Heather's blog, "Remains of the Day," because she has been asked to write her resume in order to move up to a State Senate-level aide position from the Assembly level she is in now, should her boss Bill Emmerson win his election bid in June. Not only does she wonder whether she is qualified, but whether she is following her heart, her desire to be a full-time photographer. For now, while husband Nick is finishing his masters degree, she needs a good income. That's what the decade of the twenties is for--to build up your financial base so you can start a family later! The Lord will guide her, I am confident, and He views her constituent service and community outreach events as unto Him, I assured her in my posted comment. Colossians 3:22-24 says,

Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.

Looks like we both have some writing to do! May the Lord lead every word we put to paper or post.
Out of the blue, my teacher daughter Heidi and I have a new tandem assignment at church--it had to happen sooner or later, as active as we both are! Children's ministry director Ivett has asked us to form a Bible Story station-leader team for the preschool version of Vacation Bible School at the end of June! Heidi was approached originally, and then desperately asked if I would do it instead, because I not only do VBS almost every year, but I enjoy little kids tremendously (my adverb!) "and you're good with them!" My friends, while assuring me of a blessing, think I'm crazy for saying yes, with the I Samuel study beginning June 10th, but that's Thursday mornings for an entire season, and VBS only lasts 5 days. Either way, God called me to teach the Word--He never said only to adults!!
I like the way the New International Version translates Ecclesiastes 9:10: "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom." In other words, now is our time to serve. This is our generation of believers who live for Christ, and we have just so much time to bring others to Him in repentance and salvation, as well as performing the Body ministry of edifying and instructing others in the scriptures! Jesus said of Himself, in one of my favorite verses, "I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work." (John 9:4) And it's getting mighty dark out there!
No follower of Christ has ever regretted time in His service, whether at home, work, or in church ministry. There are definite sacrifices of money, goods, gasoline, labor and time, not to mention hours spent in prayer and study that proceed the work. I am certain that we will look back longingly at ministry responsibilities when we've been called to move on to other duties or become physically unable to participate. But we will look back with joy at having been obedient, holding back nothing from the One who gave all for us!


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

To God be the glory!



1:27 p.m. Today's project was to share thoughts on two wonderful videos that show the magnificence of our God throughout the earth!






Last night, I came across a fantastic surfing video posted by my friend Monica, of the Monica's Munchies blog. The son of a world famous surfer created a collection of surf documentaries that are stunningly beautiful. I see in these documentaries a wonderful "collaboration" between God's creation and man's skill and ingenuity. Truly, whenever we act in partnership with God, even unknowingly, we serve to glorify Him, our Creator! David asked in Psalm 8:3-8,



When I consider Your heavens,
The work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,
What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?
For You have made him a little lower than the angels,
And You have crowned him with glory and honor.
You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things under his feet,
All sheep and oxen--
Even the beasts of the field,
The birds of the air,
And the fish of the sea
That pass through the paths of the sea.



That pretty well covers the earth, doesn't it? On a more lowly scale, for lunch just now, I painstakingly pressure -cooked, pulled apart, scraped and cut out the tasty parts of an artichoke, a homely vegetable that can't be beat for flavor when dipped in mayonnaise or melted butter. But the first person who ate one--like the first oyster eater--had to be pretty daring!! Another aspect of the God-man partnership in action: His provision of food.

I just added a new site to my blog's reading list, www.transplantfund.org, a national website to help raise funds for organ transplants. It came to my attention just today, from a gentleman who came over to measure our backyard for a cinderblock wall. His wife is in recovery from a liver transplant. Did God create the human liver? Of course. Do some fail? Sadly, yes. But has God redeemed this devastating experience by giving man the wisdom and ability to perform organ transplants? He has indeed!

The second video was emailed to me by God Tube, and shows a homeless man praising God with all his might, as Danny Doheney plays and sings, "God of Second Chances." You wonder how someone with very little (in our eyes) to be thankful for can burst out in righteous praise, but he does, with true joy. May we praise Him in our trials as this man does, knowing that all we could ever ask for, think of, or possess, comes from God!

I'll let the Psalmist supply my praise in v. 9: "O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is Your Name in all the earth!



Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Devoting ourselves




2:45 Today's project was to pick up my prescription sunglasses and shop at the nearby Vons for dinner for a disabled mom and her sons for delivery tonight. While at home, I had the privilege of praying with my prayer/accountability partner as well as finishing up laundry, making Steve's lunch and encouraging him in his many projects around the house. Our lawns look great, and our garden is flourishing! Steve exemplifies the man in Psalm 1:3 who delights in God's Word-- "He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither, and whatever he does shall prosper."

In our couples' study on Thursday nights, we are studying and seeking to actualize Acts 2:42:

And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.

Makes me ponder periodically, what am I devoting myself to? Husband and home are my top priorities, and I have seen the Lord bless abundantly since I retired to keep Steve company. To His glory, and to our amazement, God is meeting all of our needs despite a drastic change from earning two livings to living on two fixed incomes. God alone could have made this possible!

The Lord has expanded ministries I was already leading, Heart to Home most notably, and opened opportunities to teach a brief devotional to a new group of ladies each week. God has brought me a new ministry of visiting sisters in the church who have need, currently the lady to whom we are taking a meal this evening before we go to church. And with time in my day to address the thoughts in my heart, He created "Today's Project." And what can I say about the timing of the publication of my Galatians Bible study? I would not even have thought of submitting it to Tate Publishing if I hadn't become friends with a now-published author whom I took to some medical appointments on weekdays. God moved my entire life around so I could serve my husband, making me available to go through doors He created and opened as our life at home settled in to a structure more conducive to ministry. I'll be teaching Bible study again for the summer, I Samuel, with lessons written in the 1980's and formatted for 21st century use. God and God alone receives my praise today!
Acts 2:42 gives us a clear-cut guide to living the Christian life--learning and staying immersed in the truth of God's Word, teaching and sharing sound doctrine with others, sharing food together, and praying!
Which facets of the life described above are we lacking in? Where do we meet God's standard? To what or whom are we devotng our lives?
As I Peter 3:21 mentions, let's strive to have "a good conscience toward God."




Monday, May 10, 2010

In a family way



2:31 p.m. Today's project was to go over to Apria Health Care and find out why Steve is still having occasional struggles with his C-pap machine. The very friendly and courteous technician showed him how to make sure the mask is on tightly enough, especially at the bridge of the nose. That way, no air can escape and cause the racket that wakes me up occasionally. It's always a blessing to receive simple solutions, isn't it?



As we sat down to enjoy leftover antipasto salad for lunch, we laughed over our Mother's Day dinner table conversation, which ranged from the ludicrous to the politically volatile, and everything in between. On the ludicrous side, I, ever desperate for more grandkids, offered $500 to the first married couple who brought me a confirmed positive pregnancy test! The Loves and the Kriss Kruckenbergs were considering this when Heidi announced that she wants a baby no later than age 28--and she'll be 27 next year when she and Pavel wed. "The rest of you guys just lost $500!" I teased. Before you mock me, doesn't Proverbs 17:6 say that "Children's children are the crown of old [wo] men"? Just speeding up Steve's and my continued coronation!



We laughed so hard at our kids' upbringing in our house, like Kriss riding his bike all over the neighborhood, whereabouts unknown, occasionally spotted and reported to me by phone, but always home in time for dinner. Heidi mentioned that we never gave our kids a curfew. Why? Because I always knew who they were with, and every mom in the neighborhood knew the rest of us, and we felt quite free to call one another at all hours, not to mention scold and confront any one of our kids. So we always knew where the kids were. And I pretty much drove the kids and their friends to all kinds of school activities and church youth groups. We moms were active in either Moms in Touch, PTA from elementary through high school and/or booster clubs, or even staying on top of things by working part-time at the local schools.



The neighborhood wasn't perfect--we'd all sorrow at job losses or the occasional divorce. But I must say, that to ensure stability, separated parents would take up residence close by to make sure the kids stayed in their schools. I thank God every day when I see my kids grown now, with the full benefit of having been raised in a Christ-centered, stable, respectable home. "Children live what the learn," secular wisdom states. I prefer to quote Proverbs 22:6, "Bring up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it." I have my concerns, but twist and turn as they may, people will generally "revert to type." And with assurances from the Word of God, and His faithfulness to me for 30 years now, my heart can be at rest.



The funniest conversation we had at dinner was whether Kriss and Marisela's "tall" children would be able to best Nick and Heather's "short but sturdy" ones! We kept imagining all kinds of tricks and scenarios that just had us rolling. Heidi and Pavel said that their "medium tall" kids would just sit by and laugh; Sean's boys, Adrian and Xavier, already 12 and 14, would, amazingly, be too grown up by then. Maybe they'll referee. I added, "and they'll be at my house all the time!" Yes, indeed, I just kept reveling in the thought that they are all planning to have children!



My kids' commitment to raising families is a big one, with the general (and well-founded) concern many of us have for this country's economic and spiritual future. When you look at Europe, where couples have maybe one, but mostly zero children, not even replacing themselves--that's pessimism in action, or inaction, rather. Bringing new lives into the world bespeaks a certain level of hope, optimism, and willingness to believe those children have a bright future ahead of them. Think how many couples don't even marry, let alone plan a family together! Men and women who don't know Christ as Savior don't know God's promises; all they have to base judgments on are the facts in front of their faces--they have no real hope.

Our family's choice is to believe Jeremiah 29:11:

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.
Thank you, Lord, for Your creation of families!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Letting God be God to my children



11:49 a.m. Today's project is to make sure everything is ready so our family can enjoy a relaxed and fun Mother's Day together. Steve and I picked up Subway meatball sandwiches after church, and are enjoying them together before Kriss and Marisela and puppy Penny arrive; we have some for them, too. Since Heidi has informed me that she is making carne asada for dinner, thought we'd better get a different kind of food for lunch!


Our second son and his wife are having a bit of a rough time, so we hope that the "goodie box" I've been compiling with all my grocery bargains will help fill in a few gaps. But it's not about them feeling grateful or obliged to us--it's about receiving and acknowledging the love of Jesus Christ, who makes it possible for us to make efforts and plans in the first place! (Deuteronomy 8:18)
Since it's Mother's Day, there are choices I'm allowed to make, and I choose not to just lounge about and be waited on. I noticed a stain (from a years-old accident one of the dogs had that oozed out from her crate) on our fireplace near the carpet. So Steve and I just now got some matching paint and covered it up! No sense sitting around when we can make ourselves useful...
Now that things look nice around here, I can reflect on my children: whom I'll see today, and whom I won't. Steven was here for the day Saturday, resting, checking in with his diet and posing coach down in Hemet, and cooking his competition meals for here and to go. With three more weeks until his big show, the eating strictures and extra hours of cardio are wearing him down physically and emotionally, making him a person that "only a mother could love!" That's all right. After the first competition 3 years ago, I know that his dreadful attitude is one of carb deprivation, and I can relate, being on the Atkins plan myself. Atkins seems indulgent by comparison! But he did give me the beautiful necklace pictured above, and texted an apology for his attitude on his way home. I'm not sure how even the godliest among us would behave without those cushioning carbs!
Sean, our oldest, has always been "quirky," as his middle school counselor Miss Dauphine described him in 1989. He may surprise us by coming over, or may call or text. I'll be seeing more of him and Pam as his April wedding plans move forward, that's for sure!
Heidi, Nick and Heather will be here fixing dinner, and we might see Pavel unless he is busy with his own mom. While it is glorious to watch your family expand through marriage, special days and holidays do cause the need for Mom to be flexible, to be gracious, to be a good representative of Jesus Christ, setting nan example even to fellow believers. As our pastor said this morning, we need to have a prepared generation coming up behind us, prepared to go forward in Christ as we have done. "I have no greater joy than that my children walk in truth."(III John 1-4) That is a mother's true joy.
Steve and I remembered our own moms this morning as we prayed together, and thanked God for the loving, diligent women they both were. Our upbringings, while certainly not perfect, laid the groundwork for the stability of our own home, and the dedication to making our kids do the right thing, even when it hurts. (Psalm 15:4) That's how we were were raised, and if there's a better formula than God's Word gives, contact me!
Wherever my five children are with the Lord, I trust Jesus to make Himself real to them, whether they are in a time of blessing, ministry, success, setbacks, need, conviction, correction, or humbling, because that who Jesus is, Lord of all.
I will honestly say that as a mother, giving my children over to the Lord is hands-down the hardest thing of all! Praying and waiting, waiting and praying, for one's return to Him, for a breakthrough in another's walk with Him, for the maturing of character, for the development of empathy, for the realization that it is by grace and grace alone, that any of us can stand before Him...
Lord, let me not try to "smoothe the way" or interfere in the work you are doing in the lives of Sean, Kriss, Heidi, Heather, and Steven. In Jesus' Name, Amen.