Category Archives: Blessings

Wise Wednesday ~ 3/8/17

“Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”‘
Matthew 19:14 (NIV)

Time With Carson

My soul can get weary.  Been there? For me, it’s the striving I think.  Maybe it’s the same for you or maybe something else takes its toll on your soul. No matter how it gets that way, having a drained soul weighs you down. Joy is hard to find. Peace seems out of reach. And the energy to love as we should? Not there, disconnected, out of order.

I found myself in just such a place not too long ago. While blessings abounded around me, inside that most sacred place I felt hollow. It’s not that I’m ungrateful for all I have or don’t recognize God working in my life: I am and I do.  It may be those very things that shout and echo against the walls of my tired soul; “God has abundantly blessed you so Do more! Be more!” And then I don’t……I’m not…..My soul sighs.

It so happens that at the very time my soul felt depleted, I was privileged to babysit my wonderful grandson, Carson!  It may have appeared that I was taking care of him, but from milk and Mickey first thing in the morning until bedtime stories and goodnight prayers at the end of the day, Carson was mending my soul.

“And he said:  “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3 (NIV)

Who’d have guessed that playing at the park, throwing sticks in a pond, or a walk along the creek would revive my tired soul? I watched as he stooped low to get an up close look at moss growing on a rock, spotted a bird gliding high across the sky, laughed at leaves on the wind, nestled in a pile of well loved blankets to fall asleep, and when afraid to go down the slide alone? He kept his eyes on me, let go of the sides, and sailed down into my waiting arms!

“Change and become like little children.” My time with Carson reminded me to: like him, engage in the world around me, find joy in little things, rest in the knowledge that I am loved, and most importantly:  to take my eyes off myself, loosen the grip I have on wanting control, and trust that even when I’m not sure what’s waiting for me; I know WHO’s waiting for me!

Children really DO heal our souls if we’ll only watch, listen, and learn to humble ourselves to become more like them.  Of course, this MiMi thinks Carson is the cutest, smartest, strongest, most talented child of all! (I’m sure you know one of those too!) When he puts his little hand in mine and looks up at me with his perfect tiny toothed grin my heart overflows with unconditional love and I want nothing more than to be sure he knows he’s treasured! And isn’t that just like God? He waits for us to put our hand with childlike wonder in his, look to him, and to know without a doubt that we are precious and loved.  To become more like a child, HIS child……now that’s refreshing to the soul!

Miracles of Living Hope: Murunga’s Faith

Miracles of Living Hope

Marilyn Uhl will be the first to tell you that establishing and running Living Hope High School in Bungoma, Kenya could not happen without God. She will also tell you that the longer she’s in Africa, the stronger her faith grows. Marilyn has seen God work things out in strange and powerful ways even when she didn’t believe He would.  “I don’t know why we don’t have total faith because He never lets us down.” she reminds us. “He might not answer us the way we want or when we want, but He always has our good in mind.”  The Living Hope journey continues with these true stories of the miraculous ways God is working in the lives of Marilyn and her students.

Praise/ Pixabay

Murunga’s Faith

Murunga had come to Marilyn and Living Hope High School hoping for a new, promising future.  He was now a member of the first graduating class looking forward to attending college, but college takes money and money was something Murunga didn’t have.  That didn’t stop him from planning, however.  He had complete faith that God was going to work a miracle that would enable him to go on to school.

On the Sunday night before classes were to begin on Monday, Marilyn looked in on Murunga. She had given him a little money to buy new socks and under clothes. He had washed, ironed, and folded those and was singing as he packed them and his other clothes into his suitcase. The fact that he still needed over four hundred dollars….$476.00 to be exact…hadn’t chipped away at his rock solid faith.

Marilyn’s faith, on the other hand, was shaky.  She was worried that God was going to let Murunga down.  She considered anonymously paying the fees herself so God wouldn’t look bad to the young man. Marilyn just didn’t believe God would work it out at all. With a heavy heart she headed to the computer lab to catch up on her email.  There was a message from her sister, Helen; so she opened it and began reading.  Suddenly, she rose from her chair, went and woke one of the students telling him to wake all the others and gather in the computer lab in five minutes. The small, brick building quickly became jam packed with students, standing shoulder to shoulder inside, others crowding outside the door; all wondering why they were there.   Marilyn asked Murunga to sit down and read the email she’d received.  As he began reading he reported that someone had donated several pairs of tennis shoes to the school.  “That was nice.” Continuing, he read that a new sponsor had been found for a student in need. “Great news!” When he recounted the last of the email message, prayer and singing flooded the room!

As it turned out, Helen had attended Main Street United Methodist Church in Petersburg, WV that morning. She was not scheduled to speak during the service but, God had other plans..  Standing up, she made a plea for support for Murunga. The congregation graciously took up an offering and when the money had been counted, it was not the $476.00 he needed. No, it was $486.00!

Murunga, Marilyn, and the students continued to sing and dance for an hour; expressing overflowing joy that Murunga had received his miracle from God! Marilyn knew that she had been the “ye of little faith,” while Murunga’s faith had been unwavering.

The next morning before dawn, Murunga gathered up the bag he’d packed, no longer a high school student, he was now college bound.  The extra ten dollars raised at Main Street Church allowed him to purchase a bus ticket and even a rare bottle of water for the trip.  God knew exactly what Murunga needed; Murunga knew that God would find a way; Marilyn knew that the offering was a perfectly-timed miracle; and that Murunga’s great faith would serve as an example to her and to all who heard his story!

“Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young.  Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.” 

1 Timothy 4:12 (NLT)

copyright Living Hope High School, Bungoma, Kenya

For more information on Living Hope High School, go to www.livinghopehighschool.org or call Marilyn’s sister, Helen Markwell at 304-567-2254.

M’m! M’m! Monday 7/4/16

"This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook--try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, BE FEARLESS, and above all have fun. ~Julia Child

“This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook–try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, BE FEARLESS, and above all have fun.
~Julia Child

Last week we were just thinking about the Fourth of July and now here we are!  My weekend didn’t turn out quite as we had planned.  It’s disappointing how easily I get out of whack when MY plans don’t work out the way I’d hoped.  (Cue the sad violin music) I sigh, (loudly) I boo hoo, (pitifully), I grumble about how it’s not fair, and… I. Feel. Sorry. For. Myself!  I am such an Israelite!

 The Israelite people were living a life in slavery. Through Moses, God saved them. To do this, they’d walked across the dry bed of the Red Sea, followed a light at night and a cloud in the day to guide them to safety, manna fell from Heaven to satisfy their hunger, and water poured from a rock to quench their thirst. They’d witnessed miracle after miracle, grace after grace, and what did they do in return? Felt. Sorry. For. Themselves. And just like me, they grumbled!

“Moses also said, “you will know that it was the Lord when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we?  You are not grumbling against us, but against the Lord.” Exodus 16:8 (NIV)

“Grumbling against the Lord”…..Yikes!  It’s so easy for me to invite myself to that pity party, dance with my disappointment, and never once think that I’m grumbling against the One who saved ME!  The Israelites pity-partied on for way too long and it didn’t turn out so great for them. Pretty sure there’s a lesson here for me! Please tell me, I’m not alone!

It’s time for me to establish a no grumble zone and instead look at all my blessings! So, our weekend didn’t go according to plan…. we still got some jobs done that we’ve been avoiding, had an unexpected visit with our son, daughter-in-love, and granddogs, and have had some much needed down time, too. Manna from Heaven for sure! 

Our weather didn’t really cooperate today for our traditional Fourth of July grilled hot dogs either. No worries though, I pulled out my Fancy Hot Dog recipe, instead. Super quick, easy, and the best part? No grumbling! Enjoy!

Fancy Hotdogs

Ingredients

  • 1 package of hotdogs (I've used Oscar Mayer and Ball Park)
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 tsp. mustard
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar

Instructions

  • Cut hotdogs into quarters.
  • In a saucepan, combine ketchup, mustard, and brown sugar.
  • Add hotdogs and simmer 15-30 minutes.
  • This recipe can be easily doubled and also fixed in a crockpot!
Recipe Management Powered by Zip Recipes Plugin
http://www.myseaofthought.com/2016/07/04/mm-mm-monday-7416/

 

Small Things Change Everything

Our First Meeting

Our First Meeting

How can something so small change everything?

It’s a question I’m asking myself because life as I’ve known it has been permanently altered by a tiny baby being born….my grandson!  This little guy with perfect fingers, soft hair, and a cute nose has made most everything else fade into the background.  My priorities have changed and things I used to think were important aren’t now. My heart is overflowing!  Yes, one gaze upon this small miracle has forever redefined who I am.  I am still a daughter, sister, woman, teacher, friend, wife, and mother, but now for the first time I am “Mimi”!   All the paths I’ve traveled have been leading me to this destination.  I’ve had no map.  It’s been a journey of hard lessons, great happiness, accomplishments, disappointments,  adventure, heartache, forgiveness, and strong love.  Step by step, climb by climb, slips, slides, and sometimes by just hanging on for dear life I’ve gotten to this place of overwhelming joy.  He is my child’s child. She, who I held in my arms, now holds the future in hers.  The depth of emotion I’m experiencing leaves me breathless and my prayers for them roll down my cheeks.

I know I’m not alone.  Maybe you are also a new grandparent or parent with a wee bundle of your own.  Maybe a minute spot on an X-ray has changed everything.  Maybe a tiny seed of friendship has grown to true love. Maybe a still, small voice has guided you on a new path.  Small things DO change our world.  I’m reminded now more than ever that God knew the effect of small things when he sent his Son, a tiny baby to change all of us.  What a gift!  Perfect little hands that would one day be nailed to a cross. A miracle that would redefine who we could be and change our priorities. A life’s beginning who’s journey would be full of overflowing forgiveness and great love. I look at the world around me now and I wonder what the future holds for my precious grand baby. I don’t know of course, but what a comfort to know that He, the creator of all small things holds it and us safely in His arms and THAT changes everything!

A Teacher’s Heart

Teaching is a Work of Heart!

Teaching is a Work of Heart!

To all my precious Teacher friends out there…Happy Teacher Appreciation Day!  Never forget what an important job you do and how much I admire you!

A Teacher’s Heart

It started when I was very young,

A seed began to grow.

Crayons, scissors, glitter too,

Went with me where I’d go.

Sunday School, babysitting

Camp counselor and more,

Time with children anywhere

Caused my heart to soar.

It took hard work along the way

And several interviews

With love and support of family and friends

I stepped into my teacher shoes.

Those poor first students who had to teach me

Time and time again

Lessons tried, lessons failed

Lessons that should never have been.

Through it all they didn’t give up

And thankfully neither did I,

When I think back on those precious first years

I truly want to cry.

I’ve put my heart and soul into

My classrooms and each child,

Each day a new adventure

Some good, some bad, some wild.

Thirty-two years of my life

Living out this dream,

The ups, the downs, laughs and tears,

The times I wanted to scream.

The teacher’s day is never through

It’s hard to understand

The patience, the strength, the prayers it takes

To embrace a job so grand.

The seed has grown and blossomed

Its roots have gone quite deep.

In my heart are memories

A treasure I’ll always keep.

Little did I know back then

Long ago when this did start,

That God’s perfect plan all along

Was to give me a teacher’s heart.

Once a teacher, now a teacher

it’s what I’ve always been

Looking back I have no doubt

I’d do it all again.

Home

"There is more than enough room in my Father's home. If this were not so would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am." John 14:2-3 NLT

“There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” John 14:2-3 NLT

I got up this morning, poured my cup of coffee, and sat down in my chair at the window to watch the activity taking place at the bird feeders.  This is my routine pretty much every morning I’m home, however, this morning was a little more exciting (in the bird world, at least) because the Wrens are back and building a nest in the bird house.  It’s an amazing thing to watch as the tiny bird approaches the small opening in the bird house with a GIANT stick, often three times their size and yet, it still manages to maneuver it through. All the while the other half of the couple is chattering anxiously and excitedly flitting here and there. It’s hard work creating a home one stick at a time!

Home……it’s what’s been on my mind lately.  I recently traveled to help my mom prepare to move into a new home.  It’s a lovely condo with lots of light and storage. But even though it’s a positive move it has still caused her feelings of doubt, anxiety, and heartache.  At the same time, she’s experiencing excitement about redecorating, the joy of having friends close by, and a peace knowing she’s found the right place

In a few weeks my daughter, who I can still picture smiling up at me with a toothless grin and a head full of curls, is about to have a baby of her own.  She and her husband will be navigating their way to recreate their home as a family of three instead of two.  Doubt? Anxiety? You know it!  And as a parent I know that there’ll be some heartache too, but right there mixed in are great excitement and abundant joy!  (I can hardly wait!)

Add into the mix, my son, who is about to be married and join two lives into one home.  Again, its a time of mixed emotions. There are so many questions to be answered, plans to be made, and priorities to set. If ever there’s a time with a myriad of feelings, it’s planning a wedding, but the promise of this new love brings such delight!

My home was built over one hundred years ago and has seen better days. Now common sense would tell you that we have enough going on in our lives right now, but I’m not always sensible, SO….my husband and I have been looking into making a change in our home too.  We’ve given consideration to building a new house, one board at a time….. TOO STRESSFUL! Tearing down our family home and putting in a modular has been an option….. this caused me some heartache, though.  Remodeling where we’ve called home for many years is still being considered.  All three options are exciting and all three have also caused my husband and me a great deal of anxiety!

Home…..some of its definitions are:  shelter, a dwelling place or retreat, any place of residence or refuge, a place in which one’s domestic affections are centered.  These are all so true but for me there’s something more about home which cannot be defined.  It is that gravitational-like pull that draws me back. It is memories of times past and hope for times to come. It is love.

Yes, every emotion on the spectrum is experienced in a home…some good, some not. It is where we teach and learn about life.  It isn’t perfect but it’s where we begin and where we end. And in the midst of it all we have the promise that a Heavenly home awaits us. A place where there will be no more heartache or anxiety, only excitement and joy as we have never known before!  They say “Home is where the heart is”.  I have definitely put my whole heart into creating a home for my family and more importantly into building in us, one prayer at a time, hearts of faith, so that on some sweet day we will all finally be home together, forever.

A Glimpse of a Miracle

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;"  Psalm 139:13-14

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;” Psalm 139:13-14

A Glimpse of a Miracle

I gazed upon his perfect face

His hands, and little toes

I thought I caught a glimpse of her

Around his button nose.

He kicked, he yawned and then he blinked

In awe I took it in.

I’m pretty sure his dad and he

share a handsome chin.

A miracle right before my eyes

Tears of joy ran down my cheek.

For where once only God could see

I was blessed to take a peek.

Abundant Friendship

 

“Why did you do all this for me?” he asked. “I don’t deserve it.  I’ve never done anything for you” “You have been my friend,” replied Charlotte.  “That in itself is a tremendous thing”     ~E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web

     I don’t know about you, but I’ve been very blessed in my life with wonderful friends!  Over the years some have come and gone, but they’re still part of who I am today.  Some friends live and work close by and we’re in touch regularly.  I honestly don’t know what I’d do without them.  And then there are those special, priceless few who almost know me better than I know myself.  They are the ones who get me.  They understand my weaknesses and  encourage my strengths. We laugh together. Grieve together. Celebrate together.  We experience life together.  They are my life preservers, my sounding boards, my voices of reason, and I know that they will always be there when I need them.  Whether we’re near or far my “heart friends” and I share an abundant friendship and today I  rejoice in those relationships through this poem:

Abundant Friendship

Friendship.                                                                                                                                        Abundant, strong.                                                                                                                                    Rare, lucky to be found.                                                                                                                           Time and distance don’t dim the heart.                                                                                        Precious.

Wonder as You Wander

"Wisdom Begins in Wonder" Socrates

“Wisdom Begins in Wonder” Socrates

While glancing through my husband’s recent issue of “Reader’s Digest”, I ran across the story entitled “A World of Wonder”. It is described as an “Appreciation in Words and Photographs”. In honor of that cover story the editor listed things that have filled her with wonder and it got me thinking…..What fills ME with wonder? So, after much pondering and in no order of importance here are twenty things that have filled me with wonder lately:

1. My baby girl having a baby
2. The rhythm and song of the sea
3. The colors, sounds, and dynamics of birds at my feeders
4. The glistening, crystal world created by ice on trees
5. Strength given to people in crisis
6. Bulbs that lay dormant underground and then at the perfect moment burst forth into the sunshine
7. The unbreakable bond with my sisters
8. The utter silence after a snow storm
9. Pure and perfect artistry found in nature
10. Holding hands with a child
11. My son’s faith
12. The effect of music on my soul
13. How as teachers we can predict the weather by our students’ behavior
14. The life cycle of a butterfly
15.  That no matter how old I get I still need my mom
16. The smell of a bookstore
17. Reading the same piece of scripture and finding something new and meaningful each time
18. Notes left for me on the kitchen counter
19. The infinitude of stars visible on a clear night
20. Grace

The amazing thing is I could list 20 more and then 20 more. I find the longer I focus my attention on those things that defy logic and common sense. Those things that are beyond my understanding and those things that just leave me speechless, the longer my list becomes. The homey smells of bacon and coffee. Friendships that last a lifetime.  A brand new box of crayons.  Happy tears….. Life is full of wonder if we just take the time to notice. Think about how different our world would be if we shifted our attention to wonderful things instead of noticing our differences, the negatives, and the disappointments around us. Just as Liz Vaccareillo, editor of “Reader’s Digest”, challenged her readers to make their own list, so I challenge you, my readers, to stop, look around, and recognize those things in your life that fill YOU with wonder. I think you may be surprised at how many there are and the difference identifying them makes on your outlook. We live in an amazing world surrounded by miracles every day. Why don’t you begin today to Wonder as you Wander through yours.

Scoop’in Frogs

Scoop'in Frogs

Scoop’in Frogs

Well, I had a new experience this week.  Something I’ve never done before.  What was it you ask?  For the first time ever (and maybe last) I scooped dead frogs, eight to be exact, out of my daughter’s pool. Now, I’ve had the reputation as “the teacher who loves frogs” and it is true, I loved to decorate with frogs, but touching them?….that’s another story….AND a fact I never let the kids know.  So, to see motionless frogs with their little arms stretched out, floating on the clear pool water was just a little disconcerting for me.  Wanting to be a helpful mother however, I ignored my squeamish stomach, bravely grasped the pool net, scooped those bloated, gelatinous amphibians out of the water and launched them over the fence where they plopped right onto their final resting place.  I’m sure that wasn’t the plan they had when they jumped into the cool, evening water.

I don’t know what caused the demise of those poor frogs.  Chlorine maybe or smothering under the solar cover.  Whatever it was wouldn’t have happened though if they hadn’t been somewhere they weren’t supposed to be. How like us humans is that?  We see something we want and ignoring the consequences we dive right in after it.   Food?  Relationships?  Spending?  The list goes on and on and it’s different for all of us.  We’ve all been there.  We want what we want.  Just like bugs to a light or frogs to a pool, we leap in head first after the bright and shiny, rich and juicy, attractive and available ignoring common sense or the voice of reason setting off alarms in our heads.  At that split second before impact we sometimes realize things might not be as they seemed, but it’s too late.  Splash! We are in over our heads.

I’m also curious why the frogs wandered to the swimming pool in the first place when there is a beautiful stream flowing nearby.  Were they misguided by the notion that what they had wasn’t good enough or did they blindly follow the frog crowd? Whatever the reason they’d been better off staying where they belonged.  We too, often overlook our blessings and presume that we deserve more.  Listening to popular culture we are led to believe there is a better way than our way.  I have fallen for these mistruths more times than I’d like to admit.  For example, while focusing on what I wish to weigh I have forgotten to be thankful for the food I have.  When worrying about whether my clothing is in style or the right brand I lack gratitude for my full closet. And so on and so on.  Wanting more leads to wanting more until we can become so weighted down with our wants that we sink in despair.  It is a lesson I need to take to heart and wish I could have learned sooner!

As fall quickly approaches I am challenging myself  to not wait until November but to have an attitude of Thanksgiving NOW! I am going to purposely look for blessings in everyday things. I want to express gratitude to those who are “hopping” along this journey with me.  I want to embrace who I am and where I belong.

Scoop’in frogs again isn’t in my future anytime soon but I am going to try to scoop up blessings until my net overflows. What about you? Have you thought about having an “attitude of gratitude”? Now’s the time!  Jump on in the water is fine! (if you’re not a frog that is)