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Wonder Under a Polar Bear & Anniversary Giveaway!

Oxford’s online dictionary defines wonder as “a feeling of amazement and admiration, caused by something beautiful, remarkable, or unfamiliar.” He observed the intricacy of the ironwork with the wonder of a child.

Have you considered the wonder of a child? In his book, The Call to Wonder, R. C. Sproul Jr challenges grown-ups to cultivate childlike qualities of wonder, trust, joy, and desire to please, particularly as they relate to loving God. I found the book at Ollie’s Bargain Outlet, noticing the cover photo of a butterfly resting in a child’s hand. Now, as I sit outside with the book beside me, I am delighted to see a butterfly land in front of me, opening its wings a few times before gliding off the deck. Wonder.

Children, so inexperienced at life, often squeal with amazement at simple, beautiful things. They’re easily surprised and quickly caught up in new sights and sounds. Sadly, as adults wander though life, they’re not so easily impressed. We find ourselves “bored or lacking enthusiasm, typically after having had too much of something” – Oxford’s definition of jaded. We’re busy, tired, or distracted, not noticing amazing things that are in front of our eyes or under our feet. Not so with my grown-up friend, Gail. She told me of the funny looks she got when she bent down to watch an unending line of ants, each with a triangular piece of leaf, hurrying along on their mission. Tiny wonders doing what they were created to do.

Wonderful things come in all sizes. Another friend expressed amazement at the Grand Canyon, exclaiming “His creation shouts His praises; thank you for eyes to see you!”

Wonder has presented itself in small packages in my life – seeing kittens play when I was a child, nursing my newborn as a new mom, finding a fawn in my landscaping this summer.  And I have been awestruck by the magnitude of creation – marveling at the night sky as a teen, standing on a high point at a summer festival in West Virginia, and UNDER A POLAR BEAR!

The amazing walk-through polar bear exhibit at the Pittsburgh Zoo. The woman with the camera is not me, but I looked just like that moments later.

So thankful this guy decided to play in the water while I was in the tunnel!

Overcome with AWE as I looked up at the bear, I couldn’t keep from crying.

Too often, I work to stay in control, not cry, act like an adult – and suppress my wonder. Once in a while, it blessedly breaks through. Many of those times involve light or music. On the first day of creation, God said, “Let there by light,” and he has been using it to communicate his awesome love to me. Two instances come to mind.

I was spending an autumn day at Seven Springs Mountain Resort. Perhaps my jadedness was showing as I looked out the window at the  slopes divided by groups of trees in fall color.  I wanted to feel delight, but didn’t, so I did something bold. I asked God to open my eyes to the wonder of his creation. Then I watched and waited. The sky was overcast when the performance began. A break in the swiftly moving clouds allowed sunshine to spotlight the tree lines one – at -a- time, beginning to my right and moving across the mountain! I squealed and clapped. Then, (since I was alone in the room) I said with little girl enthusiasm, “Do it again!” AND HE DID – Wonder!

A photo from a different day when the sunshine was widespread on the mountain.

It is not necessary for me to travel to a resort or even leave my house for God to shine into my day. As I spend time in prayer in my own living room, I have seen sunlight suddenly stream in the window to illuminate the photo of a loved one or to signal His peace replacing my anxiety. Wonder!

I’ll wait for a later post to describe the wonder of music in my life  and move on to the giveaway.

As the 1st Anniversary of Thoughts Collected by Lisa arrives, I invite you to tell me what moves you to amazed wonder. Anyone who does that here in the comments section of my blog site or on Facebook will be entered for a drawing on Friday, August 5. Since I reference so many books from Ollie’s Bargain Outlet, I am giving away an Ollie’s gift card to one of my readers.

It takes a shift in FOCUS for adults to experience the wonder of a child. In her book The Magnolia Story (my sister’s copy – not from Ollie’s), Joanna Gaines tells of her obsession with keeping her house clean and the frustration of looking at the messes created by her children. One day as she was about to”lose it” in anger over black fingerprints on a white sofa slipcover, she heard her kids laughing in another room. At that moment, she made a decision to focus on their JOY rather than the dirt. With a new mind-set, Joanna replaced the exhaustion of perfectionism with the wonder of relationship with her children. More about Chip and Joanna’s story in a later post.

Stop and consider God’s wonder. – Job 37:14

Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!” – Psalm 66:2

 

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Growing Up With Our Kids

The brave, humble questions of a fellow Christian blogger have sparked my introspection about parenting and aging gracefully. Bethany has five children and writes about a life and faith that I admire, giving me confidence that she will “enjoy each stage and navigate the changes gracefully.” I only have sons, but since both are grown men and she asked for advice from women with experience in transitioning from mother-to-children to mother-to-adults, I’m collecting my thoughts on what we did right, what I regret, and the role of God’s grace in parenting and aging.

Shortly after I gave birth naturally to our 8 lb 9 oz son (I repeated this 3 1/2 years later), I felt panic rising about not being equipped to handle the challenges that his growing-up-years might present. My husband calmly reassured me that we would “grow up with our kids.”

As we shaped our family life, we followed the pattern of our parents. I stayed at home and he worked hard to provide. We took our kids to church every week, encouraging them to participate in Sunday School and Youth Group and to use their talents in church. They made friends there and we spent time with families who shared our values. As I tell in Wear Out Your Chairs, we ate dinner together, adjusting schedules to do so.

Those external practices laid a solid foundation for them. Sadly, though, during their earliest years, I was rather fearful. We were protective of our kids (car seats, bike helmets, vaccinations, orthodontics, etc.), but I worried about things that were hard to control (accidents, influence of rough kids, lyme disease, failure, heartbreak, evils of the internet, etc. See Many Dangers Toils and Snares.) My faith was based more in what I did than in the love of God for me and my kids. It reminds me of Finding Nemo when Marlin tells Dory that he promised to never let anything happen to Nemo. She responds, “That’s a funny thing to promise…then nothing would ever happen to him. Not much fun…”

By God’s grace, none of the tragedies I imagined came to pass, but things did happen to them. One swallowed the “little vitamin” (birth control pill) I left on the table. One bone did get broken. Both had college roommate issues. And both have endured a broken heart. They have found, as I have, that tests and trials do make us stronger and more mature just as the Bible teaches.

My husband was right. We did grow with our kids. We became scout leaders for their packs; I volunteered in their classrooms; and we supported them in their pursuits. We did life together. It paid off in close relationships with them. When they set out on their own, I transitioned from stay-at-home mom to stay-at-phone mom, available when they wanted to talk. Early adult years included late night phone calls which their dad took with patience and ended with prayer.

As a mom of boys, I have learned that the role does change as they become men. Just as we did, they need to make important decisions. We are blessed that our advice and example can help. With them living two hours away now, their daily life is out of my sight. That’s not a bad thing. One regret I have about their childhood years is being a bit too protective and treating them as little kids instead of little men. In God’s grace, I became aware of Dr. Emerson Eggerichs’ Love and Respect message for mothers of sons when I needed to better understand how to communicate my respect for these Good Men.

Father’s Day 2008, the year Eric graduated from college and Kyle graduated from high school.

Looking back over thirty years of parenting, I’m thankful for what our sons have become and for how I have grown. Yes, the nest is empty, but I can truly say that I am content in all circumstances – loving the time we spend together and being joyful even when we are apart. Through the years, my husband has continued to listen to my anxious heart and to invest time in our friendship. True, we are growing older, but we’re doing it together in the strength of our faithful God. We aren’t crazy about some of the physical changes we see, but we try to keep our eyes fixed on what is unseen, because “what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18

My friend Bethany is anticipating “the wistful sadness of no more little people in the house,” and I have experienced that, especially when looking at old photos. In my case, God spared me some of the emptiness by moving us to a different city and giving me a new hobby to keep me busy. And for a few years, I’ve been investing in other peoples’ kids through visits to first grade classrooms. And, yes, Bethany, we older women are called to teach the younger ones how to love (be friendly to) their husbands and children. God has blessed me with that ministry where I rejoice to see Him working.

The good old days of 1992 when we were living in Minot, ND.

I don’t know what the future holds. I may become a grandmother and get to see my sons be dads. And, I may become a widow as most women do. My anticipated sadness of that could sap the joy right out of this day. So my best advice is to trust in the Lord’s promises to never leave us and to supply us with the grace and strength for each day. My “more experienced” older friends testify that His love never fails.

Read Bethany’s blog at http://bethany-aboutmyfathersbusiness.blogspot.com/

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Impossible love?

When I began writing this blog nearly a year ago, I anticipated struggles. Surely there would be weeks when I would have either no topic or no time to write. It has been a happy surprise to come this close to the first anniversary of Thoughts Collected by Lisa having successfully kept up with weekly writing. Suddenly, however, I’m facing the deadline for post #49 with a list of potential titles, an invitation to write for someone else’s blog on a particular topic, and no time to devote to collecting my thoughts, let alone put them into beautiful prose.

So in the wee hours of the morning when its too dark and too quiet to begin preparing for our weekend guests or continue organizing next week’s garage sale, I offer to you words that were written long ago by the apostle Paul in a letter to his friends about a topic we all find relevant every single day – love.

Love is patient.

Love is kind.

It does not envy,

it does not boast,

it is not proud.

It is not rude,

it is not self-seeking,

it is not easily angered,

it keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil,

but rejoices with the truth.

It always protects,

always trusts,

always hopes,

always perseveres.

Love never fails.

From the New Testament of the Bible: 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8

These words are music to my ears as one who receives this kind of love from Jesus and conviction to my heart as one who is called to love others this way. Is it impossible? On my own, yes, “but with God all things are possible.” – Matthew 19:26

 

 

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WARM UP AMERICA Covers Country with Compassion

One way I’m celebrating America’s 2017 Independence Day is by recognizing the work of Warm Up America and countless other groups of people in the United States who work quietly and joyfully to touch the lives of fellow Americans. I became involved with Warm Up America (WUA) in 1995 when I spotted the word crochet on a flyer posted at the fabric store in my Minot, North Dakota, neighborhood. The notice invited volunteers to crochet or knit 7X9 inch sections and send them to WUA founder Evie Rosen in Wisconsin. Her team would then arrange donations into patchwork afghans and donate them to homeless shelters. A few years later, when WUA was receiving more donated pieces than they could keep up with, stitchers were encouraged to work locally to complete whole afghans and give them to neighbors in need.

Warm Up America is a 501C3 now located in Carrollton, Texas, that continues to pass handmade afghans out to disaster victims, homeless people, newborn babies, and underprivileged children. Volunteers are also called upon to knit or crochet hats, scarves, gloves, and friendship/prayer shawls  to be given with love to folks from sea to shining sea. Sometimes the yarn creations have traveled across oceans to bring a smile to a child.

How I’ve been participating:

    • Crocheting left-over yarn into 7X9 inch pieces and sending them to WUA.
    • Organizing a group of stitchers in our Tiffin, Ohio, church to create afghans for nearby folks (donated to Salvation Army for Christmas giveaways, provided afghans for victims of a 2002 tornado in our town).

Half of us with the fruits of a year’s labor ready to be given away.

      • Crocheting hats for WUA to give to students in Texas and for our St. Clairsville, Ohio, church’s Bountiful Backpacks Ministry to give to elementary students.
      • Teaching others ,including some awesome kids,  to crochet. (One of the boys took to it the fastest and made LOTS of “patches” for our WUA afghan.)

Had to snap a photo of this inter-generational group of friends while they stitched in my living room.

      • Crocheting 7X63 inch strips to drop off at the Ohio Valley Mall’s Pat Catan Arts and Crafts store during their WUA campaign. (Pat Catan’s even makes donated yarn available for stitchers to pick up free of charge.)
      • Sent one of my afghans to WUA for an Eastern Kentucky child’s new bed.

How I spent my Summer of 2016:

When WUA asked stitchers in all 50 states to design a section to be included in their “Stitch Your State” promotional afghan, I created sections to represent Ohio and several other states. When entries were lacking for some states at the end of the contest, I kept on researching, designing and crocheting sections – AND LOVING IT!

 Inspired by a billboard, I created the classic toy made in Ohio and “wrote” a script Ohio with Ohio State’s marching band in mind.

Using a photo of the monument on the Geographical Center of North America in Rugby, North Dakota, I designed a section for the sunny state I lived in for four years.

I discovered a cross stitch pattern of South Dakota’s Mount Rushmore and adapted it to crochet. (This one didn’t make the afghan, so it will be used elsewhere by WUA.)

A block of cheese to represent Wisconsin.

The New River Gorge Bridge spanning the mountains of West Virginia.

Another cross stitch pattern in crochet. (Someone else had the same idea.)

Honored to be able to contribute this one for Pennsylvania.

Our smallest state has the longest official name!

Alabama’s state flag.

A very successful advertising campaign!

After winning entries were selected, a WUA volunteer pieced the afghan together. I was thrilled to see eight of my designs in the finished project and to know that others I sent will be used to bless fellow Americans.

As I look at the afghan, it reminds me of the union of our 50 states, each a little different, with a variety of landscapes, industries, cultural backgrounds, and histories, but united nonetheless. Without denying that America has problems and faults that need to be addressed, I still love and appreciate my home. And I still have optimism when I turn my attention to the kindness and compassion that still exists. It seems that when an act of mercy or generosity is publicized these days, it is thought to be unusual. Perhaps that is because most of the loving actions of Americans are done in quiet humility as they see a need and respond, not wanting recognition or fanfare.

My creative efforts contributed a few pieces of the puzzle for the WUA Stitch Your State Afghan, as Warm Up America is one piece of the puzzle in the effort to unite people through compassion. Kind actions speak louder than words. America can be strengthened and united as each of her citizens uses whatever gifts s/he has been given to teach or help another. Sometimes we never meet the recipient. But there is joy in the giving.

(I would be happy to teach you how to crochet a Warm Up America section if you live nearby.)

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:10

Links to the groups and campaigns referred to:

http://warmupamerica.org/   Read about their work, find instructions to knit, crochet, or support in other ways.

http://erfriends.com/2016/09/bountiful-backpacks-ministry/ Operates during the school year to provide weekend food to hungry kids.

https://www.moreheadstate.edu/Outreach/MSU-Corps/Build-A-Bed and https://www.facebook.com/Build-A-Bed-97361638269/

 http://www.patcatans.com/blog/january-2017/warm-up-america-with-pat-catan-s  This is for 2017, but I’m sure there will be a 2018 campaign as well.

 

 

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