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Waiting for the Sun – Patience Part 1

On this cloudy Monday morning, I’m thinking about how my week began seven days ago. On that morning, I woke up in a vacation resort at Boyne Mountain, Michigan. It was still dark, and my husband was still sleeping.  We had traveled with his brother, sisters, and in-laws on Sunday to where we would spend three precious days together. I had welcomed the comfortable bed and slept well, and was now looking forward to some quiet time for prayer and reading before the busy day ahead. I slipped out of the bedroom and over to the living room window to pull back the drapery for a peek outside. A solitary star still shone brightly despite the attempts of a few clouds to hide it.  I smiled and praised Creator God for the gift, still planning to turn on a lamp and sit down to read Scripture. But as I looked again, a deep red glow was appearing atop the tree covered hills, directly below my star. I was facing east, where darkness was about to turn to light! The prelude promised a breathtaking show of star, clouds, and sun. And I had a choice to make.

I rarely watch the sun rise. Our home is surrounded by houses, hills, and trees that eliminate a horizon view. Beyond that (and I hate to admit it) sunrises and sunsets have a hard time holding my attention. Oh, I’m quick to grab my camera and snap a picture when God has painted a beautiful scene in the sky, but sitting still and watching something happen with almost imperceptible movement …well, it takes patience.

Would I face the window and wait, or just take a look in a few minutes to check on daybreak’s progress? I chose well.

Can you see the star? I believe it is actually Venus.

As my husband slept and all was quiet, I spent the next forty-five minutes appreciating the dance of the new day. The star would fade, but the sun would rise. As I watched nature’s show, I thought about the patience required to wait in life’s dark situations with hope that the dawn is coming. When we are troubled and days are difficult, darkness seems so strong. We don’t know what the future holds, and the days drag on with imperceptible progress.  Dare we hope that beauty and light are coming?

On another morning, thick clouds hid both the star and the sun.

Life’s snapshots are not the whole story. It takes great patience to walk through trials. Even as a believer in the promise of eternity through Jesus Christ, I’m sometimes stricken with feelings of fear and uncertainty. I’d like to skip to the happy ending. But I do dare to hope, reminding myself of the words of King David when he was surrounded by enemies, “Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.” (Psalm 31:24)

So glad I got up to see this instead of going back to sleep!

The stunning sunrise made my waiting worthwhile. Of course, even the cloudy days have a sunrise that is just out of sight. I want to be patient even in discouragement, trusting that darkness will  turn to light in God’s timing and way.

Even in darkness light dawns for the upright,
    for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous.
 Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely,
    who conduct their affairs with justice.

 Surely the righteous will never be shaken;
    they will be remembered forever.
 They will have no fear of bad news;
    their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.

Psalm 112:4-7

 

 

 

 

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32 Years and 5 Houses

August 19, 2017, was a momentous day for our family. On that Saturday, my husband took me along to our bank to make the last payment on our house. While we have been home “owners” for three decades, we have never been without one and sometimes two monthly payments due – until now.  Anticipating this goal being achieved, I prepared a gift for Dave to commemorate our house history.

We began our married life by renting half of a duplex and then moved into the big blue house pictured at the top when Dave began his newspaper career on August 19, 1985. That is where our family grew from two to four. Choosing to live closer to the school our boys would attend, we moved across town to the house in the 3:00 position in 1990. Less than two years later, Dave’s career took us to North Dakota, where we lived at 1618 Elmwood Drive in Minot for four years. I included three photos (7:00, 9:00, 10:00) of that home, with the last one showing its makeover after a hail storm.

When our kids were in 1st and 5th grade, we returned to Ohio so Dave could run the newspaper in Tiffin and spent eight years in the tan house pictured at the bottom. While we were living there, a teenager from our church visited during a youth event. He noted that I wasn’t working and asked how we could afford such a nice home and two nice cars on a “9 to 5 job.” I gave his question some thought, discussed it with my husband, and then sent him this letter:

Jerome,

I enjoyed the video scavenger hunt with the YF on Sunday.  We had a great team even if we didn’t score the highest!  You asked me a question about how we can afford our house and cars on a “9 to 5 job”, and I didn’t answer because there isn’t a short answer, and I had to think about it a little.  I do want to let you know how this is possible.

First of all, you should know that God has been very good to us and we realize that all the good things we have come from Him.  There are some “success strategies” that we have used and would like to share.

Dave and I both worked very hard in school and both went to college.  He has a degree in accounting from Tiffin University, and I have a secretarial degree from Bowling Green.  When we got married, we both worked.  We only missed work when absolutely necessary and did our very best to do a good job and earn our pay.  That often included working extra hours for no extra pay. 

When Eric was born, we decided that it was very important for me to be at home, so Dave looked for a job that paid more and had good benefits.  That job was at the Advertiser-Tribune.  We were careful with our money, spending some, savings some, and sharing some (with the church, etc.).  We use credit cards, but only charge as much as we can pay off each month.  That way, we pay no interest.  

We moved to North Dakota when Dave’s company wanted him to take a job out there.  It paid a lot more, and we saw it as an opportunity to better our family’s financial position as well as live in a new and exciting place.   It wasn’t easy to leave our friends and families, though.   Several years ago, the company moved us back to Tiffin where our parents are.  Dave is now the Publisher of the A-T.

You should know that Dave does not work a “9 to 5” job.  He is in charge of all of the employees at the newspaper and responsible to the owner in Wheeling, West Virginia.  It is his job to see that the paper makes money and serves the community.  Since his first job at the A-T when he was business manager, he has worked extra hours when needed and covered for other people when they were unable to do their jobs.  For the last few months, that has meant that he gets up at 4:30 and delivers papers until 6:00, then gets ready to go to work by 8:00  and gets home at about 5:30.

He has also had to do some traveling to work at other papers owned by his company.  There is no extra pay for these things, however, when he really goes above and beyond what is expected, he sometimes is given a “bonus”.

We have owned some new and some used cars.  However, we usually keep a vehicle for a long time until it is no longer useful to us, but can still be traded in toward a new one.  We try to have one car paid off before we purchase another one.

Another way that we can afford nice things is to prioritize.  Everyone has their own priorities, and we probably spend money on things that someone else might think is wasteful.  However, there are a few things such as alcohol, tobacco, and gambling that we do not spend on.  These are very expensive and harmful habits! 

So… good education, hard work, careful spending, and the grace of God!  That’s how we have come to own a nice home and other things.  See you at church!

In 2005, Dave accepted a position in the newspaper company’s corporate office in Wheeling. Our home is a few miles east of there in Ohio. Here is the house that we have lived in long enough to pay it off.

In 2007, I wrote an expanded explanation of our physical  and financial journey to each of our five homes. If you are interested in reading more about 32 Years and 5 Houses, you may open it here: On a Nine to Five

 

 

 

 

 

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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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