Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Joyful & Triumphant!

It's that time of year to reflect upon the past 12 months and look forward with eagerness and anticipation to the New Year ahead!  Traditionally, we also make those "so very difficult to keep" New Year's resolutions….  What resolutions are you making?

For me, I'm keeping it pretty simple this year ~

  • Develop "a heart of thanksgiving."  Find things in each day to be thankful for, even if it's that I'm still breathing or made it through another day.  Posting this daily on my Facebook page.  I'm on day 61 today. Life changing. 
  • Spending time daily in growing my faith.  I am a believer in Jesus Christ.  The more I learn in God's Word, the more challenges and trials I go through, the more time spent in prayer, the more God helps me learn and grow and let go, the more I love others as He has loved me - my faith grows. It's a wondrous and amazing gift daily.
  • Perspective.  It changes everything.  Learning more about perspective every day.
  • People.  Family and friends and neighbors and strangers.  Being available to God for He blesses me to be a blessing to others.  My Heavenly Father is in the people business.  (Re)committing my life to supporting the family business full time.
  • Health and healing.  Daily exercise, better eating, herb learning. 
  • Joy Bell Farm.  We have encountered some big obstacles, given away much and are not currently farming (on any level), but we are determined to follow our dreams and trust that God can and will provide.  His timing.  His plan.  We are not giving up!  Continuing farm education, as we wait.  And, helping others when I can.
  • Joyful & Triumphant!  Living this out daily.  Definition:  feeling, expressing or causing great pleasure and happiness AND victorious; conquering.  Amen and amen.  

Over the past few days, God has been speaking into our spirits:

God Calling:  December 26:  Health and Wealth ~

Be not afraid, health and wealth are coming to you both.  My wealth which is sufficiency for your needs, and for My work you long to do.

Money, as some call wealth, to hoard, to display, you know is not for My disciples.

Journey through this world simply seeking the means to do My Will and work.  Never keep anything you are not using.  Remember all I give you will be Mine, only given to you to use.  Could you think of Me hoarding My Treasures?  You must never do it.  Rely on Me.

To store for the future is to fear and to doubt Me.  Check every doubt of Me at once.  Live in the Joy of My constant Presence.  Yield every moment to Me.  Perform every task, however humble, as at My gentle bidding, and for Me, for love of Me.  So live, so love, so  work.  

You are the Apostles of the Little Services.

God Calling:  December 27:  Glorious Work ~

I have stripped you of much, that it should be truly a life of well-being.  Build up stone by stone upon a firm foundation, and that Rock is your Master - that Rock is Christ.

A life of discipline and of joyous fulfillment is to be yours… Never lose sight of the glorious work to which you have been called.

Let no riches, no ease entice you from the path of miracle-working with Me upon which your feet are set.  Love and laugh.  Trust and pray.  Ride on now in a loving humility to victory.

God Calling:  December 29:  Work and Prayer ~

Work and prayer represent the two forces that will ensure your success.  Your work and My work.

For prayer, believing prayer, is based on the certainty that I Am working for you and with you and in you. 

Go forward gladly and unafraid, I Am with you.  With men your task may be impossible, but with God all things are possible.

God Calling:  December 31:  Jesus the Conqueror ~

Jesus.  That is the Name by which you conquer.  Jesus. Not as cringing suppliants but as those recognizing a friend, say My Name - Jesus.  "Thou shall call His Name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins."

And in that word "sins" read not only vice and degradation, but doubts, fears, tempers, despondencies, impatience, lack of Love in big and little things.  Jesus.  "He shall save His people from their sins."  The very uttering of the Name lifts the soul away from petty valley irritations to mountain heights.

"He shall save His people from their sins."  Saviour and Friend, Joy-bringer and Rescuer, Leader and Guide - Jesus.  Do you need delivering from cowardice, from adverse circumstances, from poverty, from failure, from weakness?

"There is none other Name….whereby you can be saved" - Jesus.  Say it often.  Claim the Power it brings.

So now dear friends and family, many thoughts run through my mind.  So much I desire to say, but I shall say nothing more…. for now.

My encouragement to you:  take time to reflect on the past year, the new year arriving and the words shared.  What does God desire to do in you?  Your life?  Through you?  May we all be:

Happy New Year and abundant blessings in 2014!

Friday, December 27, 2013

An unexpected gift for Christmas

This Christmas Eve was like any other.  Nothing exceptional or extraordinary about it.  Nicholas ran the soundboard for the church he has attended for several years…  He was gone for a portion of the day and because he knew the music would be too loud for me (with my electrical sensitivity), he suggested that we all attend the 11pm service.  The service would be quieter and more comfortable for me. 

Blaine prepared a homemade bean and ham soup.  It was hearty and delicious.  I had also made a pumpkin pie for Christmas Eve and we each enjoyed a piece before leaving for the service.  The temperature had dropped into the upper 30s as the night wore on and we all commented on how chilly it was outside when we left the house.

We arrived 30 minutes early to the service, as Nicholas needed to assist with the sound set-up and make sure the person running sound for the service knew what he needed to know to run things without him.  

We parked on the street next to the old chapel.  A familiar place to us, as we had attended church here for a few years. As we crossed the street on this dark and chilly Christmas Eve night, we looked over at the chapel with its illuminated doorway and saw the homeless person covered in burlap sleeping…  I gave thanks that the entryway offered a little protection for the person who was sleeping outside.  My heart was shaky and unsettled.  Such a picture to see on Christmas Eve… Why tonight of all nights, I thought.

We found seats and settled in to wait for the service to start.  I felt uncomfortable and awkward being in the service.  Why?  What was different from any other Christmas Eve we had been there?  People began filling the sanctuary.  People chatted all around us.  Blaine and I tried to make conversation, but it wasn't easy.  Why?  I thought about the homeless person across the street?  Did he or she know the service was starting?  Did anyone invite him/her in?  Did the person hear all the cars arriving and people chatting and walking on the sidewalk?  Were those just normal sounds that this person deals with on an everyday basis and tunes them out?

My throat was a bit irritated and I was thankful I had grabbed a piece of gum from the car to chew, but its moisture was gone.  Just before the service started, I was aware that I could smell perfume and cologne on some of the people that walked past.  Please don't sit by us, I thought…  I decided a quick trip to the restroom was in order before the service began and I didn't want to chew on this tough gum anymore.  I spit it out.  Service began and the first song was being sung.  Hark the Herald Angels Sing.  My throat was really irritated and I was constantly clearing my throat as I tried to sing.  Ugh.  I have to leave and get another piece of gum from the car, I thought.  I don't want to irritate everyone around me (as the church was very full) by clearing my throat every 2 seconds.

Quick trip to the car for gum (and I grabbed an extra piece too).  I couldn't help my eyes wandering to the homeless person still lying in the chapel entryway.  Nope. No one had invited the person in to participate in the service…  I wanted to help; offer some assistance.  What could I do?  The restaurants are all closed.  I forgot my iPhone at home, so I couldn't do a search for what might be open.  Coffee?  Not an option at this hour. 

Then my mind really started going?  Had anyone else stopped to offer anything to this person?  Had the church leaders seen the person?  They must have.  Did they help out in some way?  Did the people attending the service see the homeless person sleeping in the entryway?  Okay, enough thinking ~ I need to get back to the service.

As I approached the sanctuary once again, I realized I smelled something.  Soap?  Perfume?  What was it?  Strange.  I hadn't noticed it before.  Back in my seat, the smell of perfume was really bothering me.  I leaned over the Blaine and told him I couldn't be in the sanctuary and would be out in the foyer for the service.  Later, I discovered Nicholas had texted my phone and asked if the music was still too loud - but I didn't have my phone to know that he was concerned…

It's a really uncomfortable place to dwell in - "being on the outside looking in" but a place that I recognize and have grown accustomed to.  Here I was in this beautiful, modern architecture church (yes, that's the one above) sitting on a bench against a glass wall looking at the wood beams above me, the concrete column next to me and feeling the coolness of the glass behind me.  One of the doors to the sanctuary was slightly ajar and the basket that held the candles was on the floor.  An usher and a church leader were in the foyer visiting to my right.  I listened to the service and my eyes just kept staring at the basket and the door knowing how many people were inside the sanctuary for the service.  "Is this how Jesus felt?" I wondered. Our focus is on the gathering, our lives, our jobs, our children, our interests, etc and a precious, humble, overlooked gift is sitting right outside our door?

Please understand me.  I am NOT judging anyone.  I'm not saying anyone at the service was doing anything wrong.  I am sharing what happened to me on Christmas Eve at an 11 o'clock service and what God shared with me, how I lived through this time and what was running through my mind.  It's a story that unfolded so I could learn from it.  Me.  I have much to learn still.  And, I learn even more by sharing theses stories with others.

The worship band was finished and came out to the foyer and visited with the other two people mentioned before…  Pastor Joe had started sharing (and I wished they would please stop talking as I was trying to listen).  Didn't they know that I couldn't be inside the sanctuary?  No, they didn't.  No one had asked me why I was sitting in the foyer.  That's okay.  I'd rather not explain and I did want to hear what the pastor was sharing.

And, my eyes kept looking out the window over to the homeless person across the street.  The ache in my heart was growing…  Does anyone else see the person over there?  How I wanted to shout it out, but I didn't.  What could I do?  I felt helpless.  Were we missing the whole story here this Christmas Eve?  Was Jesus trying to sleep in the entryway to the chapel?  While we were in this warm, beautiful, high tech place was He waiting on the steps of the outdated, too small chapel?  And, my heart ached more.  

I was upset with myself for forgetting my iPhone, as I could have taken photos of what I was seeing for I knew God was writing a story on my heart, as all this took place.  How I LONGED to share the images with others.  Would they see what I saw and experienced this Christmas Eve night?  Would their hearts ache, as mine was?  (I later realized that my small, compact camera had been in my purse the whole time… another lesson learned - too connected to iPhone.  My brain was truly paralyzed as everything unfolded.  Change is coming to my life.)  

I desperately wanted to be included in the service.  I wanted to be near the celebration of Jesus' birth.  I wanted to belong.  And yet, here I sat on a hard wooden bench, listening to Joe's Christmas message.  Alone.  And, I felt as the homeless person may have ~ wanting someone to say there was room in the inn and be invited inside…

Joe shared how Jesus was born into the chaos of this world.  Into crazy family dynamics, political unrest; the messiness of the human world.  It would be no different if He had been born today.  How true are the words you share, I thought.  How very true.

As the service concluded and everyone was lighting their candles in preparation for singing Silent Night (a highlight of the Christmas season for me), I remained outside in the foyer. No little dripping candle to hold.  No candle lit sanctuary.  I could even hear our friend, Richard's, voice from Christmas Eves past talking of the darkness and how Christ's light came into that darkness. So much beauty, but not for me on this Christmas Eve night...  I knew if I returned my throat would begin to tighten.  As Eric and the worship team sang my favorite Christmas carol, O Holy Night, I dropped to my knees on the cement floor and faced the glass window; singing this incredibly beautiful song.  I sang to the night, to the homeless person and to the world.  And when Silent Night began, I got up and sat on the bench once again.

Hundreds of people exited the sanctuary and I stayed next to one of the cement columns next to me.  Someone had turned on a camera inside the sanctuary, so I had been able to see Pastor Joe as he shared.  Thank you.  Now, I could see my three men ~ Blaine, Benjamin and Nicholas in the pew that I had previously shared with them. How ironic I thought that my family would be in view of the camera.  My heart ached that I couldn't stay in the service, that our life was complicated because of my chemical sensitivities and because of Jesus and the homeless person across the street.  It had already been a difficult holiday season for us after an eventful year and all the changes that had occurred in our lives.  Emotions ran high, but in the past hour - I was completely overwhelmed and on overload… (and after pondering how I felt in the service, Blaine and I determined that there must be a "deodorizer" in their HVAC system at the church, as we realized I have a similar reaction every time I'm in the sanctuary and the realization hit me that I won't be able to return to a service there again.  This girl just needs to find an old-fashioned, low tech country church somewhere I guess…  Not a judgement on this church or any church, just my reality.)

I struggled through Christmas Day.  In all honesty, so did Blaine.  Something had happened to us the night before at the service, the year had unfolded in ways we had not hoped for, and the boys were playing video games in Nicholas' room all day long… More observations, not judgements.  (Okay ~ maybe there was judgement about the Christmas day activity, but I'm over it now.)

But, we made the best of it.  We enjoyed FaceTime conversations with family (one of the things I love about technology).  The food was delicious and good wine pairings were made for all to enjoy.  But, the homeless person haunted my thoughts.  Jesus haunted my thoughts.  The "pictures" from Christmas Eve would not fade from my mind.

And, yesterday, as I shared with my massage therapist what had transpired she replied, "You were given a most precious and treasured gift.  Jesus shattered your heart Christmas Eve, so His love can pour through it."  I replied, "But, I didn't do anything.  My brain was paralyzed at the service. I couldn't think clearly and felt I had nothing to offer when I did have a blanket in the car.  I had a few dollars in my wallet.  I did nothing.  I felt utterly helpless with nothing to offer."  Janice said, "You gained perspective.  You see now how you can respond, if you should respond, how others might have been feeling too.  You have been given a very precious gift - A SHATTERED HEART."  And, as I left her place of business, I said, "Thank you Jesus that you loved me so much that I should receive such an amazing gift from You.  I don't feel worthy of it, but with Your help and guidance I want to live the life You have for me.  I don't know where to go from here, but You do."

And, I know that with all the broken pieces and shards of my shattered heart, He shall create something beautiful if I will simply let Him be in control of my life….  

What I thought was one of my worst Christmases ever has turned out to be one of the very best!

And, I am so incredibly thankful.  

"…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope."  Romans 5:3-4

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

'Tis so true...

Struggling a bit this season with things being very different this Christmas season for us…  Delivering St. Nicholas Day goodie bags to only a couple of our neighbors, not able to decorate as we have for the past several years and missing our old home and neighbors.  In the midst of the challenges, we remind ourselves that there is no place like home for the holidays and spending time with those you love.

We were able to visit my parents on their 51st wedding anniversary and pick up our Christmas gift from them (a gently used upright freezer, which is a wonderful gift!).  We'll be seeing them again this weekend and once more before Christmas.  It's a 2 1/2 hour drive out to their new house, but always a lovely time while we are there.  Starting to get used to the drive…  And, there is always the Ranch House BBQ to stop at!

We are looking forward to a long weekend visit with Elizabeth, our daughter, who is coming from Wichita, Kansas and Benjamin, our oldest son, who is coming home for an extended visit from Bloomington, Indiana.  I do treasure the moments that we are able to have our children near.  It's a precious gift to have them visit!

And finally, ~ remembering that, for us ~

 it is a time to celebrate the birth of our Saviour!  

Friday, November 8, 2013

Sharing what I've learned on my menopause journey (thus far)...

I am a pretty private person when it comes to the "woman side" of life, but I have several friends who have been having a really difficult time lately (and I saw my naturopath today) and decided to share in hopes this may benefit other women

I had a terrible time with hormone imbalances in my mid-30s to early 40s and saw a naturopath that prescribed bio-identical hormones (these were plant based and not synthetic - and I encourage you to do your homework if you decide hormone therapy is right for you - and I'd encourage you to see a naturopath, if at all possible).

I've dealt with plenty of anxiety through the years and emotional ups and downs and, of course, numerous health challenges.  For me, the symptoms leading toward menopause have been relatively mellow thus far (and I do consider myself most fortunate and give thanks daily to God for His grace on this journey and know His faithfulness will continue if my symptoms changed tomorrow).

So, as I said, I saw my current naturopath today.  We talked about how I was doing.  Not bad - main new symptom (from late evening to early morning) is what I call:  "hot flushes"  (my entire body is suddenly warm/hot and I get a bead of sweat across my forehead, causing me to take off covers, less pjs, sheets are burning hot to touch, less layers if out of bed and then I'm freezing and reverse what I just did until the next flush.

As part of my supplement regimen, I used to take GLA 130 (evening primrose - an essential fatty acid) from the full moon to the new moon and then, Fish Oil from the new moon to the full moon.  It was a cyclical support of fats.  Today, Dr. Jones indicated that I only need to be taking the evening primrose oil every day.

For the "hot flushes or flashes," she is introducing Biotone EFA (more essential fatty acid support) to be taken in the evenings.  I'll let you know how effective this is for me.
I've had friends say they are stressed out/lots of anxiety, etc, and I wondered why I wasn't experiencing the level of anxiety that they are.  What is in my diet/supplement regimen that may not be in theirs…  My observations:

Because of nervous system issues that I've dealt with for a long time, I have taken Magnesium for some time.  Not only is magnesium calming my nervous system, but it's also supporting muscle issues I deal with too.  In addition to the Triple Mag pictured, I also take an additional magnesium powder in the evening (or just before bed).  I think this has really helped with anxiety and stress, for me.

In addition, Suzanne at Cedar Mountain Herb School makes a Hawthorn Elixir.  You can order it through her site.  Hawthorn is heart medicine and shares the message "everything is going to be okay" with your body.  Since meeting Suzanne last year and learning a little from her and getting this medicine, I feel much more at peace.  This is good medicine!  

Here is more information about Hawthorn.  One of the things I've learned about herbs, is to start with small intake and gradually increase to optimal dosage for you (or seek professional guidance from an herbalist).  I take 1/2 teaspoon of the Hawthorn Elixir daily (usually in the evening - but I will take more if engaging in a stressful situation and yes, I take it with me in the car if there is a possibility of anxiety or stress in something I'm doing for the day.)

Suzanne also sells a Bee Calm Herbal Extract that utilizes several different plant sources in a grain based alcohol that is great for calming nerves/anxiety.  It is available for sale on her site.
I also drink mineral tea (and I add a few Hawthorne berries to the tea I am infusing).  My naturopath determined which minerals I needed more support of, so my tea mixture is customized for me, but there are a number of mineral teas available for purchase (see your local store selling herbs - ask the herbalist on staff).  I make about 6 cups of mineral tea per day (I boil hot water, put the tea amount in a muslin tea bag and hold onto the string while I pour the hot water into the 3 cup container.  I put the lid on and let the infusion occur throughout the night.  I remove the tea bag in the morning; putting the used tea leaves/hawthorn berries in the compost and put the lid on tight and leave it on the counter - drinking it at room temperature.)  *The reason for mineral tea:  our soils are very depleted of the minerals required to keep our bodies functioning properly.  I have felt improvement since adding mineral tea to my diet.  Some people take liquid minerals (ie. BioMax).  I also take 2 capsules daily of Vitamineral Green (that I purchase at Whole Foods).  

And, in doing some research in sharing with others, I came across a Joy Tonic from Urban Moonshine and it's also available at Mountain Rose Herbs.  Doesn't that sound lovely?  JOY TONIC!  Just want to share some options for people to consider in finding the right medicine to help support their journey.  If I wasn't feeling really good just taking the Hawthorn Elixir, I would definitely try the Joy Tonic myself.  I did order a bottle for my Mom (yes, Mom, it will be arriving in the mail to you shortly) and I'm looking forward to hearing what it does for her.  This isn't a medicine just for menopause, it's for anytime we need a little JOY encouragement.  Remember, that sometimes it takes time for herbal medicines to work - and this is an example of one of those medicines.  

Here are the directions and description from Urban Moonshine:

Our Certified Organic Joy Tonic is a carefully formulated blend of aromatic herbs and flowers that help to support you through life’s transitions (big and small) with grace and ease. We know stress is inevitable, and rather than trying to stimulate our way through it, or sedate our way out of it, we do best when we relax, focus, and engage the stressor. Our Joy Tonic adjusts the level of tension in our nervous systems, internal organs, and blood vessels. Its volatile components can help restore positive mental attitude and promote a relaxed feeling when overworked or overwhelmed. Feedback between body and mind moves towards synchrony and we feel peaceful. From this place we make better decisions and become more inspired and creative. Stress becomes a tool for positive change.

  • Joyful herbs for the darker days*

  • Support during times of grief, transition, and loss*

  • Relieves occasional sleeplessness*

  • Eases occasional tension in the body*

  • Relieves occasional stress*

  • Non sedative formula

Use and Directions

Enjoy 1 teaspoon (4.9mL) daily or up to three times per day if needed. Mindfully let go of tension, making room for love and gratitude!* Natural sedimentation occurs in this product. 

Tonics build health over time, and are not meant to provide instant relief of illness. We encourage you to embrace your tonic as a part of a regular regime to build radiant health!*

If using the refillable, travel-sized spray bottle, we recommend spritzing directly onto the tongue or into water 24 times. 24 sprays equal 1 teaspoon. There are about 3 servings in a ½ oz. (15mL) spray bottle.

If using the 2oz. dropper bottle, we recommend using 2 droppers full directly on the tongue or diluted in a little water. Two droppers full are equal to 1 teaspoon.  There are approximately 12 servings in a 2oz. (59.1mL) dropper bottle.

If using the 8.4oz apothecary bottle, we recommend using it to refill one of the smaller sizes, or measuring 1 teaspoon (approx. 8 dashes) for use directly on the tongue or in water. There are about 50 servings in an 8.4oz (250mL) bottle.

The Certified Organic Joy Tonic is very pleasant when taken in a little sparkling water. This helps to volatilize the aromatics in the blend, and dilute the taste of the alcohol.

For me, I take herbal extracts or tonics in a small amount of juice.  Works well for me and I think it's a good alternative if you don't want to drink sparkling water.

AND FINALLY, try to get outside and walk for 20 minutes or more each day.  The fresh air is definitely healing! 

What works for you?  Are there natural remedies, supplements or herbs that you're utilizing to help with this season in your life?  I'd love to hear about it. 

Abundant blessings upon your journey in this life!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Desires of your heart!

Delight yourself in the Lord;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.  Psalm 37:4

Yesterday, I took a risk and shared from my heart.  Today, God blesses me in a special way and I know - once again - He's watching out for me and has a good plan for my life...

I nearly squealed when Coco and I started back toward home from the Woodland Park Zoo and I discovered these special girls.  We had walked by here before, but had not seen them.  Such an absolutely delightful treasure to find today!

These girls were so friendly and interacted with me.  I was nearly in "chicken heaven."  What a gift to my heart and spirit and a smile for my face.  PURE JOY!

DESIRES OF YOUR HEART - click this link and discover what God's Word says.

....and then, near the end of our walk, I discover a creative garden idea.  Thanks Lord!

Great encouragement today!  Hope you receive encouragement, as well.  

Abundant blessings!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Picking up the pieces...

I have been trying to put together a "post move" blog post here and have struggled to deal with my emotions and in finding the words to share.  Honestly, it's been a huge challenge for me...  I miss my urban farm and, especially, my chicken girls.  My heart has been truly sad.  

This is kind of what my world looked like before....

And then, the storm hit and now my world looks like this...

How do I go about picking up the pieces and creating beauty in my life?

I have been trying to put on a "good face" for the world.  You know ~ 

  • Be Happy!
  • Bloom where you are planted
  • Seek the good wherever you are
etc, etc, etc.  You know what I'm talking about.  

Yes, there are really good things living in the Phinney Ridge/Greenwood neighborhood.  Lots of coffee shops nearby (for Blaine), everything is convenient for Nicholas (school, work, church) and lots of places to walk (for Coco and I).  As I prayed this summer (knowing we had to move and I hoped to find farm land to lease), I really believed that God was asking me/us to lay down our farm plans and move to the city.  And, we received outside confirmation from a friend that knew nothing of what we were considering.  We said yes and I embraced the "new adventure" ahead of us.  I gave away our urban farm plants/supplies and re-homed our chicken girls.  I shared about the journey and trial and correction that God was/is taking us through.  I have tried to be "happy," but I have been quietly suffering and so completely sad that my identity is gone (urban farmer/chicken mama).  I try to embrace the daily beauty around me and look past the rental house that doesn't meet 'our standards.'  Fussing and complaining, but making myself praise God in the midst of it all.  Why is this so hard for me and I'm constantly wrestling with living here, as we prayed and (supposedly) God directed us to where we are now living, right?  Well, I am human and in this world there will be troubles.

This is what has been tumbling about in my thoughts lately:  

Doesn't God know I don't belong in the city?  Doesn't He know that I have wanted to be a farmer for as long as I can remember?  Doesn't He know how hard this is for me?  YES, He does.  And, now that I've stop fussing and complaining for a moment (and couldn't be in our rental house on Monday due to chimney repair work and duct cleaning and sat at Golden Gardens Park for a few hours reading Joyce Meyer's Don't Give Up),  He has my attention and was able to speak to me again...

So, instead of looking through the glasses of "it's not fair, etc" and seeing this:

Our bathroom "exhaust" fan, as mildew was already coming through the walls 2 weeks after we moved in.  Now, I open the window and run the fan for hours a day to dry the room out - not sure what we'll do when the rainy season arrives...

Our electric fireplace (from our previous home) that helps heat the living room sitting next to the fireplace (the firebox was just rebuilt, as well as the chimney repaired).

Our dining room/storage area - this is the area we are trying to fit in as much as possible.  Our bookcases, our former family room storage cabinets plus we have our pantry in here.

Perhaps you have one of these installed at your house or maybe you remember this from your Grandma's house.  It's about 50 years old and so is the oil furnace in our rental house.  (Some things you don't think to ask when renting a house...) 

While the system is maintained and the ducts were just cleaned, we will only use the furnace if it's really freezing cold outside.  Not a central heating supporter and the system is so small, the oil guy told us we can't close vents or it will put a strain on the really old furnace.  

Plus, we have single pane aluminum windows - so bye bye heat!  We've invested in double cell top down/bottom up cellular shades to help with insulation... (and so thankful God provided for us to do so.)

And, the landscaping has invasive weeds - bindweed, bittersweet nightshade plus an invasive groundcover, that plant nurseries used to sell, as well as lots of spiders, slugs and snails.  I'll do some cleanup work, but need to seek God's leading for how much I invest in another's landscaping.

Okay ~ so this is some of my whining and complaining that was happening when I had to step away from the house and got to spend some time reflecting...

This is a great place to go to for reflection and quiet (wait - not the quiet part, as the trains constantly run by here during the day), but again, I must focus for I digress from my what I desire to share...

I was able to read the introduction and the first couple of chapters and my mind and heart and spirit were flooded with God's presence and anointing.  It's like discovering that you were seriously dehydrated and someone brought you a thirst quenching glass of water...

I felt refreshed and encouraged by what I read.

And the very next morning, I discover this...

God Calling:  October 22nd:  Home-Building

You are building up an unshakable faith.  Be furnishing the quiet places of your souls now.

Fill them with all that is harmonious and good, beautiful and enduring.

Home build in the Spirit now, and the waiting time will be well spent.

Grace for the Moment:  October 22nd:  A Crisp View of God

Lord, even when I have trouble all around me, you will keep me alive.  Psalm 138:7

There is a window in your heart through which you can see God.  Once upon a time that window was clear. Your view of God was crisp  You could see God so vividly as you could see a gentle valley or hillside.

Then, suddenly, the window cracked.  A pebble broke the window.  A pebble of pain.

And suddenly God was not so easy to see.  The view that had been so crisp had changed.

You were puzzled.  God wouldn't allow something like this to happen, would He?

When you can't see Him, trust Him...Jesus is closer than you've ever dreamed.

Suddenly, I realize - NOW - this season is not about where we live, it's about God.  It's a time of healing, building, renewal and hope; a season of preparation for what is to come and yet, to be fully present and available to God today.  I give thanks that God has brought me/us to a place where He desires to spend time with me and bring healing and hope and growth into my life.

The same day, two people's writing I value also posted powerful words that impacted my life.

Richard Dahlstrom

Ann Voskamp

Powerful words shared.  I am so thankful for each of their hearts and their openness in sharing with others.  Please click on their photos to go to their websites.  You just might be glad you did.

And, in the end, you may discover joy right outside your back door.  A place God enabled a flower to bloom where you thought flowers wouldn't bloom....

And then you know, just know, that God is working in your life despite your human weakness, failures and doubts...  He is encouraging you to:

....and see the amazing and wondrous things He does in and through each of our lives!

Abundant blessings.  

Trust the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will make your path straight.  Proverbs 3:5-6

Friday, August 30, 2013

Reflections on the "end of a season"...

What our home looked like in 2006 when we purchased it.

At 10:00 am PST today, our house was auctioned off in downtown Seattle.  The likelihood that an investor purchased our foreclosed home is very high.  

  • Yes, we made the decision to allow our home to return to the bank.
  • Yes, we knew what the outcome of our decision would be:  foreclosure.
  • Yes, we felt that we didn't have a choice in the matter when faced with a financially devastating discovery in 2012; our foundation was undermined by underground water.  

When we purchased this home in 2006, we could not have imagined the 7 year journey ahead of us...  Had we known, we would have said, "Thanks, but no thanks."  And, in reflecting about the purchase of this home ~ had we listened to God and been obedient, we never would have purchased this home.  WHAT?

It's true.  Throughout the years, God has told us to "Get out of debt!"  It's a simple and specific statement.  It's not difficult to understand what is being said to us, but, for some reason, it's nearly impossible for us to make this a reality in our lives.  When we sold our home in Marysville we could have paid off all our debt (from the profit of that sale), and if we had, we would be debt-free today.  But, we listened to the voices of the world around us.  "Re-invest your money, protect the profit made from Capital Gains Tax, you will be better off owning your own home."  And so, we did as the world encouraged us to do and purchased a home outside of our desired neighborhood, at the time ~ and now, we've lost all of our financial investment and still have outstanding debt.  Looking back, we discovered that we learned numerous lessons equal to (or more than) the cost of putting Blaine and I through college (without having an official degree awarded to us).  

This illustration does pretty much sum it up though...  sigh.

Place Your Life Before God

Romans 12 1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

It is so easy to get caught up in the world's way of thinking.  Even as a believer in Christ, who is in God's Word and praying, we can get caught up when we don't take every thought captive and we forget to look at our "road map" (the Bible), especially when human emotion is in the mix.  And, God always gives us a choice.  We had one:  get out of debt or choose to buy a new house.  He does not force us to take the road of His choosing and He will bless us when we choose our own path to follow (though the level of blessing will not be what would have been in choosing obedience to Him).  He is a gracious, merciful and loving God.  He truly is.  And, He chose to teach us and help us to grow in His Truth.  Discipline is not easy to live with, but it does make us better people in the end.  For that, I am so thankful!  God has taught us much in our time here:

  • Learning not to "judge" people who live different lives than we do or believe differently than we do.  Everyone has a story and God is at work in each person's life.  As a believer, I am to love other people, as God has loved me.
  • Learning that other believers will treat us badly and inflict wounds; sometimes deep wounds.  Revelation:  we are all human and prone to make mistakes and can cause hurt whether intentional or unintentional.
  • Learning that when things happen in people's lives there is often more to the story than just what is known by others or told to others.
  • Friendship is a precious gift.  Sometimes we don't understand the value of the gift until that person is gone.
  • Blessed to be a blessing to others ~ allowing God's blessings to flow through our lives to others.
  • The greatest difficulties can bring about the greatest freedom and healing in our lives.
  • Learning that no matter how far we may get off the path, God provides a way to get back on the path to Him.
  • The importance of obedience.  

I still have so much to learn, but these past 7 years have been an amazing time of learning and growth in our lives.

Hebrews 12:11

The Message (MSG)
4-11 In this all-out match against sin, others have suffered far worse than you, to say nothing of what Jesus went through—all that bloodshed! So don’t feel sorry for yourselves. Or have you forgotten how good parents treat children, and that God regards you as his children?

My dear child, don’t shrug off God’s discipline,

    but don’t be crushed by it either.

It’s the child he loves that he disciplines;

    the child he embraces, he also corrects.
God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out. He’s treating you as dear children. This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children. Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves. Would you prefer an irresponsible God? We respect our own parents for training and not spoiling us, so why not embrace God’s training so we can truly live? While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them. But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best. At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.

For 6 years we lived in our home, developed the garden, got to know the neighbors and remodeled our home.  We also had many heartaches that occurred during this time too, as never before in our family.  And then, in 2012, we were told by a structural engineer that "the foundation of our house is broken and sinking..."  Believe me, the spiritual significance was not lost on me.  While we were overwhelmed by the great financial loss that was before us, the realization that there was a much deeper and serious spiritual issue at hand was devastating!

We've gone from Bounty...

To Bare!

The countless hours (years) of work, the financial investment, the fruits and veggies and chickens and fertile soil, the wheelbarrow loads of soil and compost, and the harvests...all gone in just a few weeks time.

And, the people ~ one cannot even begin to find words to share about being part of a neighborhood; a community ~ for the first time in our lives.

We have also been in anguish regarding the scale of damage to this house and that someone else will buy it (not knowing) and then possibly cover it up and pass it along to another...devastating their lives financially.  It has been an terrible burden to bear in not being able to warn another of the path that lies ahead of them.  How often I must remind myself that this is God's story, not mine.  

And, once we move next week, it will be as if we had never been here...except for the footprints we have left on people's lives (and they on ours) and our tangled heartstrings.

And yet...  In the midst of great sorrow, beauty remains.  Hope is all around us. I am overwhelmed by His grace in God saying, "Enough and it is finished" with this house.  It's time to rebuild our foundation strong and reinforced in Him.  

Today, this is the beauty I saw in the garden; reminding me of my amazing Creator ~ 

A sunflower planted by the chickens blooms today...

A strong storm passed through the area yesterday afternoon, but the sunflowers continue blooming despite the power of that storm...

A reminder to stop and see the beauty in reflections...

Calendula blooms late in the season despite the maple tree suffering in this hot, dry summer...

My precious maple tree greatly suffering in the heat, but I know that a season of rest through the winter will bring new life in the spring.

Despite being pounded in the storm, the amaranth is still gorgeous!

Revelation 21:5

The Message (MSG)
3-5 I heard a voice thunder from the Throne: “Look! Look! God has moved into the neighborhood, making his home with men and women! They’re his people, he’s their God. He’ll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good—tears gone, crying gone, pain gone—all the first order of things gone.” The Enthroned continued, “Look! I’m making everything new. Write it all down—each word dependable and accurate.”

And now, the time has arrived for Blaine and I to move on; to move forward into a new season with God.  We cannot look back, but we must keep our eyes focused on Him.  He is writing an amazing and beautiful story in our lives for His purposes and to share His love with others.  He brings healing and hope.  We lift our eyes toward heaven and say, "Here we are, Lord, use us; send us"  For this, we do give thanks.

And, we rejoice, once more, in knowing that God makes all things new.
He has a plan for our lives.

For 2013:  Hope, Health and a Future...open to possibilities!  Jeremiah 29:11

***Update:  The house did not sell at auction (where the starting bid was $210,000 - which was the appraised amount a year ago, but it was noted in the appraiser's report that the value may not reflect the actual value depending on the basement foundation issue.  Sad to see bank greed, but thankful the house did not sell at auction.  The bank must now take possession of the property.

***Update #2:  The bank did take possession and flipped it as expected.  The work crew even told a neighbor what a bad, bad house this is (condition).  They need work and money, so they did the work they were told to do.  It's now back on the market:  $224,000.