Category Archive: Blessings

I Listen Best in the Quiet …

“I speak to you continually. My nature is to communicate, though not always in words. I fling glorious sunsets across the sky, day after day after day. I speak in the faces and voices of loved ones. I caress you with a gentle breeze that refreshes and delights you. I speak softly in the depths of your spirit, where I have taken up residence. …

Practice looking and listening for Me during quiet intervals. Gradually you will find Me in more and more of your moments. You will seek Me and find Me, when you seek Me above all else.”

These words from Sarah Young’s JESUS CALLING touched my heart. They resonated with my thoughts about rest these last weeks. God speaks to me in  many ways. Some, like a soft breeze, are tender and enveloping, like a sweet whisper on the air. Others, like a thunder and lightning storm, are an awesome display of His creativity and power. And a radiant, coral-colored sunset speaks to me of His glory.

Don and I traveled a lot this Spring. Six trips in the last six months. Each has been meaningful: opportunities to walk and talk and bask in the beauty of God’s creation and man’s creativity in other parts of the world; to serve staff and children in Mexico whom we’ve learned to love over the past eight years; to learn and share and deepen writing skills at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference; and to travel to Canada with my mother to reconnect with many extended family members we haven’t seen for years.

We are grateful for these opportunities God gave us to travel, meet new friends, serve others, and meet family again. But our delight in travel caused us to plan a little too much in too compressed a time this Spring. Don felt he had to accomplish three times the amount of work between trips in order to prepare for our next absence. I tried to do laundry, schedule transportation, and prepare for the next trip while writing and keeping in touch with family and friends here. We felt unable to catch up at home between jaunts. Don’t misunderstand–I’m very grateful for these blessings; but scripture also tells us to rest, to plan wisely. Don and I agreed we didn’t do that this year and have committed to more time at home next Spring.

Since being home these past two weeks without another trip in the wind, we both feel more relaxed. We’ve been able to work at a reasonable pace. We’ve taken time to sit on our glider swing and enjoy the gentle breeze while eating a light lunch and catching up with each other, or planning for changes in the garden, or just laughing with each other over some little tickle to our funny bone. Yesterday I sat at the piano and played, a time of personal worship, something I haven’t done for a long time.

So, I am enjoying taking more naps, putting my feet up, playing “grab the stick” with Paigey, being with people we love, and sitting with my guy. And I’m thankful for this particular season of refreshing.

If God doesn’t build the house,
    the builders only build shacks.
If God doesn’t guard the city,
    the night watchman might as well nap.
It’s useless to rise early and go to bed late,
    and work your worried fingers to the bone.
Don’t you know he enjoys
    giving rest to those he loves?” Psalm 127:1-2 MSG

My prayer is that you will experience God’s rest this week in a meaningful way.

QUESTION: How do you best experience rest? Are you in need of it right now? I’d love to hear.

 

FAMILY GRACE

 

Homemade Noodle Soup, the original comfort food!

Don, Mom and I stepped out of our rental car and looked around to see my cousins, Edith and Brian, hurrying toward us. After big hugs, they helped us unload our luggage and go to Aunt Mary’s place for a wonderful comfort meal of homemade noodle soup, zwiebach (traditional double buns), and berry pie.

Sister Mary, Brother Irvin, and Mom

Several times over the past few months, Mom said, “I wish I could see Mary and Irvin again.” We didn’t know if it would be wise or safe for Mom, at 95, to make the trip from California to Manitoba to visit her sister and brother. But one day I asked Don, “What would you think if we took Mom to Winnipeg this summer?” He responded without blinking: “I think we should do it.” And Mom’s response when I asked what she thought of the idea? “I’d LOVE it!”

So we checked schedules and made plans and packed and flew.

We saw many extended family members. Cousins of Mom, Mary and Irvin’s. Some of my cousins on both Mom’s and Dad’s sides of the family. Each visit was meaningful as we caught up on the seven years since our last visit.

Mom with some of my Froese cousins – delightful meal and visit hosted by Dave and Doreen

Mom sparkled as she responded to questions from her nieces and nephews about what it felt like to move 3000 miles from our Canadian home as a young mother. She enjoyed talking with her cousins, and I reveled in our family’s history and the grace of God. At one breakfast, six of the 21 family members present were ages 91 to 100–all still thinking pretty clearly, albeit a bit slower than in their younger years.

In a rented van, eight of us drove to Winkler, the small town in which I was born. (I don’t remember the event myself!) Finding the home and farm on which Mom, Mary and Irvin grew up led to lots of reflection and reminiscing. Irvin was just five years old when he sang “Please don’t take my sister far away” at Mom and Dad’s wedding. Mary and Herm got married early thanks to me–wanting Mom, who was pregnant with me, to be in their wedding, they moved the date up to avoid a conflict with my entry into this world.

Grosspa Froese’s old home, which looked larger before these two trees grew!

And we drove past some of the homes my family, and our grandparents, lived in, for memory’s sake.

Most meaningful to me was watching as we were together with different groups – 24 at one breakfast, 6 at Tea, 4 or 6 at dinner, 11 at lunch, and 21 at another breakfast – and recognizing the legacy of faith with which my ancestors have blessed me. No, we’re not all of the same conviction, nor are we all at the same place in our faith journeys, but there is a thread of faith and service running throughout the family.

Together were:

  •      Former missionaries

    Breakfast with the Hieberts, Mom’s Mother’s clan

  •      Business and agricultural leaders
  •      Farmers
  •      Teachers
  •      Writers
  •      Financial consultants
  •      Sales persons
  •      Engineers
  •      Christian broadcasters
  •      Caregivers
  •      Philanthropists, and
  •      Folks who volunteer in differing areas of need, from driving cancer patients to appointments to hospital visitations to other kinds of services.

Corporately, we’ve been through the death of loved ones, family breakups, health and personal challenges, and some differences in worldview, but we love and care for and appreciate each other.

Our time together was filled with laughter, sharing, food, exploring, and more food. And when the week was almost up, Mom, Don and I were ready to come home. Having been filled with meaningful times of sharing, worship, and renewed–as well as fresh–memories, it was time to come home to our own responsibilities, local family and friends, and to less rich foods! (Mennonites grew up on delicious carbs like cottage cheese dumplings and homemade noodles with creamed tomato gravy and special double rolls called zwiebach, along with sausage and ham and filling soups …).

And I think of how God led both Mom’s and Dad’s families, along with many others, out of the Ukraine when regime changes threatened not only their way of life, but their very lives: a move that has resulted in what I’ve expressed above along with much more.

I’ve been graced with a relatively intact family, for which I am deeply grateful. But God isn’t limited to one kind of family in His plans for us.

Psalm 68:4-6a tells us to:

Sing praises to God and to his name!
    Sing loud praises to him who rides the clouds.
His name is the Lord
    rejoice in his presence!

Father to the fatherless, defender of widows—
    this is God, whose dwelling is holy.
God places the lonely in families;
    he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy. (NLT)

Your grace may look different than mine. It may be informed by wise choices through the generations; it may be despite choices along the way. But how have you experienced God’s grace through your family history?

 

The Gifts of Rest

We greeted each other with open arms and hearts. It was a day to be together, to sit alone with God, and to share with each other what He revealed to each of us during our time with Him.

My five “Fab Friday” girlfriends brought scones, mini quiches, bananas, juice; I added cantaloupe and coffee. Mmmmm … after we satisfied our tummies and were challenged with scripture, each of us found a quiet place to be still with God for the next hour and a half.

I stayed on the turquoise couch in “Carol’s Cottage” (our guest house) and looked out at the birch tree, swaying in the breeze. When Don and I sit on our porch glider and look across the fields, this tree sways in the wind and dances in the sunlight, its leaves reflecting silver as they are impacted by the breeze. As the tree submits, yields to the power of the wind, so I desire to submit to the moving of the Holy Spirit.

Part of what I wrote to my heavenly Father says, “I praise you for the sounds of chirping birds, cared for by your gracious hospitality on the earth. They don’t worry or fret, but they are fed. The blue coat of the scrub jay, the sheen on the purple martin, the wings of a hummingbird, which are only seen as a blur because of their lightning speed … all speak to my ears and eyes of Your glory, and your provision. And they honor You just by being. They serve nature, the hummingbird flitting into one blossom and depositing pollen in another. Yet they’re not striving, as I so often do …”

When I’m fatigued, my temper is short, my tolerance low. And yet God often gives supernatural grace to respond differently than I feel.

Rest comes in different forms.

  • Physical: often when I find myself short-tempered and impatient, frustrated, out of sorts, or engaging in “stinkin’ thinkin’, rest is the first thing I need. I love to sink into our bed and fall into a renewing, refreshing sleep.
  • Emotional:  a walk on the beach or through the woods, relaxed time with friends with whom I can be vulnerable, a belly laugh, or a good hug from my hubby, soothes my heart. Sometimes I need a good cry.
  • Spiritual: As God’s creations, we are not divided into parts. Our physical, emotional and spiritual beings are intertwined and so, sometimes the walk on the beach also brings about spiritual times of refreshing. Rest can bring me back to a balance in all of life. Spending time in God’s word, especially the Psalms which are so expressive of our humanity and need, brings renewal. And in prayer I share my burdens with God.

As I thought about this, I realize that, for me, rest leads to:

  • Creativity, when my mind isn’t trying to track with multiple needs and is open to new thoughts, ideas, and plotlines.
  • Openness to see and appreciate the beauty around me.
  • Delighting in God, and in life, when I’m not just focused on “the next thing”.
  • Listening (how often do I forget to listen before speaking?)
  • Peace, that tender feeling of being cocooned in God’s love.
  • Margin in my heart, mind and spirit which frees me with space to share with others, with grace instead of resentment.

These are amazing, life-giving gifts … so why don’t I/we take more time to be still with God, to be renewed, to rejoice in His goodness, to delight in His presence? I am choosing to more of this going forward.

A yellow butterfly flitted past the window and I smiled, thanking God for beauty.

“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14, NLT

May you make space for quiet stillness this week so that your heart can be renewed.

Do you struggle with the pace of our culture, as I do? How do you find rest for your body, spirit, and soul? What renews you?

 

Giver of all Good Gifts

I went shopping today. I’m on a search for a new comforter set, but have time to find just the right thing. However, I did find a pretty, teal throw to place at the foot of the bed in our guest room. Don and I folded the afghan in thirds and laid it in place, then stepped back to admire how it brings out the turquoise and teal in the pillow shams and the stained glass window. The throw complements and completes the room.

Do you enjoy redecorating? Sometimes finding just the right pillow, throw, or picture makes a delightful change, refreshing and making a room feel new again. I love that feeling. Sometimes it’s just a matter of rearranging what we already have in a new way. Sometimes it’s reorganizing so what I need is easier to find.

As we ate our eggs florentine this morning, I looked out the window and watched the tall, golden grasses waving as they yielded to the power of the wind. Our lives are like that grass. We have a firm foundation in our God. When the wind blows we may bend; but by his grace we continue to stand.

We can be swayed in many ways. Every day, we choose which way we will bend. Will we trust God and allow His Spirit to form and shape us to His will, to allow Him to continue His work of perfecting, beautifying us? Will we yield to Him when the road is rough or try to make our own way out of trials? We might be swayed by the influence of the world, friends, and our own desires that run contrary to God’s good will. Will redecorating, losing weight, finding the right mate, or achieving a long-awaited goal be our primary focus? Or will we allow God to mold us, enjoying in His good gifts, trusting Him, delighting most of all, in Him as the ultimate Gift and Giver?

Today I am delighting in Him, and in the good gift of an inexpensive throw that completes a welcoming room for guests in our home.

Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.” James 1:17, NLT

What is delighting your heart today?

 

 

From Red Carpet to Black Earth

It was just a week and a half ago that Don and I stood on the Red Carpet in France, where the Cannes Film Festival began today. The glitter, glitz and glamour of the movie world, stunning actresses and handsome actors in clothing that costs thousands of dollars, the rush of the crowd (we were told it’s hard to move in Cannes during the Festival) were easy to imagine.

The following day we traveled to Monaco where we watched the changing of the guard at the palace, and went into the Monte Carlo Casino – small but stunning. It was afternoon and there was little action at the tables. We got something to drink, sat and watched.

This weekend we’re in a very different environment.

Sunday morning, Don and I, along with the rest of our missions team, celebrated worship at Rancho Santa Marta in Baja, Mexico. After driving fourteen hours Saturday to reach the ranch, we settled in for a night’s sleep. This morning we joined the ranch’s resident children, parents and staff for a worship service in both Spanish and English. It is a joy to worship here annually.

Forty-five resident children include orphans, children removed from their homes because of abuse, several who have been left at the ranch’s doorstep, and others with learning disabilities. They live in groups with house parents, giving them a stable and structured environment in which to grow. Additionally, about 180 community children are bused in for school from up to 60 miles away.

Director Rod shared his testimony this morning; it thrilled me to hear him talk about how God has prospered them … not in terms of financial success or reputation; but in their five children, and the blessing on the Ranch’s ministry. He pulled out a Kobe Bryant LA Lakers’ jersey, a “Struiksma” jersey (his and Tina’s last name) and another jersey with the name of one of the children here. Tossing that one to the side of the chapel, he spoke: “The message these children have received is that they are junk – because of abuse, because of separation from their families. Our job, and yours while you’re here, is to love them and teach them they are of infinite value because of Christ.” He reminded us that our work here goes far beyond building gym walls; it’s to minister to and value the children here.

Don and I feel pain when children choose to leave the ranch, or must leave because of disruption to the community. Sometimes their desires and needs feed them the lie that life will be better, happier, easier outside, with less of the structure they need to become contributing adults. Sometimes children have to be removed because of their impact on others.

One family of seven children have all grown up at the ranch. Some are becoming productive adults. Other children are also here with their siblings. We have been blessed to see the love, education and training they receive. And there are young adults who came to the ranch as little children, and are now also ministering to others. While the ranch is a safe haven for these children, they are also taught about, and led in, taking the gospel beyond these 450 acres. Some learn that they too can bring the good news of Jesus to others.

Our team at lunch after church, at a local restaurant

Don and I feel blessed to see different parts of God’s creation, both in nature and in the people we meet. And we see our Father’s love and desire for relationship in myriad settings, whether obscured by wealth and fame, or shared with children who come with great needs. And we love Rancho Santa Marta, its children, staff, and teachers. Would you pray with us that our service this week will be a blessing, both among our team of 23, and to those we will serve.

How can I pray for you?