Category Archive: Connections

A Pair of Shoes

Tall, deep blue delphiniums, soft and bright peach roses, white daisies, and burgundy orchids filled oversized flower pots. Always well-kept, each tub held a picture-perfect cornucopia of colors, textures, and heights.

We walked up the curved stairway to the second floor of Macy’s Men’s Store, looking for a new pair of men’s shoes. Don found some very comfortable Rockports he liked. However, on clearance, they didn’t have his size 12 in chocolate brown.

Checking inventory, the salesman told us another store had two pair available.

“That’s a long way to drive,” said Don. However, we were leaving for Canada in five days and he needed good walking shoes for the trip.

“Let’s just do it and make sure we can get these before they’re gone,” I said.

We parked right by the door and meandered into Macy’s Men’s Store, where we saw a tall, red-haired brunette returning to the department.

”Can I help you?”

“Yes, Stanford Macy’s said you had two pair of these shoes in chocolate brown, size 12.”

“I’ll check.”

Returning from the back room, she apologized that the inventory was incorrect and they did not have the shoes we wanted. But she brought another shoe in Don’s size.

Enjoying her accent, I asked “Are you by chance from Russia?”

“The Ukraine.”

I raised my brows. “My father was born in the Ukraine.”

”Thank you for your kindness,” Nataliya said. “So often people get annoyed, saying they can’t understand me. But I speak Russian and English and they don’t speak Russian. But being in America has been a real blessing, thanks to Jesus.”

“Are you a Christian?” I asked.

“Yes, I love the Lord.”

“So do we.”

“I knew it; I could see it in your eyes and the way you smiled at me.” Nataliya began to tear up. “I’m having a hard day–some medical and money things. I just asked Jesus to help me, and here you are, a brother and sister to encourage me. He is so faithful. Praise Jesus.”

We talked a bit longer, and Don bought the shoes, after which Nataliya came out from behind the counter. “I’m supposed to be so professional but I have to give you both a hug.”

When I tried to hand her some extra money, Nataliya backed away and said, “No, I will be ok, thanks Jesus, but just pray for me.” We promised to do that and walked away, saying “If we don’t see you again down here, we’ll see you up there,” pointing to heaven.

What a joy. Another divine appointment–all because of a pair of shoes.

Where have you experienced a divine appointment recently? I’d love to hear about it.

 

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?

 

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?

“Can I Win?”

Don cleared the table while Mom and I discussed the difference between the average time to remarriage of a widower versus a widow. A few years ago, widowers remarried on average one year after their loss, while widows on average waited three years after the death of their husbands. Mom suggested that in part, the difference could be that a woman generally must wait to be asked, while a man can pursue. Makes sense. I turned to Don.

“Don, why do men remarry earlier than women? What do you think?”

He walked toward us, his face thoughtful. “Is this a question my answer can win?”

Mom and I broke into laughter. Actually, I think I chortled.

Wise man! Too often when we question someone, we have a preconceived notion of what the answer should be–one that will enhance our sense of security or affirmation. Do I want to hear the real answer, or is the question no one can “win” by answering honestly? (Particularly if that person is one who lives with us and is most touched by our responses and moods).

Don’s response was that men need communication; that even though they’re big and strong and in charge in a work environment, at home they need a woman’s nurture and love. Makes sense to me.

The comfort of a friend

I think another factor may be women’s friendships, which are often deeper, more feeling based, and therefore more nurturing than those men share. So when a woman becomes widowed, she has a stronger support group than men do.

So, while we continue building our relationships with our girlfriends, let’s also communicate in ways that invite, rather than repel, open conversation–where an honest response is always a winner. And … let’s encourage the men in our lives to invest in friendships, Bible studies, activities with their male friends as well.

Why do you think men tend to remarry sooner than women? Is this a nurture or nature thing?

 

 

 

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