Sunday, July 31, 2011

Blessings, Tests, Visits & Laughter

This has been an amazing weekend. God showed up so many times. Well, God is actually there all the's us who have a hard time seeing Him in our midst.  When we really look, it's easy to see Him "show up", as we say.

On Friday, my daughter and I had to run to the grocery store for some "lunch" items for Saturday's annual yard sale day in our town. We stopped off for lunch at Burger King before hitting the grocery store. I placed our food order, the cashier rang up our total and said, "No Charge". I was dumbfounded. He went on to say, "Someone was in earlier and left a donation, saying to pay for the next two or three orders until the money ran it's been paid for." Now I've heard about these 'blessings' happening to other people but I've never had it happen to me. It was beyond cool! So, with extremely thankful hearts, we thanked God for the blessing He gave us and asked a special blessing be placed on the person who obeyed God's prompting to do this deed.

No blessing comes without a test and often you're tested before you get your blessing.  This time, however, it happened in reverse order. We were blessed and then we were tested.

After lunch, my daughter and I made a quick stop in the local dollar store to pick up a couple of cards and a tube of toothpaste. The cashier rang up my order, gave me my total. Puzzled, I asked her if she was sure she'd rang up all of my items. She looked over my order and said, "Yes". I was sure that the cards I picked out were from their 'new collection' of cards that were $1 each, instead of the normal 2/$1 price, but then the cashier double checked my order, she assured me it was correct. So I paid the amount she gave me, wished her a "good day" and walked out to our car. I don't normally check my receipts, but I was sure that something was wrong...and sure enough when I checked the receipt, the cards were indeed $1 each and the cashier only rang up one card. I walked back to the store to make it 'right'. I mean we'd already been blessed with a free lunch from someone else's good deed, and I wasn't going to make God ashamed by not making things right with this cashier. When I entered the store and walked back up to the register, the cashier looked at me and said, "What did I screw up this time?". I held out my bag and receipt and told her that she only rang up one card, but that I bought two. Her eyes got HUGE! She said, "And you came back because you want to pay for it?" I said, "Yes, that's only right." She said, "Wow! This is something. I have customers come back when we overcharge, but never because we missed something. They just keep the stuff because we screwed up." I thought about the blessing I'd just gotten at Burger King and I wasn't about to dishonor Jesus' blessings by being dishonest. I paid for the second card and walked out of the store. As I opened the door, she told another cashier about the incident...still astonished.

My daughter, of course, was with me during this whole thing. When we got back in the car, I realized I'd passed the test.  My daughter began relaying the story one of our elderly members (retired pastor) had told the children one week that was very similar to what had just happened. I'm sure that the cashier was correct when she said, people come back if they're overcharged, but rarely, if ever, when they are under-charged (or even given back too much change).  We are tested in many ways every day.  God is watching to see if we'll do the 'right thing'.  As a "pastoral candidate", I'm feeling, and seeing, more of these daily tests, so I keep myself and my integrity on guard.  (There's an update about my 'pastoral candidate' status in the section where I talk about what happened at church read on.)

Saturday was filled with the annual yard sale day for our town. We hauled out our goods and began setting up very early...of course, before we could even unpack our boxes people started coming! It was a long, crazy day, but it was good! We sold a lot and happily at the end of the day, we put back a lot less than we took out! We had steady shoppers all day - although we had significantly smaller crowds than in past years. But then again, when you're out of work with a bad economy, you can't spend money you don't have...even if it's extremely cheap at a yard sale!  The best part of the day was when two friends stopped by, just to spend time visiting. They both spent the majority of the day with us. It was great to just sit outside, under our Red Maple tree, with a gentle breeze blowing and talk. It was so relaxing! We had a great time chatting with old friends, Amish families (one Amish lady in particular stands out - she was looking through the books I had for sale and came across a Beverly Lewis book titled, "The Preacher's Daughter" - she asked me if the book was fiction or non-fiction; I told her it was fiction, but that Beverly Lewis bases her stories on her ancestors who were Amish from the Lancaster area; the Amish woman said that her husband told her it was a waste of time to read fiction, but she admitted that by the title, the book sounded good;  she also made a statement that blew me away - she said "Beverly Lewis is the hottest topic of conversation in the Amish community because she writes about our kind"; then she said "we probably live her stories every day" and with that, she laughed and wished me a good day filled with God's blessing), neighbors, a Viet Nam Veteran (who told us that if this budget crisis in Washington isn't resolved by the deadline that veterans of all kinds were going to march on Washington) and hundreds of others - it's always so much fun just talking to other people!  Thankfully the weather cooperated - no rain, not too hot (although the humidity monster began raising it's ugly head later in the afternoon). All in all it was a successful sale day. After we packed up our remaining items and stored them away for another year, we went out for (a later than normal) dinner. Needless to say, when I got back home, I was walking around like an 80+ year old woman! My back, shoulders, hips and legs were sooooo sore! Arthritis is no fun at's a feud all the time between Arthur and Ben!! You know those two don't you? Arthur Itis and Ben Gay? HAHAHA. So after taking a couple of pain relievers, I kicked back in the recliner ( my recliner!) and read, while managing to listen to Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" on ABC Family, with my daughter stretched out on the living room floor!

We had to be up early this morning because I was on duty this week, as a greeter at church. During our Connect Hour - the hour between morning services (usually we have classes, but are on hiatus for the summer) our pastor came up to me and wondered what my schedule was like this week.  I told him it was all clear - but I didn't say it too loud because when I do this, them it seems my schedule gets jammed packed!  He said he'd get in touch with me later today or tomorrow about setting up my interview for the final step in getting License to Minister!!  He's looking at sometime between Wednesday and Friday.  Once the interview is complete and the paperwork is emailed to back Elim Fellowship, the board will determine if I'm a worthy candidate.  If I am, they will issue my License to Minister and I will be under a 2 year probationary period for them to follow my work in the ministry.  If I maintain my integrity through this probationary period, I will be officially ordained!  This is so exciting.  It's been a long, hard journey to get to this point, but it's all been God's will.  I've learned a lot on this journey - not all of it pleasant and a lot of it hard - but as my dear friend, Joanne says - it's definitely a call from God because if I had been pursuing this on my own, with all the difficulties I've endured, I'd have given up a long time ago.  She's right.  I will never forget the dark night the call came on my life.  God spoke to me...literally....verbally...a voice I will never forget.  He told me the plans I had for my life, were not the plans He had for me....that what He had planned was so much better.  It's quite a detailed story, better suited for another time.  Needless to say, God is always right!  He often nudges me and tells me, "See what you would've missed?" I will keep you updated on all of this....

Our church's good friends, Bishop John Okinda and his wife, Pamela, were our guests at church this morning. Bishop Okinda's message was terrific! He is such godly man, so on fire for Jesus!

After church, we headed our for lunch (as we do every Sunday), then stopped by the store to pick up a few items before heading home to relax. We got home about 3 p.m. Not more than 15 minutes later, while I was waking up the computer to check messages, the door bell rang. From where I was seated, I could see the form of a man at the door. Of course, I was thinking it was a door-to-door solicitor of some sort, I mean when you live as far out of town as we do, people don't just 'drop by' all the time. I opened the front door and was greeted with the cheeriest, "Heeeelllloooo!" and my jaw hit the floor! Standing at the door was a man who was the spitting image of my dad!!!  I couldn't believe it when I heard my own voice say, "Oh My God!", I mean I try never to say this...I usually manage either 'OhMyGoodness' or 'OhMyGosh', because I don't want to improperly use the Lord's name. But I was so totally stunned to look and see "my dad" (gone home to Jesus 9 years ago) standing at the front door. Then he said, "Bet you didn't expect me! I'm glad you all were home. Let me go get mom out of the car." It's my dad's cousins from Arizona. We knew they were coming back to the 'home town' area, but we never expected them to just drop by this afternoon. We were going to call tomorrow to set up a visit...but instead they dropped by to surprise us...and did they ever! It was so great to see them! We had THE BEST afternoon talking and laughing. And I do mean laughing, my sides were hurting from laughing so hard! It was great.

The stories that we shared were incredible - I've left out the names to protect the innocent.  The guilty?  The famous?  The infamous?  The comical...yeah, that sounds more like it!  So many of the stories were hilarious! It was one of those times when 'true life was definitely more entertaining than fiction'. I mean I don't think someone could've made up this stuff! Of course, there were old family stories as well...and yes, they included those who were of the 'guilty', 'scandalous', but not quite of the 'infamous' least not yet! I can only imagine one day turning on the t.v. to find some of these characters on 'America's Most Wanted' - bet you think I'm kidding, right?  In the famous words of Forrest Gump, "That's all I got to say 'bout that."

We were told about a cruise that made the World News. Back in November a Carnival cruise ship bound for Mexico had electrical problems and a small fire, the passengers were stranded on board for several days before the ship could be towed back to port. The Coast Guard air lifted food to the stranded passengers including Pop Tarts and canned SPAM.  The Air Craft Carrier USS Ronald Reagan was called in to help with the rescue. It was funny as we were being told this story, we remembered hearing about this particular ship on the World News...and we never knew our cousins were on board! We also heard about some of the dining companions our cousin and his wife met. The man was a Russian transplant (he moved to San Francisco 17 years prior to take care of aging parents) and the woman was from the Ukraine. The first night, this couple was put out to think they had to sit with 3 other couples - they wanted a table for 2 - something that is non-existent on a cruise ship. The first night this couple wouldn't talk to anyone else at the table. When dinner ended, the waiter said, "See you tomorrow night - same time, same table".  The Ukrainian woman spoke up, saying, "Same time, yes; but not same table." Great, huh?  Anyway, the next night, as this couple was shown to the same table, they decided to sit next to my cousin....he's such a personable guy, very engaging, makes everyone comfortable with his "gift of gab".  Apparently the couple had been drinking quite heavily and were pretty "tanked" - the conversation really "flowed" out of them.  My cousin's wife asked the couple how long they'd been married, trying to make small talk.  Turns out, they weren't married, in fact, they'd met 5 weeks prior to the cruise on the Internet and this was their "first date"!!!  After the electrical problem and fire on board, everyone was moved to the upper decks of the ship and this couple, not only talked more with my cousin and his wife, but every where they went, the couple was there - the ship was HUGE (14 stories)!  It was really comical the way my cousin told it.  It ended up that they even exchanged emails!!  I told you my cousin is really personable and can make people comfortable with his gift of gab!!!

He then told us about another incident that had happened to him several years prior to meeting his current wife.  He was living back in this general area.  A friend/co-worker of his, knew a Greek business man in the town - he owned a Greek coffee house/eatery and had some other business dealings of some sort.  He got to talking to my cousin's co-worker about his niece, who he wanted to be his bookkeeper.  She was living in Toronto at the time.  This Greek fellow tells the co-worker that he'd pay my cousin (who he knew was single at the time) $10,000 to marry his niece. He said they only needed to stay married for 3 years in order for her to get her green card!  He told my cousin's co-worker if the marriage lasted longer great...if not, they could divorce, no problem.  This co-worker calls up my cousin and says he's got a girl he'd like him to meet and a date was set up.  The woman was very pretty, not too talkative and the date seemed to go fairly well.  After this first date, the co-worker tells my cousin about the 'deal', only he tells my cousin, he'll get $5,000 to marry the girl.  Yeah!  Some time passes and the Greek fellow calls up my cousin himself to invite him to a Fourth Of July picnic at his my cousin accepts.  When he arrives, it was like a scene out of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" - the men were seated at a long table on one side of the room, the women at a long table on the other side of the room (ALL of the Greek family was there) and a table set for TWO in the center where my cousin and this woman were expected to sit!  By now, we are roaring in fits of laughter and I said, "hopefully you didn't 'walk around the table' with her"....he laughed and said, "I didn't move from my way, no how!"  He said, not long after the meal, all the women got up and went into another room and the men sat staring at him....uncomfortable!  Eventually, my cousin excused himself, said goodbye to the host....and needless to say in a matter of a few days, he packed up everything he owned and moved back west! HAHAHAHA

Oh, the laughter and the stories kept rolling for several hours!  It was fantastic to spend the afternoon with them. We set up dinner plans with them for Wednesday evening...I can't wait! It's going to be great! I'm sure there will be even more stories and more laughter!

The only 'down side' this weekend was that we were notified that NavPress is stopping it's blogger review program effective immediately.  The notification said it was due to many factors.  I'm sure the biggest is the economy.  Every one and every business is hurting.  It was great being a part of their blogger review program, even for the short time I was involved.  If you're looking for wonderful Christian Books (fiction and non-fiction) NavPress has check them out!

I seen God so many times this weekend.  I know He was sitting right there in our midst, laughing at the stories and having a great time.  God enjoys fellowship with His children.  He's all about relationship.  He can live just fine without us; but we can't live without Him.  He chose to create us to spend time with us.  We often forget that He's with us always.  If God seems far away, then it's because we moved back.  If you feel like God is far away, take a step toward Him...He'll meet you anytime, any place, any where.  He's waiting!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Rumors Of God by Darren Whitehead & Jon Tyson

Welcome. Today I am reviewing "Rumors of God" by Darren Whitehead & Jon Tyson. Enjoy!

Darren Whitehead & Jon Tyson, Australian friends who moved to America, have compiled this book with stories of how "Rumors of God" are still alive in our lives today.  We live in such a noise-filled, over-stimulated world that often God seems distant to many, but in reality, God is still alive and well and active in our lives today.  The is filled with deep theological meaning, but written in such a way that every reader can grasp the meaning and not get lost.  We need to live life with a kingdom mindset and the authors show us how to walk this out, by recognizing needs and ways in which we can meet those needs in practical way.  The authors use real life experiences to bring their points home. The basis of this book comes from the scripture in Habbakuk 3:2, "LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, LORD.  Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known;  in wrath remember mercy."  This book is inspiring and challenging in making the reader want to live their life with a different type of faith - a kind of faith that really makes a difference.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Booksneeze book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Today's book review choice is:

Dinner With A Perfect Stranger by David Gregory

Workaholic, Nick Cominsky gets a mysterious envelope one day that contains an invitation to dinner at a local restaurant with....Jesus of Nazareth!  Nick believes he's the brunt of a practical joke.  Despite his hectic work schedule, which leaves little time for his wife and young daughter, he accepts the dinner invitation.  Even upon arriving for the dinner, Nick still believes his friends/co-workers are behind this joke.  Nick's attitude upon meeting Jesus, is well, interesting.  He doesn't really believe this is THE JESUS.  Some of his comments tend to be a bit sarcastic, but Jesus' attitude never changes.  Jesus engages Nick in some interesting conversation about all sorts of topics - from world religions to the existence of heaven and hell.  He also knows so much about Nick's personal life.  Through most of the dinner, Nick is amazed at that his friends spared no expense in hiring this very convincing actor.  As the dinner conversation continues, Nick begins to see that Dinner with a Perfect Stranger just might change his life.

         This book was enjoyable and an easy, quick read.  Personally, I've been a Christian with a personal relationship with Jesus for many years.  I can see where this book is a great out-reach tool for those who are not Christians or are even on the fence, as to their belief.  For me, as I was reading this book, I thought of many other, deeper questions I would ask Jesus, if I were ever to have dinner with Him.

For example, “I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review”.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Few July Photos

The group that marched with the Warren, PA Post Office in the July 4th, 2011 parade.

Warren, PA downtown fountain
July 2011

Some of the volunteer group that helped with the mobile food bank during Compassion In Action week - Praise Fellowship - July 16, 2011

Havin' some fun with Ronald McDonald in Westfield, NY - July 2011

Two Best Friends, praying for another best friend on Barcelona Beach on the shores of Lake Erie, July 2011

Wading in Lake Erie (Barcelona Beach)

Sam & Sam stickering a car storage basket

Sunday, July 17, 2011

More Than Ordinary by Doug Sherman

Welcome to my first blog book review! This is so exciting! It comes from the incredible book: "More Than Ordinary" (Enjoying Life With God) by Doug Sherman (published by NavPress)...join me :)

Doug Sherman's reason behind writing this book, is so that every believer can have a "More Than Ordinary" walk with God everyday.  He begins the book with some of his own incredible story - that's what hooked me.  I always enjoy reading of other believer's walks with God because not everyone's walk is always close and pleasant; quite often there are struggles and times when God seems distant. I think we all gather strength for the journey from one another's stories.  Doug gives many examples from his own life of times when he struggled in his walk with God - and many of these will ring true in the lives of other believers.  I found myself in some of the sitautions that Doug experienced. In some of those situations I felt the same way he did; sometimes reacting much the way he did. In some current situations I'm dealing with, I'm taking Doug's advice toward how to approach them and it is helping me enjoy my time with God despite the circumstances.  At the end of each chapter in the first section of the book, he includes "Encountering God Suggestions" - practical ways that we can continue to encounter the God of our lives. The second half of the book, Doug's chapters focus on enjoying God and each chapter of this section ends with "Responding To God Suggestions".  Doug's writing is very straight-forward, much like a conversation between him and the reader.  As I read this book, the following statement hit me:  "The most important step we will ever take with Jesus will always be the next one."  I've shared this statement with many family and friends - and I'm sure I always will.  I would highly recommend this book to anyone, from a new believer to a life-long believer, there's something for everyone in the pages.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Friday, July 15, 2011

Roller Coaster Ride Continued

Yes, I know, it's been a week since my last post...that happens sometimes. There are just those moments in life, when you set aside everything else to focus on something much more important...and that's what this week has been - a time set aside to support, encourage and continually pray for my best friend, "the sister God forgot to give me", Leslie.  I'm sure you remember the post about the start of the roller coaster ride...

As of today, all of the tumors have been treated and/or removed and Leslie is resting as comfortably as possible.  She's such a trooper!  I hated being 3,000 miles (give or take) away from her during this time, but I monitored updates and/or was in contact with Leslie via phone calls or texts.  She had a Gamma Knife procedure done Wednesday and they zapped 8 tumors instead of the 4 they originally thought were there.  Then yesterday afternoon, she had brain surgery to remove the largest, most problematic tumor - the one that had grown and caused the bleeding.

The updates were incredible...she had a smile on her face through it all...and never lost her faith in God's protection. In fact, the update after her surgery was complete and she was in the surgical ICU for the night, was that she was awake and continually praising God!  Anyone who knows Leslie, knows that this is SO her!  Not once in her cancer journey has she ever gotten angry at God, never once has she doubted that He would bring good out of this situation and never once has she stopped praising and thanking Him.  She is the epitome of Christian Faith.

You ask yourself, why I put my blogging on hold for a week, while she was the one enduring all of this and I was so far away - the answer is simple...she's my dearest friend and I had a job to job was to continually pray her through this!  It wasn't that I did absolutely nothing for a week, because I was still busy ministering to others while monitoring updates. In fact, I kept very busy this week....I had the opportunity to spend several hours one afternoon playing with my favorite 5 year old boy in the world (who has also been in cancer battle); I worked with a great group of young children at our local library's Summer Reading Program; I accompanied someone else dear to me to a doctor appointment; I helped out with our church's teen youth group; I joined another friend battling cancer for a nice long lunch...and the list goes on.  All of this without ceasing to pray for Leslie.  So many have a mind-set that if you "pray without ceasing" that's all you do, that you have to set aside all activity...wrong!  Prayers are continually sent through our activity and even when we connect to others.

This roller coaster ride is far from over...there are more treatments ahead of Leslie.  I'm praying there are a lot more "ups" than "downs" during the duration of this ride.  In fact, nothing would make me happier than to have this ride be at the point of coming back into the station, where we can all get off and take a much calmer, quieter, less thrilling ride!  The updates will continue...and knowing Leslie, her recovery will not only be remarkable, but faith filled! 

Oh, yeah, if you can't tell....Leslie is my BIGGEST HERO!  for so many reasons.  There will be more about her as time goes on too ;)

I'm also about to post my first book review for my book blogger career!  Stay tuned....

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Being A Star That Shines Brightly

Just a few thoughts about stars from Phil. 2:12-15 on Shining Like Stars.

Stars shine, that's their purpose; they were created for it.

They shine regardless of whether people see them. They shine even when people aren't looking. Stars shine all the time.

In order for stars to be seen, the closer lights can't be as bright - they block out the stars.  The clouds must be removed - no matter how dark the sky, if it's cloudy you can't see stars.  And the person looking for the stars must look up.

We are called to be like the stars.  We are to shine regardless of what surrounds us. Even the smallest star can be seen in the darkest of night; in the darkest sky.

God will decide who will see us, when they will see us & how they will see. God also makes it so that once others see us, shining as stars in a dark world because of our salvation, they are changed. They take notice of something different; something shining brightly in a dark world. We may never know that they've been changed because of Jesus' light shining in & through us, but no one is ever the same after an encounter with Jesus.

**An update about my friend from the "roller coaster" post - currently all is stable and we are in a holding pattern until the neurosurgeon comes in on Monday and runs some more tests. Updates will continue. Thanks for the prayers.

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Roller Coaster of Emotions Today

Hello Dear Friends & can definitely be summed up as a "roller coaster of emotions".

The morning started out quiet and was one of those rare occasions when my daughter and I had the house to ourselves. We decided to just hang out together and have some fun - boy, did we ever! So much laughter over just plain silly stuff. I love my daughter's laughter. Heck, I just plain love my daughter! She's a cool kid...okay, teenager...but still a kid in this mom's eyes.  We kicked around the idea of going out for lunch somewhere and decided to just stay in, fix a sandwich and continue some of our crazy antics on Face Book and Twitter :)  Definitely the start up the roller coaster's hill....

When the mailman arrived today, he delivered my much awaited for Associates Degree from Vision International University. I really thought after all the hard work, I'd be more excited when it arrived - but then again, whenever anything good happens to me, it seems there is someone around to steal that joy...and that happened over a month ago - it still stings pretty good from time to time.  Maybe after I look at it a few more times, the joy of earning that degree will seep back in.  Guess we're still climbing that first hill....

This afternoon, I got to spend some time on the blog of another dear friend, reading what it was like for her today - the 3rd anniversary of her breast cancer diagnosis.  Thankfully, she's not had any recurrences since she completed her treatment and is living life to the full! Have we reached the top of the roller coaster's hill?

Then this evening, in the midst of more laughter with my daughter (and several congratulatory text messages), I get a phone call from the friend of a friend.  It never ceases to amaze me how friendship connections are made - this was one of those amazing connections!  We're cresting the hill....
For a moment I was thrilled to hear the voice on the other end of the phone, as she told me who she was.  That elation lasted only a minute as the nature of her call was revealed.  It was a serious health problem with our mutual friend (the woman who I consider "the sister God forgot to give me" AND the most inspirational person I've ever known!) - as I write this, she's on her way to a San Diego hospital to have brain surgery.  She's been fighting melanoma and one of the mestastic tumors in her brain has started bleeding. The wind has definitely been knocked out of me!  And now we're flying down the other side of the roller coaster hill, heading toward the ground at break-neck speed...time to hang's going to be a wild ride!

One thing I know for sure, is that God is with her and her husband.  He's been listening to the prayer warriors pray for her all through her battles.  I'm hanging on to HOPE, just as she always has.  I just ask, if you're reading this - please take a moment and say a prayer.  God knows all about the situation and even knows her name.

I'll continue to update as I know more.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Few Reasons to Smile

While I was trying to find some inspiration today, I came across these pencil drawn sketches from an email I'd received a couple years ago.
No words needed today - just immerse yourself in these drawings.

Jesus smiles like this over you too!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Jesus Loves the Little do I!

I gave my last ISOM make up class this morning! YIPPEE! Now my summer break can begin. The timing is perfect because tomorrow evening is the kick off to the Summer Reading Program at our local library. The theme this year is 'Catch the Reading Wave' - an all tropical/luau theme. I can't wait to work with the kids! It's going to be so fun making our own leis, pineapple flowers, flip flop cookies, a beach in a bottle (complete with waves!), sand art necklaces and so much more! I'm so excited!

After seeing so many familiar faces in the parade crowd yesterday (some I haven't seen in a long time!), I woke up this morning doing more reflective thinking about the people (young and old alike) who have traveled along life's highway with me. I was especially thinking about the kids I've worked with over the years - most likely because the Summer Reading Program starting up. Gosh, I love kids! I love the creative way they think. I love the way they see the world around. So join me today, as I introduce you to a few of those kids....

I was thinking in particular about this one little boy - only 4 at the time - when I worked with the children's program at my former church.  It was in the fall and the kids were working on coloring page with a boy raking leaves (the sun was in one corner of the picture, the tree was shedding it's leaves on the ground with a few still hanging from the branches).  As I moved from table to table to check out the pictures, this particular boy wanted to tell me about his picture, so I pulled up a chair next to him at the table.  It was an interesting rendition - the leaves were many different colors, but he'd also colored the boys hair orange, red, brown, yellow and green. When I asked him about it, he said, "That boy is me. I was helping my daddy rake leaves and then I jumped in them. I had leaves in my hair. It was fun!" But that wasn't the most interesting part of his picture. What really drew my attention was the purple sun! I couldn't resist asking him about it. He smiled up at me, as if it made him proud that I would ask more about his artwork.  Then he got real serious and said, "This is what the sun looked like when I held up a grape!" Kids are so imaginative! I spoke with the boy's father when the class was over. I told him to pay particular attention to his son's coloring page. I suggested he ask him to explain the picture. I watched the two of them walk side-by-side out the church doors. The boy was excitedly pointing out his picture to his dad, but the dad paid no attention at all. I sincerely hope that after they got home, that the dad did pay attention to what his son wanted to show him and tell him.  How many times have we not paid attention to what our heavenly Father has wanted to show us or tell us? Hmmm...really makes me think.

There was also the time, when I was teaching the kids about standing strong in the Lord. One of the topics of discussion after the lesson was for them to share about how the Lord help them stand up for themselves, or for others, during the past week. One young man raised his hand (he was 8) and told about how he stood up to a bully who was teasing a kid at school. Apparently the "target" of the bullying was slightly handicapped. This young man told the bully that everyone deserved respect because Jesus loves everyone...even the bully.  When I asked him if it made the bully stop teasing the other kid, he said, "Yep. He decided it was more fun to tease me because I believe in Jesus."  Hearing this broke my heart, so naturally my next question was, "How did you handle that?"  He said, "It doesn't bother me. I know Jesus loves me and nothing anyone can say will make me not love Jesus back. Besides, I'd rather that bully tease me and leave the other kid alone."  It was all I could do not to cry!  I don't think I would've been so brave at that age. Then another hand shot up - this time it was this boy's little brother, who was only 3 (not really old enough for the program, but we never turned anyone away - plus he loved hanging out with his brother!), so I called on him to share with everyone how Jesus helped him stand up for himself.  He slowly, ever so slowly, went from sitting on his knees to standing tall and said, "Just like that!" wonder I love 'em so!

Then there was the time I was working with a group of 1st & 2nd graders. They were paired off together and were to work on something they could do to honor God.  After some brain-storming time, we came back together as a group. Pair after pair showed what they came up with. One pair wrote a poem about Jesus, another pair preformed a dance, another pair sang a song, one pair had drawn a picture of Jesus on the cross and the words 'thank you' scrawled below it. When it came to the last pair of girls, they looked at one another and began to giggle slightly. They were both very shy. After a minute or so, they seemed to get more uncomfortable as the others looked on waiting for them to do something. So as not to make them too uncomfortable, I clapped my hands and blurted out, "Oh! I get it! Don't you all see? They're sitting quietly before God!"  Then I turned and winked at the girls, who were laughing and turning all red.  I said to the class, "Sometimes the best thing we can do to honor God, is sit quietly before Him and wait to see what He has to say to us."  After the other kids left class, these two girls hung back. I was cleaning up. Once we were alone, they came up to me and said, "We didn't know what we could do to honor God, but as you were telling us all that stuff about sitting quietly and listening to what He had to say, He told us to tell you 'thank you' and give you a big hug!"  Ahhhh, such a sweet hug!

I also am reminded of the chance encounter I had with a young boy at a WalMart.  His mom had 5 kids with her - ranging from a toddler to 9 years old; two of which we fussing terribly.  Her cart filled with groceries. You could tell by their clothes that they were just eking by.  Each child had picked out some sort of candy item - obviously a once-a-month treat when their food stamps were issued.  As the mother's nerves kept being more frazzled by the whining toddler and the fussy pre-schooler, both tired and ready for naps, the cashier completed ringing up their items and gave the woman her total - which was over her allotted limit.  She began telling the cashier what items to take off the tab to try to bring it down to what she had allotted on her EBT card.  Several of the items being taken off were items the 9 year old had obviously wanted - among them were Spaghetti-O's and the pack of gum he'd chosen as his treat.  He looked up at his mother and asked why he had to give up his choices, to which she said, "the others are younger and they won't understand".  He hung his head and quietly said, "Yes momma".  As the mother was busy bundling up 3 of the 4 younger kids, I turned to the cashier and said, "Give those Spaghetti-O's and that gum to the boy and put it on my bill".  She scanned the items quickly, bagged the items, then walked over to the boy, handed him the bag and said, "You forgot this".  The boy waited patiently to give the bag to his mother, telling her that the cashier said they forgot a bag. As I paid and then headed out the line, the mother noticed what was in the bag and told the cashier and said, "Those were the things I told you to put back."  Apparently, the cashier pointed to me and explained that I had paid for the items.  The young boy ran over to me, with tears in his eyes, and said, "Lady, you must be an angel. Thank you."  As he hugged me, I said, "This came from Jesus because He loves you very much."  He ran back to join his mom and siblings and as they exited the store, I heard him telling his mom, "That lady", he pointed to me, "She knows Jesus!"  I still get choked up when I recall that moment.

Currently, I've been working with the teen youth group at church. I've come to love those pre-teens and teens so much.  I did a teaching not too long ago with them, teaching them to hear God's voice through journaling. I was struck when, during the teaching, they were taking notes! Yes, I'm serious! They were taking notes outside of their normal school routine. It blew me away! After the teaching, I gave them time to do an exercise - they were all writing fast and furious!  A couple shared what they wrote, most didn't.  The following Sunday, the quietest girl of the group sought me out in church and thanked me for the teaching. She told me she'd been journaling every day and that it meant so much to her to hear from God every day!  This past Sunday, she sought me out again to see if I'd be at youth group the next night - of course it was the 4th of July, so there was no youth group but, I told her I'd be there for sure the following week (when we resumed). She said, "Great! I hope to be there too. I enjoy spending time with you." Yes, my heart melted!

Then, yesterday's encounter with a little 4 year old blonde-haired girl during the parade, running up to me as I was marching to give me a hug! I have no idea who she was, but what a sweetheart! She made my day. many wonderful memories.  I'm really so glad that God does what's best for us - even if it goes against what we want.  When I first got involved in church, I remember telling God, "I'll do anything to help in church, just don't make me work with the kids."  Yeah, right! That's exactly where He put me...and am I ever glad He did!  I would've missed out on so much love; so many hugs; so much insight; so much creativity; so much simple faith.  I think I needed those kids in my faith-walk, as much or more, than those kids needed me.  Sometimes I have to wonder: who was the real teacher? Jesus said, "Let the children come to me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." Then he took them in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them. (Mark 10:14-16)

Join me again, as I continue to introduce you to the people who've impacted my life.  I can  honestly say, I wouldn't be who I am today without having them in my life.

Monday, July 4, 2011


We just got home from the parade - what a BLAST it was to march in the parade! A FIRST EVER event for my daughter & I! It was awesome. It was HOT HOT HOT too! OhMyGosh - close to 90 with humidity to match! But it was sooooo worth every step!

A group of us from church marched with the Warren PA Postal Service - it was super special for Sami & I because my dad was a career Post Man (retiring from the Warren Post Office in 1993 - he passed away in 2002) so we marched in his honor and memory!

It was such a thrill to see sooooo many people along the parade route! We got to pass out candy, Post Office acitivity books, Post Office rulers and bookmarks!

About 1/2 way through the parade route the sweetest little 4 year old girl with long blonde hair up in two pony tails ran out to me and gave me the BIGGEST hug! I have no idea who she was, but the hug was SUCH A BLESSING! God's little surprises always amaze me!

Today is all about Independence & Freedom - not just for our country, but the true Independence & Freedom found in being saved by Jesus!

Hope ya'll have a great 4th of July!

Love & Hugs!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

What is the Nicest Thing You Could Say?

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I've been reflecting a lately about a lot things and a lot of people.

I'm going to begin introducing some of these people to you slowly.  Each one has influenced my life.  I'm sure they will influence you too, as you read about them.

While I was trying to decide who to introduce you to first, I stumbled upon this...I guess you'd call it...inspirational story and decided to share this today instead.  As I reread it, it really made me think about the people in my life, both past and present.

I have no idea if this is a true story - and it really doesn't matter - it's the principle of the story that matters.

In fact, after reading it again, I've decided that as part of my journaling time, I'm going to follow the precepts of the story.  If you've known me (personally) for any length of time, you're name will be mentioned in my journal...along with the nicest thing I could say about you, as well as how you have influenced me.  If you're curious as to what influenced me or what the nicest thing I say is, drop me a message.  I'll be happy to share it with you.

It would be nice to know if anyone reading this will take up this challenge as well - and I'd love to know what the nicest thing you could say about me would be - so feel free to share it!  We all need to know that we're loved, cared for, thought of by others and appreciated...or just how we touched another life.

I hope this story will inspire every reader to begin telling those in their lives just how much they mean to them!  Enjoy this story and really think about it :)


One day a teacher asked her students to list the names of the other students in the room on two sheets of paper, leaving a space between each name.  

Then she told them to think of the nicest thing they could say about each of their classmates and write it down.  It took the remainder of the class period to finish their assignment, and as the students left the room, each one handed in the papers.

That Saturday, the teacher wrote down the name of each student on a separate sheet of paper, and listed what everyone else had said about that individual.

On Monday she gave each student his or her list.

Before long, the entire class was smiling.

"Really?" she heard whispered. "I never knew that I meant anything to anyone!" and, "I didn't know others liked me so much," were most of the comments.

No one ever mentioned those papers in class again.  She never knew if they discussed them after class or with their parents, but it didn't matter. The exercise had accomplished its purpose.  The students were happy with themselves and one another.

That group of students moved on.  Several years later, one of the students was killed in Viet Nam and his teacher attended the funeral of that special student.  She had never seen a serviceman in a military coffin before. He looked so handsome, so mature.

The church was packed with his friends. One by one those who loved him took a last walk by the coffin. The teacher was the last one to bless the coffin. As she stood there, one of the soldiers who acted as pallbearer came up to her. "Were you Mark's math teacher?" he asked. She nodded: "yes."  Then he said: "Mark talked about you a lot."

After the funeral, most of Mark's former classmates went together to a luncheon.  Mark's mother and father were there, obviously waiting to speak with his teacher. "We want to show you something," his father said, taking a wallet out of his pocket.  "They found this on Mark when he was killed. We thought you might recognize it."

Opening the billfold, he carefully removed two worn pieces of notebook paper that had obviously been taped, folded and refolded many times. The teacher knew without looking that the papers were the ones on which she had listed all the good things each of Mark's classmates had said about him.

"Thank you so much for doing that," Mark's mother said. "As you can see, Mark treasured it."  All of Mark's former classmates started to gather around.  Charlie smiled rather sheepishly and said, "I still have my list. It's in the top drawer of my desk at home."  Chuck's wife said, "Chuck asked me to put his in our wedding album."

"I have mine too," Marilyn said.  "It's in my diary."  Then Vicki, another classmate, reached into her pocketbook, took out her wallet and showed her worn and frazzled list to the group. "I carry this with me at all times,"  Vicki said and without batting an eyelash, she continued:  "I think we all saved our lists."

That's when the teacher finally sat down and cried.  She cried for Mark and for all his friends who would never see him again.

The density of people in society is so thick that we forget that life will end one day. And we don't know when that one day will be.  So please, tell the people you love and care for, that they are special and important.  Tell them, before it is too late.

Friday, July 1, 2011


WOW!  Here we are at the beginning of a new month.  Hard to believe how fast this year is moving along.  Why does it seem that winter takes so long to pass, but the summer seems to just fly?  I dread the thought of...GULP...winter's return.  Regardless of how tough (and long) our winter seems, I am blessed to live in one of the most beautiful areas of the country!  My grandfather spent time as a salesman for the AVM Corp, and had to travel all over the country.  He was always glad to return to this area - he said he found no place as beautiful...I certainly agree. I'm also reminded of my late husband's thoughts of this area - he said it was 'paradise'...yep, he was a smart, smart man :)

Today is one of those Pennsylvania days that resound the beauty of the area: the sun's shining, the sky's beautiful blue, the air is clean and clear, the bird's are singing praises to God, flowers are smiling at their Creator, a gentle breeze is blowing, the temperature is "just right" and the humidity is low.....ahhh....the beauty of God is all around....Thank you Lord, for this dayThis is a day that YOU have made, I WILL rejoice and be glad today (Psalm 118:24).

We serve an awesome God.  He is so good to His children.  He is so faithful.  He listens to our prayers and answers every single one of them - sometimes in creatively, unexpected ways!  I've been deeply reflecting on God's goodness; His many blessings in my life; His ways; His plans and purposes - I'm overwhelmed and humbled.  His grace and mercy are unending.  I'm so in love with Jesus! This journey with Him has been amazing.  It's my prayer that each of you who are reading this come to know Jesus the way I know Him.  Have you made the decision to make Jesus the Lord of your life?  Believe me, it's the BEST decision you'll ever make! If you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you already know how awesome life becomes because of Him.  If you don't know Jesus, it's real simple...just ask me :)  God's heart is for you to come to know Him, to come into a relationship with Him, to become one of His children - to be His friend! Yes! God really calls you His friend, when you accept Him into your life! You don't have to 'clean up' to come to God - He'll take you as you are. The most awesome thing is - He never leaves you the same! He works in you, with you and through you - you are always a 'work in progress' - being conformed into His image.

Life is a lot like working a jigsaw puzzle.  Sometimes the scattered pieces of my life - that at the time I was dealing with them, they didn't seem to "fit" together - but God has been showing me how He has put them together, to create a beautiful life.  Not one single moment was wasted.  Jesus told his disciples to gather up the fragments “so that nothing is wasted” (John 6:12 NLT).  God has used every single moment of my life (good and bad) - not one second of it has been wasted!  Every moment has taught me something: thankfulness, correction, compassion, love, forgiveness, my need for dependence on Jesus - the list is incredibly long!  While the puzzle is far from complete, I'm excited to see how the rest of the pieces come together :)

I've been indulging in these 'reflections' because I have an interview coming up in the not too distant future, in connection with getting my license to minister.  I have no idea what kinds of things I'll be asked about, but it's been fun reminiscing about all that God has done in my life...and it's been even more fun to think about all that He has in store.

I've been blessed to know many wonderful people - I'll introduce you to a few of them, as we journey together.  I'll share not just memories, but blessings, funny stories....and even a few tears.  So, stop by again and join me - we can put our feet up, sit back and relax and sip Lattes or Iced Tea, as we travel life's highway together :)  God's blessing on you.