I was talking to my mom this afternoon and she was sharing how depressed she felt after watching the news last night. She said, "I want to know, so I listen and watch, but then I really don't want to know and wish I hadn’t listened and watched." She told me she told her friend, Marilyn, "I hope we don't have nightmares about this tonight." But then, she told me she “slept like a baby…remembering that God has it all in hand.” What a mom, eh!? She’s such an encourager – and I’m sure she doesn’t even realize it!
Another amazing encourager I’ve come to know better lately than ever before is Mary Y. Mary was recently forced by tragedy to change from being a mom of a beautiful, vibrant, talented 16 year old daughter to a mom whose beautiful, vibrant, talented 16 year old daughter gone home to live with Jesus. I mention Mary when writing about encouragers, for two reasons, first, because I know she reads this blog regularly and two, because she needs to know what an inspiration she is to me – and I’m sure – others. I KNOW she’d rather NOT be an inspiration and HAVE ANNIE back, but I also know that no one can hide within a tragedy such as this and the real heart of Mary has come through with clarity. Mary has helped me more than she might ever know. The strength and peace that is totally beyond my understanding is so evident in her life. She can smile. She laughs. She goes to work. She lives. I know she is and will always be heartbroken from her loss, how could she not? But the fact that she knows she will someday be with Annie again, and the way she shared Annie’s purpose with those other teenagers at the memorial service touched my very soul! Knowing Mary, she will counter with faltering feelings, tears, remorse that’s sometimes unbearable and disbelief that others might be inspired and encouraged by her – but those of us who know her – see with amazement, God’s hand on her life! SHE is the ultimate encourager for me right now.
Then there’s Judy at church. Judy spends her weekdays taking chemo therapy, but just as sure as the sun shines, I see her in her own little spot in the congregation every Sunday – standing, worshiping, praying, listening and looking as though she’s as healthy as the next! SHE, too, encourages me simply by her presence. I thank God for women like these each and every day.
You may agree, that struggling through difficult economic times like these, facing unprecedented challenges and constantly hearing discouraging, frightening news might bring out the best in some and the worst in others. I know, from experience, that those of us who are surrounded by encouraging friends and family fair much better than those who are isolated and feel alone, so now more than ever before, is the perfect time for all of us to become encouragers!
In these challenging and confusing times many people are questioning God's sovereignty and authority in
First, in Christ, we can show courage in the face of adversity! We trust that as long as there is God, there is hope. Second, we pray for and accept peace that passes understanding! When we're truly tuned into God and His promises, though we can't explain it ("beyond understanding"), we FEEL peace in knowing that He is ultimately in control - not the people of Washington D.C., not our local government, not our forecasters, not the stock market...but God! And in living that peace, others might see Him reflected in our lives. Third, we can share our Jesus-centered love with one another, in ways we’ve maybe never done before.
In my college courses, workshops and presentations that I offer, I stress to teachers the importance of building relationships with their students. It’s far harder for a kid to be disruptive and disrespectful when s/he knows the teacher likes him or her. We build relationships by sending notes, calling them, spending time together, sharing stories and being there when they need someone the most. I also remind teachers how much WE LOVE receiving mail that isn’t junk and isn’t a bill. Just think about the times when you get to your mailbox and there’s a surprise in it from someone – right out of the blue!
Just yesterday, we routinely carted in our handful of mail and chucked it to the counter like always – knowing it will be a collection of utility, mortgage and doctor bills augmented by a bunch ‘o junk from various stores doing their best to cope with these rough economic times – nevertheless, tempting us to come in and spend our money with them. But you know what? Out from the toss, slid a picture postcard with a HANDWRITTEN NOTE on the back! It was like a TREASURE had arrived! I’m not kidding – the second I saw it, I grabbed it like it was a piece of dark chocolate or something – and started devouring it. Before I got to the first punctuation mark, Mike said, “WHO’S THAT FROM?” so he, too, had been captured by the surprise.
Our friend, Pauline, will turn 50 on the 27th, but her family surprised her with a party before the big day – in order to really catch her off guard and unsuspecting! You know how it is, it’s important to come up with something intentional and ridiculous for a gag gift, and the wilder, the better! So Mike concocted a surprise that went quite well with the 70’s theme for her party! After a visit to 7th Heaven and a purchase of some Zig Zags, he filled a snack pack baggie with mostly Oregano flakes, but various other herbs and flakey spices from our kitchen cabinet – and tucked the combination neatly inside her card. He wore blue-lensed round glasses and sandals, I wore bright blue eye shadow and used my white-ish cover stick as lipstick – so that nice 70’s pasty-lip look was evident…and off we went to the party.
My point in all this is, people LOVE surprises. People LOVE being remembered. People LOVE encouragement and kind words. People LOVE knowing they’ve come to mind. Well, I’m not positive Pauline LOVED her surprise “gift” the instant she saw it – it actually freaked her out because she quickly slipped it away into hiding under the table and looked away to hide her blush – but once she figured out what it really was, she cracked up! And…Mike and I LOVED receiving her handwritten, thank you post card in the mail yesterday!!! Ya see, ALL of us enjoy surprises and all of us LOVE to feel valued!
Seriously now, I can't pretend that everything is fine or the pain of job loss, foreclosure, and other realities many are facing aren't just as real for Christians as they are for non-Christians, but the reality of the recession presents an opportunity for us to demonstrate to others, who would perhaps never otherwise be open to receive Christ, that He IS still very much in protect-His-own mode. There is an abundance of lost souls out there who know neither the truth of Heaven nor how to be certain they'd live eternity there if they were to die today, nor the reality of Hell. Now is prime time, when people are not feeling quite as invincible as perhaps they once have and may be seeking peace, courage and hope, for us to Pray and Contact them.
So, let's be PC. Let's give PC – that “term” that so often offends, a whole new dimension!
Let's be PRAYers and CONTACTers!
The hit song title by David Cook, THE TIME OF MY LIFE, is an extraordinary title for all of us to keep close to our hearts and embrace. THIS is THE TIME OF MY LIFE when I am going to make an extra effort to pray first, then contact others, primarily non-Christian acquaintances, co-workers and even strangers, and simply be a friend.
Just pray and ask God to bring to mind the face of someone who could use a call from a friendly voice or a note from you. When you contact them, tell them that God put them on your heart. That in itself could be a huge comfort. Openly and actively decide to be an encourager to those around you -- especially those God brings to mind in prayer.
Be aware of His divine nudges, too. When they come, act on them right away. It's easy to put it off (especially if it feels uncomfortable) or postpone it and then forget - so do it as soon as someone's face or name pops into your mind. Even if you don't know the person that well – contact them anyway. Your message, out of the blue, could be a life changer.
I’ve experienced out-of-the-blue nudges! About six years ago, during a sultry summer mid-morning, I was washing my hair when my friend, LeAnn, just came to mind. There was no reason in the world why I should think about her - but I did. The instant I got my head from beneath the water and wrapped in a towel, I gave her a call. I don't remember exactly what transpired in the conversation, but upon my questioning that she was OK and assuring me she didn't need anything, she said, "No, I'm great!" So we chatted a bit and I went on about my day. LeAnn called me a short time later and told me she'd JUST, the instant I'd called, discovered she was pregnant with her second baby, Parker! She was so excited she couldn't WAIT to tell someone, but she hadn't even had a chance to tell her husband, yet, so she couldn't let ME know before he knew! I'd listened to that nudge, I prayed, I made the call - and what seemed to come up as a surplus phone call ended up being amazingly timely. It was so fun for us to compare minutes and the way things had transpired that morning - to see just how that nudge came to me when she'd found out her life was to be blessed with their Parker. Ahhh...God is so good - and He has a sense of humor, a love that is beyond all understanding and He gives us peace - when peace shouldn't be anywhere near.
The same Jesus who nudged my heart years ago, still nudges me now. I always listen and I always act in obedience. Not all the time do I receive clarity as soon as I did with Parker being on the way, but I DO know that God speaks to us when we ask Him to and when He knows we will listen to Him. I am so incredibly encouraged by that!
So let's be encouragers! Let's use this awful time in the economy, impossible circumstances and other difficult moments in our lives to encourage others who are hurting, fearful or without hope.
REMEMBER TO MAIL THOSE RED ENVELOPES! More than one would be just fine - and you might make some extras, address and stamp them and give them to others for their return addresses so they can get them in the mail! Thanks for jumping on the project with enthusiasm, persistence, prayer and determination!
I read just today:
An Oakland, California, pastor is facing possible jail time for carrying a sign in front of an abortion clinic that said 'Jesus Loves You. Can We Help?' and offering information about alternatives to abortion for anyone who wanted it."
Pastor Hoye was found guilty! A video taken of him doing this was presented that showed he was not harassing anyone. In fact, he was being harassed by escorts from the abortion clinic." Now, Pastor Hoye faces up to two years in jail and a $4,000 fine. Christians, let's spring into action on behalf of this brother in Christ. Let us pro-life believers pray this week, before his sentencing February 19th, that our America will support the rights of all men - Christians included.
I also would like to ask for special prayer, today, for my friend from Abundant Life, named Judy. She is taking yet another round of chemo. Let's just pray that Judy, like the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians, can endure the hurt, sickness and suffering, and lean on the Lord for strength and hope!
Lily Clevenger and her family is still in need of God's forever comfort and peace. You can keep track of her updates on CaringBridge.com at LilyClevenger.
Congratulations to three very significant friends in my life who were voted by their peers to be the TEACHER OF THE YEAR for their schools! Congratulations to Jeanne Peve who is at Chapel Lakes, Rachel Parker who is at my school (Daniel Young) and another Rachel and former student teacher of mine: Rachel Crosley from James Walker Elementary! Pray that these friends and master teachers keep God first and foremost in their lives at work and home. We wish them well.
Jess is flying me out to visit her in San Francisco for my birthday in a couple of weeks! I've never been - and look forward to seeing the city, going to the symphony and maybe even trekking north a bit to drive through the Redwood Forest - but mostly, I'm looking forward to the time with Jess!
I'm working on an entry about being victorious in spite of the storms that happen in our lives. I started writing on this because I notice that some people walk through awful things like divorce, cancer, illness, bankruptcy, loss and still manage to stay strong in their faith and have hope in Jesus; while others go through identical catastrophe's and say, "This is useless" or "I give up." or "This is SO not worth it." I'm working through figuring out just what it is that makes some of us MAKE IT, sometimes even grow in our faith while others BAIL ON GOD when the going gets tough. I will post once it all comes together in my head and I locate good, sound scripture to support it. Until then....
Thanks for visiting my blog that is now in THE VICTORY stage!
In His grip,
Please....get a red envelope. You can buy them at Kinko's or party supply stores. I went to the dollar store, bought Valentines and decided to GIVE the cards without envelopes, saving them for the project.
On the front, address it to:
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pensylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500-0001
On the back of the envelope, write: This envelope represents one child who died in an abortion. It is empty because that life was unable to offer anything to the world. Responsibility begins with conception.
Put a stamp on it, drop it in the mail, and send it. Then tell everyone you know about the website www.sendaredenvelope.org or make a letter like this to give and encourage them to do the same. Time is running out. It is our hope that 50 million red envelopes, one for every child who died before having a chance to live, will be sent to Obama.
Pray that it will change the heart of the President.
In His grip,
Mike got on this kick a couple weeks ago and suggested we kick our habits, break our routine and try some new places for kicks and giggles! I've gotten a real kick out of it and I think he's kickin' himself for not thinking of it sooner.
Weekends are always a good time to eat out, but we'd gotten in the habit of going to the same places all the time. They're GOOD places, some are GREAT places - but we always found ourselves hitting one of the following: Outback, Logans, Ophelias, Mr. Sushi in Lee's Summit, Garrozzo's or Salvatore's, On The Border and Joe's Crab Shack. On a wild night we hit Rib Crib,Cheeseburger In Paradise, Styx at Legends, or Cafe Verona on the square in Independence. Those were always our favorites - and still make delish leftovers for Monday lunch. I start looking forward to lunch on my way to work - and by the time 11:05 rolls around,I can hardly wait to zap my Saturday night fair! MMMmmmmmm!
So when Mike mentioned mid week that he wanted to try some new places and branch out a little from our regular cuisine, I was really excited and started looking forward to our weekend dates even more than I already did. Which, I must admit, borderlines on the eating disorder side of normal more than the date-night side. Anyway, our first wheels to meals took us to 89th and Metcalf, slippin and sliding all the way there in the snow and even more coming home! But OH WAS IT WORTH IT!!! J. Gilberts Woodfired Steaks</STRONG> held reservations for us at 7:00 - right near the fireplace. (Try to request one of the two tables for two beside the fire - mmmmm loverly!) The menu couldn't've been more perfect and there was something on it for every taste and calorie-counting soul. We learned they're famous for their blue cheese chips - so we tried a half order. Basically, chips with melted blue cheese on them - worth the try but not the fat grams - so we'll nix that next time. The bread was greater than great so by the time they brought our meals, I felt like a dough boy. Tell me WHEN will I find my once-strong willpower?! It has vanished with my Femara, I think. We both ordered steaks since it's a STEAK SPECIALTY place and we decided that there are none better - and we've had steaks pert-near everywhere! This place is a MUST TRY if you're a red meat lover like us. I can say, though, it's a good thing it's pricey or we'd be oinkin' there too frequently.</P>
<P>Our next adventure took us to BLUE GROTTO - a trendy little woodfired pizza place in Brookside. For those savvy to that area, it's right next door north to THE Brooksider and across the street west from the Price Chopper. (Well, I THINK it is a Price Chopper!) This joint ain't a joint and it sure is a place to go if for no other reason than to marinate in the atmosphere, decor and amazing wine bar! The pizza isn't your typical pizza - so if you're a MEAT LOVERS DOUBLE CRUST WITH CHEESE kinda pizza lover, stay far, far away. Jess drove in from Olathe, Micah came over from the dental school, Mark rode out with us from Blue Springs and we had the NICEST little family get-together over yummy goodness! Salads were weak - compared to many places, so save your $8 on whole leaves of Romain doused with vinegar and oil, but the pizzas = mmmmmmm. They are dinner plate size and range from $13- $15 each. One is too much for one, but 1/2 isn't enough for one - so we all ordered one and then had our own little pizza buffet at our booth. Everyone loved the sausage pizza, I had one called The Four Seasons that came with 1/4 of it black olive, 1/4 artichoke, 1/4 mushrooms and 1/4 green and red bell pepper. I must admit, I was expecting it to be veggies all over the pizza - not quartered out - but it was interesting, entertaining and really quite good - so I'd order it again.</P>
<P>Mike surprised me with our next date night to THE POT PIE in Westport! I'm telling you - you just HAVE to go! I had THE BEST roasted chicken I've ever had in my life! It was nestled on top of a mound of mashed potatoes and fringed with thin green beans that were outa this world! The spinach salad was top-shelf excellent, too! Mike had a chicken pot pie which he deemed amazing and he enjoyed a bowl of fresh broccoli soup instead of salad. The menu is written on a chalk board on the wall, so that gives me reason to think it might vary from visit to visit - but it was so entirely exceptional that we'll definitely return! It's one of those places you'd drive right by if you weren't looking for it - and if you DID see it, you'd probably keep on driving because it just looks like a hole in the wall...but I encourage you to give it a try! Be sure you make reservations or you will wait and wait and wait because the whole place isn't a lot larger than our living room.</P>
<P>Finally, last night we tried the new Japanese Hibachi House in Blue Springs! It's right by 54th street Bar and Grill and between the Army Recruiting station and Side Pockets. We are so excited to have another place in our little springs to enjoy, but I'm afraid I'm going to have to change that "<span style="text-decoration: underline;">are</span> so excited" to "<span style="text-decoration: underline;">WERE</span> so excited" because it was a dismal disappointment. The food was fine - but it was an hour and fifteen minutes AFTER WE WERE SEATED before the Chef appeared at our hibachi to prepare our meal. All total - we were sitting in that claustophobic little area for three hours! One couple at our table just left after it took a half hour just to get our drink orders taken. The man said he wasn't about to miss the fight (?) to eat dinner. I think we'll probably give them some time to work through their growing pains, get the kinks figured out and if they're still open by then - go back...but it'll be awhile before I'll be able to convince Mike that we want to give it another try.</P>
<P>Mike'll surprise me again next weekend - so I'll be sure to post the latest excursion for dining. Until then....</P>
<P>So SO thankful that this cancer blog can be filled with unimportant ramblings such as this instead of reporting doctor visits, biopsies, drugs, treatments and surgeries like it was last year at this time!!! I see my oncologist either this week or next - I'll have to check my calendar, so I'll be posting again then. In the interim - enjoy your life and don't sweat the stuff! </P>
<P>Please continue your prayers for Lily Clevenger and a big shout out full of birthday wishes to Tucker Peve - the big 14! </P>
<P>In His grip,</P>
Take just a little bit of time and watch the link so you are informed!