Something to hold on to...

"Today I am one day nearer home than ever before. One day nearer the dawning when the fog will lift, mysteries clear, and all question marks straighten up into exclamation points!
 I shall see the King!"     Vance Havner

Thursday, August 4, 2011

V is for Vodou (Voodoo)

is for Vodou (Haitian name for voodoo)

Now, the first thing I want to say is that I do not practice or have any belief in voodoo, but it does bring up a strong memory. I feel that by including this in my blog, it will be a reminder to me of Haiti's greatest need.

In 1993, after watching the slides from missionaries that were based in Haiti, I had a strong urge to go there. I honestly felt such a calling, if you will, to leave my family and be part of a team from our church that was going on a 2 week trip to assist the mission already based there. I told my husband that it was not that I really wanted to leave, but that I wanted to go. I have rarely felt so strongly that I was supposed to do something as I did then. It was in July, and I traveled with the second group from our church. Most had left a few days before, but due to some prior commitments, 4 of us traveled later.

Here I was, arriving in Haiti, when I had barely traveled anywhere else. This would be my first real plane ride, and many other firsts. I must admit that the first day there, I wondered what I was getting myself into. I developed a serious migraine on that first day, and wondered if I could make it.

As the days went on I knew I was supposed to be there, yet I still was realizing that our cultures are so very different. Everything was different, the poverty, the lack of communication abilities, the landscape, and the religion.

One night in particular, while we were trying to sleep (we slept on the roof of the mission on cots due to the heat) we could hear voodoo drums in the distance. That was definitely a strange experience for me, and to be honest , I felt evil around me. I prayed very hard that night, Although I knew that my God is greater than any evil around me, I needed to speak His name over and over for my own peace. I also prayed for the people of Haiti. We think sometimes that their biggest problem is their poverty, and that groups go there just to meet physical needs. We see and hear often of humanitarian groups that provide food, and medical help. Yes, these are real needs, and the poverty was overwhelming. But their greatest need is for the Lord God to rescue them from the evil that is all around them.

It has been many years since I returned from that trip, and to be honest, I do not think of these people as often as I should. There have been quite a few people that I know that have gone on similar trips since then, and each time it causes me to remember Haiti. I hope that somehow the focus of this post will also help me, and perhaps for those of you who read it will remember the Haitian people as well.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

U is for Ugly

is for Ugly.

Now, I must admit that the letter U had me stumped for a very long time. Well over a month. I did not want to go with umbrella, or unicorn, or anything starting with "un". I had to wait until something inspired me. With the current heat wave I am not getting inspired by much, so the challenge was great.

Today it hit me:

Not the word you would expect me to devote a post to. This blog is about the "Silver Lining", and the whole concept of that is supposed to be positive. Is there anything positive in such a word as ugly?

I think so.

The first thing I think of is the old adage, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder". Well, isn't the same true with ugly? Be it dogs, decor, or even people, we all have different ideas about which one is pretty or ugly.

I have a scar.

It is quite large, and in reality is shaped much like the letter U. By the world's standards it is undesirable, unattractive, and ugly (three Us). But think about this. That one scar on my body is a reminder of the grace of God, a reminder of surviving what I later learned was a cancer that was very much not in my favor, and very much a smile from God. (You can read about 'A smile from God" here)

During our summer youth conference we sometimes have a small group ice breaker called "show me your scar". It is amazing that people young and old really like the opportunity to tell the story about their physical scars. You will hear stories about bicycle accidents, sports injuries, and surgeries. There is something about talking openly about what people are taught never to discuss or question. It is rather "freeing". It seems to turn what one would think of as being ugly into a story. I just happen to have a visible scar close enough to my face that makes it seem a taboo subject to talk about.

I will admit that in the weeks following surgery, I was quite concerned about the appearance of this scar, and even blogged about my thoughts regarding it. You can read those initial thoughts here. But as time has passed and admit-tingly, as the scar and my opinion of it have improved, I realize that is is quite beautiful in many ways.

I do not think of it as ugly anymore. Truth be told, sometimes I forget I have it, and sometimes it takes me noticing that someone else, a stranger, is fixated on it before I stop to think about it.

I have taken this to heart. When I see a scar on someone else, especially if it is large, or facial, or what some would call dis-figuring, I try to remember that there is a story behind it. That perhaps that scar has saved their life, that perhaps that scar is a reminder of a serious event that has changed them, but I will never think it as being ugly.

If ugly is also in the eye of the beholder. Let's behold beauty instead.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

T is for Teaching

is for teaching

I am not technically a "teacher".
-But I teach. I have been a teaching assistant with our district for 16 years. In high school I was in the Future Teachers of America club, but I did not really want to be a teacher. I wanted to be a dentist. I decided though, midway through my senior year that I would go to Bible College and possibly teach Christian Education in a church setting.

Things changed again, and I returned home in the middle of my junior year for a number of reasons. My mother was seriously ill, and that is where I needed to be. Strange though, because my first job after getting married had nothing to do with teaching, but instead had everything to do with dentistry. I worked for an orthodontist for over 5 years.

Then after a few years staying at home with our boys, I returned to the workforce. I became a teaching assistant with our local district. First, I helped in an early childhood classroom. We had a morning class, and then all new students for an afternoon class. May I just go on record to say that those teachers work their behinds off? Imagine a class load and all of the paperwork involved of about 40 children total? Kudos to them.

After a few years, I switched over to older kids and have spent the last 13 years with 4th and 5th graders. The best part about my job, is that also for the last 13 years I have worked with the same teacher.
She is amazing as a teacher, a "boss", and as a friend.
She teaches with respect towards each student, and plans amazing activities for them as they discover more about the subject. You might say she has been my "boss" during these years, because I do work under her direction. Lucky for me, she respects me as well, and allows me to be creative in my own right. I am allowed to teach many subjects in small groups, and allowed to teach my "very favorite book of all time" to the entire class each year.
More than any of that, she has been my friend. 13 years has brought both joy and sorrow in each of our lives and we have shared each together.

I do love my job. I love teaching, but I also love the fact that I have been so blessed with who I work with.

Sadly, this next school year will be her last before retirement. She will be missed, and I will hopefully find another like her to continue my own career.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

S is for Stuff

is for Stuff

A wise friend once said, "Stuff complicates your life."

I have too much.

Now, I am not talking about consumable items, such as food and toiletries. I do have a supply of those things because I stockpile (buying at rock bottom prices to avoid ever paying retail). However, I do not stockpile to the extent that I fill a room.

I am talking about furniture, clothing, and decorative items. Our house if full from corner to corner and I long for a simpler lifestyle. I do not think I could ever be a true minimalist, owning 12 items of clothing, but I would greatly like to reduce what we own.

In 1993 I went on a short term mission trip to Haiti. One would think that after a trip there, I would never own anything in excess. Sadly, good old American consumerism has caught up with me. The items I put in our trash would be cherished by people there.

Part of my accumulation is due to the fact that I delay decisions. When I don't know quite what to do with an item, I put it in a closet, stuff it in a corner, or send it to the basement. Now, please don't start thinking I am going to try out to be on one of those "popular" hoarding shows. I am not where near that . All of our rooms in our home are functioning rooms, I just have too much stuff. I am not even emotionally attached to most of it, and would gladly clear it away. I just lack motivation and physical ability to lift some of it.

Someday however you may drive by and see a large sign;


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

R is for Relastionships

is for Relationships

This is where life gets real. I know that when I come to the end of my days, all that will really matter is how I handled relationships: my relationship with Christ, and mine with people. There is just so much stuff that will not matter at all.

My relationship with Christ is still evolving. Although I have been a Christian for over 37 years, I am no where near where I should be. I am always learning more about Christ and desiring to be more like Him. I mess up, I am lazy, I get full of myself. Sometimes I wish God graded on a curve and I could just compare myself to the "really bad" people and the "really good" people and I could feel like I am closer to the really good. Sometimes I am in a slump in my relationship with Christ. I do not feel close to Him because I am not making enough of an effort. When you really stop and think that the God of the Universe wants nothing more that for us to spend time with Him, it really humbles you. I need that closeness. When I was going through my health issues I honestly felt closer to God than I ever have, I felt such a dependence on Him and such a longing. I want to feel that way again, but without the trials.

I think it is beautiful too, that God not only wants us to be in good relationship with Him, but truly cares how we treat people. He cares about my earthly relationships. There are times when I am so guilty of not doing enough to nurture them. Again, I get full of myself and my own little world that I do not reach out to others enough.

I know that God's plan for us is to love God and love people. A very simple plan, yet when put into action correctly can mean the world.
I will go to bed tonight thanking God for those He surrounds me with on a daily basis and for those I love that I do not get to see very often.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Q is for Quandary

Q is for Quandary

That is what I am in the midst of. Q is just not an easy letter. Here were my options that I felt I could at least get one paragraph :

Questions- I have a lot of questions that I want to ask God someday. I would list them here, but really, they are for God. Thing is, I am thinking that once I see Him face to face, I won't care so much anymore to learn the answers.

Quiet- I am not a quiet person. I always admire the soft spoken women out there. I can bet though, that most soft spoken women were not number 9 in their birth order, and definitely did not have 7 older brothers.

Quest- my brother suggested that, but it did not float my boat.

So you see why Q has to stand for quandary, because I am absolutely perplexed.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

P is for Psalms 34:4

is for Psalms 34:4

I actually had multiple choices floating around in my head for the letter P. I thought about prayer, parents, and perseverance. Each of those words bring up many thoughts. However, I decided to share another one of my favorite verses, which in reality makes me think of each of the other words I was considering.

I was in my freshman year of college, and learned that my mother was sick. Seriously sick. Cancer was found in her colon and she would need major surgery. I was alone the night I got the call from my sister and I was so upset. I went to my room, and did the thing that never ends well...I opened my Bible and let it fall open. I had just enough faith or naivety, to believe that God would speak to me in this way. I know now that I could have opened my Bible to a verse that made no sense at all in my circumstance, but I didn't.

The verse I found that night was exactly what I needed to hear.

"I sought the Lord and He answered me, He delivered me from all my fears." Psalms 34:4

What a sweet verse for a young girl who is fearful and lonely. I have since gone back and read the entire 34th chapter and it is a very comforting passage to someone who is hurting.

I will admit, I am not the best at memorizing scripture, but this and my verse from Ephesians are etched in my mind. There are others as well, but these two in particular hold very special meaning.

I do connect this verse with prayer and with parents for that matter, since I found it when I was concerned about Mother. I also think that seeking the Lord is a part of perseverance, so I guess all of my "P" words can be found in this one verse.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

O is for Optimism

is for Optimism

I must admit that I was stumped.

When I started blogging through the alphabet I knew there would be certain letters that would be difficult. This was one of them, so much so that I asked my facebook friends to help. One of them wisely suggested that it should be optimism, “because isn’t that what the Silver Lining is all about?”

The name for my blog actually has a dual meaning.

Yes it is about the proverbial silver lining, and that we should look for one behind even our darkest moments, but it has another meaning. My maiden name was Silver. When I decided to do a blog nearly 5 years ago I could not think of a name. My brother-in-law and niece came up with this name because of my silver hair and former last name. It seemed to fit not only as a name, but also as a direction. I would attempt to give a positive outlook on things.

Now, on to optimism: I wish I was always an optimistic person. I think I try to be, but actually I tend to worry about things far too much. My family will tell you that as well.

I do know that during the trials in my life I have been more optimistic than not. Only because I learned to trust God, and when you really put your trust in Him you have to look at things in a positive light. How could we doubt when we have the God of the Universe on our side?

I know that perhaps someone will stumble upon this post, or this blog for that matter and I would pray that something I have written could be an inspiration to them. Perhaps a bit of optimism does shine through this Silver Lining.

At the risk of really dating myself, I remember a song from my childhood. It popped into my head as I woke up this morning. The famous Frank Sinatra sang a silly song about optimism about an ant that wanted to move a rubber tree plant. The song was about high hopes. I could sing it for you if you wanted.

I think we do all need a does of that now and then, the belief that we can do the impossible. Brings another verse to mind..."I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" Philippians 4:13

That is true optimism.

Friday, June 10, 2011

N is for Neighbors

is for Neighbors

It helps if they are good ones.
It also helps if we are good ones.
Growing up there were some very special people next door: Mr. and Mrs. Adolfs. They were older and were like a second set of Grandparents to me.
I remember Mother telling me that when we moved in beside them that Mrs. Adolfs was really worried about a family with "all those children". She told Mother that the first day she saw the laundry on the line and "all those nice white shirts" that it must be a good family. She loved all of us ever since.

MY sister and I would go to her house to have tea parties. Well, we thought they were tea parties, she would give us something to drink and she always had almond windmill cookies. (I still think of her every time I eat one.)
One day in particular we were at their house and I asked if she had any candy. She had a "milk glass" candy dish with a lid on her coffee table and she usually had it filled. Thing is, I had sneaked a peak before asking so I knew it was full. She figured that out quickly and told me that yes, she had candy, but since I had lifted the lid to check without asking first, that Icould not have any. She gave my sister a piece to eat right in front of me. I was crushed for a while, but soon I realized that she was almost a real grandma to do something like that and I loved her even more.

Her husband passed away later on, and she moved north to live with family. I wrote to her for a few years, but then lost touch. I miss those days of childhood.

You never know what influence you can have on a child. She was just a next door neighbor who opened her home and made children feel welcome.

When Steve and I moved into this neighborhood we were surrounded by elderly people. Widows and widowers were our neighbors. Our boys were the only children in our cluster of houses and they were loved.

Mr. Lindley lived next door and of all things, he had a trapeeze type swing in his garage. It was left over from his days of raising children and our boys loved it. The boys also loved his little dog Pal, and would spend much time in his yard.
Mrs. Nicholas lived across the street and she loved visits from the two little Walter boys. She would get rides to the mall and she often brought back special cookies for the boys. I remember one time the cookies were huge teddy bear cookies that were dipped in chocolate. The boys loved them.

Then there was Wilma.
Wilma moved across the street when the boys were young. Joel was still taking two naps a day. She became a part of our family immediately. She loved flowers, and some of the plants in my yard came from her, although I was told you can't say thank you for plants or they won't grow. She taught me how to make peanut brittle, although I never mastered it. She also told many stories of the years she spent with her husband and of her teaching career. She was a great friend.
Her heart and health deteriorated and she is no longer with us.
The family invited me over the night after she passed so I could pick out treasures from her home. We are blessed with many precious items that were special to her and now are special to us.

Think about your neighbors. They are a part of your lives, and can bless you tremendously. I also need to think about us. Are we the same type of neighbors?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

M is for Mother

is for Mother

Isn’t M always for Mother? I mean what else would it be?

I had one.

I am one.

I have an amazing Mother-in-law.

I had a sweet mother. She was 41 when I was born, the last of her babies, her 2nd little girl after 7 boys. She had a special way of loving. Each of us 9 children grew up thinking we were her favorite, (but I’m sure I really was). Mother was a stay at home mom until I reached 4th grade. Due to health issues Daddy could no longer work, and Mother found a job at a local bakery. What a great job to a kid. Donuts, cakes, pies, and fresh bread would come home with Mother on a daily basis. Not good for a growing girl’s metabolism, but boy did they taste great. After my sister and I got a few years older we would make weekly trips to downtown to spend our allowance, and we always stopped at “Mother’s bakery”. She was promoted along the way to a cake decorator and we loved watching her put the cake up on the turntable and make roses to decorate it. A few years later she moved down the street to a job at Kresgees, and then to a Kmart before resigning due to her own health issues.

The worse thing about Mother is that I did not have her long enough. I was just 21 years old before she passed away, 5 weeks before my wedding, and much too soon if you ask me. I would like to think that I have inherited a few things from her. I know that some of my shopping strategies were from her, and hopefully some of my cooking skills.

I miss her every day, and in reality I always will, but I know that someday I will have an amazing family reunion with her.

I am a mother.

I think because I had such a great mother it made me want to be one all the more. I have been blessed with two sons that I love dearly, and yes, each is my favorite. I pray that I can leave some of the things with them that Mother taught me and that they will also get to know her more through me.

I also have an amazing mother-in-law.

Even saying that is against traditional views. I have actually had her in my life much longer than I had my own mother, and have grown to love her so much over the years. She has also been one to teach me many things: how to love your husband more than any other earthly person, how to devote your life to serving God and others, and how to make a mean batch of chicken and noodles.

M has to be for Mothers!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

L is for Lavish

is for Lavish

I love that word. I love it that God lavished his goodness on us. I especially love how John put it:

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” I John 3:1

I only ever used that word to describe mundane things, like putting on suntan lotion, but when I think if its full meaning, I am honestly in awe. The dictionaries describe it as being extravagant or extremely generous. I am not “extremely generous” with many things. I tend to hold back. I reserve some for me, carefully calculating just how much of anything I can give. I then count the cost of what I am giving and act accordingly.

But God did not hold back. I know He counted the cost, but He gave anyway.

I love this word so much that I almost want to reserve it just for describing what God did and how much He loves us. Nothing I do can compare.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

K is for Kitchen

K is for Kitchen

I destroyed mine.

In April of 2000, I accidentally set my kitchen on fire.

Joel and I were home that Saturday. He was in 8th grade and he was hungry all of the time. He wanted leftover chicken strips and fries, and I decided to re-heat the fries in oil.

The oil needed to get hot before I put in the fries or they would get soggy, so I turned on the oil and went into our dining room to finish paying bills. I soon heard a noise, which sounded like Niagara Falls, and when I realized it was not Joel making noise, I got up to look. The flames were already up the wall and across the ceiling. I panicked, Joel remained calm.

We got out quickly, along with the cordless phone and our dog. That is all I grabbed. We could not find the cat. I frantically yelled for people to call 911, while I was trying to do the same. Joel calmly asked a neighbor lady to call.

Fire trucks were soon at our house and I remember being in almost a daze as I sat near a tree and watched all of the events unfold. I had tried to go back in for our cat, but as soon as I opened the front door the smoke was overpowering. I remember sitting under a tree, coughing, and having a neighbor girl bring me a glass of water. How thoughtful. The firemen soon found our cat, and while she too, was coughing hard, she was fine.

It is so surreal to think of all of this now.

We lived with Steve’s mom and dad for two months while our house was being cleaned and repaired. And due to some changes my kitchen became nearly twice the size. God truly made beauty from ashes and I was so grateful for insurance.

Life seems to change quickly sometimes, and I am just so thankful for a God who holds us during these very stressful times.

Monday, June 6, 2011

J is for Jake & Joel

J is for Jake & Joel
No other way around this one folks. When I told Joel that I was going to blog through the alphabet, his immediate response was, “What is J going to be?” He already wondered which of them I would write about.
How does a mom choose? If she is smart, she doesn’t.
Steve and I were married for 6 years before Jake was born. I had had a miscarriage before Jake and then had complications for the first 5 weeks of my pregnancy with him. I was fearful for the rest of the pregnancy, and more than delighted when he was born. He brought so much joy to us. Neither of us could believe how much we could love someone. He was a happy baby for the most part, but did not sleep well at all. I am sure part of that was my fault because I would run in and grab him out of his crib at the least little whimper. He did not nap well either so I was a walking zombie for the entire first year.
22 months later Joel was born. We wondered before he was born just how we could love someone as much as Jake, where does more love come from? Then we held him, and realized that in the very minute he was born, our love multiplied exponentially.
Joel was my sleeper. (still is…) He slept through the night early on, and took two long naps a day for a long time. I think most of that is because I vacuumed in his room while he was sleeping so that I would train him to sleep better than Jake.
I love my boys. I love the children they were and the men they have become. I look forward to watching where God takes them.
I would have to say that the letter J is very important to me!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

I is for Imagination

When I was a little girl I had one. Somehow through the years though, it disappeared.

I remember wanting to be Dale Evans. (For those of you who have no clue who she was, she was a famous singing cowgirl. Her husband was Roy Rogers and he was quite famous)

Dale Evans wore cowgirl skirts. They had fringe all across the bottom that swished when she walked. Little girls like fringe. Little girls like skirts that swish. I did not own a swishy skirt, nor did my sister. One day when our mother was not using all of the clothespins we decided to borrow them. It was soon discovered that if you place clothespins around the entire perimeter of a skirt it becomes a swishy skirt. It looked like fringe to us and for just a moment we lived the dream of being Dale Evans.

How imaginative was that?

One time I wanted to be a witch. Okay, I must have watched The Wizard of Oz, but being a witch on her broom was all I had on my mind. I walked outside near the barn and found a long lead pipe. Closest thing I could find to a proper witch’s broom. I placed it between my legs, held on as if it were my broom, and started down the path outside.

Lead pipes are heavy.

Lead pipes do not fly, they drop.

To this day I have a scar on my left thumb where the lead pipe landed on it and busted it open.

My sister and I would draw girls on paper, and then we would have them talk to each other. I know that just sounds sad, but it entertained us for hours. It is amazing what being poor can do for one’s imagination.

As I said though, somewhere along the line I lost my imagination.

Ahhh, but not to worry, as it left me, it entered my children. Our boys would come up with the best activities. I remember when they commandeered the vacuum hose and dressed as firemen, setting up chairs for their fire truck, complete with a stuffed animal as their fire-house dog. They took pretend trips to Mee-Mart (K-Mart) or pretended to be the Cinnamon Toast Crunch Bakers. Often they dressed in character pajamas so they could save the world as Batman and Superman. I always felt safe when they were protecting me.

My greatest memories of their childhoods are of the times when they were pretending. What a joy it was to see what their minds would come up with.

Those moments fade so fast, and as adults we seldom pretend. We are too busy with life sometimes to have fun with it.

I may surprise you though, and if I show up someday wearing clothespins all across the bottom of my dress, please don’t think I have “ lost it”.

Please understand that I have found it.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

H is for Health

is for Health

Something I have the bad habit of taking for granted.

I know someone who had a very serious cancer. She was cured, but has also been know for being negative about basically everything. I vowed that if I were ever in that position I would surely be more upbeat and positive.

In a sense, I am in that position. Am I a positive person? I am not sure. I know I am not nearly as much as I should be.

Most who have been reading my blog already know about my health history. Much of the details are contained in prior posts. I am not reflecting on these events just to tell my readers about my story, yet to remind myself.

Funny, when I was walking through these events, I never thought I would want to be reminded.

The heart attack was first. May 27, 2008. It just seems so surreal to even think about those days, and to think that a heart attack saved my life. About a week or two after the heart attack, a test was done on my heart that essentially did save my life. That test showed the tumor on my thyroid. This later proved to be a rare form of thyroid cancer. There is a particular test, a blood marker that detects this form of cancer. This test was done prior to surgery, a normal reading is 2 and under. Mine was 1375. I was recently told that a number this high usually indicates that the cancer has spread. I was so blessed, because the surrounding lymph nodes (83 of them) were all clear, and I was surgically cured on September 10, 2008.

I still can hardly believe that God led me through this as He did. I don’t really ask Him why, although for a while I did. I wondered why I was cured when others are not. That is not a question for me to know at this point, so I stopped asking.

The cancer blood test is repeated every 6 months and will be for the rest of my life. This cancer can come back even without the thyroid. It can return in other parts of the body, and does not respond to chemo or radiation. Catching this early, and having it surgically removed is the best line of defense. Do I live in fear? I really don’t, but I would be lying if I did not say that I live in the shadow of cancer. I will mark 3 years this fall, and am anxious for the 5 year mark. Honestly, I am anxious for the 10, 20, and 30 year marks. While I try not to dwell on it, I do at times wonder if it will ever return.

I want to live a grateful life. I remember the day of my heart attack. I turned to the Doctor and told him that he had to make sure I lived. I told him that my boys could not lose their mother at this stage in their lives. I knew what it was like for me.

I thank God every day that He has allowed that not to happen.

I know I need to try better right now at keeping a healthier lifestyle. That is definitely a goal for me. Life on thyroid medicine has played havoc with my weight, and I need to get that under control. I know that my health is not only important to me, but to my family as well. I must not take this for granted.

Friday, June 3, 2011

G is for Grandparents

is for Grandparents

I only had 2. Well, that is not entirely accurate, I only remember two. I never knew my daddy’s parents, one died right before I was born, and the other when I was about 2 years old. I have no memory of them at all.

My mother’s parents were amazing though. I have so many memories of going to their house, staying all night, spending time in their garden, swinging on their porch swing, and just being with them. My granddad was always a happy man, at least from what I remember. He reminded everyone of Colonel Sanders, and he really enjoyed that fact.

Granddad always had one certain type of white mints on his desk. They were a round, white, chalky type of mints and I remember that they had about 3 Xs on one side. Those mints were the first thing we looked for when we walked into their house. Candy was a luxury in our house, but at Grandma and Granddad’s we knew we were in luck.

I think the one thing I remember and appreciate the most about them was their faith. I would always see Granddad with a Bible close by, and no one could out-do my grandma on any church committee. They loved the Lord with all their heart, and their strongest desire was to see all of their family Love Him as well.

Granddad passed away when I was pregnant with our oldest. I so wish my boys would have known him, Grandma lived until she was ninety-nine. On a day, just 3 months shy of her 100th birthday she woke up and announced that it was the day she was going to die. She assured everyone that before she died though, she would see an angel. I took that premonition serious and drove down to spend the day with her. At about 4:00 in that afternoon we called the ambulance because her bronchitis was sounding worse. As she was being taken out to the ambulance on a gurney, she called out to tell her daughter, my aunt, good-bye. My sister and my aunt got into the car to meet us at the hospital. I was allowed to climb in the back of the ambulance with grandma. Before we even left the driveway of her home, my grandma died. I was never told if she saw her angel, but I am pretty sure she did.

It is odd to me, that my own boys have only known one set of Grandparents as well. Both of my parents passed away before they were born. My husband’s parents have been the only ones they have known, and I am pleased that they too have a great faith that my boys can learn from.

I am not yet a grandma, I pray that I will be someday. Let me tell you now though, I am going to be a great one! I will even buy white mints and leave them on my desk!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

F is for frugality

is for frugality

Okay, you knew it was going to come up sooner or later. The switch over to frugality is definitely a major part of me, so I have to write about it.

Three years ago I had a pricy computer that I really felt should be more than an email and solitaire machine. I knew I wasn’t going to start a home business, but really felt I should be doing more.

Our sister in law happened to send me an email link to a frugal blog, and there it was: My answer as to what to do with my computer. I started researching this and other blogs to find out everything there was to know about coupons. I quickly learned where to find them, and when and where to use them. I went crazy at the beginning and in some ways it was expensive to save money. I thought I had to act on each and every deal that came along.

I have learned a lot since then. I am much wiser and a lot pickier about what deals I go after. The more I have gotten in to using coupons, the more I have learned to be frugal in other areas. I know the value of a dollar and try to stretch them further.

I have moved from learning the art of using coupons to teaching others, and I must say I get just as much of a rush from watching others get a great deal as I do with one of my own. I love sharing the ability that God has blessed me with and I get excited for each class!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

E is for Ephesians 3:20-21

is for Ephesians 3:20-21

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

I will admit that at first I wondered what the letter E would be, but all of a sudden it hit me. The logical post in a string of posts about me would be that of my life verse.

My definition of a life verse is one that you go back to over and over again, and actually it becomes a part of who you are.

This is the exact verse that I have gone to a number of times because it always reminds me of how much more God is able to do than I ever give Him credit. I think at times that I put God in a box. I fail to ask for certain things because I have this awful habit of limiting God’s power.

Immeasurably more…that pretty much tells you how big our God is.

Although I thought I knew my Bible pretty well, this verse was first brought to my attention in 1993. My friend Linda and I were sitting on an airplane, circling the Miami airport for landing when we started a conversation with a gentleman across the aisle. He asked where we were heading and we told him we were leaving Miami the next morning for a 2 week mission trip to Haiti. Linda and I were both a bit unsure of what we would experience and a bit apprehensive. This man asked if he could give us a verse to hide in our hearts. This was the verse.

This verse has come to my mind so many times since then. I have prayed many prayers since that night that I just did not know what the outcome would be. Each time I knew that God is bigger than I could possibly imagine and that whatever happened He would be in control.

I know that God’s ways are not always my ways (another verse) but I also know that He is able. In all things He is able. Sometimes He chooses not to do something, and I get that.

It will just always comfort me to know that He can.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

D is for Dating

is for Dating

Ahhh, dating. The whole process of dating is wrong if you ask me. Seems a bit like going shopping and trying on shoes. I wish there would just be one person for everybody and you only date to get to know them better before you marry them.

But, since dating has actually served me well, it deserves a day of its own.

I did not date much in high school. I think that in all 4 years I dated about 4 people. One was long term and the others were brief. Can I just say right now that I thank God every time I think about it that I did not marry one of those boys?!

When I went off to Bible College I was still quite young. I did not turn 18 until October of my freshman year. That year I had only one date, which was quite strange if you ask me. He was a good bit older than I, and when I asked him just how old he was, he refused to tell me. Sort of scared me just a bit.

Then I met Steve.

We were both attending Bible College. He had attended Jr. College before, so he was older than me, but came later. We had mutual friends, I being a cheerleader, and he being good friends with some of the ball players.

He was so funny. Those of you who know him now would not believe that he was so outgoing in many ways back then. He could make you laugh in a matter of minutes, whether it was impersonating Forest Brooks, running up the gym wall, or just laughing. When I was first approached by our friend with the idea of dating Steve, I first commented on how he was always funny. I was assured that he could be serious as well.

Our first date was the campus Winter Banquet. This was the one and only true dress-up event of the year. I wore a dark blue dress, he a dashing blue and gold plaid sport coat. We both wore yellow roses.

Funny thing though about buying shoes, you absolutely know when you find the right ones. Same here. Seems I knew very soon that this would be my future husband. We continued to date for just over 2 years before we married.

Although, I like to think that we are dating still.

Love you honey.

Monday, May 30, 2011

C is for Christ

is for Christ

I know that some of you expected me to say coupons.

I agree, coupons are a big part of my life lately, collecting, organizing, clipping, using, and teaching. However, and I stress this, I refuse to let them become my life.

My life, and all that it is about is found in Christ.

I was raised in a small church, which was mostly comprised of my family. I actually thought it was my Grandma's church and that she was in charge. In all due respect, I think she thought that at times as well. That church was not the best fit for me, and as I grew a bit older, I avoided it. When I was in high school my best friend started inviting me to her church and I liked it. I kept coming back, and finally, when I was a junior, I was baptized. Now, I already was a believer, but just had held off making a full commitment to Christ until then.

I can't imagine what my life would be like otherwise. Becoming a Christian has placed my life on a certain track: going to Bible College, meeting my husband, living where I do. Even the children I have was determined by that one choice.

I love my life. I love the fact that my husband and I have always had Christ in the center of everything, that our commitment to each other and the value we place on our marriage is all wrapped up in our faith.

Those of you who know me well know that there have been dark days in my life. As I have said before, I do not know how anyone faces trials without a firm foundation in the Lord.

If these 26 posts are intended to reveal more about me, then in all reality, I would be proud to stop now, because above all else, this is what I want my legacy to be.

C is definitely for Christ.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

B is for Boys

is for boys...

My mother had 7 of them. Seven boys before having even one girl. My sister and I grew up in a house full of brothers. I remember in grade school people would ask if I could name all my brothers. I thought, "What a stupid question."

Of course, when they asked that I had to rattle all of our names off, in rapid fire succession, without even a breath in between.

I was always so proud of the fact that there were nine children in my family.

But, back to my point...SEVEN BOYS. I do not know how she did it.

God blessed me with two boys.
Yes, when I was younger I wanted a girl. I had such a good relationship with my mother, and I wanted to carry that on with a daughter. We did have a girl's name ready, Katie Renee. Our first son was born, then our second, and I can honestly say that holding son number 2 in my arms erased any desire for a daughter. I was wholly and completely happy. I still am. I have a great relationship with each of our sons, and while there are no daughters-in-law as of yet, I am praying for them already.

Oh, and we did use the name Katie Renee...she is our beautiful 7 year old black lab.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

A is for Anita

Welcome to my new adventure in blogging. I have requested permission from a blogger friend to use her idea of blogging through the alphabet. Perhaps this will get me out of my writing block.

I have decided to make these posts personal, so if you choose to join me for these next 26 days you will learn a lot about me.

Here goes, and how appropriate that my name starts with the letter A.

A is for Anita

I was supposed to be Joanne. Just Joanne. No middle name. I was to be named after my Uncle Joe, because I was born on his birthday. Somehow, in the discussions on that day, my grandma decided that I needed more of a name. From what I have been told, she came up with the name Anita. So, there you go, Anita Joanne.

I always wondered how my Uncle Joe felt about that, because his name pretty much got lost in there.

Growing up I wanted to change my name. There was a Bonita in my grade school classes and I felt our names were too similar. I liked the name Joanne, although I wanted to split it up, and I never understood why that had an e on the end. Later I wanted to be Annie, because I thought that sounded classy.

My mother-in-law calls me Nita, she always has and I let her. No one else really does.

My oldest brother used to call me Anita Mosquito. He is the only sibling that ever gave me a nick name. I miss hearing him call me that.

Funny thing about writing about my name is that something strange and wonderful happened a few weeks ago. I was sitting at my desk at school and all of a sudden, I turned my head because I heard my name. Only, I couldn't have really, because the person that I heard saying my name was my mother. My mother has been gone for over 30 years, but for some reason, she must have been strong on my mind. I heard her voice as clear as ever sweetly call my name. Just once, no other words, just my first name. "Anita". I turned to a co-worker and told her that Heaven had just opened up for me, and explained what happened. Now, I know it wasn't really her, but for whatever reason it happened, it made me smile.

It is odd, that no matter what our name is, the real meaning we place on it is because of who calls it, and how it is spoken. A name is never sweeter that when spoken by someone who truly loves you.

A is for Anita, and I have come to love it.

Remember me?

I have been suffering from writer's block for a very long time. I have actually written two posts that have not made it to my blog for various reasons. I am hoping to start soon on a new path, so keep checking on me.

Things have been very busy around here with family issues, and needs. Youngest has just graduated college and that was exciting for us. he is a gifted artist and will surely make his mark in the world.

My coupon classes are picking up, I have 2 booked in June and am very excited about that. I love sharing this ability.

I promise there is more to come, so stay tuned...

Friday, April 15, 2011

Winner Winner Winner

The winner of the Betty Crocker Loaded Mashed Potatoes Prize Package is..........Marcy!
I have emailed Marcy with directions on how to claim the prize package.
Congratulations and for all who entered: god luck next time!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Contest Now Closed / Another Give-Away!

Recently I was contacted by MyBlogSpark to see if I would like to try out Betty Crocker Loaded Mashed Potatoes and offer the same for one of my readers. I will admit, I am normally a "make it from scratch kinda girl", but I thought I would give these a try.

I will say that I was quite pleased at a few things:

  • These are so easy to prepare, just boil some water, milk and butter, and whip the potato flakes in.
  • They are pretty tasty, because they have goodies like, bacon, chives, cheese and sour cream already in them.
  • The package contains two pouches, which is enough for husband and I to have for two meals.
Now, I will tell you that I added a bit more butter, and then put some shredded cheese on top, which I thought was pretty good, but husband wishes I had left them alone.

I was pleased to know that they are made with 100% real russet potatoes!

In addition to the Loaded Mashed Potatoes, I also received all of the items pictured, which include a very nice selection of kitchen items.

I was provided all of these items and information about the product from Betty Crocker through MyBlogSpark, as well as an identical package to give away.

So, here's the deal-

If you would like to win a package which includes the Betty Crocker Loaded Mashed Potatoes, mixing bowl, measuring cup, magnetic pot holder and a silicone spoonula, then I need you to do the following:

Post a comment to this blog telling me what meal you love to eat mashed potatoes with!

I MUST have your email address in your entry, any entries without an email address will be dis-qualified.

The contest ends on Friday night April 15.

Good luck!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Oh How I Love Jesus...

There are many reasons why, but let me explain where I am coming from.

Today during church I was having quite a dialogue with God. I was discussing the current state of affairs with husband's folks. I was asking Him for wisdom for this entire family, and asking Him for peace. I then discussed the fact with God that I never had to deal with these issues since my folks have been gone for so long.

Then my mind went back to my parents...

God heard my questions, my concerns and then my sadness as I reminded God (as if He did not know) that tomorrow marks the date when we buried my mother 33 years ago. I started dripping tears as I sat and listened to God for a while.

Then, very softly, a song is played over the sound system.

I can clearly remember my mother singing two songs, the rest have faded from my memory.

Today I heard one of them.

The song playing was "Oh How I Love Jesus" . The other song I remember her singing was "He's The Lily of the Valley". This was such a perfect timed gift from God. I was still dripping tears, but suddenly a sweet peace came over me that just reminded me to keep my focus on Jesus.

Thank you God for the gift of memory, and for a mother who planted that song in my mind at a very early age.

Text: Frederick Whitfield
Music: 19th cent. USA melody

There is a name I love to hear, 
I love to sing its worth;
it sounds like music in my ear,
the sweetest name on earth.
O how I love Jesus,
O how I love Jesus,
O how I love Jesus,
because he first loved me!

It tells me of a Savior's love,
who died to set me free;
it tells me of his precious blood,
the sinner's perfect plea.

It tells of one whose loving heart
can feel my deepest woe;
who in each sorrow bears a part
that none can bear below.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Welcome couponers!

I just want to say hi to anyone from the coupon class I taught Thursday night. I hope you are not too confused. Email me with any questions and I will be happy to help you out!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

An Old Pot and a New Recipe

First: The Pot

I love this dutch oven. When husband and I were engaged I spent a lot of time at his house and his mom would cook the most delicious roast beef dinners prepared in an old cast iron dutch oven. Not realizing that her years of experience had much to do with it, I went on a search for a dutch oven of my very own. The trick, or so I was told, was to not buy a new one, but to look carefully for one that was well used and well loved.
I didn't know where to begin to look, I was just barely 20 and had no experience in such things, but I knew someone that would. My brother Carl! If you had know him, you would know that he was quite thrifty, and loved to find unique items at thrift stores. This was back in the day when going to thrift stores was not cool. Well, what would you know, but one day he surprised me and said that he found just what I was looking for! He found this pot on the shelf at our local Goodwill Store, and I think I had to pay $17.00 for it, which seemed like a lot back then. I was willing to part with the money and I have never regretted it! I have used this dutch oven countless times over the years, and though I know that cooking experience has much to do with it, you cannot beat the flavor of anything slow cooked in cast iron.

Recently, like many things (and people) over the years, my much loved dutch oven needed a face lift. Another brother, Tom, has obtained a wealth of knowledge on all things cast iron, and has perfected a technique for restoration. He took this dutch oven and a couple of skillets home with him last fall, and shipped them back to me all pretty and black, and slick as a whistle. I am a happy girl!

Now: The Recipe

Get ready to drool.

Can't you almost smell the beef stew in the pictures above? Look, really look at the second picture. Now, click on the second picture and take in all of those tender chunks of beef, the beautifully cooked potatoes (no mushy potatoes here), look at the perfect carrots. Doesn't this make you want to run out and grab some Dinty Moore? NOT! It makes you want to cook up a batch of this super easy, super delicious stew! Don't worry, if you do not have my dutch oven, just use the heaviest pan you have with a tight fitting lid.

This recipe came from my good friend Kasi. I have heard her talk about it for several years, and I decided it was time to try it. I will say, it is the best stew I ever ate!

5 Hour Beef Stew

1 1/2 lb. lean stew meat

1 cup of celery, sliced

1 onion , chopped

3-4 large potatoes, peeled and cubed

3 carrots, peeled and sliced thick

1 can stewed tomatoes (juice and all)

1/2 cup soft bread crumbs

1/2 TBS. salt

3 TBS. Instant Tapioca

Mix all ingredients together, do not add water, extra juice, etc. Cover and bake at 250 degrees for 5 hours , or until meat is tender. Stir occasionally. Serves 6. You may add more potatoes, carrots, or meat to serve more.

***What I did different***

My stew meat was closer to 2 lbs, and I used it all. I did add more potatoes (2 more) and more carrots (2 more--wish I had added 4 more, they were g-o-o-o-d). I cut the celery, potatoes and carrots in large, uniform chinks. I then decided to add another can of stewed tomatoes, (mine were 14.5 oz cans).

I put this in this morning before I got ready for church. After church and some errands I checked it for the first time (5.5 hours). I decided to take the lid off and let it cook another 30 minutes uncovered while I made corn muffins and got everything ready.

***Why I love it**

I am actually amazed at a few things. First: it is just so easy. You do not brown the meat or fuss with anything. Second:I did not even stir this for over 5 hours. Third: everything cooked perfectly. Tender meat, vegetables cooked perfect, not mushy, not crunchy. Last, but most important: It is delicious!

Thanks Kasi!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Strawberry Jam and the Sweetness of God

It is funny how some things get etched in your brain. Things, that to most are insignificant, like making jam. Today I am home from school due to our 2nd snow day this week, because of the massive mid-west snowstorm. As far as large amounts of snow, our town was spared. We instead, were hammered with little ice pellets for about 30 hours straight. It could have been much worse.

I decided to use these days playing catch up, and I decided to get some things done around the house. In my freezer there was a tub of crushed strawberries that I had purchased last summer at a great price. Things were very busy last summer with moving husband's parents, so I decided just to crush the berries and freeze them for a better time to make jam.

Last night, as soon as I learned school would be canceled for today, I pulled the tub from the freezer. As soon as I pulled out the tub my mind went back to another day. Jake and I did this same thing two and a half years ago. He was living at home, it was in the summer and he had the day off work. We had a tub of berries in the freezer then, pulled it out and started the process. About half way through I received a phone call.

That was the day I learned I had cancer. You can go here to read about that day.

So much is different about today. I am living on the other side of that awful news. Now I can rejoice in simple things, like making jam. Now I can remember the way God led me through a very dark time and how he taught me to trust him.

I suppose I will always think of strawberry jam in a special way, instead of tasting the sweetness of just the berries, I will taste the sweetness of God's promises. God is good. Even in those days of uncertainty about my health, I knew that God loved me and was in control. I hope I conveyed it then. I hope I convey it now.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Lord fill me with your Spirit today

A week ago when things were crazy with husband's folks we were not able to attend what most would call Sunday School. Actually it is much more than that. It is a time when about 85 high school students from our church meet for an hour of fellowship, fun and a lesson by our student minister. Adults are scattered around the room serving as hosts / mentors for a group of students that consistently sit at the same table. I have a group of 7 girls that have been with me for over a year.

Wouldn't you know it,that on the Sunday we miss, something amazing started ? Our student minister was in the middle of a fantastic series on being a practical atheist (one who professes to be a Christian, yet really does not live like it). He then issued a challenge to everyone in the room to take the book of Ephesians seriously when it says to be filled with the Spirit. He posed the question of what could happen if that was our prayer everyday. Now, he even went a step further and asked, what if everyone took that prayer public.

All of a sudden they are, it is amazing. Each day on Facebook for the last week, I saw simple posts from students and leaders, all with the same status: Lord, fill me with your spirit today.

This is incredible. I wondered all week just what was going on. I mean, we have a neat youth group, but it is not like that many of our students to suddenly go this bold with their faith. It took me until yesterday to learn of the challenge and to hear stories of how God is using them in areas they never expected, and how both sponsors and students are seeing a fresh new faith and attitude.

This should be a challenge for us all. We get so complacent in our faith and really just end up reacting to things, when in reality we should be the ones leading the way.

Our student minister put it best, and it has been my prayer today:

If I am not dead, then I am not done. Lord fill me with your spirit today.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The week that wasn't

There is a lot I should write about, so much has happened in the last month, in the last week really. I am just having trouble collecting thoughts lately. Sometimes I want to keep the blog about my bargains and deals, other days I don't want to write about those at all. Most days I am stuck in between, just deciding if I am going to write at all.

This past week has been difficult to say the least. One week ago today just after getting out of bed, our phone rang and husband's mom needed taken to the hospital due to dizziness. Husband was leaving for work, so I hurried and went to assist. It was obvious in a few minutes that I could not physically do this, so an ambulance was called. Now, it seems that our family has our own personal paramedic. A young man from our church, whom I just happened to babysit for when he was a toddler, has been there for me twice, and now was at the apartment to take mom. That was comforting. Mom was admitted , so husband and I spent the next few days and nights apart, I was caring mostly for mom, and husband stayed with his dad.

On Monday, everything changed. Just as mom was getting a bit better, Dad fell, broke his ankle, and was quite dehydrated. Just as Mom was getting ready to be discharged, Dad was admitted. That night husband and I switched and I stayed all night at the apartment. Mom continued to improve, slowly at first, but it was evident that Dad's ankle would take a while to heal. Husband's sister came into town and by Wednesday we thought we had things figured out.

Wednesday night, I was struck by a stomach flu bug and became ill. Can I just say never would be a nice time frame for ever throwing up again.? I think that after 50+ years old, one should never have to do that again. This took me until yesterday afternoon to start to feel myself, and even today I felt a bit sluggish.

The way it stands now, husband's dad is in a rehab area of a nursing home for about 2 weeks to learn how to walk and adjust while the ankle heals.

See why it has been difficult?