Archives for posts with tag: Faith

going homeSo, for 9 days,  “home” had been a beautiful room with flowers on the windowsill,  a view of my favorite little pink bike, and the most comfortable bed I think I’ve ever slept in.  It has been a respite, a gift, a treasure that I will look back and think on with gratitude and laughter and an awe that no words can fill.   And I’m thankful for that because it is day ten of ten. I held back tears as I looked at the flowers that Austin had given to me in the train station on day one.  It has long been said that “all good things must come to an end.”  I don’t know for sure about that, but I do know that these flowers seemed to state what I knew…my time there was coming to a close.

I packed and repacked my bag because on the airline that I was traveling on, there were some pretty strict regulations and I didn’t want it to go over the weight limit. (Correction, my suitcase, not me.)  Austin volunteered to carry the bag that whole morning because he knew that I’d have to carry it throughout the trip and even though it was under 15 pounds, it didn’t have wheels and so it got heavy pretty quickly. I accepted that gift and enjoyed just walking seeing the sights one last time.   We needed to be at the airport by 10:30, and decided to do breakfast at a nice little place on the square that I had come to feel was my little home base of sorts. This was the area where we rode bikes through the first day, caught the ferry to the archipelagos, and walked around on one of the first days there.

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We ate at a cute little place that had been overflowing with partying sports fans the night before, but was now a sweet little breakfast cafe.  Of course, we chose to sit outside.home4

We both ordered Swedish waffles with berries and cream and cafe latte.  Was so incredibly good.  home5

We ate a leisurely breakfast, for, after all, we had PLENTY of time before I had to catch my flight and we were ahead of schedule.  We left and walked to the train station.

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I found myself doing the kind of “Good night, Moon” talk in my head. “Good bye sail boats.”  “Good-bye statue of the beautiful man”, “Good bye bikes”, “Good bye geraniums in every window and life saver at every 2 inches of water”….”Good bye tall, beautiful people”, “Good bye art and beauty at every turn…”  “Good bye bikes”…the list goes on.  We even saw a poster in the train station for the Nick Brandt exhibit, “Inherit the Dust” that we had seen at the Fotagrafiska museum.  “Good bye Nick Brandt”.

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But one thing that was not on the list was , “good bye Aus.”  That was just too tough to think about. Wasn’t going to go there. Not yet. No way.  (p.s.  note in photo, Austin has his back pack and my bag at this point).

So, we got on the train and as we passed through the turn-stall, I saw a woman rushing to get to the train on time.  I felt  so sorry for her and thought, “Boy, I’m sure glad that I’m not her.  Feels so good to not have to rush….” Ha.  That would end up coming back to haunt me for sure!  When we got on the train we even had 2 seats next to each other which was rare.  We ended up at the airport a half hour ahead of schedule. We were there at 10:00 and had hoped to be there by 10:30.

But as the train came to a halt at Arlanda Airport, I looked down at my itinerary. We were just getting up and I said, “Aus, why does this say Vestra? Is it Arlanda/Vestra?”  And Austin had a look on his face that I’ve rarely seen, but it was pretty terrifying. Turns out, there was good reason for terror.  We were at the wrong airport.   Yep.  That poor woman that I had felt so sorry for and seen rushing was probably in a way better situation than yours truly. Deep breaths.

So, the next few minutes would’ve been a great comedy sketch big time. Aus feverishly searched through his iPad to see what we could do to get to the other airport on time, and then the only person that was left by the tracks was the one who had checked our tickets, so I asked him what would be best.  The consensus was that a taxi was the only option.  So, Austin and I quickly left the train and ran up two flights of the escalator (that looked like a mountain…) and then as we found our way to the taxis, I looked and I realized something was missing.  My bag.  Oops.  I was like, “Austin, where’s my bag?” (I saw that look again…)  So…we ran down the same two flights of the escalator (mountain), and then found that the train had left.  So, you’ve got it…back up the steps with no bag.  Ah well.

Austin seemed to be doing fine with the running part.  Just fine. But me?  I used to pride myself in being an alright runner.  Ha.  Funny.  Really funny. That was a long, long  time ago. What we don’t use, we lose.  (Gotta find that back….) But my kids don’t have a stubborn streak just from their Dad.  I definitely get credit there too, so I pushed through but was relieved when we finally got a taxi.   The driver was really kind and said, not to worry, we’d get there in enough time even though it would take an hour and 20 minutes to get there.  Yikes.  But we did get there.  In enough time even.   But it was the most expensive cab ride ever.  Ah well again. Deep breath again.  New airline tickets would’ve been way more expensive for sure. Gotta keep things in perspective here.  With cab rides.  With lost bags.  With saying good bye to ones we love.

So, we got there, and then, I had to say that dreaded “Good bye” to Aus. Relief had washed over both of us that we had gotten there on time, and so it made the see ya later so much easier. I told him to go and make sure he got his bus ticket back to Stockholm and he did, and then he waited as I went through Customs.  Nope, he didn’t have to wait until I got through the gate.  And I never had to when I dropped him off at the airport.  But it just doesn’t seem quite okay to leave when your child is still in your sights for a bit when you won’t be seeing them for a long time. Maybe when the roles are reversed, it feels the same.  Yes, I shed a few tears, but it was all gratitude.  100%.

Now back to that role reversal thing. All week, I had taken off the boss, manager, teller-of-what-to-do hat, and LOVED having a break from that.  And Austin had put the hat on.  With plans, with decisions, with arrangements, Austin had taken care of the big and little details. And so, come Thursday morning, I didn’t even think twice about which airport we’d need to be at.  I just defaulted to Austin.  It wasn’t even a thought.  And that was so my fault to default to someone else.  So thankful that we worked it out for sure, but it was a lesson for me to always be vigilant. Always.  Even when the hats are off, I’ve gotta be aware.

The views as I left Sweden made me smile.  Islands.  Water.  Clouds.  Beautiful Sweden, these ten days were amazing.

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On the flight, we flew over lots of COLD mountains.

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They were beautiful. I so enjoyed the first part of the flight.  I was sitting with two women who were so intelligent and entertaining.  They were both black women, one from California, and one from Nigeria, who were very vocal about their thoughts on social justices and injustices and I so enjoyed getting to know them and laugh and share with these two ‘strangers’ who were so easy to connect with. ( I only make the distinction that they were women of color because we had more in common that not, and in today’s social climate, I wanted to say that. I felt so connected through laughter, conversation, and sharing of experience…ethnicity was not a barrier…) But half way through the trip, I realized that we were running way behind schedule. (Oh, and the time zone thing tripped me up again big-time.  I didn’t know whether we were adding or taking away hours, so it took me a bit to realize how late we were going to be. )

So, I wish  that I could say that the airport fiasco was the most stressful part of the trip.  It wasn’t. AT ALL.  The problem with that was that the window of time I had between my arrival time and the check in time for the gate from Boston to Charlotte was originally less than 2 hours. Had to go through Customs and all that.  Well, with the flight delay, I had less than an hour to get through Customs and board my plane which would begin boarding within half an hour.

So….I asked the flight attendant if I could move up seats. I was in row 22 and I knew that waiting for all to get off would waste precious minutes.  She checked to see if there was a seat up close and 4 B was open.  So down the aisle I go.  I then excused myself as I sat between two young twenty-something women.  I said, “Excuse me.  I moved up because I’m concerned about missing my connecting flight.”  The girl to my right said, “Me too, mine takes off at 7:30.”  I smiled and said…”Mine is at 7:15″.

She was  very tall, lean, and beautiful. I felt short even sitting next to her.  Her physique looked very Swedish, but she had dark features. Turns out that her mother is American and her father is Swedish.  She was living in London and coming home for her brother’s wedding.  Anyway, when the plane stopped, we began our little RUNNNN! through the airport.

I could’ve felt as though I had nothing to offer.  She with her long legs, sneakers, and ease with running was helping me (much shorter me with flip flops and 20 some years on her) to navigate through the airport, etc.  But I DID have something to offer. I really did.  You see my flip flops don’t flop when I run, they CLOP.  And they CLOP LOUDLY.   So as we’re running past passengers, she with her quiet graceful, long-legged strides, and me?  Me with my loud CLOP-CLOP-CLOP of my leather bound flip flops.  Yes, I did indeed  had something to offer because people were clearing the aisle as they heard me coming, probably wondering what the in the world that sound was. I think it helped us make pretty good time if I do say so myself.

We got through Customs part one and two and then ran to her gate, and then mine was further.   I thanked her and told her I didn’t know if she believed in God but I do and I just feel like she was such an answer, provision, for my prayer to get to the gate in time.  She smiled (gracefully of course) and we both RAN our separate ways.

It was a little after 7 and my flight was to take off at 7:15.  I tried the first KIOSK I could find to check in, and ….bad news, it denied issuing a boarding pass.  Too Late?  I ran faster.  And then…then I try to find Gate B 8 and the hall stops before 8 and starts up in the teens, so it was missing some gates which included Gate B8.  What in the world? This was so not good. Not good at all.  Anyway, turns out B8 was across two roads/drop offs, and as I ran through, well, I saw one car, but then…didn’t see that one, and had a near miss with a car.  Really close call.  Stupid move.  Catching a flight isn’t worth getting hit by a car. I was probably not looking so graceful then either, mind you.

There were other details, but I’m sure you travelers have lots of stories like these and I can end by saying that as I rushed up to Gate B8, the flight attendants hadn’t even the begun boarding process.  Turns out there was a pretty big delay on this one as well. The flight attendant seemed so calm and kind and smiled as my sweaty  and oh-so-relieved self checked in.

As I waited, I stood by the window.  This is what I saw.

home25The sun was beginning to go down, and the sky was just beautiful. I felt so relieved as I didn’t want to have tax my family with the cost of another airline ticket.  Do you know what thought occurred to me as I saw everyone around me with their carry ons and luggage?  That if my bag hadn’t been left on the train, I don’t know if I would’ve made it to the gate on time.  My long-legged  beautiful friend might just have had to abandon me if my short flip-flopped self had been lagging a 15 p0und bag. Even with my help of my loud flip flops sounding the alarm that we were coming through, she might just have had to ditch me. And it would’ve taken a lot longer for me to find where I needed to go.

I don’t pretend to know what God does or doesn’t do, but my faith allows me to believe that so often what I may see as a nuisance may just very well His provision, His care, His hand, for something that’s ahead of me.  It amazes me, encourages me, and allows me to breathe when life gets crazy. (And life sure as a way of getting crazy…)  The unseen Hand of God is often so visible…  I boarded the plane and got a window seat. And here’s what I saw then…(There it is again. That visible, invisible Hand…)

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“Good bye, Boston.”

And as we rose above the city, I saw the river and sail boats and small islands. And I thought about how beautiful they were there in Massachusetts,

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and how beautiful they were there in Sweden.

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I thought about how cool it is that no matter where we are, there are so many things that are so the same in landscape, in buildings, in people.

Had it been an easy travel day, my focus would have been how incredibly hard it was to leave Austin.  It so would’ve been.  But boy oh boy how the circumstances changed my urgent desire to get home.  Although it was still so hard to say goodbye, the difficulty sure helped to keep things in perspective.  This wasn’t home…this was just a passing through.  And in order to get home, I couldn’t depend on me alone.  I needed others to help me get there. It was such a blessing after such a crazy day of travel to walk down the steps at the airport and see my husband and Tanner waiting for me.  Home.  And maybe that’s part of the beauty of traveling…an appreciation for what’s “out there”, but a renewed, brand new appreciation for what has been there all along.

Blessings ~
Heather

P.S.  (always…)  I can’t help but think of the analogy here…as a believer in Christ, am thinking I’m not Home yet.  And maybe the trials, the unrest, the struggles in this life in the here and now, can give a realization that, you know, we’re not really Home yet. As huge of a gift that Life is, could it be that we were created for more?  The Bible says we are and we were. home11 I pray that we’d always be aware of the Unseen Hand reminding us that we were created for so much more, and that we will be thankful for all of the amazing reminders that He has in our paths, right here, right now. home8Thank you, Austin.  No words for how blessed I am.  And that’s saying a lot (for your quite wordy mom).  Love you (and all of you kids) way more than words can say.  Keep doing  your thing knowing that God goes before you and behind and is right there in the middle of it all. ❤

 

Oh, and a little addendum.  I got a call from Austin a few weeks after I returned home.  He said, “Mom, there’s a  UNESCO conference in NY I want to go to, and I’m thinking about coming HOME to see everyone for about a week…what do you think?”  So guess who came home with my crazy looking bag over his shoulder and very few clothes because he brought mine?   Yep…this kid.(He had called the train station and picked up my bag the day after I left. Huge relief!)  We had the most amazing week with family.  Life is short. So thankful for time spent with people we love!

 

 

Ten Days (Part One)

Ten Days (Part Two)

Ten Days (Part Three)

Ten Days (Part Four)

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So, there’s this little purplish-blue flower that can be seen on wooded paths amidst the moss and leaves on the ground. It can be found in fields, or in the grass.  Forget-me-nots can crop up in a wide variety of settings.

The other day, I was in the mountains  on a little woodland trail.  There were beautiful blooms on rhododendrons that immediately drew my eye to their beauty.  There were stately trees that had been there for a hundred years, and little yellow buttercups, wispy and delicate,  that tickled my ankles as I walked. But amidst the beautiful landscape, with all of the colors and beauty, there were these little flowers that could easily go unnoticed.  I so love that they are called ‘forget-me-nots’, because amidst all of the  grand and glorious, bold and beautiful things in the landscape, it’d be easy to walk on by and never see these delicate little flowers of blue cushioned in the center of a circle of green leaves.

They could definitely go unnoticed, but they are absolutely beautiful.  Upon close examination, one would see that there are often little patterns of stripes, and accents of white with a splash of yellow in the center.  They’re just beautiful.   But in our world, being beautiful (internally or externally) doesn’t mean that you’ll be noticed.  Lots of times, the wholesome beauty, the natural, the gentle, the kind, goes so under the radar.  Because in our world, particularly, in the present culture of the US, (Yep, the “us”), it seems that the degrading, vile, totally tainted stuff is the stuff on the radar. It’s the stuff with the ratings.  It’s the stuff that shocks…and how amazing the amount it takes to shock these days.  Talk about desensitization. Anyway, the tainted stuff on the radar is glorified.  It’s  so on the radar not to be condemned, mind you,  but to be condoned.  (And those who discern, dare I say judge, who shine a light on darkness are seen as having a lack of acceptance, a lack of compassion. I believe it’s just the opposite, but that’s a whole other subject, a whole other “rant” and it was so not my attention to rant.  Please excuse the rabbit trail…)

Ok, back to the forget-me-nots (and I’ll try to forget-not what in the world I’m talking about, because I promise, I did have a point I wanted to share!) These little blue flowers spring up anywhere.  Some are perennials, some are annuals, and they come in yellows and blues.  They are here for a little while, then the flowers fade until a later time.  So, if you miss them, those little blue blooms are gone for a time.

So, here’s the thing.  Like little blue forget-me-nots, there are little reminders of God’s grace all around.  Sometimes, they are loud and bold like the stately trees or the beautiful sunset.  But sometimes…sometimes they look like little blue flowers that you’ve just gotta search for.  Sometimes we’ve gotta stop by the path and kneel down to see these little gems.  Sometimes we’ve gotta take a moment to look for them. We have to be deliberate. Because, when we’re rushing through life with all the demands and busy-ness, it’s so easy to miss the reminders, the encouragement, the joy. And those are things that feed us, that give us the encouragement to keep pressing on.  Sure, we can ‘keep on keeping on’ without them, but it sure is a heck of a lot more fun when we are aware of God’s Presence in the big and the little.  It’s like the ‘wind in our sails’ so to speak.  Sure, you can row a sailboat if you need to, but it was designed to be driven by wind.  We were designed to be filled by the Presence of God, to be encouraged.  Yes, we can choose to be windless, but the journey sure looks and feels different when we try to row our own boat.  This is one of the reasons why it’s so important to stay in the Word.  To hear grace day by day.  To hear truth and parameters that set free.  To refocus, and rejuvenate oneself as we face the whats of the day with the important whys. The Word speaks and fills and reminds us of who we are.

And when we are reminded of who we are, whose we are, well, it might just make us more aware of His creation whispering in our ear the encouragement to keep on keeping on.  We might be much more prone to see the little blue forget-me-nots in our world because we will be so aware and in touch with the truth that He has forgotten us not.   Truly, He has forgotten us not.  And knowing that changes everything.  It helps us to forget others not.  It helps us to slow down a bit and not strive so daggone much.  It helps us to be deliberate about remembering that He is with us and we are so not alone in a world where it’s very easy to feel detached, fragmented, disconnected.

So, here’s to having eyes to see His hand of blessings in our lives, this week, this day, this minute.  Here’s to being mindful of His goodness.  Here’s to being grateful for the little things and constantly cognizant of the fact that they are all around us if we would but have the eyes to see (and even if we wouldn’t…) Here’s to knowing that if we aren’t opening our eyes of our heart to see them, that, just like those little delicate flowers, they may fade away without us even knowing they were there.  If we are breathing, there are things to be thankful for, and being aware of that gives us strength to face the things that we are not so thankful for.   Here’s to forgetting not the benefits of the Lord and being so very thankful that He forgets-us-not.  Those little reminders are all around.  Praying to have the eyes to see them.

Blessings ~

Heather

P.S.  May your days be full of them 🙂

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“Praise the Lord, my soul;

all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

Praise the Lord, my soul,

and forget not all his benefits—

who forgives all your sins

and heals all your diseases,

who redeems your life from the pit

and crowns you with love and compassion,

who satisfies your desires with good things

so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s…”

For more of this chapter, click link.  It’s worth it 🙂

Psalm 103

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I’ve always loved snow days.  As a child, the anticipation of snow was always fun.  I grew up in Maryland where there was some snow, but not a lot, so snow days were fun and out of the ordinary.  They were filled with sledding on the nearby golf course, making snow men, and that never-ending attempt to finally build an igloo.  If Eskimos could do it…why couldn’t our neighborhood clan? I never did check that off of my childhood bucket list of sorts!

Later, as a mom, I just loved snow days.  I loved the anticipation of having the kids stay home and enjoy the snow.  With so many little ones in the house, it was quite a challenge to keep them bundled up.  Seems like by the time I got everybody out the door, one of them was ready to come back on in.  The dryer was always running, hot chocolate was a must, and watching a movie was always sweet when the kids were all so tired from playing in the snow that they’d watch in silence, then fall off to sleep, on the couch, on the floor, in a chair.

Now, as a teacher, I must say, I continue to look forward to those snow days, quite a bit actually! I’m worse than my own kids with watching the weather reports to see if we might get a day to catch up.  I love having days when we can just have a pass and not go anywhere and hunker down and enjoy the time here and get caught up on that long list of things I haven’t checked off yet.

So, this snow day started out pretty well…

snowday18…it’s not every day that your husband brings ya breakfast in bed.  I think he felt guilty cause he indulged in the danish that we were supposed to have for Sunday morning pre-church.  Not much of it left, I’m afraid, but at least he shared a piece!  Everything tastes better when eaten in bed with a hot cup of coffee.

So after that indulgent breakfast, I got up and the snow was so beautiful that I really felt like going for a walk, and believe it or not, the man who delivered my morning breakfast said yes he’d go for a walk, too.  So I put on lots of layers and grabbed my boots from the garage that hadn’t been worn in quite awhile and we braved the cold.

And here are a few thoughts from a walk in the snow…

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We all leave traces behind.  Everyday.  Snow or not.  Foot prints.  Tire treads.  We all leave our mark in this world.  Every single solitary day.  Sometimes we see and feel and know the traces, the impact.  Sometimes we don’t.  Am thinking I want my ‘footprints’ to be productive, constructive, even beautiful.  And when they aren’t?  Well, thank goodness for figurative snow that melts and time that heals and forgives and removes and even, yes, redeems.  And about that?…here’s another thought about snow.

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It is white. Quite an observation, I know.  But yes, it is white, bright, and reflects light like crazy.  It covers. It fills in the gaps.  Even things that seem to be white in our everyday lives often appear a bit beige or yellowish when compared to the incredible white of snow.  And that’s a beautiful thing.  Especially when you think about this verse…

“‘Come now let us settle the matter,’ says the Lord.

‘Though your sins be as scarlet, they will be white as snow.'”

Isaiah 1:18

Yep.  White as snow is a good thing.  A beautiful thing.  An amazing, redemptive thing that God can cover us with grace like a bright white light blanket of snow.  Fresh.  New.  White as winter snow.

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And here?  Here is scarlet.  Red.  Blood red.  Bold.  Standing out. Sometimes red is beautiful when it’s berries on a bush in the thick of winter, when so much of the world is grey.  But sometimes? Sometimes red isn’t so great, especially when it’s alluding to the sin that can fill us and course through us like the blood in our veins. Sin destroys like a cancer.  It invades.  It takes over.  But so does God’s grace.  It just needs an invitation to come and take over and cover and make new.  God’s forgiveness covers and redeems. It was bought with a price…red…the blood of Christ. Our redemption for our scarlet sins were purchased by the blood of Christ and His righteousness.  His righteousness, white as snow.  Our forgiveness, white as snow.  Yes, white as snow is a beautiful picture of redemption.

So as Buddy and I are walking, we were pretty quiet, except for when I talked, of course.   Hope asked us to take a selfie.  Neither one of us are accomplished at that at all.  In fact, I pretty much cut myself out of the selfie….so here’s Buddy.

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She wanted us to send her a photo and texted hilarious laughter at our attempt.  Anyway, we stopped for that…and then came upon this tree.  I couldn’t resist sharing a funny story with him when I saw this next scene… and sorry, can’t resist now!

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When the kids were little, we would sometimes have to drive on a road where there was a sewer plant, and some days, boy did it stink.  So, on those days, the kids learned that there was such a thing as a sewer plant that stunk to the high heavens, but I obviously never did explain what a sewer plant actually was, because one day, I was asked a question.  We were out of town and standing on a deck that was two stories high, and we were eye to high with a pine tree full of these beautiful pine cones.  Well, I think the pine cones reminded this young 4 year old Josh of  a stinky something, because his first question as he looked closely at these brown pine cones was, “Mommy, is that a sewer plant?”  Needless to say, it was all I could do to not laugh out loud.  But I so loved the connections this little guy was making. He was curious about his world and was listening when his mom said random stuff in the car about this or that.  And at that point, this mom realized I did need to ensure that I gave further explanations to a lot of those random things I said during countless hours in the car.  Anyway, Buddy heard that story for the first time.  We’ve missed a lot of stories shared through the years, but am thankful there’s still time to share.  Okay. On to the next little observation on our walk….

 

 

 

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So this observation?  It’s good to double-check… just saying! Of course life is full of mistakes, and faux pas (which I have spelled ‘fopaws’ in the past!), and errors and inaccuracies and miscalculations.  But, it’s just good to have a team that looks out for each other and is willing to correct mistakes.  Accountability and constructive criticism are good things because they can keep us from walking around making the same mistakes day after day, year after year, for the rest of our lives.  Accountability says, “Oops…you spelled that wrong.”  And humility says, “Oh, you’re right.  Thank you!”  Refusing correction because of pride, well…it can end up being pretty humbling, cause we’re walking around and our signs are saying Sheirff Allen Rd. when they should say Sheriff Allen.  Yep, accountability, humility, learning from mistakes, they keep things right and good and fresh.  It helps us to keep moving on to the next lesson instead of staying camped out in the same one we’ve refused to learn from time and time again.

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Next little observation, that kind of continues the one before….fragile can be beautiful.  This little tree  was bending with the weight of the snow. It is bending, not breaking.  Sometimes life can feel like that can’t it?  We have a heavy load, and it bears down on us, and we bend.  We tire. But we press on and bear the weight.  And do you know what?  I don’t know about trees…but I know that sometimes, weight bearing can make us stronger.  When the weight is lifted, we realize how much we’ve been bearing and how we are stronger, and have somehow grown from the bearing of the weight.  I love the verse that says,

“A bruised reed He will not break,

and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out.

He will bring justice to those who have been wronged.”

 Isaiah 42:3

Sometimes we can feel like that bruised reed or like  this little light of mine is just a flicker of a flame about to be snuffed out.  I’m thankful that God knows our needs.  He knows the weights we bear better than we do and He loves us through them.  He bears our weights.  Oh, and how awesome is it to have friends who come alongside and encourage and help bear the loads and fan the flames when we’re a bit spent.  I am so thankful for the many precious people like that in my life. And I want to be one of those people as well.  A fanner of the flame.  A bearer of the load.  A friend who sees the fragile areas and doesn’t condemn them..just comes along and strengthens them.

So, we walked and saw beautiful sights.  The snow crunched under our feet with each step, but other than that, there were very few sounds other than an occasional gust of cold wind.

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One more little observation from this walk in the snow.  You see that mailbox?  As I saw this scene, it looked a bit nostalgic…a picture of days gone by.  I thought about how when I was younger, I’d love running to the mailbox to get the mail.  Especially around birthdays. Receiving mail was a good thing.  There was anticipation, but if nothing was there, there was a little twinge of disappointment.  Well, it made me think of all of the many, many, many mailboxes that our kids these days have.  They have facebook messages, twitter, email, instagram, phone, text, etc., and etc….and there’s anticipation for wanting someone to connect, to send a message.  In days past, the trip to the mailbox was once per day.  But now?  Now, it’s constant and momentary…and days are filled with a surplus or vacuum of those “messages”.  And I so feel for the kids who are just ‘waiting for the mail’…the next message that says I belong or I matter, or someone is thinking of me. I long for this generation to know that they matter, they are connected, they are thought of. But people fail.  God doesn’t.  On those days when the mailbox is empty, the loads are heavy, the wind is cold…would that we would know that God cares for us and calls us to draw near to Him.  Our walks in life are all different, and the traces we leave are so unique, but the God who loves  us calls us to a walk with Him.  To a walk with purpose, beauty, and hope.  We can go it on our own, but somehow, I think leaving our Creator behind would somehow be missing the beauty and the mission of it all.

So there you have it.  A few random, scattered thoughts that occurred to me on my walk in the snow with my husband.  Don’t worry…poor Buddy didn’t have to listen to all of my random ramblings as though captive on our little walk.  I have learned through the years to limit sharing my little observations and only share some of my random thoughts and stories.  And you?  I hope I haven’t bored you.  I just figure that this is voluntary and you’ve chosen to walk alongside for this little bit. Hope you’ve enjoyed the little talk from this little walk.  I’m thankful for those of you who read ….that you say ‘yes’ when invited to share in the journey.

Blessings ~
Heather

 

 

 

 

Evi.JPGEvi

A week ago, our house was filled from top to bottom with a toxic yellow gray smoke that originated from a hot oil fire on the stove.  It wasn’t the oil fire that the smoke was from.  The smoke came from the melted, yep, MELTED microwave that the oil fire had fried.

I was the culprit.

Yep, me.  Usually careful, safety conscious, mom of a me was the culprit. I was wiped out when I had come home from a full day of school in a season of state audits, health concerns, and financial challenges.  So, I came home from school one day at 4 and did what I never do.  I took a nap. My husband made a simple dinner that included home fries and hot dogs, so I didn’t need to worry about cooking that night. I slept like a baby, and then woke up at 8 and did laundry and all of the job at home after the job at school stuff.

By about 10:30, I realized I was hungry and hadn’t eaten dinner. So, I thought that home fries sounded really good.Am not usually big on fried food, but the sliced potato was sitting right on a plate on the counter and I thought that I might as well finish it off.  I turned the stove on and waited for the oil in the pan to get hot.  I waited a minute, and then got side tracked with something.  Not sure what it was. Maybe the dinger on the dryer or a text or an “oops”, I forgot to do that.  But I got sidetracked, and pretty soon, forgot about that oil that was on its way to hot.  In fact, I got sidetracked all the way to the couch and laid down.

I woke up and thought, “What is Josh cooking?”  You see, my son has a kitchen downstairs and sometimes cooks late at night.  I shut my eyes again, but pretty soon, I heard a loud bang.  I jumped up and realized there was smoke filling the living room, and then I ran to the kitchen.  Melted chards of glass greeted my feet as I ran to the sink to get water to put out the fire.(Turns out the glass door from the microwave had burst…) My first words were “no, oh no, oh NO, OH NO, OH NOOOO!”…. as I had absolutely no doubt that our house was on its way to going up in flames.  I threw  water on the walls and ceiling, and screamed for my husband with everything in me.  He was asleep upstairs.  “BUDDDDYYY!! CAll 9-1-1!!! Call 9-11!  BUDDYYYYY!”

He came running down, and reminded me to put the lid on the hot oil pan and pretty soon, the flames that had reached the ceiling and burned the microwave and cabinets had died down.  Then came the smoke that filled our home with toxic fumes from the melted microwave.  Anyway, there will be a lot of details in coming weeks and months of cleaning up the damage, but there’s something that I hope forever stays with me from this incident. There’s an awareness that I hope I never lose sight of.

You see, I’m usually pretty steady.  My six kids have trained me.  My recovering alcoholic husband has trained me.  Our lives have been full, very, very full.  Full of amazing moments, and full of intense, terrifying times.  I have stood by the side of an ambulance and watched my son emerge seizing and curled up after he suffered cardiac arrest and was “out” for 5 minutes.  I have seen the red lights of an ambulance with my daughter inside after 4 deer ran in front of her car, she swerved, and flipped the car three times. I stayed steady. I have seen the photos of a car that nobody should’ve survived…a son that had a terrible car accident in which the car flipped 6 times ended up topping a tree 15 feet up. I stayed steady. Months later he showed me the sight and there were still metal parts in the trees.  I stayed steady. Tears rolling down my face, but I stayed steady.  I have birthed babies without pain medication and compartmentalized pain.  I have had 6 teenagers in the house…and stayed steady (for the most part!!) But the night of the fire?   Not steady a bit.  Nope, not one little tiny bit. I was crying oUT LOUD!!

Yep, I was crying out loud.  Not crying with tears, but screaming with passion for help. The photo used above is of a little one photographed a few weeks back.  Not sure what was going on in her little mind, but she was crying out loud with everything she had.  And even though it may have seemed a bit calloused of me to take a photo of her in this moment, I’m so thankful I have the shot because it’s such a visual of crying out loud. And when she did?  I just wanted to rush in and pick her up and meet those little needs.  She was too cute. As she was crying out loud, her needs were bound to be met.  I know God knows the needs before we do…but maybe, sometimes,  the crying out is more for our awareness than His.  Maybe our crying out emphasizes the dependence we have and our awareness that maybe we aren’t so very self-sufficient after all.  So yes, like Little Evi, I was absolutely crying out loud.

And the lesson?  Sometimes I need to absolutely CRY OUT LOUD.  I realized the next day that I hadn’t even breathed a prayer as I fought that fire. (Or,  maybe it was all prayer, but it wasn’t conscious.)  But I was trying to handle it all on my own and realized I couldn’t.  I called my husband.  I called him to call 9-11.  I cried out as loud as I had ever cried in my life.  The next morning, my husband said, “Heather, I don’t think I’ve ever heard you scream like that.”  I told him, “I don’t think I ever have screamed like that in my life.  Ever.”

And maybe that’s part of my problem. Maybe I need to do a lot more crying out loud.  Maybe there are areas of my life that I need to see as so beyond my control that I need to cry out for Jesus to save and heal and repair.  Maybe there are times when staying steady is so not the right thing. Maybe faith doesn’t always look like staying steady but looks like a frantic woman crying out to the Lord for help.  Maybe crying out loud is just what Jesus wants me to do. Sometimes faith is quiet, reserved, steady, handling situations with grace.  But sometimes, maybe sometimes, faith is like the woman screaming for help to someone who can help her.  Maybe sometimes faith is knowing the intensity of the need, the awareness that I can’t meet that need, and absolutely CRYING OUT LOUD to the ONLY one who can meet that need.

So, there’s my lesson, my beautiful, beautiful lesson from the stupid destructive fire that should never have happened had I not been so daggone tired and a bit hungry at 10:30 at night. But, God uses it all. He draws me nearer in the fire.  He uses pain to help me see His hand.  His hand of protection. His hand of provision.  His hand that comforts and leads and guides.  He uses all things in our lives if we would but bring them to Him. He teaches me through these moments and helps me see that He is the steady one, steady steadfast one, and I am so not.

And me?  I’m stepping up the ‘bringing things to Him’.  I’m stepping them up and being so very thankful that in the midst of ANY thing, there is One whom I can run to with all of the needs, the pains, the joys, and the moments of this amazing and ordinary life.  I am so very thankful that when I cry out, there is One who hears, who comes, who rushes in to meet the need, sometimes in ways that I would never expect or want, but meets the need, nonetheless.  If I am His, then my story is part of His Glory.  My story is part of His Glory of showing up and being all there when all I bring is need. I bring need.  He fills, moves, comforts, inspires, and leads. He is the steady one, and I can rest in that.

Blessings~

Heather

Oh and one more thought.  Our world is in dire, dire need.  There’s destruction and intense needs at every single solitary turn.  It is difficult not to see it.  Am thinking that crying out…really CRY-ing OUT,  is a good thing.

 

“Trust in Him at all times, O people.  Pour out your heart before Him;  God is a refuge for us.”  Psalm 62:8

 

Greeting Card available with this photo and “this too shall pass” theme available at Greeting Card – This Too Shall Pass $2.50

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

through

You can see it in the distance

the sun over the hill

Though the fog offers resistance

The sun shines through still

Though the fog may be prevailing

Though the way is not clearly seen

There’s a knowing, there’s a growing of

Seeing through the trees

The forest that is darkened

The fog that fills and fades

Will be burned away in time

Till true sight is what remains

Faith sees through the trees

And faces one step at a time

Faith fixes  eyes on things unseen

And Believes God for His Light to shine

In time…

12-13-15

 

The morning fog was so thick this morning, and so beautiful.  Kept thinking about faith and how fog is such a picture of how so much of life and the steps we take depends on whether or not we walk by faith, or we try to control the uncontrollable and frustrate ourselves, waste time, and create so much turmoil merely because we can’t control some things or see the way ahead.

I can’t make the fog lift any more than I can change some things that are out of control in my life. (Of course, this isn’t referring to things that I should and can control and be responsible for, but for those that I have no control over.)  But I can trust that God will give me the faith to keep moving forward one step at a time when I don’t have visibility for the mile ahead. I can trust Him for this minute when I don’t know what tomorrow brings.

The fog is beautiful, too.  And the “fog” in our lives can create beauty as well because as we move forward, we grow in faith.  We’re more slow and deliberate with our steps, and for me…I just get this picture of clinging to Jesus…clinging closer in the fog than I would need to if I knew that everything was just hunky-dory and  that I had everything under control.

Just a few thoughts on faith in the fog…yet again!

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 

2 Corinthians 4 (yet again!)  

 

 

 

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“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for, and assurance about what we do not see.”   Hebrews 11:1

http://www.cosmicgirlie.com/silent-sunday/

HOPEdancingSo, we got to go to the beach last weekend to visit precious family there and celebrate ThanksGiving.  Although there was lots to be thankful for, there was also, as always, lots of challenges that are being faced. Hope was facing a few challenges of her own, but you wouldn’t have known it.  She laughed, helped, talked, shared, and…danced.  We were at the beach and had had some conversations about the challenges faced, but when it was over, she danced.  So proud of that.  Because I really think that’s what faith can look like sometimes…dancing in the midst of adversity.

I have a very sweet memory of, years ago, when she was only around three. She was dancing in the sunlight of the bay window, twirling around in a little dress with her arms raised high.  We had been dancing and had good music playing when the phone rang, and I went to get the call.  Well, the call was letting me know about, well, another of life’s big challenges.  I felt so discouraged, but as I put down the phone and turned around, that little one was still dancing.  And I got it.  I smiled, and that’s when I started singing this song.  The words came out within a few minutes as I sang and had a new awareness of what faith can look like in adversity…sometimes, faith dances.

Here are the words to the song.  I hope they encourage someone out there today!

To Dance in the midst of adversity,

To Hope though there are no signs,

To Trust God in a world of uncertainty

where there seems to be more darkness than light….

To Rise above weights of circumstance,

To Fly with new wings of faith,

To Rest at the depth of my heart and soul

knowing the comfort of my Savior’s grace.

Trials come and trials go,

but will these trials be perfecting me,

preparing me for my place in Eternity

Day in and day out, the question seems to be…

Will I go my own way or the way He has for me…

in the midst of Adversity?

To dance in the midst of adversity,

To Hope though there are no signs,

To Trust God in a world of uncertainty

where there seems to be more darkness than light….

To Rise above weights of circumstance,

To Fly with new wings of faith,

To Rest at the depth of my heart and soul

Knowing the comfort of my Savior’s grace…..

Oh, in the comfort of my Savior’s grace,

I’ll dance.  I’ll dance….

I’ll dance

 

©Heather Halbert 2006

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Heavy heart,

steady now

Watch and pray a little longer

Heavy heart

Ready now

When  you’re weak, He is stronger

He’s Stronger than the greatest chain

When all else fail, He remains

He’s greater than the deepest need

Bondage breaks when  Jesus frees

Steady heart

Study truth

Breathe the Words that you’ve been given

Ready heart

Stand renewed

Live the Life that He has given

Linger in the Word awhile

Stand renewed, breathe in and smile

Steadfast stand on what is true

What He says He will do

Beating Heart

Courageous stand

You’re not alone in the Battle

All is at His Command

Be not anxious or rattled

For He is faithful, He is true

What He promises He will do

Surrender to the path, His way

Trust Him with your life, your days

Heavy heart

Lift your voice

Sing a new song of praise

Lift your eyes

and…rejoice!

He is with  you always

Your worries as the grains of sand

All are sifted through His hand

What He allows, He will use

Cast your cares, He cares for you

grains of sand

Heavy heart

Steady now

Be strong and courageous

Walk in faith

Walk in love

Forever, Sing of His greatness

Forever, sing His Praises.

signs of spring10

Peace can look like quiet waters, a river flowing gently.

So often, peace is equated with stillness, quiet, solitude.  I know I feel such a sense of peace and solitude when walking on the river’s edge after a long day.  The quiet waters, the sun shining, the path with sounds of life all around, but none too prevalent…it’s all a picture of peace.

But sometimes, the quiet, the solitude, the lack of churning of the water…can lead to…muck.

I heard the phrase, “pools of complacency” the other day, and it struck me to the core.  The speaker was talking about the wages of a teacher in a third world country.  It was $40, not….per day, per week, per month, but …per year.  The wages of a teacher in this country? Forty dollars per year.  I’m not here to debate anything, but I am here to confess that oftentimes I can lose sight of the big perspective.  I can lose sight of what it means to survive. I can lose sight of being thankful, of being aware of needs, of being strategic and prayerful about meeting needs.  I can come home after a day of work and sit.  I’ll do the list of chores and then just sit, and not think anything of it.

And so, when I heard the term “pools of complacency”, I kind of thought about how often times when there’s struggle going on, there’s more of a drive to make a difference, more of an awareness of the need, the urgency, the privilege to act, to impact. As a mom of 6, there’s been a lot of chaos, disorder, and need that’s been apparent in our home.  But as I’ve shared at times, the taking care of children was the least of it. A big part of what made life feel so “churned up” all the time, was having a husband dealing with alcoholism. That was what brought the chaos, unnecessary roller coaster rides, the deep aches and needs. At times we never knew what the next day would hold in a very real sense. But, in a strange sort of way, that heightened my awareness, my seeing with acuity the things that really mattered.  I was on watch, on guard.  No pools of complacency during those periods of vigilance. Nope not at all.  No pools of complacency when in the survival mode.  You know your mission every day.

Who would choose chaos? Very few people, I’d think!  But often, in the chaos, we develop a keen awareness of what’s important, of what we’re fighting for. There’s a “churning up” of issues, that, like waters crashing into waves, oxygenates, brings movement, brings life. Who would choose pools of complacency? Very few people, I’d think. But often, we do choose placated peace…peace at all cost rather than moving forward or ‘stirring the waters’ so to speak in our lives and the lives of others.

As a wife of a recovering alcoholic, I know about “peace at all cost” that isn’t peace at all, but just a development of ….muck. It’s stagnant refusal to get the yuck out that leads to muck. It’s a stillness, a lack of movement, that can lead to spoiling of so much of the beauty in life. So, my point is, sometimes what appears as peace, is just a pool of complacency, and sometimes the very chaos that we’re fighting in our lives, may be the very things that are keeping us aware, attuned, and bottom-line, so aware of our need of God for our every breath.  No self-sufficiency can reign in the life of one who is dealing with churning life issues that make us so aware of our need for God.  And that’s a gift. The flip side of pain and struggle is to know our need. Yep, I believe that’s a gift.

Peace can reign in quiet waters, or in the wildest of storms.  Peace can pass understanding and be a state of mind that rises above the wildest of circumstances because there’s an awareness that “underneath are the everlasting arms.” Peace comes from a knowing that it’s going to be alright even if it isn’t alright now.  Peace, peace, is what God gives to us as we ask. Peace doesn’t always look like quiet waters on the outside, that’s for sure.  But it can look like the eye of the hurricane where the world is spinning all around, but there’s a safe haven in the middle of it all.

I’m thankful for times of quiet, chaos-less periods when there is a respite. I really am. But I pray those times don’t lead to the counterfeit of peace…pools of complacency that lead to stagnation in my life on so many levels.  And when the storms rage and the chaos hits?  May we be centered, laser-focused on who God is in the middle of it all, so that we can know that peace that passes understanding is a reality…not just in the quiet waters, but in turbulent storms as well, because, as most all of us know, you just never know when the next ‘storm’ is going to hit. But I’m thankful that, just as a child bolts into his parents’ room when there’s lightening and thunder, that we can bolt to the throne of grace for a refuge in the storm.  A refuge is good.  A pool of complacency?  Not so much.  Just a few thoughts to remind myself to make my days count during this little tiny respite of my life…

Blessings ~
Heather

“But I trust you, O Lord.”  I say, “My times are in Your hand.”

Psalm 31:14-15

commonground

So, my son’s birthday was yesterday.  He had a few specific things that he wanted:  a red-tailed catfish for his aquarium, and possibly a Lowe’s gift card for some tools, wood, etc for his projects.  We decided to celebrate a day early because our youngest son was going out of town for a retreat and wanted to be there to celebrate his brother’s birthday.  So after work on Thursday, I rushed out to Lowe’s first to get the gift card.  That’s an easy present and was quick to check off the list.  So then, I was off to the pet store.

As I walked in the pet store, a woman about my age greeted me.  “Can I help you find anything?” she asked.  So of course, I say that I’m looking for a red-tailed catfish.  I was pretty relieved to not have to wander past all the aquariums in the huge space to find a little fish.  So, then the man behind the counter, who is about my age as well, says, “We just sold the last one.”

Pause.  What did he just say?  You mean the one thing that this son asks for is not here…and it was just sold.  Yikes.  But as the wheels in my head starting turning, I said, “Was it a tall man about my age who just bought the fish?”  Affirmative.  The man behind the counter said, “Yes, and he bought a gift card as well.”  Bingo. I laughed and said, I think that was probably my husband.  “Can you tell that we don’t communicate too well?”  The man and woman gave a knowing look and smiled.  The woman said, “You’re not the only ones.”  As I walked out the door I wondered if they were married as well.  My guess is: affirmative.

So I walked out of the store and called my husband…who turned out to be the tall man about my age who had just bought a red-tailed catfish and a gift card.  Turns out he had been to Lowe’s earlier in the day as well!  Oh, brother.  Nope, we are so not good communicators at all.  Never have been.  We are about as opposite as two people can be.  But do you know what we have in common?  Red-tailed catfish and Lowe’s gift cards.

When I called Buddy about the whole deal, we both laughed and I remembered a few things.  I remembered that we have a lot in common.  We love our kids, though often show it in much different ways.  He makes me so mad about some things and drives me crazy with big issues like money and little issues like the thermostat set on FREEZING.  He leaves a mess and laughs at things that I just don’t think are too funny.  But then again, he can make me laugh in a heartbeat because he has a great sense of humor. He’s made a lot of mistakes in his life and is a recovering alcoholic with a lot of regret.  But I see him trying to make up for lost time.  Perfectly?  No, not at all.  But the attempt is so there and so apparent.

As I drove home and thought about the red-tailed catfish, I was really thankful to be reminded to focus on the common ground in relationships rather than the differences.  Some differences are crucial.  For a single person, my advice would be so different as common ground on key issues such as faith and beliefs so matters. It so matters because the man or woman you marry will change and lead your world.  Be wise with choices. Take seriously to heart Paul’s words about being unequally yoked. But on this side of marriage?  I stood on sacred ground 25 years ago and said “I do.”  “I do” through ‘better or worse’, ‘richer or poorer’, ‘sickness and health’, ‘to love and to cherish till death do us part.’  I never in my wildest dreams (or nightmares) would’ve imagined some of the things we’ve gone through.  But there is still common ground.  There is still love.  There is still hope.  There are still red-tailed catfish to remind me that we care about so many of the same things.

I could write a book on the struggles in marriage.  And I have a feeling that I’m not alone on that one, for sure! But one of the long chapters in my little book would definitely be…common ground.  Be aware of the common ground and don’t lose sight of it in the midst of all of the struggles of daily life and the differences that can be so exaggerated with daily stressors.  So many marriages end because we forget.  We forget who our spouse is/was.  Sometimes we need to be the ones reminding them of who they are.  Or, we forget who we are…and then they can’t see us either.  My book would not be a “how to” for sure.  It would be a collection of stories of grace and hope and, here’s the key word…forgiveness.  Because in order to have common ground, there’s gotta be a willingness to stand on it and we all have things we need to forgive before we can stand together.

Anyway, the birthday celebration was a success.  The red-tailed catfish is doing just fine, and the son has gift cards to both Lowe’s and the pet store which are much more valuable had they been if his mother had been the one to buy them! I’m sure he’s glad that his Dad made it to the pet store before his mom!  He knows us both too, and given the values of the gift cards would know that the lesser one would’ve been from me and the more extravagant amount would’ve been from his Dad.  But in the end, he hopefully knows that we’d both run to the store and try to make his birthday more special.  Hopefully, all my kids know that we, these two incredibly different beings, love them with all our hearts.  And that is the common ground on which this family tries to stand.  The ground is so shaky at times, but bottom line, I hope they know we are for them. And when we struggle? May we have some red-tailed catfish scenarios to help us to remember and smile.

Oh, and one last thing.  I went downstairs this morning to find a mess in the kitchen…and…scrambled eggs on a plate for me on the counter.  They were covered in saran wrap and cooked just perfectly.  Buddy had called and said, “I made you breakfast” before he had left for work.  So it is.  Should I focus on the mess or the scrambled eggs? I’m choosing to focus on the scrambled eggs.  They were delicious by the way.  And the mess?  The dishwasher is running, the counters are clear and the mess is gone.  But being thankful that my husband made me breakfast?  Thankfully, that will linger a lot longer than the mess.

Blessings to You and Yours~

Heather

“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant  you to live in such harmony

with one another in accord with Jesus Christ.”

Romans 15:5

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