September 30, 2011

31 Days

I learned from my friend Kit, that one of her blog-world friends, Emily, is hosting a 31 days of writing in the month of October, to become better writers and to discover the things that make us come alive, with the end of effecting change and/or inspiring others.  It's a little funny that it comes in advance of NaBloPoMo, but so it is.  The point is to write about a single theme through the month.    I like this idea (and the faith challenge - do I believe God can give me a month worth of regular writing to His glory?) of participating.

So now, with very little time before the beginning of October (um, yeah, it starts tomorrow), plans to be out of town this weekend, and no idea what I actually "know" about life, I'm considering participating.  I'm considering mostly because I'm in the process of little-by-little developing my writing and speaking and the Lord seems to be placing things in my path to do at just the "right" time to keep me from giving up.  After the retreat Saturday, life slows down - no more travel, no more big commitments - so perhaps this is His next work for me to do to move toward one little part of a calling I feel He's given me.

Would you like to participate to?  Check it out!  People are writing about topics from crafts to budgeting, from grief to changing the world.  I only wish I had time to read them all ... .

Stay tuned tomorrow to see what I've decided.  Whether I do or not, I'm sure that reading what God's given Kit to say will be a blessing to you - so hop over to her blog to keep up.  I'm dying to know her topic!

September 29, 2011

Old Friends and a Retreat

Tomorrow morning, Elizabeth and I are heading to DC for the weekend.  We're both eagerly looking forward to our reunion with our girlfriends!

Last 4th of July, when they were *only* 6!

Saturday, Carol and I will be off to the retreat to spend the day with a group of ladies, to study the Word, eat together, chat together, and be encouraged.  If you missed it in an earlier post, I have the joy of presenting the talks from the retreat in the spring again at this gathering.  Please pray that God would meet each of us where we are as we consider Jesus, the Servant master, and how we are called to serve Him and our neighbor.

Wherever you will be, I wish you a lovely weekend!

September 28, 2011

Update on the Gram

Last week I posted about my Gram having open heart surgery.  Thank you to the many who prayed her through it.  She is doing quite well, now in a rehab facility, and daily regaining her strength.  I spoke with her last night and she commented that the care is attentive & good, the food is delicious, and physical therapy can really "take it out of you."  She's already walking the full length of the hallway, which she reports is quite long.  But her greatest testimony is how God has really seen her through the whole process in amazing ways.

You can read the beginning of the story on the other post.  Below is an account of how the surgery went, from an email from my Aunt Linda, Gram's oldest daughter, who is one of the Omaha-dwellers:

Gram and Elizabeth, 2008
Mom said that if this was God's way of providing for her health so be it.  So it has been. 
Surgery started about an hour late, because the surgeon was late - however, we could not have asked for a more calm and supportive staff or for the provision of being altogether  up to the time when they wheeled her into the operating room.  She was filled with peace and told everyone of the sermon she had heard on Jeremiah 29:10-14, which she knew was just for her. 

We had been told that she would not have the by-pass, but in addition to the valve - she did have one by-pass.  We were told the surgery would be about 4 hours - maybe 20 minutes more for the by-pass.  She was done in a little over three hours.  She came off-the heart lung machine "nicely" and they took out the breathing tube earlier than usual becuase her oxygen numbers were so good.

We are praising God for His faithfulness to Gram: hearing and answering her prayers in concrete ways, giving her peace about the surgery that really ministered to all who were with her just before she went in (she was playing Scrabble with my cousin on his iPad at 5:30am as if that were just the right thing for the time!), "speeding up" the procedure, strengthening her body so quickly, providing such good care, and so on and so forth.  Clearly, He's got more work for her to do.

Now every night, Elizabeth prays that God will heal Gram up quickly enough that she can come to Pittsburgh for Christmas.  I wouldn't put it past Him....

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!

September 27, 2011

A Family Birthday Trio

One week every September, our family has the privilege of celebrating three special people.  I call them mom, Michelle (sister), and Michelle (sister-in-law).  Now that we are settled into our own place in Pittsburgh, I had the joyous honor of hosting their party so none of them were left with a messy home at the end of the celebration.  It was a wonderful time.  The jury is still out on whether it's the seven kids under seven OR the lively, opinionated, adult political conversations that are louder when we gather together!  (We may need to get an outside opinion.)

 For Michelle SIL, it was #30.  Oh no, it's on the internet; razz her if you know her!

Getting the kids settled with their mac 'n cheese before we enjoyed our meal,
in the room next door.  :)

The "cake" - my first pumpkin roll.
And a pie made by Marie Calendar.

The cousins enjoyed A LOT of playing together.

The ladies all opened their gifts.
My dad is a clown and "mistakenly" got my mom an 85 card for her 58th.
Isn't he funny?

The littlest ones kept us talking about how cute they are!

My dad - the silly one that I mentioned above - also brought a small cake and three different colors of candles, one for each of the birthday girls.  This cake had 117 candles on it.  It ended up being much less dangerous than expected, but Colin had the fire extinguisher out just in case.  The kids loved licking the icing off the bottoms of all of those candles!

Happy birthdays you special women.  Thank you for the ways you have and do make my life better and funner.  I hope this is the beginning of many parties just for you three in our home!

Apple Picking 2011

Saturday was a day like this.

So we headed to the orchard.

Who knows?  It could rain every Saturday morning for the rest of the season.
One must take advantage.

Funnily, Colin thinks that the guy who took this pic for us works in his building.

We'll be eating this guy, but I couldn't resist a photo before making him mine.

 Simmons Farm has much more than apple picking,
like this "corn box" for the kiddies.
Super cool.
 I wish they had a giant one for parents.

The other thing I appreciate about this farm is that from the apple picking, the farm store (where you can play in the corn), and a little animal petting area with goats, chickens and sheep, you can't see all of the rest of the stuff that costs additional money: hay rides, slides, mazes, etc., etc.  The kids can enjoy what we go to do without feeling like they're missing out on something better.

We've made some applesauce and a cobbler with our stash.  I really love the fall season and can't wait to pick more apples next year.  Next up, pumpkins.  But we're going to wait until we're a little closer to Halloween.

September 26, 2011

The Greatest Commandment, the Second like it, and Your To-Do List

I love, love, love writing lists!  There are usually three or four - in my horrid handwriting - strewn across the kitchen table, several hanging on the cork board on the wall, a few actually typed into computer documents - like ideas for Christmas or birthday gifts I don't want to forget when the time comes.


I love 'em!

A list can be a blessing or and a curse.  They are a blessing, helping me not to forget important things that need to be done or tended to.  They are a curse, reminding me of all I'm not accomplishing ...  sometimes turning me into a get-it-done beast, focused only on her own agenda and plan.

This coming weekend I have the privilege of being with a group of women from my friend's church in the DC area, who have invited me to come share the talks that I gave last Spring at the Women's Retreat in Boston.  The topic is service, specifically looking at the Servant Jesus as our Savior, Example, and the One who Empowers and Equips us to service.  In said talks, I define service using the two greatest commandments from Matthew 22:

34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

This got me thinking the other morning about my attitude toward my to-do list.  Really, a list is a wonderful thing, aiding focus, helping us to remember, and Oh! the satisfaction of crossing something off the list ... ah, the sense of accomplishment!!!  (mental image:  Heather twirling in delight, clutching her completed list to her heart.)

But I digress.  Sorry about that.  Let me pull myself together here...  Okay, ready.

What occurred to me was something like this.  What if each task on my list began with this phrase:  Love God and love my neighbor as I ... ?  So the list is transformed from:
  • meals and grocery list
  • grocery shopping
  • organize materials for science projects
  • prepare dinner for community group
  • iron
  • call Gram

to something more like this:
  • love God and love my neighbor in writing my weekly meals and grocery list
  • love God and love my neighbor while grocery shopping
  • love God and love my neighbor while organizing the science stuff
  • love God and love my neighbor while preparing dinner for community group
  • love God and love my neighbor while ironing
  • love God and love my neighbor when calling Gram

Puts a whole new spin on it, doesn't it?  Suddenly those talks are taken from the temporal to the eternal.  No longer is the purpose simply checking the item off the list, rather it's infusing the tasks with greater importance and weight that we've ever given them.

SooooOOOOoooo, how long is your list?

How many opportunities does God give us each day to love Him with all our heart, soul, and minds, and love our neighbor as we do ourselves in the midst of them?

For example, if my goal is not simply to cross "school" off the list each day, but rather to honor God and my children through it, then I can be patient with Elizabeth's questions, take the time to come up with activities to do with Brian while Elizabeth is working independently, not fret when we have to change the schedule because something took longer than expected, and take interruptions in stride.  I am prompted to think more about the tone I use, the effort I put in, the fruit of the Spirit God wants to grow in my heart.

Take a look at your list(s), and may God use even those tasks to work out His purposes in your heart and mind as you seek to love Him with all your being and to love your neighbor as yourself this week, and next week, and the week after that, and ... .

Have a great week!

September 23, 2011

A Wedding Weekend

We traveled to Illinois - my birth state and my mamma's homeland -
to attend my cousin's wedding last weekend.
Here's an overview in photos.

Snacking and stretching and pumping gas at a rest area mid-drive

The Pittsburgh cousins on the sofa in my Aunt Nelda's house in Kankakee.
She fed us a great dinner!

Saturday's sunrise over Wal-Mart; Brian wanted a picture.

Later Saturday morning we headed to Pontiac and Saunemin,
where my Gramma used to live.
Things have changed a bit since I was last there!
lunch at Wendy's
on the front porch of Gramma's apartment building

The field behind the apartment - sadly it was not corn this year.
I'd hoped the kids would be able to run through the rows.
A new quickie-mart/gas station.  This took me by surprise!

Saturday afternoon, Nate and Holli were wed.  I didn't take pictures of the ceremony (because they never turn out very nicely) but it was a beautiful service.  Christian marriages are so special and sacred.  What made this event particularly profound is that Holli is deaf and the entire ceremony was signed.  The most touching time was when silent vows were taken, as they signed to one another what the pastor directed them what to "say" to each other.

 My husband likes to photo bomb me; he is not funny.

The picture there on the left is so hilarious to me ... should we have a caption contest? 

My beautiful sister and her handsome husband.

 Yum, dinner!

It was one serious wedding party!  This is their table, followed by pictures of the gorgeous bride and groom.

Brian participated in the throwing of the garter;
he stood like that the entire time.

The children at the wedding (and there were many) had a great time dancing.
Brian has some moves, people.  If I get my act together, I'll post a video.

Sunday morning we breakfast-ed with the family and then hit the road for home.
Brian was a bit wiped out by the end of the drive.

Congratulations Nate and Holli!
May God bless you with many years together, as you navigate the ups and downs of life as a team.
We wish you much happiness and were so glad to be with you!

September 21, 2011

And the Winner is ...

Elizabeth choosing her name.

Add caption

Brian also wanted to choose a winner, using hour highly-advanced technological method.  I indulged him, so Lydia keep your eye on the mail for a little second prize treat that may be related to the company on the right.

For those who didn't win, thanks for entering!
And consider adding Read for the Heart, to your Christmas wish list.