5/27/19

He knew. . .

As I sit here on my comfortable couch in our cute little air conditioned apartment in Chattanooga, I'm again amazed at how God works in our lives.


Several years ago when Rick mentioned that he would like to check out the church at the local homeless shelter in Menominee, Michigan, I'll admit I was hesitant.

No, that is not accurate.

I was opposed to it. 

There, I said it. I.did.not.want.to.go.there. I was open to attending another church, just not that one. Let's go to Faith, I said, or maybe New Life. Rick was fairly insistent, he wanted to go and check out the church that was affiliated with the shelter. I.did.not.

But, God.

There's always a "but God" in a story like this it seems.

But, God.

He had a different plan, He could see to the future.  He could see to today, May 27, 2019. I could not.

We went to church at Abundant Life Church & Mission. We met a homeless man and his cute little dog who were traveling through town that first Sunday we were there. The man was pleasant, his dog was adorable. That's about all I remember from that first visit. That and the fact that I felt I'd done my duty, I attended church there and next week, we could attend a church of MY choosing.  We did not do that. We continued to visit Abundant Life, me still feeling like it wasn't home, going because it was where Rick wanted to go. 

But, God.

Slowly, very slowly, I began to feel like it was our church. Like the people were our family. I began to allow myself to get to know Pastor Dave - who by the way is a great guy - in no means your normal, run of the mill pastor; in fact, I dare say, not like any other pastor you have ever or will ever meet. Yet, he is a man of God, firm in his beliefs and convictions and with a heart of gold and a desire to serve God and others! On the outside, he is a big, bold, gruff former Marine turned pastor. Some may even say he is intimidating which he can be until you get to know him, or if you cross him or those he loves and is called to protect. He is truly one in a million - in every good way! We also met some good people who became dear friends while there and have enjoyed walking a road of loving them through foster parenting, the birth of a baby, adoption, divorce and a pending new marriage with a beautiful blended family of eight, yes EIGHT children! God is good, He is faithful. He led us to Abundant Life. He loved me through my stubbornness about not wanting to attend Abundant life. He brought me full circle to loving Abundant Life. He gave me a church family where I least expected it. Even when we moved out to Dunbar which was an hour away from Menominee, we made the drive at least twice a month to worship there. He allowed Abundant Life to be one of the hardest things for me to say good bye to when we moved to Chattanooga.

But, God.

He allowed all those things; no He blessed me with all those things for more than just the obvious ... He was preparing me for bigger things. He was preparing me for Chattanooga, and for Brielle, and for the Community Kitchen here in Chattanooga, Tennessee.


Brielle, my sweet new friend who God brought into our lives through Soccer Shots. Brielle who has experienced loss, Brielle who shares having had to say goodbye to someone she loved way too early in our earthly way of thinking. Brielle who is living to give back to others, and has invited me to join her on her journey of being a blessing to others!

A few weeks back, she asked me to help in the evening at a local elementary school as she and her mom brought books for children while helping to feed them pizza and playing games with them. That was fairly easy, I play soccer with children every day; I relate well to children, I enjoy children! Pastor Robert was great with the kids, the kids had fun and so cute; we had a blast!

This time Brielle asked if I wanted to help serve breakfast, at 6:45 in the morning, in the not so nice area of downtown Chattanooga ... and on a holiday no less! A day I could sleep in, and get up and enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee with Rick She wanted to know if I wanted to help serve breakfast at the downtown Community Kitchen ... the local homeless shelter. I wanted to tell her thanks but no thanks, maybe some other time ... but, God! This shelter is unlike the one in Menominee, it's a day shelter only. These folks are truly homeless, as in living on the streets, under the bridges, not being temporarily housed in a shelter setting while being given help and instruction and direction while they get back on their feet and secure jobs and eventually housing. This is not said to diminish the work of Abundant Life, but to compare the difference of the people utilizing the services being offered. The people utilizing the Community Kitchen in Chattanooga are truly carrying everything.they.own with them. They come with backpacks, or black garbage bags. They come hungry, hot and probably tired. They come possibly hungover or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. They come with a myriad of problems, that truly I cannot imagine.

They come.

By the dozens.

For a hot meal.

Maybe for a kind word spoken to them.

Maybe for a smile given to them.

Maybe in hopes that today will be better than yesterday.

Maybe in hopes that today will be cooler than yesterday.

They come.

They come, homeless, helpless and maybe hopeful.

But, God.

He sees past the homelessness.

Past the tattered clothes.

Past the obvious signs of drug and alcohol abuse.

Past the mental and emotional struggles these precious souls face daily.

God sees them.

Every.Single.One.Of.Them.

He sees them as He sees me, as He sees you.

He sees them as His precious, blood bought child.

He sees them as His own.

He loves them as He loves me, as He loves you.

He died for them, as he died for me and for you.

He sees them. He loves them.

To us they may be like the woman at the well, or the man with leprosy, or the blind man beside the pool..

To Him, they are the forgiven woman at the well, the man cured of his leprosy and the man with sight returned to him.

God began preparing my heart for these people of the streets of Chattanooga years ago when I met the pleasant man and his dog at Abundant Life Church and Mission. He began preparing me for them when I had no idea I'd ever be living in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He began preparing me for them before I ever knew how important it would be for me to be able to look each one of these precious human beings in the eye, give them a sincere smile and offer them all I could offer them today ... a warm bowl of oatmeal, a day old bagel, a carton of milk and/or a cup of coffee. He began preparing me to love on those who the world may look on as unlovable in a very small way. 

Today, He showed me why He brought me to Abundant Life church. 

Today, He taught me yet again that His hand on my life knits my days together in ways I may get a glimpse of here on earth and may not fully understand until I get to heaven.

Today, He showed me again His precious guiding hand in my life; He reminded me that He has written every chapter of my life up until today and that He has also written all the chapters that will follow. He reminded me He is always there orchestrating things greater than I can ever imagine.

Tonight, I will fall asleep thanking Him for teaching me yet again that we are all precious in His sight, praying that I may have been a blessing to just one person this morning, and asking that I will be a blessing again ...

Yes, again!

Tomorrow, Brielle and I will be going back to serve breakfast at the Community Kitchen. We will be offering a hot meal, hopefully an encouraging word, a smile, and hopefully being a good reflection of Jesus as we may be be the only Jesus they see tomorrow; and I want to reflect Him well!

Brielle, my sweet friend, thank you for inviting me to join you on your journey of giving back to others ... you may never know this side of Heaven just how much you have blessed me in the few short months I have known you! 

I can't wait to serve breakfast tomorrow!


5/12/19


Last night as we walked in to the Red Wolves soccer game, a lady asked “are you a mom?”When I replied yes, she handed me this carnation and wished me a Happy Mother’s Day!

I’m not sure why but it struck a chord with me, and touched me deeply! Strangers blessing strangers ... we’ve actually seen much of that here in Chattanooga! Maybe it’s simply a Southern phrase but when my Starbucks barista or the checkout girl at Walmart or the guy at the downtown outdoor market says “have a blessed day” I am touched, I am blessed and I am reminded to be a blessing to others ...

When this sweet lady at the game handed me this pretty little long stemmed carnation and said Happy Mother’s Day, I instinctively hugged her. I hugged her, a total stranger! She looked at me and smiled and said, “well, I didn’t expect a hug, thank you!” If you aren’t a “hugger” I hear you and know this makes you uncomfortable, thankfully, she appreciated it 😊

All of this to say, take a moment today and love on people!

Today we honor moms especially but be tender, love on everyone you see! Last night a simple act of kindness, a single flower and a thank you hug, brightened my day and hers and cost both of us nothing ...

You never know, your small kindness could be just what that person needs today, and it won’t cost you a thing!

Let‘s start a kindness revolution ... try it this week, do at least one random act of kindness each day! I think you’ll find that in addition to brightening someone else’s day, it will brighten yours too!

4/12/19

chattanooga living ♥️

since visiting chattanooga in december 2017, rick talking about wanting to live here since i met him and actually moving here i’ve discovered some things i didn’t expect and some things i anticipated! 

i anticipated:
traffic
i didn’t anticipate:
i wouldn’t mind driving in it and actually like the challenge! 
i ’m just thankful for lola my gps !

i anticipated:
a wide variety of grocery stores nearby, all of which were larger than gary’s & the pembine grocery!
i didn’t anticipate:
grocery delivery and how much i would love it!

i anticipated:
lots of restaurant choices & food delivery
i didn’t anticipate:
how many choices we would have and that i actually prefer to go out to eat as opposed to having it delivered!

i anticipated:
lots of shopping options!
i didn’t anticipate:
how many would be within 2 miles of me!

i anticipated:
mega churches 
i didn’t anticipate:
how many churches there would be!

i anticipated:
nice weather
i didn’t anticipate:
how nice the weather would be!

i anticipated:
mountains 
i didn’t anticipate:
seeing them in almost every direction!

i anticipated:
apartment (almost tiny home) life
i didn’t anticipate: 
how tiny our apartment would be, how easy 3 rooms are to keep clean and how much i love it!

i anticipated:
needing to find a job
i didn’t anticipate:
how much i would love the job that God had obviously already lined up for me!

i anticipated:
missing everyone back home
i didn’t anticipate:
though i  miss everyone, technology makes staying in touch so easy, the separation isn’t as bad as i thought it might be.

i anticipated:
rick & i would grow closer to each other because it’s just the 2 of us.
i didn’t anticipate:
how much our relationship would grow even in this short time and how much fun we would have!

i anticipated:
things to do!
i didn’t anticipate:
how many things there are to do, many of them free or very low cost.

i anticipated:
southern hospitality 
i didn’t anticipate:
how true that phrase is! we have encounters so many kind, helpful, friendly strangers that we do truly feel at home here!

i anticipated:
southern drawl.
i didn’t anticipate:
children don’t have one, but, ya’ll, i have a hard time understanding some adults!
😊

i anticipated:
an adventure and hoped it would be an enjoyable one.
i didn’t anticipate:
how much of an adventure it has been, how much i’d enjoy it and how much fun we would have! honestly, i think rick is tiring of me saying to him:
“honey, i  love our new city!”

here are a few more random pictures:












4/2/19

so much change!

i always say i am going to be better at this blog thing and then i get busy and it’s one of the first things to go, even though it’s relaxing for me to write out thoughts, so i’ll try again!

here we are, settled in to our cute apartment in chattanooga...it’s not a “tiny home” but it’s close! we have three rooms! a combination kitchen, dining, living room space, a bedroom and a bathroom ... and we love it! 

i never dreamed i would love city life, and life away from “home” but i have to say, i love it here!

here are a few pictures of our new home and my weekend project, repurposing an old butcher block table into a rolling kitchen island! i posted from my phone and they posted in kind of random order! sorry, i’ll have to try and figure that out! :)

if you care to follow our adventures, i plan to try and share more re here on a regular basis, you can sign up to be jotiwhen i post if you want, and if you’re not interested, i completely understand! 
















11/11/18

life does go on ♥️

It is hard to explain to others the dynamic of  “life”  after death because honestly it is so very different for everyone.

For me seven years later, it is still surreal.  It seems unreal that Rickey has been gone for seven years. I was told shortly after he died by a good friend that eventually I’d forget the exact sound of his voice, his touch, small details like that, taken for granted while someone is here with us. I didn’t believe that, didn’t want to believe that. I thought it would diminish the love I had for him and if  I could or did forget those things.

The thing is, time heals. I won’t say it heals all wounds because there will always be an empty spot at the table, at events like weddings and new baby visits. It doesn’t heal all, but rather it softens the sting.

God touches and heals our hurting hearts, He comforts as only He can, and he places others in our lives to love us through the memories! 

We have just come to the end of the week that forever changed our lives seven years ago. Each day this past week, I did remember, I remembered the police car in my driveway, the ride to the hospital, the time in the ER and the days that followed. I remembered events from the day after the accident  and the day of the visitation. I remembered the day of Rickey’s burial, down to how my bosses corduroy jacket felt as I gripped his arm for strength as the casket was lowered. I rested in the knowledge that the box being lowered only contained the shell of Rickey, that his soul was already alive and free in heaven, but that last glimpse of the box containing his earthly body will always be etched in my mind. 

That week, this week is over for another year. This year, as last, the memories are sweeter, the love still there, but the of sting of pain and loss not so sharp.

God has been so good. He has blessed and given strength!

I feel so fortunate that during this week, I could share each day the memories with Rick, he who is a gift to me as he listens, loves and understands! He gets that I love him, he is my new best friend, yet he allows memories of another best friend and loves me through those memories!

This year, too, memories were mingled with excitement!

Excitement that all 3 girls were led to Godly husbands and we will be celebrating the wedding of Kajsa & Zach in just a month, the recent celebration of the birth of precious little Will Axel to Tessa & Andrew and an upcoming trip overseas in five short days!

Stay tuned as I plan to try and blog more and to share our Scandinavian adventure over the next three weeks!

God is good, time does soften the pain, living and loving is possible after loss and I’m ever so thankful for God’s Grace in these truths!
♥️

5/19/18

we are getting a new ... address!


because i'm usually too wordy, i'm going to bullet point this list because i have lots of things to do today!

WE ARE MOVING! :) 

when we were in florida in november/december, we talked about the real possibility of moving for employment. i quickly fell in love with being so near the sand and the beach and being able to wear flip flops at Christmas! i was convinced that we were supposed to move to florida!

rick wasn't feeling that pull, but was willing to look wherever we were led! we stopped in chattanooga on the way home and also loved the charm that area offered, so began to consider that as an option as well, so much so that he had a job interview offered to him in january which for some reason, we couldn't make work out, and he did not get to interview for the position. 

in late january, we had the opportunity to visit out at the former northland international university and to hear about some of the many ways the campus is being revived. rick instantly felt a pull back to northland. i did not! the sandy beach there was covered in snow and the lake was iced over. it was going to be a long time until i could wear my flip flops there!

but God ...

by the time we left that day, i had caught the vision and the northland spirit which still feels alive there today!

in february, after meeting with the team putting together some exciting things, it became a waiting game as we awaited dotting "i's" and crossing "t's". it was a long wait for me, i'm not the best with being patient! in the meantime, rick continued to look into government/military positions in the medical field, keeping all of our options open, just in case the opportunity at northland fell through. we strongly felt that God would open the doors He wanted opened and close all others.

rick actually received several e-mails from positions he applied for, but none came to fruition, he kept teasing me that he would get called for an interview as soon as northland was ready to move forward and i just laughed at him!

last week, we had a lengthy phone call on tuesday night with northland and on wednesday? on wednesday, he got a call from a va clinic in chattanooga, wanting to schedule a phone interview! imagine t.h.a.t.! on thursday, as was already scheduled, we spent the afternoon at northland, not being able to fit in the interview with chattanooga and on friday, we went in for our first day of work at northland! while we were at northland on thursday, we both knew that chattanooga was not the opportunity that God wanted rick to pursue and that northland was where we belonged!

while our specific job titles are still actually still being ironed out and for the summer as we will be wearing many hats, we are proud to say that we are both on staff with 
NORTHLAND SCHOLARS ACADEMY!
nsa is an international/us academy offering excellence in education for 9-12 grade high school students. these students will have the amazing opportunity to graduate from high school with an associates degree and move forward either right into the workforce, or to furthering their educations!

because we will be heavily involved with summer adventure camps for students coming to northland from all over the world and then with academics/activities and athletics on campus, the hour drive each way does not make much sense - especially from november - april when we'd have to battle the snow and weather, so the decision was also made, that us living on campus was the best case scenario.

this weekend will be a BUSY one filled with packing and making arrangements, trying to be pro-active as our new home will be mostly move-in ready by the end of next week!

we are very excited for this opportunity that God has brought to us and we are anxious to see the school grow and flourish and are honored to be a part of the team that is building this!

if you have read this far, thanks! we aren't moving far, so for those of you who are local, we'll still see you and would love to have you come visit our new home! for those who aren't local, but want to visit if you're in the area, i'll get you our new address, our duplex has 2 spare bedrooms! for the rest of you, the internet has made the world small, so please, continue to follow along with us on this adventure and as always, if you'd pray along with us through these changes, it would be much appreciated! 

happy saturday to you all!

5/11/18

well then.

i love word pictures, so would you indulge me one for a moment?

imagine yourself standing with your toes on the very edge of a dingy, gray stone cliff. in front of and below you is a drop-off, a very, very deep drop off. so deep in fact, you can barely see the bottom and you're not sure what is down there, you are so high up that it seems you are in the clouds. behind you and to your sides is a wall of stone, you cannot turn back or to either side, the only way you can move is forward. to move forward means stepping into the unknown, but you hear a strong steady voice saying "take one step, just one step at a time, I am here, I will bring you safely to the other side". gulp. {have i ever mentioned i'm afraid of heights?} timidly, you take a step, and just like that, there is a stepping stone under your feet where a great nothingness was just moments before. there is also a hand rail on either side to hold on to and you feel no fear whatsoever even though now, you are traversing this great chasm. you take the next step. and the next. as you continue to step, the stepping stones continue to appear ... one at a time, but one after the other right in tune with your steps. you again hear that voice urging you forward  "take one step, just one step at a time, I am here, I will bring you safely to the other side". as you continue forward, the sky becomes even more blue, the brightness of the sun just a little brighter and all green things even more green ... kind of like all things coming back to life in the spring.

that my friends is an image that God gave to me today!

yesterday i posted about how rick and i are waiting on God before we offer up more information on where He is leading us.

that is because very honestly, yesterday, we didn't have a clue. we thought we knew, but we were becoming unsure as time marched onward and we felt like each day was groundhog's day, the movie!

today, we still aren't 100% sure, but may i just say that i serve a really big God?

today we went to the gym and since our membership includes use of the tanning beds, we chose to enjoy the warmth and "sunshine" they offered to us after our workout as fall like weather made a come back to the u.p. this morning! it was 46 degrees, cloudy and chilly as we drove into town to the gym ... brrrrr ... my dreams of sunshine and barefoot walks on the beach came to mind, not to be helped when my brother-in-love sent me a picture of a wall hanging that said "memories made in flip flops last a lifetime", thanks alot, kenny!



while i was laying in the tanning bed, i came before God as i often do when i'm in there. for some reason in the tanning bed and on my lawnmower are two places i really connect with God, maybe it's because He has my full attention in both places and i'm fully not distracted by my phone or outside influences?!

anyway, i humbly asked Him to set my mind at peace. i asked that i be content with His will and His timing. in His plan for our lives. i asked that He increase and i decrease and my faith in Him grow! 

now, in no means am i saying that i snap my fingers and God jumps, honestly it's a prayer that i've prayed many times over the past 3+ months, but today, i had so much peace when i prayed that it was crazy!

anyway ... as the day progressed {before we even got home actually} some answers to those 3 months + of praying were being answered ... in ways we couldn't really imagine. 

the answers were slightly different than we were anticipating, but they were answers and they were good! as we are still doing some e-mailing and waiting for a little more information, i'm going to hold of on sharing too much detail, but i just wanted to give a little update, and ask that you please continue to pray along with us throughout the weekend and the upcoming weeks that as we are now moving forward, God would really make the path clear, as clear as traversing that great chasm as the stepping stones appear guiding our path!

to say i'm excited is an understatement! to say i'm a little scared is an understatement! to say that this is really the first time in my life i feel so stretched and asked to totally lean on Him for EVERYTHING is an understatement!

but God ... 

He knows.

He has a plan.

He has had a plan.

He makes no mistakes.

His timing is NOT my timing.

He promises to never leave me.

or forsake me.

"for I know the plans I have for you." He promises.
{jeremiah 29:11}

"all the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be."
{psalm 139:16}

His promises are rich.

His promises are true.

His promises never fail.

my faith falters.

my faith waivers.

my faith fears.

but God ...

He still loves me, and His eye is still on this sparrow! 

He knew. . .

As I sit here on my comfortable couch in our cute little air conditioned apartment in Chattanooga, I'm again amazed at how God works in...