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A Different Kind of Camino — An Unexpected Journey with Jesus

Posted by on Apr 30, 2017 in Featured, Miscellaneous, Pursuing God, The GREAT Adventure—Journeying with Jesus!

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Exactly one year ago today I flew to Spain to begin a solo, 500-mile, six-week journey on the Camino de Santiago.

The traditional route begins in the village of Saint Jean Pied de Port, France—which sits in the northern foothills of the Pyrenees—and heads west. Although inland, the Camino roughly parallels the northern coast of Spain—up and over a few challenging mountains, through lush meadowlands and pastures, across a vast plain—officially terminating in the city of Santiago de Compostella, about a three day walk from the western coast.

Pilgrims undertake this journey on the Camino—also known as “The Way”—for any number of reasons. For some, it’s spiritual. Others are trying to find themselves—or lose themselves. For yet others, it’s merely a beautiful trekking experience or a physical challenge.

My motivation was more about relationship than accomplishment.

While I certainly hoped to be successful in my ambitious endeavor, my heart’s desire was to make it a Journey with Jesus. To share long hours alone with Him, walking dirt paths and exploring the many small villages along the route. To meet and enjoy other Pilgrims, yes, but to see them through His eyes and love them with His heart. And to depend solely on Him for my safety, for finding a bed each night—and for not getting lost!

For the first week and a half, that was my journey.

fullsizeoutput_2acfI began my adventure with two days in France, roaming the charming village of Saint Jean before taking my first step onto the Camino and tackling the steep walk up the Pyrenees. The next eight lovely days I traipsed across the first 100 miles of the centuries-old path.

Idyllic days with Him, laughter and delightful fellowship with new friends, nights in sometimes crowded, sometimes noisy, but always interesting albergues (Pilgrim hostels), and an exciting new adventure with every sunrise.

Then abruptly, that all changed.

After over 36 hours of misery and several medical clinic visits—hoping it would go away—I ended up in the hospital in Logrono diagnosed with an intestinal obstruction.

I remained there for sixteen days.

This was not the Camino I had planned. Jesus had a very different vision for our journey than I did.

— Instead of roaming the Spanish countryside with Him, I was walking hospital halls.

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— Instead of feasting on delectable local food, I was sipping a liquid diet.

— Instead of the companionship of Pilgrims, I was making friends with other patients.

And my new bedroom looked very different than my previous ones.

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Now, as I look back on all this—surprisingly, with a great deal of fondness—I see this unanticipated Camino unfolding in three parts.

PART ONE — Hospital time

No, it was not fun, and it was not without many physical and emotional difficulties. Pain and discomfort and nausea. A frightening number of X-rays and a CAT scan. Many rotating doctors made for many opinions, some encouraging—“We’re going to get you back out on the Camino!,” some not so much—“You will probably need surgery.”

Add to that the practical obstacles—no one spoke more than a smathering of English, and my Spanish wasn’t any better. Lack of toiletries—I had thought to grab my toothbrush, thankfully, but everything else was in my backpack at my last lodging some 40 miles away.

One word of advice: hand soap is not a good substitute for shampoo.

But through it all, He was there.

I can’t explain it, but I never experienced a moment of fear. Frustration and a bit of dread with the recurring discussion about possible surgery, but no fear. In fact, I felt… joyful. Well, most of the time.

Pretty remarkable given the circumstances.

It had to be Him. All Him.

His Presence was so real. And constant. At times my conversations with Him were non-stop. And the moment I began to feel anxious He would remind me of Himself with a Scripture, a song, a tender encouragement or a physical sense of His Presence.

My two favorite, much used and personalized Scriptures were:

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, whose thoughts are fixed on You…

Your perfect love casts out all fear.

fullsizeoutput_228cI can’t begin to convey all the ways He lavished special care on me.
— A hospital “neighbor” who spoke very passable English.
— Two beautiful women from a local church who regularly called and visited me—and brought me shampoo!
— A travel medical assistance plan that kept in touch with me and my Spanish doctors almost daily—and flew my daughter all the way to Spain.

I could go on and on and on, but those are the biggies.

There were many, many fun and humorous moments as well, especially around language misunderstandings. Like when I got that strange look from a doctor when trying to tell him I was embarrassed—but was actually saying I was pregnant!

And there were so many lovely people there, on staff and in the halls as I did my required daily walks. Without an interpreter, we still managed to communicate.

Once, when a fellow patient found out I had been on the Camino, with excited gesturing she indicated my circular walks around our floor and said, “Este es tu Camino ahora!”—This is your Camino now!

Yep, still on the journey! And still with Him.

Finally, I was well enough to fly home with a medical escort.

IMG_4710PART TWO — Back home and the four-month journey with food (or lack thereof!)

I have a confession to make here.

Once I was home again, keeping my focus on God was more difficult. Probably because I felt less dependent back in familiar surroundings and the security that comes with that. And being with friends again. But He was persistent. Maybe that’s why two of my three days in the hospital at home were so difficult—I had to continue to rely on Him.

More X-rays. An MRE—a bit different than an MRI, but I still had to drink yucky stuff—and it showed there was a narrowing in my intestine. Oh, yeah. And a terrible experience with an NG—nasogastric intubation. More discussion about surgery. Or not.

At this point I hadn’t eaten any “real” food, or had any… how do I say this delicately… “elimination activity” for over 20 days. On day three I was sent home.

Being home was the beginning of a long, arduous and disheartening roller coaster ride. Beginning with a liquid diet, I painstakingly tried new foods, adding one bird-like portion of something new every two days.

We’re talking hummingbirds here, not vultures.

But each time I reached a certain point, my poor little body rebelled. And by this time my body was little—to the point of being frail and emaciated, and I was still losing weight. I won’t provide any detail about the bodily rebellion, but you can Google “intestinal disorder symptoms” and get my drift. Then it was back to a liquid diet again.

This continued for four months.

PART THREE — The seven-month journey to recovery

I had become my own health and medical advocate, doing extensive online research. Bone broth was my new go-to brew. Soft, bland foods were my staples. Probiotics re-entered my regimen.

Making a VERY long story short, at about the four month mark, my body began to tolerate the foods I was eating. Little by little I increased variety and volume.

God remained faithful—no big surprise—reminding me of His sovereignty with my life and my body. I reached a point of peace again, knowing that regardless of the outcome—good, bad or somewhere in the middle—I was in His hands. I continued to pray for healing and recovery, of course, but got better at truly trusting Him for whatever lay ahead.

At some point I began to feel human again. Finally, I was avoiding only a few types of food, but was doing well with everything else. As time went on my doctors, convinced I had Crohn’s Disease or something else of that ilk, seemed stymied that I wasn’t having any symptoms. At all. I was was simply overjoyed!

TIME OUT

Somewhere in the middle of PART THREE something curious happened.

I was doing nothing in particular one afternoon when I felt a strange warmth in the right side of my abdomen. Pretty much where I guessed the intestinal stricture, or narrowing, was located.

My immediate thought led me to ask out loud: “Lord, did You just heal me?”

This was a new experience and I pondered it. For a long time. It was profound enough that I later shared it with several close friends. Had I been healed? I believed so, but how could I know?

MEANWHILE, BACK IN RECOVERY…

IMG_0020I continued to do well with all sorts of food. I was getting stronger, feeling great, and was putting on weight. I was out walking and doing short hikes. Went kayaking with my family. Life was becoming more normal again.

In fact, I felt so good that when the opportunity presented itself to go to New Zealand a few months ago to visit friends, I jumped at the chance. I will admit, however, that the nagging thought of, “What if this happens again…?“ reared its ugly head a number of times. I got my same great travel medical insurance ? and I went.

I didn’t take anything for granted. When my system continued to work the way it should, I thanked God. Every time I indulged in more adventurous foods without repercussions, I thanked God. In light of all that had taken place, and my ongoing recovery, gratitude was becoming more commonplace.  I had an incredible time and had no problems whatsoever.

I was due for a follow up MRE shortly after I got back from my trip, so three weeks ago I got it done. More yucky stuff to drink. The clunk-clunk-clunking of the claustrophobic machine. And then the wait.

I prayed, still wondering if He had healed me several months ago. Still working at trusting Him for whatever the results would show.,

I got the results back in an email from my doctor a few days later.

EVERYTHING was ABSOLUTELY NORMAL. There was NO evidence of the stricture. It was gone!

I bounced out of my chair with joy, thanking God profusely! I made calls and wrote emails, thanking friends and family for their prayers and support during this very long journey.

And then I thanked God some more. I’m convinced He touched me that day and healed me.

THE WRAP-UP

Yes, it’s true: my journey didn’t go as expected.

God didn’t give me the Camino I desired,

but He did give me the desires of my heart!

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The Real Reason We Celebrate Easter… and It’s NOT About the Bunnies

Posted by on Apr 3, 2017 in Featured, Miscellaneous, Pursuing God, The GREAT Adventure—Journeying with Jesus!

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Easter celebrates the most astounding event in human history.

The miracle itself is spectacular—a dead man coming to life after being entombed for three days. But Jesus’ resurrection was more than that. Much more. When He rose, He not only overcame death, He defeated it.

And in doing that He freed us from spiritual death and made us “alive,” with Him (Ephesians 2:4-6).

What an incomprehensible gift.

I’m delighted we focus on Christ’s resurrection, rather than His suffering on the cross. In that miraculous event, we are given great hope for our future. And the remarkable blessing of a loving, personal relationship with a risen, living Savior.

But in our pursuit of the positive, of the jubilation we enjoy, I fear the pendulum has swung too far.

So much of our celebration has become about bunnies and jump houses and Easter egg hunts and ham dinners.

So let’s back up a few days. Let’s go back to the garden. To Gethsemane.

images-1There we see Jesus, praying, pleading with God, His Father.

Tears streak His face. His chest heaves in anguish.

He is desperate.

He is fully God, fully human. As a human he has certainly encountered stubbed toes, bunged up knees and other physical afflictions. He knows pain. He has experienced sadness and crushing disappointments. He’s no stranger to emotional anguish.

And He knows what lies ahead.

He is about to endure as much pain—physical, emotional, and spiritual—as any man can possibly endure.

And then He will die a gruesome death.

What if you could go back in time?

What would you say to Him there the garden?

Would you somehow try to comfort Him? Would your heart ache with His? Would you share tears with Him? Would you cling to Him, stroke His neck, His back, His beautiful head? Would you try to talk Him into running away, escaping?

But if He gave in, chose to turn His back on His God-ordained destiny, you would lose Him forever. You would be without a Savior, and without a Best Friend.

You would be eternally lost. The whole world would be eternally lost. And that’s not God’s plan.

Love compels Jesus. Resigned, He expels a racking sigh and rises to His feet.

You watch Him leave, knowing You can’t save Him without losing Him. He goes on to do what only He, the beloved Son of God, can do.

This loving, tender Man is spat on and ridiculed. His perfect, beautiful body brutally shredded with a whip.

Then come the nails. The horrific nails.

And He endures it all for loves’s sake—love for you. And love for me

At last, “It is finished.” He is finally free of the unrelenting agony.

Three days later, the impossible happens and we are given a new lease on life—and eternity. Through His excruciating sacrifice a way is made for us to BE with Him—now and forever! We are no longer in bondage to sin and darkness. We are invited to drink at the Fountain of Living Water—Almighty God Himself!

That’s much to rejoice about! So let’s celebrate and enjoy our Easter festivities and ham dinner.

images-3But first and foremost, let’s remember:

Easter is NOT about the bunnies.

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When Jesus is Better Than Chocolate (Confessions of an Exhausted Grandmother)

Posted by on Apr 2, 2017 in Adventures of Being a Grandma, Featured, Miscellaneous, The Adventure of "Oldering"

Confessions of an Exhausted Grandmother: Come hear my story about how I learned to lean on Jesus for strength as I hung out with my grandkids all week...it was fun, but exhausting.I adore my grandkids—even more than chocolate—and that’s saying a lot. They are great fun and well behaved, but… they are still children. Two of them, very young.

I’m used to living alone.

My home is quiet. My time and space and schedule are my own. So when I’m thrown into the role of Caregiver Grandma, I very quickly succumb to sensory overload. Kids are noisy, even when they’re happy. Maybe even more so when they’re happy. And happy is a good thing. But sometimes their shrieks—and often the non-stop chatting, questions, humming, and the ninth rendition of Frozen’s Let it Go—send my system into what I can only describe as the “finger in an electric outlet” mode. Every nerve in my body stands at attention, on the verge of implosion.

Another thing.

I never have a moment to myself. If I don’t lock the bathroom door, I will most likely get a surprise visitor. Frequently, there’s a knock and a plaintive “Grandma, what are you doing?” while I’m busy doing what I don’t particularly want to say I’m doing. If I don’t dress in the locked bathroom, there’s a good chance a little one will fling wide the bedroom door and there I’ll be, for the whole clan to see, in all my unclad glory.

fullsizeoutput_2cc4fullsizeoutput_2cbafullsizeoutput_2cb9Board games, card games, adventure walks, tea parties, the tot lot, reading, the belly-button game, watching kids perform on the trampoline or on a bike or on a play structure are all really fun and rewarding. But doing that, back-to-back, from sunrise (often before that) until well after sundown, is exhausting. And in the in-between times there are snacks and meals to prepare, dishes to do, toys and clothes to pick up, noses to wipe, disputes to settle, and of course overseeing yet more snacks and meals. Add to that the nap time and bed time prep and by the time my head hits the pillow at night my parched energy tank is gasping for replenishment.

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I’m learning to pray-up ahead of time—long before I pack my bag and head for the airport. Even though I’m a very active and outdoorsy “older woman,” on my own I simply do not have the natural resources, or the energy, to remain patient and joyful with my sweet grandkids for the long haul.

With the help of the Holy Spirit, it’s quite doable.

But I’ll be honest; once I’m caught up in the vortex of crayons, skateboards, bankies, and Chutes and Ladders, it’s easy for God to get lost in the shuffle of the day and the Skip-Bo deck.

I do have a few “coping” secrets. The best and most important one is chocolate—to self-soothe and simply because it’s a yummy, forbidden treat. So I often tuck contraband in my suitcase in the form of dark chocolate M&Ms. The only reason they’re contraband is because if they’re discovered, they will become community property. And I don’t want to share! Each and every little morsel, with its brightly colored, thin candy shell, is intended to be savored, in secret, by me, alone.

Yesterday, as my very tired “fun grandma” persona began sliding down that slippery slope toward the black abyss—and the snarling “evil grandma” was getting ready to emerge from that dark place—my desperate mind screamed,

“I need chocolate!”

But surprisingly, that thought was immediately followed by a different message from somewhere within:

“I need Jesus.”

More than chocolate.

The incredible thing was, I really felt that. I wanted Him. Knew I needed Him. More than chocolate. Wow. Those of you who know me and my obsession with chocolate will appreciate the profundity.

I smiled as I headed toward my small devotional and away from my chocolate stash. In the midst of the mostly happy chaos, I began reading and praying—and immediately felt light seeping in, replacing my exhaustion and impatience and frustration with much-needed energy and joy.

What a difference that made! A big difference. A better grandma. And a much happier one!

So from now on, when the going gets rough I’m going to remember I have a choice.

Chocolate gives me a sweet escape from the moment;

Jesus enables me to sweetly embrace the moment.

Hmmm. I choose Jesus. He’s better than chocolate.

fullsizeoutput_2ca0“I challenge you to relinquish the fantasy of an uncluttered world. Accept each day as it comes, and find Me in the midst of it all.” — Jesus Calling

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Love Answered

Posted by on Jun 16, 2016 in Featured, Finding Fulfillment, Imaginings with Jesus, Love/Life/Loss, Miscellaneous, Pursuing God

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Note from Dee:
This is pretty much straight from my journal—captured feelings and “thought pictures.” I’ve made no effort to clarify or story-fy. It is what it is. If you find something here you relate to, I hope it leads you closer to the ONLY One Who truly satisfies our hearts—Jesus.

Mommy’s sad.

Something’s wrong. Is it me?

Can I make it better? Maybe if I’m very good…

“You’re a good girl.” She smiles. She loves me. We have fun.

Uh-oh. Something is wrong again. Her words hurt sometimes. I feel very alone. I need to be good so she won’t be so sad.

A daddy to love me!

I’m so happy! I’ve wished for this a long, long time. Since I was five, I think. That’s when I first knew I didn’t have one. He doesn’t act like it now, but I know he’ll love me. I’ll show him how wonderful I can be. He’ll like me, I’m sure.

But… the way he looks at me.

Resentment.
That’s the word.
There’s something else. He has mad eyes. Does he… hate me?
I’m so confused. What is making him that way?

It must be me.

I try so hard to be the little girl a daddy will want. Will love.

He never hugs me.
He never takes my hand.
He never smiles at me.

I’ve tried everything.

I guess something’s wrong with me.

He’s handsome and athletic. I’m flattered he’s interested. His family is fun, and they really like me. It feels like what I want.

Someone to love.
To be loved.
To belong somewhere.

I work to make it special for us. But something’s wrong. He takes all I offer, but without much comment. He is aloof, smugly amused by my efforts.

I give. He takes.
I give more. He takes more.
Surely he’ll reciprocate?

I chase him for his love. He laughs and taunts me, holding his love at arm’s length, just where I can’t reach it.

Is he rejecting me? I don’t know. I must try harder. Surely he loves me? I don’t know that either.

Is he using me?

I pull away.
He pursues me, charms me back into his arms.
Ahhh, he loves me!

I feel secure.

Then the hurtful game begins again.
Taunting. Teasing. Keeping himself and his love just beyond my grasp.

On and off. On and off.
Over and over and over and over and over.

I am drained dry. Shriveling. Fading. Disappearing. Dying?

It ends, at last.

I grieve and celebrate all at once.

I failed. I tried so hard, and failed.
Myself.
God.

But I’m alive.

I thought I was dead, but now the joy seeps back into my fragile mind, my broken soul. I was crushed underfoot, but I begin to rise and bloom again.

UnknownHe comes. Silently.

He whispers with a roar. “I Am Enough.”

His words swirl inside my head. In that split second I am wide-eyed. Knowing Who it is, my tears flow. In surprise. In awe. In submission.

It has begun, although I don’t yet know it.

He is calling me. Wooing me irrevocably to Himself.

The journey is long. Hard sometimes. But He is always there. Most often unseen. Lifting. Guiding. Nudging.

Then finally, giving me courage to uncurl. To open up and let Him touch my bleeding, hurting heart. The heart my wounds taught me to protect.

He comes in. Gently. Carefully. I feel His strength. His protection. His passion and His jealousy for me.

He makes me a new creation.
A new child.
A new daughter.
A new bride.

He has no words of censure. He has no expectations of me, but simply to be His.
His words are full of love—they evoke no guilt or shame or anger or confusion.

He holds me snugly in strong arms.
He takes my small hand in His as we walk together.
He smiles at me with eyes that make my soul dance!

His touch is pleasant. Welcomed. Desired.
I am in love. I am smitten. I have it all, yet long for more. More of Him.

He is the Love I sought, desired, desperately needed, and never found.
He is Mother, Father, Husband.
He is more Love than I knew existed.

I don’t have to be anything.
He is Enough.

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Words, from You

Posted by on Mar 11, 2016 in Featured, Imaginings with Jesus, Writerly Thoughts

IMG_3344Words tumble down, out of my thoughts, onto the page.

What will You do with them, Lord?

They belong to You. They come from me—Your creation, Your design, Your child.

I am arrogant when I polish them up to reflect me. I am self-absorbed when I wonder what others will say or think when they read them. They flow through me, and as they spill and splash and sparkle I often forget: I am merely the vessel. The fingers that work the keyboard, the mind that processes pictures and feelings and concepts, the eyes that see the words and sentences take form—each is a miraculous gift from You.

All good things come from You.

Are my words worthwhile? The moment I force them, see myself as the grand designer, feel my chest swell with pride, they lose value. For You.

Use me as You will, Lord. To write or not to write. To pound the keys or to simply sit. And wait. For You. With You.

When I write, when I feel You pushing, expanding within me, nudging me to return to the page, yoke my efforts to Yourself so I must remain with You, rather than sprint ahead for some perceived prize. Harness my fleeting motivation and self-confidence with Your love so they might strain in the right direction and for the right cause—Your Kingdom. Not mine. Not man’s.

Let every word I write drift through Your hands so it is first shaped by You. Let me linger in Your Presence and write by faith, by Your leading, by Your strength, not by the determined decision to simply perform and shine.

It’s the sitting, listening, responding that matters—not the doing. You are molding me as I determine to let You shape my meanderings. My efforts. My words, from You.

Your words, Lord. Not mine.

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God, Hiking Boots, and a Backpack

Posted by on Nov 11, 2014 in Featured, Pursuing God, The GREAT Adventure—Journeying with Jesus!

Tetons7 Life Lessons Learned on the Trail

This summer I experienced an adventure of a lifetime. 

Well, it was for me, anyway. I’m no longer a spring chicken, and it was mostly the confidence of a good friend that made me say, “Yes…” —with great trepidation—when she invited me to venture into the Tetons and Yellowstone with her and four other backwoodsy gals. Immediately the doubts flooded in.

You see, this was the first time I had been backpacking in over 20 years.

When my spiritual director reminded me that stepping up to a physical challenge is mostly a mental exercise I decided to look at this as a spiritual quest, a journey I would do with Jesus.

P1000453As we trekked up steep rocky paths, along roaring rivers, and across vast green meadows, I kept asking God: “What do You want me to learn from this? What do You want me to see?”

At the time there was no great epiphany, but I found myself looking for Him—and finding Him—in the rugged beauty around me. In retrospect, He taught me a lot as I put one boot in front of the other, mile after sometimes weary mile.

Here are seven lessons I learned along the path.

1. Carry only what is essential — When you are literally carrying everything you need, it’s amazing what you can do without. In spite of our rigid downsizing, I still had a nearly-40-pound pack on my back. When the path got steep, it felt like 80. It made me think: what in my life, in my home, is weighing me down?  What can I eliminate to simplify my lifestyle?

2. Hike at your own pace — Several times I made the mistake of setting out at the same pace others were hiking. If there was a hill involved—my nemesis—I soon stalled out, gasping for breath. If instead I hiked at my own steady pace, I discovered I could go on rather indefinitely. What a reminder that on our journey with God we aren’t to compare ourselves to others and their journeys. We each have a unique path and pace with Him.

Make my paths straight...3. Don’t try to impress others — Many times I caught myself wanting to impress the other gals—to prove myself to women who are younger and stronger than I am. But as I looked at the jagged rocks and tangly roots jutting along the path I was reminded that with one misstep, one turn of the ankle, the trip could be over. I prayed David’s words: “You provide a broad path for my feet, so that my ankles do not give way”— 2 Samuel 22:37. What’s to brag about? It is only by His grace we’re able to do what we do.

4. The unexpected WILL happen — One morning we awoke to find that marmots had chewed the grips off four sets of our hiking poles! This was a relatively minor thing, but a great reminder that our minds can’t begin to fathom the surprises life, and God, has in store for us!

The Sensational Six!

The Sensational Six!

5. Admit your weaknesses — Ego. Pride. Call it what you will, but I was sick and felt lousy—and I didn’t want to admit it to anyone. I was afraid of slowing down my friends and having them resent it. Instead they rallied around me. They reminded me we all had weaknesses and burdens—bad knees, delicate tummies, sadness over a lost one, fear of grizzlies 😮 and more. As I admitted my weakness, others shared theirs.

Which brings me to the next point…

Tetons-Yellowstone - 0106. Hiking with others makes the trip richer — This trip was as much about the fellowship as it was about the hiking experience. The six of us were a tiny community—tightly knit, for better and for worse. We ate, laughed, cried, prayed, struggled, and celebrated—together! And we were all the richer for it. There’s a reason God wants His people to “do community”!

And lastly…

7. Lift your eyes — Especially on difficult sections of trail it was easy to lock my eyes on the path, seeing only the dirt in front of me. But when I lifted my gaze, I was awed by mist-shrouded lakes, vibrant flowers blanketing hillsides, jagged snow-covered peaks, antelope hiding in tall grass, rushing water, and brilliant sunsets. If I had missed all that beauty, what would have been the point of the trip? How often do we “run so fast” in our workaday lives that we forget to look for the blessings and the beauty all around us?

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Oh. There is one more thing I learned on the trail…

Chocolate tastes better in the mountains! — Yes, it does! And I can’t think of one spiritual parallel for that!

Can you?

 Life is an amazing adventure—especially with Him!

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Making Grandkid Birthdays Memorable

Posted by on Apr 29, 2014 in Adventures of Being a Grandma, Featured

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As a long-distance grandmother who misses out on way too many things, I want my time with grandkids to be memorable.

Especially birthday celebrations.

Thanks to this idea from my sweet friend Cindy, “Mama Dee Birthdays” are now a highly anticipated event. And they’re so simple.

Here’s what we do.

1. We go to lunch together—just the two of us. If I’m not there for the actual birthday, we’ll do it the visit before or after. The birthday boy (or girl) gets to choose his favorite place to go. I confess, after my first birthday lunch at McDonald’s I added the caveat, “Anywhere but…” Yep. Grandmas get to set limitations!

My grandson orders what he wants and we settle into the meal. We chat and I have an opportunity to find out all kinds of things about him—his favorite school subject, what he enjoys most about his sport, and details about his current favorite movie or game. We linger as long as we want. No rush. At some point I usually find myself talking about life with Jesus and my hope that he will be a “man after God’s own heart.”

2. Next, we go shopping for a birthday present. Instead of simply unwrapping a gift from me—among the pile of other gifts—we get to explore the store shelves to find a very special something together. This often requires great patience, and as they get older, several different store visits—but this is all about spending quality time together and creating sweet memories.

3. Lastly, we go out for a small birthday dessert. Many restaurants and fast food places have kid-sized hot fudge sundaes. When they’re little, we share. My grandkids love Menchie’s, a frozen yogurt shop where you pick your own flavors and add your choice of toppings. Jamba Juice is a favorite as well. Whatever they want is where we go.

Pictures. I ask our server to take a picture of the two of us at lunch. I take more during dessert and take several of my grandson with his gifts when we get back home. I want memories for me, too!

I start doing Mama Dee Birthdays when my grandkids turn five. We talk about it a bit in advance so they’ll begin to understand how special it is and get excited about it.

If there’s a birthday party while I’m visiting, I’ll contribute an additional small gift and card for the celebration.

Oh, one important suggestion. When you shop, have a set budget in mind. When they’re little you can explain they can have “one big present,” or “a medium and small present.” They won’t be into price tags so you can simply let them make choices that don’t exceed your budget. When they’re older, I give them a dollar amount. I stick to that, but sometimes fudge to cover tax.

I did my very first Mama Dee Birthday when my oldest grandson turned six—right after Cindy shared her idea with me. The two of us sat in a small booth at a Red Robbin restaurant, him on one side and me on the other. When I noticed an odd expression on his face, I asked what he was thinking.

He gave me a lopsided smile. “This is the first time I ever sat on one side of the table by myself.”

I offered him a spot with me, but he declined. He evidently felt special. Grown up enough to sit by himself, without a parent or sibling sharing space.

Today, we celebrated his twelfth birthday. He was still excited to go. We still find lots to talk about. We still have fun together.

My prayer is that when he turns 18 and I ask him if he’s getting too old for Mama Dee Birthdays, he’ll give me the same answer my friend Cindy got from her 18-year-old grandson:

“Grandma, I’ll never be too old for Grandma Birthdays!”

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Valentine’s Day — A Love Letter from Jesus

Posted by on Feb 14, 2014 in Featured, Finding Fulfillment, Pursuing God, The Divine Romance, The GREAT Adventure—Journeying with Jesus!

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FOR MY BELOVED

I, the Creator of the universe,
love you!
I am your Beloved, and you are Mine.

 I call to you:
“Arise my darling, my beautiful one, and come with Me!”

I made you and I marvel at your beauty.
You were designed to please Me—
and you are pleasing! 

Be in awe of
My love for you,
My pleasure with you,
My desire for you.

I am here.
Run into My arms,
abandon yourself fully to my warm embrace!
You are safe here.
Safe and loved beyond measure.

You are home here. You can stay forever.
Wrapped up in Me.

Love,
Jesus

 

Quote from Songs of Solomon 2:13b

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Alone on Valentine’s Day? 7 Tips for Enduring the Day of Endearment

Posted by on Feb 13, 2014 in Adventures in Singledom, Featured, Love/Life/Loss, Pursuing God

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Are you dreading Valentine’s Day?

Do Facebook posts about flowers and chocolates and dream dates remind you that you’ll be spending Valentine’s Day alone?

Do sappy commercials with googly-eyed couples drive home the reality that you’re single?

If so, join the crowd. There are many of us out there in that situation.

Yep. I’m one of them.

Most years Valentine’s Day barely registers. But every so often, I find myself acutely aware of my aloneness on this Day of Romance, and suddenly I feel excluded.

 You know how it goes…

— While other women are gasping over a solitaire diamond, you’re playing solitaire.

— While your girlfriends are experiencing Love Actually, you’re Home Alone.

— The only ardent, longing looks you get are from your cat at dinnertime.

So let’s change it up this year! Let’s be kind to ourselves and celebrate love. Real love.

 Here are 7 things I’ve tried that make the day special. See which ones work for you!

  1. FIRST, Remember you’re NOT really alone. You are cherished by an awesome, present God! Invite Him into your day. Include Him in your celebration.
  2. Buy yourself flowers to remind you of His love, His passion for you. Put them where you’ll see them throughout your day.
  3. Indulge your senses with a spa treatment. A massage or facial does marvels for our need for touch. Get a mani-pedi.
  4. Go out for a nice meal. Spoil yourself and get an appetizer. Appreciate the colors and aromas. Eat slowly and savor every bite. Imagine Jesus there with you.
  5. Treat yourself to some decadent chocolate. Buy a box of gourmet truffles, chocolate-dipped strawberries, or linger over a hot fudge sundae.
  6. Make a long list of your blessings. Thank God for each one. Thank someone you love for the blessing he or she is in your life.
  7. To make the day special and memorable, take creative pictures during each of your activities, then put together a photo journal of your Valentine’s Day with God!

Let me know what you think! I’d love to hear your own creative ideas!

And have a Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

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Armed and Dangerous

Posted by on Feb 7, 2014 in Featured, Imaginings with Jesus, The GREAT Adventure—Journeying with Jesus!


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I awake, leave my bed, move about in my morning haze
—and the enemy encroaches.

At first, with stealth,
snatching bits of joy, tiny particles of peace.

Then he bites.

A small anger flares.
I growl and bat away the unseen assault.

I could pout, gloom up my day as I sometimes do.

This time I pause in awareness… and remember:

I am on the battlefield. 

Every step taken toward You angers my enemy.
He has seen, sensed our tender moments and is rankled.
He has tiptoed on taloned feet into my kitchen.

Alone, I am easy prey.

With You, I am indomitable.

This world is where the enemy camps.
I am behind enemy lines.
Fight or be taken, there is no middle.

The sleeping Warrior Princess in me awakes.
Back stiffened, she stands tall in defiance.

Armor up, she shouts, raising her fist to the sky. I want to be lethal!

Hackles raised, I’m eager to do damage.

Warrior King.
I sense You.
Feel You.

Standing alongside me, in me.
Making my back straight and strong.

Standing in You, I mount a firm defense.
Full of You, I am a force to be reckoned with.
Immersed in You, I am an assassin in the enemy’s camp, slaying his lies and deceits one step, one word, one decision at a time.

Fill me to overflow with Your fluid, invincible Self.
Ooze from my every pore.
Wash over me, through me, from me.

I’m brimming.

So full of the divine, liquescent You that I slosh as I walk,
gush as I speak,
spill as I run,
puddle as, at last, I lay down at night.

Warrior Princess.
Assassin for Truth.

Stealthy, bold
—she stalks through the enemy’s camp,
leaving sodden, sanctified footprints in her wake.

Armed and dangerous.
Imbued with You.

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