Life is all about change. When you trust an unchanging God - you have the ability to embrace change and trust Him in the midst of it. Join me as the Lord leads me through a new phase of my journey.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Reflecting on Chicago ~ Hamilton Elementary

I have been writing this blog entry for a week and 
I just can't seem to get it right.
  
This particular part of my Chicago life is so dear to me 
that words seem to always fall short.

This time in my life has been life changing.  I'm leaving here a different 
person and my time volunteering at Hamilton is a huge part of that.

Of all the surprises that Chicago held for me, 
perhaps this was the best surprise of all.

 I've posted about Hamilton before, but here is the quick recap.  I was looking to volunteer at a school in my neighborhood and I stumbled across Hamilton in my search.  There was a wish list on their website and one of their wishes happened to be someone to paint at the school.  

It was a perfect marriage of their need and my ability.

A perfect marriage of my need and God's plan and purpose.

I began painting there in October of 2010 and I have been painting ever since!

 There is hardly a wall I haven't added a bit of color to 
and with each brush stroke,
 I was given a gift.

The gift of friendship.

The gift of joy.

The gift of serving.

The gift of encouraging.

The gift of laughter.

The gift of love.

The gift of family.

As is often the case in God's economy, the more I gave, the more I received.

As a bonus, our church was able to do about 10 service projects as well, benefiting every aspect of Hamilton.

It was Jesus with yard tools, hammers, paintbrushes, brooms, rags and goodies.

We also got to encourage the staff with gifts and encouraging words.

I just don't know when I have had a greater privilege.

To the Hamilton Staff, I would say that you have blessed me immeasurably.  
Your genuine love and care for students is amazing.

 To Hamilton parents, you have taught me so much about getting your hands
dirty and making things happen for your kids and the students to come.

To Tracy and Ally - thank you for the many shared hours of painting
collaboration in the library and even more for your friendship.

To Ellie - thank you for being my sister in the Lord and a constant
source of encouragement.

To Kerrie - thank you for sharing your time with me in the Science room.  
Thank you for letting me store all my paints and brushes in your space.
We had a lot of fun - didn't we!?!

To Yolanda - I have learned so much by watching you interact with the 
staff and students.  You truly lead by example.

To Mr. Gray, I would say that you have forever inspired me to serve others.  You have taught me so much about leadership, sacrifice and the power 
of believing that things can be better if we do the work.
You are my hero.

I thank the Lord, above all, for allowing me to cross paths with
these amazing people.




Hamilton, I will miss you.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Reflecting on Chicago ~ Neighbors

I thought it would be fun to wrap up my City Chat Chicago blog with my reflections on what the Lord has gifted me during my time here in Chicago.  Little did I know what He had in mind when I enthusiastically agreed to make the move from Texas to Illinois.

Boy - has it been full of surprises and treasures.

I have about 5 more weeks here.  Suddenly, that seems like a very short amount of time!  I have so much to be thankful for that I better get to writing!

Neighbors.

Oh, how I love my neighbors.

Alan and I always pray that the Lord will place us exactly where He wants us -- and then we keep our eyes wide open to see who He wants us to love on.

It was sure easy here in the big city.  We live in a 3 unit building, so those building mates were our first friends here.

Jamie and Kevin lived on the top floor and Matt lived on the 2nd floor.  We moved into the duplex down (floor one and the basement level!)  We loved these guys from the start. 

I would vote Kevin as one of the nicest guys on the planet.  He was always ready to help you with anything - always kind and friendly.  He was our "shoveling snow in the middle of the night" guy.  I love Jamie!  We had many great conversations and sweet times.  They moved out to the suburbs about 1 1 /2 years ago and we still miss them! 

Matt married Kristen about 1 1/2 years ago so we got a new building mate!  Great choice - Matt!  They are so dear to us.  They are family.  They are kindhearted and so genuine.  They have been amazing neighbors and friends.

Ken and Courtney moved in when Kevin and Jamie moved out.  We have loved having them in our building as well.  They are both kind and generous.  Quincy loves their dog, Sylar. 

All of us have shared many a meal, had lots of conversation, watched out for each other and helped each other out numerous times.  We feel so fortunate to have landed in the same building with these guys.

I had some neighbor parties and got to meet quite a few people on our street.  Many of them became sweet friends.  Some of them have already moved away.  There is such a transient nature to a big city.  People come and go -- so you better get to know them fast!  Big thanks and love to Ryan and Michelle (Hannah and Owen!), Chris and Flora (Zoe and Leo) and Ryan and Alison.  Our lives were all the richer for living near you!

Matt, Sharon, Nicholas, Jennifer, Wayne, Carlos, Rebecca and Dan have been steadfast and wonderful neighbors.  Rebecca and her then roommate, Jenni, took me to brunch my first Mother's Day away from my daughters.  I will never forget that!  Josh, Janet and Jackson just moved in next door at the end of the summer.  Although we have only had a short time with them, they have become very dear to us.  There are some others that we are at least acquainted with and we are grateful for each one.  The Lord placed us in the midst of some wonderful people.

It is hard to imagine what life would be like without these amazing people.  I am so very thankful for each one of them and for all that we have shared.

This was my first move to literally never feel loneliness.  The Lord provided us with friends so quickly that it was a smooth transition.  What a huge part these neighbors have played in our life.

They have made our time here in Chicago rich, indeed.

Thank you.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Thankful Thursday ~ Word

I sat down this morning as I thought about preparing for the day.  The photographer is coming today to take pictures of the house to put it on the market.  Our beloved Chicago home will be out there for all to see at the beginning of next week.  It is part of the process that I know so well.

I am very confidant in the Lord's plans for us.  I am excited to see what the next chapter holds as we journey to New York City.  I trust Him with every bit of my future.

That being said, my heart craves reassurance from Him that we are in this together.  It craves encouragement in the midst of the chaos.

This morning, I read Psalm 94 and this particular verse jumped out at me as a gift straight from the Lord.

But the Lord has been my stronghold and my God the Rock of my Refuge.

YAY!  What a great reminder of the foundation of my life and the goodness of the Lord.  His Word calms me and reminds me of the truths I already know and rely on.

Proverbs 3:5-6 goes through my mind continually right now.

Trust the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.  Acknowledge Him in all your ways and He will make your paths straight.

Philippians 4:4-7 is ever present.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!
Let your gentle spirit be known to all men.  The Lord is near. 
Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 
And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

So - even in the midst of a very busy season of life, the Lord is real.

He is present.

He is walking beside me.

He is continually reminding me of His great love for me.

He is going before me to prepare the way.

I am so thankful for a personal Savior who is aware of each detail of my days.  He is completely trustworthy as I lean into Him.

My heart is at rest.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Monday Musings ~ That's not fair!

How often do we hear ~ That's not fair!!!!

I remember saying it as a child and I occasionally say it as an adult!

I hear it from children all the time.

It is a common mantra.

There is something that rises up inside of us when we see something that is not fair and certainly when we experience it.

Enter Matthew 20:1-15.

1-2 “God’s kingdom is like an estate manager who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. They agreed on a wage of a dollar a day, and went to work.
3-5 “Later, about nine o’clock, the manager saw some other men hanging around the town square unemployed. He told them to go to work in his vineyard and he would pay them a fair wage. They went.
5-6 “He did the same thing at noon, and again at three o’clock. At five o’clock he went back and found still others standing around. He said, ‘Why are you standing around all day doing nothing?’
“They said, ‘Because no one hired us.’
“He told them to go to work in his vineyard.
“When the day’s work was over, the owner of the vineyard instructed his foreman, ‘Call the workers in and pay them their wages. Start with the last hired and go on to the first.’
9-12 “Those hired at five o’clock came up and were each given a dollar. When those who were hired first saw that, they assumed they would get far more. But they got the same, each of them one dollar. Taking the dollar, they groused angrily to the manager, ‘These last workers put in only one easy hour, and you just made them equal to us, who slaved all day under a scorching sun.’
13-15 “He replied to the one speaking for the rest, ‘Friend, I haven’t been unfair. We agreed on the wage of a dollar, didn’t we? So take it and go. I decided to give to the one who came last the same as you. Can’t I do what I want with my own money? Are you going to get stingy because I am generous?’

Does that story resonate with you?

Are you the all day laborer or the last minute laborer?

There is something in us that wants fairness and justice - but there is a deeper need for grace.  

Jesus knows that what we think we need and what we truly need are often not the same thing.

God's kingdom is like . . .

I picture the day laborer who had waited and waited all day to be hired.  His head is low as he pictures returning home one more day with nothing to show for it.  His shoulders sag as he thinks of disappointing his family yet again.  Oh, the JOY of being chosen at the last hour to work at the estate.  

Oh the JOY of being chosen.

He works for an hour and then lines up to be paid.  He isn't expecting much, after all, he only worked for an hour.  He steps up to receive his wages and he is paid for a whole day!  

WHAT!?!?

Even a small amount of money would have been a gift, but a whole day's wage was such a surprise.

Oh my -- so undeserved -- so generous --so unexpected.

I understand those that were upset, but I am bowled over by this man.

He is me - He is you.

Jesus isn't fair.  

He is gracious and graciousness is so much more than fair.

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9 

Thank God that Jesus isn't fair.


Friday, January 16, 2015

A month of reflections on an ordinary life

Yes -- it has been a month or even a bit more since I sat down to write anything.  Of course, that month has included about 5,000 miles of driving, two plane flights, stays in 3 states and lots of fun.

Life is happening.

It is happening FAST.

It is reeling out of control at times . . .
        but there are also some sweet moments of solitude,
                                                                        relaxation and quiet.

We had a wonderful Christmas in snowy Colorado with our kids, grandkids and my parents.  It was a wonderful time. 

Every day baby time is my favorite.


I'm soaking up these days.

They are priceless.

Just in case you didn't see the news, we are moving to New York City in March. 


This is one of the views out of our apartment window.  The apartment is being redone and we will move into it mid March.

I'll be talking about those big changes and what wrapping up life in Chicago is like over these next couple of months.  There is a lot to say - to say the least!

For now - I'll say that God is faithful. 

He is faithful to lead.

He is faithful to guide our every step in decision making.

He is faithful to provide.

He is faithful to fill up our hearts and souls in ways we can not even begin to imagine.

So - here is to 2015.

It is going to be a grand adventure.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do now lean on your own understanding.  Acknowledge Him in all your ways and He will make your paths straight."
Proverbs 3:5-6

Friday, December 5, 2014

Fragmented Friday ~ Lacking

Apparently, the days of consistent blogging and any sort of routine are over.  I can't seem to fall into a rhythm.  Life is fragmented but wonderful at the same time.  My heart is strewn all over the country and my time follows suit. 

These days are crazy and wonderful and unsettling.

I'm loving them and occasionally weary of them.

I felt that the Lord had a message for me when I was reading Matthew 15.  In that chapter is the account of Jesus feeding 4,000 men plus women and children.  He asks the disciples a very simple question.

How many loaves do you have?

I love that question.  We spend so much time thinking about what we don't have -- our lack of (fill in the blank!)

Time
Skill
Money
Intelligence
Status
Energy
Widsom
Patience
Love
Talent
Opportunity

Perhaps you would choose a different word. 

We all find ourselves there from time to time.

I feel like the Lord is constantly encouraging us to look at what we have and to simply be willing to offer it up to Him.

It is a change of perspective and a change of focus.

It is allowing Him to take our little and turn it into much.

We are limited -- He is not.

Seven loaves of bread and a few small fish feed thousands.

What was the bridge between the little and the much?

Jesus' touch

Jesus' thanksgiving

Jesus' breaking of the bread

Our little touched by Jesus.

Our lack turned into praise and thanksgiving.

Our brokenness touched by our BIG God.

Only He can take the fragments of our life and turn them into a balm for the hurting.

Only He can take our little and transform it into more than enough.

What I lack, He fills.

I think I'm going to be alright. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Monday Musings ~ Criticism on a Platter

Today is my birthday.  Birthday's have always been huge celebrations in my family.  I may have been an adult before I realized my birthday was not a national holiday.  Of course, every 7 years it falls on Thanksgiving, so occasionally, it is!  I celebrate my 55 years because the majority of them have been lived walking with Jesus.  They have been good and they have sometimes been hard, but I wouldn't trade a moment of those years.  So - I celebrate my days that are behind me and eagerly anticipate the days to come.


I think I'm going to need a bigger cake!

I read a very familiar passage this week but as the Holy Spirit works, got a completely different message from it than any other time I have read it.  I love that about the Spirit -- He makes familiar things new all the time.  My reading was in Matthew 14.  It is the account of John the Baptist's death.

Herod and his sister in law, Herodias, were having an affair.  John called him out on it, never hesitating to speak the truth, and needless to say, Herod did not appreciate it.  Neither did Herodias.  They wanted what they wanted.  Herod had John arrested but feared harming him because he was popular with the people.

Then . . . Herod's niece had a birthday.  A party was thrown in her honor.  She danced before Herod and he was so carried away by her performance that he promised to give her anything that she asked of him.  I don't know what she was thinking, but she decided to consult her Mom.

Herodias knew exactly what she wanted.

The head of John the Baptist on a platter.

Herod was not pleased, but he had backed himself into a corner and did not want to be embarrassed in front of his guests.  The beheading was carried out and the head of John the Baptist was presented to Herodias, on a platter, as a gift from her daughter.

Who wouldn't be mortified by that?  This account is full of all kinds of wrong.  It has adultery, pride, vengeance, and murder.  To top it off, a young girl is made complicit in the betrayal of her father and the death of an innocent man.

Herod and Herodias silenced their critic.

Now, I'll admit that was a drastic measure to take.

But don't we all do this in our own way?

*We no longer call the friend who risked pointing out something that needs our attention.

*We stop listening to the pastor who speaks of sin and opt for a kinder, gentler gospel where life choices and relative morality reign.

*We lash out and counter attack.

*We ignore and dismiss.

*We drag others into our drama.

*We turn a deaf ear to the whispers of the Holy Spirit.

*We behead the entire criticism rather than look for the truth in it.

Taking criticism well has never been my strong suit, but I have grown tremendously over the years in my ability to do so.  I'm still learning.

I have learned to sift through what is said and seek the Spirit about the truth that falls through.  I want to learn and grow from the criticism of others.  I want to be teachable, pliable and ever changing in the hands of the Lord.

I have grown to appreciate those that love me enough 
to say something hard.

I have grown in my desire to be more like Jesus - 
even when words sting.

I have grown to embrace the refining fire 
of criticism, exhortation and truth.

I have read this account many times and there are so many lessons to be learned, but today, I had to ask myself . . .

Whom have I beheaded?

Why am I so angry about something that was said about me?

Am I seeking growth from both criticism and encouragement?

Am I turning a deaf ear to the Spirit in favor of my own agenda and comfort?

Am I saying "la, la, la" in my mind when I should be listening?

Certainly not every critic is someone to heed, 
but it is far too easy to dismiss them all.