I have a friend….

I have a friend that leaves me text messages that make me laugh out loud.

I have a friend that says things so profoundly that I want to record every word she speaks.

I have a friend that always remembers my birthday and is able to mail a card at the exact moment so it will arrive on my actual day of birth.

I have a friend that makes the most incredible cupcakes. They melt in your mouth and are the envy of all the bakers in our town.

I have a friend that reads more books than seems humanly possible. She is quick to recommend the perfect book for the situation I am in.

I have a friend who’s husband was unfaithful but she found another love and is now enjoying a new marriage and a new lease on life.

I have a friend who is battling cancer – one of the really tough ones – in a pandemic.

I have a friend who’s son is taking a gap year between high school and college.

I have a friend who’s daughter is staying home to do online school.

I have a friend who just moved her son into a dorm.

I have a friend who is planning her daughters wedding for the 3rd date since they were first engaged.

I have a friend who’s decided to home school her children this year.

I have a friend that is angry she is being forced to wear a mask in public.

I have a friend that has sick parents and she is angry at all those who choose to not wear masks in public.

I have a friend that just lost her battle with a malignant brain tumor.

I have a friend wondering how she will keep her class of kindergartners socially distant.

I have a friend who is experiencing back issues due to 12 hours of sitting at her home office chair for the last 5 months.

I have friends hoping for refunds for their Big 10 football season tickets.

I have a friend that believes there should be stricter regulation on sanitizing in her childs schoool before she allows her children to return.

I have a friend that is concerned that too much bleach on her daughters skin due to increased sanitizing efforts will reduce the germs necessary in our systems to create stronger immunity.

I have a friend the believes our family wasn’t being safe when we attended our daughters high school graduation with a couple hundred other parents.

I have friends that believe we were extreme because we chose to wear masks at the above mentioned graduation ceremony.

I have friends that will vote democrat and belive they have picked the best candidate

I have friends that will vote republican and believe they have picked the best candidate.

I have a friend that has posted hateful comments about their friends on social media.

I have friends that are believing this season will result in positive change for the future.

I have friends that are paralyzed by fear.

I have friends that are looking at each challenge as one in which they can see God provide in miraculous ways.

I have friends that are doubting God’s ability to bring any hope for our future.

I have a friend whose son just married another man.

I have a friend that wouldn’t have attended the wedding of my other friend.

I have a friend who just had her best year ever in her business.

I have a friend who is questioning her ability to lead and is contemplating ending her 20 year career.

I have a friend whose plane ticket home – to Hong Kong – just got cancelled.

I have a friend looking forward to her 14 day quarantine on her military base in Japan after 4 months in the US.

Oh my list of friends. They wouldn’t all want to be invited to the same party. Some that used to be close have now drifted due to too much time away from each other. Some are closer as they rally behind their belief system and what they currently deem “Right.” Some share many of my same beliefs and some just a few.

As I think through my list one thing becomes clear. The battle to maintain my relationships with these people is real. Every day I could make a list of ways I could be offended or ways I have possibly offended others. I question every post and every picture I share on social media with the simple motivation of giving a glimpse into what I am currently grateful for. It seems as if it is impossible to work, relate or play with anyone who isn’t 100% on the same page as us. This makes me sad, discouraged and dare I say it – apathetic. This digression to “not caring” about people – even our friends- is one of the most dangerous currents we can allow to take us away.

As I look at the fire pit sitting quietly in my back yard, waiting for cooler weather before a fire is lit, I remember the friends that have gathered around it since the summer of 2016. Many of these people are mentioned in my list above. They gathered and met others for the first time. They were open to connection despite their differences that showed up on their election ballots or their religious affiliations. The goal of our backyard campfires was connection and community and creation of both. These evenings under the stars brought laughter and healing. Stories were shared and bridges were built. Some nights the conversation was lively and others were quieter as we just sat side by side united by the orange and yellow glow of the flames in the center of our circle.

Oh…. it seems high time for some fire building. Some gathering of friends that have let the embers of their relationship grow cold. We need to tighten our circle – to look to the master fire builder – as our source of hope and answers. In John chapter 21 we see Jesus – freshly risen from his death tomb – standing on a beach next to a fire he has prepared. He calls his people, he encourages them to sit and eat. They are weary, they are worn, they are hungry. They have been up all night working, fishing. They are diverse. They are human. They are you. They are me. They are flawed and sinful and a mess. This man, this savior … he invites them in. He is inviting you and all your friends…

All.

of.

Them…… as well.

I have a friend…… His name is Jesus.

gathered around the fire pit – too hot for an actual fire #augustinmmissouri

Hayley’s Swim

Welcome New Friend to the fire Haley Steinbauer. I met Haley via my son. They became friends their first day of their freshman year of college. I am deeply grateful for the wisdom shared by this young woman. May you be encouraged as you ride the waves of her personal journey to a closer walk with the Lord.

TO FORGET WOULD BE UNGRATEFUL

You know, I’ve been struggling to write about what happened on March 10th, 2020 for multiple reasons. For one, I don’t want to sound like I am boasting in my suffering.

Even calling it “suffering,” seems like an overreaction. I didn’t even die. No one died. It is painful to remember. It brings back feelings of fear, uncertainty, anxiousness, and hopelessness. Part of me wants to move on, not make a huge deal about it, and forget. But I’ve realized that I can’tforget, and I shouldn’t forget.

Alan Redpath in ‘Victorious Christian Living’ writes,

“Sometimes in the course of human experience it is good to sit down and reflect on what has been conquered by the grace of God. Not boastfully, but with a humble and grateful heart, to survey the years that have gone and to go over the pages of memory carefully to recall where the grace of God has triumphed, so that we will be able to look into His face and say,

“But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.”

God did something marvelous, extraordinary, and miraculous, and to forget would be ungrateful. I NEED and WANT to recognize his grace. For once in my life I have a memory where God screamed,

“I’ve got you my child. Trust me, Hayley. I am all-powerful and all-knowing.”

That is what I have always wanted – a sign, a mighty voice from above, anything that would show/prove to me that God is real. I have always struggled with trusting God in all areas of my life. I believe and I know that Jesus came, died, and rose for my sins (it’s been grilled into me my entire life), but I absolutely suck at trusting Him. I have come to realize that trust and faith are two sides of the same coin.

How can we have faith in something we don’t absolutely trust? How can I expect God to act in my life if I don’t trust Him?

I’m a thinker, so in my head I hand over my future, my relationships, and my worries into God’s care. But the moment doubt, feelings of insecurity, fear, or uncertainty creep in, I run away from the source of discomfort to a place where I can feel in control again. The problem with having faith in Jesus but no trust is you aren’t seeing His spirit at work and that means you aren’t growing. You are constantly wearing a mask to avoid fear. As Max Lucado says in his book Fearless,

“When fear fills our life, safety becomes our god. When safety becomes our god, we worship the risk-free life.” In the end, “The worship of safety emasculates greatness.” (p. 10).

It is when you believe that the King and Creator of the universe – the God who “shapes the future…and controls the sun, moon, and stars” – is for you, that fear loses (Isaiah 45:11-12).

To know Jesus, is to know the source of strength.

What happened over spring break opened my eyes to His power and showed me the importance of truly trusting in Him, even when fear strives to take me over. God is a Father who delivers, provides, and strengthens His children, especially in the deepest of waters. To forget is to let the devil win.

CAPSIZED

It was a day much like any other. I woke up, immediately

hit snooze, eventually dragged myself to breakfast and got

ready for the day. The plan was to take Jacob’s parents’

small, green jon-boat to the boat dock by St. Augustine; he

would go fishing while RJ and I read books. I was just

starting to read RJ’s book, Beneath a Scarlet Sky, and she

picked a juicy romance novel.

We drove to the marina, unloaded the boat, and

navigated the inlet until we found a bridge to anchor

ourselves under. For two hours I was in introvert heaven. It

was a cloudy day, but it was still warm with a slight breeze. I

was enjoying my book while eating Chex Mix and listening

to country music. It was everything I wanted for my spring

break – relaxation, time to read, and the ocean.

About two hours elapsed when Jacob saw two dolphins

poke above the water. We watched in wonder as they

rhythmically glided above the surface and then dived back

down into the dark blue water. RJ was in awe. Dolphins are

her favorite animal. We decided to try to get a closer look, so

we steered in their general direction. Having been satisfied

with our dolphin escapades, Jacob asked if we wanted to go

see the inlet. RJ and I replied,

“Sure. Sounds like fun.”

My hair was flowing in the wind, the air smelled like salt,

and the country music filled my ears. It was pure bliss. We

zoomed out into the wide expanse of the inlet, past the first

buoy, and towards the opening. The water started to get

rougher. Instead of a smooth glide over the water, our small

john-boat was smacking the waves. I remember thinking,

“Ok, it is a little rougher, but Jacob has got us. He has done this

before. Nothing could possibly go wrong.”

The waves grew higher and the wind blew stronger as

we drove farther and farther out of the inlet. My heart

started to quicken slightly, but I forced myself to trust Jacob.

Jacob turned the boat a little bit and a wave slapped against

the boat spilling some water onto RJ who was in the front..

She squealed and Jacob laughed.

He decided to turn the boat around toward the marina,

and we started to go towards the waves from our wake. A

wave from behind propelled us forward and a wave from

our wake started barreling toward us. I remember having to

hold onto my seat so I wouldn’t slide forward as the tip of

the boat went straight into the wave. The water

automatically filled our small boat, taking all our possessions

with it. RJ screamed and Jacob yelled that we needed to

jump. His face is printed in my memory. His frozen

expression resembled someone who was caught mid-sneeze

and was angry at the same time. I held back my desire to

laugh because I knew that it was an expression of fear.

Oddly, I wasn’t afraid. The cold water was a jolt, but I

managed to keep my book and phone above water. In my

mind, it wasn’t really happening. We capsized—no biggy.

I was a sailing counselor the summer before and we

capsized our boats for the fun of it. Sure, it was different this

time because none of us were wearing life jackets, RJ

couldn’t swim, and a lake is a little different from the ocean,

but everything would turn out just fine. I could figure it out;

I always have been able to figure out a conflict or problem

on my own.

Whenever I think about worst-case scenarios, I can trust

myself. Worst case scenario, if I flunk out of school, need a

break, or need time to explore my options; I have my lovely

family to support me. If my house burns down, we have

home insurance. No lives are lost, no biggy. But this time I

had no fallbacks, no long list of options to comfort me that

all would be fine. I had two options: swim or die. No other

options. No rescue boat or time to think and pick the next

best step. I had to fight the waves and the current or never

see my family again. Never graduate from college. Never kiss

a boy. Never tell people about Jesus.

So, I started to swim. I didn’t even think about trying to

flip the boat, staying with the boat, or trying to grab

lifejackets. It seems so foolish to me now. There probably

was a smarter option, but something inside of me said that I

needed to swim.

The first couple of minutes I struggled to make

headway. I felt the current quickly sucking me away from the

shoreline. Every free-style stroke seemed useless. I felt like I

was running on a treadmill, using all my energy and still

staying in the exact same spot.

I knew from stories that the best way to escape a current

was to swim parallel to shore, so I fought the waves and

started to propel myself forward. I looked back and could no

longer see the boat. I could see RJ struggling to keep her

head above water. I yelled to Jacob,

“Stay with RJ. I’m going

to swim to shore.” I knew that there was no way RJ would

make it to shore. We were so far out that you could see

figures on the shoreline but couldn’t distinguish if they were

male or female. I remember screaming for help, but I knew

it was a waste of time.

It’s interesting that in a boat or on the beach, waves

seem peaceful and benign, but when you are in the water

and the only way to keep from drowning is your legs and

arms, the waves take a different form. You are at the mercy

of the strong, powerful, menacing water, unable to see the

horizon or what is lurking under you. You feel small,

powerless, helpless and alone.

Long after tossing my book I eventually let go of my

phone. It was too much effort to hold onto. When all you

have set before you is life or death, there is no need for a

phone. When faced with what seems like an insurmountable,

terrifying situation, all you have is God. So I stripped my

flannel and tried to take off my heavy shoes.

I started to grasp the seriousness of my situation. I

wasn’t getting closer to shore. I was quickly getting sucked

out of the inlet. My arms and legs were tired. I wanted to

take a break, but I knew that I had no other option. The

shoreline was my lifeline. If I didn’t keep swimming, I would

just keep getting swept out until eventually there would be

no shoreline to swim towards. I had to save my friends. I

didn’t want to die, so I pleaded with God. I said,

“Lord, give me strength. I need your strength, because I am tired,

and I don’t know if I can keep going. I don’t want to die. I have

so much I still need to do. If you deliver me and I survive, I will do

whatever you want. I will change my major, hop on a plane and

become a missionary, marry a nice farm boy, whatever you want.

I’m done fighting. Help me. Help me.”

As I kept swimming, I started to imagine the worst-case

scenario. I thought about what would happen if I failed to

reach shore. I pictured myself spending my last moments

alive alone in the wide expanse of the dark ocean, unable to

see land, floating on my back until I got so exhausted that I

drowned. I pictured the phone call to my parents. I

envisioned RJ struggling to stay above water and eventually

failing. What would happen to Jacob and RJ’s families? I’ve

never had a situation where trusting in God was the only

option.

This worse-case scenario was real and hopelessly

terrifying because it was completely in God’s hands. This is

what I struggle to put into words and explain to people. My

life was in His hands; it was completely out of my control. I had no

scapegoat, no second option where I could swoop in and

save myself. In complete and utter hopelessness, the only

thing I could do was turn to God and ask for help. It was

the first time I completely trusted in Him. All I could do was

pray and plead.

As time went by, God started to answer my prayer. I

escaped the current and swimming became four times easier.

The shoreline was within reach. The waves were still high

enough that I had to dive under each one to keep from

getting taken over, but I was just thankful that I was finally

moving. Just keep going. Just keep going. You can do it, I told myself.

Eventually, I swam until I realized that I could touch the

bottom. I was dazed, unable to be relieved until I knew my

friends were also safe. So, the instant I stood up, I tried to

run. I needed to find help. It felt like I had been swimming

for a long time and I knew RJ would not be able to last for

much longer. The water was about at my hips. I felt

lightheaded, and my legs felt like Jell-O. I fell over in the

water and had to catch myself. I ran onto the beach and

looked in both directions to find the nearest person. The

current carried me to the very end of the beachy peninsula

and there were very few people in site.

Then, I noticed people to my right. I started to run in

that direction as I saw a rescue boat come flying from the

mouth of the inlet. They glided across the water out towards

the last buoy in the inlet. For a moment the boat began to

search with little luck. I started to cry because I thought my

friends had drowned. I had failed. I was picturing what life

would be like without my hilariously joyful best friend and

roommate by my side and without my frustratingly, caring,

and stubborn friend Jacob. I cried out loud to God, Please,

Lord. Please, Lord. They can’t be dead. No, Lord.

The moment I stopped my prayer, the boat stopped. I

couldn’t see anyone getting on or off the boat, so I was

uncertain if they were found dead or alive.

I noticed a four-wheeler with four Coast Guard workers

only a couple of meters away. I took off my clunky shoes

and ran over to them. I was sobbing and asking if they had

found my friends. They told me my friends were safe and

asked if I was the third person. A wave of relief flowed over

me

They set me down in the four-wheeler with a blanket

and Gatorade, and I sobbed. I rarely cry in front of people,

but I couldn’t hold it in. I cried so hard I was shaking

(actually, the shaking could have been from the fact that the water was

60 degrees or that I swam for 25-30 minutes, but even so I was shaken

up).

I couldn’t stop smiling. All my anxiety, fear, and worry

were replaced with gratefulness, don’t-care-who-knows-it

joy. I was laughing and crying and praising God. I’ve never

been more joyful in my life. We were all alive. They put me in

an SUV with a nice man who drove me back to the marina.

As we made the 25-minute drive, the entire experience

started to feel surreal. Did it actually happen? I was just

fighting for my life in the ocean and now I am sitting in this

warm car learning about this nice Coast Guard’s family

history. I couldn’t help but feel like I was a completely

different person from the girl that was gawking at dolphins

an hour earlier. I wanted so desperately to cry and call my

parents to tell them I loved them. I wanted to process the

experience and figure out how I could uphold the promise I

made to God in the water: I will do whatever you want, if you help

me. But I chose to put on a brave face and be strong. I

decided to process later once I had the time, space, and

quiet.

THE CURRENT OF GOD’S GRACE

When we met at the marina, I hugged Jacob and RJ and

we drove back home. We processed the rest of the day and,

to be perfectly honest, I am still processing.

I want to remember that hopelessness and how God

delivered us along with the joy that followed. I want to

remember how my relationship with God matters above all

earthly possessions and how I need to trust him with the

little and big things.

The experience has taught me to be brave and has

inspired me to live more courageously. Fear no longer is a

major roadblock because I have experienced the power of

God. I know what real fear looks like and how MY God can

overcome it. If I can survive that fear, nothing should stop

me from doing His will. I think this is true for everyone.

We shouldn’t just trust him when we have no other

options. Even when everyday life is uncertain and small fears

swarm us, we have a God who is unstirred by the waves for,

“If He is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31). And, boy,

is God for us! He is given to us. He took on our flesh and

blood to die for us and so to save us. And as He died to save

us, so He lives to provide for us.

I am just extremely grateful and in awe of how God

provided for us on March 10th. We didn’t get eaten by sharks

or sucked down into an even stronger rip current. I was in

great shape because of my half-marathon training, and RJ

was in good shape because she had started lifting three

months prior. Even so, if Jacob and I had switched roles, RJ

may not have survived because I wouldn’t have been able to

give her breaks with my body size.

If a couple on the shore hadn’t seen us swimming, the

rescue boats may have been dispatched too late to rescue

Jacob and RJ. If the waves had been higher or wilder, I don’t

know if I would have survived. All in all His goodness is

shown through his providence that day.

His grace abounds in the deepest of waters.

POSTSCRIPT

This experience has taught me to live more courageously. That’s why I support ATLAS; a ministry helping people meet their emotional and spiritual needs whilst finding joy in the journey of discovering their unique potential in Christ. ATLAS is a mentor based, prayer driven personal development service whose goal is to help individuals and families attain truth, love, and self-control through the power and love of Jesus Christ. ATLAS is a free, safe, and confidential place wherepeople can be heard, encouraged and prayed over.

http://www.atlasgroupltd.org

370 12 th Avenue NE, SIOUX CENTER IA 51250

atlasgroup@atlasgroupltd.org

Contact the Author:

hsteinbauer8@gmail.com

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“Hayley’s Swim” by Hayley Steinbauer

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Prove it.

$35.

A deal I just couldn’t pass up.

Really.

Could you?

If you know anything about shoes, or sandals, or Birkenstock sandals…. you know that they don’t cost $35. You know they cost much more the $35. More like $135.

If you don’t know, now you do.

Well…. as I was happily scrolling through my Instagram… which is currently full of my young friends pregnancy and baby posts… I saw the ad. (side note: I scroll instagram to see my young friends posts, I scroll facebook to see my middle aged friends post . It’s a thing for sure) This ad told me I could purchase Birkenstock sandals for $35 if I just swiped up. As simple as that. It caught my attention. I had been thinking about purchasing some slip on sandals. Not only had I considered Birkenstocks I had also considered a fun color of Birkenstocks and the Birkenstocks in this particular ad…. they were red. RED. (another side note: Red shoes are one of the keys to happiness in my life. )

aren’t they the cutest?

So guess what. In a matter of 60 seconds I had swiped up, clicked on the red shoes, clicked on my size, clicked on the payment info tab, clicked on the address update tab, clicked purchase, clicked send….and just like that – I was the proud owner of a pair of beautiful, red, slip on sandals. I took a screen shot of the sandals and sent it to my daughter, wanting to share in the victory of my deal of the day. We just love a good deal. I could just feel the soft leather and perfectly formed toe holds. I could see them sitting next to the front door after having taken my dog for a walk, wearing my new red sandals. Yes… they were mine.

Well…. not yet.

You see the sandals haven’t actually arrived…..

yet.

I can’t even remember the company that sponsored these, hopefully legitimate, red Birkenstocks. I didn’t print a receipt. I didn’t check the validity of the website. Nope. I did nothing to prove that I was making a wise decision. So, I sit on my porch and wait expectantly for the fed ex guy, the ups man or the mailman to bring my beautiful red shoes. In the day of Amazon Prime and the delivery of internet orders arriving in what feels like minutes of ordering… 3 weeks is feeling like an eternity.

There are several reasons why I know I made this decision. First, if you are familiar with the enneagram – I am a 7 wing 8. This simply means I am overly optimistic, hate to think about hard things and can be spontaneous when it comes to jumping into fun things. Details feel bothersome when I just want to GO. I don’t need much evidence to Prove that what I want to do is right. I just want to believe the best and live accordingly. Second, and the real purpose behind this post is that I feel deep down, in a world that feels out of control… I’m longing for easy, I’m longing for normal, I’m longing for fun, I’m longing for carefree, I’m longing for the days when the biggest worry I had was if my red sandals would actually make it to my door.

But, as you are well aware, it is not.

And that is actually a really good thing.

Over the last 4 months I have made every attempt to gain some type of footing on the ground of a world that feels like it is experiencing a perpetual earth quake. Every single thing has been shaken.

I have two of every baby shower, wedding and graduation announcement hanging in my kitchen. Who would have thought when planning a wedding that the line item on the budget page would say, INVITATIONS X 2??

Invitations X2

I threw away the spring schedule of my daughters high school sports season and I just threw away the schedule for her college. I threw away the concert tickets to two of my favorite groups. I cancelled plane tickets to several summer events. Nothing… not one thing that I had attached my hope , my joy, my personal happiness has stayed standing. Not one thing. Every prediction I made has been wrong.

Darn it.

In my world where I live for joy filled events – I have lost all proof that my happiness can continue. Every plan I make will be cancelled… why even try??

So I pop on Instagram and buy a pair of $35 shoes – with the hopes that I can reclaim some of the joy lost in the tumult of 2020.

Oh…. but wait. This shaking, the chronic disruptions of life…they have left some evidence behind. The proof is there for me. And it is there for you. And it is, He, is waiting for us to see it.

As I have navigated this season I have been reminded time and time again that my hope cannot, nor should it have ever, been put in the things of this world. I can certainly enjoy them, celebrate them, look forward to them, but when they become the focus of my hope, I have turned them into an idol. And oh how my idols have been revealed as they each have been taken away.

And one thing remains……

Jesus. Waiting to PROVE that he his enough. Waiting to FLOOD our lives with evidence that HIS PEACE is real and true and practical and available and not dictated my circumstances. He left his peace with us when he returned from heaven. ” Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled. Do not be afraid.” John 14:27. and “I have told you these things so that IN ME you may have peace. In this world you WILL have trouble. But take heart I have over come the world.” John 16:33 It’s a thing, a real thing that we can boldly demand because he said we could. “Let us approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Heb. 4:16

I have put this promise to the test so many times in my life. One of my favorite, GOD IS LEGIT, stories comes form January of 2018. I had just finished a glorious week with my fellow business owners at a conference in Atlanta. Its always a week of fantastic education, inspiration and girlfriend time. As I was literally rolling my suitcase out of my hotel room my phone buzzed with these words:

“Your flight has been cancelled.” CANCELLED. Not delayed, not switched to another. CANCELLED. And I wasn’t the only one. The 1 inch of snow that Atlanta had experienced the night before shut down the city. A fact that us northerners just cannot comprehend. What unfolded over the next 6 hours was nothing short of crazy. I had NEVER seen an airport so crowded – with lines looping over the entire building. No one knew what was going on but everyone thought they had the right solution and were happy to share it, loudly. ( hmm…. feels a lot like 2020). I was tired and just wanted to get home.

And… it was in that moment that I demanded PROOF.

I clearly remember standing in the line that stretched to eternity, purse in one hand, suitcase touching the other as I rolled it slowing to who knows where. I prayed one simple pray.

my insta post from the Atlanta airport

“GOD, prove it.”

Prove your peace.

Prove your power.

Prove your provision.

Prove it.

I’m waiting.

and you know what?

He 100% did.

Not one thing changed about my circumstances but everything changed about my heart. And when your heart changes your vision changes too.

Instead of seeing lines of strangers I saw lines of humans. I noticed an acquaintance and her husband a few feet away. We started chatting. We spoke of our fantastic week and the hilarity of our current situation. We left our line to drag our luggage through the airport. We squeezed into a restaurant and ate food, and shared stories. We made our way to a terminal full of friends from our town all rescheduled on a red eye flight. I love the picture of the group of us choosing to see the fun and find the true peace in our situation.

GOD showed up and he proved himself to me. I have evidence. Evidence I need now on a daily basis. DO you?

Do you have proof from your daily life that God is real. I mean really REAL. Not just a thing you say you believe and then show it by faithfully showing up to church on Sunday and saying your prayers before dinner. Not just a habit and a community you’ve joined because thats what you’ve been told is right. No – do you have FOR REAL EVIDENCE in your life that God loves you and shows up in the craziest of ways?

Guess what. It’s the perfect time to ask. In our upside down world where every plan is tentative. In a painful world where we fear turning on the news because we dread another tragic death of those thought less then. In a time when hard things happen to good people. It’s time.

And God is waiting.

He is waiting to flood your crazy with his comfort.

He is waiting to shine is light on your life.

He is waiting to PROVE himself worthy of all of our hope. The answer to all of our questions.

And he promises his joy will far exceed any and all earthly objects we desire…

even more the a good deal on some cute Red sandals.

Won’t you trust him today?

Boat Hopping

 ACTS 27: 30-32

Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, the sailors dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight.  In an attempt to escape from the ship, the sailors let the lifeboat down into the sea, pretending they were going to lower some anchors from the bow.  Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.” So the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat and let it fall away. 

Desperate times call for desperate measures or so it seemed in this harrowing account of Paul’s journey to Rome.  Despite his warnings, the ship stayed the course in the midst of threats of stormy weather.  This decision put the entire crew at risk.  The sailors recognized an opportunity to escape through an out of sight lifeboat but Paul advised against it- stating that all would be lost if these few men were let go. Surprisingly, the Centurion and soldiers in charge of  Paul ( who was their prisoner!) listened to him.  They cut the ropes and the sailors’ escape plan went floating away.  

This account that comes towards the end of Paul’s life always fascinates me.  Despite being a prisoner he appears to be in charge.  We see no one else stepping up to navigate decisions in this storm.  Paul’s confidence certainly didn’t come because of a title or position. It didn’t come because he had vast experience in captaining ships and organizing crews. It didn’t come from watching a YouTube video he could quickly google when the storm clouds rolled in.  It came from his God that had remained faithful from the day they met on the way to Damascus.  He had 100% God-confidence and that had always served him well.

Similar to the apostle Paul, ALL of us are being asked to unexpectedly navigate our own ships in an unprecedented storm.  And as you may have heard many times as I have, we are all in the same storm but very different boats.

The same storm.

VERY DIFFERENT BOATS. Hmm…

Some of our boats are filled with small children we are being asked to educate at home while continuing full time jobs. Some of our boats hold job layoffs and loss of income. Some of our boats include increased income because unemployment pays more than our work. Some of our boats include separation from aging parents. We may relate to others in similar boats but there are days where their storm seems easier and they are navigating the storm better. Other times our storm seems lighter and we get judgmental about the challenge others appear to be having. Not a lot of black and white in this one. We find our selves in a dangerous place when we start to compare boats or even start hoping in and out of the ones surrounding ours. Let me explain.

I woke up Tuesday morning feeling fantastic. It was a gorgeous morning with promise of the glory continuing. I felt rested from a good night sleep in a room cooled by the outside air. Don’t you love sleeping with the windows open? There were several events planned for my day, including a virtual game night with my daughter and son in law in Indiana, that I was looking forward to. I headed for my coffee and some time with God in my morning bible study. It was wonderful.

Tuesday Morning Coffee – It was glorious

And then it all changed.

As I put down my journal I picked up my phone …. and started scrolling… and then I started hopping… boat hopping if you will. I saw post after post of people in the same storm as me but very different boats. Not everyone had woken up with the same delight for their day as I had. I read about people struggling. I read funny memes. I read a few blogs. And my joy was gone. Boat hopping is exhausting. When I read the mom posts of 2020 seniors having a hard day as they continued mourning the loss of things that wouldn’t be for their child… I thought…. ” Oh I should probably feel more sad today.” ( NOTE: I have felt incredibly saddened by the losses of my class of 2020 daughter – shed more than one tear. But I wasn’t there on Tuesday). I saw posts of friends that have the virus and thought “Wow – I should be so much more productive – I’m healthy!” With each post I hopped …. out of my boat and into one not intended for me. My heart and soul had boarded the emotions roller coaster and I was on a full out ride of steep hills and tight cork screw twists. When I realized my mistake and the ride came to a stop I had a decision to make. I had to stop the boat hopping. It was serving no one and it certainly wasn’t honoring God. I had taken my eyes off of all I had been grateful for and my head and heart felts scattered and unsure.

Like God’s advice through Paul in Acts 27 – I believe he wants us, you and me, to stay in the boat. In our respective boats.  He wants you in the boat he has placed you in, that he planned for you long before you were born.  He wants you with your people, all your people, through the entirety of this storm. The good news is your ability to navigate your placement has nothing to do with your years of experience, your strengths, your weaknesses, your enneagram number, or your Myers-Briggs, but everything to do with our God who put you …. In that boat.

  All through scripture we see God calling the seemingly ill-equipped to carry out his plans.  More than one person questioned his wisdom when he reached out with a job offer:  Moses, Gideon, Abram…. So it’s ok if you do too.

Never before in the history of mankind has it appeared that the playing field is so level.  No one has walked this path before or sailed this storm.  No matter how many years we’ve lived – there is not one person professionally trained or otherwise that has wisdom grown from this specific type of experience.  Always before in the history of mankind has there been a God that promises wisdom, peace and answers. Always before in the history of mankind has there been a God that can back up his promises with evidence of his power through a sacrifice so great – the sending of an only son to OVERCOME death and the grave.  This same God, the father of the Savior of the world is with you in  your boat.  He knew this storm was coming.  He knew you would need to be right where you are,  even if the current round of waves feels  too big and too strong. 

Each of our days in the sea of this storm will look different. They emotions we each feel are real. I’ve heard it said the greatest gift we can give each other right now is to believe each other. To be ok with days that others are sad and you are happy. And to be ok when you are struggling to function and others are setting the world on fire. Same storm, different boats….. all navigated by our all powerful, all knowing, unchanging, loving God.

If these words find you ready to climb out, jump over, cannon ball out of your boat…. I urge you to stay.  The middle of the storm, in the boat God has placed you…..it’s the safest place you’ll ever be.    

Responding to the nudge

From Beth: A couple of weeks into our current season of crazy I received a sweet note from a friend. It popped up in my FB messenger app while my family and I were playing what will probably be one of hundreds of games of CATAN. I asked her if I could share her words around our weekly campfire. I included her first sentences because I feel they are so important. I hope my friends decision to pause, reflect and document her feelings, despite her thoughts that she is NOT a writer ( I respectfully disagree:) in the middle of all of this encourage you to do the same. Writing has the power to slow us down, to really see… see what God is doing around us. If you are moved to do something that feels out of your wheelhouse, not your skill set I hope you’ll go ahead and give it a try. Never in our lives has it been more clear how important it is to realize we are all on the same team, this is not a competition, and we are not playing in the who’s got life harder olympics. I believe if there is a desire inside of us to share something that could impact even one person for good, it is most likely not a selfish ambition but a God given nudge. So glad my friend followed her divine push on this one. Welcome my sweet anonymous friend to the fire.

Ok, here are all the feels…..and it is not my thing!! I am not a blogger. I do not share my feelings. I keep to myself. And….I am not a writer! However, the lesson I am learning currently is profound. I pray my children see it too.

We are building memories…..beautiful memories in the midst of all of this. We are snuggling on the couch. We are getting muddy in the yard. We are spending more time together. Time we took for granted before. 

We are learning…..learning that we should be thankful for bread, milk, and eggs. This is temporary, but nonetheless a luxury for now. We should not be wasteful. Our wastefulness will require purchasing more groceries. Groceries that will take away from meeting the needs of others. It will take away financial resources that may be needed later. All of which, we should have been doing all along. 

We are thankful. Let me say that again. WE ARE THANKFUL! Thankful for our pastors who keep sending God’s word to us. Thankful for teachers who are working hard to meet our children’s needs. Thankful for our local pharmacy who dispensed medication we needed this week, knowing that each person they come in contact with may expose them to infection. Thankful for our grocery store and the employees that are working hard to keep food in our homes. Thankful for our local doctor’s office who takes care of us now too. Thankful for our long term care staff who is proudly taking care of those that led the way for us all these years. You are indeed greatly valued. Thankful for each member of our community that I have overheard talking about how they can help. These are just a few encounters we have had this week that have shown us how fortunate we really are. The list goes on. Now matter your role, it is very important and our family is thankful for you. 

We are blessed. We are blessed to have the opportunity to learn and be thankful in the midst of chaos and uncertainty. We are blessed to live in this community who is very good at taking care of each other. 

Good is good. He is good at all times and in all ways. We just need to be sure to see it.

COMFORT ZONE

Beck Haase – New friend to the fire

We welcome special guest to the fire Becky Haase. One of my favorite parts of our virtual campfire is that I have become the honored recipient of many friends stories about how God has worked in their life. This is what happens when we create a safe, supportive environment around a cozy backyard fire – the stories just flow. I’m so thrilled that my friend Becky took the time to record her story and had the courage to share. I know it will encourage you as much as it did me. Welcome to the fire Becky… We’re so glad you’re here! Beth

I have never written a blog before.  It is outside of my normal comfort zone to share thoughts through public media.  However, with the recent directions I’ve been given directly from God, I believe it is time to do several things outside of my comfort zone.

What is that comfort zone?  As an only child and an only grandchild on both sides of my family, for me, that’s HOME.  I could entertain myself for the rest of my life at home.  Even better is when my immediate family is there too.  We could do nothing together and it would be the best of days.  However, I am sure God would prefer that we reflect His love and grace to the world and not just within the four familiar walls of our home.  Which leads me outside of my comfort zone.

There had been talk of me getting a different job for a while.  I have been with the same company for over 20 years, holding several different positions.  I have been in my current position for over 10 years.  While I love what I do, unfortunately I am very underutilized, which results in a lot of time spent being bored at my desk.  Couldn’t I be doing more?  What a waste of time and talent.  But what other position is there for me?  So I was looking; not extensively, but looking for opportunity, when out-of-the-blue, it finally came along.  

A friend and colleague contacted me about a job opening.  “If you are interested, get your application in today!”  So I did; on a super busy night I struggled through online forms, made sure my resume was perfect, and threw together a cover letter, which I hadn’t done in over 20 years.  The next morning I had a request for an interview the next week.  

Now I don’t know about you, but that’s the kind of thing that turns my brain into full ON mode.  What if this?  What if that?  And most importantly, CAN I DO THIS?  1,000 miles an hour; especially when you are sitting bored at your desk all day.  That afternoon I checked in on Facebook and there it was:  a post from a cousin of mine.  It was a meme about holding on to those you have in your life because they won’t always be there.  While that is poignant enough, that wasn’t what really struck me.  It was the statement she wrote with it:  “And don’t waste your time being scared to try new things and outside your comfort zone!”  Have you ever heard God scream at you?  It was like He was speaking directly to ME with that sentence.  OK, I will consider it!  So I prayed, a LOT.  I prayed for clear direction.  A billboard would be nice, don’t you think?  Just once…to know what God wants for you without having to wonder if you’ve done the right thing.  

The next week was the interview.  While it went ok, I didn’t get the feeling that the person I interviewed with was very interested.  I found out that the new job would mean no longer doing several of the things I dearly love about my current job.  It would mean overcoming some weaknesses to learn things that I’ve never been good at doing.  It would mean getting outside of my comfort zone.  The good news from this experience is that, because I currently have a good job, I did not dwell on the situation during the next 10 days while they deliberated on their choice.

Then it came:  the call.  I got the job!  Now the ball is in my court.  Do I really want all of this change?  Can’t I just sit here and be satisfied where I am?  This is easy.  This is comfortable.  And as humans do, by this point I had completely discounted the fact that God spoke to ME loud and clear before.  I was looking for the billboard.  And then, there it was!  Driving home from work that day.  There in the sky was the brightest rainbow I’ve ever seen.  All I could think when I saw it was, “God keeps his promises.  He will carry you through this.”  I think it was at that moment I knew what I had to do.  

Yet I spent the next 2 days trying to decide; trying to talk myself into it.  Is this REALLY what I’m supposed to do?  Do I HAVE to listen to God?  So I prayed more that night.  I prayed for one more provision of clarity.  Just to make sure I’m hearing it right.  

The next morning, the Lord provided just that through my daily Bible verse in my email:

“But you, son of man, hear what I say to you.  Be not rebellious like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you.”  Ezekiel 2:8, ESV

OK, OK!  I GET IT!  

Needless to say, I made the call, took the offer, turned in my notice to my current boss and prayed more.  Now I need peace.  And it came.  I have had the strangest peace about all of this.  I am not anxious, I am not afraid.  Because the same God who sent his son to bear my sins and bring me eternal salvation is the same God who will see me through this adventure.  He will lead me to those I am to witness to; he will help me overcome my weaknesses; he will see me through the challenges.

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”  Philippians 4:13, ESV

This is truly a leap of faith and most certainly a step outside my comfort zone.  I am so thankful for the opportunities that lie ahead and for God to carry me through.  It amazes me how many different ways God speaks to me.  How does he speak to you?  Are you listening?  What opportunities for Him lie outside of your comfort zone?

Hope in the midst of Hurt

New friends to the fire: Tim and Hope Mehl

We welcome Special Friends to the fire and MCN Missionaries: Tim and Hope Mehl. After I read the latest edition of their Missionary Newsletter I knew it had to be shared around our fire. Their message was an important reminder of everything I needed to hear about God- in the midst of a world that sometimes feels like its spinning out of control. Welcome to the Fire- Tim and Hope – we’re so glad you’re here! Beth

“I will not leave you comfortless. I will come to you.” -John 14:18
           Greetings in Christ! I hope this newsletter finds you well. Today I write this from my desk, in my office, at Concordia Middle School. It’s been 5 full weeks since we’ve had class which is longer than any summer break our students have ever had. Needless to say, on our first day back at school they were bouncing off the walls with excitement to see their friends again. Some of my students look visibly more rested so as scary and hectic as this coronavirus outbreak has been, there have been good that has come from it too. We started school officially on February 25 with a few stipulations from the government. We are required to take everyone’s temperature twice a day, everyone must wear a mask, and hand sanitizer has been made available everywhere. So far, Taiwan has really been holdings its own against this virus with only 31 active cases, where as our neighboring countries have numbers in the hundreds and thousands. In general people don’t seemed to panicked about the virus anymore. As with anything it became old news and while everyone is trying to stay healthy, the air of anxiety around the country seems to have mostly passed. But as happens sometimes, with the end of one storms comes another. 

            On the early morning of February 6th, our administration building on our school campus caught fire due to faulty wiring. We thank God that no one was hurt, but because the fire was burning for hours before anyone noticed, the entire first floor was turned to ash. All of our school records, grades, and important documents were kept on paper, and nothing survived. The computers that were in the building were also destroyed if not by the fire and smoke, then by the fireman’s hose. To add to the devastation, this building was built in the 1960s when Taiwan was at a time where there were no such thing as licensed contractors, building companies, or safety codes. Because of this, the entire building could not be insured. The school estimates it will be about $300,000 USD to fix, which in Taiwan is an enormous amount of money. Many people are devastated to say the least, but while it is easy to feel down or ask “why us??”, we remember that God does not promise that our journeys will always be easy, but he does promise that he will be with us every step of the way. The morning of the fire many of the faculty came together in prayer asking for God’s guidance. As our principal said “Concordia was built on God’s love … and we will trust him as we face difficulties and challenges…”

           How blessed we are to work at school where we can use this as an opportunity to show people the peace we find when we trust God. How amazing to be able to show our coworkers exactly what we have been teaching our students all year!

           I have included the principals translated letter to the faculty in this newsletter. I praise God that we have a principal with a heart for Christ to lead us. We don’t know what will happen to tomorrow, we don’t know how badly this will affect the school, enrollment numbers, or any of those details we get so wrapped up in, but we do know that if we fix our eyes on Christ, the end result will be better than anything we can ask for ourselves. Principal’s Letter to Faculty ( SEE BELOW)

Praying Together
The morning after the fire the faculty came together in prayer.Blocked Off
Thankful for firefighters who put the fire out in record time! Today the whole building is blocked off and no one is allowed in. Fire Damage
This was taken inside the administration building the day of the fire. The walls were still radiating heat when I stepped in. 
Masks in Japan
With school canceled a few extra weeks, we took a few days to see Japan (this was before the outbreak was bad there). We feel so fortunate to live so close enough to do 

Concordia Middle School Feb 6th Fire Prayer Letter
The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD is enthroned as King forever. Psalm 29:10
…we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance. Psalm 66:12
The morning of February 6 the administration building caught fire. An inspection showed the fire was
caused by old electrical wiring. We were blessed that no one was
in the building to become injured, and that the fire did not spread.
Only one office was completely destroyed. Other offices,
conference rooms, electronic supplies, walls and ceilings were all
affected by smoke and water damage. The smoke ash is a toxic
substance, harmful to human health. Therefore, the administration
center needs to do demolition, ash removal, professional cleaning
and scraping of contaminated and damaged items, and restoration
of the administration center.
The day of the fire, the chairman of our board of directors
immediately came to the school to pray with, encourage and
comfort everyone. Principal Huang gathered all of the
administration coworkers and in three working days, cleared out
the damaged materials, cleaned, and moved usable goods into
temporary administration offices around the campus. Phone
and computer lines were restored, and office furniture was
improvised so that our work could continue as quickly as
possible. Many volunteers, “old Concordians,” came of their
own volition to help, and it reminded me of the 1022 earthquake. At that time, Principal Chen had us all
work together to restore our campus. Concordia Middle School was built by God’s love. God has not
promised us that the sky would always be blue, and that the flowers would always smell sweet, but He has
promised us that He is with us, and we can trust Him as we face all difficulties and challenges in His strength.
His faithfulness and love will lead Concordia into a promised land flowing with milk and honey.
Among the photos of the fire, there is a picture of “a cross in the ashes.” A twisted window and a tree
poking into it came together to make a cross shape. Looking at this has comforted us during this traumatic
time. Like it says in Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him,
so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Concordia wants to learn humility and grow through this trial.
Principal Huang told the coworkers who gathered immediately after
the fire, “We will have a fresh start.” Isaiah 41:10 says, “So do not
fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will
strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right
hand.” Concordia is a school that was built on God’s promises. I am
confident that in God’s protection, and with the cooperation of all
Concordians, we can continue to walk forward, and shine His light.

Battle for the quiet…

“I love your shoes.” said I to the woman who had rushed to join me in the Orlando Airport Starbucks line at 5:00 am this morning. We had both made the crazy decision to book a flight that left before 7 am – meaning our wake up had been much earlier. Coffee was a must.

In the span of time that it took to order and deliver our precious caffeinated treats I learned the following about my new friend from Denver:

Cute… right?!

Besides having fabulous taste in running shoes (Red SPARKLY Adidas) she has 2 teenage sons. They love baseball and play or train for it year round. The colors of their team are Red, White and Blue – thus explaining the choice of running shoe color and the justification for the $200 price tag. They recently switched to online high school since their grade point averages were hovering around 1.5 and their social choices were suspect. She had run a marathon at Disney World in November and was presently returning from a Rachel Hollis ( Girl Wash Your Face) Conference which she described as Life changing. When my non-fat chai tea and her english grey were delivered I was a bit saddened that we would need to go our separate ways. “Safe travels” she said with a smile and off she went. It was the kind of conversation that lead me to believe we could be friends. The reality is I will probably never see her again.

As an extrovert I live for moments like these. I adore connecting with people – learning their stories and seeking to discover why our paths have crossed. I find the human race fascinating and hold my relationships with others and time with them as one of my all time favorite activities of life. I have found the passion to be stretched a bit though in a world were the opportunities to delve into the lives of loved ones and those we’d like to love has grown exponentially. Over the first 16 days of January I have done much thinking about my need to turn down the volume in my life. On January 3rd I wrote some thoughts that I am processing today as I now sit quietly in my living room after 3 days of intense connect time with my business peers on both business and personal topics. I share them below believing that like me, wether introvert or extrovert, you may be feeling the world a bit loud. What God has reminded me of in this start to 2020 is that I have complete control of the voices I allow in my life. May you be reminded of this too.

Make time for the quiet moments a God whispers and the world is loud.

Jan 3. 2020

We left early. It was too much talking and not enough listening. Not because we didn’t want to….

we just couldn’t hear each other.

It was my 10th high school reunion. A banquet followed by dancing DJ’d by the same man who had lead our high school dances so many years ago. Kind of felt like prom- which is great – if your 17.

I’m pretty sure the DJ, after years of spinning the vinyl had lost some of his capacity to hear. Or at least he thought our 10 years of aging since graduation had caused similar hearing loss.

The music was loud. Sooooo loud. The kind of loud that prohibits  good conversation because you are screaming to be heard. You wonder what words actually hit the ears of the person next to you as they pushed their way through Kool and the Gangs “Celebration.” 

After a couple of hours I looked at Tom and said – I have to leave.  The desire to catch up with old friends would not be met. I felt frustrated and disappointed with expectations unmet.

As I evaluate my current world- I realize it can feel like that high school reunion noise. The amount of voices I have access to increase everyday. I recently heard there are over 50,000 podcasts with thousands more starting each day. I have access to hundreds of lives and hundreds of stories and hundreds of opinions with just one click of access to my social media feeds. It’s just too much. 

The one voice I desperately need to hear is waiting patiently on the sidelines of my life for me to armor up, push through the noise to sit in the quiet with him. 

This is the time of year I am encouraged to set goals and timelines and vision boards for the upcoming 12 months. There are dozens of calendars and life planning systems I could purchase. Business and life coaches that promise if I follow them I will increase my productivity 10 fold. And they may be right. 

But before all the planning, and visioning and proclaiming my claims of an amazing 2020…. I’m going to do one thing…

LISTEN.

I’m going to do the work of battling for the quiet.  To walk away from the noise and the temptation to want to be heard and recognized. It is only then that truth will reign, connections formed and expectations met. 

Jesus settle my restless, overstimulated heart so I can listen to you. 

Sunrise over Orlando at 38,000 feet

Christmas expectations…

26 days ago I decided I would put God to the test. I needed to know that he would meet me with His truth … every single day, despite the extra distractions of a busy holiday season. I needed to know that as I walked through the season of Advent he would prepare my heart in a way that would help me believe he loved me, believe that he was relevant to my life, believe that time seeking him was worth it. I had no idea how I would monitor this… until day 1. I woke up with 2 goals each day.

1. Open up my bible app on my phone to the verse of the day. I guessed it would be a verse pointing to some part of the Christmas story. Read the verse in several versions and journal what God revealed to me in my private notebook.

2. Take a picture of the sun rising over our back yard field at approximately the same time each morning. I had no idea how goal 2 would impact goal 1.

On the morning of day 1 – I did what I always do. Started my coffee, took my probiotics and settled in with my bible app ( biblegateway.com) and my journal. And God showed up. He clearly connected his word with my life… and as many extroverts do… I shared with my friends on social media. Then I snapped a picture of the sunrise.

The social media feed format, the length, the everything was birthed on day 1 – the day I set out to test God. Each morning he met me in his word – gave me a new thought, a new perspective and I shared. I went to bed each night anticipating what his message would be the next day. Both in the communication from his word and his creation.

It wasn’t until day 19 when I understood why I was taking pictures of the sunrises. I have taken dozens of these pictures in the 3 years we’ve lived in our home… but never 25 consecutive days. Here are 11 of my 25 shots…..all from the deck of our Sandia Street Home.

Despite each day looking different – there was one constant. The sun. It ALWAYS came up. Every day for 25 consecutive days – it rose. I have the phone full of pictures to prove it. This didn’t surprise me … I knew it would rise… it wasn’t too much of a stretch for me to ask God to prove this aspect of his glory… but Day 19… Day 19 he showed me why I had been moved to document the east glowing sky….

Day 19…. the verse of the day..Luke 1:76-78 Zechariah is speaking over his new born son John… “And to you I prophesy my little son, you will be known as the prophet of the glorious God. For you will be a fore runner going before the face of the Master, Jesus, to prepare hearts to embrace his ways. You will preach to his people the revelation of Salvation life, the cancellation of all our sins, to bring us back to God.

The splendor light of heaven’s ….

GLORIOUS SUNRISE…. is about the break upon us in holy visitation, all because the merciful heart of our God is so….

very …

tender.. “

Jesus – our GLORIOUS SUNRISE. Oh My.

Never in my life had I heard of our savior described as our GLORIOUS SUNRISE.

Jesus the one who I believed urged me to “test him on this” made clear his presence in his WORD and CREATION. He introduced himself with an entirely new title… GLORIOUS SUNRISE. Is there any wonder that we are all so drawn to the beauty of dawn? Is there any mistake where the awe comes when we stop our car to capture the beauty of a new day?

We are promised that God left himself in the pages of his word – the bible and his Holy Spirit to make himself known. I believe he wants to be clear to us, that he can teach us wether we are sitting in a church pew or on a gymnasium bleacher, or on a tractor, or in a business meeting, or in a hospital room or a family Christmas gathering. There are times that his revelation is glorious and inspiring and other times that it is clouded by tragedy and despair… but he is still there. Constant. Reliable. For All. Just like the Sunrise.

I look back on the time spent seeking God these last 25 days. There is no one that grew more from his daily messages to me than ….me. I am grateful for those of you that shared the message he shared with me impacted you as well. It is a reminder of how God desires his truth to be known… no matter what the media, no matter who the voice.

As we settle in to the ending of a year, a decade… I want to invite you to the test. I challenge you to ask God to show himself to you. I encourage you to expectantly seek him.. daily. What I love so much is that the love that he has for you is already there. It is not dependent on you deciding to begin the pursuit of him. It’s not dependent on what you’ve done in your past or what you promise to do in your future. Its there.. ready.. willing.. to show up, to shine … to bring light to your darkness…. Just like the sunrise.

Come Lord Jesus. Come.

Buy the Pie……

“My mom doesn’t make stuffing.” he said.

“Excuse me? I’m sorry I don’t think I heard you… correctly. Did you just say, your Mom doesn’t make stuffing.” she said – with a bit of fire in her tone.

“Yep. And if she ever did… she never cooked it IN the bird.” he said with much less passion than she, leaving the room clearly not seeing the importance of the topic at hand.

The ‘he’ was my young, handsome husband.

The ‘she’ was his equally young, slightly emotional, trying to transition to new married life wife – or Me.

I can’t believe we never talked about this. In all of the important things you find out about your spouse to determine if they were the ONE… my husband and I had failed to discuss this most important issue…. The Thanksgiving Meal.

Tom and I were headed into our second thanksgiving together. The first one I had hosted – In our small 1 bedroom apartment. My parents came to visit and I made dinner exactly the way it should be. Turkey with a huge side of stuffing, corn bread please.

Cooked ……IN the bird.

Thanksgiving 2016 – Some Michigan friends let us use their condo for our family gathering in MI after we moved away earlier that year. Evidence of our STUFFED bird.

(Don’t judge – I’ve eaten this ALL of my almost 50 years – and I’m alive to share. End of discussion. )

I cooked that first thanksgiving dinner the way my momma taught me. ( I actually never called my mom this but it seemed more appropriate for emphasis, said with a southern twang. Did I mention I grew up in Michigan?

The way my daddy’s momma taught her. ( Nope… didn’t call him daddy either). But my daddys momma – my grandma Hirsch – she was from Texas, her name was Katie Belle and she did indeed have a southern twang. Gosh I loved the way she called me punkin:)

The problem came the first year I didn’t host… and I found out that we weren’t eating stuffing.

I was disappointed and actually a bit offended. (seriously) I just could not understand why a family would not include this important side dish that held not only delicious taste memories in my mind but a lifetime of precious memories in my heart.

Corn bread stuffing. Filled with half a loaf of cornbread, wheat bread, hamburger… no raisins. Placed IN the body of the bird for perfect cooking. The juices from the turkey cook in to the stuffing for a moist, delicious treat . If you’ve had it once you’ll want it again. It didn’t take much convincing that my husband would adapt to my family tradition. We’ve raised our children on corn bread stuffing ( cooked IN the bird). Since they could sit up in a high chair I involved them in the bread tearing process. There isn’t a Thanksgiving to date that I don’t have a picture of them huddled around a bowl full of the delectable ingredients. They have each perfected their own tearing style – some big chunks – others tiny, meticulous pieces. I grew up tearing bread with my sister as my mom prepped the rest of the meal. It was the sign that we were all slowing down, to gather, to make tearing bread a top priority over anything else that could possibly pull our attention. Sometimes we’d have music playing, others it was just quiet conversation or no words at all. We just stood and tore bread anticipating the day that was to come.

Thanksgiving 2017 – Different Michigan friends let us use their home from our family gathering. We hauled the ingredients to make the stuffing. So worth it to see these three together tearing:)

We never lived near family so most of my holiday memories are quiet in nature . This is true for my own childhood as well as my years of raising children. Some years we would venture out to Downtown Detroit for the annual Thanksgiving Day parade. One year of my childhood my dad and a neighbor dad hauled the kids to the inner city in wet, pelting snow to view the parade while the moms stayed home and cooked. It was horrible and wonderful all at the same time.

Tom took our older 2 children several years while baby Brooke and I watched on TV from home. One of the last years we lived in Michigan we attended the parade after worshiping at a beautiful, historic church called Trinity. It was crisp, beautiful and simple. Just the 5 of us. We had torn the bread in advance – so the bird was ready to cook when we returned home

The Detroit Thanksgiving Day Parade
Faithful dad that took the older 2 to the parade – it was COLD!!!

When I think back to my reaction to someones decision to not make stuffing I have often felt surprised, kind of embarrassed about my immaturity. I was really mad and I was certain that Thanksgiving was just not going to be the same. I didn’t understand it, the level of emotion… until…

Right. Now.

Stuffing to me is more then a carb filled side dish. It is a legacy. Its the picture of my grandmother Katie Belle Hirsch tearing bread with her boys Johnny and Norman in a small kitchen in Houston, TX. It is this same woman sharing the recipe with her new daughter in law and receiving the gift when that daughter in law took it and incorporated it into her new family tradition. It is my sister and I standing on chairs and and stools in small kitchens in Brighton MI, and my own children on their own chairs … side by side tearing the bread, me slicing celery and onions..melting boullion cubes in hot water. One generation passing on to another passing on to another passing on to another…. not just ingredients but values….

Family.

Slowing.

Enjoying the process not just the end result.

Good food.

Our Good God.

Gratitude.

Generational Cooking – My mom, my oldest and me. One of my favorite pictures.

So when the announcement came that their would be no stuffing… I grieved. Funny but I did. Actually not so funny….so true. The traditions we make with those we love are powerful, binding and important. The passing on of the corn bread dressing recipe was intentional – at least for me. It was a link that is now 3 generations deep that I wanted to keep going.

As we walk into another Thanksgiving celebration, the bread tearing will look a little different.

Additions: Our home will be full of 6 young adults under 25. I’m so eager to watch 2 of my children pass on the stuffing tradition to 3 Norweigan students celebrating their first Thanksgiving in America and to the girlfriend of my son.

Subtractions: My parents will celebrate at their home in Texas. After a year of much travel they are feeling weary and needing rest. This makes my heart a bit heavy as I watch them move into a slower pace…. I sure do hope my mom has the energy to tear some bread.

Multiplication: My oldest will be with in laws for her first Thanksgiving as a wife. I am so grateful for the new family she is making and the beautiful souls that have impacted her husband. We have not lost a daughter but gained a son and a new crew of incredible people.

Division: Why the bread of course. This will remain the same. I’ll bake a batch of corn bread, pull out the loaf of wheat bread. And it will be torn… and the tradition will live on.

I pray as you head into your week… you hold tight to all that is truly important. That pinterest perfection doesn’t steal your joy. That overindulging on the posts of others wont steal you of the peace right in front of you. That over commitment doesn’t steal the satisfaction that comes from saying ‘ No Thank you.’ That you make time to tear the bread, or play the game, or take the walk, or go to the parade, or worship our Savior – the giver of all things good.

Now….the pie, doesn’t matter to me. I’ll pick that up from Costco for 5.99.

From the Kitchen of Katie Belle Hirsch – my gradma. Sure do wish I knew where she got it… I never asked.