but wait, there’s more!

“From first to last it was crowded with delights.” LM Montgomery

My go-get-’em daughter Grace is on the hunt for a college and she made the decision to go to a Christian one.  Weeks ago, it came to my mind that perhaps she would enjoy a college that was very familiar to me as it was a popular option for church students in the area that I grew up.  In fact, my father took a few classes there, and Rich’s aunt also attended.

I was especially excited about it because my dear friend Joanna (who is mentioned on this blog about a thousand times) lives not far from the school.  So I thought, “Wouldn’t it be neat to visit the college with Grace and then get to see Joanna?”

We went on their website and chose a date to visit:  November 11th.  Conveniently, this was a vacation day for Grace from school.  I emailed Joanna to see if she would be in town that day.

BUT WAIT, there’s more!  Not only was she in town, but she was SPEAKING at a ladies conference and asked if Grace and I would like to go with her.  Of course we would!

About a week later, as I was preparing our trip details, it came to my knowledge that…..

BUT WAIT, THERE’s more!  My son Ethan (who is a Freshman at a college in Vermont) was going to be IN THE SAME AREA for a wrestling tournament!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

What???? are the odds?  The tournament was on the same day as the conference so I was conflicted.  After thinking about how to solve this problem, I thought that perhaps Ethan’s girlfriend would like to come along with us.  SHE could surprise Ethan by showing up at his meet and that way I wouldn’t feel bad for being at a Bible conference while my son was literally only 30 minutes away from me (my heart!).

So, eventually, I received a “yes”from Tessa, but she asked if maybe David could go along as well, so she wouldn’t have to hang around at the gym alone.

Our little trip now included two extra teenagers=the more the merrier!  I made reservations at a hotel situated in between both events and had good reviews, and a reasonable price.

We headed out of town in the darkness of 4:30 a.m. on Friday morning.

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Grace was blessed over and over by the people of this school, and during the tour she was shown many things to be excited about.  She enjoyed every minute.

BUT WAIT, THERE’s more!

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While we were sitting in the dorm listening to our tour guide explain dorm life, a familiar face walked by.  I recognized this young lady as the daughter of an old friend of mine!   It was a joy to see and speak with her, and for Grace as well, especially after realizing she was the cousin of her friend Kyle and a best friend of her cousins.  “It’s a small world” & “church connections” are the best!

Our tour at the school was over at 3:30. Joyfully, Joanna was able to finish up her work and texted me to ask if we could go to her house for pizza dinner.  This was another unexpected blessing: to be able to see her entire wonderful family, see the things she’s done in her home since the last time I was there, and also allow Grace and Dave to meet her husband and children.

Before we went to her house, we decided to head to our hotel to relax for an hour.  We checked into our room and dove on the beds, each of us with our own electronic device.

But wait, there’s more!  I checked our group text (between my husband, myself, and our three oldest) and saw that Rich had questioned Ethan about where the wrestling team was staying that night.  We hadn’t asked him before because we didn’t want him to become suspicious about us going to his tournament.

GUESS WHAT????????  The team was driving to our VERY SAME HOTEL to spend the night!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  You can imagine the squeal of shock as I leapt out of bed in my joy.  Tessa and I were beyond amazed and thrilled to learn that we would actually SEE ETHAN THAT VERY NIGHT!

You have to realize, we were in a very populated area in PA, there are probably one hundred hotel options, and God put us in the SAME EXACT ONE!

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WITH MY FRIEND AGAIN!!!!!!!!!!!!! after two years!

love you, Josephina!  🙂

Steve and the kids were just the sweetest and nicest and we had delicious pizza together before heading back to the hotel.

Using the handy dandy “find my phone” feature on our iPhones Rich was able to let me know when Ethan’s bus was within 10 minutes of the hotel.  Grace and I sat in the lobby, and I was still in denial that this whole thing was happening.  I felt like “I’ll believe he is truly staying in this hotel when I see the bus pull up.”

AND IT DID!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Grace ran off to get Tessa for Ethan’s surprise #2 and I wasn’t aware of it so I didn’t get that one on video.  But he was thrilled to say the least.  After the team settled into their rooms, Ethan was able to come back to us and we were able to see each other until almost 11pm.

The next morning, I drove Dave and Tessa to the college to watch the wrestling tournament.  Grace and I continued on to Joanna’s house.  We picked her up and had time to go through Dunkin’ drive thru for tea, and then to the church where Joanna was one of three women speakers.

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Right off the bat, my soul was being soothed by the songs, the women, and the atmosphere.  It was just what we needed to make this weekend away from home PERFECT.

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And to see my daughter and my dearest friend together…..Bibles open…..learning, growing, singing praises, loving…..it was such a gift.  God ministered to me and my children over and over in the most tangible ways.  It was overwhelming, to say the least.  I’m still feeling the adrenaline rush as I type.

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Joanna’s talk was Christ centered and soulful, I was in tears.  One of the stories she told was about the time she and her husband adopted their daughter from Ethiopia, and how moving it was to be able to take the orphanage clothes off her new baby, and, as her new mama, to dress her in a handmade, beautifully smocked dress (made just for her by dear Dawn).  This continues to serve as a beautiful reminder to her of the very same way that God clothes us as His dearly beloved children, showing us that we belong to Him.

She even had the dress with her to hold up and show the women.  Tears!

(Dawn made Sarah Joy a dress with the same pattern)

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sisters in Christ, friends for over twenty years, soul sisters, always and forever

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Joanna came with Grace and me to the remainder of the wrestling tournament.  This was the first meet she had ever watched, and it was fun to share with her something that is a HUGE part of my life each winter.  We had missed out on Ethan’s two matches but Tessa was kind enough to record them for us.  He lost his first match by points, and won the second by a pin.

I was able to meet one of the other moms of the team, and two of the coaches as well.  It was fun to watch the matches and it made me excited for the upcoming wrestling season for my younger boys.

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The meet ended and we took a few photos before Ethan got on the bus for Vermont.

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(David took a 2 hour nap in the hallway during the meet, LOL)  And Grace (although you can’t tell) was in tears and starting to feel shaky and sick.  The excitement was starting to catch up to her.

So Joanna and I dropped them off at the hotel and the two of us were able to go out to eat.  She took me to a Greek place that she and Steve go to on their dates. (Thank you to Steve for the suggestion!)

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You can just imagine all the talking we did.

I took her home and continued back to my hotel room, completely filled up with the goodness of the day.

The next morning we allowed ourselves to sleep in a little.  We left by 9 and made a stop at Krispy Kreme donuts before entering the highway for the three and a half hour drive home.

This post doesn’t even begin to describe all the ways God blesses our lives.  But it does give a taste of how what we think will be an ordinary life can become abundantly and richly touched by His hand.  It was a *praise and thank you Jesus* sort of weekend!  And it is a *praise and thank you Jesus sort of life* for all those who believe on His name.

“May the Lord bless you and protect you.  May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.”  Numbers 6:24-25

But there are also many other things which Jesus did–so vast a number indeed that if they were all described in detail, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would have to be written.  John 21:25

 

 

 

sweetest name I know

Let me tell you about the sweetest name I know.

Recently, a little booklet of printouts came home from school with my Kindergartener.   It was titled, “Happy Holidays Throughout the World” and on page one I read this:

“Christmas is a holiday celebrated by members of the Christian faith around the world.  This is a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, who Christians believe is the Son of God.”

His powerful NAME IS in the schools, my friends.  He is there in the printed word and in the hearts of those who love him and are serving our children as teachers and helpers.  He is in the hearts of the children who trust in Him.

*****

Yesterday I took Sarah Joy to the library and we went straight to the Christmas books.  I pulled the books out halfway and dear little Sarah judged them by their covers.  We came home with an armful of new books to read.  One of them had a picture of Santa reading a book to a lap-full of children and elves.  It was titled The Christmas Book of Hope and I read it to Sarah this morning.

“His parents were sick, there was hardly any food, and no joy was found in Timothy’s house as Christmas drew near.  Every night he would pray to Jesus for help, but things seemed so hopeless to Timothy……….”

“…….Later that evening, Santa came down the chimney into Timothy’s house, and sitting by the fire were Timothy and his parents.  ‘Oh Santa, cried Timothy, ‘My parents are getting better!  I think Jesus heard my prayers!’

In the story, one of Santa’s elves wrote Timothy a book of hope, which included this point:  “Most importantly, if you believe in Jesus, God will take care of you, especially when times are bad.”

Ironically, I read in a Santa Claus book for children, pulled from our public library, the hope of the world….is Jesus.

(By the way, I don’t believe Santa is any competition for Jesus at Christmas.  Jesus wins by far, which is the reason why I don’t make it my mission in life to eliminate Santa from my family at Christmas time.)

*****

I’ve recently had a few days of stress, and what the Lord impressed upon my mind most of all was that Jesus was near, He was around me, comforting me, caring for me, loving me sweetly and gently.  He opened my eyes to the abundant life He has given me and I thanked Him.

When I’m stressed out I start to accuse God of not caring enough to make my problems magically vanish away.  This is the worst way to deal with problems because the Bible says that everything that happens to a Christian, good or bad, is a planned and purposeful journey for the GOOD of that particular person.   If I accuse God, it is treachery to the Very One Who cares for me most of all.

The belief that my faith will give me a perfectly smooth life free from trouble will only cause anxiety in my soul when the stresses of life started pulling me down, down, down.

Truly, life is hard, and there are terribly sad times in life, but the thing about faith in Christ is that He makes the hard parts supernaturally more bearable, because His grace is sufficient and His power is incredible.  Jesus is made great and His name is glorified in my weaknesses.  For a believer, the peace and comfort that comes from this faith is amazing and comforting.  I can let go of the things I cannot control and trust God.

It’s not easy because I am not perfect and there are times of tempting when Satan wants me to doubt my Savior and give up on this beautiful life that seems so pointless at the time.  But I have to correct my negative thinking to truth.  A good question to ask yourself when you’re thinking a negative thought is:  “What is the truth?”  And answer that question honestly with the Word of God.

Never blame God for things.  Thank Him for his care in your life because without Jesus we would be much much worse off.  We would be on the path to certain destruction.

One of the downfalls of an affluent society is that we become spoiled and proud without even realizing it.  We lose our feeling of need.  My greatest need was for my sin to be washed away, and that was dealt with by the grace of God many years ago.  But, personally, I am thankful as I continue to wrestle with my greatest struggles of stress and anxiety, and depression ONLY because it gives me a reason to fall on my face before Christ, ready and waiting for his arms around me to become reality in my soul again.  He always tenderly cares for his precious children but how can we realize and thank Him unless we have an idea of our utter dependence?

The Bible says that Jesus said these words to His disciples:  “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  Matthew 11:29

I love this Scripture because so often we think we need a complex Bible Study, or theological studies that go beyond the simplicity of simply studying Christ Himself.  (the study of Christ is the most profound of all.)  I believe we should always start everything with a deep and appreciative look at Jesus, our Savior, our Everything.

Over the last few days, I’ve been reading an old favorite book that does an amazing job at explaining the expressions of love that Christ extends to His followers.

A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, by Phillip Keller  (highly recommended)

“We live a most uncertain life.  Any hour can bring disaster, danger and distress from unknown quarters.  Life is full of hazards.  No one can tell what a day will produce in new trouble.  We live either in a sense of anxiety, fear and foreboding, or in a sense of quiet rest.  Which is it?

“Generally it is the ‘unknown,’ the ‘unexpected,’ that produces the greatest panic.  It is in the grip of fear that most of us are unable to cope with the cruel circumstances and harsh complexities of life.  We feel they are foes which endanger our tranquility.  Often our first impulse is simply to get up and run from them.

“Then in the midst of our misfortunes there suddenly comes the awareness that He, the Christ, the Good Shepherd is there.  It makes all the difference.  His presence in the picture throws a different light on the whole scene.  Suddenly things are not half so black or nearly so terrifying.  The outlook changes and there is hope.  I find myself delivered from fear.  Rest returns and I can relax.

“This has come to me again and again as I grow older.  It is the knowledge that my Master, my Friend, my Owner has things under control even when they may appear calamitous.  This gives me great consolation, repose, and rest.  ‘Now I lay me down to sleep, for Thou God keepest me.’

“It is the special office work of God’s gracious Spirit to convey this sense of Christ to our fearful hearts.  He comes quietly to reassure us that Christ Himself is aware of our dilemma and deeply involved in it with us.  And it is in fact in this assurance that we rest and relax.”

*****

I titled this post “sweetest name I know” because even saying the very name “Jesus” is a sweet prayer of need to a believer.  Jesus tenderly cares for His much-loved children.  He has blessing and comfort for us, hands that reach out, no harshness, no judging, only pure and perfect love is in His eyes.  His disciples leaned against his breast, and that is what we may do as well.

“Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved.”

What a picture of closeness, and security!

Sometimes, to get a sense of the love Jesus has for me, I imagine the person I feel safest with next to me in the room.  Who do I feel the most love and comfort from?  My husband comes to my mind, my parents, trusted friends and family members who have always accepted me no matter what, who would hold and carry me through difficulties, laugh, cry, talk, care about me, ….I think of these people and then realize that Jesus loves me just as they do, but EVEN MORE, FAR MORE than we could even imagine.

There’s within my heart a melody
Jesus whispers sweet and low:
Fear not, I am with thee, peace be still,
in all of life’s ebb and flow.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,
sweetest name I know,
fills my every longing,
keeps me singing as I go.

Luther Bridgers (1884-1948)

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