Sunday, May 31, 2020

There Is a Land of Pure Delight


At a quaint farmhouse back a long lane.  



I joined four friends for a writers' retreat this week.


Hours of conversation.


Amazing food such as a Belizian brunch.


Fragrant springtime blooms.


Solitude in God's stunning beauty.


I returned from those three days feeling refreshed down to my soul. I have never had an experience quite like it, and I'm still pinching myself to see if I was dreaming.


But now glad to join my favorite people again.

A retreat like this reminds me of how blessed I am. Yes, there are hard moments in my daily life, but I've been given so much joy. I don't even need to get away to experience friendship and love and beauty; I find it every day. 

Days like these with brilliant blue sky and puffy white clouds and smiling little girls are when I mourn for all that Ed lost. I wish he could be enjoying these blessings for a few more decades. 

But is that the right perspective? Ed never mourned for himself; it was always the pain of others that grieved him.

I want to enjoy the blessings God gives me to the fullest, but I don't think I need to pity Ed for missing springtime. I truly want to believe that "the best is yet to come.' And Ed got a head start.

This morning I was flipping through the hymnal and chanced upon this song. If I could stand with Moses, or Ed, I don't think I'd compare the delights of heaven to a May day in Pennsylvania. 

There Is a Land of Pure Delight
by Isaac Watts 
Hymns of the Church #988

There is a land of pure delight, 
Where saints immortal reign;
Eternal day excludes the night, 
And pleasures banish pain.
There everlasting spring abides, 
And never with'ring flow'rs;
Death, like a narrow sea, divides
This heav'nly land from ours.

Sweet fields beyond the swelling flood
Stand dressed in living green;
So to the Jews old Canaan stood,
While Jordan rolled between.
But tim'rous mortals start and shrink
To cross this narrow sea,
And linger, trembling on the brink,
And fear to launch away.

O, could we make our doubts remove,
Those gloomy doubts that rise,
And see the Canaan that we love, 
With unbeclouded eyes!
Could we but climb where Moses stood, 
And view the landscape o'er,
Not Jordan's stream, nor death's cold flood, 
Should fright us from the shore.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

God Himself Is Present

Wherever you are worshiping today, whether at church or at home, God is present. Jesus was called Emmanuel, God With Us.

This hymn has been a favorite for several years. Not only does it remind me of the presence of God in my own life, but it calls me to surrender.

God Himself Is Present
by Gerhard Tersteegen
Hymns of the Church #135

God Himself is with us:
Let us now adore Him,
And with awe appear before Him.
God is in His temple,
All within keep silence,
Prostrate lie with deepest reverence.
Him alone God we own,
Him our God and Savior;
Praise His name forever.
God Himself is with us:
Hear the harps resounding!
See the crowds the throne surrounding!
Holy, holy, holy,
Hear the hymn ascending,
Angels, saints, their voices blending!
Bow Thine ear to us here:
Hear, O Christ, the praises
That Thy church now raises.
O Thou fount of blessing,
Purify my spirit;
Trusting only in Thy merit,
Like the holy angels
Who behold Thy glory,
May I ceaselessly adore Thee,
Let Thy will Ever still
Rule Thy Church terrestrial
As the hosts celestial.

Gladly we surrender
Earth's deceitful treasures,
Pride of life, and sinful pleasures:
Gladly Lord, we offer
Thine to be forever, 
Soul and life and each endeavor.
Thou alone
Shalt be known
Lord of all our being,
Life's true way decreeing.
Amen.

Click over to the blog to view the video if you are reading this by email.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Well Done

This weekend marks one year since Ed's death. I thought about sharing one of Ed's favorite songs or maybe one of the hymns we sang at his funeral, but instead I'm sharing a song that I don't think Ed ever heard.

I first heard it sung this winter for Clayton Shenk by his school students. In the months since then, our family has listened to this song so often that even my little girls can be heard singing it.

I miss Ed every day, but when I listen to Well Done I can't wish him back.

If reading this by email, click over to the blog to hear the song.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Quarantine Family Challenges

At the end of March, when quarantine was just beginning, I was chatting with my youngest brother and sister about the coming weeks. We knew that without social events, the children would need activities to stay busy. We wanted ways to connect as a family, even if we couldn't get together. We decided to face these challenging times with some intentional challenges.

And so began our Quarantine Family Challenges, now on their seventh week.

Each weekend, myself or one of my siblings, set several challenges and messaged them to the rest of the family.


 Frying fresh-caught trout

Sometimes the goal of a challenge was to spend more time outdoors.
Identify five wild flowers or plants.
See how many different birds you can identify this week.
Plant a tree or bush in memory of COVID-19
Camp overnight in your backyard
Find something in the wild and eat it
Find the North Star.
Remember the Lord's faithfulness while watching a sunrise

Running a 5k

Some challenges encouraged us to get more exercise.
Take a walk and smell a flower
Run or walk 5 km in place of the Red Bud Trail Run and post your time
Bike 5 miles
Play a family game of kickball or croquet

Some challenges prompted family laughter
Act out a Bible story.
Take a family picture in a tree.
Record and share a family vlog about life under quarantine

A few of the challenges led us to learn or try new things.
Learn about a country that you previously knew nothing about.
Upcycle any object.
Make something you've never made before
Learn a new song on an instrument (if you play one)
Log your first Geocache find
Memorize a new Scripture verse

Planting a new bush

Some challenges encouraged us to reach out to others.
Call an older person
Share food with your neighbor
Send a letter/card to an elderly person
Some challenges were challenging (at least for a few of us).
Whistle a tune with somebody in harmony.
The whole family do a day without Internet or data
Write a line of poetry
Try a day with no arguing among siblings.

The Quarantines Family Challenges have met all their goals. It has pushed us to do and try new things, gave us a connection with family even from a distance, and provided a needed focus to unscheduled days.

Many of us find that we are stronger together. This is true all the time, not just during a quarantine. If you have a goal that you want to pursue, find a way to be accountable.

Here are some examples, all of which can be done while not meeting face-to-face:

  • When I wanted to get to bed earlier a few months ago, I texted a friend each night when I turned out the light. 
  • A few years ago, a friend and I had one day a week that we read nothing but our Bible - no books, no magazines, no internet. I couldn't have done it alone, but I could with a friend.
  • One of my friends has a daily writing goal. Each evening she texts a friend to tell her if she met her goal.
  • Another friend who wanted to be more consistent in Bible reading, texted a friend every day with the reference that she read.
  • Last month, my sister bought identical copies of four books and sent them to my daughter and a friend. After they read the book, the three has a discussion about the book by email.

Whether you goal is to more reading, exercise, weight loss, decluttering, or practice an instrument - if you tell a friend about your goal and set a way to regularly check in, you are much more likely to make your goal.

Have you made any quarantine goals? What ways did you find to connect with family and friends?

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Let Their Be Light

As a mom of six, I sometimes crave solitude. But weekends like this, I realize that even though I wish for quiet some days, I thrive on interaction with people.

COVID-19 scrapped my social calendar, and I've missed seeing friends and going to church. But I have enjoyed the less stressful weekends and quiet Sunday mornings. I still have a loud and busy household, and I'm never bored for a minute, but it is nice to not to watch the clock and rush.

But this weekend was fuller than any for the last two months. And even though I had no down time, I loved it. Here is a glimpse of the blessings, in  no particular order.


1. Great food. I made a triple mammoth batch of pasta salad. I love chopping veggies, especially a lovely variety like this. But I also enjoyed grilled pizza Saturday night and a delightful Sunday breakfast of caramel apple coffee cake and omelets, both meals made by my children and brother and sister.


2. Time spent with favorite people in the outdoors. We geocached for several hours this afternoon. We chose harder caches which means we didn't find many, but the weather was amazing, especially after snow flurries yesterday. We even hiked to my favorite stream. I love how little girls delight in simple pleasures like throwing stones in water and watching the splash.



3. Laughter shared because of silly family challenges. I'll tell you more about these later this week.




4. Counting blessings. Yesterday we helped serve a community meal. Time spent with the homeless has a way of making me realize how blessed I am. This afternoon I chatted with a young mom at the park. She looked ready to cry and in a few minutes she dumped out her despair and asked me what she should do. And she was seriously desperate enough that she was asking me, a stranger for advice. I didn't have any solutions, but I hope that just listening to her helped. She found out that I too was a single mom and asked me blunt questions on how I survived financially. How could I tell her that I've been so well supported that I have no financial stress when she has absolutely no one and is in danger of becoming homeless with three little children?

I  know that Mother's Day is hard for many people, like this mom. Sometimes it highlights crushed dreams or disappointments or personal failures.

This year might be even harder for many. Some mothers have had their days stretched to the breaking with 24/7 care of their children. Add in financial or health or political worries, a many don't have a rosy picture to share about their weekend.

I wanted to share a hymn today about peace, but since we were busy, it is now late Sunday night before I'm sharing this.

"Let Their Be Light" is my prayer for our community, and our country, and our world. I think that COVID-19 is a chance for another Great Awakening - a time for revival in the church and in the world. But I fear that worry, and bitterness, and fighting will destroy the opportunity. I'm praying for humility and surrender to God in my own heart and in the hearts of all God's people so we can reach out to hurting people with the hope of Jesus Christ.

Let There Be Light
William M. Vories
Hymns of the Church #778

Let there be light, Lord God of hosts,
Let there be wisdom on the earth;
Let broad humanity have birth,
Let there be deeds, instead of boasts.
Within our passioned hearts instill
The calm that endeth strain and strife;
Make us thy ministers of life;
Purge us from lusts that curse and kill.
Give us the peace of vision clear
To see our brothers’ good our own,
To joy and suffer not alone,
The love that casteth out all fear.
Let woe and waste of warfare cease,
That useful labor yet may build
Its homes with love and laughter filled;
God give thy wayward children peace.

(If you are viewing by email you may need to click over to the blog to view the video of this song.)

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Geocaching

In March, when the events on our calendar were being canceled. I asked the children to brainstorm things we could do just as a family.

One of the children suggested geo-caching.


Geo-caching is sort of a treasure hunt. People hide a small box containing a log sheet and then list the gps coordinates on an online site at geocaching.com.

Six years ago, Ed introduced the children to geocaching. We had found dozens of caches (57 to be exact) over the next year or two. We scoured our local area for caches, and every time we traveled, we searched for geocaches. We found that geocaching made taking a walk or bike ride a lot more fun.

But somehow we had stopped geocaching. Ed got a new phone and never downloaded the geocaching app, and we moved on to other pursuits.


But a quarantine seemed the perfect time to get back into geocaching. Just minutes from our house, someone had put quite a few new geocaches in recent months. Three Sunday afternoons have found us walking down the streets of our small town and poking through cemeteries looking for geocaches. I discovered scenic spots that I've driven by for years.


Ed had planned to build some of his own caches after he had experience finding a few. It is suggested that you find 100 caches before building your own. We are now up to 70 caches so my goal is to get to 100 by the end of summer and then build our own caches in memory of Ed.


If you need an excuse to take a walk, try geocaching. The app downloads easily and besides a phone, all you need is walking shoes and a pencil to sign the logbook. Geocaches can be found all over the world so unless you are in a very rural area, you probably have some close to you.

Have you tried geocaching?

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Who Shall I Fear?

When I was a teen, I was on a trip with several other girls. One of my friends was reading Psalm 91 every single day. That was the first time I thought about the power of reading the same passage over and over again for an extended time. 

In the years since then there have been numerous passages I have read over and over and over again, usually because I'm helping my children memorize them. My method of teaching Bible memory is to choose a passage and read it every day for months until we all know it by memory. 

Psalm 91 was the passage that we had learned in the months before Ed's cancer diagnosis. I was so grateful that we had that passage embedded before we hit a crisis. 

Last fall, when we took our trip to Ontario with my brother, we picked Psalm 27 as our passage to learn on our trip. We completed the chapter in the months following. This spring, I've been hearing these verses echo in my mind as we've faced the uncertainties of Covid-19. 

Psalm 27 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell.Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple.For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the Lord.Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me.When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation.When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.Teach me thy way, O Lord, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies.Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies: for false witnesses are risen up against me, and such as breathe out cruelty.I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.

The first few verses of Psalm 27 has been made into a beautiful choral song.

(If reading this by email, you may need to click over to the blog to watch the video.)



I'd love to hear what Psalms have been meaningful to you this spring.

And maybe you want to choose a passage such as Psalm 27 or 91 as your Covid-19 Scripture and read it every day. It will be time well-spent.

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