Yet Another Perspective Adjustment

A couple of weeks ago I posted about how I had to adjust my perspective and realize that God was in control of the timing of this move and that He had called us to take a day of rest even thought we thought that if we did that we would never finish the packing in time.

It’s time for another adjustment.  Time to fine tune the focus a little bit more. Actually, a LOT more.

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving. It was the smallest gathering we’ve ever had. Only 3 of the boys were here. We actually had only a third of the family in attendance. I tried not to be disappointed. I tried not to think about this being our last holiday in this house. I tried not to wish that the others were here so it would be a “real” Thanksgiving.

It WAS real. We had a good time. It will be memorable in many ways. First, we got up to a leaking garbage disposal. The old one, installed in 1983 finally rusted through. So, we were trying to get the turkey ready for the roaster and trying not to use the leaking side of the sink for anything. We had to remove all the wet soggy stuff from the cabinet under the sink and put a bucket under the disposal.  It worked, we managed to get the dinner prepared and everything went smoothly. And we were thankful.

Thankful that it was a holiday and so Home Depot wasn’t open and Randy didn’t have to do the repairs that day. He would have felt compelled to do so if he’d had a way to get a new disposal. But he didn’t. Praise God!

We were also thankful that it leaked now. Before we left for Florida. Before Jared had to deal with it alone. God is good. Who would imagine that we could be thankful for a leaking sink?

The second thing that made it memorable was the girls shopping trip. Now, I usually don’t shop on Thanksgiving based on principle. I just don’t want to support businesses that are open that day and are cramming the holidays so close together that you can’t even tell the difference any more. But. The younger girls in attendance at our thanksgiving meal were excited about finding some good deals and were going. I first said no, then changed my mind. It would likely be the last time the 3 of us would have the opportunity for such an outing together. That was more important than the principle. So we left in the pouring rain to go to Michael’s craft store in search of supplies to decorate the house we’re leaving.  We found some great deals and the girls had some really good ideas that would make Jared’s new home nice for Christmas. We got in line to check out and the power went out in the store. The incoming winter storm was beginning to have an effect. We waited for 20 minutes and finally had an employee put the items in our cart on hold to be picked up the next day.  And we were thankful.

Thankful that we had the time to laugh and just be together. It was an adventure we won’t forget. We made it home safely and the items were  picked up the next day without any issues. What if I’d stayed home out of principle? Sometimes you just have to relax your ideals and go with an opportunity that is presented.  I was glad I did.

Finally, the thing that really made me think about my perspective was a phone call we received on Friday.  A friend we’ve know for over 40 years got some terrible news. He will need a very serious surgery this week.  There was very little warning that this was coming. There are no guarantees that life will ever go back to “normal.” He has kids the same ages as mine. Their Thanksgiving weekend looked much different than mine.

And now, as I face what’s ahead of me in the next 2 weeks, I have a choice. I can complain, I can get frustrated, and I can be miserable to live with, allowing the stress of the moment to set my mood. OR I can think about how easy this process is compared to what our friend will be experiencing in the next 2 weeks.

No, my days will not be stress-free. I will likely be exhausted and in need of sleep. But it will be a breeze in comparison. I have asked God to remind  me each time I get irritable that I should put my energy into praying for my friend and his family and not into complaining or grumbling.

If you have a moment, would you join me in praying for my friend? HIs name is John.

Colossians 4:2 “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving,”

 

What Does “Be Thou My Vision” Mean?

Yesterday this hymn was included in our worship service and I was reminded of a piece I wrote about 4 years ago. Here it is. I hope it speaks to you today.

 

Perhaps you are familiar with the old hymn entitled Be Thou My Vision. It was written in the 6th century by an Irish writer named Dallan Forgaill.  It is said that he was so committed to writing poetry and studying literature that it caused him to go blind.  The words to the hymn take on a new meaning when you realize that the writer lost his sight in the pursuit of his passion.

Consider the words of the first verse for a moment.

Be Thou my vision, O lord of my heart; Nought be all else to me, save that Thou art; Thou my best thought, in the day and the night, Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

This, written by a man who had lost his earthly sight but not his spiritual sight. He still knew what was important and chose to ask God for His presence beyond all else. He could have become depressed and lost his passion for writing, instead complaining about his lot in life. But Dallan Forgaill chose the better path; to praise God in all things and to seek His presence continually.

Reading about people like Forgaill inspires me to aim a little higher. To be a little more thankful for what God has done in my life. To adjust my own focus from myself and my challenges to God and His glorious presence.

Here are the rest of the words to this great hymn. Perhaps you might want to listen to it again.

Be Thou my wisdom, be Thou my true word; I ever with Thee, and Thou with me Lord; Thou my Great Father, and I Thy true son; Thou in me dwelling and I with Thee one.

Be Thou my breast-plate, my sword for the fight; Be Thou my armour, and be Thou my might. Thou my soul’s shelter, and Thou my high tower: Raise Thou me Heavenward, O power of my power.

Riches I heed not, nor man`s empty praise, Thou mine inheritance, through all my days: Thou and Thou only, the first in my heart, High King of Heaven, my treasure Thou art.

High King of Heaven when the battle is done, Grant Heaven`s joy to me , bright heaven`s sun! Christ of my own heart, whatever befall, Still be thou my vision, O Ruler of all.

 

 

Could Be Our Last Iowa Snow Storm

October and November have been exceptional. We’ve had perfect weather for packing and getting things at the house ready for the move. Until today.

This morning we woke to a blanket of fresh snow with wind chills in the single digits in the forecast for tonight.  Last night when it began to snow I found myself a little nostalgic. I’ve always been a Midwest Girl. Born and raised in Ohio and now the last 10 years in Iowa. I’ve always enjoyed the changing of seasons.

This morning when I looked outside at the 6+ inches on the ground, I realized it’s possible that I may never see that much snow again. I know, we will still visit Iowa and Ohio…but I can’t say that I will be planning to come during a snow storm.

More likely, I will have to let this season of my life pass just as fall has moved out of the way for winter. The weirdest weather we can experience is when the seasons are changing and you don’t know from one day to the next what it might be like when you get up in the morning. Sometimes it can change in an hour! It’s funny to hear our friends from both Iowa and Ohio talking about how quickly the weather can change in their state.  Having lived in both, I would have to say that Iowa wins that competition.

Sometimes it’s as if the seasons are battling for their place, not wanting to give in when it’s their turn to sit down. The struggle only lasts a little while. Wouldn’t it be awful if the battle never ended and we had to worry about snow in July or 100 degrees in January? Never being able to plan for the weather, never knowing what clothes to have out, never able to enjoy one season at a time?

You know where I’m going with this by now, don’t you?

You’re right. The seasons of life.

I know God has been speaking to me about hanging on. About being hesitant, afraid, just plain dragging my feet. I have to let go of this season and move on. Sometimes it’s a clear division between seasons, like when you get married, or have a child. That is an abrupt change. Sometimes it’s less sudden like for those of us who’s nests are gradually emptying as each child moves on with their lives. One day you look around and realize your house, once full of energy and life, is now quiet much of the time. How did that happen?

So. here I am. Preparing to make a rather abrupt change that will certainly bring many adjustments, the least of which is the climate.  I will be sad to leave the seasons behind. I love the fall and I love having snow for Christmas. I am keenly aware right now of all the Christmas songs that talk about snow and cold and a cozy fire. Don’t they know that much of the world doesn’t have that kind of weather for Christmas? What do they sing about in Australia?

I will learn to love the more subtle seasons of Florida and I will learn to embrace what God has for me in this next season of life. It isn’t going to look anything like I expected it to. If you’d asked me a year ago what I expected my life to look like in 5 years, I would have given you a very different picture…without palm trees.

My prayer is that God will walk me through these changes and give me an anticipation for what’s ahead, looking at the positives instead of what I will be giving up or leaving behind. Sometimes it’s good to leave some things behind.  Just 3 weeks from today and we’ll be leaving the cold behind.  I have to be glad about that!

What Am I Thankful For?

Today I’m thinking about Thanksgiving. It will be the last one in this house and one of the smallest gatherings we’ve ever had. Only 7 of us here while the other 14 will be celebrating in Ohio and Florida. When will we all be together again? So many wonderful memories of celebrations in this house.

I settled years ago that with a family this size, we would not always be together. I determined I would be thankful for each one here and be at peace. If I let myself fret about the ones missing every time we have a holiday I will never be happy.

That being said, this is a particularly difficult holiday season because we will be moving before Christmas and leaving Jared behind. Now I know, he’s a big boy. Actually he’s turned into quite a young man. I am proud of him and feel confident that he will be fine. Still… my mother’s heart has trouble leaving him. It helps a little that he will be living in our house. It feels more like leaving him home instead of leaving him behind.

We’ll certainly have new traditions for Thanksgiving and Christmas in Florida. No sledding on the hill near the baseball fields. No walking in the quite of a fresh blanket of snow. No snowmen with silly faces. Wait, we can make SAND men!  Christmas at the beach is hard to picture but I’m looking forward to the experience.

As for our last Thanksgiving, it’s been interesting that God has been preparing me for this season since January. Back when I was still recovering from my hip surgery, God prompted me to begin keeping a thankfulness book.  I got the idea from Ann Voskamp. She challenged her readers to keep a book of things they were thankful for. The goal was 1000 things for the year 2015.  I got myself a little blank notebook and began keeping a list. Today I wrote in #962. It’s been a good experience for me to be constantly looking for things to be thankful for. And when I am having a particularly challenging day all I need to do is pull out that book and open to a random page and read my list.  I am instantly encouraged. God is so good to me! I have so much to be thankful for!

People Keep Asking About Retirement

It amazes me how many times people have asked if we’re moving to Florida to retire. Now, I know, that is the logical question given that much of the Florida population is retired folks.

So, I have to ask. Do we really look that old??  Mid 50s isn’t old, at least not in my book.

But considering retirement in general, I don’t think we will ever retire. For several reasons. The first is that we chose to live our entire married life on one primary income. I’ve stayed home with my children for 30+ years. It’s been a sacrifice in many ways but one I would make again without hesitation. No, we didn’t have all the luxuries that a dual-income would have provided but we gained so much in other ways.  God provided just what we needed in every circumstance but we don’t have a huge retirement account to just allow us to relax by the pool.

The second reason we probably won’t retire in the broadest sense of the word, is that we have seen too many people who “retire” and then lose their sense of purpose.  Certainly you can retire from your career and still chose to find meaningful things to do, but there is a danger in thinking of retirement as the end of your usefulness. Not true at all.

I was actually wondering about what this next season of life was going to look like for me. After having 2 boys leave home this summer and knowing Alex only has 2 more years of homeschooling, I was trying to figure out what was next. After homeschooling for 26 years, what would my life look like? How would I adjust to being home alone all day when Randy was at work? What would I DO with myself??

Not to worry. God had it all planned out! While my youngest is almost done with his education with me, there are 6 little treasures in Florida who are at the beginning of their homeschooling journey. God knew I wasn’t going to retire from teaching. He is allowing me to do what I had hoped my own mother would do when we began homeschooling.  Our decision to homeschool came in the middle of my mom’s battle with cancer. A battle she lost in January of our first year. I had envisioned her being there alongside me, helping me with projects, going on fieldtrip adventures, finding great books and reading to the boys. It wasn’t meant to be. But now, I have been given the gift of doing for Christine and my grandchildren what Mom would have done for me.  I will be helping to instill a love for learning in the next generation of my family. You can’t imagine what a privilege that is for me.

And Randy thought he was going to be putting his energy into his own business again and God had other plans for him as well. He will be doing something unexpected and very different than what he’s been doing for the past 10 years.

So, no, we aren’t retiring. Not by a longshot. And while we can find may reasons, the biggest one is God’s promise for our future.

Psalm 92: 12-15

The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree, He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon.

Planted in the house of the LORD,They will flourish in the courts of our God.

They will still yield fruit in old age;They shall be full of sap and very green,

To declare that the LORD is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.

Since we aren’t OLD yet, we have plenty of time to see what God has in store for us. The future awaits us and it’s going to be good!

 

When You Turn Inspiration into Action

Have you ever felt like you had great hope for the future but were just stuck in the routine of your “regular” life?  Lots of dreams and possibilities but nothing new ever seems to happen?

Sometimes you know you want to make a decision to do something big but you can’t see it happening so you just keep waiting. I just read something this morning about a couple who had the opportunity to take a short-term missions trip but the wife kept coming up with “reasons” why she couldn’t go. Her husband finally said, “I think you’re going, you just haven’t said yes yet.” You can’t take action until you make a decision to do it!

Sometimes you can read a book or hear a message that has the potential to change your life completely. If you’ll only decide to take action.  Nothing changes when you just talk about it.

When we moved to Iowa we thought we’d taken a huge leap and really, we had. We were moving away from everything we had known for our 4+ decades of life.  We were on an adventure. I remember saying to Randy, “what have we got to lose?” when he asked if he should apply for the job he’s now held for 10 years.

We had some things we would lose, or at least that would change. Namely, relationships.  We left a son and his new bride behind, we left an unborn grandchild, and we also left our extended family and friends we’d had for a lifetime.

It was a huge step of faith for us. What if we’d chickened out and decided not to take the risk?  My, what we would have missed!  God truly made Iowa “home.”  It surprises me just how much home it has become. When we first got here we were so desperately homesick that after 4 months we made a crazy three day trip back to Ohio just because we were so lonely  for the familiar. That was two days of driving and one day to visit. Completely crazy.

But as we are getting ready for this move, which is coming up so fast, I am reminded that even with the homesickness, I wouldn’t trade the last 10 years. And now we get to do it all over again. There are days when Randy and I look at each other over the top of piles of boxes and say, “can we change our minds?” The task is sometimes completely overwhelming. We have long lists of things we need to remember to do. So many details…

Of course, we really don’t want to change our minds. We are very excited about the next chapter of the Maxey story. And we know that our first step in the right direction was to make the decision to go. Now that the decision has been made, all those things that would hold us back don’t seem as powerful as they did before we said, “Yes, we will make this move.”

To be sure, there are still many challenges ahead. Just because we said yes doesn’t mean that the road has suddenly smoothed out in front of us. There are still complications that need to be worked through. There are still difficult goodbyes to be said. Everyone who knows me knows there will also be many tears. It’s just who I am.

But through all of it, we are experiencing some wonderful things. We are sharing the anticipation with those of us on this end, through the packing and planning. And we are also sharing it with those on the other end, as they count the days until our arrival.

And none of it would be happening if we were still just “talking” about the possibilities  instead of making a decision to take action. I believe the Lord gave us this opportunity. I believe He then waited for us to accept His invitation. Now that we have, the future looks pretty good to me!

Isaiah 30:21  And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.

 

Time to Refocus My Perspective

Have you ever felt like someone has planted a microphone in your house?  Yesterday morning I had that thought. Not really, but SOMEONE was listening  to my conversation I had with Randy.

We had decided several weeks ago that we were getting overwhelmed with all the packing and had the feeling we were working from dawn to dusk every day. We were becoming exhausted. We concluded that we needed to make sure we were keeping healthy boundaries with our time and energy so we decided that we would keep Sunday’s as non-packing days.

Then we were gone for 6 days over last weekend. We came home to the need to tend to some other things besides packing. So we felt like we were a week behind.

That lead to the morning’s conversation. We talked about how we knew we’d said we wouldn’t pack on Sunday but given that we’d had so many days off, perhaps we really should try to get something done.

Then we went to church…

Like I said, someone had been listening to our conversation because how else would our pastor know to address this exact issue? Hmmm.

The sermon was about how Sabbath means pause.  How God has given us the gift of rest. Whether we take the gift or not, is up to us. Do I think I know better than God? Do I think that I won’t possibly get everything done if I don’t keep at it even on Sundays?

Even more important, do I believe that God has set the time table for our move? If I do then I must conclude that He already knew what we could accomplish in the time we have and that it could be done without working nonstop. If He, in His infinite wisdom, took a day of rest after creating for 6 days, surely he planned for us to be able to take time to rest too. Even with a deadline that is now  less than 5 weeks away.

So, instead of packing on our day of rest, we enjoyed lunch with friends, helped Jared brainstorm about what colors he wants to paint our house when he moves in and then had dinner with the family. It was a peaceful enjoyable day.

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of rest!

Exodus 33:14 And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

 

Feeling a Little Stuck

I’m definitely feeling stuck. The packing at the beginning was pretty easy. Sorting and putting things into boxes.  I think I was doing it in my sleep for a while too. It’s too bad all those boxes I packed in my head weren’t really packed in my house. I think I’d be done by now. At this point the progress has slowed considerably. It’s becoming harder to figure out what to pack and how to pack it. What should I park for storage? What will I need at Andrew’s? What will I still need to be using for the next 5 weeks?

This morning I was awake at 4:30.  I seem to be doing this more and more.  My brain begins working so early that it’s useless to try to go back to sleep.  So I got up and spent some time reading my devotional books and praying for the day.  Some days I think that is the only really peaceful time I have. The rest of the day is caught up in all the zillions of details that are starting to press in. My motto has become that quote from the Disney movie called Meet the Robinsons, “Keep moving forward.”

I met with a friend yesterday who is also in the midst of preparing for a long-distance move. I think our conversation encouraged both of us and reminded us that we aren’t alone in our feelings. It made me realize that I’m not crazy in how I’m handling all the details. She is having the same struggles.

One of the challenges from this week has been all the appointments and decisions to make about stuff like insurance and banking and transferring doctor’s records. Things that have a great impact but are tedious to attend to. There are so many things we take for granted and suddenly I am having to make decisions about changing so many of those things.

And if my house isn’t already a disaster area, we have the entryway floor torn up in preparation to be replaced. We had it on the list of things to do before winter.  Home projects in this house have never been easy. I think the builders or the previous owners had this hidden agenda to make the future owners lose their minds… slowly…one project at a time.  This particular project started with the simple removal of a layer of vinyl flooring that had cracked and begun to shred from the door catching it. That task was followed by the need to remove a thin sheet of plywood which was covering yet another layer of vinyl which was glued to the subfloor with something…permanent, requiring it to be removed with a chisel. At this stage, I have a partially  removed floor with random staples sticking out here and there. And we are scratching our heads. Three layers? Who does that? No wonder the front door was catching on the flooring.

The good news is that my old self, before the transformation that has been happening over the last 10 years, would have been unable to function with so many things going on. But I rejoice every day now, that I am able to feel a deep sense of peace knowing everything will work out as it needs to. I’ve learned so much about patience and perseverance , from much practice, that I don’t get nearly as ruffled as I used to. The glory goes to God. He has taken me one step at a time from a fretting worrier to someone who knows He has it all in His hands.

Romans 11:33-36  Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! “For who has know the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? ” For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.

God’s Timing is Perfect

We just returned from a 6 day trip to Ohio. That’s 2 days of driving for 4 days of visiting. These short trips are always over in a flash.  This one was no different. There are always so many people we would like to see but just don’t have the time.

This trip was about family, like it usually is. But  with a greater sense of urgency to spend time with people we love. My father turned 80 this year and I can’t figure out how that happened. He doesn’t seem old to me, actually in my mind he is still in his 50s.  Somehow the last 30 years have sped by. We tried to spend as much time as we could with family and then squeezed in a few friends as well.  And I had to make time for the grandchildren!

On our second day there, my  4 year old grandson, Jacob called me on the phone at six in the morning. He wanted to know if he could stay home from preschool and spend the day with me. What a gift!  We had lunch together, searched for eggs from the chickens and then spent half an hour cleaning our shoes.  We played with legos and he chattered about dozens of topics. It was a perfect day and ended with him jumping out of our van and saying, “I had a great day with you Grandma.”

One of the other things we had to accomplish on this trip was to deliver some of Aaron’s and Jason’s belongings that they’d left in Iowa and to pick up a grandfather clock.

Randy build the clock for my parent’s 25th wedding anniversary in 1984. While it was on “the list” of things we would inherit one day, it had stopped working and Dad had decided to give it to us now hoping that Randy would be able to get it running again. While they were loading the clock into the van I was thinking about all the years that had passed since we gave them that clock. So many wonderful memories as well as some very difficult seasons.  And now the clock was moving on to the next generation and would stand guard over many more family gatherings.

As we were traveling back to Iowa, I watched the scenery go by and realized that this would likely be the last time I would ever travel this route. While we will visit family in Iowa and Ohio, we probably won’t have reason to travel between the two. A while back I wrote a piece called Firsts and Lasts about how we often don’t recognize the last time we will do something. With this trip, there was a definite awareness of some “lasts” as well as some wondering about whether other things could perhaps be lasts as well.

We just never know what’s ahead. The only thing we can be sure of is that God’s timing is perfect. If our lives are in His hands, we can rest in the fact that whether it looks like it or not, the time line is also in His control. We’ve talked many times about how this Florida move is a few years late. My grandpa lived in Florida for more than 30 years, why couldn’t we have moved there while he was still alive? He would have been so happy to have family there with him. Why did everything wait until 2 years after he’d died?  It’s easy to get caught up in wondering why things didn’t work out differently. But I think that robs of us the joy of whatever season we’re in. We can’t change the past, and we are really not in control of the future either.

We really do need to be mindful of the verse in Ecclesiastes that says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time.”  (Eccl 3:11)

 

 

New Meaning for Buying in Bulk

We are definitely causing a few raised eyebrows.  And more than one person is “concerned that we are taking on way more than we can handle.”

First of all, when you following the Lord, you will ALWAYS be taking on more than you can handle. How else will He get the glory when it’s all said and done?

And secondly, if you are constantly worried about appearing foolish you will likely miss a lot of the blessings God has for you because you never take any risks.

With this move, we are definitely taking on more than we can handle and I’m sure there has been someone who has made the determination that we are being plenty foolish. But we didn’t make this decision until we were sure that we were sure.

When we finally decided that we were definitely moving, our son Josh said that he and his wife Maggie had been thinking about the same thing. This was sort of funny because he had been of the same mind as Randy about Florida. In fact, when we got home from our May trip, he said, “Just so you know. We will NOT be moving to Florida if that’s what you decide to do.”  It’s amazing how quickly God can change our hearts if we are willing.

So now the plans have been settled. The moving truck has been reserved and we are just six weeks from heading south. Randy will drive a 27 foot truck with a Toyota Camry towed behind. Josh and Maggie will be in their car and Alex and I in our van. We will take three days to make the trip. We’re praying for good weather and will be grateful for every mile further south and away from the threat of ice or snow.

And when we arrive?  There will be 14 people living under one roof. For how long? Who knows? Only God.  Can you imagine the trips to Costco? It’s a good thing we’ve been a large family for a long time and are used to this sort of thing. Back in the days when my boys were growing up they went through 16 gallons of milk every week. We should have had a cow.

This houseful will be much like it used to be for us. Raising 7 boys taught us a lot of lessons. Lessons about organizing time and resources. Lessons about giving up our own agenda and learning to serve one another. Lessons about making family come first.

It looks like we will be demonstrating these lessons learned for the next generation. I am excited to see what my grandchildren learn about surrendering self-centered ideals in order to bless the family. And I’m sure I and some other adults in the household will benefit from a refresher course.

We will certainly be buying food and other necessary items in bulk. Cooking and laundry will be a large scale operation. And showers will have to be scheduled to avoid running out of hot water. It will take two vehicles to go to church every week and to go any place together.

And you know what else I am praying will be delivered in bulk quantities?  Patience, love, forgiveness, laughter, and the opportunities to serve one another. No doubt we will have our challenges but the good we stand to gain and the memories we will make will be things to treasure.  And the glory will go to God.