Friends For This Life and the Next

Back in December I wrote a post where I made this statement:

The real friends you make in your life will always be with you, no matter where you live. The miles or the years make no difference. (read the rest of that post here.)

This weekend we had the opportunity to spend some time with some friends from Iowa. These friends are relatively new to our lives, just a couple of years, but we’ve bonded in a special way. God does that sort of thing.

When we received the call asking if we could transport them from the airport to the dock where they would board their cruise ship we were thrilled to agree. So a week ago we drove them the half hour from the airport to the ship port and then yesterday we did the trip in reverse with a slight detour for lunch. We had a wonderful time just visiting as friends. The location for lunch was chosen spontaneously. No need to pick the right place to impress anyone, no agenda, no real plan except to be at the airport on time.  It was a very relaxing visit with much laughter and many words of encouragement shared.

What a blessing to have friends that you can just be yourself with. Those are the friends for life. You can’t help but be encouraged when you get the opportunity to be together, even for a short time.  And isn’t that what God intended friendship to be? A true source of encouragement.

I have already written more emails and letters in the last month than I have in a very long time.  I have chosen to be intentional about keeping connected to those who have become a part of my life.  For 10 years we have done this with the friends we left in Ohio, now we add more precious folks from Iowa to our circle.  We are so blessed!

Some of our special friends have gone on to their Heavenly homes and it is also a blessing to know we’ll be together again one day. And what a reunion that will be!

Sometimes you have friends who are in need and you do whatever you can to help them. We saw that kind of outpouring of love when we were preparing to move.  Many friends came to offer their help and encouragement. It meant so much to us.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.

Can I ask you to pray for a friend of mine? We have friends we have known for over 30 years who are in a difficult time in their lives. We haven’t seen them in many years, but we share many memories and feel connected to them even today.  Four years ago they lost everything in a fire.  They have spent those years rebuilding their lives only to lose it all again to yet a second house fire this past week.  I can’t imagine what they are experiencing. My heart aches for their family.  If you would add Steve and Lyn North to your prayer list I would be grateful.  And if you are interested in helping in a tangible way or just reading about the incredible work God has allowed Steve to be part of in Toledo, Ohio you can get more information by clicking on the following links.

Lifeline Toledo

Help the Norths

 

Family Chemistry – The Balance of Relationships

Our home has a different feel to it.  Our normal household of fifteen has been reduced to only eleven for the next few days.  Two of the children are staying with their other grandparents and Andrew and Christine are away for a much deserved adventure for a couple of days. That leaves us with four children to care for. So far things have gone amazingly well.  The little one went down for a nap without a bit of resistance and the younger boys took naps without fussing too. That left just one little boy who was completely engrossed in Legos and having a wonderful time not having to share with anyone!

It’s amazing to me how the chemistry of a household feels so different when just one or a few are missing. You’d think that with this many people we wouldn’t even notice their absence but it’s not true.

We have already formed a family bond that is strong. It has always been strong, but putting all of us in the same house has already caused growth and a sense of strength that only comes as the fibers of family become even more firmly braided together.  We feel it when even one is missing.

With such a big family, we often have to resort to a head count to make sure we have everyone when we are out somewhere. When we get into the van it’s common to hear Andrew doing a roll call with each child responding, even tiny Gwendallyn who proudly answers “Yeah!” when she hears her name. But even before a count is done, you can sometimes just feel that someone is missing. There is a disruption in the chemistry if you will.  And sure enough, when you do take attendance, you find someone indeed is missing. Fortunately, it’s usually an adult and not a child!

It makes me think of the parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15. The story says that if the shepherd loses one sheep he leaves the ninety-nine and goes to look for the one. If he had ninety-nine sheep would he count each one before he knows if one is missing or does he just have a feeling everyone isn’t accounted for? Does he just know the chemistry of the flock isn’t right?

I think He just knows, like we know when we do our head count.  We can feel it. So can He. Each sheep is that important that their absence is immediately felt.  He takes His title of shepherd very seriously.  Even to the point of dying in order to bring His sheep to safety.  It’s more than my little brain can comprehend.

John 10:14-15  “I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.

 

 

 

 

Starting to Think Like a Floridian Instead of a Tourist

Well, it’s starting to happen.  Yesterday we went to the beach to watch the sunset, the photo with this post is one I snapped with my phone.  It was a beautiful sunny day but it was cool and the wind was brisk.  I had my jacket hood pulled tight around my head and was glad I had several layers of clothing on.

You who live in the north are surely laughing at the thought of me being chilly while you are freezing!  I’m sorry for that, I wish you could all be here with me. We could have a wonderful beach party at 60 degrees and you would be happy about those temperatures!

While Randy and I stood watching the higher than normal surf and the shore birds trying desperately to outrun the waves, we also observed a few….tourists.  They were dressed in shorts and tee shirts. Barefoot, they were running in and out of the surf taking pictures with their phones and trying to smile while I am sure they were shivering.  But, they were here on vacation and no matter the weather, they were going to swim and enjoy it.

And as we watched them, I realized that I had moved away from the tourist perspective. I was enjoying the sunset, but being in the water could wait for another day since I knew there would be one.  I knew that, barring an unforeseen circumstance, I would be here another day and could look forward to enjoying sinking my toes into the sand and feeling the gentle waves coaxing me into the sea.

That made me think about how I view this life.  We are really here, on planet earth, for such a short time. And while we might not view it as a vacation, we certainly have a limited amount of time to enjoy the creation God has given us. I made the decision to try to be more aware of my surroundings. More thankful for what God allows me to experience.  One thing I was thankful for this weekend was seeing some  wild parrots. I never knew, in all the years that I’ve visited Florida, that there were these incredibly beautiful, bright green birds living in our area.  Did I mention that green is my favorite color? How wonderful of the Lord to bless me with the opportunity to see green birds!  It may not be a big deal but it made me smile and I thanked Him for it.

And as I am getting used to the idea that this is my home,  and as I learn to appreciate what this new life has in store for me, I can pause to consider how the Lord sees it all. He has allowed us to live here for a while, but in a way we are just tourists.  In a way, while this is the only home we have ever known, there is something more to come. One day a place that we might now see only with the perspective of a tourist, a place we can’t wait to visit, will become home.  That is how I can see Heaven right now. One day I will arrive there as a new visitor but I’ll be there to stay. It will  become home, and it will be more than we could ever imagine.

John 14:1-4  “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way where I am going.”

 

If you are interested in seeing the wild parrots  check out this YouTube video  Wild Parrots in Florida

 

Learning to Be Content in the Big Things and the Small Ones Too

I’ve been a resident of the state of Florida for 4 weeks today. So far things have gone fairly well.

I didn’t come here with the expectation of a smooth transition. When you are combining three households into one there are bound to be some glitches. When you are feeding 15+ people every day you don’t just sit back and put your feet up either!

Meals have been the biggest challenge. Someone had to be delegated to sort of oversee the planning, shopping and meal prep. That would be me.

Of course I have many helpers available to contribute meal suggestions, help with shopping, unloading and putting away a mountain of groceries as well as with prepping and cleaning up. It’s a major production every day.

Added to that is the challenge of cooking for a variety of health issues. We have two diabetics, two with liver disorders, one with food allergies and when Andrew’s father-in-law joins us, one on blood thinners. So, we watch the carbs, watch the salt, watch the nuts and the red meat. And try to watch the budget too! What does it cost to feed up to 17 people everyday? You don’t want to know!

But in spite of all of that, I am up to the task. I actually like the challenge of cooking for an army again. Back when I was cooking for as many as 11 every day I had lots of helpers but they all needed stools. Now the adults out number the children so that helps a lot.

And we have a huge kitchen with two stoves. We also have two refrigerators and a membership to Costco.  We are already on a first name basis with a few of the helpful folks at Costco. We really only shop for meals about three days in advance since much more that than would really put a strain on our storage options.

And speaking of storage, Randy and I have had a couple of trips already to the storage unit and are trying to sort and continue to purge stuff we realize we can live without. It’s amazing how your perspective changes and you realize just how little you really need to be comfortable when you downsize from a 2400 square foot home to a 160 square foot bedroom. Not that I don’t have this huge lovely home to enjoy with everyone else, but as a woman, my “nest” space has been drastically reduced.  It’s a good thing, really. I’m learning to be content with just a few things easily accessible. The rest is in storage and the longer it’s there the more I realize I don’t really need it. It’s a great blessing to come to the end of the day and retreat to my room that I only share with my husband and feel completely content.

It was a great blessing to have Randy home for almost a month before he started his new job. We have already had many wonderful adventures with the grandkids. Now in the second week with Randy going to work every day, we are settling into a more normal routine. We know there will be many more adjustments and challenges ahead, but we are so thankful for God’s grace through it all and thankful for the lessons we are learning. He is making us a stronger family and working on the refining of our hearts as we work through the challenges of living in a household this size.

James 1:2-4 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

2 Corinthians 9:8  And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.