It’s hard to believe that it’s been over 7½ years since Rick and I made the trek halfway across the United States to make a new home in Vinton, VA. We moved here to be closer to our adult children, and within the first year of arriving here we were richly rewarded by being made grandparents for the first time. Since coming, our two sons and their dear wives have blessed us with three grandsons and three granddaughters, so our move was definitely worthwhile! How very delightful it is to be close enough to them to get to be an active part of their lives!

It was a bit of a rough start for me when we first settled in so far from all our loved ones in Indiana. Even though we were closer to our children, we were still a four-hour drive from either family, so mostly we were dropped into a town full of total strangers. However, what God had prepared ahead of time for us was that this must be the friendliest town in the world, and oh! How I needed that!

While we were still unloading the moving vans one neighbor came over with a basket filled with goodies and a heart full of cheerful welcome! And through the past seven plus years, we have become friends with pretty much everyone around us, and what an amazing neighborhood (and town) this is! I never dreamed of such a place! Our neighborhood reminds me much of the way life used to be ½ century ago when neighbors visited over the fence and took care of one another as a family. That’s exactly what happens in our neighborhood, and I love it! I am going to miss these people terribly and will always cherish fond memories in my heart.

This town is amazing! I never mind paying our town taxes here, because we can literally see that money working every day of the year! There are police driving through the neighborhoods on a regular basis, just keeping an eye on things. The town picks up all our trash, and until just recently (due to some pests called vultures) even provided a location for trash to be put into large trailers for times when you’re cleaning up extra, or leaving on vacation and don’t want to leave trash out in front of your house. They even sweep our streets on a regular basis and pick up all leaves and brush that are raked to the edge of the road. It’s the absolute tidiest town I’ve ever seen!

But now Rick’s retired and our oldest son and his family have moved closer but still an hour away from us, and have encouraged us to move even closer to them since we are raising grass-fed steers together on their 40 acres. We have sold our home here in Vinton now and this week will move across to the other side of Roanoke (Salem) to be nearly ½ hour closer to the farm, but still close enough to enjoy the church we love so dearly in Roanoke, and to hopefully stay in touch with the many friends we have made. It will be great to be close to the farm and to our grandchildren, and I sincerely look forward to many of the changes this move will make for us such as no more stairs and no more hills to mow! But one thing’s for sure: Our years in Vinton will always be remembered with a smile. I miss this town already!

Snow Days

So, I’m not a huge fan of facebook, but I check it out now and again. I saw a funny clip about a mom that was frustrated by one more snow day and the children being home and it made me remember…

When I was a child, we worked a lot! There were always, ALWAYS chores to do and today I’m thankful for the way we learned the importance of pulling our own weight and sharing the responsibility of being a family. But on snow days (which were seldom), it was sometimes a holiday for us all!

I remember one time my mother even pulled on some of Daddy’s work pants (UNDER her dress, of course!) and dressed us all up as warm as possible and we ALL went outside to make snowmen! We made a whole family of huge snowmen in our side yard, and when we were nearly finished, Daddy even came home and came out to see what we were up to. He hefted a huge head onto a snowman that was taller than him (as I remember it) and helped us finish them all with faces and arms and scarves, etc. Honestly, it’s the only time I ever remember my hard-working daddy actually playing during the day on a weekday! And I remember the laughter and squeals.

I also remember being snowed in and Mother stopping her work to pop popcorn and gather us all around the kitchen table to read books and munch popcorn and play games. Mother also rarely quit working on the household chores, so this was a very special memory for me. It was a party I’ll remember my whole life!

I wonder sometimes what my boys remember about snow days. I remember them sledding around our field behind the house, and when they were small I remember them making tunnels and driving their trucks through and building igloos, but I can’t remember if I went out with them to make snowmen and play in it with them. I hope I did, but I do remember being delighted at having snow days for them to get to have an unexpected holiday. I hope snow days are happy memories for them as they are for me.

Unfortunately, our society today has become so focused on our own plans and our own schedules that snow days have become a burden to be endured instead of a gift to be enjoyed. What is so miserable about curling up in front of a warm fire and reading a good book while the snow piles up outside? Why must we ALWAYS be ‘on the go?’ Maybe snow is God’s way of slowing us down a bit and teaching us to enjoy this precious gift of a day to rest and enjoy one another instead of intensely pushing on.

Whatever your focus or situation, if you are blessed to live where there is snow, I would encourage you to enjoy it! If you have children home from school, make a party out of it! You’d be surprised how those good memories will help shape them into happy, well-adjusted people. Instead of rolling your eyes and gritting your teeth, try thanking God for the beauty of it all! And then…go build a snowman!!!

Snow Worship Lessons

Gentle Winter

Winter has finally arrived and once again I am amazed at the change it makes in our crazy world. I sit here on the sofa in front of a blazing fire and listen snuggly to the silence outside. And silence inside.

The skies are white as the huge snowflakes fall heavily onto the already fallen snow that covers the world in bright white beauty. Even the birds are silent today. I love the restfulness of it.

Early this morning Rick and I dressed and went over to our local McDonalds that is unlike any McDonalds I’ve ever seen. It is ‘the’ gathering place in our small town and is only a few blocks from our home. A number of ‘regulars’ were there. We love going and being spoken to and known—to a certain extent. The cashiers know not only what we like, but how we like it! They have the best biscuits and gravy and the best coffee and when you get that combination served up with friendly smiles by polite people surrounded with a sense of community and acceptance and welcome—it makes for one of the best breakfasts anywhere and a glorious start to a wonderful day.

Eventually, we came back home—cup of coffee in hand—to our own cozy quiet place to spend time with the Lord and each other. As I opened my Bible I realized how very blessed I am to be a child of the King, married to my favorite person in the whole world, with precious children and grandchildren out there safe and snug in their own homes while I sit here listening to my Father speak lovingly to me from the oh-so-familiar pages of the Letter He left to guide me and help me while the peace and silence that is winter surrounds me. This is rest in the truest sense of the word. And this is what I love about winter.P1010086


The bank we’ve been using since moving to VA was bought out by another bank recently. Apparently this happens on a fairly regular basis. I remember it happening to us a number of years ago, but it really wasn’t that big a deal back then. They gave us some free checks and told us how it would work and life went on pretty much as usual.

However, that was before the kind of technology that we have now! Oh, my goodness! What a mess this is! In fact, it became so cumbersome that we decided to switch banks and I’m still remembering companies that I’ve forgotten to give the new routing numbers for bill pay. This morning I was thinking as I sat on hold with yet another company that every time I don’t have to put a stamp on an envelope to pay a bill, I need to remember how very, VERY difficult electronic banking is when you move or need to change accounts for any reason, such as a bank buy-out!

And it’s been two weeks and we still don’t have our new checks! Some companies need a canceled check by mail instead of a number by phone, and so we’re waiting impatiently to get those silly little printed papers in the mail. I’m watching the mailbox like a child at Christmas! As I sat on hold this morning, I was thinking about our grandchildren growing up in a world that won’t know or remember mailing checks to pay bills, paying cash for groceries or restaurants, of being careful your wallet isn’t stolen because that $20 in it is so precious. Instead they’ll be concerned about someone getting access to ALL their savings and cash online, or stealing their debit card, or even their identity!

And trying to set up the online budget with a new bank without losing the history of our billpay…oh! What tangled web we weave! (And we’re not even trying to deceive!)

Ok, now for the ‘cheese’ with my ‘whine’… : Every time I’ve sighed and gritted my teeth for the past two weeks, I’ve reminded myself how very, VERY easy this online stuff is once I get it all set up again. No more sitting for hours trying to find two numbers I transposed in the budget book. No more praying the bank statement balances. No more waking in a cold sweat in the night wondering if I may have forgotten to write something down or pay a bill. Or…if I did, remembering it can be done in 5 seconds online and going right back to sleep smiling. Yes, when I’m complaining about the inconvenience of modern technology out of one side of my mouth, the other side is grinning big time and thanking God I’ve lived long enough to really appreciate what will eventually come out of all this inconvenience and frustration. Memories of the old ways do not stack up as the ‘good ole days’ in regard to budgeting and bill pay. Give me technology! And Lord, maybe just a little more patience!technology

This past week I learned of a dear friend whose marriage had ended a few months ago. My heart aches for her in a way I’ve never experienced before. I’ve been praying for her and reaching out to her, but inside I weep and I ache for her more than I ever have for widowed friends. I’ve questioned myself, and today I’ve decided to share these thoughts with others—to hopefully encourage us all to do better.

When a spouse dies, we gather around the one left behind. We visit, we bring food, we try to think of ways to fill that void in the lonely soul starting a new life and assist where they flounder. Death and being left behind is something all couples must consider and half of every couple will have to face eventually. Many of us begin preparing our hearts for that possibility early in life—to ward off total devastation and to not feel totally helpless in the event we would be the one left behind.

But do we ever consider what our lives would be like if we should be rejected? If our spouse walked out with life intact? I admit, that’s not something any of us want to think about, and as followers of Christ, it’s not the norm (thank God!), but it happens. And there we are—not only alone, but questioning our worth and questioning if we did something wrong or if we could have done something better. And who’s there to help with closure, with the lonely days and nights dealing with rejection as well as unwanted single life once more? Too often that person is left to fend for themselves and is even often somewhat shunned or judged by the very ones who should be coming alongside to strengthen and encourage—our very sisters and brothers in Christ!

Why do we do this? I think it is quite normal to shun what we don’t know how to deal with, but that doesn’t make it go away and does not change the facts. As followers of Christ, we need to look for opportunities to strengthen one another and assist one another, even the areas that make us uncomfortable and feeling awkward. Yes, there are often help groups for divorced people in churches, but does that provide all the assistance they need? What about friendship? What about assisting with errands, babysitting, home repairs, even housekeeping when the single person now has to earn a living as well as doing all the rest for themselves without a partner to assist and trade off with? Should we not have groups to step in and help long-term?

And not only within your church, but if we find a close friend of ours in this situation, I think it’s a no-brainer! We suddenly have a new job. A new responsibility to be there for this person—not only to be there to assist physically, but to be their listener, their encourager, even their ‘touch-er’. It’s a proven fact that touch is a very important part of our make-up and is needed by all of us—not just the touch that happens accidentally as you hand something to someone, but I’m talking about love-touching.

SO much focus has been put on inappropriate touching these days that we’ve swung way too far the opposite way for good health! I am so very thankful for my lady friends that hug me when they come and again when they leave. And I’m thankful for the gentle hug of a dear godly man now and again at church or in get-togethers with friends. When I was a child, my girlfriend and I always held hands as we walked to and from school together. There is a special bonding in touch of this kind, an assurance of acceptance and love that we all need to be emotionally balanced. Yes, I feel the need for this in spite of having a loving husband. How much more must my lonely friend have need of loving touch?

I guess I’m writing this today just to encourage us all to think of someone we know in this situation, and then to be intentional about coming alongside of them in every way we can. Hebrews 3:13 says: “But encourage one another daily…so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Not only will it be good for the one being encouraged, but it will be rewarding for the ‘encourager’ as well!

This week one day as I visited our son’s family to welcome our newest grandson into the family, our oldest grandson snuggled on my lap while I had a conversation with someone else.  At one point I felt him looking at me and when I looked at him he smiled and hugged me.  Then he whispered in my ear, “Grandma, you smell like your house.”  Now the way he was tucking his nose into my neck I could only assume that was a good thing in his eyes, but the unexpected comment and whole episode continues to hover in my mind.

Whether by choice or chance, we carry an aroma with us always.  Most all of us enjoy being around a pleasant aroma, but avoid as much as possible an unpleasant one.  And many times an aroma ‘takes us back’ to another place and time—as my odor made my grandson think of our home.

As I’ve been thinking about this these past couple of days since the incident, II Corinthians 2 has been in the forefront of my thoughts.  Verses 14-16 read this way in the NIV:  “But thanks be to God who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.  For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.  To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life.  And who is equal to such a task?”

Honestly, smelling good all the time is a challenge.  After a morning doing yard work in the heat of summer, or even heavy housecleaning, I do not want to be remembered for the way I smell!  And so, I intentionally shower as soon as possible and take care of any offensive odor immediately.  When I was in my early teens, my mother took me aside and had “THE” talk with me which included a gift of a fragrant container of deodorant.  She explained that with my body changes would come issues of odor, and the importance of keeping myself clean and smelling pleasant.  That little talk has always remained with me in that I try to be very careful not to offend in any way, but especially in the way I smell.

Fragrance is a gift.  A good smell can be relaxing and welcoming.  A bad smell can repulse us and keep us away from whatever or whoever is causing the offense.  A friend once told me that her memories of Indiana was from one time when they were driving through and apparently it was spring and the fields had just been spread with manure.  That smell is part of my memory growing up there as well, but for me, growing up there I knew that it was a short-lived offensive smell that would produce some of the best crops grown anywhere and the sweetest sweet corn in the world.  But the important thing is that the smell is what triggers a memory in our hearts.

Such is our reflection of Christ by the ‘fragrance’ we give off (our behavior, actions, reactions, etc.).  Just as my grandson thinks of my home when he smells me, I want my actions to be the ‘aroma of Christ’ to those around me.  I’m far from perfect and have erred much in my lifetime, but I pray those things can be tucked away as I do the smell of manure on an Indiana field, and the resulting maturity and forgiveness in me be seen as a good thing, creating the very fragrance of Christ to the world around me.

I’m an admitted worrier.  Typically not about circumstances, but almost always about doing things wrong.  What if I hurt someone’s feelings?  What if I should have said…what if someone misunderstood my intentions?  What if what I said was understood to mean something entirely different than what I intended?  What if I should have done…?  What if, what if, what if???

And so, I have made a New Year’s resolution that I have every intention of keeping until it becomes my very lifestyle!  I want to learn to become a forgetter!  Oh, not the car keys and where I put my purse last, but things that I’ve done or said.  My nature is to worry and worry about the possibility of being misunderstood, or of unintentionally having hurt someone.  From now on, I’m leaving that in my Father’s hands!  God knows my heart, and finally I’m going to trust HIM with it!  I still have every intention of being careful of my words and actions, but then I’m letting go!  I will trust the results in God’s hands.  It might seem a bit naïve, but I know my God is capable of making good come from all that I say and do—especially when it’s done and said in His name!

Now this may seem like a no-brainer to you.  But for as long as I can remember, when I wake in the night I suddenly begin re-enacting the day just past, or sometimes things that are in the distant past, and wish I could re-do things I did, re-state things I said, even undo some of the actions I’ve committed.  But the fact is, I can’t!  And stewing about it only makes it bigger and puts wedges between me and others.  It makes me feel insecure and even worthless.

When I feel insecure and worthless, I am of no value to anyone.  I can’t think straight and I can’t and won’t do the things I should.  I just want to hide.  And so…I am refusing to re-think anything.  If I catch myself thinking of something I said or did I will remind myself that I’m forgiven and I plan to immediately put it out of my mind and think about something good that happened TO me.  I’m not even going to think about something good that I did, because that, also, begins to grow out of proportion and a good deed turns into vanity and self-righteousness and pride.  (Oh, Satan is SO subtle!)  No, my New Year’s resolution is to spend my thought-life on things I can do that will help, encourage or uplift, or on God and His goodness to me.  If my mind wanders into these negative waters that I know will quickly become deep and dangerous, I will intentionally change my thoughts.  It makes me think of Philippians 4:8 which says:  “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”  If we could all put this verse into practice in our lives, a lot of psychiatrists would be out of work!

Yes, “Whatever a man thinks, that he becomes” is true and puts the ball in our own court.  It’s our choice!  Do we want to become maudlin and morose?  Or do we want to be happy and content?  For me, I choose the latter, and starting today, I’m taking control of my mind!  From now on I choose to be intentionally naïve!