As I sit by our fire this morning, I pray that God will guide us today. I am thankful that as believers, have His Presence with us, and we have the Word of God to help us make sense of the times we are living in.

Sometimes trying to understand the world around us these days becomes a very complex thing. I don’t pretend to have all of the answers or full insight into what’s going on at all. I am prayerfully seeking to understand more. In truth, we’re in an intense spiritual battle.

But none of what is going on in the world surprises God. His ways are higher. He is all-knowing. He created the heavens and the earth. He is sovereign. He will not allow anything to happen that does not ultimately move us towards His eternal purposes. Even if what He allows is painful and seems very terrible, He will ultimately redeem it and set all things right. He told us in this world we would have many troubles.

But again and again His Word tells us not to fear.

“My peace I leave with you,” Jesus said.

That’s a powerful gift He left with us.

Rest in His peace, abide in His love.

a new passion

Today I began a new adventure–I took my first quilting lesson from a talented friend in her cozy farmhouse quilting room.

For many years I have admired quilters, but never really had the opportunity or time to learn how to quilt. When I was a young girl, my mom sewed some of our clothes and I loved her thoughtfulness and skill. I felt loved when she created something new for me to wear. Mom also milked her Jersey cow, Sunshine, twice a day to provide milk and cream for our family. She grew gardens and her cooking was legendary. She made delicious homemade ice cream, and she prepared waffles with strawberries we raised, adding fresh whipping cream and homemade butter. We caught the school bus with content tummies, happy to head off to our country school despite the hour long bus ride each way.

When my mother graduated from high school, her parents gave her a Singer Featherweight. I’m sure my Grandma sacrificed a lot to buy this sewing machine. With a large family, they didn’t have much extra cash to spare. Within a few years, mom married my father, and by the time she was 22 I was born. My older sister joined this young family a few years prior to me. A few years after me, my brother came into the world.

My mom wanted to be sure that my sister and I learned to sew. Mom loved to share things that she had a passion for, so she negotiated with us. I either had to take a sewing class or sit down and learn to sew something to show her that I had learned this vital skill. So I sewed a light pink terry cloth nightshirt to prove that I could sew. Then I went out to the barn and never picked up this machine sewing process again. Except I did sew up burlap gunnysacks after I carefully filled them with grass seed and weighed them in at fifty pounds. I liked sewing those bags as I ran the big dusty grass seed cleaner around the clock. We had to stencil the lot number onto the bags with this black ink brush.

Over the years, I enjoyed mending things by hand with a needle and thread. However, my first attempts using that Singer sewing machine caused a bit of motion sickness. So I would rather go ride a horse or chase cows, or spend time outdoors. On a farm, we had plenty to keep us occupied. Leave the domestic stuff to other girls.

Earlier this year, my mom offered me her Singer Featherweight. She lives with vision impairment which makes sewing no longer feasible. So, she gave her treasured machine to me. In the small rural town where we live, and in the surrounding countryside, many women love to quilt. So several women have offered to teach me some basics. When I showed Karen Wells my featherweight, she offered to set it up for me and teach me how to quilt. She has known my parents for many years, and Karen has a wonderful gift for teaching and encouraging others. During this pandemic, one wonderful blessing has been getting to know her.

So today I arrived at her farmhouse across the field from where we live excited to get started. She showed me her stacks of fabric pieces which I could use for learning with this first project. She had an example of a table runner which is a good initial effort. Then she told me how to get started. I laid out all of the pieces of adequate size for the elements of this project in the color theme that I liked. She told me to arrange them all according to lighter, medium and darker colors. Just handling these pretty fabrics gave me joy. I found myself smiling often.

Then Karen showed me how to iron, spray starch, and then iron the fabrics one more time. After that, she taught me how to cut the pieces using her tools. I loved being around Karen and the other woman she is teaching, listening to peaceful music and sharing our lives a bit. I felt like part of centuries of this wonderful tradition of quilting, even on this first exposure to the task.

Recently I put together a puzzle. I do that about once a year, and enjoy praying as I do so. This first step of learning to quilt reminds me a bit of doing a puzzle, except at the end of the process I’ll have something lasting to enjoy or share with others. It’s also a more creative endeavor. As Karen said, if I ever need to make a quilt to keep us warm, I’ll be able to do that. Pandemics bring out the pioneer in many of us as our normal rhythms of life face ongoing disruption. On the bright side, the slower pace of life has allowed some of us to try new things. Just as importantly, I’m excited to have a creative outlet which is life-giving. Oregon winters are often cloudy and dark. The fun colors will lift our spirits, and having time with these two women will be really enjoyable.

I’m excited to have embarked on this journey today. One day, when I’m wrapped up in my first quilt, I’ll see a dream fulfilled. Thank You, Abba Father for this new adventure.

Psalm 90:17 (NASB)

Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us;
And confirm for us the work of our hands;
Yes,  confirm the work of our hands.

the journey within

One of my friends commented something about how Christmas letters were a bit harder to write this year. With not going anywhere or doing anything (well, at least it may feel that way), it changes our lifestyles a lot. We all joked about what we could write in a Christmas letter.

But I have been thinking–maybe this is a special opportunity.

What about the journey within you? How have you grown this year?

How have you changed? What have you learned?

How has your spiritual life changed or grown? In what ways have you seen God’s faithfulness?

What adaptations and adjustments have you navigated successfully? Which ones are you still working on?

I’d love to hear your responses to some of these questions. I am thankful that God redeems the things we go through, and our times are in His loving hands.

a family I’ll remember

Today I met a beautiful family at The Penny Cottage Christmas event. The three young children, a baby and their mother caught my eye right away. The two girls had matching red and black plaid dresses and neatly braided and styled hair. I visited with their mom about her table. She is helping connect local people with things made by artisans in other countries who have been rescued from trafficking and other tragic situations. I enjoyed learning about this avenue of helping others.

I loved meeting this family, and as the mom tended to her table preparations, the little girl in a wheelchair gestured for me to come take a look with her at the mural on the wall. “Look,” she said in wonder. “What do you think that is?” We enjoyed the picture of the river on the wall, and I told her I really liked her red plaid dress. She noticed that it matched my red plaid fleece jacket. I asked if her mother sewed it, and she nodded. I asked how old she was, and she said, “Three.” We’re the about the same age, she said. I told her I wish I was three like her, and almost four, too.

The oldest boy, wearing a tidy button down blue plaid shirt emerged from the stairway, and excitedly shared with his younger sister what he saw upstairs as vendors were setting up. The elder sister also smiled and told her about the treasures she saw upstairs. Then the two kids headed off to explore some more.

The youngest girl’s face lit up and she asked me if I’d unbuckle the seatbelt to her wheelchair and carry her upstairs so she could see the delightful things her brother had been describing, too. I told her I’d love to, but I don’t have the best legs myself, so we went over and asked her mom about her request. Her mom shared with me the miracles God has done in the life of this precious little girl, nearly 4 now. She truly is an answer to prayer and meeting her and her family touched my heart. As I listened, my heart rejoiced at the loving family she is surrounded with, and I felt in awe of what God has done through the measure of healing He’s given her. By His grace, she’s defied many sobering medical predictions even before she was born, and her mom glorifies the LORD as she shares what God has done.

This bright girl had a sparkle in her eyes, and when I saw her upstairs, she had ‘adopted’ a handmade little gold-colored yarn toy. She held the adoption certificate in her hand, and thrilled with her treasure (a gift from their friend), she wanted to go show her mom. The braces on her legs and her wheelchair don’t slow down the spirit and love of this remarkable child one bit.

mental health during this pandemic

I was pondering today the reality that around the globe we are all faced with some strange realities simultaneously. Who would have guessed this was all ahead a year and a half ago? I want to say that I acknowledge the pandemic is very real. We have lost loved ones who died from COVID (thought these two women were elderly and had other issues as well), and we know younger people who have been very ill with this virus. We’re praying hard for one man who is very sick and in ICU, and others. So there’s no denial that this is a serious illness.

The origins of the illness and how various leaders around the world are responding (and opportunistically trying to control people beyond their legal authority and impose socialist policies) are worth pondering, however.

In many places, elderly have been isolated from loved ones for months and months now, and depression and other mental health impacts are serious. Kids are hurting too. They are missing out on contact with teachers, other kids and other benefits of in-person education. The mental health crisis is as serious as the pandemic, and these are inter-related. We need to create ways for meaningful connection. We need to consider the whole person, and also we need to stand up to leaders who are abusing their positions and harming many in the process.

Rise up. Find ways to care about the people in your sphere of influence.

Yes, we need to avoid spreading this blasted virus. But we also need to remain engaged in life and find and preserve connections with others that are life-giving. A friend has brought her dogs over sometimes and she stayed for dinner recently. Another friend came over for a visit and stayed for dinner in the past few weeks. We enjoyed music, prayer and conversation, and we don’t take time with others for granted at all right now. We do what we can to protect our health. But we also know that these interactions are good for health, and we trust others are encouraged as well.

Feeling Overwhelmed? These ideas might help:

I heard from a friend yesterday who shared that she felt overwhelmed with all that’s going on right now. I think this is common. In terms of major stressors, most of us have a fairly significant list right now. Here are a few thoughts on things you can do which might help:

Be kind to yourself and others.

Recognize that some people are grieving significant losses.

Honor the grieving process and don’t invalidate the emotions others feel, or which you are experiencing.

Be curious. Look into the truth and go beyond the surface. Don’t assume.

Some people feel very concerned about what’s going on politically, morally, and in many other ways right now in the world. Validate those concerns.

Take an interest in learning the truth–go beyond the narratives that the world is pushing so hard.

Many voices clamor for your attention. Listen for God’s still small voice. Ask Him for wisdom and discernment.

Disengage from the news, social media and instead connect with loved ones face to face. If that’s not possible because of the pandemic or life circumstances, find ways to connect which are life-giving to you.

Journal. Pray. Re-create.

Spend time in solitude and nature. Today fog hangs in the air outside. I’m going to take a shower and then go for a drive with my camera. Fog creates some beautiful scenes in the countryside all around us. Barns and trees hold a mysterious beauty as the mist shrouds some of the landscape.

I’ll listen to some worship music and God’s Word.

I’ll allow Him to infuse my spirit with His hope, His transcendent peace, His joy.

The joy of the LORD is my strength.

Thanksgiving Day 2020

I’m sitting by our fireplace, enjoying the warmth. Outside, the sunrise brought light to the day, and some blue sky. While we won’t be gathering with family as planned, Jerry and I will enjoy a restful day. A friend of ours picked up a free Thanksgiving meal for us from a nearby small town cafe. We’ll see what’s in that package and probably add a few things. I also picked up cod for fish tacos and Jerry wanted some ham, so this weekend we’ll enjoy a variety of healthy foods.

While many people traditionally feast on Thanksgiving Day, and enjoy time with family and friends, this year the pandemic has impacted the usual routine. Just for fun, I started a 1000 piece puzzle a few days ago, and have enjoyed praying as I’ve put together this beautiful puzzle of Oregon. I feel like life this year has been a puzzle, too. The pieces haven’t always fit together easily, requiring patience and resilience to cope.

However, I enjoy a challenge. I patiently work on the puzzle for as long as it takes to bring this chaos into a clear picture. There’s something soothing about doing a puzzle once in awhile. My late friend Cordelia Pinner used to be a prayer warrior, and she was very gifted as a spiritual director and faithful friend. She taught me to pray as I do a puzzle, so I always think fondly of times shared with this dear saint as I try to put the pieces together. As we continue to adapt to changes and losses in this pandemic around the globe, and the changing political landscape in the United States, prayer remains most vital.

I am very thankful for the Bible study we are doing in the book of Daniel this year. Daniel and his friends were forced to adapt to many tough things after being taken from their homes into the service of the Babylonian king. They faced tremendous adversity, including the threat of death if they would not follow the king’s edicts or do as he wished. Yet they remained faithful to the Living and True God despite threats and fiery furnaces. I pray that we would also rest in His sovereignty in these troubled times in which we live.

This year, our Oregon governor has threatened jail time or a large fine for anyone violating her mandatory freeze during this pandemic. While precautions are necessary to try to avoid the spread of this insidious virus, many of us believe she takes a little too much delight in wielding power. She has delighted in protestors and riots destroying property while putting limitations on churches despite not having the constitutional authority to do so. Our freedom to worship comes from God. We can worship Him despite the threat of jail. We must look to God to guide us, not this power hungry woman who embraces Marxism.

Thankfully we can worship God every day, and giving thanks remains part of our daily worship of our faithful Lord and Savior. We had looked forward to a small gathering for a turkey dinner today with our family. However, due to circumstances related to the pandemic, our family plans had to be delayed. That’s okay. Jerry and I will enjoy time to rest, re-create, and give thanks for His faithfulness and grace. We’ll gather in a couple of weeks.

You are our resting place. We seek Your face, O LORD.

how do we handle disappointments in this fallen world?

In a year of a worldwide pandemic, many people have experienced real loss, illness, financial setbacks, and other deep disappointments. If you’ve lost loved ones to this insidious virus that has circled the globe, or had significant setbacks related (or unrelated) to the pandemic, I am very sorry. Two of our relatives in Holland died from COVID, though they were older and vulnerable, it was still very sad. We know many lives have been lost, and some people have lingering effects from COVID. It’s all very terrible.

Healthcare for other conditions has been compromised because of the pandemic, too, and when a serious health crisis strikes, such as a stroke which affected our beloved family member, the care has been impacted by this dreadful COVID virus and the impact on health care system.

A few weeks ago, I fell and got a concussion. I hadn’t fallen for a few months, and the PT and other medical appointments, which began after a bad fall out in my garden last spring (and progression of the multiple sclerosis), were finally slowing down. I thought I might have the reward of having some time freed up before the holidays. But no, I had to fall on the sidewalk outside Big 5 the day after the US Election (which has been a fiasco as well). I hit my right cheek and chin hard on the concrete and sustained a concussion, a scraped and swollen knee and other painful sprains. I’ve had a headache every day since that fall, and concussions are certainly no picnic. My vision remains messed up. Just when things were sort of looking up, too. The PT who is also a brain injury specialist commented that concussions have many of the same symptoms as an MS flare up (when lesions are actively damaging the brain and spinal cord’s myelin sheath). So living with MS really is no picnic either. I used to enjoy a good picnic. My Mom packed the best picnics ever, so the way life has turned out is disappointing in contrast.

The day after my fall, we had some help arranged so I had to be outside for hours finishing the dismantling of my garden and moving raised beds in preparation for the barn that we had scheduled to be built last week. Despite the pain, I persevered, and that weekend, I helped ensure the spreading of the crushed gravel on the building site and pathways went well. So again, when I needed to rest, I could not because of the timing. Then the barn builders showed up on the long awaited day. I was so delighted this goal I’d worked so hard for was coming to fruition. They were supposed to build a quality barn in one day, and we’d put electric to it and insulate it, and do the finishing inside soon after. A friend offered me a noble fir tree that I could enjoy in the my new barn (my husband is allergic to almost everything). I was looking forward to cutting my tree and also moving my indoor succulents into the barn as soon as it was ready. I was most excited about having a quiet space to write soon.

However, pretty much everything that could go wrong the day of the build did go wrong. They arrived without the flooring they promised, substituting poor quality plywood instead without even telling us. One of the workers recklessly caused the wood to crash off of the truck onto the concrete sidewalk more than once, splitting many of the boards. Nothing seemed to go right, and it became apparent that the quality would suffer. While I felt for the guys who came to build, when their boss decided to call off the job and have them dismantle the part they started and refund the money, we felt relieved. Somehow in God’s sovereignty, that barn build wasn’t meant to happen that day. With tears running down my face, I told the workers what their boss had decided, and thanked them for trying. I felt so disappointed. My husband said I was inconsolable, and it hurt his heart. The reason I want the barn is to have a detached space to write and do the things I love, since my husband works from home now due to the pandemic.

I had a good long cry that day, then dusted off my soul and moved on. Maybe I’ll be grieving for awhile, but this year has been filled with challenges and disappointments, so it’s just par for the course. My husband and I have a contractor working up a bid to potentially build the cabin or barn in a few months. God knows.

Time with loved ones is very precious to us right now. The pandemic has robbed us of time with aging parents, and now two of my nephews were exposed to COVID so I just learned this morning our Thanksgiving dinner has to be called off. I had really been looking forward to sharing a meal with a small gathering at my Mom and Arie’s house this week. I am quite sad and praying that my nephews, my brother and anyone else they’ve potentially exposed won’t get COVID.

Prior to this morning, people have been altering plans anyway since our governor has threatened jail time or huge fines for anyone gathering with more than six people and no more than two households. This Marxist-oriented governor thinks she’s helping prevent the spread of COVID with her draconian measures, but the same governor has allowed her policies to devastate small businesses and she tends to support wild protests without masks while overstepping her authority and limiting churches. We need to do what makes sense to protect one another from the pandemic. However, her approach leaves a lot to be desired and if some other country would please take her as an immigrant soon, that would be greatly appreciated.

Our state has recently endured wildfires that ravaged many towns, destroying homes. Some of our hospitals report high numbers of COVID cases, and health care professionals are stretched thin and weary. Families have had to adapt to kids being home from school, and some people have lost jobs. Local small businesses are really hurting. We are praying for all of you who are experiencing these tough things. This is a year we won’t soon forget.

I told my husband I felt really disappointed about not having Thanksgiving this week. Especially because time with parents is rare, and with Arie’s health being so fragile lately, time is precious. Once again, this wretched pandemic is robbing us of time together. My husband hugged me, offering his love, and said, “I know, let’s have a holiday this week where we give thanks.” I smiled at his heart.

Because of our hope in Christ, we can still have joy. We can still have peace. I might cry a bit more to wash the windows of my weary soul, but my heart remains aware we have so much to be thankful for.

longing for comfort and truth?

We live in bizarre times. If you’re looking for comfort and truth, you won’t find these in the news.

The government won’t provide it. The media won’t either.

They can’t give you what they don’t have.

Expect adversity, but hope for peace.

The world doesn’t have a lot of peace to offer right now. In fact, the whole earth is in distress.

A pandemic rages.

Storms, fires, and political turmoil have ravaged many places. Entire countries are in crisis.

Seek His face. Seek His face continually. Then you will be like a well-watered garden whose springs do not fail (see Isaiah 58). In the midst of great turmoil, God still remains the only enduring source of hope, peace, truth and comfort.

Run to Him.

Find refuge in the shadow of His wings.

Perilous times lie ahead, too. But He already knows the outcome. He will accomplish His loving purposes ultimately.

Almighty God. Abba Father, our covenant-keeping Redeemer, we choose to seek Your face in these troubled times.

We trust in You alone.

holidays in the midst of a pandemic

Today Jerry picked up groceries from a local store, and this was our first time to try an on-line order with free pick up. Many items were not in stock, so we got a note saying sorry and listing the many things they did not include in our order. However, they sent Jerry home with one bag of someone else’s order. Clearly someone was preparing for Thanksgiving–a big bag of yams, a large bunch of bananas, three avocados, three large oranges, and three Singer needle threaders. So we called and thanked the store for their generous gift of extra groceries (and so they’d know what happened when someone else calls them about missing items).

Maybe this is kind of like 2020. Lots of things have been missing. And yet, there have been some unexpected gifts, some of which we may not have desired initially.

One of the things we hadn’t anticipated this year was having my husband work at home. He came home with his laptop one Friday after work last winter, having been told he might need to work at home a few days. He’s never left. While this has required considerable adjustments for us, we’ve seen many blessings in this arrangement, too. Not having to commute saves money on gas, conserves energy for him, and means that we can cook dinner together more often. Ultimately, having more time together has strengthened our relationship.

I called my mom and told her we’ll bring yams for Thanksgiving. Of course in Oregon, we have been told we now have severe limits on our personal and religious freedoms this Thanksgiving. Our governor has issued edicts which come with the threat of police enforcement and large fines for those who dare to gather for a meal in their own homes, or attend church (beyond the new limits she has set). She wants to control individual homes and churches while giving a free pass to protestors and looters most of this year. I’m not saying we shouldn’t use good sense and take precautions to protect ourselves and loved ones from unnecessary risk. I’m just saying the authority to make these decisions may not have a legal basis.

We’ll see how all of this plays out.

But if you need a needle threader or some fruit to make your fruit salad, let me know.