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I know this doesn’t look good but it is delicious. It’s a super healthy bean and grain blend spiced with Curry and Garam Masala which I made into a soup. Overnight it has turned into this thick concoction. I plan to use these leftovers in pita bread for a vegan type meal.
Some of the best things in life start out in a different form from how they end up. We roll with the punches and use our God given creativity and resources to make good use of them in a way that will glorify Him. That’s good stewardship of whatever God gifts to us. It’s actually kind of fun sometimes to see what we can do with the challenges in life with God as our guide. Don’t let it take a lifetime to figure that out.

“But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.” – Job 23:10

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I remember when I was young and living out on the farm, going into the field and laying down in the tall weeds, just gazing at the clouds in the sky.  I don’t remember what I thought about but I do remember how pleasant and peaceful it was.  The world seemed right, out there in my little patch of serenity listening to the cicadas, birds, crickets, the occasional lowing of a cow , and the rhythmic sound of the water pump down at the pond.  I remember Great Grandma Burley telling me when the breeze blew through the trees causing their branches to gently sway, that right there was God speaking to me and if I was very quiet, I could hear Him. Trees became fascinating to me.

My affinity for the comfort of trees extended to a weeping willow on the school playground; while underneath, the teacher would find me and tell me to come out and play with the other kids. I really didn’t want to.  When I was about 8 years old and exploring the yard on the farm, I stopped in front of a tree which I think was an apricot tree, and just stood there gazing at it for the longest time as the breeze blew through the leaves. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that moments like this in nature can’t bring you to God because it was at that moment I became fully aware of the Holy Spirit, my soul, and my mortality.  While I was aware of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, I really didn’t know what to do with them! Mom had provided me with a very basic Christian instruction through books and Sunday school but as time passed, our church attendance was sporadic and finally there came a time when I refused to go and she let me.  I loved Mom but I sure wish she had made me continue going to church when I was a kid.  I’ve had to learn to discern the voice of God when all around me is noise, and the stillness I crave is taken in bits and pieces through discipline. I took the long, hard way to this point.

Spring forward to August, 2018. I’ve just taken a two week break from Living Stone Christian Fellowship,  my Christian ministry page I’ve had for several years on Facebook. While I did take a six month sabbatical in 2015, for the most part I’ve been consistent in posting and ministering in prayer requests.  LSCF has been my main ministry for the last three years. At times I’ve wondered if this was a productive or even real ministry or if I was just spinning my wheels for myself.  I will admit, many of the posts have affected my personal understanding of the Christian walk and that is why I wanted to share them with others.  So many of our ministries are born from our own adversities and experiences; is that not how we turn lemons into lemonade, so to speak?  We help because we have been helped, we love because we have been loved, and we share the hope of Jesus Christ because we know what is to be hopeless. This is what real ministry is all about.  It’s not about knowledge, numbers, and participation because sometimes we just don’t know how or who we have ministered to just by being there; consistently and faithfully plugging away with what God has called us to do on His behalf for His people.  My understanding of the need to acknowledge this deficit of feedback and reward is my lesson in humility and dependence on God and His will for my life.  He is everything.  He is the reason.  He is the way.  He is good.  He is never wrong. He never fails.

I will be continuing on with the Living Stone Fellowship page in a slightly different format, not because I think it will appeal to more people but because I’m letting God take the lead and I won’t be offering an explanation when a change of format occurs. And if I am the only one who gains from this page?  To quote an oft used and worn out phrase….”If it helps even one person, it will be worth it”.

So it was continuously; the cloud would cover it by day, and the appearance of fire by night. 17 Whenever the cloud was lifted from over the tent, afterward the sons of Israel would then set out; and in the place where the cloud settled down, there the sons of Israel would camp. 18 At the command of the Lord the sons of Israel would set out, and at the command of the Lord they would camp; as long as the cloud settled over the tabernacle, they remained camped. 19 Even when the cloud lingered over the tabernacle for many days,the sons of Israel would keep the Lord’s charge and not set out. 20 If sometimes the cloud remained a few days over the tabernacle, according to the command of the Lord they remained camped. Then according to the command of the Lord they set out. 21 If sometimes the cloud remained from evening until morning, when the cloud was lifted in the morning, they would move out; or if it remained in the daytime and at night, whenever the cloud was lifted, they would set out. 22 Whether it was two days or a month or a year that the cloud lingered over the tabernacle, staying above it, the sons of Israel remained camped and did not set out; but when it was lifted, they did set out. 23 At the command of the Lord they camped, and at the command of the Lord they set out; they kept the Lord’s charge, according to the command of the Lord through Moses.  Numbers 9:16-23

Staying faithful and diligent…

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Proverbs 3:24 says:  When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.

Can we talk? I mean, this is a serious issue!  People have gone insane with sleep deprivation!  It not only affects a person psychologically but sleep deprivation also affects cognition, physical health, and relationships.

Sleep issues are a staple in this household for different reasons and ALL have been checked out by doctors to make sure there are not any life threatening issues. I’m just going to say it….my man doesn’t snore much but I do! I have been tested for Sleep Apnea and do not have it. I do feel that because of my snoring I wake up more often during the night though. I have no problems going to sleep at all as evidenced by this photo my son secretly took of me when he came up to say good night…on my birthday, no less!  Can you guess what I got?

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Most of the time when I wake up I can go right back to sleep but occasionally my mind is racing with thoughts and that is when I can, if I’m wise, use the time to pray. I get up very early so sometimes I can’t go back to sleep because it’s almost time to get up!

As I’ve grown older I find I can function on a lot less sleep than when I was younger, or maybe I’ve just adapted, I don’t know.  I do know when I had kids my inner clock reset and stayed, and now I can’t sleep in much past 7 AM even if I want to!  Somehow, sleeping in late makes me feel like I’ve lost half my day; the most important part.  I savor that delicious time in the quiet early morning hours before anyone else is up, to take my time and spend time with the Lord.  It is my favorite part of the day.

BUT I will say that without a certain minimal amount of sleep, I can’t even stay focused enough to pray so it turns into one of those “Be Still” mornings, which are very good to have especially in those circumstances.  When I’ve not slept enough and I have to go to work and actually think and interact with people, I say small, simple one sentence prayers throughout the day to get me through.  The Lord truly does hold us up when we are weakened by insomnia.

My husband also suffers from lack of sleep for different reasons and because of this and the fact that I snore (more than he does but he’s not getting totally off the hook), we have made an adjustment in our sleeping arrangement which made all the difference.  It’s not an arrangement that appeals to everyone and even seems a bit taboo, but it’s an arrangement that was probably instrumental in saving our sanity.  If you haven’t guessed yet, it’s sleeping in different rooms.  I said it.  And I bet there are a lot more couples out there who do it than talk about it.

We no longer have to worry about our snoring disturbing each other.  I sleep better in a cold room with a fan in the window year round, and he likes his room normal temperature.  We can get up without worrying we’re going to jiggle the bed too much and wake the other up.  I don’t get mad any more because he is constantly poking and shaking me to make me quit snoring.  I can sleep without covers if I need to.  He can pile them on.  Neither of us has to stay scrunched in our own little mattress trench for fear of waking the other. And I won’t even go into the dreams and talking in our sleep!

There is no shame in needing sleep and only being able to achieve it by yourself in your own room. The Bible speaks of the “marriage bed” and how it should be undefiled and revered.  Having TWO marriage beds in the same house by MUTUAL agreement is not a bad thing. It’s a totally win/win situation for those who can’t sleep together and want to stay sane and happy TOGETHER!  Sweet sleep!

 

Names are important.

Some are cute.  Some are regal.  Some are inherited, and some are just made up but a name can define a person for a lifetime and parents should carefully consider the names they choose for their child.

I’ve been interested in the meaning of names so I looked mine up.

My first name I already knew is a Hebrew name. In Hebrew the meaning of the name Tamra is palm tree. Biblical Tamara was daughter of King David and sister to Absalom. The palm tree is a symbol of victory.

My middle name, Elin, I just found out is a Welsh name. In Welsh the meaning of the name Elin is: light or most beautiful woman.

My maiden name Van Fosson I was told by a Dutch doctor here in town means “from the fountain”.

My married surname Witt is North German: a nickname for someone with white hair or a remarkably pale complexion, from a Middle Low German Witte ‘white’ or South German: from a short form of the old German personal name Wittigo.

What a shot of encouragement and beautiful meaning I have found in my name, that in those times when I am feeling less than or discouraged, I can remember the meaning and be blessed with the knowledge that God made me just as I am:

Victorious in Him.

For everyone born of God overcomes the world. And the victory that has overcome the world is this—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world, if not the one who believes that Yeshua is Ben-Elohim? 1 John 5:4-6

Light with the Holy Spirit.

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what is the richness of His glorious inheritance in the kedoshim, 19 and what is His exceedingly great power toward us who keep trusting Him—in keeping with the working of His mighty strength.  Ephesians 1:18-19

Beautiful in grace and redemption.

In Him we have redemption through His blood—the removal of trespasses—in keeping with the richness of His grace that He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight, He made known to us the mystery of His will, in keeping with His good pleasure that He planned in Messiah.  Ephesians 1:7-9

Reborn from the fountain of Life,

The fear of Adonai is a fountain of life,
turning one from the snares of death.  Proverbs 14:27

and wearing a Crown of Glory as I am!

Gray hair is a crown of glory,
found on the path of righteousness.  Proverbs 16:31

What wonderful blessings I have in these scriptural reminders.  I am grateful!

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“Birds of a feather flock together” is an old adage that describes how people tend to hang out with those who are similar to themselves.  On the surface it seems like it would be a good thing because we all know how comforting it is to feel a part of and accepted by those we esteem, but it can also create boundaries that stifle us from growing and feeling compassion and mercy for those outside the flock, and sometimes even for those within the flock who aren’t exactly…um…what is expected.

Sometimes there are different names for the same type of birds.  Doves and pigeons, for example, are both members of the Columbidae bird family but doves carry a pleasant connotation of peace and love, while pigeons are thought of as dirty pests.  How strange that these birds, members of the same family that are both made by God, could create such opposite perceptions.   I wonder if the birds have such prejudice against each other.  Do the doves welcome the pigeons to their tree?  Do the pigeons call the doves to feed with them?  I wonder if their poop looks the same.

Do you have an idea of what I’m getting at?

We in the body of Christ are called to unity. We are a family designated by God.  We are not the same and yet, we are.  Some of us have wicked pasts, some don’t.  Some of us are rough around the edges; some have learned the softness of being gentle.  Some are quietly reverent; some unabashedly praise.  Some LOOK more conservative than others, but they aren’t.  Some are forgiving, and some haven’t found that part of their heart yet.  Some give abundantly of their gifts and some haven’t yet discovered their gifts to give.  Some use fancy words to pray, and some are so simple a five year old could understand every word.  Some live their words, and others…..don’t.

It is through the Grace of God that all believers in Jesus Christ who call ourselves “Family” can actually love each other as Jesus calls us to love.  No aesthetic difference, no faux pas, no mistake, no immaturity, no intellectual deficit, no financial deficiency, or lack of social skills should ever pull apart the family of Jesus Christ. We are all His children. Amen.
So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.   Romans 12:5

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See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.   1 John 3:1-2

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So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. Ephesians 2: 19-22

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Trudging the path He has given me….
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Not long after I got saved I read Matthew 7:7-8…

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…and I asked for my eyesight to be restored.

You see,my prescription has been very strong since I was a second grader in elementary school.  I went through several pair of glasses a year for a while as my eyesight quickly changed, and then in middle school I had hard contacts, and then soft ones when they came out, and now I wear both except these glasses are progressives because I need bifocal lenses.  I longed to have 20/20 vision instead of 20/400 and I knew God performs miracles every day so on this particular day I prayed and asked Him to restore my eyes. I didn’t want to have to wear corrective lenses any more.  I was very sincere and expectant.

Later that same day I went out to do some errands and was just sitting at the stop light thinking when I looked across the street to see a young man with a long white cane push the button for the crossing light to change.  I intently watched as he crossed six traffic lanes  using his cane for guidance and the main thing that stood out like a beacon of light shot straight to my soul, was his huge smile. This blind man was happy!  I was immediately convicted of my selfishness and knew I had just received in no uncertain terms, God’s answer to my prayer.  It was “NO.  You need to learn about gratitude and contentment now”.

I looked up and said “Thank you, God….I get it”!  No more grumbling about glasses and contacts and being “blind” when I wake up in the morning because…

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1 Thessalonians 5:18

Amen!

I was out and about this morning, driving along my way, when I noticed some road work up ahead and was a little aggravated that we all had to slow down and move to the far right lane single-file to get past the work. It was apparent on closer inspection that the work being done was to the water lines or sewers below the street, as the Aurora Water Department had their marked big equipment out there. I thought to myself “here are these guys and gals working on this problem on a Saturday morning, covered in dirt and who knows what else, and I’m a little perturbed that I have to slow down”.

It occurred to me that these workers are our unsung heroes. The ones who for whatever reason may not have received a higher education and moved on up the ladder of success by this world’s standards. They have chosen to do the jobs that other people choose not to do, and they are greatly depended upon.

Really now…who on the weekend wants to think about clogged sewers, potholes, plumbing problems, bad roads, and any of the other myriad of 24/7 jobs that require a degree in service? I tip my hat.

“Blessed are the merciful; for they shall obtain mercy.” Matthew 5:7

This is what I thought recently when the nurse at the care center said “What is this? Oh, you’re just a volunteer” when I asked her to sign the form to confirm I had been there visiting my hospice patient.  I have been volunteering for hospice for almost four years now.  Most of my patients have been suffering slow deaths.  They have been old and either have Alzheimers or one of the other cognitive diseases that take away a person’s speech, memory, mobility, independence, and dignity.

I have been visiting this particular patient, Mary, for a year and a half and am always amazed at her ability to maintain a pleasant, smiling, and laughing demeanor despite her affliction.  On her “off” days, she just exists.  No smiles, no recognition.  Just a blank gaze.  She has never been mean, as can be the case sometimes. Such a sweet lady.

Mary is confined to bed or a wheelchair.  She depends on others to feed, bathe, and dress her.  She is on oxygen.  She is incontinent.

I have never met Mary’s family but I know they send her cards because I see them on her wall.  I also see the Easter decorations they put on her window.  I don’t know how much they visit.  It must be very painful for them to see their loved one in such a condition.  I would not judge them.

Mary is a blessing to me.  If I go there feeling down or upset, I leave feeling at peace and thankful.  Her gift to me is the blessing of gratitude and a sincere heart brought about by her sweet childlike demeanor and dependence.

Yes.  I’m just a volunteer, but I love this woman whom I never knew any other way.  She’s like a child and I will be her advocate to make sure she is getting the care she deserves.  My gift to her.

UPDATE: Mary went to be with the Lord in August 2011.  In 2012 my own mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer Disease and died in November 2017.  God prepares and orchestrates for His highest good.

Have you gardening enthusiasts ever had a plant that you gave up on because it wasn’t thriving and didn’t look like it had much of a chance?

My planting was a cauliflower.  It was back in 1991.  We lived in a house in Southeast Denver, an older neighborhood of 1950’s cookie-cutter houses that had nice big yards for playing kids, barbeques, and gardens.  In the back, we had a huge vegetable garden, herb garden, strawberry bed, dwarf cherry tree, and raspberry bushes.  In the side yard, I had a cutting garden where I had planted several varieties of annual and perennial flowers for the birds, butterflies, and me!  I totally loved digging in the dirt and seeing what I could grow in this Colorado climate that is so different from Iowa where I grew up.

This particular year I had decided to try growing celery and cauliflower.   The celery took too much room in the garden as each plant needed a “mound” in which to be planted upright so the stalks could develop safe from the sun and elements.  So I needed to find a place for the cauliflower, which also required ample space.  This location was found in the cutting garden behind the lilac bush.  I made sure the lighting fit the requirements and gave them plenty of food and water.  I babied those plants until mid-summer when I realized I had miscalculated my time for planting because they were not holding up under the summer heat.  They were cool weather plants….duh.  I let them go; no more water or food.  I concentrated on nurturing the celery.

Skip ahead two months to September.  It had been a little cool but nothing too uncomfortable.  Most of the garden was spent, having been harvested already.  One particular day, it was rainy, and I was depressed.  I had been sober almost a year and that being said, recovery is not the easiest task to do.  Seeing one’s self and life with a clear head and honest evaluation could depress anyone!

My cutting garden was visible from the kitchen window and I stood there for quite a while crying, just watching the rain fall and the birds eating at the bird feeder. After a while, the rain turned to snow, and not a light one either.  It was coming down heavily and was quickly  covering everything in a white blanket.  As I stood there watching, I told God, “I really want to die but I’m too scared,  it’s up to you….would you please just send down a big bolt of lightning and take me out?”. (Yes, my dramatic flair is at it’s best when I’m sad.  What can I say?!!)

I looked out the window at the birds flying back and forth to and from the feeder… up to the bush… down to the ground…..hopping around in the snow………wait a minute…….what……no…..I tore out the front door and around the house to the cutting garden, and behind the lilac bush, covered in snow with just a small patch visible, was the biggest, most beautiful, white cauliflower I had ever seen!  How could it be?  I had completely forgotten it was even there and hadn’t given it any attention for weeks.  I saw its huge leaves growing but how could I pass by it several times a week without noticing its white growth? It was a miracle!

I was amazed at its beauty.  It was huge…about the size of a honeydew melon, and pure white, no blemishes.  The only reason I saw it when I did, camouflaged with snow, was because I was at that window, focused and praying to God , and He gave me His answer.  I recognized that, and because of it my mood was lifted immediately.

What a gift!  I thanked God for answering me in a way I could understand and for giving me the most tasty, succulent, cauliflower I had ever tasted, for dinner that evening.  I had a totally new perspective and appreciation for the creativity of the Lord’s answers to prayer, and even for what might be considered to be His outrageous sense of humor.

My Lord rocks!

Psalm 66

18 If I had not confessed the sin in my heart,
the Lord would not have listened.
19 But God did listen!
He paid attention to my prayer.
20 Praise God, who did not ignore my prayer
or withdraw his unfailing love from me.

(My written experiences are for me, my kids, and family.  If anyone else happens to enjoy them, I’m honored.  If not, it’s ok!)

Over the years, I’ve been asked how I learned to be a custom picture framer and frankly, I never thought it was much of an interesting story to be shared until I actually told someone. I mean, really, it started because I was a wimp. At least I thought I was.

Back in 1985, after moving to three different states in a year and a half after college, my first husband ( I really dislike the prefix ‘ex’) and I, along with our oldest son, Justin, ended up in Arvada, Colorado. My husband had a job lined up to tide us over until he found one in his field, but it became apparent within one month of arriving in Colorado that something was wrong with his body. He went through testing and was diagnosed with an incurable neurological condition.

Ok…I needed to find a job, and fast. My level of experience consisted of…
not much. I had waitressed but wasn’t very good at it. I just didn’t have the timing of a good waitress. I had worked the ticket booth at an Amish tourist resort…none of those around here. I had walked beans,detasseled corn,and worked in a convenience store. I had taught myself to do calligraphy and had charged money for that. I had even framed some of my calligraphy at a do-it-yourself place nearby and I found it to be kind of fun. I knew I could be a cashier someplace, but it didn’t change the fact that I was terrified to drive in the big city.

Up until that point, I had never lived in a town bigger than 8,000 people except for when my husband was in college and that town had a population of around 50,000, but I did minimal driving there. “Why drive when you can walk?” was my motto. The two towns we lived in the previous year each had less than 500 people!

I decided I wanted to do something I enjoyed but it was going to have to be close because I was NOT going to drive around in this city. Out came the yellow pages (before internet) and I looked up all the places nearby that I thought I might like to work. There was Michael’s and another craft store, three or four frame shops, including the one I had done framing at, and a couple of other places that sounded good. All these businesses were within a five mile radius of our apartment. I copied their addresses, typed up a resume, along with a letter explaining the situation and offering to work for one week free of charge so they could try me out, and put the letters in the mail. Within a few days I had received six replies, either by phone or letter. Not a bad percentage!

Two of the frame shops wanted experience, but the other one requested an interview! As it turned out, the owner’s husband had MS also. The rest is history. I was hired and apprenticed, learning the trade from the bottom up. My co-worker, DeAnn, and I became good friends and still are to this day. I worked there for a year and a half until my husband found a really good job, got established, and we bought a house in south Denver, far across town.

After our second son, Kyle, was born and turned four, I went back to framing, for another company for a few years, and now, 25 years after I started from scratch, I frame for our own company.

I think back on how much has changed since then. Framing was a booming business in the 80’s and then the oil bust came. Hard times. There are some things that will never change though. Framing is and always will be a luxury service. There is a need to preserve the integrity and value of certain pieces of art, and this need also extends to artifacts of sentimental and historical nature. It is truly worth the price to pay for making sure your special pieces are treated properly to display and last for many years.

I can see now that I was stronger than I thought I was back then in my 20’s. I will say that I am definitely not as strong now as I was then. I know I am stronger, much stronger. I now have faith and hope and a deep love of the Lord that took root and grew. With the Lord as my companion, leader, and encourager, I can do all sorts of things I never thought I could, and I am not a wimp, and I can drive all over the place!

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