REMEMBER: Ebenezer!

“Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the LORD has helped us.'”  1 Samuel 7:12

Happy New Year’s Eve! As we prepare to wrap up 2016 and welcome in 2017, I wanted to share a few thoughts about “Ebenezer.”

December was a challenging month for us, and for several of our loved ones. From large unexpected expenses to school challenges to the rapid decline of the health of one of our dear parents, we were feeling very stretched. Additionally, several close friends were struggling with job losses and medical issues.

For some time, we had planned a family vacation  to use a timeshare in Nashville for the week before Christmas, but we were really questioning if it was wise to still go. After praying together and conferring with a few friends, we decided to at least go for the first part. Since the place had a kitchen, our primary expenses would mostly be gas and groceries…

I am so glad we went! It was a time of refreshing and regrouping for all of us, and on our first morning there, we decided to drive to Franklin, Tennessee, to visit Journey Church. Because we all enjoy the music of “All Sons & Daughters” (a Christian duo) and they are based in that church (along with their pastor who has toured with them a few times in our local area), it seemed like a good place to try out.

The worship was uplifting, and the sermon was great. Pastor Jamie George taught about Charles Dickens’ Ebenezer Scrooge from “A Christmas Carol” and reflecting on one’s own life — actually “reflecting on the goodness of God.” As I sat there thinking about how faithful God has been to me and to so many of my loved ones, I was hugely encouraged.

Although we all undoubtedly will face trials of many kinds — some that even seem insurmountable — God has promised to be with us. That’s the whole premise of this blog:  that we REMEMBER His goodness (and remember others), CELEBRATE His goodness (and also celebrate others), and TRUST Him for our tomorrows.

As we prepare to ring in the New Year and maybe also set some resolutions, here’s a takeaway from Pastor Jamie that I plan to reflect on and, hopefully, also make some lists:

“What is your Ebenezer? How has the Lord been your help?”

We all have much for which to be grateful. Let’s remember!

May the Lord bless you and keep you, and may 2017 be your best year yet!

Lisa Toth

Remember. Celebrate. Trust.

P.S. The mug pictured below was a Christmas gift from one of my kids. It “morphs” from all black to a beautiful picture with the words “Remember, Celebrate, Trust” when hot liquid is added. Love the idea of going from darkness to light as we TRUST!

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CELEBRATE: New Beginnings!

“Behold I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth;
Do you not perceive it and know it, and will you not give heed to it?
I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”  Isaiah 43:19
     Yay! New beginnings. Aren’t they just thrilling? Actually, I’m not generally a fan of change, so “new beginnings” can cause no small amount of angst in me. In fact, just the phrase “new beginnings” can somewhat irritate me. Is there such a thing as an “old” beginning? Do we have to emphasize the newness? I think I’ll coin the phrase “comfortable beginnings” to help people like me ease into this whole thing… 😉
     However, since my last posting in August, when I was somewhat bemoaning but also trying to “trust” in the midst of transitions in my life, God has shown me in so many ways that He’s with me in these new places. Not only has it been a new school year with all new subjects to tackle, but it’s also been a very different fall than my previous 15 years of homeschooling, as both of my older students have left for college away from home. I took on a few new leadership positions on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays (what was I thinking?), and my remaining student, Joy, took on a new soccer team, new driving privileges, and a new co-op for outsourced classes.
      I have to say — some of the best parts of these “new beginnings” have been the awesome people I’ve met on our new pathways. It’s been great to form new friendships and also to be stretched in ways that are not normally “comfortable” for me. I had to speak one morning in front of about 150 women in one of my new roles (maybe not a big deal for you, but a huge, panic-stricken event for me!). It went well, and the prayers before and the encouragement I received after from ladies that I hadn’t even known before this fall were monumental.  Step out — you can do that new thing, too! And, most importantly, God has promised to be with you!

     Here’s an idea for ya’:  grab hold of a trustworthy friend who has been through a few “new beginnings” as well. (We are privileged to live in an area with many military families, and I have tremendous respect and honor for these dear ones who have moved time and time again — sometimes every year.) Reach out to them, and learn from them, too!

Be encouraged. God has promised to “make a way in the wilderness” for you. Also, those “rivers in the desert” will not just be your tears in the dry, desert/deserted areas of your life — although it feels like it at times. You will make it through this!

    Remember God’s good track record. Celebrate His faithfulness today.  Trust Him for tomorrow’s adventures.

Signing off until next time,

      Lisa  🙂
Remember. Celebrate. Trust.

TRUST: In the Midst of Transition

Transition. It’s that time they warn you about in childbirth classes that is the most painful and intense — the part where you just may turn to your husband and yell some expletives. (Thankfully I didn’t do that, but I recall fearing the possibility!) If I remember correctly, it is also the stage RIGHT BEFORE you deliver an amazing miracle and look into the face of the reason for all this pain. It’s totally worth it, but you feel like you just may die in the process…

That’s a pretty accurate illustration of how I’m feeling at the moment, after “delivering” our middle son to his first year of college over the weekend. I’m in pain, yet I know that we will both be looking into the “face” of something beautiful down the road.

Perhaps you’re there, too?  Facing a new job. Facing a new school year. Facing the future without that loved one by your side.

First, let me offer a picture that I snapped a few weeks ago. One thing I love about this beautiful vista is that it can serve as an illustration of life. Zoom in, if you’re able, and check out that “body of water” in the middle. Yep. It’s a sewer. When I was sitting in that nearby spot, doing some morning devotions and taking in the majesty of it all, I laughed out loud that right in the middle of my beautiful shot was some…umm…stuff. And as we all travel from here to there, there will be some “not­-so-­pretty” parts, no doubt.

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Beverly, West Virginia

However, here’s some encouragement:  God has promised to be with you. “I have chosen you and not rejected you. {Even if it feels like it…} Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:9b­-10

Hang in there, friend. You will survive the transition. Pray for strength. Grab a few friends to come alongside you. Try not to yell expletives at them, but if they’re your buddies, they’ll understand. 🙂 And, get ready for a beautiful “face” on the other side of it all.

Remember. Celebrate. Trust. ­­ It’s how we get from here to there…

Blessings in abundance,

Lisa

P.S. ~ Of course I must share a few pics from our most recent transition. And, in just a few days, we’ll get to do it all again with my oldest son! Ugh. “Sewer water.”

TRUST: In the Waiting Room

Wait for the Lord.  Be strong and let your heart take courage.  Yes, wait for the Lord.
Psalm 27:14 NASB

I don’t know about you, but I hate to wait. I want my food – now. I want a parking place – now. I’d like an answer – now (as long as it’s favorable to me). And I’d like all green lights on the way to my destination, please… As you can probably guess, these “demands” are rarely satisfied.

Recently I’ve had some significant opportunities to wait, and I’ve been reminded that waiting involves trust. Last week, for example, my mom had surgery at “one of the top hospitals in the country.” I was in the “waiting room” for close to 12 hours, along with my older brother and step-dad, and it was nerve-racking, to say the least.

Many friends and family prayed with me before and during the process, but I was still struggling with my peace. Would she make it through? Would she wake up from the anesthesia? Would they get all of the cancer? Would her cuts heal, or would she be permanently disfigured?

Additionally, despite having a reputation for “being the best” hospital, there was still human error possible…and happening…at the front end. The receptionist accidentally entered information into the “advanced directive” slot instead of the “power of attorney” slot, so we learned just as my mom was going back to pre-op that we did not actually have the correct paperwork for her wishes. Several tests required for her surgery “had not arrived” so they were going to repeat them all, until we advocated to have them check again, and they “found them.” The surgeon, heralded as one of the tops nationwide, seemed more concerned about finding the top to his pen that had mysteriously disappeared since he came to my mom’s bedside, than he was about explaining the surgery to us and calming our anxieties. Grrrrr.

Thankfully, my mom did great in the surgery, they did get all of the cancer, and her wounds seem to be healing beautifully. Praise be to God, and I am grateful as well for the skills of the numerous medical staff involved.

As we sat in the waiting room for several hours following the surgery, while my mom recovered and prepared to be discharged, I finally turned my attention to the numerous other families nearby. Not everyone was going to be getting the wonderful news that we received that day. For some, waiting here in the cancer ward was a regular occurrence, as their loved ones were battling chronic or recurring disease.

Perhaps you’re in a waiting room that’s fairly significant, too. We all are, I suppose. Waiting to hear about that job. Waiting on medical tests yourself. Waiting to see how things are going to turn out with that loved one. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

May I pray with you? I’m a big believer in the power of prayer — mostly because I have seen the faithfulness of God come through time and time again. Not often how I would have planned it (in fact, seldom “my way”!), but in an amazing way that I could not have imagined.

Lord, as we wait here, may we trust You for the best possible outcome. Remind us of all the times that You have come through for our loved ones and for us. Please work out all of the details, and remove the obstacles that are hindering Your perfect plan from shining forth. We put our trust in You in this waiting room, because You are trustworthy. In Jesus’s name, we pray. Amen!

Remember. Celebrate. Trust.

Until next time!
Lisa

Remember. Celebrate. Trust. ~ High School Graduation!

Whew. The big exhale. My apologies that I haven’t posted in about a month. It’s been a whirlwind at our house lately!

The Saturday following Josiah’s memorial service cake & grad pic june 2016(see previous posting on “Remember: The Brokenhearted”), our second son graduated from high school. Woo-hoo! June has been a flurry of activity for him and for us:  rehearsals, recitals, parties, awards ceremonies, graduation, job changes, final transcripts, college orientation…  All exciting milestones in the life of a family!

For those of you who have been there already — perhaps numerous times — please enjoy a stroll down memory lane. For those of you who are not there yet, read this as a “mini-warning” to sleep now (and sock away some “cash-o-la” — haha!) to prepare for yourself or maybe a loved one who will experience these joys in the future!

High school graduation is the perfect time to Remember, Celebrate, and Trust. We are remembering how adorable our students were as toddlers (“Wasn’t that just YESTERDAY?”); we are celebrating our graduates in a variety of ways and hopefully with lots of friends and family in tow; and we are trusting God that the next big step of college or the working world will be a good one!

This whole process has been very exciting with Josh. He’s our middle kiddo (excuse me – “young man”) and is pursuing a different path than his older brother, Jonathan, who first earned his associate’s at the local community college and is now enrolled at a four-year university to pursue his bachelor’s degree in finance.

Josh is a TOTAL MUSICIAN, and the “community college to four-year plan” was not going to work for him as beautifully as it did for his brother, since music majors basically require eight semesters of very specific classes. (I’m learning as I go…) It was a crazy spring as Josh narrowed down his choices and then attended auditions with his classical guitar. For anyone who has been through the college application process, you know that it is both nerve-racking and exhilarating. He was accepted into the colleges and their respective music schools, thankfully, and then just had to make “the big decision.” The winner was Christopher Newport University in Newport News, VA! We are very excited for him!

This would be a VERY LONG post if I shared all of the details, so I’ve decided to use a bunch of pictures to display some of the transitions along the way.

REMEMBER: “The Little Red Wagon” Illustration

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From this…

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To the controlled track…

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To the BIG SCARY ROADS in a car he bought himself!

REMEMBER: The Bands  🙂

 

For the Celebrate and Trust part — here’s a “charge” to Josh and each of us:

“Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments and His ordinances and His statutes…Otherwise, you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth {got me this far}.’ But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers…”. Deuteronomy 8:11, 17-18

I’ll close with an awesome song by Josh Garrels that our Josh chose to have playing during his senior slide show. The lyrics are perfect. Please take a few moments to relax and enjoy “Farther Along.” (I hope this works! I’ve never inserted a YouTube video on a blog. If not, please look it up!)

Josh Garrels’ Farther Along

Until next time, have a fun-filled, relaxing July! 🙂

Lisa T.

 

 

 

 

Remember: The Brokenhearted

May 23, 2016

Last week while I was out of town, I received word that a 10-year-old young man for whom I had been praying for more than a year was in his last days, possibly hours, of life. It was a shocking reality. I didn’t want to believe it. I put out prayer requests via any method I could think of, and noticed that many friends in my sphere of influence were doing the same. We were all desperately hoping for a miracle, or at least some Godly comfort, for this young man and his precious family.

Interestingly, I had brought an old journal along with me on my trip because it was only half full and I didn’t have time to go buy a new one. It was somewhat bulky and I had since started other ones, leaving this one unfinished. As I read through the beginning pages, here’s what I found:

***

June 23, 2015

“Much to pray about this morning. First of all, 9-year-old Josiah has a 9am appointment at Children’s Hospital because he continues to experience double vision and now his left arm is numb. He’s fighting brain cancer. Lord, please. We ask for a miracle in his young body. Please restore him to perfect health. You are still a miracle worker. We look to You for healing and a long, fruitful life.”

***

Well, it is exactly 13 months later, to the day, and the Lord took Josiah home to heaven last Thursday. Do I understand it? No. Am I happy about it? Absolutely not. Do I still believe that God can do miracles?  Yes. I just cannot explain or understand all of His ways.

I will say that I have been amazed thoughout these past 13 months at the strength and faith of Josiah’s parents as they’ve chronicled via Lotsa Helping Hands during this painful journey. I can’t imagine how difficult it was to witness and then share the many phases of his cancer. Please be praying for his family and friends in the coming days.

I share Josiah’s story briefly to challenge us all to remember the brokenhearted who are all around us. Please keep your eyes open and your hands ready for action. There are “many flavors of pain,” as one of my friends so aptly puts it, and countless opportunities for us to make a difference for dear people who are hurting. Pray. Bring food. Be a listening ear. Write a note. Just sit quietly while they mourn. These are just a few suggestions…

I’ll close with a favorite Scripture that I’ve added to one of my photos of a Delaware farm. Undoubtedly you’ll see this promise again and again on a variety of different pictures from me in upcoming blogs…. It’s a truth that I cling to when I just don’t understand, and I need to remember that God is near.

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Celebrate: The Big Catch!

Fishing, friends, and the comparison trap…

Recently, my daughter and I had the privilege of escaping for a “girls’ weekend away.” What an awesome and refreshing time we had! Although I was convinced as I was frantically packing and trying to get us on the road before rush hour that I did NOT have time for this…and that there were SO MANY responsibilities I should stay home and do…once we arrived “in the middle of nowhere” and started to relax, the need for this mini-sabbatical became clear. We all need time away!

On top of all that, Joy had this pretty awesome catch on the first day:

IMG_2059Photo creds to Aunt Sue

I was super excited for her, and quickly texted the pic back home to her Dad and brothers. While Joy had been out fishing, I was “back at the lodge” — chatting with a friend and throwing down some snacks and chocolate in various forms. (But of course! Chocolate is a necessary staple whenever two or more women are gathered together out of town.)

The next day, I decided to try out fishing for myself. I knew Joy loved it, and the pond clearly had some big ones in there. How hard could it be?

There were four of us fishing that day:  Joy and Aunt Sue, who are both avid fisher-women; and K and me, who are beginners at best. While we were still unpacking the vans at the pond, K decided to throw in the line (is that the right term?) and caught a huge fish in mere seconds! I was excited for her — at first — until I stood in that same place for like 20 minutes and got nothing. Ugh! Isn’t it amazing how quickly comparison creeps in?

As I pondered this scene later, I realized that it’s easiest for me to rejoice for others when either  a) I’m not in the same competition, so I couldn’t have won anyway; or  b) “I got one, too!” Are you like that? I’m hoping I’m not the only one. Oh — haha! I just caught myself comparing myself to others about comparison! Is there any hope?! Why, yes, actually.

While Mark Twain states that “comparison is the death of joy,” God reminds us that He loves us all the same. We don’t have to fret and compare. Colossians 3:12 promises that we are “God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved.” Now if I can just remember that when I’m feeling like I have to do or be something special… That’s the trick. Whether I catch “the big one” or just catch “three worms!” (as a much-younger Joy once proudly proclaimed after a day of fishing), the God of the Universe says that I am dearly loved. Yay!

By the way, I did end up snagging two fish that day. The first one was pretty huge — like two feet long! — (just kidding). We didn’t have our camera with us since Joy and I were both in kayaks on the far side of the pond. She deftly got the first fish off the hook for me (I wasn’t touching that thing) and paddled to shore to grab tIMG_2092he camera or my phone. When she was at the farthest possible point from me, I caught another fish all by myself:  way out there on the kayak and with no clue what to do with it! I was yelling for her to come back, while trying to paddle towards her with that poor, dear bass flopping frantically on the line. It was quite the scene. When Joy finally reached me, we brought the little darling onto shore where he ultimately died from swallowing the hook. Ugh…We took the obligatory pictures (before he breathed his last) and I’ve since decided to adopt the attitude from that famous classic movie, Finding Nemo:  “Fish are friends, not food.”

To wrap this up, that’s actually a great quote to modify and apply to our relationships:   Friends are friends — not food.” When we’re tempted to compare, let’s celebrate one another, instead of  “devouring” one another with our words or our thoughts.

And, for you moms and mentor moms out there — have a very Happy Mother’s Day!  We celebrate you and we thank you!