Pumpkin Pond Paddling

Yes, you heard me right. For four years in a row now, we have visited the Pumpkin Festival in Ludwigsburg, Germany. For me, this Kürbisfest is a highlight of the season change, preparing for the cold months we have ahead here in the greater Stuttgart area. But try as we might, I never seemed to be able to organize our visit to coincide with the day they float in oversized gourds on the small pond in front of the palace that dates back to the 1700’s. Okay, a little introduction to this unique vegetable-boat event:

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As you can see from the photograph, genuine pumpkins are carved out on the side to make an entrance to the squash, hollowed out, and then used quite effectively as a mode of travel. Participants race around the two halves of the pond competing for the fastest time, separated in 2 categories: men and women. Visit the Kürbisfest website here to see all the events at this fun fall festival. Now, on to the story of how I ended up in this unique Kürbis race… Continue reading

England Part 2: A Boot Funeral At Jone’s Bootmaker in Hastings

I had confided in Carroll that I was pretty sure during this trip in Hastings, God was going to replace my boots. Oh, my boots…I wish those 14 years ago when I first got my boots I would have had the foresight to realize how meaningful they would be – if I had, I could have captured the moment when they came into my life. But sometimes you just don’t know how precious something can become to you until it’s years later when you know a sad parting is very near.

I’ve known for, oh, I guess a year or so maybe that the time would be coming soon when my Italian boots would have to be laid aside – honestly, I’d been in denial every time my husband told me “you really need new boots, those things are on the way out.” It was probably that trip a year ago through Hezekiah’s Tunnel in Israel in thigh-high water that did them in. Well, maybe it was my tendency to pretend they were snow boots…but really, it’s borderline miraculous they stayed in-tact the 14 years that they did when I think about the wear and tear and abuse my beloved boots endured.

But going back to the beginning when Ralph splurged that night in Vicenza and spent 110 Euro on my boots, it was love at first sight. They became my go-to shoe for all occasions: hiking, dressing up, running out the door for a quick shopping trip. And even though they got a much needed break every summer, as soon as the weather cooled just enough until the end of spring when sheer foot sweat made me pause the donning of the boots, they were my dear old pal and podial companion.

Now fast forward to that day, Monday May 15, at Jone’s Bootmaker. I walked in nervously – partly hoping to find a worthy replacement, and partly wishing no such thing existed and I could walk back out in my well-worn foot gear. The first pair I tried on were actually pretty good – I could have made myself content with them: same height, same color. Not perfect, but they really.. could … do….. until I saw them. They were brown, not black – but they still zipped up (one of my favorite characteristics of my boots). They had adorable buckles on the sides. They…fit like a glove and made me fall in love again. And if you are thinking at this moment that I am ridiculous, you’d better not read a single sentence further. Ridiculous is only about to begin. Continue reading

A Trip to Hastings

Hello, my friends! I’m not following through with any of my promises to write about Israel, or Jordan, or keep up well with the travels in my life. But by necessity of time and because there are just too many lovely stories to share, I’m going to skip forward to sharing some events from a trip to England.

My friend Carroll and I ended up with an unexpected and unique little vacation to Hastings, England. Quite honestly, God directed both the fact we were taking a vacation together, the place where we went, and the events of everyday. And the stories I want to share with you about that trip are a mix of silly and special. So enjoy this little mini-series on Hastings 🙂

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Carroll drew this for her bullet journal, she let me take a photo 🙂

A Look of Faith

I love when the Lord is shouting a truth at me from His word, from several sources at the same time, by His Divine ordaining of reading the same description, the same use of scripture reference, from two different authors from different times, and different focus. But the truth is the same.

In the mornings, when I can steal longer than an hour for reflecting, praying, personal growth, and Bible study, I love to start with reading from ‘The Life and Work of Our Lord’ by Spurgeon. And right now, for personal growth, I’m also reading ‘Pursuit of God’ by AW Tozer. There is zero consistency to how many pages I read of each. And I’d begun reading the first about 3 years ago, and am halfway through, and I picked up the second a few months ago. But this morning, I am in two chapters that highlight the same Old Testament tale: the fiery serpents in the camp of the Israelites, found in Numbers 21:4-9.

What had happened? The Israelites were complaining…again. Hm, I think the Lord is speaking to me some more, because just yesterday evening the complaining of the Israelites about no food, just stinking manna, was part of the examples at a Bible study using a book called “Calm My Anxious Heart” by Linda Dillow. I have not read that book yet, but I will be picking it up to be a part of that monthly study.

So the lessons here for me are twofold. But the one I want to focus on actually happens second: the bronze serpent, the looking, the being healed. Spurgeon and Tozer both recognize the profound truth that Jesus expounded on when He said in John 3:13-16: “No one has ascended to heaven, but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” Salvation comes through faith. And faith is simply looking.

“There is life in a look at Jesus; is not this simple enough?” Spurgeon writes. The mystery of knowing salvation, of being free from the price of sin and death, is bound up in a simple believing look. Tozer details the connection further: “Our plain man in reading this would make an important discovery. He would notice that ‘look’ and ‘believe’ were synonymous terms. ‘Looking’ on the Old Testament serpent is identical with ‘believing’ on the New Testament Christ. That is, the looking and the believing are the same thing. And he would understand that while Israel looked with their external eyes, believing is done with the heart. I think he would conclude that faith is the gaze of a soul upon a saving God.”

The gaze of the soul – what do I spend my time gazing upon? What fills my eyes, my looking, and then sinks into my heart, my believing? Am I ‘looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of my faith’ or are my eyes turned downward on my stinking same old manna? Which brings me to my second point.

If I am truly turning my eyes to behold the Son lifted up, then I should be living a life healed and cured from discontent and complaining. God does not change: He still hates the ungrateful, complaining attitude just as much now as He did then. He might not send real serpents into our homes to bite us and remind us that we need His miraculous healing, but He does allow things in our lives that cause us to look up. I have to ask myself, what am I complaining about? Or am I so consumed with looking at my Savior that no irritations of this life can get me down? Lord, search me and know me. Show me where I’ve taken my eyes of faith off of You and turned them to my fiery snakes, my troubles, my problems.

But back to my main point, I just want to close with another quote from Spurgeon: “We are told in the text that ‘if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived;’ that is to say, he was healed at once. He had not to wait five minutes, nor five seconds…If you have lived in the blackest sin that is possible up to this very moment, yet if you will now believe in Jesus Christ you shall be saved before the clock ticks another time. Sanctification needs a lifetime, but justification needs no more than a moment. Thou believes, thou livest. Thou dost trust to Christ, thy sins are gone, thou art a saved man the instant thou believes. ‘Oh,’ saith one, ‘that is a wonder.’ It is a wonder, and will remain a wonder to all eternity.”

Do you get it yet? Just look to Jesus. Keep looking. And if you ever waiver in your faith, look at Him again. I have to say just one more thing through Spurgeon’s words: “Very possibly after a man had been healed he might go back to his work, and be attacked by a second serpent, for there were broods of them about. What had he to do? Why, to look again, and if he was wounded a thousand times he must look a thousand times. You, dear child of God, if you have sin on your conscience, look to Jesus.”

Look to Jesus, turn to Him,

Let Him heal you of your sin,

Look again, and just believe

On Christ’s gift at Calvary –

Keep on looking all your life

Don’t ever try to pay the price

The Son of Man has set you free

There is nothing you can bring

To add to salvation given

So set your eyes on the Lamb who is risen

And never ever look away

From His unending, amazing Grace.

(poem by Melissa Roland)

Typical Military Exchanges, and not-so-typical Modern Occurrences

The other day, just like so many other days, we drove onto a military post. This happens almost daily. Sometimes we go through the guarded entrance multiple times in a single day. Such is the life of people in the service. And it becomes so much ‘the norm’ that on the rare occasions I bring a ‘civilian’ in with me and have to fill out a visitor’s pass, I find it entertaining how the novelty of being allowed ‘on the base’ can possibly be held in any spectrum of excitement for anyone. The same old show your id, wait for the little gate to go up, and drive through is part of my mundane routine.

But today, as we drove onto Rammstein for a second time, something hit me in a new light. As my husband handed the E4 (maybe E5) our id’s, the less than 10 second conversation went something like this:

“Hey sir, ma’am.”

“hey, how’s t’going.”

“livin’ the dream.”

“yeah, sounds ‘bout right. Stay warm, brother. Take it easy”

“Everyday. Thanks.”

More was exchanged in those 21 words than can quite be understood when just reading the short dialogue in black and white. There was a bond between these two men, my husband and the young man on duty, that existed instantaneously. The sincerity of feeling in what may look like colloquialisms runs deeper than what appears to be catch phrases. They were speaking the same language, communicating concisely what shared experiences in military service put into those phrases that make them more profound. Each expression held empathy and weight as the young man, seeing my soldier’s position in the quick glance of an id card, knew immediately that the man in the car understood and experienced his own scenarios of ‘gate guarding’ – as the three simple words, “stay warm, brother,” conveyed. His response was not just wrapping up a 10 second routine, it was honest gratitude expressed for a fellow soldier giving him the brief acknowledgement he deserved for being out in the snow, doing his duty, and doing that menial task with…well, if not quite a smile, a visible good attitude.

All this hit me as we rounded the bend to the post exchange. It doesn’t matter that I’ve seen such exchanges over and over (although where we are stationed now, the personnel of the base is so small, the task of gate duty is out-sourced; not that the non-military personnel are no less friendly or appreciated, but it lacks the ‘buddy in arms’ connection that a military post with military personnel manning it has). As we got ready to go into the mini-mall of this larger post, I told myself that I must try to get this written down.

We enjoyed a little stroll and some shopping, but were interrupted by a new event that I have not experienced before. In the middle of my Love wanting to spoil me and buy a lovely Irish wool sweater (one of the benefits of an overseas post, vendors from nearby European countries bring their lovely wares in for eyeballing right in our own little shopping centers…though I rarely buy from them), there was an announcement over the loudspeaker:

“Attention, all customers and employees, there is an emergency. Please exit the building immediately at the North entrance. I repeat, this is an emergency – please gather your belongings quickly and exit the building.”

Now this was new. I was not nervous, everyone around me seemed calm, moved with purpose but not uncontrolled by any means to the exit, chatting as they went. Once outside, we asked a couple of people if they knew what was going on. Then my husband saw the bomb squad headed over toward what is I think the airstrip and airport.

There was no explosion, no chaos, just people casually leaving, or gathering in small groups to talk and maybe wait out the shut-out, and I heard plenty of people making jokes like wanting to get out and play in the snow anyway. We needed to make the 2 hour drive back home, so that won over my curiosity to stick around and see what the result was (bomb threat or false alarm?) and my desire to buy that lovely grey sweater.

I certainly hope that this second occurrence never becomes as ‘mundane and routine’ as the first. I pray our military posts remain a place of safety. Unfortunately, there have been few and far between cases of tragedy inside those guarded walls. I do worry how much longer these rare incidents will stay just that – rare. I wonder if being an American military wife will continue to seem like a secure life situation, despite the irony in my better half coming face to face with such dangers as a fact of his job. I don’t know the outcome of the emergency call (or if I will have the privilege of finding out). But I do know that, for now, we’ll be passing through those check points plenty of times as always. Maybe from this point on though, I’ll remember to have respectful recognition for the security surrounding the doorways to military life as well as those keeping that door secure.

*I did end up being able to find out that the incident was just an empty threat, and the individual was apprehended quickly. Just so you know everything on the base was calm and quiet. False alarm, thank goodness.

It’s Christmas! Time for the Impossible

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So it’s Christmas again! Merry Christmas everyone! As I sat here Christmas Eve morning, I opened my favorite book, Absolute Surrender, by Andrew Murray, to randomly read a chapter this morning. The chapter I fell upon was “Impossible with man, possible with God.” That is the message of the virgin birth, the baby who is God, the focus of Christmas (at least in our home, and maybe in yours too). Jesus is the reason for the season, and the message is twofold: 1) For God so loved the world that He gave… and the second, just like the angel told Mary when bringing her the good news 2) For with God, nothing is impossible.

I am praying for family members and friends to give their lives to Jesus this Christmas. Because nothing is impossible with God. We are having close to 40 people coming over to show them love on Christmas Day – because nothing is impossible with God. My friend is praying for God to heal my shoulder, because nothing is impossible with God. I am praying for God to restore a friend’s marriage, for another friend’s paperwork, for another friend’s father who needs a kidney: and I bring all these requests to my Heavenly Father. Because nothing is impossible with God! He proved this over 2000 years ago when a virgin gave birth to Immanuel, God with us, Jesus, Savior of the world!

“Look at the birth of Jesus. That was a miracle of divine power, and it was said to Mary: ‘With God nothing shall be impossible.’ It was the omnipotence of God. Look at Christ’s resurrection. We are taught that it was according to the exceeding greatness of His mighty power that God raised Him from the dead….I want to call upon you now to come and worship an Almighty God. Have you learned to do it? Have you learned to deal so closely with an Almighty God that you know omnipotence is working in you?” (Andrew Murray, Absolute Surrender)

I challenge you today and tomorrow to dwell on God’s amazing, incredible, all powerful ability to do anything and everything, far above what we can think or imagine. When you think about this, can you say you have submitted to Him, recognized the impossibility with you to make sense of life, and depend on the only One who can make all things possible? He is waiting for you to surrender your soul, your life, your will, your heart to Him, so that He can do an impossible work in you as well. He loves you, and He is ready to show you the amazing difference that can make in your life. Start at the manger. Go to the cross. And walk with God.

 

Oh Those Mondays

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Track 2: Mondays. Song type: fun, comical, little bit of country and swing. The Point: Part of Let Go.

So, we had just moved to Germany. We were just barely in our home, complete with borrowed military furniture until our own stuff would arrive. But we were finally out of the hotel on base after almost 3 months. Ah. Life was so very busy at the time, and I didn’t want to get up the next day and do school with the kids, I didn’t want to think about all the to-do’s coming up already, and the weekend was already over. Oh, those darn Mondays!

And so, at around midnight, I began to write about it. I put my complaints to a tune, and as I did, I realized that I needed to let go of my ‘wants’ and see things from a different perspective. One day, I might miss all this crazy busy life has going on. One day, I will be old and frail, I’ll be missing my kids and wishing I could run around checking off the boxes of all the errands I want to accomplish. One day, I won’t have so much to do, and I’ll probably miss it.

Do you complain about what’s going on in your life? Do you need to let go of certain wish-it-could-be’s or if-only-I-had’s? It can be as easy as 1)Pray: talk to God about it, and give it to Him. Let go of the complaints. 2)Try to put in it’s place some gratitude (I’ll be talking about that at the end of this series with the last song, stay tuned!)

To hear the song in it’s entirety, click here!

To purchase the entire album online, click here!

To read the first post about this album, click here!

The beginning of a new adventure

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2 years of working in a studio in Germany, preceded by at least 3 other attempts to record this album in the states, and so many small stories of how God brought this about along the way: all to finally be realized just a few short weeks ago while in my favorite place in the world, Siracusa.

Okay, there is the snapshot. Now what am I talking about? I’m talking about my new album Let Go and Try Againcd cover Let Go and Try Again.jpg

 

 

 

 

I have to pause there and just say a quick prayer: Thank you, Lord, so much for making this happen. It’s all You, and all for You, and all because of You. Amen. and wow…

Now, where was I? Oh yes, this adventure. Well, I’ve talked about writing songs before and I’ve focused in on one song in the past, Soldiers Memories. But now, there’s an entire album of songs that tell you a story. And the story is about Letting Go and Trying Again.

The first part of that story is to recognize that we are all on a journey (I know I am not the first person to say that ever). That journey of life is leading each of us to the end. There are so many people out there that believe the journey ends when you die. That’s it, finished. I hope you would consider that it’s quite possible (I believe firmly it’s very true, not just probable) that our end is just the beginning. We each have a destination, and this journey will lead us there, the choices we make and the paths we decide to take will end somewhere for eternity: either eternity with Jesus…or without.

I was thinking about all this when I wrote the words to the song, The Journey, the first track on this album. My thoughts were mulling over all the crazy unexpected turns my own life had taken. The couple of weeks before, we had just finished digesting the news that we’d be moving to Germany for a few years, got kids passports, decided to leave our sweet dog with wonderful friends, packed up a trailer, and headed back to New Mexico to finish packing the rest of our belongings for this next bend in the road. Along the way, we were able to stop and say hello to a few dear friends scattered now over Texas, as well as my husband’s grandma for possibly the last time. As I thought about all of this, God gave me words to describe it all:

The temporary life, ’cause everybody dies

One day sooner or later

It’s the only guarantee so why do people seem to be

Scared to talk about the future after.

The words continue to talk about all the miles we go leading up to a point: that point, when we die, that we have to give an answer to the Creator, the Lord of all, for what we did along our journey. And there is only one key that will get us into a destination with Him. That is His very own Son, Jesus Christ. Read what He had to say about Himself in John 8-15. He has come to set you free, to give you life, and He’s the only one who can make your journey have meaning.

Then, the little adventures (and misadventures!) along the way have so much more value – I’m so very thankful for the one that I’m on right now.