I could have no greater joy than to hear that my children are following the truth.

3 John 1:4
Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh on Pexels.com

Today is an opportunity to set aside time for worship of the Lord our God. This will be my sanctuary as I meet the Lord in the splendor of the great outdoors.

I invite you to look for God in whatever you are doing. Invite him into your moments, your activity, your life. He wants to be near you.

As I ponder what my younger me needs to hear, this song came to mind. It expresses perfectly what I wish to tell that little girl still living inside me. She needs to know that she is one of the redeemed…

Let this song be your refrain as you enjoy whatever life brings your way today. You are holy, righteous, redeemed, set apart, you have a brand new heart!

Do you ever ponder what you would tell the younger you? You know, if time travel was possible and you could sit with the younger self. Would you tell that person things to avoid? People to stay away from? To spend more time doing some things, less time doing other things?

Read: Ecclesiastes 12:1-7

Solomon had some advice to younger people. It is worth hearing. The first verse in the reading for today seems to say it all. “Don’t let the excitement of youth cause you to forget your Creator.”

As I spend time in the place of my youth, I ponder this question anew. What would I tell my younger self? Would I want to change anything?

What would you tell your younger self? Would you change anything?

Read: 2 Corinthians 3:16-18

Life brings change. Childhood memories are just that, memories. Houses are built on that plot of land that once was bare ground. The grocery store on the corner is demolished and replaced with a casino. The one lane bridge that was a shortcut to town is closed and deemed unusable.

Just as landscapes and structures change over time, so do people. One of the greatest mistakes we make is freezing people in time. Life has a way of leveling the playing field in so many respects. The athlete who excelled in high school sports is a business man trying to provide for his family. The prom queen is a mom who juggles family and career.

A couple of decades ago, I did not like to fly. But as time passed, I learned strategies and experienced a great deal of healing. Flying became second nature to me and I no longer considered it an obstacle to life. Meeting up with a woman I didn’t see often, she expressed surprise that I would fly so often. “I thought you didn’t like to fly.” It seemed she was trying to press me into the form of who I used to be. I didn’t like it. I wanted the freedom to change.

As I interact with people I have known since childhood, I want to give them room to change. God is always on the move, healing and growing us into his likeness. He is not stagnant, so why would his creation be stuck?

Is there an opportunity for you to see someone with new eyes? Maybe you are meeting up with someone you haven’t seen in a while. Are you giving them room to be different? Are you living from a place of growth and change, too?

The prayer I pray for me, and I extend it to you, is this: God, you are doing a wonderful work in your people. Open my eyes to see the way you heal and change us as we grow in you. Give me eyes to see Jesus in the people I encounter.

Sunday we did something we rarely do anymore. We took a picnic to the park. Purchasing fried chicken with sides along with some lemonade and ice tea, we spread our blankets on the ground for a picnic the old fashioned way.

As we laid out our lunch, Dave discarded something in the trash. As he did so, he was greeted with hissing and snarling of the meanest kind. He noticed the lid was off the trash can, so he cautiously peered into the receptacle. There, crouched at the bottom, was a raccoon.

Apparently, he jumped in to have his fill only to discover he had no way of getting back up the straight sides of the barrel. (We did contact the parks department to help the animal out of his predicament.)

Read: Proverbs 19:3

Dave had nothing to do with this poor animal’s current situation. As a matter of fact, if the raccoon had asked, we would have told him it was a bad idea. And yet, he snarled and snapped as if we were the cause. Of course, the raccoon was scared and just protecting himself the only way he knew to do.

But how often do we do the same thing? We get ourselves into a troubling situation because of our own foolishnes or greed, and then snarl and snap at those who walk by? Or perhaps just as likely, we get angry at God.

Is it really God’s fault? Did you ask him about it beforehand? Perhaps we, too, are only scared and protecting ourselves. Since we are not senseless animals, the choice is ours to receive the help we need without biting the hand that offers. If you’re in a mess, humble yourself and admit you made a wrong turn. Today is always a good day for a fresh start. And remember, Jesus loves even you!

Going-to-the-Sun-Road in Glacier National Park by Tim Rains, National Park Service

Today I travel to Montana to visit my mom, siblings and a few of my nieces and nephews. It is interesting that, after 35 years, I still call Montana “home.” I grew up just a short drive from West Glacier, the gateway to Glacier National Park, pictured above.

So what makes a place “home?” It’s more than the geography. Home is the place of our family affection. It is the place that nurtures us, protects us, forms us. For me that happened in Big Sky Country.

I grew up on a farm with 80 acres of tillable land and 80 acres of conifer woods along the Flathead River. Summer days found me mowing lawn, pulling weeds in the garden or harvesting produce to preserve for winter. If we couldn’t grow it in the garden or raise it in the barn, we rarely ate it. Milking cows, gathering eggs, making butter were all regular activities. Mom even tried her hand at cheese which wasn’t very successful. We bought cheese.

When the work was finished, my sister and brother and I went to the woods. Many days we played among the trees building forts, running from imaginary enemies or conquering the wild west. If the river was low enough, we made our way to the water’s edge and walked up and down the banks of the river. There was an old car in the river and we frequently played in it. There were so many things to imagine and discover!

Our farm consisted of the farmhouse where we lived and an odd assortment of outbuildings. My dad saved everything so it was a continual treasure hunt to play in the buildings. There was an unused garage next to the house that protected the most wonderful layers of discarded items. Sometimes we would gather our courage and clear out some space to play inside the building. It felt like the boxcar children everyday!

https://everydaywanderer.com/huckleberries

Another of my favorite summer activities was huckleberry picking. A huckleberry is similar to a blueberry, but unlike it in so many ways. The berry is much smaller, shiny and more tart than a blueberry. It is wild and grows on low scrubby bushes in the mountains. You have to hunt for them. Of course, we had our favorite patches. Mom would let us pick and sell ours to make a little money. At the time, a gallon of berries sold for $16. That was more than thirty years ago. We thought we had won the lottery when we were able to sell a gallon. (The berries are currently selling for $65/pound. Check here for other huckleberry facts.)

Of course, things have changed since I left home 36 years ago. My father passed away, Mom moved off the farm, my brother farms the tillable land, the woods is protected. But we still visit the farm and wander the woods and we still pick huckleberries.

A few years ago, returning to Indiana from a visit to Montana, I knew I was coming HOME. I thought about my own children and their heritage. Indiana is their home. It is their place of family affection. It is where their earliest memories formed; it is the place they forged their way and became their own person.

There is another home I look forward to going some day. Jesus said:

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.

John 14:1-3

Although I haven’t seen heaven, I experience Jesus on a daily basis. He promised to go and prepare a place just for me. But he also promised to always be with me here. He hasn’t left me abandoned. We can speculate what heaven will be like; there are even books written on what we can expect. And then I am reminded of the scripture that says “no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind can imagine what God has prepared for those who love him.” ( 1 Corinthians 2:9; Isaiah 64:4)

I think heaven will be like Montana with rugged mountains, clear, cold water, blue endless skies. There will be forests to discover, rivers to run, treasures to find. The berries will be abundant; adventure will be endless.

Today might look really gloomy to you. Tragedy may have struck, bills due, discord knocks. Whatever it is, I invite you to turn your eyes toward home. Remember that the glory that awaits you far outweighs anything you might experience today. And it is your choice where you fix your gaze.

Today, on the other hand, might shine brighter than the sun. Prosperity landed, abundance is yours, peace reigns. I invite you to turn your eyes toward home as well. Nothing you experience here compares to the glory of what is prepared for you for eternity. Don’t let shiny things here turn your eyes away from the splendor of HOME!

Until next time…

May the Lord bless you and protect you.

May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.

May the Lord show you his favor and give you peace.

Numbers 6:24-26

Read: Isaiah 43:1-4; John 3:16-17

It is the early morning hours. The time when dawn gently taps me awake, nudging me into consciousness while my body continues to slumber. The first rays of awareness break through, exposing the heaviness that has been my companion these last few days.

I do the only thing I know to do in these moments. I cry out to God. What is this? What is causing me to feel so downcast? What do I need to see? And I wait….

I don’t wait long before a song begins to play in my mind. It’s one I haven’t sung in a long time. Until Friday, when Finley wanted music while she played.

I am so glad that our Father in heaven tells of his love in the book he has given.

Wonderful things in the Bible I see, this is the dearest that Jesus loves me.

I am so glad that Jesus loves me, Jesus loves me, Jesus loves me.

I am so glad that Jesus loves me, Jesus loves even me.

In those predawn hours, I listen to the simple song whispering to my mind. Realization begins to dawn. This is what Father needed me to hear this morning. This is the message I have been overlooking.

JESUS loves me! Jesus LOVES me! Jesus loves ME! JESUS LOVES EVEN ME!

He loves me just as I am. He’s got this. I can stop striving and know that I am loved.

JESUS loves you! Jesus LOVES you! Jesus loves YOU! JESUS LOVES EVEN YOU!

Read: Romans 12:2-3

Today we had the awesome privilege of spending the afternoon at a friend’s pool. The pool deck is surrounded by beautiful plantings of both perennials and annuals. Her flower pots overflowed with geraniums, petunias and sweet potato vines of various colors inviting a person to lay back and relax!

Another friend and I retreated immediately to the floating devices in the pool. As we languidly floated around the pool, my friend commented on the sweet potato vines. She also planted some at her house but hers were tattered by bug bites. She wondered aloud how our friend kept hers looking so nice.

Eventually I got out of the pool and took a passing glance at the pots. Upon closer inspection, I found that the vines so gracefully adorning these pots were also flecked with bug bites.

The moral of the story: everyone’s vines have bug bites. Some are just hidden better than others. You be you!

Have a great day of worship!

Read: Isaiah 8:11-17

You might be wondering what in the world this reading has to do with parenting. In my experience as a parent, I spent too much time thinking about what other parents were doing or thought they would do. I followed other parents patterns in an attempt to get it right. The truth is, “right” is what works for you and your children.

If I could tell anything to parents at all stages, I would say this: Stop watching/listening to social media! Sure, there are some good bits of information we glean from social media platforms. I, quite frankly, think this blog is a great use of social media.

When I was having my children, we didn’t have Facebook, Twitter, Instragram or the internet. We just had regular face-to-face conversation. And that was difficult enough. I remember one mother whose baby slept through the night at a very young age and self-soothed to go to sleep. My child didn’t do that. But when another mother said how important it was to have a child who could soothe themselves, I went right home and got to it! That was a terrible amount of pressure to put on myself.

And that is what is happening today on social media. Moms post pictures of their children and glow about their accomplishments. Did you ever see a parent posting that their child is wrecking their life? Because that is how we feel sometimes and that’s just being honest. We know they aren’t trying to punish us, but it sure feels like it when they have been awake most of the night crying or they run screaming to their room.

So, don’t call travesty everything another parent calls travesty! Look to God to give you wisdom. Check in with trusted parents who are further along than you in the journey. I have a friend ten years older than me. She has been my sounding board for over twenty years. I am blessed to have her in my life. Look for someone like that.

And remember, this too shall pass! And it will be so quickly!

P/S: You’re doing a great job in whatever stage you are in right now! Keep it up!

Adult children. A whole new frontier.

Read: Ecclesiastes 3:1-13

No one ever said parenting adult children would be so difficult. Maybe it isn’t the children who are so difficult. I think it might be that as parents, we don’t know how to adjust. No one told us.

We have grown accustomed to being a constant in the lives of our children. We direct them, give advice, challenge their decisions, set boundaries, help with finances.

Suddenly, they are adults. They have their own homes. They have jobs. They have responsibility. They make decisions. And we are “over there” somewhere and it feels downright strange.

Last week, we had a pop-up dinner. All three of our children were there with their spouse/fiance, as well as a close adult friend of my daughter. I took the opportunity to quiz them about their current need for parenting. I asked what they needed as adults from their parents. This is what I learned that night.

Respect. Adult children need to know that you honor them as individuals and value their worth as people. In spite of the fact that they are your children, they don’t want to be treated as children.

Approval. Adult children need to know that you see them and that you know how hard they are working. This applies to them as professionals, home owners, parents and every other area where they are putting forth effort. They need to hear the words, “I’m so proud of you.”

Space. Adult children want to know that you are there for them and that you think about them. But they don’t want to come home from work to find you in their home redecorating, cleaning or doing laundry. Unless of course, you had spoken with them about it prior to doing the work. A text message throughout the week reminding them that they are in your prayers and thoughts means a lot. A phone call before you stop in is most appreciated.

Unconditionality. This means interactions with our adult children are not limited by conditions. Knowing they are unconditionally loved, accepted, appreciated and honored regardless if their choices and decisions are different from yours. It encompasses where they choose to live, the job they pursue, whether or not they are married or have children. They need to know how you feel about them doesn’t depend on meeting any conditions.

Friendship. This is an interesting concept for some parents to embrace. When our children are young, we live by the mantra “I am their parent, not their friend” as we strive to maintain a stable, consistent home environment. As they mature, their need for a mature adult friend increases. Perhaps some more readily embrace the term mentor rather than friend. Whichever term you feel comfortable with, adult children need you to be their friend more than a parent.

I share the following example with my daughter’s full knowledge. She had her first child in 2016. At the time, she was working part time and so the two grandma’s split the babysitting needs and took care of Finley. After a few months, Emily changed jobs and needed more childcare. She and Cory decided to enroll Finley in a local daycare. To say this was difficult for me is mild. I wondered why she didn’t follow in my footsteps and stay at home. At the same time, I saw that her interactions at work enabled her to be a better person which made her a better mom. I prayed about it …a lot. I really wanted her to change her mind about working so much, but that isn’t what happened. She took Finley to daycare full time.

I do not share this to advocate staying at home or for utilizing daycare. I share this as an illustration of adult parenting. I had to really step back and allow them to parent and make decisions very different from the ones we made. And in the process, I didn’t want to ruin our relationship. I learned to love and support them without conditions. I regularly find aspects of parenting they do really well and share what I see. I make an effort to tell her that I am proud of her as a mom, wife and professional. Even when I am tempted to do otherwise, I give them space to be their own people.

The urge I fight the most with my adult children is “being the solution.” This ranges from providing childcare to financial resources. It is difficult for me to see them struggle but, as I shared earlier this week, the struggle is necessary. So, I remind myself to step away from the children. I pray for perspective, I listen and encourage. Some days I even get it right.

I also recognize that my experiences as a parent of adult children are still limited. Looking at my own parents, their children experienced divorce, addictions, jail, financial difficulty, discord and death.

Parenting is an every changing scape. Living with open hands has made it easier for me. For sure, I grieved the change from one stage to the next, but in every season there are great things to embrace and enjoy.