Saturday, December 31, 2016

A New Year

At the eve of this New Year, there are no profound words of wisdom that come to mind, not really any resolutions (though I do have plans for the new year :), no great life-changing goals or aspirations . . . just open hands.

"Use me as You will, may Your will be done in my life."

Trusting and following . . . yielding to Him my desires and dreams . . . living and serving each day to the fullest with a mind "set on the things above" . . . looking ahead with peace and joy to whatever He has in store, knowing that His plan and path is best, and that it is good.

This is what I desire for my heart to fully embrace and live out in 2017.

Over this past year, a phrase from a song (based upon Isaiah 55:8-9) has so often come to mind: "Your ways are higher than mine." Or as it reads in Isaiah: " 'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,' declares the LORD. 'For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.'"

This never fails to encourage and bring peace to my heart and helps me to trust. What a faithful God He has proven Himself to be! Not only does His infallible word testify of His wisdom and faithfulness, they have also blanketed and enveloped my past year in beautiful ways. His faithfulness will continue to be present . . . He will continue to faithfully guide as He has done.

This past year He taught me so much and has drawn my heart much closer to Himself. 2016 was the hardest and most spiritually stretching and growing year I have ever had. Yet it also held many blessings, and it has been one that greatly deepened my relationship with my God and Father.

As I look ahead to 2017, I see the doors that God has already opened and that will prayerfully be continuing . . . doors that I am so thankful for: the nursing home ministry (which has been going so well! There will be more about that in an upcoming post), the therapeutic riding center, spending time with friends and family, sharing the gospel, helping those in need . . . how very many wonderful opportunities God has given!

As I consider each of these, I can see many ways that I can be serving more, sharing more, loving more, in each of them, and going deeper in relationships with others. My hope and prayer is that 2017 will find me growing in these.

So here's to another year . . . blank pages just waiting to be written on. May what fills those pages bring glory to my Lord and Savior, may it count for His kingdom, may it please Him, may they find me growing more in Christ, with less of me and more of Him.

Another year is dawning!
Dear Master, let it be,
In working or in waiting,
Another year with Thee.
Another year in leaning,
Upon Thy loving breast,
Of ever-deepening trustfulness,
Of quiet, happy rest.

Another year of mercies,
Of faithfulness and grace;
Another year of gladness,
In the shining of Thy face.
Another year of progress,
Another year of praise;
Another year of proving
Thy presence "all the days."

--Frances Ridley Havergal

". . . that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience . . . ." Colossians 1:9-11


May you all have a blessed New Year! And thank you so much for the great blessing you have been in my life and my family's lives this past year!

Friday, December 30, 2016

The Sister Outing that Was and Wasn't

Last week on a chilly, cloudy, dreary afternoon, Leah and I had the spontaneous idea to go to a nearby conservation area and drive through it to do some bird watching. It was only a few hours until the sun would set, so we hurried to get binoculars, bird books, and a camera together and then headed out.

We had such fun together during the drive! Music was playing, we were talking, laughing, and thoroughly enjoying our time together. Our first stop was a gas station to pick up some hot chocolate to enjoy (and help keep us warm! as while we bird watch at the conservation area, the windows are often down.) What came out of the machine into our cups, though, was brown tinged water - the machine wasn't working! So . . . nix that idea.

We continued on our way and eventually, pulled into the entrance to the conservation area. There we stopped to look at a large flock of swans that were in a harvested cornfield way in the distance. That was a treat to see! It was the most swans we had ever seen at one time before.

They are the white specks way in the distance

Driving further on in order to get closer to them, we were met with a blocked road, stop signs, and a sign saying the area was closed for duck hunting. Our sister outing was quickly coming to not much of anything!

We started brainstorming then . . . what else could we do outdoors that was close by? Go down by the river! So that's what we did. There was ice flowing down it which was neat to see . . . .

Looking downriver

Me photographing (photo courtesy of Leah's cell phone)

We had a lot of fun here! Soaking in the beauty and the cold, and as it was quite still out, it was also pleasant just listening to the ice and water flowing.

Ice on the river . . . the circle one looks almost like someone could just sit on it and use it as a boat and float downstream! 

Leah up at the top of the bank 

As much as we enjoyed our time there, one can only stand watching a river flow for so long :), so we headed home, but on a scenic gravel road which was fun. As we drove away from the river, it was neat to see another flock of swans fly overhead!

The gravel road winding through the woods of barren trees . . . such a peaceful, pleasant drive!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Catching Up

After a flurry of activity and many long days (often working all day until 10 or later at night), things are slowing down now, and I am catching up on things in regular life and a bit here on the blog as well!

The introduction of the gift sets (mentioned in this post) in my online stores far exceeded my expectations, and as a result, the end of November and all of December up until the last few days ended up being very busy! 

In the middle of assembling gift boxes

The days were full with making product, assembling gift sets, communication with customers online, packaging orders, trying to keep up with ordering supplies to make more of the products (thankfully, each time I ran out of something [such as bath salt jars or mailing boxes], the newly ordered ones were delivered right when I needed them!), not to mention the farmers market on Saturdays, too!

At the farmers market . . . and Leah has been bringing her candles there now as well She has done well with those there! (And please pardon the wrinkled tablecloth . . . would you believe I ironed it? I didn't realize how bad it still looked until looking at this photo! The lighting really brings the wrinkles out.)

Leah working our booth

Lots of delicious veggies at the market!

One Saturday these two gentlemen played and sang, and it was much enjoyed by everyone! They sang wintry songs, beautiful old favorites such as "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" and "Joy to the World", some oldies, and also children's songs. They had brought a bin of maracas and tambourines so customers could play along. The children especially loved it! When this photo was taken, they were playing "She'll be Coming 'Round the Mountain, and it was so fun listening to them all and singing along.

There was one week in December when so many orders were coming in online that Mom and Leah helped with packaging some of them, and then took over the meals for the rest of the week for me, too (as it was my week to cook.) 

I am thankful for the blessing of how well my business did during this time and how it has grown (though am glad it has slowed down now :) and thankful also for my wonderful family. They were so supportive and helped so much with packing orders, bringing packages to the post office for me a number of times, and not minding the stray bits of excelsior that seemed to be continually tracked onto the living room floor nor a dining room table that had to turn into a 'gift box assembly station' many days . . . .

A table of orders in progress . . . and the gift boxes with excelsior sticking out have just had the first step done - getting excelsior put into them. Once the gift sets are all done, it is all carefully tucked inside. 

Two days of orders . . . the biggest Post Office run with 29 packages! 

All of this was a fun adventure that's for sure!

So . . . that's why I have been rather quiet here on the blog. :)

Amidst the busyness, though, one much enjoyed event took place this past Sunday which was the annual "Volunteer, Rider, and Donor Appreciation Day" for the Therapeutic Riding Center. All four of us went, and it was so good to see dear friends again including two of my little riders (and their families.) It was like a mini reunion!

Dad, Mom, and Leah visiting with a gentleman who sat at our table

We enjoyed wonderful conversations, lots of hugs from sweet littles, delicious food, and then watching the slideshow which is a compilation of photos from the year followed by an award ceremony.

Some of my favorite parts of the afternoon were:

- Spending time with these sweet girls (and their brother, Will [who I work with at the therapeutic riding center] and their little sister) . . . .

(And in the back top right of this photo is one of our little riders, Livi, whom I'll share more about in just a bit.)

- Playing with dear Will (sorry no photos of him! He preferred to stay out of them that day. :) At one point, he was teasing me a lot and giving me his adorable little sideways looks so I started imitating him . . . which made him start doing all sorts of different things, with me imitating him right back. He thought it was hilarious! It makes me smile just thinking of his eyes all lit up and how he laughed! And then how he'd all of a sudden run over and give a spontaneous hug.

- Holding Suzi and dancing to the music during part of the slideshow . . . her giggles of delight were infectious!

Suzi and I (not dancing at the moment :) with the sweet card from their family and the drawings the girls made for us (Thanks so much M. family!)

Leah and Layla - our laps stayed busy! And Leah enjoyed lots of snuggles including Suzi just about falling asleep on her.

- Gentle "Livi hugs" and hearing some of her new words! Livi is a precious girl Leah and I have been working with the last year and a half or so at the riding center - no photos of us with her sadly, though she is in the photo mentioned above. Sweet girl and her parents so thoughtfully gave Leah and I each a gift which included a photo of us each working with Livi which was really special. (If you all see this, thank you again so much!)

- Talking with parents of our riders and some other volunteers we've become friends with

- Seeing all of the photos on the slideshow which brings back so many special memories!

 Layla being silly and playing with my Dad who was sitting behind us

 Love these sweet girls! (And Will and Sadie!)

We are so glad we were able to go to this! We weren't sure at first given the rather wintry weather we had had, but thankfully by Sunday, the roads were clear enough that we could venture out.

Friday we had freezing drizzle begin in the morning which lasted all day and left everything coated in ice. Unfortunately, the road crews didn't start salting the roads until mid-day Friday and by that time, the roads were sheets of ice. It took my parents 1 1/2+ hours to make the 20 min. drive home, and it was hard driving! The interstate was barely moving in some places, and others, not at all as many vehicles, and especially the semis, were just sitting there with tires spinning on the ice.

Leah and I were praying at home that Dad and Mom would make it home safe, and it was a relief when they pulled into the driveway! 

It was a crazy mess on the roads with many people having their commutes go from 20-45 minutes to many hours and some up to at least six hours. The last of the school children weren't delivered home until 1 am in the morning, and there were 300+ wrecks in central Missouri as a result of the ice (thankfully the vast majority were not serious.) It has also been cold! Dipping below zero several times and some days not making it into the 20's which has made animal chores a little more interesting. It's starting to warm up a bit now, though, which is a welcome change, especially the sunshine of today.

Ice on the blueberry bush leaves

After the ice came a thin blanket of snow which minimized the slickness outdoors and made it beautiful. I walked down to get our mail after dark Friday night and the snow was falling gently then. It was so still out you could hear it. As I took it all in, my heart filled with thankfulness and praise to the Lord, the Creator, and I ended up singing "How Great Thou Art" all the way down the driveway (amidst slipping and sliding a bit on the ice and snow. :)

The girls (plus a wether) curious as to what I was doing when out taking photos

It's always fun after a snowfall to go for walks and photograph and then to also look for animal tracks. Though this time, most of the animals must have still been hunkered down as the only tracks to be seen other than birds and domestic dogs were these rabbit tracks:

So there you have a glimpse into what has been happening here as of late! And as a little fun conclusion :)  . . . any guesses how many different bird species are in the below photo?

Notice the fighting Blue Jays? They didn't want to share the suet feeder!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Our Thanksgiving

This post is a little late in coming. :) It has been quite busy here! The winter farmers market began this past Saturday and business has really picked up online, too. But now, here it is!

Thanksgiving week turned out to be a little different than we had originally planned . . . my great-uncle passed away at age 100, and Dad and Mom went to Nebraska for his funeral. While we did not know him very well, he (and his family) had been a special part of our lives (his wife especially who went home to be with the Lord quite a few years ago), and Dad and Mom really wanted to be there to support his family. Meanwhile, Leah and I stayed home to take care of things around here while they were gone.

While the circumstances were sad as it is always hard to lose those you love (especially when you do not know if they had trusted in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior - that is hard!), Dad and Mom had a lot of special times with family and some really good conversations with a number of people as well. It was wonderful to hear how the Lord worked during their trip! They were also able to stop in and see Grandma and Aunt Marci again as the drive brought them right by there.

With all of that, our Thanksgiving was postponed until Saturday. Friday found the kitchen busy with pies, rolls, and a number of other things being made in preparation which is always fun! Music was playing in the background, yummy smells were wafting through the house, and the fridge was slowly filling up.

Saturday we were joined by some friends and what a wonderful day we all enjoyed together. Here is a tiny peek into it . . . .

One of the verse cards on one of the plates

Dad carving the turkey 

Part of the table 

It was a beautiful day here in Missouri so after the lunchtime meal and after the dishes were finished, we drove out to the Katy Trail and walked a ways down that. Plus some of us climbed up rocks on the side, too. :) They were just begging to be climbed! We had such fun together! So much good and encouraging conversation, and lots of laughter, too.

The Missouri-Kansas-Texas railroad lines . . . now the Katy Trail

Me with the youngest of our group after we climbed up the rocks a ways

Whoops! After jumping down into a ditch along the side of the trail, he turned to us and calmly said "there's water in here." Yes, there certainly was! And lots of mud, too! With shoes like in the photo, he went the rest of the way barefooted carried on his dad's shoulders. 


A pair of lone geese out on the river

We enjoyed watching a beautiful sunset over the Missouri River . . . what a masterpiece it turned out to be! The heavens truly do declare the glory of God.

As darkness was falling and the temperature was dropping, we brought our walk to an end and headed home to enjoy the pies . . . .

Then it was game time! We played a number of different games and had such fun together. What a blessing friends and family are!

And there you have a glimpse into our Thanksgiving day . . . enjoying time together and also taking time to thank the Lord for all that He has richly blessed us with. There is so much to thank Him for!

Each Thanksgiving I love to take some time to reflect on the past year and write down those things I am thankful for . . . as my pen flew across the paper, my heart filled even more with thankfulness to the Lord. How very good and faithful He is!

"Blessed be the God and Father of our 
Lord Jesus Christ, who according to 
His great mercy has caused us to be born again 
to a living hope through the resurrection 
of Jesus Christ from the dead."
1 Peter 1:3

"Enter His gates with thanksgiving
And His courts with praise.
Give thanks to Him, bless His name.
For the LORD is good;
His lovingkindness is everlasting
And His faithfulness to all generations."
Psalm 100:4-5