What’s Wrong With People?!

Vanishing Grace

Fair warning: My mind is contemplating life from many angles right now. I feel like I have enough words in my head to fill a book with lengthy chapters on any number of topics. But I will try to focus on a couple of items here, and state them as clearly as I can. Perhaps I can touch on other points later.

In light of both local and world news events, I am hearing and reading of more and more people asking, “What’s wrong with people today?” I wonder if it’s just an expression, or if people are sincerely wondering. If it’s the latter, I would imagine that a feeling of great desperation might accompany the question.

Frankly, I believe it’s the same thing that’s been wrong with people all along–there’s nothing new under the sun. Considering the rampant violence that seems to somehow intersect our lives every day, “No moral compass,” would be my simple response. How can we expect people to care about others and act in a selfless and responsible manner when there isn’t much in this world encouraging us to do so? Self-centeredness is rampant–I struggle with it myself. (How dare you pull out in front of me?! What makes him think he can treat me like that?! C’mon lady, I don’t have all day!–a small sampling of my pathetic, impatient, self-centered thinking).

But I also have a trusted place to turn in order to align my life with the morals and values that I know to be of utmost importance. I am convinced that the life of Jesus sets the perfect example for how we should walk through this life, and is the answer to what EVERY person and situation needs. But, I am also quick to admit that so many of us who call ourselves “Christians” are doing a terrible job of reflecting Jesus and His love and character and have confused the issue to the point of people immediately writing us off as idiotic, hypocritical fools. A recent quote I read says, “Christians are meant to give off the aroma of Christ, but we’ve often smelled like something else.”

When someone hears the word “Christian,” the first word that should come to mind is “love.” I can almost hear some of you laughing and rolling your eyes at that one. But it’s what Jesus exemplified. He preached truth and change and turning from sin too, but he always loved.

Because of our bad example and erroneous teaching over the years, so many today have no need for Christianity or “religion” in general. (Honestly, I don’t like the word “religion” at all. It gives the impression of “doing something for Godly gain” when in reality, grace is a free gift that we only need to accept and then grow to understand more and more.) But the True* Christian life offers HOPE. It offers love, forgiveness and a reason for being alive in this otherwise messed-up world. It gives life meaning. It offers the Perfect Example of how to live in every situation… but it takes sacrifice. Instead of self-centeredness, it requires other-centeredness. And therein lies the solution to what ails us today! But it will not come in a massive wave of world change. It will come one heart at a time. It takes time, patience and dedication.. and it’s not easy.

The gospel (translated “good news”) of Jesus really IS good news, but it’s not difficult to believe that many see Christians as bearers of bad news, not good.

So here’s some bad news: New laws are not going to make everything right. Politicians are not going to save us. Treaties with other countries will not guarantee our safety. A new job, spouse or neighborhood will not bring us ultimate happiness.

Here is a quote from a book that I am currently reading, which offers what I have come to believe as the Good News: “It strikes me as genuinely good news that we are creations of a loving God who wants us to thrive, not random byproducts of a meaningless universe. That God entered our world and demonstrated in person that nothing–not even death–can separate us from God’s love. That the story of Jesus has the main theme: ‘For God so loved the world that He gave…’ That  human existence will not end with the imminent warming of our atmosphere or the gradual cooling of our sun, and my particular destiny will not end with death. That God will balance the scales of human history not by karma but by grace, in such a way that no one will be able to accuse God of unfairness.”   —Vanishing Grace by Philip Yancey

Our worlds can be rocked and our very lives could be snuffed out tomorrow. It could happen to us–it’s not always someone else. But there is Hope and a Peace that passes all understanding. I am not worthy of it, but I cling to it with all that I am, because, through grace, I know the Great I Am.

 (If this post leaves you with questions, I would love to dialogue with you about them. There is so incredibly much more to be said. And if you consider yourself a Christian [or not] and are up for a good book that might make you want to radically change how you live your life, join me in reading Vanishing Grace. I would love to discuss it with you. It is really challenging me to become a more loving and grace-filled person, and making me aware of areas where I need a lot of work!)

*I use the word True in front of Christian here to represent people who are honestly striving to follow Jesus. It seems that many people call themselves “Christian” (think surveys, internet article comments, people screaming at other people) but don’t have a good grasp on what it entails and are, perhaps, currently far from being a whole-hearted follower of Jesus. Just my observation/opinion.

Visiting the Abraham Lincoln Museum in Springfield, Illinois

Abraham Lincoln MuseumWe spent a few days away for Spring Break this year {and I’m a little late getting this posted}.

We visited family in southern Illinois, and then spent a day and night in Springfield, Illinois on our way back home. This was our second trip to Springfield as a family. Last summer we spent a few hours there, exploring the capitol grounds, on our way west to Colorado.

This trip, our main purpose was to visit the Abraham Lincoln Museum. By the time we arrived, it was 2 o’clock in the afternoon, and the museum closed at 5pm. We were a little concerned that we wouldn’t have enough time, but as it turned out, our timing was perfect, for us and our two third-graders. We got to see {almost} everything we wanted and didn’t push our kids into the whiny “I want to go” phase.

There are several areas to visit in the museum. After pictures with the Lincoln family in the plaza, we started our tour by checking out the log cabin in the Journey One area.

Abe as a kid

We attended the “Ghosts in the Library” special-effects presentation, and then the Union Theater’s “Lincoln’s Eyes.” Both were very well done, but could be a little much for small children. Ella was a bit creeped out with the “ghosts” in the library and both kids sat on our laps during “Lincoln’s Eyes.” The latter presentation included loud noises, like the boom of cannons, and flashing lights. As would be expected, there were photos from the war here and throughout the museum.

On a much lighter note, Mrs. Lincoln’s Attic was a hands-on area where the kids got to be kids for a while. There were clothes to try on, old-fashioned games to play, food to pretend to cook and serve and more. We saved this area for last so that it wasn’t hard to make the kids leave in order to see the rest of the displays. That was a very good idea. The only thing left to see after this play area was the gift shop, and for some reason, we never have to ask our kids twice if they want to go to a gift shop.

Lincoln dress-up

eating in Mrs. Lincoln's attic

dressed in Civil War attire

Another tip that I would recommend is to check the website for any current special events or promotional discounts. There was a food drive going on that we participated in and that saved us a surprising amount of money on our admission price.

image3I do think we would all enjoy another visit to the museum before the kids are out of the house. This was a bit of an introduction for them, to some of the events of the Civil War. They will be better able to understand the events and politics of the day when they’re a bit older. Next time, we probably won’t spend time in Mrs. Lincoln’s Attic 🙁 but we will take the time to walk through the Treasures Gallery, which, for the sake of time, we chose to skip this time around.

[I took these pictures with my iPhone 6. Some of them downloaded small and I can’t figure out how to get them to a larger size. Please let me know if you have insight on how to do this, since I haven’t been able to figure it out yet.  Thanks!!]

Winter Blues

winter blues

In keeping with my theme of displaying the things that I love, I wanted to share a couple of pictures of my winter display of blue glass in my kitchen.

blue glass display

I started with this framed metal piece that used to hang in our previous house. I never found a place for it when we moved, so it has been sitting on a shelf in our basement.

These 3 Ball jars were passed on to me from my mother and were collecting dust in our basement as well. Some of the blue bottles had been in my kitchen and I collected other pieces from around the house.

Again, just seeing this cozy collection of things each day, makes my heart sing. Hmmmm, what should I work on next?

 

winter blue glass

 

Displaying, Rather than Storing, Meaningful Items

winter mantelI have a lot of great stuff . . . in boxes . . . in my basement. Can you relate?

After taking down Christmas decorations last month, I was faced with an empty mantel. The thought of putting my tried and true items back in their place seemed like drudgery.  I wanted to mix it up a bit, and that set me on a mission. I began casting a new vision for different areas of my home.

I have had several items tucked away that once belonged to my parents or grandparents. I really love their look, but have always told myself that they didn’t fit the decor of my home. I have dreamed of displaying them somehow, somewhere, but in the basement they have remained.

So now I’m taking bold new steps and creating ways to get them out in the open where they can be enjoyed. And I have started with my mantel.

Here’s a view of our parlor with my newly created winter-time mantel.

parlor with winter mantelI started this arrangement with a framed print that was being stored in our basement–because I needed a large enough piece to cover a couple of large screws that had held the previous painting that hung over the fireplace.

Then, with a nod to both of my grandmothers, and a neutral palette, I began arranging other meaningful items on the mantel.

heirloom mantel

wedding dress boxI included this box, which at one time, held my grandmother’s wedding dress, her eighth-grade graduation dress, and two little outfits that her children wore as babies. She wrote a list of the box’s contents on the outside. I have always cherished this box, but had never before considered displaying it. So glad it came to mind now.

heirloom mantel2Some other items I chose to display here included a checkerboard I remember from my grandparents’ house, old books, a pin cushion, a vintage hat, a wooden storage box and this little porcelain plant holder.

I like this look. And I like the way it makes me feel when I see it. What do you think? Do you have any interesting ways to display your favorite items?

I’ve got another little project I hope to show off soon.

 

Be Overwhelmed

Country Sunset

So how’s your new year going? Off to a frenzied start? Feeling overwhelmed yet?

I set a lot of personal goals for this year and I am chomping at the bit to tackle them and take on some new projects. But for right now, it seems, those things are kept just out of reach by the routines and responsibilities that fill up my days. I feel like I’ll never have the chance to accomplish all the other things that are on my heart. I know of others who are dealing with much bigger issues.

The song “Overwhelmed” by Big Daddy Weave, has been going through my mind nearly non-stop as of late. I thought I’d share it here as an encouragement to anyone who needs to be reminded of what should be overwhelming us. I hope you can take a moment to turn up the volume, listen, and lay your burdens down at the feet of our overwhelming God. He loves us and He’s got this.

 

Recycled Gift Wrapping Hack

Tissue box gift wrap hackWell, Happy New Year!

I know. I haven’t posted for a while and this post may seem a day late and a dollar short, BUT it’s still useful if you, like me, have plenty of birthdays coming up in the new year!

Backstory: It was Christmas Eve and my daughter confided in me that she didn’t have a gift for her brother. I told her that all shopping was done and that she would need to either find or make something. A moment later I remembered that I had an extra container of gum, which would be the perfect gift for her to give her brother. She agreed. {disaster averted}

At the same moment that I was suggesting the gum gift to her, I picked up an empty tissue box with the intent of throwing it away. And then it all seemed to magically come together. I set it on the kitchen table and noticed some used tissue paper on the counter. It coordinated with the box perfectly. Whoo-hoo, my lucky day.

Empty tissue box, recycled tissue paper and "the gift."

Empty tissue box, recycled tissue paper and “the gift.”

I wrapped the gum in the tissue paper and stuck it inside the box.

I wrapped the gum in the tissue paper and stuck it inside the box.

In a flash, the gum was wrapped and under the tree!

Ella added a gift tag.

My daughter added a gift tag.

I just picked up another empty tissue box. How convenient! My son’s birthday is only a couple of weeks away!

{I've got some big plans for this little guy.}

{I’ve got a plan for this little guy.}

Door County in the Fall

Door CountyLast weekend, my family and I traveled north to Door County, Wisconsin for a few days. I have wanted to get to Door County in the fall for some time and was excited that we finally had the opportunity to go.

I was not disappointed.

Here are some of my favorite pictures showing the amazing color and beauty of the area this time of the year. There are a lot, but I couldn’t narrow it down any more than this! I’d love to know which ones are your favorites!

Gills Harbor

Washington Island Main Street

Door County apples

Pier on Washington Island

Door County colors

Scandinavian Church

Fall leaves on boardwalk

Washington Island Farm

Old car and fall colors

Washington Island Farm

Schoolhouse Beach w/leaves

Fall foliage on Schoolhouse Beach

Peninsula State Park in Door County

Peninsula State Park on Door County

Sunset at Peninsula State Park

Next time, I’ll post pictures that include us and our adventures!

10 Do’s and Don’ts for Welcoming an Adoptive Family Home

Welcome Home Sign

We have friends who will be traveling out of the country soon to meet and bring home the newest addition to their family. Thinking of what lies ahead of them prompted me to make a list of Do’s and Don’ts which might be helpful for those of us anticipating their return.



1. DO be sure to stock their refrigerator and pantry with necessities that they will need upon arriving home. This may be a task best saved for the closest relatives or friends, but it should not be neglected. No one wants to be burdened with an immediate trip to the grocery store when you’re physically and emotionally exhausted and trying to get acclimated to home life again.

2. DON’T overwhelm them at the airport. Other than immediate family, or their ride home, no one else needs to show up because, realistically, who is in the mood for partying when you are suffering from jet-lag, have a completely overwhelmed child and haven’t seen a bed in over 24 hours? Party another time when everyone can really enjoy it.

3. DO welcome them home with a simple sign. Both times that we returned home with our children, my heart was warmed to find a “Welcome Home” sign in our front yard. It was such a great feeling to finally pull up to our house and see it there, like a warm hug. It caught me off guard each time, but brought a big smile to my face and made me feel loved, remembered and encouraged.

4. DO work with family and friends to coordinate some meals for the returning family. A hot meal delivered to their door the first few days they are home will allow them to concentrate on other things–like sleeping, unpacking, laundry, catching up on mail and scheduling doctor appointments for the newest member of their family.

5. DON’T forget to send a congratulatory card. Parents who welcome a child into their family through adoption deserve to be congratulated just the same as those welcoming a biological newborn. If these cards are collected and stored in a scrapbook, they will be good reminders to the child in later years of how much his arrival was anticipated and celebrated.

Now here’s the hardest thing:

6.  DO leave them alone. I realize that every situation is different, but for many families, the best thing you can do, after assisting them in meeting their immediate physical needs, is to leave them alone for a while and let them bond as a family. They will step out, or invite you over, when they are ready to introduce their child to more people in their world. This may take days, weeks, or even a month or more. Every family is different. Give them the time they need, but don’t get offended, or pressure them to get out before they are ready.

7. DON’T try to hold or hug their child once the family does venture out. You’ll get your turn, but for now, the parents and siblings (and other close relatives of their choice) really need to be the only ones doing this. A lot of bonding needs to take place and keeping that between the immediate family members creates less confusion for the newest addition to the family. Save hugs, kisses and cuddles for later. The family has waited for this child for so long, now you need to respectfully wait too. The time for all of that will come before you know it.

8. DO offer to spend some special time with other kids in the family, if there are any. Offer to have them over or take them somewhere so they can receive some special attention, giving Mom and Dad some focused one-on-one time with the newest member of their family.

9. DO offer to throw them a shower or help them plan a welcoming party once things slow down a bit and a routine is established. Some families might feel more comfortable with this than others, so leave it up to them. Honestly, if this is not their first child, they might not need any more toys, clothes, or baby gear, but a gas card or gift card to their local grocery store would most likely be much appreciated considering they have probably been saving every last penny in an attempt to complete this adoption.*

And one last thing:

10.  DON’T remind a child that they are lucky, or should be grateful, that they have been adopted. Try to realize and remember that adoption is not possible without great loss, and the child will feel that loss no matter how wonderful his new family happens to be. Just let them be a regular kid and enjoy them for who they are.

And, aside from the first three, these suggestions are also helpful for families who didn’t travel to adopt their children. No matter the situation, adoptive families need time, support and understanding as they adjust to their new normal.

Do you have any other suggestions that you think should be added to this list? Please let me know in the comments.

Welcome Home Kids

*Adoptions can be very expensive. Not because we “pay for our children” but because it takes social workers, adoption agencies, attorneys, doctors and others to complete the necessary paperwork, and they all need to be paid. Plus there are many governmental forms that need to be processed, and you can imagine what the fees are for that. Add traveling across the world…well, I think you get the picture.

A Weekend in the Country

My side of the family has established a yearly hayride tradition as of late. This year it fell on the weekend that my sister, Kathy, and her family were visiting from New York state. The kids and I were up on the farm for most of the week, but Ken wasn’t able to join us.

Last Friday evening, once Uncle Randy {my brother} was done with chores for the evening, he threw a few bales of straw in a wagon, everyone hopped aboard, and we were off.

straw ride

Nickolas got to end the ride with a much-anticipated seat in the cab with Uncle Randy.

tractor ride

Miley the dog and cousin Emily saying “cheese.”

Smiling lab

Our hay/straw rides are followed by a hot dog roast.

hot dog roast

And then there are s’mores.

s'more

s'mores

Ella learning to confidently hold a cat.

country kitty

Wood pile as the sun was setting. {I just liked this shot}

wood pile

Rummaging through a “junk” pile with my Dad. He was doing all the work, I was just inquiring of what was there.

rummaging

My brother-in-law agreed to head into the old barn and pull out my Dad’s Montgomery Ward Hawthorne bike–something we’ve talked about for years and just never made the time to do.

bike in barn

Hawthorne bicycle

Soon, a ball game broke out.

country baseball

silo at dusk

girls on hay bales

country slow pitch

Wouldn’t trade these summer nights for anything.

Our Colorado Trip–Final Days

One afternoon we headed to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo–a beautiful zoo built on a mountainside {of course–this IS Colorado after all}.

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

Ken made a new friend.

petting giraffe

sitting on elephant trunk

feeding birds in aviary

bird feeding aviary

Watching this brown bear was my favorite part of our trip to the zoo. He put on a great show within inches of us. And there were 2 bald eagles perched in a tree above him. We lingered there for quite a while.

watching grizzly bear at zoo

brown bear at zoo

The next morning we lounged around for a bit, enjoying our friends’ great backyard.

kids on hammock

Demonstrating their technique in getting out of a hammock.

kids falling out of hammock

Soon we loaded up and headed north to Boulder, where we visited Dan and Kelly’s daughter, Brittany. In Boulder, we wound our way up Flagstaff Mountain and enjoyed some incredible views. Flagstaff Mountain Colorado

 

DSCN7702

Groh family on Flagstaff Mountain, Boulder, CO

boulders in Boulder

Once we got back to downtown Boulder, the kids kept busy in the dancing waters while the ladies checked out the vendors at the art and craft fair.

Boulder, Colorado dancing waters

On our final day in Colorado, we didn’t go far and enjoyed relaxing with our friends. The kids swam in the hot tub for HOURS! What a great day it was 🙂

hanging out in Colorado

The time came and went all too fast, as I knew it would. I am so thankful that we were able to reconnect with dear friends and create memories that will last, reminding us that we need to visit again when we’re able.

singing hand games