Making Toast in the Bathroom

It’s funny how one day can be so different from the next. On Monday, each of our activities was spaced out with adequate time in between. On Tuesday, we had the about the same time margins with even less activities…but I felt disorganized and unprepared.

On Monday, Lydia started two weeks of swimming lessons in the late afternoon. Water safety is imperative, so the time commitment is worth it. However, adding an activity always gives me less time elsewhere. This week it threw off my routine…

Thus, on Tuesday, I felt behind from the get-go. I woke up groggy, despite getting adequate sleep. It took Lydia awhile to get dressed and I soon realized I forgot to pack lunches the night before. Everything took longer!

I threw together breakfast (and lunch) for the road, but rushing only cost me time. First, I chose a too-small container and had to dump Lydia’s breakfast into a larger one. Then, I spilled something and had to clean it up.

Back and forth, I ran around the kitchen. I grabbed lids, baggies, and paper towels to wipe up my messes. Finally, I looked at the clock as I poured my coffee to-go. I was late!

Enter GRACE.

I took a few deep breathes and prayed, reconnecting with what was important. I thanked God for my flexible schedule. I was later than I had planned to be at work, but I wasn’t really late. As long as I arrived earlier than my presentation, I would be okay. I could stay later and still get my hours in on the back-end of my work day. Not a big deal.

Then, I decided to slow down and focus. No amount of stress is worth a car accident or something worse. Being safe and healthy is more important than being “on time” (especially with my flexible schedule).

On the way to work, I heard a quote…something to the effect that Life is 10% what happens to us (circumstances) and 90% what we make of it (attitude). At any rate, I can choose to see the glass half-full! I ended up only about fifteen minutes later than I had planned and was still early for my presentation. Thanks, Lord.

I discussed my morning with my coworker. She laughed and said, “At least you didn’t have to make toast in your bathroom!” She explained that she had a similar morning when her kitchen outlets blew a fuse. Her family was all ready to go except breakfast. Instead of waiting around to find the problem, she was resourceful!

Praise God, I got ahold of my attitude before it got the best of me. I ended up having a good day and was able to laugh it off. I was productive at work and swimming lessons in the evening went well. I even remembered to prepare breakfast and lunches in advance!

Often, Life is unpredictable and feels out of control. Regardless of your circumstances, you are in charge of your attitude. But, you don’t have to deal with it all alone! With God’s help, nothing is impossible. Lean on Him for grace and strength. His timing is perfect and His plan is good.

Most of our daily stressors are minor. They are not worth losing our cool. Thankfully, most of us will never have to make toast in the bathroom!

**********

Father God, You are gracious and wise. Thanks for the creativity to solve problems as we live for you. Give us inner peace in the midst of chaotic circumstances. May we bring You glory in all we do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: How do you handle daily stress? Do you pray, journal, call a friend, exercise, or what?

Task: Find a healthy way to de-stress!

Like A Beast

Yesterday, I enjoyed a movie date with my sister and two close friends. We went to see Beauty and the Beast during Lydia’s school hours. My neighbor’s little boy attends there, too, so her husband picked up the kids while we enjoyed the movie. We had a great time!

It’s always fun to think about how I am like the beautiful heroine. But over the weekend, sadly, I was more like an ugly BEAST! In a rash moment, I made a huge mistake.

In short, I blindsided a dear friend by pointing out some (perceived) faults. I didn’t plan to say anything negative or disrespectful, but I really hurt my friend. I totally blew it. To make matters worse, I kept talking. I tried to backtrack and smooth over what I had already said. But the damage was done.

This friend has many wonderful and admirable qualities, but I didn’t get a chance to mention those. This friend is bold and courageous, yet gentle and caring. My friend has strong character and always seeks to do the right thing. This friend encourages me and challenges me to be my best. My friend is faithful to pray for me and Lydia and checks in with us from time to time. We so appreciate our friend.

Yet, in a few short minutes, I nearly ruined our friendship. At least that’s what it felt like.

So, I apologized and went home. On my own, I tearfully considered all that had gone wrong in such a short time. I had wanted to build up my friend, not tear them down. I try to encourage others, but in this case, I did the exact opposite. I was clearly in the wrong. I offered another apology, but knew my friend needed some time (and space).

The next day, my friend was much more gracious to me than I deserved—honest, but not condemning. Just like Jesus. There’s no excusing my poor behavior that day, and I hope to make it up to my friend soon. But trust is earned.

I’d like to say this is an isolated event. This type of thing doesn’t happen often. Even so, there are lots of other times I have messed up! That’s why I need Jesus!

Jesus is kind and considerate, firm yet caring. He does not jump to conclusions and is always willing to give me a second chance. The Lord is slow to anger and rich in love.

Indeed, Jesus offered mercy and forgiveness before I ever knew I needed it. He saved me according to His grace, not because of anything I have done or ever could do. I could never make things right on my own. (See Ephesians 2:4-5)

Clearly, I’m not perfect… but whether I act as Beauty or the Beast, I am grateful for forgiveness, second chances, good friends and God’s grace!

**********

Heavenly Father, you are gracious and compassionate. Thank You for being merciful when I don’t deserve it. Thank You, Jesus, for taking my punishment on the cross. Thank You for loving me so much and not letting sin separate us! Help me love like You do. In Your Name, Amen

Questions: Have you seen the new Beauty and the Beast movie? In what ways are you like Belle? In what ways are you like the Beast? (Hopefully, I am not the only one!) 🙂

Tasks: Praise God for His forgiveness! Do a quick heart check to determine whether you need to offer someone an apology or offer forgiveness. Then do it!

On Being a Servant

Earlier this week, I heard that the average person spends 85% of their time thinking about themselves and the other 15% thinking about others. Wow, what a disconnect!

Of course, Jesus is the ultimate example of selflessness. He loved us so much, that He did something about it. He came down into our mess to save us. But Jesus didn’t stop there. He gave us every blessing and lets us work with Him! What grace!

People are Jesus’ priority. And, because we are His ambassadors, we should follow His lead. But this requires sacrifice… It may cost time, money, or energy/effort. Or, all of these combined! This seemed to come naturally to my late husband, Dave. He was such a servant! For me, though, it’s something I continually have to cultivate.

So, how do we go from self-focused to servanthood?

Seek input from others. Be willing to listen to their ideas, yet refuse the urge to gossip.

Help solve problems, even if there is no gain for you.

Encourage one another. Lift each other up and don’t tear each other down.

Think “we” instead of “me.” Work together as a team to accomplish more.

Be considerate. How will _______ (this decision or action) affect everyone else?

Treat others respectfully, even if they don’t treat you the same.

Practically speaking, this may be watching someone’s children, house work, yard work, or helping someone cross the street. It could be yielding to another car in traffic or letting someone go ahead of you at the grocery store. It doesn’t have to be over-the-top.

Yesterday, my heart was touched when a man in a wheelchair held the door for me!

We are transformed by serving others. Our hearts and attitudes change as we help meet others’ needs and join Jesus in His work. In fact, the closer we grow to Him, we become His friends, not just servants.

It’s much more fun and effective to work or serve with your friends, right?!

Being a servant is an act of worship. At the end of my life, I want to hear Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” But He probably won’t say, “Well thought, good and faithful servant.” We need to put our love in action.

Anything worth doing is worth doing well. Yes, it may be costly, but it helps to keep the right perspective. Our work is for the Lord Himself and He will reward us richly (in various ways). With Jesus, we always come out ahead!

In the end, loving others is not about me. People don’t need to see more of me, me, me. We exhibit Christ’s love so others may know Him personally. More of Him, less of me.

**********

Heavenly Father, You are so gracious. Thank You for calling us friends! Help us see where You are working and join You there. Give me a servant’s heart. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Do you find serving others to be a challenge, or is it easy for you? Do you have any other ideas to share on being a servant?!

Tasks: Look for new opportunities to serve each day. Be creative and considerate. Write a thank you note to someone who blessed you!

Work In-Progress

Lately, I have been reading several articles and opinion pieces about the election. Although, it seems everyone has a slant these days. There is much ‘passion’ on every side.

But, I have to remember: There are opinions… and facts. And then, there’s the Truth!

If I were to put too much stock in it all, it could be easy to give in to fear of the unknown. But change does not have to mean doom-and-gloom.

Despite the craziness of the election and its aftermath, God’s power, grace, and love for us are not diminished. Indeed, God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind (see 2 Timothy 1:7)!

business

And while I see the big picture, I am also reminded that our corporate responses do not negate our personal responsibilities. “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

In other news, Lydia’s birthday is less than a week away. She’s excited for her special day! Of note, I am using this ‘opportunity’ to reevaluate what I am teaching Lydia. I think it’s wise to do this from time to time, anyway! 🙂

After all, I am her ‘first’ teacher!

While Lydia was interested in the election, I felt it was still important to maintain the same boundaries I always do when discussing adult topics. (We’ve already dealt with some pretty heavy topics—such as death and cancer—these last few years.)

I always tell the truth, but I don’t share details that are beyond Lydia’s age and comprehension. I don’t want to confuse her, burden her, or make her needlessly afraid.

fear

Someday Lydia and I will talk about bigger, more complicated concepts. Sure thing. But some issues can be broken down into smaller ones right now. These topics include the power of our words, not gossiping or blaming others, and not taking offense.

It can be overwhelming at times, on top of our other daily tasks. But lessons on character, friendship, and serving others are always appropriate. We read books on a variety of topics, role play certain scenarios, and talk about life together.

As a single mom, I do the best I can each day. We are all a work in-progress, and of course, I don’t have all the answers. But I rely on God’s help through it all.

micah-6_8

I pray Lydia will truly understand God’s love for her. I pray she will love God and walk her unique path with Him all the days of her life. I pray Lydia will be compassionate, that she will put God’s love in action as she seeks to help others.

Of course, I want Lydia to know that she is capable of doing many wonderful things, if she is willing to work hard. We each have an advantage area, but success is never guaranteed.

Regardless of what life throws at us (fair or not), we don’t have to have a victim mindset. With Jesus, we are more than conquerors. I encourage Lydia that she can do all things she is called to do, because Jesus will give her His strength.

I’m teaching Lydia to be responsible for her choices. Oh boy, this is a tough one to teach, day in and day out. Currently, this means reinforcing first-time obedience and some daily chores. Little by little, she’ll get there.

Lydia’s also learning what gratitude is, and attempts to write thank you notes. At this point, this typically means a hand-drawn picture with stickers and her name on it. 🙂

heart-sticker

Slowly but surely, I am teaching Lydia to master her emotions. A life-long challenge, this goes beyond simple optimism or having a good attitude (though, that always helps). Feelings can change in the matter of a few minutes, but harboring negative emotions won’t resolve anything.

Ultimately, we are blessed to be a blessing. We are called to love others and be respectful, even if we don’t always agree with someone. What I teach Lydia at home, will have lasting impact not only in her life, but also those she connects with.

One by one, we each have the opportunity to serve others and make a difference.

**********

Heavenly Father, thanks for being with us in the daily struggles of life. Please give us wisdom. Help us to love and honor each other, despite our differences. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Questions: Have you learned anything ‘new’ lately by watching current events? Are there any changes you will make in your personal life as a result?

Tasks: For the next news article or opinion post you see, look for the original quotes, facts, or figures. Compare the conclusions!

In God I Trust

I stayed up late into the early morning hours, watching the US election results! Whoa.

I’m not quite sure what to say. Regardless of the outcome, the nation remains divided.

I voted early last week, and felt comfortable with my decisions.

Yet, I am still trying to wrap my mind about What. Just. Happened.

bald-eagle

I have mixed feelings. I’m glad the election itself is over, because it was a long time coming. At the minimum, it is a big turning point for America.

As a parent, I want to put on a brave face. Lydia was very interested in learning about the election and who I might vote for. I didn’t want to alert her to the craziness, but did explain a few key issues in kid-friendly terms. Of course, I want to protect her innocence.

I’m still not sure how to explain democracy to my preschooler.

As with any election, the economy, environment, judicial system, and many key social issues are at stake, for better or worse. We’ll see what happens, domestically and internationally. This election took a toll on personal relationships, too… I am sad for my friends, family, and so many others who were depending on a different outcome.

But I think we can all agree on this:

Either way, our new leader needs our prayers. Now more than ever. I can’t even imagine the mind-boggling stress, temptations, flack and chaos that comes with being President of the United States.

psalm-20_7

I wonder what the next few months and years will hold. But I don’t have to worry.

In God I trust.

We will always be disappointed if we place our hope and expectations on people, no matter how ‘qualified’ they might be. Our leaders will rise and fall, but Jesus is still in control. He is trustworthy, faithful and just. He will make all things right, in the end.

Thankfully, no matter who is in the White House, Jesus remains on the eternal throne. He is the soon-returning King, and the only One Who Saves! God, we need you!

My eyes are on Jesus. He loves us, and His plans for us are good.

We can have peace right now, because He’s not surprised or put-off by our current events. Despite all odds, we can stand firm. He will not leave or forsake us. He’s got this!

map-of-americana

No matter what happens next, here are some things that will not change…

I will not tolerate hatred, blame, or ill will. Never have, never will. But I will always be gracious to those who look, think, or act differently than me.

I will not give up hope. But I will continue to pray about the future of America.

I will not get weighed down or caught up in the drama. But I will be cheerful, kind, and respectful to everyone I meet.

I will not gripe, groan, or gloat. But I will live at peace with others, as much as it depends on me (Romans 12:18).

american-flag

And I will be grateful for the opportunities given to me.

Thanks to those who have gone before me, I can vote and use my voice wisely.

I can pray… and use the freedoms I have to make a real difference.

So I will not give in to fear. I will focus on unity, not division. And, I will be loving, encouraging and supporting to those who need it most.

Ultimately, my citizenship is in Heaven (Philippians 3:20). In God I trust. He’s got this!

**********

God, You reign over all. Thank You for your continued grace and mercy on our nation. Please help our leaders seek Your wisdom. Bring Your Peace, and help us live peaceably with one another. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Did you vote in the election? Was it an easy decision or challenge for you?

Tasks: Pray about how you can promote peace and good-will in your relationships.

 

A Friend Loves at All Times

We have some really cute and funny kids in our neighborhood. For the most part, they all play really well together. And since many of them come over to my house to play, I have a prime opportunity to observe their social interactions.

teddy-bear

In general, Lydia appears to be an extrovert and thrives on being around others. She loves knocking on doors (with permission) to ask if friends can come out to play. Lydia talks about and misses her friends when they are unavailable. Even so, when several of these kids get together, it’s possible someone could feel left out.

Although most parents try to teach their kids to share, use their manners, and be kind, most of us understand how it feels on the other side. We’ve all had those moments.

I like to look out for underdogs and wallflowers and want Lydia to do the same. To help her understand what I mean, she’s had to apologize on occasion for hurting someone’s feelings. I make her ‘take a break’ from playing with friends when tensions arise…because I don’t want her to take them for granted.

I wish it was always that simple!

We also role play different scenarios, where Lydia is ‘left out’ or where she stands up for someone who is. I regularly challenge Lydia to be on the lookout for someone who needs a friend. It doesn’t always work out as I hope. But when someone is left out, everyone else also misses out… on what that person has to offer.

As I talk with the other parents, we compare notes. It’s good to be on the same page!

proverbs-17_17

I suppose the concept of ‘being a friend’ hits home for me because I have relied so much on my friends these last few years. Lydia does not realize this just yet…but we would’ve never made it without God’s grace and all the loving support we received, from people near and far.

When Dave was sick, friends and family around the world—in England, Greece, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, not to mention all over the United States—prayed for us and helped us. Almost every week, we received something encouraging in the mail: Cards, gifts, handmade items, food deliveries, books, and more.

Many of the Fargo friends who played such an important role in our cancer journey have moved away for various reasons. But from my limited perspective, I like to think that perhaps God had them in Fargo because they had a special part to play in our story.

It is fascinating to think of how God orchestrated all these peoples’ lives to intersect them with ours when we needed it most. Only He could set up such perfect timing!

They stood with us during our roughest moments. And when our faith faltered, these friends pointed us to Jesus. When we had no strength of our own, they carried us to Him.

Friends mowed our lawn each week, watched Lydia at a moment’s notice (and kept her overnight), or took our dog, Britain, for weeks at a time. Yes, these friends were the hands and feet of Jesus in ways we had never seen before!

britain

Thank you. I am still in awe.

Of course, this does not diminish the significant role our own families played… but indeed, many of those friends and neighbors became like family! Without a doubt, Lydia and I are doing well because of ALL the loving sacrifices made on our behalf!

I hope Lydia understands: When you’re at your worst, a true friend is still loyal.

Like a golden retriever! 🙂

It has come full circle for me lately. In many cases, I am now praying for and encouraging dear friends all over the world in their own trials. It is such an honor to return the favor!

Sooo…This week Lydia and I are reviewing Proverbs 17:17 (above) and parts of 1 Corinthians 13. These verses have been good reminders for me too! And though some friends have moved away, God has also given me many new friendships. He is so, so good to me!

**********

Gracious God, thanks for dear friends and family. Thanks for the encouragement You provide through them. Help us love one another! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Questions: What does friendship mean to you? When was the last time you told your friends and family that you love and appreciate them?

Making Hungry Hearts Happy

Each week varies, but weekends at our house have become pretty relaxing. I complete a few routine tasks, preparing for the coming week. But, we also enjoy seeing friends or special events when they pop up.

Mostly, Lydia goes outside to play with the neighbors! At times, several kids will be in my garage or another one close by. It’s quite fascinating at times to watch them interact! I have learned so much about hospitality and life by watching these group dynamics.

chalk

Personally, I can get caught up on having things “just right” before someone comes to visit. The pressure to host Pinterest-perfect parties doesn’t help, does it?!

But, with kids, it’s much clearer.

Children don’t care about having the right foods, beverages, or atmosphere. They just want to have fun! If there is food involved, great! If not, they’ll make do with toys and friends (real or imagined). Kids create warmth and welcome with their own laughter and joy.

Kids don’t care if you cleaned or not. They easily overlook the fact their ‘playground’ is half a garage filled with balls, scooters and bikes, a wagon containing My Little Ponies, Barbies, and other toys.

Even my own ‘work’ table has become a place to color and build with play-doh… Yes, when given the opportunity, children will make themselves right at home! I don’t mind…

toy-mlp

Occasionally, I’ll coach a child (mine or otherwise) on including everyone or sharing. But, overall, everyone plays really well. Even little brothers join in on the fun!

Sometimes I offer light snacks… Thankfully, there are no food allergies! Popcorn, fruit, cheese sticks, and even popsicles have all made appearances. It’s pretty simple, really.

This past Sunday was especially fun… I had four little girls, including Lydia, in my garage and driveway playing “water buckets.” A few years ago, filling two five-gallon buckets with water was my solution for beating the heat. It’s been a hit ever since!

Sure, we could go swimming, play at the splash pad, or run through the sprinklers. But so far, water buckets seems to do the trick! On hot sunny days, the kids toss toys in the water and fish them out. The laughter mixed with splashing is well worth it!

I always enjoy hearing each child’s stories and funny perspectives. Talking with them is certainly a delight, but I also see it as an investment in building healthy relationships. I’m not sure who is learning more—me or them!

putty-789874_1920-2

On Sunday, the kids also went next door to play with an adorable puppy. When some of the girls went home for dinner, three boys came over for coloring and riding bikes. As I chatted with two of my friends, Lydia said she was hungry.

“Mom, can we please have a snack?”

Quickly, I considered the options. It was dinnertime… We could corral the kids and make them stop playing on a gorgeous day…. OR…I could feed the kids, avoid potential meltdowns, enjoy the weather and conversation with my friends… and head inside later.

After checking with the other moms, it was an easy choice!

romans-12_13

I ran inside to make a handful of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I cut them in half and sliced up a two apples. I headed back out to the garage, also armed with cups for water.

Feeling a little like a camp counselor, I set the food on a table and pulled up some chairs.

Voila!

These four hungry kids probably ate better because of positive peer pressure. It’s funny how something like a pb&j sandwich can pass for hospitality!

While the kids were happily filling their bellies, I got in some much needed time with my friends. Hopefully, these moms also left feeling encouraged and energized like I did!

Yes, on Sunday, the key to hospitality was making hungry hearts happy

Peanut butter and jelly for the win!

**********

Thank You, God, for great neighbors and hospitality! Thank you for simple joys like a child’s perspective, laughter, and pb&j sandwiches. Please guide each of us as we learn and grow. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Questions: What was your last funny topic of conversation with a child? Did their perspective change yours? What did you learn?

The Importance of Compassion and Community

While the purpose of this blog is grace—not politics, religion, or even social justice—that doesn’t mean I consider them unimportant topics. Much has already been said about the recent tragedies and overall conflicts in our nation, and I certainly don’t want to oversimplify these complex issues.

Yet, despite the turbulence in the world and America, all is not lost. God’s love for us never wavers. He is constant, and His grace is needed in every area of our lives. I believe when we lead with love and grace, we can be used as instruments of healing and change.

US-sign

God continues to work His good into the course of our nation. We don’t always see what He is doing, but He has not given up on us! He is the Father of compassion; Jesus showed us that compassion is love in action. When God sees a need, He steps in to help. As in: “I care enough to do something about this problem.” If we love God, we should do the same.

Still, we can only love others and extend grace to the level we have experienced them. If we don’t understand just how much God loves us, then we can’t pass it on. If we have not acknowledged our own need for a deep level of grace, we cannot show that grace to others.

Love, grace—even peace and hope—become more powerful when they are extended to others. So, it is within the context of community that change comes.

I love this quote:

“If we’re singing the same songs together, then we can’t yell at each other.”—Matt Maher, singer and songwriter

When we focus on what brings us together, we are not focused on division. Find commonalities with other people, not matter how different they appear. You’ll likely be surprised at how similar you are!

Part of how we love God is how we treat people. He has given each of us a measure of grace—and gifts—to be shared on His behalf. They are not meant to be kept for ourselves. Whatever your gifts, show God’s grace and love to a broken world.

Of note, when it comes to grace, we don’t get to decide who deserves it—it is undeserved. God is the ultimate Judge, so we can let go of the need to be ‘right.’ Instead, we can be courteous, kind, respectful, helpful…and quick to forgive. We don’t have to agree in order to show love. We don’t have to fully understand an issue to be gracious.

God’s grace does not discriminate.

Compassion—love in action—can take on many forms. It may be inviting a new friend over to your house. Try listening to someone talk about a personal struggle. Smile. Pray for someone. Plant an extra row in your garden to give away. Indeed, seek justice or stand up for a cause. Learn about different cultures. Hold a door open for someone. Babysit someone else’s kids. Let someone else have the better parking spot! Try volunteering at your local school, church, soup kitchen, sports club, or other community.

When you see a need, don’t wait to be asked. Don’t assume someone else will do it.

Romans 12_21

Romans 12 is full of practical exhortations to sheds God light, love, and grace in these dark days. Specifically, there are some great points on compassion and community starting in verse 9:

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. 10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; 11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; 13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.

17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.

Be creative in sharing Jesus with this broken world. Encourage others. Smile. Spread joy. Start a meaningful conversation. Practice compassion within your own communities first. Start with your own heart, household, neighborhood, and workplace. Then expand your influence and impact more people with love and grace!

**********

Father God, You are good. Thank You for love, grace, and peace. Please bring Your comfort and healing to our world. Show us how to love like You have loved us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Questions: How can you expand your community? What is something you can do to love others today?

 

On Honeybees and Hope

Honeybees are fascinating creatures. Many years ago, I chose beekeeping as an FFA project in high school. Yes, through high school and part of college, I was a beekeeper!

Worldwide, honeybee survival is a serious issue (one I dealt with too). There are many factors involved, yet, honeybees are vital; they pollinate most of our crops!

bee on white flower

Believe it or not, after ordering them, my honeybees arrived in the mail! They were packed in a small, wooden container covered with mesh screen. There was enough sugar water for the trip, and they clustered inside around the queen.

Every year, at 6 am, on the second Tuesday in April, I would get a phone call from someone at the post office. “Come and get your bees!!” One of the post office workers was allergic to bees and obviously wanted to avoid getting stung.

My dad or I would go pick up the containers, each filled with nearly 12,000 honeybees. I usually had three hives, but at one point, I had five. I didn’t get stung often, but once I got stung nine times—even through my bee suit! I must’ve been tinkering too long!

With my smoker and hive tool, I removed beeswax-covered frames from the hives. Then, I extracted the honey by hand in a ‘spinner’ (using centrifugal force). I sold the resulting jars of honey around my hometown. I also sold chunk honey and comb honey, too, both of which come with some of the beeswax.

The first time I tried my wildflower honey, I thought it was the sweetest thing I had ever tasted. I did a side-by-side comparison with the store-bought honey from the kitchen cupboard. It was awful—like cough syrup!

bees-on-frame

Honeybee Facts

A typical honeybee colony has around 60,000-80,000 workers during its active season (summer). Worker honeybees take on many specialized roles during their brief six-week lifespan. Some ‘jobs’ only last for a couple days.

These include cleaning the hive, feeding larvae to form new honeybees, and tending to the queen. Older honeybee tasks include hive ventilation, defending the hive from intruders, and foraging for nectar and pollen. Cue the famous ‘waggle dance’ (see cool video here)!

Honeybees live longer in the cold months, so they can maintain the hive until spring. Still, the temperature in the hive remains around 93 degrees at all times. In winter, honeybees form a cluster inside the hive to stay warm and conserve energy.

Honeybees never sleep!

bee colony

A colony of honeybees consumes about 60 pounds of honey during winter, but they make much more (up to 400 pounds of honey!). Beekeepers harvest the excess.

A single honeybee can travel several miles from the hive to collect nectar, which eventually becomes honey. They can fly at speeds of 15 mph (pretty slow for an insect) and their wings beat about 200 beats per second!

A honeybee can visit ten flowers a minute, up to two hundred flowers on an average foraging journey. Yet, a single honeybee will only produce 1/12 teaspoon of honey in her lifetime. Thus, it takes 768 honeybees visiting approximately two million flowers to make one pound of honey.

It would take about 1 ounce of honey to fuel a honeybee’s flight around the world.

Honey never spoils. The color of the honey varies depends on the plants where the nectar was collected. Honey contains vitamins, antibacterial enzymes, and is about 20% water.

Sources: http://www2.phy.ilstu.edu/~wenning/HIBA/bkcourse/amazing.pdf

http://www.honey.com/  http://northdakotahoney.com/honeyvalue.htm

chunk honey

A hive in action is amazing to watch—tens of thousands of honeybees working toward a common goal. Like the inner workings of a beehive, Life is better when we work together.

Seasons change, and our roles do too. We may not always fathom our contribution in God’s larger plan. But don’t let that stop you. Take heart. Trust God and keep serving others. “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:12).

Like little honeybees, we have a lot of work to do each day. As we move from one task or person to the next, let’s encourage one another. Sometimes Life stings! But, gracious words are like honey and bring messages of hope, sweet to the soul (Proverbs 16:24).

How refreshing!

**********

God, thanks for honeybees and honey! Thanks for the sweet grace and hope You bring. Help us remain patient and steadfast in difficult seasons. Give us joy as we trust in You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: If you eat honey, what is your favorite way to eat it? Have you ever been stung by a honeybee? How can you encourage someone today?

Perfect Peace for An Imperfect Puzzle

In my guest room, I have a framed Thomas Kinkade puzzle. It’s so pretty with the calming colors and serene view. It’s one of my favorites, and there’s a funny story behind it, too!

Years ago, when I was pregnant with Lydia, I had a small ‘bucket list’ to complete before she was born. I knew I’d have little time to myself when she came. I thought a one-thousand-piece puzzle would be a big accomplishment. Great idea, right?!

Puzzle (2)

What was I thinking?!

The puzzle was way more difficult than I imagined! Who knew so many tiny pieces could look exactly alike? It took me several months to complete with a few weeks “off” here and there… Finally, Dave gave me an ultimatum:

Finish the puzzle before the baby comes, or we’re going to toss it.
To be fair, the puzzle had been on the dining room table for months! 🙂

Well, wouldn’t you know that after all that time and effort, I could not find the last piece! Aggh!

(Can you find the ‘hole’ from the missing piece in the picture above?)

Well, Dave framed the puzzle for me and put it on the wall anyway. There’s no way I’d toss it after all that hard work! These days, I still love piecing together puzzles. But, with a little one running around, I have more realistic expectations now!

hands picking up puzzle pieces

Life is not perfect…but, it is still beautiful. In some ways, we’re all like puzzle pieces!

My missing puzzle piece reminds me that each one of us has importance to God. The picture is sadly incomplete if pieces are missing. Also, if a few people don’t do their part, we all suffer. Let’s pull together and use our talents and gifts.

God is in charge of the ‘big picture.’ He knows how the puzzle goes together because it is His design. We are His masterpiece and He misses the lost pieces! We may not see how we all fit until later. But, we can trust Him to guide us into place. Let’s participate cheerfully and help those around us.

We all have unique shapes and functions, but each one has intrinsic value. For instance, there are only four corner pieces along the edges, yet, the corner pieces are not more significant than others along the edge. Some pieces are more prominent, but all pieces are needed for a complete picture.

Humility and good attitudes are key to getting along with those in close proximity. Cover personality differences with grace, and connect with others. Don’t be overly concerned about what is going on in the far corners, but do your part to hold your quadrant together. May we lay aside our pride and include others.

Some puzzle pieces have rough edges and won’t feel like a good fit. God may use them elsewhere eventually, but don’t miss the opportunity to extend them grace. Treat them well. Show them God’s love. Maybe they will become a great fit or dear friend after all! We’re all a work in progress, right?

We can’t fix our own imperfections. The truth is we’ll never will be able to get it all right, all the time! But, we don’t have to worry about our lives or the final outcome. God Himself fills the gaps for us and holds all things together (see Colossians 1:17).

puzzle_peace

Yes, God has solved the puzzle of peace in our lives. He has shown us His loves through Jesus (Romans 5:8), who gave His life on the Cross to redeem us and bring us His perfect peace. Because of His resurrection, we can be restored and live a new life of purpose.

God’s grace is more than enough for our lack; He fixes and renews what is broken. Let’s keep our eyes on Jesus and the big picture. He who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it (Philippians 1:6).

**********

God, thank You for Jesus! Thanks for the gift of new life You offer. Help us shine Your light as You piece us together, and let Your peace reign in our hearts. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Have you accepted God’s gift of new life and peace? Do you have any tricks for keeping all the pieces of a puzzle together?!