Falling In Love With Autumn

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.  Ecclesiastes 3:1

I have a confession to make, I am a Michigander and I really don’t like the fall season.  So many friends and family (my own Mister included) LOVE fall!  They can’t wait to haul out the hoodies, sweaters, plaid, cozy boots and of course the Michigan/Michigan State gear!  Visits to the pumpkin patch, apple orchard, cider mill, and football games are fall must dos!  Apple crisp, carmel apples, pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin bread, gorgeous orange, yellow and red foliage, what is there not to like?

I can’t quite decide why I get a little down in the fall, but I suspect it is because #1-I am a teacher and the long, schedule free days of summer have ended and things are super busy with all of us heading back to school/work.  #2-I know that we have many long, bitter cold months ahead of us.

This year I’m challenging myself to fall in love with autumn.  I realized that even though going back to work/school is busy and somewhat stressful, it is kind of nice for us all to be back on a schedule.  Also, as much as I dread those bitter cold days of winter, I can’t “borrow trouble” and fail to enjoy the splendor of this beautiful season God has given us to enjoy.  Who knows-maybe it will be a mild winter!  Some of the most beautiful weather of the whole year happens in September and October in Michigan.

We have been blessed with some spectacular sunsets this fall and the days and evenings seem to cast a golden glow over everything.  The stars seem to shine a little brighter in the inky sky and  the faint smell of bonfire smoke lingers in the crisp air.  There is a calmness and stillness in the air as the evening darkness settles in earlier each night.  So although autumn might not be my favorite season-I will always prefer the warm weather and spring flowers-I think I am starting to fall in love just a little, with autumn and appreciate it for the unique, and special season it is.  I will try to enjoy each season (even winter) and be on the look out for the wonderful gifts God gives us throughout the year.

How about you?  Do you enjoy autumn? What is your favorite season?

I’m off to enjoy a cinnamon spice tea!  Here are a few photos from this fall!

 

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Photos From my talented sister Jules:

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~Blessings,

Jen

Angels Around Us

For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully. Luke 4:10

Our family spent the 4th of July holiday at one of our country’s famous landmarks, Thomas Jefferson’s home Monticello.  Monticello sits tucked away majestically at the top of a high hill in Charlotesville, Virginia.  This is one of my favorite areas to visit as the scenery is lush, green and stunning and the opportunity to learn about one of our country’s founding fathers is not to be missed.

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As wonderful as our visit was to Monticello, what happened after we left was the real miracle of the day.  We stayed until it closed at 6:00 and then started out on the trip back to Washington DC about 3 hours away.  About 20 mins. in to our trip we decided to stop for dinner, which was when the Mister realized his wallet was missing.  After tearing apart the car and searching high and low, it was nowhere to be found.  He thought maybe he left it on a bench he was sitting on right before we left.  He had taken it out to give Oldest some money for the gift shop and that is the last time he remembered having it.

We realized we needed to quickly head back to Monticello in the hopes that maybe a cleaning crew or someone would still be around.  I tried calling and only reached a voicemail.  It is distressing enough to lose your wallet, but the Mister had some very important ID cards in his wallet which added to the stress. The whole 20 minute drive back to Monticello, I silently prayed that the wallet might be where we left it or a good samaritan found his wallet and turned it in.

We rushed back and to our disappointment discovered the entrance at the bottom of the drive was blocked with orange cones.  Desperate to get the wallet back, the Mister drove around the cones (you didn’t hear it from me!) and we drove up to a large white gate which was closed and locked.  There was a man and a woman standing near the gate looking at us.

The Mister suggested I ask if they worked there although they did not look like they did as they were dressed in casual street clothes.  When I inquired as to whether they worked there, the man said the woman did.  We explained our dilemma and she said we could try calling security to see if they found the wallet during their check of the premises upon closing.  She then proceeded to point out a sign on the gate with a phone number on it.  We would never have noticed the sign with the tiny phone number printed on it if she hadn’t pointed it out to us.

We called the line for the security officer and Praise God, they had his wallet!  Someone had found it and turned it in.  As I was talking to the security officer, out of the corner of my eye I saw the man and the woman linger by the fence for a bit then climb over it and head up the path to Monticello and disappear.  When the security officer opened the gate to have us drive up to get the Mister’s wallet about 3 mins. later they were nowhere to be seen.  With the wallet safely tucked in the Mister’s pocket and thankful hearts, we headed back home.

Later, as I was re-telling the story to my Mom, it struck me as very odd that those two people happened to be standing at the gate right when we pulled up.  The whole place was deserted, not a soul around except that man and woman.  My Mom and I read an awesome series by Karen Kingsbury called “Angels Walking” and it made me stop and wonder if that man and woman might indeed have been angels!  We never would have found that phone number if the woman hadn’t pointed it out and right after they helped us they just climbed over the gate, walked up the path and were gone.

I will never know for sure whether it was just two helpful people or God’s guardian angels sent to assist a family desperate to recover a lost wallet.  Some people might call it a coincidence or “luck”, but I know it was an answered prayer.  So many amazing miracles are all around us every day, we just have to keep our eyes open to look at them.  One thing I do know for sure is that God is always with us, watching over us, caring for us and loving us and I find such comfort in that knowledge.

How about you?  We would love to hear any “angel stories” you might have.

~Blessings,

Jen

A Mother’s Care

Happy Summer! I am officially on summer break this week so hopefully you will see a lot more action on this blog!  Jules and I still continue to battle some health issues, her recent being pneumonia and I am four weeks post-surgery for my foot injury.  We thank you for your patience at the sparse posts but we hope to be back with lots of fun and inspiring ideas to share with you!  Just a teaser-Jules has been working on some pretty inspiring fairy gardens so stay tuned for pictures and directions for an enchanting project!

I’m happy to say the surgery for my foot injury is behind me (for more details on the injury click here).  Hopefully I will be done with the walking boot in a couple of weeks and can move on to physical therapy and be as good as new.  I’m trying to see beyond the temporary inconvenience of this injury and look ahead to days of health and healing but it has been hard to be patient.

I have learned many things through this challenge, one of the biggest being how  important encouraging words and acts of care are to someone under the weather.  I think I knew this on some level but until I actually experienced it first hand, I don’t think I really “got” how important and meaningful it is.  The encouraging e-mails, messages, visits and prayers I received before and after my surgery really helped brighten my day, made me smile and brought me so much comfort.

I realize now how much this means and I want to be better about doing this for others.  It only takes a second to send a message or make a phone call and it can really help to offer hope and cheer to someone who is feeling down.

Were you wondering when I was going to get to the point of the title?  Due to circumstances of the Mister’s work, he couldn’t be with me during my surgery.  My brother and Mom were able to be with me and then my Mom stayed to care for me afterward.  We have mentioned before about my Mom’s health issues, so I think she was feeling pretty good that she was on the caring end of things this time.  I was so thankful for Mom being here and the time we spent together.  There is just nothing like a Mother’s care and I was so comforted by her presence and help following my surgery.  She knew what I needed before I even had to ask.  We spent the days of recouperation talking, watching Hallmark movies and just hanging out.  I thank God daily for my Mom and the time we are able to spend together, as I get older, I realize deeply what a blessing this is. Here she is with Little One.  Thanks Mom for all of your help!

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I apologize for this post being a bit rambly!  I hope these words might inspire you to reach out to someone you know who is going through a health issue.  Even if you can’t be a caregiver like my Mom was to me,  taking the time to send a message, card or pick up the phone to say hi will surely brighten their day.

~Blessings,

Jen

A Time For Healing

Rest

Spring is right around the corner and with it I am praying for warmer temperatures, sunshine and restored health. We have had some difficult health challenges in our family over the past few months. As you read in an earlier post, Jules has been battling some issues with her heart. Prayers for her speedy recovery are appreciated. Our Mom has also had some health concerns that have been challenging to work through, but things seem to be moving in a better direction, Praise God!

I have not experienced anything as serious as their conditions, but have been battling a foot injury that has required me to reduce my normal activity level by about 90%. I injured my foot during our travels to Germany last summer, by doing too much uphill walking in the wrong shoes and developed tendonitis (an overuse injury). Instead of going to the doctor right away, I thought it would eventually get better, so I didn’t see a medical professional until last November when the pain became unbearable. The doctor has tried several things to cure the pain but nothing has worked so far. A month ago, he sent me home in a walking cast with orders to rest.

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(We saw some awesome scenery this summer, but every sight seemed to be at the top of a very high mountain/hill! It makes my foot hurt just looking at this picture, but it was totally worth it! This was taken at Mt. Zugspitze-Germany’s highest peak.)

This whole ordeal has been so frustrating and has tested my patience.   As much as I thought I hated exercising, I really miss it. I realized how much I counted on it for my mental sanity and stress control. I also realized how hard it is for me to just sit, rest and let others help me. The Mister and the girls have been great helping out with the cooking, shopping and cleaning. Little One has made about a hundred trips up the stairs fetching things for me. I have struggled with feelings of guilt and frustration because I am not able to do things I usually do. I realized that, as with any situation, there are lessons to be learned. Jules said to me the other day that she wondered if her health challenge was a message from God to slow down. I have definitely found some advantages to slowing down and resting.

I’m not as tired as I was when I was running every day and I really don’t miss those 5:30 am wake ups. I have even discovered some different ways to work out that I might not have tried before the injury. I have had more time to just hang out with my family, since I am not running around like a crazy person trying to get everything done. Jules and I have even had time to start scheming together on a new project, which has been loads of fun! I have also learned I don’t have to take on everything myself, I have people willing to help me which is so comforting. I just have to be willing to accept the help. Oh, and one side note I really can get a lot of things done via the Internet! The Mister opened the front door the other day and commented that every time he opened the door, there was another package on our front porch! I’ve become a bit of an Amazon addict!  Finally, I have learned to let some things go. Things might not get done the way I would do them or on my timeline, but they are getting done and if they aren’t, it isn’t the end of the world.

Now, do I wish I didn’t have to experience this injury to learn these lessons? You bet! Would I have learned them without being forced to? Probably not! So as I continue to heal from this injury, I will focus on being thankful for the blessings in my life and the lessons I am continually learning. I thank God for always being by my side, especially during the challenging times. I know I can always bring my troubles and cares to Him and He will provide comfort, peace and rest.

How about you? Do you need to slow down and take some time to rest? Have you been struggling with an injury or illness? I encourage to you find a way to slow down, accept help when you need it and say no to some things, so you can say yes to others. We would love to hear your stories or tips in the comments.

Blessings,

Jen

The Other Side of Grief

Grief…it’s not really a very pretty word. We see it, read it, and we know it means something bad has happened. People don’t realize it, but we can grieve for many things. The loss of a loved one, a job, a house, a friend moving, a break up, a divorce. Grief has many faces. Recently though, I have come face to face with the reality of death. I lost a very good friend before Christmas, and two beloved uncles shortly after.My uncles were older and had lived a good life. My friend Anthony was only 42 and had so much yet he needed to do. Alas, that was not God’s plan. As a therapist, I knew how this process works. What I learned, is that when you are in the middle of such deep grief, that none of any of it makes any sense. So  I sought out things to help comfort myself and my friend’s mom, as losing a child is one of those heartbreaks that  one can never heal from. I would like to share with you a few of the inspiring things I found. For grief, as hard as it is in the beginning, will lessen. It takes time. Sometimes lots of time. As humans, we don’t often like to let time take time. We all grieve differently. How each person chooses to grieve  is up to them. The important thing is that you have to go through it. I always tell clients, you can’t go over it, you can’t go under it and you can’t go around it. The only way to deal with grief is to go through it. And always remember to give time, time.

Here are a few inspiring quotes I found.

There is another side of Grief

Where the tears still flow

Not as often

Where memories bring smiles

Not just sadness

Where blessings are recognized

Not just struggles

Where joy and peace are present

Not just sorrow

Where you are remembered

Not just mourned

                 ………………The Grieftoolbox.com

The reality is that you will grieve forever.

You will not “get over” the loss of a loved one.

You will learn to live with it.

You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered.

You will be whole again but, you will never be the same.

Not should you be the same, nor would you want to.

                                                                                    …………….. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and John Kessler

“Those we love don’t go away,

They walk beside us every day,

Unseen, unheard, but always near,

Still loved, still missed and very dear,

Death leaves a heartache no one can heal,

love leaves a memory no one can steal.”

…………From a headstone in Ireland

To my dearest family, some things I’d like to say.
But first of all, to let you know, I arrived okay.
I’m writing this from Heaven. Here I dwell with God above.
Here there’s no more tears of sadness; here is just eternal love.
Please do not be unhappy just because I’m out of sight.
Remember that I am with you every morning, noon, and night.
That day I had to leave you when my life on earth was through,
God picked me up and hugged me and He said,
“I welcome you. It’s good to have you back again,
You were missed while you were gone.
As for your dearest family, they’ll be here later on.
I need you here badly, you’re part of my plan.
There’s so much that we have to do, to help our mortal man.”
God gave me a list of things, that He wished for me to do.
And foremost on that list, was to watch and care for you.
And when you lie in bed at night, the day’s chores put to flight,
God and I are closest to you…in the middle of the night.
When you think of my life on earth, and all those loving years,
Because you are only human, they are bound to bring you tears.
But do not be afraid to cry; it does relieve the pain.
Remember there would be no flowers, if it were not for the rain.
I wish that I could tell you all that God has planned.
If I were to tell you, you wouldn’t understand.
But one thing is for certain, though my life on earth is over,
I’m closer to you now, than I ever was before.
There are many rocky roads ahead of you and many hills to climb,
But together we can do it by taking one day at a time.
It was always my philosophy and I’d like it for you too;
That as you give unto the world, the world will give to you.
If you can help somebody who’s in sorrow and in pain;
Then you can say to God at night…”My day was not in vain.”
And now I am contented…that my life was worthwhile,
Knowing as I passed along the way I made somebody smile.
So if you meet somebody who is sad and feeling low;
Just lend a hand to pick him up, as on your way you go.
When you’re walking down the street and you’ve got me on your mind;
I’m walking in your footsteps only half a step behind.
And when it’s time for you to go…from that body to be free,
Remember you’re not going….you’re coming here to me.

…………………..Author Unknown

and finally a quote I had sent Anthony 5 days before he died. He was having a rough day. I’ve had a few of them myself lately.

Having a rough day?

Place your hand on your heart.

Feel that?

That’s called purpose

You’re alive for a reason!!

Don’t give up.

If you are suffering loss, and a know that I have friends and family who are. I hope this brings you a little comfort, and some hope that this won’t hurt quite so bad as time goes on.

In Loving Memory of Anthony

Anthony

May the Peace of God go With you

Julie

God Speaks To Us

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

                                                                                                                            John 10:27

Have you ever wished God would speak to you directly, like we read about in the Old Testament of the Bible?  When I pray, sometimes I wish I would hear a deep, booming voice that clearly answers my prayer or gives me words of wisdom and comfort.  We may not hear a concrete voice, but I’m convinced that God still speaks to us in a variety of ways.  I was witness to this over the past two weeks, as I grieved the loss of two very special Uncles.

My Uncle Claude had been admitted to the hospital and despite bouncing back many times, it seemed that he was getting weaker.  I was not ready to say good-bye and I felt so sad one evening.  It was then it came, a text out of nowhere, with a number that was not in my contact list,  saying, “Hey, how are you?”  I almost didn’t answer, but decided to ask who it was.  It turned out to be an old childhood friend that I hadn’t talked to in a while.  She was always around my family growing up and she knew my Uncle and even cleaned his house, so she was in the loop with what was going on with him, probably more so than me.  That night we texted back and forth and she shared some things with me about my Uncle and some conversations that they recently had that truly brought me so much comfort.  I knew that it was no coincidence that she texted me that night, she was sent to me by God to bring words of comfort and peace.

The next day, my Uncle Claude passed away.  I learned the news while I was at work and I did my best to hold it together.  Once my students had left for the day, I sat at my desk and was gathering my things to go home.  I wanted to make it to my car before I started crying.  Then my desk phone rang.  My phone hardly ever rings, unless it is an emergency and I had a silent debate in my head whether or not to answer it.  I decided to answer it but knew it was a mistake when my voice cracked and the tears I had been holding back all afternoon poured out.  Again, God sent his special message of comfort to me though this phone call.  It was my teaching partner I had worked with for five years, who was now at another school calling to say hi and see how I was doing.  She was just the person I needed at that moment to give me words of comfort and cheer.

I lost my Uncle Herb a few days later.  When we got the news, it was the same day we were going to the funeral home for my Uncle Claude.  We were all together as a family, grieving this loss and I could feel God there so close in the hugs from loved ones, the words spoken and the shared memories.  Being with my family helped sooth my heart.  Again, God provided comfort when I needed it most.  At my Uncle Herb’s funeral, the Pastor read many passages from the Bible that I felt spoke to me and offered comfort admist my grief.  The words were like a balm to my hurting heart.

I will miss both Uncles so much.  They were such kind, happy,  hard working men.  Both were farmers, treasured family and loved God.  I know they are at peace, home with the Lord and re-united with those who have gone before.  I find comfort in the promises of God during this time of grieving and am thankful for the way He sent a message of love and comfort to me during this difficult time through some very special people and His Word.

A few days before this loss, Little One and I saw this phenomenon, I later learned is called a Sun Dog, on our way to work and school.  It was like a rainbow coming right out of the frigid morning sky next to the rising sun.  It was brilliant and beautiful and looking back, I realize it was just another way God was letting me know He loves me and He is in control.  What an awesome God we have to give us such beauty to enjoy!  I also like to think that just maybe this was Heaven preparing a big party and celebration to welcome my Uncles home.

IMG_3655Blessings,

Jen