On this Valentine's Day I want to take a moment to reflect on my family.  Both of these pictures were taken on Aaron's and my wedding day, June 18, 2005.  That's when my family was whole and happy, as far as I knew.  The following year my Nana (second picture) passed away, a year or two after that (I can't even remember anymore) my sister and I had a major argument and haven't really spoken since and then another couple of years after that Mom (top picture, turquoise dress) was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. 

Life has certainly changed direction since that day but on that day?  Life was good.  Life was really good.  We were happy and having fun and everyone was doing pretty well.

So...for Valentine's Day I'm going to spend the day with my husband, who loves me despite my many faults (and don't we all have those?) and at some point I'm going to reminisce...about all of those people I have loved and lost and a few of them I wish I could have back. 

I could tell so many stories about the people shown here but I'll just speak to the clown noses.  When Aaron & I were planning our wedding, we got married in my parents' back yard by their pond.  There was a lot of conversation about what to do if the ground was to wet and muddy (the Pacific Northwest is known for its very wet June) and one thing that was suggested was my father drive me down to the altar on the back of his tractor. 

That idea didn't thrill me... to put it mildly...

My comment, after several more ideas along the same vein, was to tell them to knock it off.  I wasn't looking to have a circus wedding!!  So...the day of the ceremony, as Aaron & I are with our pastor doing our rehersal, my family is sitting in the chairs watching and someone yells "Hey Bonnie."  I turn around and there is my family...wearing clown noses... for my circus wedding.

It was hysterical, trust me.  Not just a little funny...it was hysterical.  There they all sat, straight-faced, wearing clown noses...

Yes.  Life was good.


A Post Worth Reading

I have been privileged to come across so many beautiful and insightful blogs written by brilliant women whom God is using in incredible ways.  Sometimes I share a link to a post because I think the writer has nailed something square on the head.  It's usually something that has been on my mind quite a bit in recent weeks.  This post is one of those.

Lysa TerKeurst's writings often help me with a perspective I can't seem to put into words.  She thinks deeply about things and with a writer's mind can put those thoughts down in a way that makes them clear.  Often my thoughts match hers exactly (not always, though) and in my head I thank her for verbalizing what I could not.  Summarize and verbalize.

A quote I read once by William Howard Taft has stuck with me and Lysa is very good at listening to his advice.  He said "Don't write so that you can be understood, write so that you can't be misunderstood."

She does that with this post.  Read it if you have a minute.  It's worth your time.


Simple Yummy Appetizer

We host a holiday party at work every year and when we first started doing it, my boss' wife brought some of her meatballs.  Everyone said they were amazing, the yummiest they'd ever eaten, etc. so...it became a staple at the party.  Every year those meatballs show up and we've even had a few times where folks have almost fought each other over the remnants in the crockpot.

So I decided to make them for my mother-in-law's surprise 65th birthday party (We held it yesterday - a huge smash.  Details & pictures to come).  Just like the holiday party they were a hit and I have to admit - they are about the easiest things I have ever made (expect for the caprese picks).  I'll say they're the easiest hot appetizer ever.

What you need:

4 quart crockpot
1 large jar Welch's grape jelly
2 cans of no bean chili (we used Nalley Big Chunk No Bean Chili)
1 bag of Kirkland brand frozen meatballs (Italian flavor)

What you do:

Mix the jelly and the 2 cans of chili together in the crockpot.  Cook on low until thoroughly heated.  Mine took about 1 1/2 hours to warm up.

Once heated, add as many meatballs as you can to your crockpot making sure they can be covered by the jelly/chili mixture.

Cover and simmer for at least four hours, stirring every 1-2 hours, until hot.

What I did:  Once I added the meatballs, I let them cook about 1 1/2 hours and because folks were coming in another 1 1/2 hours after that, I turned them up to high for an hour and then back down to low.  By doing that everything was cooked through and hot by the time guests showed up and then turning them back down to low made sure they maintained the heat.

They were incredibly yummy and even more popular.  Of course, since I was hosting the party, I didn't take any pictures of them cooking or cooked so I apologize for my VERY boring and colorless post!!!

Pictures of the day, decorations & how well we surprised my mother-in-law to come...


Fear and Overwhelming Fear

Thursday evenings my husband and I host a Bible study in our home.  We are so amazingly grateful for the people who join us each week, linking their lives to ours in a very intimate way.  We share "secrets" (anything said in Lifegroup, stays in Lifegroup) - our concerns, hopes, joys, successes, failures.  We pray for one another and are there for one another.  We surrounded the bed of one of us who lost his battle with cancer and we held his widow as she sobbed after he died. 

They are my brothers and sisters and I love each one of them, even when they're a bit out of sorts and hard to love.  After all, I get out of sorts and hard to love but they stick with me.  That's what we do.  That's how we do life.

This last Thursday, a conversation was started as one of us deals with a very large, overwhelming fear.  It's not cancer or some other disease, it's what is happening and rumored to be happening in our country.  The talk of civil unrest and the government's preparations for that.  Are they true?  Well...isn't there always an element of truth to all rumors?  So - is there talk of civil unrest?  Probably.  Isn't there always?  Isn't that what catapulted us into the Revolutionary War?  The Boston Tea Party...  Is the government preparing for it?  Probably.  Can anyone imagine the American government firing on American citizens?  Why not? 

What was happening, though and continues to happen, is this friend of mine has thoughts swirling in her head, concerns - ok - terrified thoughts - about such things actually happening.  And it goes further - the house being taken away, their children being separated from them, her being separated from her husband.  As her husband reads articles and sees pictures and hears what happens in the news (and the reactions to it), the "what if's" get uglier and bigger.  And flat out petrifying. 

So Thursday night we spent time talking it through.  Talking out the reality that these thoughts exist.  The fear is real.  The concerns are not irrational.  The fear, though, is becoming so.  Allowing those thoughts to dominate and not taking every thought captive, making it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5) we rely on man and what he believes to be true and we do not trust God to be in control (Colossians 2:8).  The Bible tells us over and over and over again that we need to steer clear of such thinking.  It also tells us over and over what happens when we don't.  Think the Israelites.  They'd follow God for a while then let themselves be distracted by whoever had the most power or the prettiest daughters or...  whatever happened to distract them.  They'd get caught up in that, become slaves to it and then cry out to God for Him to save them.

And He did.  Every single time.  Maybe not in their timing but He always did.  He never, never, ever leaves His people alone.  He is there.  Always.  In control, handling the situation.  He does not work in time as we do.  He does not have a beginning or an end.  There is nothing but forever to Him.  Our fears are unjustified.  Not any less real but unjustified.  They begin - and end - in trusting God.  They begin because our trust in God isn't as it should be - whether it be weak or it be that we are ignoring it.  They end because we realize that we need to trust God.  I have to admit - I have absolutely NO desire to suffer pain or discomfort.  None.  I don't want to lose my house, I don't want anything horrible to happen to my family.  Ever.  But I hold onto this quote from Jesus:

“I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him."  ~Luke 12:4-5

I can be afraid of feeling pain - but I shouldn't be.  Pain will be temporary.  Yes, it could be excruciating.  Suffering could be tremendous.  I have no idea what those words actually mean when it comes to pain and suffering, I know this.  It doesn't matter.  It's temporary.  What I have to fear is that which is permanent.  That permanency comes from God's ability to send people, me included, to hell if we choose to ignore Him, or disobey Him or make Him out to be someone or something who suits us.  When we have idols who distort our view of who He is and what He says, we could end up being one of those who say "Lord, Lord" and He says "I do not know you."  (Matthew 7:21-27).

That is what I fear.

Did we assuage every fear my friend has?  Absolutely not.  But God has heard her cry and our petition for strength for her.  He will, in His time, answer her prayer - and it may be He has her struggle through more before seeing and end to her fears.  It's not for us to know.  It is for Him to decide.  Her walk, her lessons, her growth.  On the other hand?  We are there for her.  We are there for her to share her fears, talk through those truths we know from His word.  Remind her she knows Him who holds the world in His hands.  Remind her of His strength, His faithfulness, His love, His mercy.  His sovereignty.

And it WILL send the fears back to where they came - into the dark.  It WILL redirect those thoughts to a healthier fear of the Lord.  A fear that does not cause condemnation but instead a love and awe unrivaled by anyone or anything.  No one has what God has.  No one is who God is.  God is I AM.  He and He alone, through the suffering gift of Jesus Christ, can save this world and no man can offer anything to stand up to Him.

So...we will work on halting those fears of man and focus instead on our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

To Him be all the glory.  Amen.