Friday, December 20, 2013

Hochstetler Christmas Greetings from 2013


Happy Holidays!

Are you familiar with bloggers or media people who suggest you pick a one word theme for the year?  Like Courage, Hope, Joy, etc.?  While I made no word pronouncement on 2013, I can now look back and wrap up the last twelve months with GRACE.

G-Gift of Family

A wedding celebration took place in Tulsa, as Josh married Kira Perkins. Two more grand kids were added in the process as we welcomed aboard, Brayden (13) and Cody (18). Kira is working at Arvest Bank, while Josh continues his job with Odyssey Printing.
 










All of the family but Cody,  made an Oct. visit to Indiana and we enjoyed  playing, crafting and hanging out. Jill (12) and Elle (10) are lovely young ladies!
We took advantage of the season to frolic at a farm decked out for fall activities.

Fun at the Farm









Aubrey, Rebecca and Shawn

Kris and Dan
















Dan switched jobs this fall and is now employed by a landscaping company. He also volunteers with the Jefferson Fire Department. Kristina enjoys her days at home with Rebecca (3) and does a great job managing schedules, meals and outings with her family. Aubrey (9) , Shawn (6) and Rebecca bring us lots of joy and fun times.















                      

Ian and Dominic

Eman and Jodi












Florida news: Emmanuel continues with his      mechanics job at BMW, while Jodi enjoys her mothering and creative outlets at home. Their summer visit here was packed with activities and FUN. In between visits, we keep up with Ian (5) and Dominic (3) by Facebook and Skype. 










Austin is helping foster kids who are approaching adulthood to find jobs, fill out applications, get their first apartment, etc. as a life skills coach through a non-profit agency in Valparaiso, IN. He brought us exciting news this Fall! He asked Ashley Buescher to be his wife and they plan to be married in January 2014. Welcome, Ashley, to the family!
Austin and Ashley
                 



                    


AJ and Amanda

Auron and Elika















Amanda and AJ stepped into a new adventure in the far away land of Williamsburg, VA, this Fall.  Sad goodbyes sent them on their way and we wish them well.  AJ secured an IT job there and they are living with AJ's parents in a large, beautiful house.   We enjoyed a brief visit with them when we made  a trip to VA to see my Dad this
November. Auron (6) and Elika (3) will be our  new Skype buddies!
                                                                                 

Other family news:
Thanksgiving this year meant time with my Dad and Lena and 2 of my siblings and their families in Harrisonburg, VA. Dad and Lena are healthy and happy together.

Kevin spent May-Oct. interviewing his parents and writing up their history which I was privileged to then incorporate into a photo book for them.  His dad has some health issues, but they still enjoy hosting family in their villa home.

R-relationships

Kevin and I keep company with our jobs every week day,  Tri-State Compressed Air and Goshen College, respectively. We are thankful for employment and likeable co-workers.

Harvest Community is our church family.  We serve there in hospitality, library management and leading groups from time to time. Friends there are priceless.

How fun to keep up with all of you on Facebook! Our lives are enriched through you! Thank you for being a part of us.

A-applications of learning and truth

A Bible study on Genesis this year has proven very inspiring and helpful.  Here's one quote from the author of the study book that encouraged me just when I needed it: 
"God does not test us to make us fail but rather to see us succeed.  Because faith is like a muscle and must be used to grow strong, God tests us to give us the opportunity to exercise our faith.  If you are going through a test right now, consider what God might want to do in your life by allowing it.  And consider the heart attitude God desires for us to have during the test: Count it all joy...(James 1:2-4). It may be hard to rejoice while being tested, but pondering the potential results should help." 

Authors who have impacted me this past year have included Ken Davis, Ann Voskamp, Kay Arthur, Liz Curtis Higgs, Randy Alcorn and currently Billy Graham, as I'm reading his autobiography. World revival came through this humble, servant leader and preacher. Lord, may we be consumed with your kingdom and not focused on what we can gain from this world.

Kevin and I were privileged to attend the Peacemaker Ministries' conference in Columbus, Ohio in September.  The stories of how God is healing relationships among his people and in communities around the nation was very encouraging.  We came away re-energized to share the message of the Gospel of Christ's love and forgiveness.

C-challenges

Kevin and I still strive to become ballroom dancers. Classes are fun, but the moves keep us on our toes!

A missions trip to Costa Rica in June afforded many opportunities to face new surroundings and hard work.  Short story version: we helped in the construction of a church building in a remote area of the rain forest. The women dug clay dirt, while the men pounded the dirt into the floor and built the framework.  We encountered wonderful people, tropical animals, travel delay, a rain torrent and a mysterious illness.  You can read the long story version here.

Growing older has its own set of challenges, but other than some minor health issues, losing eyeglasses and joints that go on strike when you ask them to work, we are grateful for blessings beyond what we deserve.

E-excitement

Our grandchildren bring us energy and pleasure.  We celebrate many birthdays, pre-school programs, first time readers, potty training successes, creative art projects and Candy Land wins and losses. 

We sold our trusty Honda and became Toyota Prius fans. The gas mileage has been impressive.

May this season of the year find you with joy in your heart, comfort in whatever is difficult and His amazing GRACE that is always constant and limitless. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Our love,
Kevin and Ruth

Monday, December 9, 2013

Feasts of Blessings



Did you enjoy all that feasting over Thanksgiving? Hopefully, you didn't have too many repeats of pumpkin pie and cranberries, no matter how they were disguised--sauced, saladized, relished, with a cream cheese layer, under chocolate, with nuts or nutless, or whatever new Pinterest version you were the guinea pig for. And hopefully, you weren't the stuffed turkey when it was all done and celebrated.

What mind menu have you been feasting on over the last month?  Short snacks from books you had to get back to the library, nibblings from the buffet of any witty, opinionated, political or religious articles posted on Faceback, or DIY noshing from woman's magazines? How about  chewy antics and talents from You Tube? And the binging from the abbreviated language of endless texting messages?

I've had my share of these decadent offerings, but there was something more that I find continuing to come to mind and bringing me comfort or encouragement. Did anyone else sink your teeth into some deep, nutritious fare from the table spread the Master Chef had prepared for you?  Whether it's been intentional or has come unexpectedly, I have tasted some oh, so good things lately.

I've been subscribing to the Encouragement for Today emails from Bible Gateway. When I signed up, I wondered if I would really spend the time reading the thoughts every day.  I've been amazed at how relevant they've been to me for that particular day and how the encouragement has lingered.  Here's the first and last paragraph from the one for Dec. 6, entitled the Power of Assumption by Wendy Pope:


"The assumption battle is one I have fought most of my life. I've questioned friends' motives, assuming they were against me. To avoid being hurt, I've detached from relationships with no valid reasons...

Before the power of assumptions ruins a relationship in your life, pause. Settle your emotions and consider what you know to be true about your friend. Take a moment to pray for her and plan how to reach out to her. She might just be struggling with her own assumptions that you could help her clear up!"

Another tidbit from Carey Scott's blog.  

My Monday night Bible Study from Genesis had these comforting words from the author of our study book on the lesson about Abraham being asked to sacrifice Isaac:

"God does not test us to make us fail but rather to see us succeed.  Because faith is like a muscle and must be used to grow strong, God test us to give us the opportunity to exercise our faith.  If you are going through a test right now, consider what God might want to do in your life by allowing it.  And consider the heart attitude God desires for us to have during the test: Count it all joy...(James 1:2-4). It may be hard to rejoice while being tested, but pondering the potential results should help."

Another day it was a Christmas song I heard on the radio by Chris Tomlin.

From Kay Arthur's Bible Study on Proverbs:

"The effort we're willing to make to attain something is a measure of how much we value it...This is the real measuring stick of our value system-what we're willing to acquire through sacrifice."


This challenge from Romans 12:11 stretched my taste buds, was a bit hard to swallow, and is still digesting:

"Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord."
Have I become sloppy, Lord?  Not much zeal to speak of when I find myself being critical and focused on myself.  I don't always have a good attitude about serving, let alone the z word in how I do it.

These are the thoughts that cocoon me on a sleepless night, turn on the bubbly fountain of joy inside and cause thanksgiving to come out to the One who guides me into paths of righteousness. He uses simple words to whisper His love and presence and keep me focused on those things of good report.

Help yourself to my smorgasbord and share the delicacies you've been feasting on.






Sunday, November 17, 2013

Fall Creativity

 (picture courtesy of guardianlv.com)

It was our turn to host the small group from church.  Even though I wanted to keep the evening simple, the occasion was a motivator to be creative with food preparations, decor and planning a theme to discuss and pray around.

Fall, naturally, would be my focus for our November 1st evening. I searched through familiar recipes for old time favorites and perused Pinterest as nonchalantly as I could-trying to avoid this cyber idea-giant's power to suck me under a creative stupor-for some new and exciting way to use pumpkin. A pan of lasagna in the freezer would save time, so I would add interesting side dishes to keep the meal from being too just-like-any-other-Italian menu. The choices were made: homemade bread from New York Times  with a dipping oil spices mix from a Carrabba's copycat recipe, fresh green salad with strawberries, walnuts and cranraisins, and my mom's apple salad recipe. The Pinterest savory pumpkin dip with crackers became the appetizer and an apple cake filled in for dessert.(Not the grand finale I had hoped for so will be booting out that recipe!)

I love decorating for the seasons but not enough to stash a huge closet full of stuff or to plan well enough ahead so I'm not just getting around to the bedecking as the season is expiring. Since this event was on the front end of autumn I could try out some of those stored away Pinterest board ideas and bedazzle the neighborhood with my Fall show.

This working gal needed to start early in the week for the shopping and gathering sessions --a stop at Aldi's over lunch on Tues., Kroger's after work on Wed,  as much food prep as possible spread over any free evenings before the day of, and a woods walk scheduled to select splashes of color in leaf fronds and sprigs of berry clusters. In the midst of the busyness I prayed for calmness, creativity and sensibility, for I know how my ideas can mushroom to be bigger than my capabilities.

My husband came up with a topic for discussion, of letting go of not just the things that "easily beset us", but the good things that may need to change or be lopped off.  Scripture that seemed fitting for that topic was Philippians 3:10-14:

   10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Change might look like death, just as the leaves die and fall from the trees and everything turns brown.  But in reality, much of living plants are actually just hibernating and will again become green and fertile in the new season of spring. In the Father's plan even this dying off process has it's beauty as we admire the bright colors of Fall.  It can be the same in our lives.  His beauty will shine through our times of change even though it may be an unpleasant, and unwelcomed interval in the journey.

Now the fun part of putting it all together.  Here's what the front porch looked like:




And the table centerpiece:



I don't have a picture of the spread of food or the happy faces of our friends as they enjoyed the evening, but
it was a great time of growing deeper in our relationships and considering where each of us is at in the seasons of our lives. One couple is facing a fight with cancer while Kevin and I are adjusting to our daughter, Amanda, and her family moving to Virginia. The sting of letting her go is especially hard for Dad. We ended the evening praying for each other and for our nation in its own season of change.

What about you? Any hard changes being forced on you, or choices you're making that require hard sacrifices? Keep on your smile and wear that colorful coat of God's love, patchworked with grace, strength and hope. How about this for some helpful advice?

1 Peter 4:8

The Message (MSG)
7-11 Everything in the world is about to be wrapped up, so take nothing for granted. Stay wide-awake in prayer. Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless—cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help. That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he’ll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything—encores to the end of time. Oh, yes!
 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Grace is Giving Thanks

"We only enter into the full life if our faith gives thanks.
Because how else do we accept His free gift of salvation if not with thanksgiving? Thanksgiving is the evidence of our acceptance of whatever He gives.  Thanksgiving is the manifestation of our Yes! to His  grace." 
-AnnVoskamp from one thousand gifts


Ever have a season where you pray on a certain topic and wait expectantly for change to come?  It's  not a time of crisis and maybe the prayer just starts as a good thought and you keep praying, as you remember, and after awhile you realize, this is something my heart is longing for and it's not going away. Then I notice God's fingerprints on that subject showing up on circumstances or in books I'm reading.

For me right now it's about grace and thanksgiving and "please give me a heart that loves others as you love me." I think it started with the love prayer as I noticed how unloving I could be. Like the time I was asked to meet with someone who was making a wrong moral choice.  I started out listening well, but I think I was more concerned that she hear the truth than I was about loving her and extending grace. God's kindness that leads us to repentance was lost in my translation of God's love language. Or unloving times towards myself where condemnation and accusation were winning at beating me up. And realizing how my proneness to rejection was an indication of how wrapped up I was in self. Those vain imaginations had no problem blowing up nobodylikesme balloons. They could throw a mean party in record time!

So I became intentional about praying the love prayer more regularly. And the message of grace seemed to appear everywhere. Grace that was audacious enough to suggest that God's love for me was constant, in my failures, in my sin, in my successes and in everything in between. His rebukes were not scoldings to shame me, but stern reminders that His forgiveness had already covered all my sins and He was ready to pick me up and continue on, using the experience to teach me more about depending on Him and keeping in step with the Spirit.  I really don't think any of us can love like He does until we understand more about His amazing love to us demonstrated by the grace he shows us through Jesus. I want grace to be the hound dog that sniffs out any self righteousness and better than thou substances hiding in my attitudes and belief system.

"If it took grace to save us, how can we think that it takes our own skill to make it in the Christian life? If our own efforts and merit couldn't take care of our sin and failure in the first place, what makes you think they can now?"    -Kay Arthur

The practice of praying before eating is often referred to as 'saying grace'.  Saying grace is giving thanks. Grace is undeserved favor and comes from the Latin work gratia. One meaning of gratia is gratitude or thanks. I'm discovering how closely related a grace-filled heart is to a thankful heart.  In this quest to learn how to love, it's been important to keep a heart of thanksgiving.  It's hard to be critical and judgmental of others when I'm being thankful for their good qualities. When I remember my friendships are undeserved gifts from my Father, my thankfulness overlooks their faults and my love for them can grow. When a fault can't be overlooked, I am thankful His grace is teaching me how to love enough to be honest and not overlook sins that can blind us and bring harm and deception.

"Thanksgiving---giving thanks in everything---is what prepares the way for salvation's whole restoration.  Our salvation in Christ is real, yet the completeness of that salvation is not fully realized in a life until the life realizes the need to give thanks."
 --Ann Voskamp in one thousand gifts

So is the prayer working? I believe, yes...at least I see glimpses of growth. I get another opportunity to listen to a heart caught up in ungodly things.  This time I am much more aware of His grace breathing between us and around us.  There is a rhythm to this grace and I want to work with the Healer and Reformer toward wholeness. But I only get the chance the one or two times we meet and then our time is cut off. Instead of  succumbing to the why I wasn't the one to continue with her in the journey, I know I have danced in His grace with her and I will be confident that He is working for the best in her and me. No big deal...Yes! big deal, for rejection and condemnation had little to say in the matter. And I mean just a little, compared to the filibusters they got away with before.  It must be His love is working miracles in me and I am thankful.

Ann Voskamp made a list of 1,000 gifts she was thankful for.

My thanksgiving list, for now:
-red burning bushes of Fall
-skyping family
-breakfast with friends
-reaching out and touching with texting
-a new recipe - pumpkin dip
-a cup of robust coffee to start the day
-the newest find at a resale
-Pandora station of praise music
-lying in bed beside the man who loves me
-an unexpected contact with a friend on a Facebook chat
-playing Euchre with friends
....

What are you thankful for right now? Are you being loved extravagantly? Are you better than you deserve?

Keep working, Father. Even when I sleep, your word says you instruct me. I open my heart to your amazing love and grace.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Right Now!


"When it's right you'll just know it!"

Everyone says that. In the moment, they are just words, doled out to give comfort or hope after a break up. The way a mother consoles her little athlete who has missed a play with the promise that he will make it big some day. Just you wait and see!

Then one day he notices her. Soon after someone introduces them. It only took a few times together before he is close to certain that he has found the someone who will prove that what they had said back then were not just words, but were coming true. For it felt right, and he knew it. Prayer and patience had prepared him for right now!

Love grew. Desire to spend a lifetime together was mutual. Talk about marriage and the future came naturally and their happiness was exploding. Others affirmed this rightness and they began to make plans. Her mother offered them a family heirloom ring, a treasure and a timely gift for both of them.  She would wear it proudly, understanding the history behind it. He would accept it gratefully, as God's provision; student loans were pressing and money was tight.

The ring arrived and a jeweler was asked to make some adjustments to fit and suit the new heiress. She knew the day he picked up the restyled ring and held it in his possession. The engagement was imminent!

From the moment the ring made it's way into his custody, he sweated the details of planning the momentous occasion of asking her to marry him. Because he knew, she knew, he now held the diamond, any fancy restaurant reservations or romantic places to visit would arouse her suspicion and he wanted to surprise her. She was charged with anticipation and teased him randomly with the simple question, "Right now?" How would he ever pull off his secretive mission of creating a special setting in which to pop the question?

It would have to be on one of their runs, he decides. Both of them were training for a marathon and to make the routine jogs more interesting and challenging, they had tried out many courses in town and around the area. He would suggest a particular park in town for their training on this important day. A friend was employed to help set up a picnic in a grove among some trees in the park. He searched the internet to find romantic quotes from the poets she esteemed and created a card for her.  A big tree stood prominently at the head of a turn in the trail they would run inside the park. Here he would affix the card. All was ready. It was afternoon and time to ask her to join him in their paces. Hopefully, they would time it just right so the friend who was helping would get away without being seen and so the picnic wouldn't be left too long unattended.

She is resistant to his ideas today, and he tries to insist, casually, that they will run in THE park and at THIS time. If only she knew how difficult she was being! Finally, they are on the way. 

As they approach the designated tree, she sees her name in large letters on a paper attached to the bark.  Curious, she stops to read the message while he tells her he will be just ahead waiting in that grove of trees. She opens the card. The letters marching across the inside page read, RIGHT NOW! 

She smiles and reads the rest of the words of her lover and turns towards where he awaits on one knee. Their joy is exuberant.  He breathes a sign of relief, praising God for right now places where his spirit is present and reveals more of his good plans for those he loves.

Here we are, Father, knowing that any day you could rend the heavens and say, "Right Now! I've come for you, enter into the Joy! This is the day we've been waiting for."  How I want to be reminded to anticipate that day. To fall more in love with you so my heart is asking at random moments the right now question, looking forward to the Big Day of starting our new life together. Thank you for popping the question, for wanting and loving me and for giving me revelation of yourself that led me to say yes.  Even so come Lord Jesus, my bridegroom!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Family in Autumn


Pillows are tossed and fluffed, vacuum inhales the corner cobwebs from the unused bedrooms, bathroom stools and counters meet with Spic and Span, all getting prepared for the Visit. Wanting to make the most of our short time together, the Agenda awaits.  The to-do- list includes games-we-always play-when-together, a corn maze visit, crafts for Nana to do with adolescents, watching Nancy Drew episodes on Netflix, visiting the hometown restaurants, and a special road rally to retrace roots and memories. The cinnamon rolls and shoo-fly pie are baked; foods we-always-eat-when-together.

My son and his family begin the journey from 700 miles away, and we wait excitedly to see their faces at the front door. This time our first hugging gets done in Mancino's parking lot where the travelers get a bite to eat. From there we go to the home place. Two of the three kids, my how they've grown!, scatter to check out all three floors of the house they remember well, yet discover anew.  Brayden, new to the family, makes his introductory walk-though. Bedrooms are staked out and the Visit is underway.

Jill and Elle want to watch Nancy Drew first thing so we settle down for a few episodes while mom and dad stretch out muscles that have been held captive in travel. The homemade foose ball game and air hockey table get a workout before the family sits down to supper and the traditional game of Dictionary that follows the meal. We laugh at silly definitions and agonize over choosing the one word from Websters that will stump everyone else.


Inside the cornstalks, we have a-Maze-ing fun.  The farm also sports a tricycle track with all size of trikes, a long bumpy slide to coast down and other amusements to keep us entertained. We frolic; Kira takes our pictures and posts our revelry on Facebook. Instantly, our friends and family know where we are and what we're doing!.
                                                      A-maze-ing cousins, Aubrey and Elle





 Besides the maze the farm had other activities:
                                                                      A slide

                           Pump race to be the first to dump the rubber duckie in the water tank

                                            Sling-shooting baby pumpkins into the pond

                                                                 Tricycle Races

Mornings we wake up to Gevalia  goodness made sweeter with shoo-fly pie and the sticky buns. Jill requests PaPa's egg scramble, and he is happy to oblige. Following this yummy start to the first day, I hand out road rally clues and send the five Okie residents out to gather memories of childhood neighborhoods and alma maters that are embedded in 'dad', my son's DNA. The rest of the family enjoy the stories from way-back-when.

After the trip to Hobby Lobby, Kira, I and the young people twist our fingers into yarn and cording as we finger-knit the beginnings of scarves and tie knots into bracelets. From the You Tube tutorial we learn how to make rubber band bracelets and mass produce these faddish trinkets. Elle's arm soon wears a sleeve of the colorful ringlets!




And then Donut Day arrives and we trek to the Great Grandparent's house where a whole slew of relatives get together to make and eat donuts all day.  Amid the loud play of littlest cousins, the adults try to converse, catching up on family news and solving common problems of parenting, aging and job challenges. The family from Oklahoma fit right in, making their Donut Day debut.  "Better than Krispy Kreme", they say!
                                                     Taking turns with the hole cutters

                                                     That's what I'm talking about!

                                                                 Donut Heaven!

                                               Grand Kids minus the two in Florida!

The last night arrives.  Josh and Kira feed their fan fantasy at a Notre Dam football game and PaPa and I get to soak up more time with the grand kid trio. We build a fire in the pit out back, briefly diluting the concentration of autumn coolness, and roast hot dogs and marshmallows for s'mores.  Inside, PaPa makes his famous stove-top popcorn, sprinkled with seasoned salt and lemon pepper. Brayden ate a huge bowlful by himself! We watch Netflix til PaPa has to go to bed. (He worked hard earlier in the day, making donuts and helping his parents clean up afterwards) We watch more Netflix and when Hercules is over, Elle wants to continue viewing something else.  Unlike other nights when the kids had faded to their bedrooms before the adults had retired for the evening, the young people were wide awake and lively.  I agreed to stay up for more fun if we played a game.  Mom and Dad got back from the game, surprised to find us awake , going strong with our Catch Phrase competition!





The next morning after a last piece of shoo-fly pie and left over doughnuts, they were on the road heading west, away!  It is all over way too quickly, and I feel the familiar sadness of a quiet house when family leaves, the let down feeling like being abandoned on the teeter totter. Then memories of happy times and getting reconnected climb aboard and balance begins to smooth the ride of opposing emotions.

Thank you, Josh and Kira, for traveling the distance to visit us.  Kira, for taking pictures when I don't want to step back from the action to capture it in pixels. Josh for your humor and appreciation of Indiana treasures. (Next time, perhaps, the adults will get in their game of Euchre and more visit time, sans kids :). Jill, Elle and Brayden for laying down the cell phones long enough to play hard and go along with the Plan, whatever it entailed. For providing fun and energy. To each of you for being the beautiful offspring I am proud to claim and enjoy.
                                                      Good bye for now! We love you!

I  look forward to another reunion in just three months at Uncle Austin's wedding, here in Indiana!

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Theme Thickens

And GRACE

My consistency in blogging has been in question this month and for a very good reason. Earlier this spring my husband, Kevin, felt an urgency to get some family history written down, creating a recorded account for whoever might be interested. We got together with his parents once a week for almost 4 months and Interviewed. This was the beginning of a process that is now almost finished.

Kevin combined his notes from the interviews into a rough draft, chronological history in three parts: Mom's early life, Dad's early life and then their life together. I had the privilege of editing the project and am putting the finishing touches on a story/photo book I'm creating from an online company who prints hardbound books for this purpose. I've scanned old photos from Mom's albums that are yellowed and worn, and marked with hand-written titles, then uploaded them digitally to the book website. Then the fun part of manipulating them just so, so they fit onto the page alongside text that explains the history of the photos. I can't wait to hold the finished product in hand.

As you can guess this takes hours of time and the website offers deals that have expiration dates, so I try to time the publishing to the best of my advantage. So instead of blogging, I'm jogging memories for posterity.

But I'm back with an update on the Grace theme.  After my last post, my son shared a story he recently encountered that illustrates this amazing commodity we can be immersed in All. The. Time.

From his email, "Lee Strobel (a pretty prominent Christian apologist) came and talked to us a couple of weeks ago and told a story about how, a couple of years ago, he was wanting to share his faith with a co worker that he had known for a long time.  He knew the guy was an atheist but he really felt like God was telling him to go invite this guy to church on Easter Sunday.  So Lee walks over to this guy's cubicle and asks him to church.  Of course the guy was like why would I want to go to church?  So Lee starts laying out a few things about Christ and the reasons for believing, but this guy is resolute in that he is not coming to church.  So Lee walked away from that meeting like, great God, that was awesome.  Why'd you have me do that?  Lee said, "That guy is still an Atheist to this day and he never did come to church.  So a little while ago, I had finished preaching and I had a man come up to me that I had never met.  The man said, I just wanted to share my story with you, a couple of years ago, I lost my job.  I was having a really rough time and was trying to find work wherever I could.  I didn't know God and was just trying to make it on my own.  I was hired by a local business to do a random tiling job that had come up.  The owner was taking pity on me and you don't know this but I was tiling in an office and was stuck down behind a cubicle when you came up and started talking to a guy about coming to Easter Service at your church.  I heard what you said and I called my wife right then and said honey we've got to go to this church!"  Lee called that ricochet faith and I think that even if we aren't technically evangelizing, whatever interactions we are having with people, if we are being mindful of our faith and trying to share God even in just being nice, that God uses our interactions regardless of the responses we get."

Never underestimate the effect of an assignment that offers God's invitation to someone he's drawing to himself!

If I can diverse into the hot topic of politics, I'd speak GRACE to our government right now. May God raise up a voice of reason that brings mediation and peace.  How are you praying for this mess? He's given us the privilege of making a difference with our prayers.

We need wisdom and GRACE, Father.