Sunday, December 28, 2014

Moments of Christmas to Cherish

Which moment made it special for you this year?

When you opened the gift you weren't expecting? When the Christmas Sunday choir sang the new rendition of Joy to the World? Or just the preparation and anticipation of guests and family coming to visit? What new thought about Christ's birth filled you with a deeper gratitude than you had before?

My moments were sprinkled throughout the month of Dec., some with the usual, expected emotions, others coming unexpectedly and each one bringing me a greater appreciation for the life I live today because Jesus came into our world, felt our feelings, and saw things from our limited perspective.

Early in the month I sat at a school Christmas program watching a grand daughter perform. As Christ's birth was highlighted through the beautiful messages of carols, I pictured the Holy Spirit moving over the crowded auditorium, whispering endearments and stirring up emotions and memories in hearts, sneaking in love while their guards were down, the Great Lover drawing and wooing... I prayed for hearts to respond, to turn back to Him, to open up, to question and seek to know more.

I enjoyed moments of listening to the music of the season. At home, in public places, on the iPhone-the Good News was proclaimed, even as background music. No matter how much I try to really listen to the lyrics of the songs and catch the impact of the miracle, when Christmas is over I still want just that once more time to sit and listen and take in the words.

Decorations at our house were limited this year as part of the season we will be traveling and not here to enjoy them. Somehow each piece became more special as I chose which ones to display. My choice depended on each ones history or significant meaning. The manger scene was lovingly unwrapped and each Ivory soap carved figure positioned in the wooden stable. My brother made the pieces a very long time ago.  A friend made the stable.

The snowmen collection huddle together in hats, scarves and mittens on the table inside the front door. Their warm smiles belie their wintry images.  The soft bead-stuffed guy perches on the star box next to the happy fellow who starts to dance when sunlight hits his built- in sensor strip.  Behind them a soft family of Papa, Mama and kids stand close together. A tall metal gentlemen with top hat, nearby, bounces on his spring-based bottom, causing his dangley chimes to sway. In the middle, the ice cube man turns different shades of color-feeling a bit exposed, maybe? Wooden, ceramic, resin or chenille each one has adapted to life indoors. Most of them were gifts, and I remember the giver with fondness.

Family comes together and notices changes since the last time together. Notices the never changing, too. This year two daughters were great with child. One delivered a sweet baby boy before Christmas. The long slow uncomfortable journey the young pregnant Mary endured from Nazareth to Bethlehem, as well as the humble birth of the Christ child in a barn with cattle, shepherds and unsanitized surroundings took on new meaning.

A nephew announces his marriage, a great niece serenades us on piano, Mom and Dad are moving much slower, and a niece brings a new boyfriend. We still play bingo and eat cheesy potatoes and top off the meal with peppermint ice cream.

My take away Christmas meaning this year is a new appreciation for the freedom Christ came to give us. "Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace, goodwill towards men". He bypassed political leaders and religious icons to slip into our world where poor in spirit greeted him first. Angel fanfare was for shepherds' eyes only.  He came to comfort, to seek and save that which was lost. He extends goodwill towards you and me. He still offers to weary and heavy laden ones his rest. He teaches us from his meek and lowly heart.  He came because he knew our need; we never have to be ashamed of that need because it brought/brings him to us. He still brings peace to "meek souls who receive him". This is the freedom he brings, to be loved exactly where and how we are. To trust him to change the broken in us, to right the wrongs, to live forgiven and forgiving.

Thank you, Father, for sending your son to our world. For giving me your life through Him. For knowing exactly what I needed and what our world still needs today, and providing it generously and freely. I surrender anew to your work in me. Make your home in my heart so all my affairs are directed by you.  I give you control. Thank you for choosing me.  I love you, Father.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Greetings From 2014

God's goodness through the year we see.
Here's our news from A-Z.                              

A-Austin and Ashley get married Jan. 18.  Ashley works for Indiana Wesleyan in Merriville, IN, and Austin continues his social work job in the same area.
B-Babies! Dec. 13, Noah Gerard was born to Jodi and Emmanuel.  He makes son number 3 for them. Amanda will have baby Zane the end of January, and Austin and Ashley are adding one more to the new cousin list in June.
C-Charades is one of our favorite grand kid games- nice to have graduated from Candyland!
D-Dan and Kristina give us the joy of having family close by.  Dan enjoys his construction job and volunteering for the Jefferson fire department.  Kristina is keeper of the home and has started a business selling Perfectly Posh products for women.  Check it out online at
E-Elle, 11, and Jill, 13, spent about 9 days with Papa and I here in Indiana. We crafted, went shopping, visited relatives, took in a musical and made generational discoveries together.
F-Fun in the sun at Lake Michigan in August as we spent a weekend there with two other couples.  A very relaxing get-away.
G-Goshen College still employs me, Ruth, in the library. There were huge changes on campus this year which included a  different director for the library. The transition has been good, and I find myself with a few more job responsibilities which has actually enhanced my work. 
H-Harvest, our church, is transitioning to a new pastor.  We are beginning to meet a candidate who seems promising. He hails from the Carolinas and has a young family.
I-Involved with caring for Kevin's mom and dad who each had major surgery within two weeks of each other; both ended up in Greencroft rehab center in the same room for 6 weeks.  They are now doing well, although they are still recouping and making adjustments to their new healthy; dad can't drive anymore so mom is the chauffeur.
J-Josh and Kira hosted us for a few days in Tulsa in July.  We were excited to see the nice home they had just purchase earlier in the year. They continue to excel in their jobs and both of them have the privilege of doing a large share of their work at home. It was great to visit and play together. (Raise your hand if you remember the game Pit?) Their household  bustles with the teen and preteen activities of  Jill, Elle and Brayden(14). Cody rounds out the family and is currently living as a student at Oklahoma State.
K-Keeping up with friends brings joy, opportunities for laughter and fun, and support in the not so fun times.
M-Memories are easy to capture now with iPhones close. You'll find a sampling at the end of the letter.
N-Nights of sleepovers with Dan's 3 kids-Aubrey, 10, Shawn, 7, and Rebecca, 4. Hide-and-Seek, Dominoes, and always pancakes for breakfast-a cooperative effort.
O-October visit to Florida for Nana. Ian, 6, and Dominic, 4, took Nana on walks, played whiffle ball with her in the front yard, and Ian showed off his new reading skills by reading her a book. Their pregnant mother took Nana to coffee shops and the beach.
P-Popcorn is still the Sunday evening staple in our household.  Kevin makes it on the stove, and we carry our big bowls of popped delight downstairs for a Netflix show. #thefavoritewaytospendasundayevening
Q-Quite humbled to be able to serve our church as Conflict Solution peacemakers, Kevin a hospitality greeter, and me the church librarian.
R-Regular communication with Joe's elderly parents in southern IN and Dad and Lena Showalter in VA.  They are all holding their own and finding joy in life despite their physical and mental limitations. Dad Schrock has lost short-term memory, Mom Schrock struggles with verbal expression as a result of a stroke a couple of years ago, and Lena is still trying to regulate heart issues. We are so thankful for their Godly examples of growing older with grace and dignity.
S-Sorrow in losing a close friend to cancer in May. Mike still lives on in our hearts. We relate closely to Mary Ellen, his wife. God's grace has abounded in the situation, and we are privileged to have been front row participants in His delicate care for her and their grown sons.
T-Thanksgiving was a week long event this year as Amanda, AJ, Auron and Elika came from VA to stay with us. We enjoyed evenings together and a traditional meal of celebration. Auron, 7, is learning to read and Elika, 4, enjoys puzzles and coloring. They are looking forward to welcoming baby Zane into the family the end of January..
U-Unveiled revelations from the Father as we both seek to know Him better; His rewards are out of this world!
V-Very intense 12 weeks of Fight Club for Kevin.  Fight Club brings men together through Facebook posts and midnight meetings to learn how to discipline their lives so they can "fight" for their families and the kingdom of God more effectively. Kevin had weekly assignments that required running miles per week, sit ups and push ups, social engagements that were stretching-like praying for strangers, and spiritual challenges of reading scripture and related books. I'm proud of Kevin's dedication and successful graduation from the program.  He has glowing reports of how God used the time to change him into a better man.  He prays to continue to "maintain the gain".
W-Work at Tri-State Compressed Air remains both a blessing and a challenge for Kevin. His work days are long, but his attention to detail and his organizational skills make him a valuable employee.
X-number of days until the Schrock kids and us reunite in Florida over New Years.  I'm looking forward to meeting Noah, helping his mom and spending some time with Josh's family and Austin and Ashley as they vacation close by.
Y-Yikes, I'm almost done and forgot to mention how special you all are to us. We consider our relationships our greatest assets. Thank you for being there!
Z-Zane will be the next grandchild to be born. It's good to have a Z name in the family!

Thank you for reading to the end.  Notice any letter missing?
Merry Noe.....L and a Happy New Year blessing!
Kevin and Ruth

Austin and Ashley

Elle, Aubrey and Jill with Papa
Josh and Kira
Jodi, Ian, Dominic, Emmanuel
Amanda, Elika, AJ, Auron
Aubrey, Kristina, Shawn, Dan, Rebecca

Friday, December 19, 2014

To Be Set Apart for Preparation

I love it when God decides to share words of encouragement with me.  Like billboards along my highway advertising his love for me or beaming out rays of enlightenment that I wasn't expecting at that moment or in that method. He is faithful and creative in his care for me.

Billboard #1-

My email inbox receives a devotional from Proverbs 31 ministries every day.  One day this week Lysa Terkeurst shared an experience from a conference she attended where she ended up being seated at a table totally by herself.  She was separated from usual friends and none of the expected people at her assigned table showed up. As her mind began to play pity party thoughts, she heard the Lord say, "You aren't set aside, Lysa. You are set apart." As she pondered that she realized that to be set aside is to be rejected, to be set apart is “to be given an assignment that requires preparation…as you pray through your feelings,[of loneliness or insecurity] see if maybe your situation has more to do with you being prepared than you being overlooked.”
Thank you, Father.  You know I needed to hear that.

Billboard #2-
From a Bethel sermon,  Bill Johnson referenced the verse from Ro. 8:28-"all things work together for good to those who love God..." Then he made this statement: "There would be no need for that verse if we weren’t in a process”. I'm reading between the words and see another reminder here about preparation. In the process of loving God and trusting him we are not just waiting to see the working-out-for-good of things, but He's working out good in us. 

Billboard #3-
Randy Alcorn used the same verse on his blog today.  About our life after this he says, “We’ll no longer have to cling by faith to ‘God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God’ (Romans8:28, NASB). We will see history as definitive documentation of that reality.” The me, after the preparation is complete, is looking  forward to that hind sight view!  The fine print on this one says-it will be worth the clinging and believing.

What are your signs saying? God will be faithful to tell you just what you need to hear. Keep your eyes open. It is just a matter of waiting and staying faithful and learning all that the process wants to teach us.   

Oh, how I need your grace, Father. Gather up the loose ends of the threads of my emotions and fasten them securely in the eternal pattern where they belong.  I’ve made a mess of separating them from the weaving because I didn’t like their color or placement.  Others I’ve snagged on sharp conclusions or rough judgments. I’m holding still so you can repair. I’m enduring the pain of your correction in the preparation.  Your gentleness comforts me. You speak while you work. Your words give me hope, extend undeserved forgiveness and soften my stubbornness.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Updates in Status

Leave it to Facebook to flaunt a myriad of subjects in my news feed without any sequence, rhyme or reason. Scrolling merrily along I see decadent desserts that make my mouth water, poses designed to make you play find-the-baby-under-the-spaghetti-face, videos of school Christmas programs or sleeping pets, outrage at presidential proclamations, memes with pithy aphorisms, scary closeups of facial features, videos that begin play by just looking at them, games to match your personality with colors, movie characters or celebrities and links to thought -provoking articles.

Social media has changed our lives! I like the instant access to knowledge and closer connection to family and friends. What better way to experience the far away, less-than-24-hours-old grandbaby than with a Facetime encounter, punctuated with newborn sounds and gestures. AT&T coined the phrase, "reach out and touch someone" in the 80s; we had no idea then of where technology would reach and what our fingertips would touch. Our cell phones are another appendage for most of us. Lose, misplace or damage one, and panic is sure to ensue. 

If I'm honest, I admit some of social media doesn't always seem good.  

Instant feedback addiction:
Did you ever thrill to the positive comments and long string of names liking your FB post and then struggle to read someone's demeanor or response when conversing face to face? If only they would post a smiley on their forehead or  raise a thumb to let you know they approve of what you're saying. Are we getting accustomed to communication inflated with ego boosting gratification?? :) 

Comparison errodes contentment: 
Does your heart pang a bit when you read something a friend is getting to have that you can't have? What happens to our emotions when a personal status post gets little attention or fewer comments than someone else's trivia? Did you ever find it hard to be content with your depth of an experience compared to the perfectly transpired account someone else has described on FB?  Social media at times, has provided my tendency to feel inferior with more frequent opportunities to be provoked.

Time management can be more challenging:
Ever stay up too late catching up on posts with links that lead to more links, that lead to another blog, that leads to a youtube video, that leads to... The information is exhilarating, while the glowing -screen- reading steals my ability to fall asleep when I finally decide to go to bed. In my restless insomnia, I remember I forgot to call that elderly relative, or prepare the memo I need to send out first thing in the morning. The guilt furthers my sleeplessness.

I often find it easier to text someone than make a voice to voice or face to face contact:
There are times I'm uncomfortable making phone calls.  Texting takes less time and provides space in responding.  But I never want to lose the art of sharing voice to voice and passing on sensitive and personal information with the tenderness and compassion that gets lost in communicating by any other means.

So how much more I find the admonition in Proverbs 4:23 to be relevant for me today:

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

Father, help me to include social media in the "whatever you do, in word and in deed, do all to the glory of God ". May the increased knowledge I have of friends and their experiences of life increase my care for them; to rejoice with them in successes and grieve with them in sorrows. Thank you for connection and the community of Facebook friends I share. You have spoken to me through them.  They give me laughter and opportunity to pray.