The Greatest Fear

“There’s nothing to fear but fear itself.”

World English Dictionary

fear— n
1. a feeling of distress, apprehension, or alarm caused by impending danger, pain, etc
2. a cause of this feeling
3. awe; reverence: fear of God
4. concern; anxiety
5. possibility; chance: there is no fear of that happening
6. for fear of , for fear that , for fear lest to forestall or avoid
7. no fear certainly not
8. put the fear of God into to frighten
— vb 
9. to be afraid (to do something) or of (a person or thing); dread
10. to revere; respect
11.  to be sorry: used to lessen the effect of an unpleasant statement: I fear that you have not won
12. to feel anxiety about something
13. an archaic word for frighten

Most of us don’t need to be reminded of the definition.  We know it well.  We live in it far too often.

This generation has heard the words “terrorism” and “war” far more than I ever did.  Maybe I was naive, but I think the only thing I feared as a child was the idea of dying and not going to heaven–until I became a believer.

It’s not coincidence that when my thoughts recently headed down the “What if'” path, I was awakened to truth by a song.   “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me”!

Matthew 10:28-30(HCSB)

Don’t fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul; rather, fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.  Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s consent. 30 But even the hairs of your head have all been counted.”

I’ve been writing in my One Thousand Gifts journal, and it has become increasingly obvious to me that in the process of keeping my focus on the magnitude of things I am grateful for, my fear turns to faith.

In this statement, “my fear turns to faith”, I am not denying the necessity of God-given “healthy fear”.

Just because I can say with confidence that God’s peace can consume us even in the midst of our fear, doesn’t mean that I’m saying, as some would assume, that we should never be afraid or we are showing a lack of faith.  What that statement is suggesting is that our greatest fear should be that fear would consume us…

The grip that fear can have on us is powerful, if we allow it to control our thoughts and actions.  We often talk about “walking by faith, not by sight” and for me it means that even when I don’t understand the “Why?” I can CHOOSE  to embrace the “What now?”  Whether I’m fearful over something that might happen, or something that has already happened, will I choose to look to my Heavenly Father for comfort and peace, or will I choose to walk in fear of the unknown.

One of the statements my husband says often when talking to people seeking God, or new in their faith is, “You don’t have to check your intellect at the door.  God gave you a mind so that you can learn, study, and discover the truth for yourself.”


Faith is not naivety, but a conscious decision to believe in the TRUTH of  God’s promises.  Those truths will set us free from the bondage of fear.  


The world events unfolding only remind us that this is a fallen world.  There will never be world peace until Jesus returns.  The good news is that we can KNOW peace.  Peace is not the absence of conflict, it’s the presence of God.  HE is our peace.  He can and will sustain us and give us peace when life gets difficult.  It’s a calm assurance that God is in control.  Evil will NOT reign.


I struggle because this topic is so broad–so complex, yet the simple truth for me is,

“My God is stronger, My God is greater!”

I LOVE this song by Chris Tomlin:


Lessons from the Nest


It’s no secret that I struggled when it came time for our youngest to go off to college.


Classic, huh?  Kinda funny now, but I can tell you that I was in no way faking how I was feeling.

Sometimes when we’re in the midst of a struggle we often see only the difficulty and can miss the blessing.  The first few months after we left our son at college (5 hours away), I moped around in quiet loneliness.

Having four children these days is considered a large family, and our home was often occupied by many more than the six of us, which meant that it was seldom quiet! Memories of laughing, playing, hungry children far overshadowed the memories of sleep deprivation, piles of dishes and loads of laundry.

There wasn’t a room in the house that wasn’t full of memories that could make me cry.

It was only a couple of months after beginning this new season of life that my husband and I traveled to his alma-mater–Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL.


He was asked to come speak in chapel to the football team.  He played football all four years and was co-captain his senior year, so he was thrilled at the opportunity.  I didn’t attend Wheaton, so I was just a tag-a-long… or so I thought.


“You will seek Me and find me when you seek Me with all your heart.”  A well-known truth from Jeremiah is deeply imprinted on my heart.  Well, I had been seeking God, and He knew right where I was–physically and emotionally.  My wonderful husband was looking forward to this new season of life–and was looking at it from a completely different perspective than me.  I struggled to even talk to him about it for fear that he would think that I wasn’t as excited about our new “freedom”.  This was supposed to be a time of re-discovery and new adventures.

This trip down memory lane was kind of the beginning of a new chapter.  One where I could freely travel with him, when in the past I would have needed to stay home with the kids.

I knew that he would do a great job speaking to these young men, not just because he had been where they are now, but because of his passion for the sport and the spiritual lessons it had taught him.

What I didn’t expect was that the message I was to hear didn’t come through him, but through the young men who stood to testify to their peers.  Three senior athletes shared their testimony of how God had saved them and led them to attend Wheaton and play football.  Every story was different, with one similarity.  All three of these young men spoke of their grandparents and the powerful impact they had made in their lives…  That night it was as though God said to me, “See, Vickie! I’m not finished with you yet!  This high calling–of wife and mom–is a forever calling.  You will continue to have an impact for generations to come!”


I fully believe that a mother’s job is never done.  We never stop caring, praying and loving on our children, and the mission continues as those precious grandchildren come into our lives.

My nest will always be a resting place: HOME

Never vacant:  full of love.

Never unoccupied:  a place of refuge.


It’s not uncommon for me to think back on those days with tears in my eyes–but more often now those tears are not the heart-wrenching “those days are gone” tears, but the “Oh, how blessed I’ve been!” tears of joy.


When God Shows Up

This was an old posted note on my Facebook page that I had completely forgotten about.  Not a coincidence that I stumbled across it.  I needed a fresh reminder today:

Okay, so today was a really tough day. Losing a pet is never easy and we’ve had our share. The price of owning a pet is far greater than the money you spend–you invest part of yourself when you invite an animal to be a part of your family. So here we are, grieving the loss of our sweet dog, Nacho. He was only 3 1/2 years old, but was born with a birth defect called a liver shunt…which in human terms means his liver never functioned normally. He seemed fine last week, but then got sick over the weekend (I’ll leave out those details!), and on Monday was really lethargic. I called the vet — couldn’t get him in until Wednesday morning, so we waited. He was a quiet dog, and never whined or acted like he was in pain, but you could tell he really didn’t feel well.


Ignacio Jackson

Wednesday morning when we got to the vet he only weighed 11 lbs…they started him on an IV with antibiotics and various other meds, took blood and ran tests. When I went back to get him at 5:30 Wed. night he had not improved at all, so they wanted to keep him overnight to keep him on the IV. The blood work was back by that point and it wasn’t looking good. Still we were hoping it was just a parasite or something and thought he might bounce back. Turns out his liver and kidneys were failing due to this shunt and there was nothing else to we could do…

Moments of decision can be very troubling when the outcome is so dire. I am thankful for an honest vet that was willing to say that if it was his dog, he wouldn’t bring him home to die…putting him to sleep was the most humane thing we could do–as hard as it was.  If you’ve ever been through this, you understand how difficult my drive home was.  I was all alone–or so I thought.

Driving home I happened to notice something quite unusual– a spider was clinging to the rearview mirror of the truck and the image left quite an impression on me.  I’m not usually so drawn toward a spider, but this one was different.   It was a female spider that was carrying her eggs on her back. I had never seen anything like it, and the amazing part was that the white eggs had an impression on them that looked just like a cross!!


In my heart I know that God cares about us and is near to the broken-hearted, so when I saw that spider I was clearly reminded of the message of the cross:  Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection I can have a relationship with the one true God.  Because of the relationship I have with Him, I KNOW that He cares about me and when I hurt, He sees my need and heals those holes in my heart–even the ones that are left there because of a lost pet.

I immediately thought of the verse, “If anyone wants to follow Me, he must deny himself daily, take up his cross, and follow Me.” Matthew 16:24

Most of the time when I hear this verse, I think of the burden of carrying a cross, but the truth is–JESUS carried the cross so I don’t have to! I lay my burdens at His feet and continue to trust Him, even when life is hard. By taking up the cross, I wonder if it’s saying that we “take up the cross” by keeping it in front of us always as a constant reminder of what Christ did and of how we can live victoriously because he paid the penalty for our sin.  Sure, every one of us will have difficulties and hardship and grief, but I can testify that even in the midst of those burdens, Jesus is there.  He wants to be our source of strength.

II Cor. 12:9 says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.”

When we are weak, He proves strong. Thank you, Jesus, for continuing to reveal yourself to me–this time with one of your tiny creations–a spider.


DIY Spring: When the weather doesn’t cooperate

The first of the daffodils are blooming, and I’m inspired!


Veterans Monument, O’Fallon, Illinois

Puxatony Phil sure failed this year, and according to the “news” reports, he is facing criminal charges and possibly the death penalty!  Wow, really?  No fear, I’m sure it’s a joke, but for this warm weather person, having snow the week before Easter is not funny!

I choose to be pro-active, and after seeing those first spring flowers pop up decide to get busy transforming on the inside in anticipation of what will soon be happening outside!

The first step to welcoming spring is to update my mantel:


I have candlesticks in several places, so I just added a white candle, re-purposed a mason jar and used a plain wreath and added some dried flowers (I spray painted the dried hydrangea blue!)  I did purchase a yard of blue burlap to add little touches:  a bow on the frame, a square of fabric under my tray on the ottoman, and a bow on an existing pillow.

Everything came from another area of the house except the new print I downloaded for free, here:

I used Picasa to change the color to blue and crop it to fit a frame I already had.

1-Easter Yellow

I have box loads of mason jars from a previous wedding, so I’m thrilled at the possibilities for their re-purposing!


Time to update the pillows…  cotton material covering one, a bow on another and an old king-sized pillow slip on another (pulled each end together and secured with a leather cord):


and the kitchen chalkboard… an ever-changing work of art (well, not art exactly! :0)


I absolutely love it when I can shuffle a few things around, get out the hot glue gun and sewing machine, and transform my home in a fresh way.

I also love Pinterest, and these egg crate flowers were SUPER EASY!!  I just cut them out (it’s three layers), painted them white, poked a hole in the bottom and secured them together with a yellow twist-tie!  Didn’t even use hot glue–the twist-tie held them together and was long enough to make a loop to hang it on my chalkboard sign.  YEP–I’ll definitely be buying cardboard egg cartons from now on!


I’m still looking for front door wreath ideas, but for now I’ll put up the old one (with the nest still in from last year!).  Truth is, if the nest gets re-purposed again, it will be the third year in a row, and it’ll stay until the babies can fly on their own.


Baby, it may be cold outside (SNOW predictions again for this weekend), but seeing those daffodils come up sure put a little spring in my step, and hearing those birds chirping made me want to get my nest ready!


“And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”  Colossians 3:17

One Thousand Gifts/Giveaway!

You would think this an easy read–

Nope.  A struggle most of the way– but totally worth it.

 “That’s what I was struggling out of nightmares to reach, to seize.  Joy.  But where can I seize this holy grail of joy?  I look back down to the page.  Was this the clue to the quest of all most important?  Deep chara joy is found only at the table of the euCHARisteo–the table of thanksgiving.  I sit there long… wondering… is it that simple?” pg. 32

We all know that as believers we should be living a thankful life, counting our blessings as a  natural overflow of a repentant heart.  But IS it “natural”?  IS it simple?

Nope.  Truth is, this struggle seems to be a constant battle… our old sin nature takes over, and we give in to self-pity, greed, covetousness and envy.  I, for one, would love to kick the old serpent in the pants every time I find myself focusing on the wrong things.  Is it really “the devil’s fault”?

Nope.  He may tempt us with dissatisfaction, but the truth is painfully clear:  just like Eve in the garden, we are responsible.  We are accountable for those places we allow our hearts to go and our minds to drift toward.

This past Christmas my sweet sister-in-law (Thanks, Denise!) gifted me the book, One Thousand Gifts–A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, and a journal.


I have never been good at keeping a journal– but THIS I could do…write down ONE THOUSAND BLESSINGS over the course of the next year.  Pages and pages of blessings!  Focus on the positive.  As my pastor husband reminds us, “Our gaze should be on our Savior, while our glance is on the problem”. Retain a heart of gratitude despite circumstances.  Not always easy though, is it?  When we say, “Jesus is all I need”, but live in constant pursuit of something else, it’s time to get our priorities back in line with TRUTH.

Every time I read someone else’s story, I am reminded of my own.  God, in faithful love, met me right where I was.  I was a sinner in need of a Savior.  I was lost.  Uncertain.  Afraid.


I can remember when I was old enough to understand what Jesus had done by dying on the cross for me.  I knew that I needed forgiveness and that He was the only one that could offer it.  I knew that the life He had planned for me was the right path to follow.  I also knew that I was incapable of knowing the right path to take apart from Him.

That’s why Jeremiah 29:11-13 is one of my favorite passages of scripture!


When I made the decision to surrender my life to Him, I also knew that I would fail.  Did that change MY resolve or HIS faithful love?

NOPE!  Today I am thankful for forgiveness.  Restoration.  Redemption.  That’s what the cross is all about.  The cruelty of it reminds us of the cost.  The victory of His resurrection reminds us of the promise.


“I begin the list.  Not of gifts I want but of gifts I already have… This writing it down–it is sort of like… unwrapping love.” pg. 45

And so–I’ve started my list, and have to admit that I’m smiling.  It’s going to be a good year.  A hard one with a heart-wrenching event looming.  But God’s grace will prevail and those gifts He’s already promised–love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control  will win in the battle of my mind.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17

No question this is a good read, and I’d love to share it with one of my readers.  All you have to do is leave a comment on the webpage and you’ll be automatically entered to win!  Winner will be notified on Good Friday, March 29.

What a great way to celebrate this Easter season–with a renewed commitment to focus on God’s blessings!


Weathering winter and pondering spring…

I don’t hate winter, and I can appreciate the beauty of freshly fallen snow, but… COME ON!

It’s snowing in March and personally,  I am ready for spring!


After inheriting left over flowers from a wedding my daughter and I helped with this weekend, I am surrounded by white… on the inside as well as the outside … a little fringe benefit! :0)


Fresh flowers.
New life.

It won’t be long before the first daffodils and hyacinths start blooming, and some years we’ve even seen them pop up through the snow.   Regardless, there’s just something about those first blooms that breathes fresh air into my spirit.

Could it be that their natural beauty just inspires me to appreciate the simple things of life?  I never get tired of the magnificence and complexity of every bloom.  In my desire to simplify my life, I certainly don’t want to leave behind the pleasure of making things beautiful.

A simple landscape is made awe-inspiring when covered with wildflowers; a solitary table becomes a centerpiece when decorated with a vase full of flowers.

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I am a realist and I know that cutting flowers leads to their death, but there’s nothing like having fresh flowers in my house to brighten the room and my attitude.
I’ve never been afraid to cut those fresh flowers from the yard, knowing that sometimes the pruning can lead to even more magnificent blooms from those remaining.

One of my new favorites is the Ranunculus:


Apparently these are a popular wedding flower, and after using them in the bridal bouquet, I can see why!  They are truly a stand-out flower, and I’ll definitely be looking for these when I shop for annuals in the spring.

One of my all time favorites is the Hibiscus.  They are definitely not white, and my favorite is a brilliant coral.   I plant them in my backyard every summer, and because these plants thrive in the sun, I never cut them for arrangements.  I do pull off old blooms to make room for the new–and depending on the weather, I am able to enjoy them from mid-April until the first frost–which is sometimes as late as October or early November!

Could it be that God’s pruning in our lives has much the same effect?   When we “pluck” away those things that are cluttering our life, we leave room for new growth.
It’s sometimes obvious–and other times not so obvious, that when I experience “pruning”,  (even the painful kind) I am more keenly aware of God’s presence and the blessings He has freely given if my focus remains on Him.  So often the clutter in our lives stagnates our growth and blinds us to God’s provision.


I don’t want to be so busy with life that I miss the blessings that are right in front of me.  The real blessings, lasting ones.

By God’s grace I am blessed with…

a loving family~~consistent, unconditional, loving…  we want to be around each other.

friends~~real friends…  ones that know me and love me anyway.

health~~with every passing year I’m reminded that I’m not getting younger… I treasure the time.

wealth~~I don’t desire it, but am blessed… God has freely given, I want to freely give.

freedom~~to worship, to witness, to write… to experience God daily.


Purging with Purpose

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Understand from the beginning that I am not in any way talking about food!

These are my thoughts on scaling down and simplifying my life…
It’s not just children who struggle with the “need” versus “want” concept.  I grew up in an average middle class family with four children, both parents, and usually a pet or two.  Dad worked hard his whole life to provide for his family and though we didn’t always get what we wanted, my parents always provided what we needed.  Mom kept our home and was always there when we came home from school, providing a loving safe-haven.  (Our friends always wanted to come to our house, and several of them called my Mom, “Mom”!”)  Hindsight reveals very clearly how blessed I really was.  I grew up a minority–not because of my race, but because I had both parents and a stable home life.  Many of my peers would have gladly given up their material possessions to have their parents back together, their family intact.
Materialism has been and probably always will be a dangerous poison that plagues the human race.  From the sin of Adam and Eve desiring the one thing God denied them, to a powerful king ordering the death of  baby boys in a jealous plot to eliminate the Christ child, mankind has struggled with greed and selfishness.  I’m thankful for my heritage and pray that my children and grandchildren will have less of a struggle with this temptation than others in this generation.  It seems society is constantly telling us that our happiness is tied to our possessions.
Why is it, exactly, that we value the “things” of this life?  For some its security, for others a sense of worth.  Scripture is clear on this issue:
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Because my husband and I had four children and lived in houses with little storage space until about 6 years ago, I was pretty good about cleaning out closets every season, deciding what could be handed down and what needed to go.  It’s funny that my girls (who are 3 years apart) would get in arguments over who had the others “stuff”, but when it got handed down to them they no longer wanted it!  Maybe it was because when it was handed down it wasn’t exactly something different?! :0)
Isn’t that just like us, though?  We go about the process of accumulation, only to find ourselves wanting the next “thing” as soon as we cross another off our list.  I decided long ago that I would give more serious consideration to the purchases I make, and try to re-purpose when possible (even if my family didn’t like it!)
I truly believe that God changed my heart in more than one way when He called me to take my first overseas mission trip.  One of the things He opened my eyes to was how incredibly blessed we are in this country.  I didn’t choose to live here in America–I was born here.  In those countries I visited on mission trips: Poland, Romania, Peru, and Africa, the people didn’t choose to be born there, either–but God, in His providence, knew exactly where we would be, and sees us right where we are. 
His desire is that all of His creation depend on Him for everything:
                “This is why I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear.  Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Aren’t you worth more than they?   Can any of you add a single cubit to his heightby worrying?   And why do you worry about clothes?  Learn how the wildflowers of the field grow: they don’t labor or spin thread.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these!  If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t He do much more for you—you of little faith?  So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’  For the idolaters eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.  Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  Matthew 6:25-34
I know for some of you this begs the question, “Then why is there so much suffering in the world?  Why are there children starving in Africa?”
 I think Charles H. Spurgeon, a well-known  preacher of the 1800’s said it best:
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God gives us the freedom to choose–His desire has always been that we would choose to follow Him.  Not only did He provide a way, through His Son, (John 3:16), but He gave us His Word and His Spirit to guide us.   Once that decision is made, the question becomes, “What does that look like?” and “What do I do next?”  The first steps include reading the Bible, prayer and worship; the more we learn, the more we will understand who He is, and we will want to follow Jesus’ example.  His mandate is that we “go and tell” this truth.  We carry with us a God-given responsibility to speak the truth and live it out in our own lives.
I know what you’re thinking.  “Telling God’s story doesn’t feed those children!”  You’re right, it doesn’t, and the thought can overwhelm us.  The truth is, that’s why I support ministries that work together to help meet some of those needs.  There are lots of good organizations out there that are committed to making a difference in the lives of those less fortunate than us.  Our denomination has agencies that sends missionaries out all over the country–and around the world to provide disaster relief, and so much more.  When we give, we help cooperatively to support them and in doing so, accomplish so much more than we could ever do by ourselves.
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Realistically, we all feel like there’s so little one person can do.  I don’t have a lot of wealth that could make a great difference, but I DO have more wealth than many in our world.  That means I have an obligation, privilege, and right to do SOMETHING!
There are several ways to make that happen and one of the most practical is to purge your house, like I did, of all the meaningless clutter.
I separate my “stuff” into four piles:
#1.  TRASH!!  This is only for things that are damaged or useless.  ( i.e.  If it’s stained and you can’t get it out, pitch it!)
#2.  SALVATION ARMY or GOODWILL.  They take clothing and household items.  Check with your local donation center to find out if they take large items like furniture.  We still practice the “hand-me-down” concept.  My basement is full of baby items to be shared among future grandchildren! :O)
#3.  CHILDREN’S HOME.  We have a Home in the area that takes all sizes of clothing and small household items.  They even pick it up!  (If you can’t find something like this, most towns have donation boxes you can just drop stuff in!) Moms:  let your kids help!  It’s a great lesson on sharing!
#4.  CONSIGNMENT SHOP.  If you saw my earlier post, “Can We Make a Difference?”, you know I collect loose change for mission projects.  You could do the same with your more valuable items if you want to collect $ for a specific donation.
Springtime is around the corner, (hopefully!) and the opportunity to do a little cleaning might just be your ticket to an exciting opportunity.  Something that usually is a chore can become the means by which you can bless someone else.  It might seem small, but it could be the beginning of a new attitude: one that says, I might not be able to do much, but I will do something!
I would love to hear your ideas!

How to create your own art using Picasa and Jusgramm

Now I know that there are experts out there than can give long, detailed explanations for some of the beautiful pictures and quotes we see people putting on their Pinterest boards or sending out as a template so you can print them for your walls, but this is for those of you out there that are just like me and have no fancy equipment and just want to add a little creativity with little or no cost using your own photos.

Since I got my iPhone for my birthday last year, I have hardly used my digital camera.  I love taking pictures, but never learned to use/couldn’t afford a fancy camera.   I don’t use the camera that came pre-installed on the phone for picture-taking, only videos.  I wanted some editing options for my photos so I downloaded the Camera+ app (by tap,tap,tap NOT Camera Plus).  The other app I use is Jusgramm Pro.  The free version is limited, so after trying it for a while, I paid for Pro and have used it over and over!  (It’s on sale right now for $2.99!)  It’s really easy to use and is constantly updating and adding new backgrounds, fonts, etc..


Recently, my husband and I were driving around in the country and spotted a deer… so out comes the iPhone!  I snapped this picture for fun and when I was looking for a new picture to replace an old one in my guest bath, I decided to use it.  I cropped it first, then edited it by adding the verse using Jusgramm Pro.  After adding the verse, I simply saved it to my phone which syncs all my pictures into Picasa (using iCloud). You can download Picasa for free here:  Using Picasa I cropped the picture and added the purple border so the picture would fit the frame I already had, printed it out on 4 x 6 photo paper, and WHAALAA!


Did I tell you, “I LOVE MY IPHONE!” ?  The fact that it goes with me everywhere means that I always have a camera with me. :0)

Most all of the pictures that you see on my blog are pictures that I took with my IPhone, then edited them with either Jusgramm or Picasa.  This was a picture of my son, Jarrett that I copied from a post on Facebook, then edited with Jusgramm.  Oh, HOW I MISS MY BOY!


This is an example of one that was done entirely with Jusgramm Pro:


If you use Camera+ on your iPhone, you can edit it immediately or save it to your camera roll for editing later.

Often I’ll take a picture and send it to my computer.  If you don’t use iCloud, you can email the picture to yourself and then save it to your computer–that allows you to open it using Picasa.  Even if you don’t have a smart phone that has a camera, you can use your digital camera with similar results using PICASA.  It has edit capabilities that allow you to crop, add text, change themes and a multitude of other options.

This is not an exhaustive post, just one that I hope encourages your creativity.  For some of you out there, you just need to jump it and try it.  Sometimes getting started is the hardest step.  I am definitely open to any questions or comments and would love other suggestions!


On the Faith of Our Love?


The first time I heard her say it, I was stricken by this young girl’s sincerity. I even asked her to repeat it because I had never heard anyone verbalize it quite that way.  Instead of saying, “Do you promise?”, she was saying, “On the faith of our love…is what you’re saying true?!  Do you mean it?!”

It struck a chord with me that day, and I may not say it verbally, but often think it when I read God’s promises.  You see, I believe that the promises He makes in His Word are absolutely true.  They were not just for Abraham, Moses, the disciples or the Jewish people–they were for me (and FOR YOU!)

jusgramm=Exodus 34

I love the Psalms, and recently I have noticed how many times the psalmist speaks of God’s faithful love:

Psalms 25:4-10 HCSB

“Make Your ways known to me, Lord; teach me Your paths. Guide me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; I wait for You all day long.  Remember, Lord, Your compassion and Your faithful love, for they have existed from antiquity.  Do not remember the sins of my youth or my acts of rebellion; in keeping with Your faithful love, remember me because of Your goodness, Lord.  The  Lord  is good and upright; therefore He shows sinners the way.  He leads the humble in what is right  and teaches them His way.  All the Lord ’s ways show faithful love and truth to those who keep His covenant and decrees.”

I love the website,  It’s a great Bible resource that allows you to look up any verse, word or phrase– in more translations than you could ever imagine.  I use it often when studying, researching, or just preparing a lesson for my 6th grade class.  I searched the phrase “faithful love” and there were over a hundred verses!

At the very core of Christianity are the seeds of FAITH and LOVE.  Without them we lose the ability to bear fruit.  1Corinthians 13 speaks of the absolute necessity of both.  Our faith must be in God, of course, and Hebrews 11 says,  “…without faith it is impossible to please God.”; in 1Corinthians 13 we read that faith must be accompanied by love:

jusgramm=1 Corinthians 13

I John 3:16-18 states, “This is how we have come to know loveHe laid down His life for us.  We should also lay down our lives for our brothers.  If anyone has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need but closes his eyes to his need–how can God’s love reside in him?  Little children, we must not love with word or speech, but with truth and action.”

I am overwhelmed at how many scriptures talk of God’s faithful love toward us.  Even when we don’t deserve it.  Even when we aren’t reciprocating or even when we aren’t believing that He could possibly love us.  How could a Holy God love a flawed sinner like me?

Romans 5:8  “But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!”

Is it a wonder that God calls Himself, “Father”–and for those who believe, He calls “children”?  No other relationship on earth is as binding as the parent/child relationship.  No matter where my children are–physically or spiritually, a part of my heart goes with them.  My love for them is faithful…I loved them before they were born and will love them until the day I die.  Miles may separate us and differences may challenge us, but my faithful love for them will never change.1 Corinthians 13

What more does the God who created us in His image and gave His life for ours have to do to prove His Faithful Love?  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing–yet the more I come to know Him and serve Him, the more I am able to see His faithful love in my life.  Oh how I pray for those who’ve never experienced it, because they live in denial of the One who created them.  Oh how I mourn for those who have tasted it, yet choose to live their life apart from Him.  God’s faithful love has been proven in the past and the present.  I pray for you to receive it by grace through faith.  If you’re reading this and have never known that kind of relationship with God, PLEASE comment or email me — I would love to talk to you.  If you have a testimony of God’s faithful love in your life and would like to encourage others, please leave a comment!



Fireplace Mantle Redo

It’s been awhile since I posted a DIY, and since much of my decorating involves shifting things around to make them look different, I thought I’d share how I do it with a before and after:

I simply took some pieces from my Thanksgiving mantel…


…a simple twig wreath that I purchased several months ago for less than $5.00.   I jazzed it up with a banner made out of a paper grocery sack and jute, and a cardinal ornament .  The candles are left over from a daughter’s wedding.   I had planned to stencil them with the adhesive stencils that you see, but when I stuck them on the glass, I decided to just leave them on and not even paint them so I could reuse the candles!  The adhesive kind is reusable and work so much better for stenciling on glass or metal.  I did use the same stencil set to paint the “GIVE” banner.
My Christmas mantel followed the same color scheme, (fitting in nicely with Christmas!)


I borrowed the old window from my daughter’s stash.  If you can get your hands on one, these simple window frames can be used  for all kinds of DIY projects.  My daughter generously loaned me one of hers, and I’m not sure she’ll ever get it back!  (Thanks, Sis! ;0)

I pre-printed the letters for NOEL on cardstock and used an exact-o knife to make my own stencil.  After cutting them out, I simply sprayed the letters onto the glass with Christmas Snow, which wipes clean easily with window cleaner!  Using the same wreath, I tied on a Christmas ribbon and changed candle colors.  The cross and candles were already on the Thanksgiving mantle–I just changed them to red and green,  and a deer that had previously been in a bathroom–just found a new place to bed down.

After Christmas I made a few changes for a Winter/Valentine theme:


In this case, I used the same window, cleaned the letters off and added a red wreath from my dining room.   The bird house and “Over the river…” sign were relocated from other places.  I found the white candle holders at our local Ashley Furniture Store for only $2.00 each!  The triple heart at the top has three hooks that I hung the wreath on.  It was $6.00 at Ashley’s.   I could have reused the same candlesticks again, changing to all red candles (and I would have had I not found those white ones so cheap!).  I have always loved red, so the other accents in my living room could stay (pillows, picture frame, etc.)


We have used these same window panes for baby showers and wedding showers in a multitude of ways.  It’s fun to finally use one in my home and I’m already thinking ahead to what I’ll do in the spring…IF she lets me keep it that long! :0)

Though I’m not creative, I get lots of ideas from Pinterest.  (Just click on the link if you want to follow me!)   Sometimes I’m inspired by one simple piece, and in this case it was a window pane full of possibilities.

When I started changing the fireplace mantel to accommodate the seasons,  I was reminded of the changing seasons we enjoy through the windows of our home.  Here in Illinois we have four distinct seasons, so I can look out my window and enjoy the same picture with just a fresh coat of snow, the newness of spring, or the colors of fall.  Life is full of change, and we can embrace and enjoy it if we will just open our eyes to the possibilities that each day brings.



Reflect and Resolve

Every year seems to pass by with things “I intended to do” and didn’t get done. Pictures in Rubbermaids, rooms that need painting, shelves that need cleaning.

I’m not REALLY a procrastinator, though I sometimes wonder if I don’t see myself very clearly.

The mirror doesn’t lie, so why should I?

I know what I AM…
*A little late
*A lot in love with my husband
*A little insecure
*A whole lot enamored with my grandchildren!
*A little bit selfish
*A lot thankful for my relationship with God, family and friends
*A little tired
*A lot grateful for every year I’m given!

Wisdom says…

Enjoy every day as if it were your last.  Live without regrets.  Love like there’s no tomorrow.  Make every day count.  Find your purpose.

I always go back to one of my favorite verses for focus:


I never get tired of reading those verses.  Jeremiah was a prophet in Israel, urgently pursuing his passion to bring God’s message to His people.

He was known as the “doomsday prophet” because his message was not a pleasant one.  Israel had turned their backs on God.  He warned them of the consequences of such foolishness:

“Return, unfaithful Israel.  I will not look on you with anger, for I am unfailing in my love.  I will not be angry forever.  Only acknowledge your guilt–you have rebelled against the Lord your God.”  (Jer. 3:12)

God used him to remind them (and US) that He has ALWAYS had a plan for us and everything He does proceeds from His heart.  A heart of  faithful love.  In love He created us–not just to exist.  To live with purpose of heart and mind, recognizing His presence and walking in faith the path that He has set before us.

I am always a little nostalgic at this time every year.  In the space of nine days I celebrate Christmas, my birthday, the new year and my wedding anniversary:

It’s Christmas, and I am in awe of the Christ Child, God Himself choosing to dwell among us.

I’m a year older.  The gift of another day.  I’m learning to accept growing older.  Loving being a grandparent and thankful for health and strength.

It’s a new year.  A year of blessings:  Loss and birth.  Joy and sorrow.  Changes and struggles.  Each one an opportunity to grow.

I’m truly blessed.  Thirty-one years of marriage to my high school sweetheart.  Our love for each other is as deep as the roots of an old oak tree.  Stronger, deeper and more beautiful the older we get!

jusgramm (3)

Consider these words of wisdom:


No resolutions this year…







Happy New Year!!

jusgramm (2)

Four Simple Gifts

It’s not a new concept, only new to me. I’d never heard it before, but wish that I had heard the idea when I was a young mother.

My daughter shared with me that this year she is using the idea of Four Simple Gifts for Christmas this year with plans to continue it as a Christmas tradition.

Each child receives Four Simple Gifts for Christmas:

Four Simple Gifts

I ABSOLUTELY LOVE the idea and wanted to share.  This simple idea is a way to keep our focus on the things that really matter, and keep CHRIST first this CHRISTMAS…

I recently shared this with a group of young Moms, and have since heard different versions of it,  but each carried the idea of choosing four meaningful gifts.

I used the Four Simple Gifts and gleaned some gifts from God’s Word:

1) Something you WANT:  Wisdom

Through the years, this has probably been my number one request.  As a young parent and now as the parent of adult children that are giving me grandbabies, I continue to ask God for wisdom.  I’ve heard that the best definition of wisdom is, “seeing life from God’s perspective” and the book of James tells us,

” If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”   James 1:5

Sometimes the only thing I know to do is pray.  And sometimes the only thing I know to pray is, “God, please give me wisdom!”  I’ve never claimed to be a theologian, and just because my husband is a pastor doesn’t mean I gain all of HIS knowledge through osmosis!  I tend to be the more practical one, and when I hear a sermon or read my Bible, I want to know the answer to the question, “So what?  What now?  What is God saying to me?  How does this change my thoughts or actions?”  God’s Word is the most practical message for every generation.  His Words are tested, tried and true!

2)  Something you NEED:  Perspective

If it’s true that wisdom is seeing things from God’s perspective, then we all are in need of a fresh perspective.  Life has a way of giving us a new perspective sometimes doesn’t it?  I can remember reading the Christmas Story after having my first child–the story came alive for me anew as I related to a young Mary giving birth in such a strange place…


Christmas can be a time of great joy–or great sorrow.  It’s often difficult for us to see beyond our circumstances, but when we keep our eyes focused on Jesus, He can give us a healthy perspective.    I can’t help but think that even if Mary and Joseph fretted over their situation, the moment Jesus was born, HE WAS ALL THAT MATTERED!  We will celebrate Christmas without my Father-in-law this year, a young mother of four will celebrate without her husband who is deployed with the U.S. Air Force, and grieving families in Connecticut will struggle through the holidays… Life IS hard, but the message of Christmas is HOPE.  Our hope lies in eternity–and for some of us, heaven is even more real to us today.  Take this gentle reminder that it REALLY IS ALL ABOUT JESUS!

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.”    John 14:6

3)  Something you READ:  God’s Story

In many of the countries I’ve traveled for mission trips, copies of God’s Word are a commodity…

com·mod·i·ty: (2.)something of use, advantage, or value.

I’m afraid we’ve lost sight of the value of this gift we’ve been given.  We’ve opened it, looked at it, and gone on to the next thing on our agenda, much like a spoiled child on Christmas morning.

Psalm 119

It seems like every year I am renewing my commitment to read God’s Word more.  The truth is, the more I study it, meditate on it, and apply it, the more I crave it.  When was the last time you craved a word from God?  He’s written His message on the pages of His Book…don’t put it up on the shelf where it collects dust~~devour it like a book you can’t put down.

4)  Something you SHARE:  The True Meaning of Christmas

Giving gifts to my children and grandchildren at Christmas is one of my greatest joys.  I love Christmas and try to put lots of love into my gifts, anticipating the excitement and joy on their faces when they open their treasures.


What great injustice would I be doing if the only thing I ever gave them was the sacrifice of material wealth.  The time that I spend showering them with love and attention still would not be the greatest gift I could give them.  More than anything in this world, my desire is for each of them to accept the greatest gift ever given–the gift that came to us that first Christmas morning… the Son of God, sent to save us from our sin.  He may have come in human form, but He was God in the flesh.  He came with a purpose far beyond what any would understand until that dreadful day when He fulfilled that purpose by becoming the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of the world.  My sin.  Your sin.  The sin that has damaged our world and our hearts.

“But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because He will save his people from their sins.””        Matthew 1:20-21 NIV

His life and death has been and always will be the focus of our faith, but the story didn’t end there, because He demonstrated His power over sin and death and hell.  Our HOPE–the message of HOPE–is meant to be shared.  So many only know the Jesus of the manger, and this Christmas we can, like the shepherds, “Go and tell..” the Good News that a SAVIOR was born!


Merry Christmas to all!!


Oh Be Careful Little Eyes What You See

…for the Father up above is looking down in LOVE,
so be careful little eyes what you see!


Lucy Grace

This song from my childhood entered my mind (a common occurrence for me!) when I saw this picture of my sweet granddaughter Lucy wearing Nana’s reading glasses.

Just as the music in my ears has influenced my heart over the years, I am reminded that the things that we allow to penetrate our heart through our eyes will influence us as well. I’m not just talking about the negative influences around us–there are plenty of those; I’m thinking more and more about the things we’re NOT seeing that are right in front of us.  Opportunities to see others from God’s perspective–



…A widow who’s lonely
…A neighbor that needs a friend
…A friend that needs a hand
…A stranger that needs a smile
…A spouse that needs forgiveness
…A child that needs your time…

Galatians 5:13 (HCSB)

13 For you were called to be free, brothers; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love.

A tombstone from a recent trip to Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, VA

A tombstone from a recent trip to Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, VA

“Lord wake me up to the needs around me.  Help me to really see.  Expand my vision so I won’t miss an opportunity to serve.”

A Cardinal Reminder

cardinal definition

My husband and I both grew up in Illinois where the State Bird is the Cardinal and our favorite baseball team is the ELEVEN-TIME WORLD CHAMPION ST. LOUIS CARDINALS. Guess you could say we’re fans!

St. Louis Cardinals fans

Several years ago God used a Cardinal of a different sort to remind me of His presence and to comfort my heart. My oldest was away at college and I found myself fretting over the “what if’s” of life. I was driving along a country road on the way home from a friend’s house, praying for my son, pleading with God to protect him.

Go Figure…

You really don’t get it until it happens to you…
They (who is they?) say you really don’t get it until
–you have kids of your own
–you have grandkids

Nolan Wayne

Lucy Grace

Jane Abigail

…and it’s SO true. Almost twenty-nine years ago we had our first child and everything changed. We were young and in love… and naive!  We soon realized that there really is no “expert” when it comes to parenting.  It is the most difficult and the most rewarding job in the world!

We knew our lives would change, but there is really no way to prepare a young family for the drastic difference a child makes. From the incredible love you have for them from the second they are born, (and even before), to the complete change of focus from “us” to “the baby”. The moment they enter this world your perspective changes and you wonder what life was really about before they came along.
Our children didn’t rule our world, but they sure rocked our world! We just had our third grandchild yesterday, and I can honestly say that our love is not divided in any way–it only multiplies. I cried because I had to miss my 3-year-old grandson’s birthday; I  cried the day before because my second granddaughter was born and I got to experience it,  arriving just hours before she was born. God has truly blessed this Nana’s heart.

Funny, I can remember as a young girl just praying that God would let me live long enough to know what it was like to be a wife and a mom. I didn’t even include or presume that I would know my grandchildren, but God, in His Grace, has allowed me to experience the birth of four children and three grandchildren. I know that in the world we live in, it’s not always possible for grandparents to be so connected or live near their grandchildren, but these are blessings that I will treasure in my heart well into eternity.

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