Friday, October 5, 2018

"I Baked You A Pie" by Emily Otteson
I wanted to sit down tonight and write a warm fuzzy blog about Emily Otteson. I wanted to talk about a little girl who use to dance in the formal living-room singing her favorite songs. I wanted to talk about her beautiful baking. Emily being the baker in the family  Each holiday or special event, you could always count on Emily to fill the house with beautiful smells. Or her weekly batch of chocolate chip cookies.  There are so many stories around our kitchen while baking. I will never have pretty Pinterest pages of my baking because I am not a baker. Now those who know me will think that to be a lie. Because I put on some great parties of cookie baking and ginger bread houses, but in the day to day not really. And the real truth is I never even baked a pie. And with all those parties was this sweet girl beside me. She was the baker. And if you really took notes, she was the one behind such amazing parties and chocolate chip cookies. And she had to tell me to keep my hands out of the cookie dough.

It's late and I am tired. I hopped on here because I did not want another day to pass that this sweet girl's first release did not land on my blog. It was released on September 30, 2018. I admit I have been a bit paralyzed in writing. Why?  Because each time I have sat down in the past few days write I sit at my desk and cry. I know the story behind this song. I know her heart, and where the depth of these words come from. A mother wants to protect the intimacies of a heart broken. And that I have done with each of my children. But then she baked him a pie. And the result of that pie produced the heart of her very first formal release. Each time I hear "I Baked You A Pie"  I relive the heart breaking phone call of my daughter thousands of miles away and I could not hold her and tell her it was going to be okay. I just listened on the phone. And it is still her story to tell and she begins with her first release, "I Baked You A Pie".

Of course she baked him a pie. Take a moment to listen to the words. Her melodic and angelic voice will carry you to a moment into your own story. A story we can all related to. And maybe you did not bake pie, but you extended your heart, or let down your guard. As the song continues are repeat on my speakers I hear over and over how Emily worked out the process of her heart. She is a writer, a musician, an artist and I could not be more proud of her. Not because of the God given gifts in music, but because she took the harder parts of life and decided to share it with you. As you listen remember that we each share our story and our journey in the best ways we know how. I am not a writer of music, or thoughtful filled stories. I am one who shares the journey of life through this blog. Years unfold in the pages of this blog. And tonight another story. Please click on the link and listen to "I Baked You A Pie" on Spotify and please follow Emily Otteson. Thanks for loving our family over the years and watching this girl grow up.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

"In Everything Give Thanks"

"In Everything Give Thanks" Really? You mean in everything I am going to give thanks? The Bible does instruct this.

1 Thessalonians 5:18
"In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."

If I were to take inventory of the past two years I would start with one thing. That is the fact that the amount of tears one sheds should have been directly related to the amount of weight one loses. Then again with that idea, I would be down about  100 pounds and that would not be healthy. 

Tears. Lots of tears. And the knowledge that God is writing this story and I am smack dab in the middle of it would be reason to NOT give thanks. Yet somehow, in each day out of habit, out of necessity, out the understanding of this Bible verse I am waking up to giving thanks. 

I had a dear friend give me this mug a few weeks ago. It has sat on my desk reminding me that regardless of the life circumstances we are in, "In everything give thanks". She gave it to me because in her words, "it reminds me of you." I cried when she gave it to me because I certainly do not feel thankful in the depths of my soul.  I certainly, from the outside looking in have some big events in my life which do not cause one to bow in prayer and thanksgiving. But guess what? I do. I do bow my head in thanks or drive with my eyes wide open giving thanks.

But really let me break this down. 

Life can be freaking hard. Crying every day kind of hard. I talked with a precious friend this week who is grieving ten years out the loss of her baby girl. A stillborn baby. She was her firstborn. I sat in a hospital room for two days when she delivered her baby girl that she would never watch grow up. And I think, "give thanks". Yet we know that YOU give and take away. And, "In everything give thanks" is written in your Word. With this kind of freaking hard how on earth does anyone give thanks?

As I drive down the gravel road every day on my way to work I give thanks.  When it drive up the gravel road to the house I give thanks. I thank God for the beautiful little farm we live on. I thank God for the sunshine, or the rain or the hot or the cold. I thank God that in this very hard season he has given me a job that nurtures my heart and provides hours that I can be home in the early afternoons with my children. I thank God for each of my children, and our health and our circumstances.  I say all of this out loud. Reminding myself that this is, "the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." Some days through tears I say the words. Some days through deep sadness I say the words. Some days when I have no words or tears left I say the words. Thank you. Thank you God for everything. 

And then some-day's I am angry with God for all this hard stuff and even then I say thank you. Because between all the lines of hard there is God showing me daily that HE had got all of this hard stuff. Daily blessings, daily pouring His joy and wonder through and in it all. Daily I smile, laugh and see His work and plans being laid in place. I cannot question what God's plan is and I can blubber over the "why's" and still give thanks. I cannot control the evils of this world. I can only do one thing that is my saving grace and that is to, "In everything give thanks."

I know I started giving thanks when I was about eight years old. My Sunday school teacher, Alice Warren, told me that, "no matter what always give thanks to God." We memorized this verse and I told God I would thank Him everyday for something, no matter what. And now with this darling mug on my desk and almost 44 years later someone notices that I am a thankful person. Amen and #GloryBe !!


Sunday, August 5, 2018

Thanking God FOR the Little Things

Do you take the time to notice the small things God does in your life? Today is the start of thanking God for the little things. After my last blog which you can read here I really wanted to just expand on this one event in my life. Because it is the BIG ways God answers our little tiny prayers. And if we sit back and really start thinking of the details of every day life, you soon realize just how present God is in how He answers prayers.

Let's talk about this car. Four years ago I needed a four wheel drive. It was the end of the first season's snow and ice that came early. (Notice the curb is still showing signs of a snow melt. ) I had already had one snowy icy winter in a small community along the Columbia Gorge. I had a van with only rear wheel drive. Lots of hills and lots of snow and ice. I was living out on a farm and the black ice and snow are dangerous in these parts. A 30 minute drive to work, turned into over an hour crawling through snow and ice.  I remember thinking if I have to go another winter in snow and ice with this car, my van, I am going to be house bound. And the memory of a 45 minute slow slide down my driveway in what felt like 10 feet of snow and ice still lingered. (By the way the telephone pole DID NOT win that day.) I started praying. I was a new single mom and had to really watch my financial resources. I had no clue how to buy a used car. As in no clue.

I went car looking. Looking at used SUV's. I was told that you "never" buy brand new. Since I have my cars for more than ten years at a time I was out in left field with no mitt. (That is for you Ethan if you are reading.) I started praying.  I remember thinking, "God do you bless people with cars?"  "God if you really love me, please make it a nice safe car." "God I know you love me and I am sorry for trying to challenge your love but really a four wheel drive, pretty please." "And leather, and a white car, and FOUR WHEEL DRIVE." I kind of felt like that teenage girl who prayed and asked God for four boys and a girl when I grew up. I mean really, He did answer that prayer, why not a car prayer?

After car shopping and feeling even more stressed out I went to my store (Skip To My Room). Lauren, my employee asked me how the car shopping went. I slunked in my chair and said you can pretty much plan on opening the store everyday as I will not be driving in. Of course I was joking but car shopping with stressful. And sales people make you think they could put you in a Bentley today. And I really was content with my current vehicle. It was the bomb-diggity and great for all the hauling of products for my store, but sheesh. When I bought that car I admit I knew nothing about cars, I had no idea that not all cars are not four wheel drive. As an adult all my previous cars were four wheel drive. I will never forget about 12 years ago when I bought the van, I took the boys to Pacific City. I went to drive down onto the beach, and it bottomed out. Luckily some muscle dudes came and pushed me out. One guy said, "You might not want to be driving your two wheel drive onto the beach." I looked at him puzzled. I had only had the car for a few months. Driving around the Portland area does not require four wheel drive. I told him that I am pretty sure my car is four wheel drive, after all it was a big van. He looked in on the dash and around the steering column and confirmed that it was wheel rear drive, two wheels.  Okay. we can't all be knowledgeable about everything. LOL

Later that afternoon, feeling defeated about car buying,  Gordon walked into my store. Good Ol' Gordon and I worked on a business project together. He was older and wiser. About 15 years older than me and I may have referenced his age with wisdom when I started the conversation on car buying. Gordon often stopped by to visit, chat about business strategies, shooting the breeze on finance on business. I loved talking with Gordon. Being older and wiser I asked him about car buying and used car buying. I told him that I was actually talking with God ALOT about this process, and really needed an angel in human form to help me out. Gordon asked me what I was looking for. I told him exactly what I needed in a car. I told him that it would be a bonus blessing if it was white and leather seats, as a car full of boys would fair better. He listened intently. He asked me what my budget was. I told him.

Then he said, "Come with me". Come with me, as in get in his car and let's take a ride. I actually thought he and I were going to car lot row just down the street. As we drove, he said he had just put his "other" car on Craigslist.  I kid you not, we drove to his house. He opened his garage and there was this big white SUV.  He went inside and got the two sets of keys. Handed them to me, and said drive it around. If it suits you, keep it and we can work out the details of payment. He told me the price, which was out of my budget, and then he continued to say that he would cut his asking price in half to accommodate my budget. I drove it for five minutes, called him and said I will take it.
It has been four years since the blessing of this vehicle landed into my life. We are a road tripping family. The car had about 70K miles on it when it was turned over into my care. This past month it turned over 200K. And it still running beautifully. ( One thing my daddy taught me, oil changes, maintenance and good tires. CHECK!!)

Last night I was driving home late with the boys from a BBQ. I thanked God for this car. All I could think about is how God gives us good gifts. If we took a day to really think about what He orchestrates on our behalf it is never a coincidence. And a white car with leather seats. He knows our hearts and our desires and He Masterfully puts the universe in order. In His time and in His miraculous ways. There are many situations that go without resolve. And if I am being honest I get frustrated with God. Asking the "why's". When I start down the path of "why" I quickly adjust the course of thought to the many ways HE has blessed my family. I turned towards thanking God for the little things. Believe me, a car is NOT a little thing. It seemed trivial at the time as I had a good working car.

A few years back I thought I would take a year to blog, every single day of how God has blessed me. I wanted to thank God for the little things.  I think, as writers and story tellers, there is a tendency to wait for the BIG moments or stories. What about those small ways that have HUGE significance? A day does not pass with me thanking God. Even in hard or difficult times and moments, the minute the tears dry I am thanking God. Thanking God for the little things.

Stay Tuned because my inventory of little things in more than a million in my life time.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

"Set Me In A Large Place"

I love writing out scripture. When I was in high school I started my first journal at the age of 14.  I have been writing ever since. I use to think of the countries that did not allow Bibles. I thought, in my youth, that if I wrote out scriptures in my journal then it would not matter if my Bible was taken.

Clearly that has not happened. Thanking God for that. However I still write out scriptures as I go along in my daily time with God. Today I was chuckling over this passage. It was my favorite for today's reading and I wrote it out. I will typically write out the verses that are my favorite for the day. Today it as Psalm 118: 5-6

" From my distress I called upon the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me in a large place. The Lord is for me. I will not fear. What can man do to me."

I do not think God expects us to be deep theologians with deep study into the scriptures for His words to speak to our hearts.  When I read this I immediately thought of where I live. I think of how God knows my heart for nature.  He knows my heart for being in the country. And here I am sitting sipping the mornings coffee on a beautiful farm. It looks more like three mornings of coffee here at my desk. Is this the large place He has set me in?

In reading this passage "set me in a large place." I could not help but think...what is that large place?  Where exactly has God put me?  And how does this passage reflect my heart today? Two years ago I prayed that God would provide some very specific things in my life. It seemed that my prayers were bigger than life. I am a dreamer. God designed me that way and when I look at scripture and how He has answered prayers. It is pretty hard to not sit back, drink coffee, read these passages and just smile.

Living on a beautiful farm is that "large place" for me. I was looking for a place to finish raising my boys. A single mom, wanting to provide space that would bring fun, joy, and work to my boys. I had no clue to even know where to start looking. And I just prayed. I lived on a beautiful farm in The Dalles and my heart yearned for that again. My boys loved the wide open spaces, too. And then to read that "the Lord is for me." I had to write these scriptures out today. Because truly the Lord is for me. And He is for you. I have called upon the Lord ALOT in the past two years. When we call on God, we can expect that he will see that His will is being done as we seek to know His heart. I had no idea what God had planned. One evening of God pressing on my heart to attend a friends event at her house, her farm, her family being raised in this beautiful place that the boys and I always loved to visit. One summer about 12 years ago, we came for a visit. No one was home, so we set up a picnic in their Orchard. Emily brought her violin, Emerson as about 4 months old, the two other boys toddlers playing. I remember praying that someday God would bless me with a property like this. I had no idea that this orchard would be the view from the kitchen window 12 years later. Here we live in this "large place".  Almost two years now. Eric was 2 years old and now a teenager playing in the same orchard.
I have had to overcome some very big fears in the past two years and even in a conversation yesterday, this sweet gal telling, "girl you have got courage, you have it in you."  I laughed and said that it was ALL an act of God. Through Christ Jesus and his promises, we ARE that person. Why?  Because the Bible tells us so.  So now that you have these two passages of Biblical wisdom how are you going to face today?

There is going to sad days, days of pain, days of uncertainty, days of just stress that we have no control over. What is your large place?  Actually another "large place" is my car. No, really my car. It's big and it is still running and it is easy to load up and take the kids on road trips expanding our large places. Even in the little things God has set aside a larger space. Step into that space with confidence that no matter your situation or circumstances "The Lord is for me" which also means you. Love & Cheers

P.S. You can find more fun pictures and comments with this hashtag. Each time I share a picture I try to remember this #farmlifewithcones


Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Today Is A Gift

What is a perfect gift?  The unexpected? Something you have always wanted? Time? Sleep?  I posted on my Facebook today that, "Today is a gift. A perfect and wonderful gift."

I woke to  sunshine beaming in the window. I was certain it was noon. I checked in on the boys still sleeping. Did everyone sleep until noon today? It was around 6am. Wait!!!  I wanted to sleep until noon. Instead I ended up doing the dishes. Unloading a dishwasher, filling it with last night's dishes and hand-washing all the bigger dishes. I sipped on coffee. I looked at what I need to be getting done today and just smiled. Ahhhh what a gift. Today is a gift. A perfect and wonderful gift.

As I cleaned up the dishes I looked out across the apple orchard at all the green. Sprinkled with colors of flowers here and there. The sky blue. I thought that who ever is on dish duty today will get a surprise. A gift to them. The coffee was already made. I poured a cup. A gift to me. The sun beaming down from the heavens. Another gift for me. I stepped outside for a moment in my jammies breathing in the crisp Spring air. Oh the gift of life and the air in my lungs felt like another gift.  Thinking of what I would do today. A gift to have an unplanned day to make plans.

I make lists for the week. Thinks I hope to get done this week. Very few items have day/time limits because I can put next week on this week and be ahead of myself. I found my way back to my desk after dishes, and coffee. And I sat thanking God for today. Today is an unexpected gift. A day off from work. No, really a day off.  Most of my days off are planned vacations, appointments, and errands which involved planning, organization, and then being the leader of my family and seeing that everyone is in the car, and off we go into whatever we have planned. Something I have wanted for almost a year is just one day. A day to sleep in until noon, drink coffee, and stay in my jammies. I had five of those days last January. But it does not count when you have the flu. I have wanted time. Time that is wide open with nothing scheduled. I wanted to sleep in. All would be a gift.

Today is that gift. The unexpected day off. A gift from my boss after a long week last week. Recognizing that I gave my all and yesterday after only two hours of work she instructed me to go home, and take today off, too. She said I had gone above and beyond the call of duty. So the unexpected started yesterday and the boys and I took time together doing things like shopping together, hanging out at a park. That unexpected gift has spilled into today. I was up at 6am ready for the unexpected gift to be opened all day long. I guess in my thoughts I thought sleeping in until noon would be fun and drinking coffee all day, but that is not really me. I love to be moving and doing. It's how I am wired. Today I am moving and grooving here on the farm.

I am thankful for good health, truly a gift. To take walks in the country, work in the garden, and even working in the barn today. What is your idea of a gift?  Whatever it is, look for it in your day today. It's waiting for you.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Five Tips on Navigating the Sadness & Grief in Your Life

I have learned over the past two years that there are so many different parts of grief. I wrote a post on grief here: 

When I wrote that I remember thinking that in all my life I had never felt so much pain in my heart. I had felt pain before, but after a few days of dealing and processing life just moved on. Only seven days after I wrote that piece another devastating event happened in my life.  And the pain of that event caused even greater pain to my heart. A pain I never thought was possible. Right now as I write the details, as important as they are, those details are not the message of this blog post. The message is a continuation of overcoming the sadness and grief in your life.

A few months ago I met with a counselor. Asking her how to help my children in navigating some hard family stuff. Her words were wise. She said to remind your children. Remind them of who they are. Remind them that these events are hard, but this is WHO WE ARE. And her words hit me hard. I need to remind myself of the same. I love to write, but in this season I have been paralyzed in my writing. I have felt lost in the events that got me to time and season in my life.

My daughter and I have always gone into situations with this this understanding, "Plan for the worst and expect the best." Seems kind of funny. As a musician it was always a mystery as to what a venue might be like. When she was 18 we were hours before a big music event and we had no sound system. We were cool about it. Because in that situation the worst would have been, no sound system and we had already prepared for the worst. And God stepped in with a beautiful miracle of a sound system. When my children and I make plans we always plan for the worst and expect the best. You know extra food and water bottles on road trips. Extra cash in a secret hiding place if we lose our wallet.

What if you have no idea about what is about to happen and life takes you by surprise. There was no time to plan for the worst and expect the best. Only the worst is happening and continues and no matter how many people pray for you or tell you it will get better you live it daily. No matter how many blog posts you write on grief you are still in in. Your children are living it with you and looking, watching and needing YOU to help navigate. What do you do? You have already checked all the boxes for the different stages of grief and you ran out of boxes to check. How do you wake up and continue every single day?  Here are some ideas on what to do when you don't know what to do. I encourage you to use these tips with your children as you help them navigate through the sadness and grief.

1. Read the Bible
I admit that there are times I am just reading over the words. Nothing sinks in but I keep reading. What does happen is there is a peace that washes over the heartache, the sadness.  Once that peace sets in the words jump off the pages. Filling my heart with clarity and understanding. One day we will know why God allowed such heartache. Keep  your Bible by your bedside so when you have those sleepless nights you are armed and ready for God to pour His word of hope, encouragement, peace and love.

2. Listen to Worship & Praise Music 
I have no idea who the woman is in this picture. What I do know is her face is what I feel in my darkest hours. I put on my headphones. I drive to work every single day with my headphones on. Listening to worship music. Filling my heart and my soul with a fresh start. The sadness is covered and the grief is pushed away for a little while. I keep my headphones and music by my bedside. When thoughts of sadness want to consume me, I consume more music. When I have read the Bible until my eyes are blurry I put on music. My heart begins to sing. Even when the words are heavy on my heart and tears fall I am in worship with God.

3. Get In Your Car and Go Somewhere
I was invited to an evening out. I TOTALLY wanted to just curl up on the sofa and get lost in a movie. A heavy hearts wants to hold you captive. A heavy heart of grief wants to keep  you alone. Have you noticed that?  No one to ask you questions. No one is checking in on you. Because the story is still the same sad story. But listen to me. Get in your car and go somewhere. I did not want to go. I threw on some lip gloss, brushed my hair and wore black. Why black, because no matter how messy you may feel black is class and style. You may not feel like class and style but it helps. That night I was with people I love and people who love me. And it was a wonderful evening. I took a selfie that night to remind myself that no matter how much grief and sadness I feel I am going to make myself get in my car and go.
 4. Social Media is A Good Thing
Tell your story. Social Media is a good thing. Your story matters. Your story could be the story that helps another person in their journey. You can tell your story without going into the details. My story is a messy one. And the enemy of lies, deceit, and destruction would like to keep you alone and in the dark. That is when the enemy can destroy your soul. Get out of the dark and stand in the middle of the ring. There are millions of books published with a story. Why do we read these stories? Because there is a beautiful thing that happens when you realize another story. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. You can paint a very pretty story on social media. It's easy to post just the pretty, the happy, and the highlights. But is that your real story.  I have posted my journey. And there have been those trying to discredit and destroy my character who have tried to use those stories to hurt me. But God is in the house and what HE is doing in my life is bigger than my story. My story has reached out to others who have contacted me, and I can help encourage. Social Media is a good thing.  It's in a very strong way, your own self publishing without the hardcover and numbered pages.
5. Talk To Your Friends, Your Family, Your Community
I love this picture with my nephew Spenser. He is full of energy and joy. No matter what is going on in life, he can make you laugh. Hanging out with my kids, and even if it feels sad or hard just DO IT!!  You will never regret showing. And everytime you do, you will be reminded of who you are long before all the sadness. People you know and love know you. Talk to your friends, your family, your community.
I am blessed to have both a daughter and daughter-in-love who have carried my heart there and back and there and back again. Even with the lingering thoughts we all have of this sad season we find JOY. We live out that joy when we are together.  We live out that joy because we know that God allows this for a bigger reason. Even when we do not have the answers. These girls have made sure to love me hard.
My brother and sister always make me smile. I love when my sister says, "you look good."  You look good. And if I am a reflection of her in my life, then yes I do look good.
My oldest Elliot is a strong leader in our family. He has made sure that I have not forgotten who I am. His text messages, always loving and sharing the mom I am to him and to his siblings. This is what you get when you
These boys, oh my oh my. They will keep me from going to bed and pulling the blankets over my head. And if I do, they bring me coffee, and hug me and love me as I am.

I write today from a place of still grieving. Yet I also write from a place of healing and helping. Healing comes. It really does. It has come through these five tips. I write from a heart of experience, not just good ideas. God knows all of this. I know that someday soon God will give the reasons for all of this, but in the meantime I submit to you to keep moving forward and if you are at a loss, them simple read this five tips. Try them for a week and I promise you will be blessed.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Happy Mother's Day 2018

How about another "Mother's Day" blog? I never thought that I was the voice of wisdom when it came to being a mother. As a matter of fact when asked, over the years, various questions about parenting I always circled back to the greatest teacher of motherhood, God's Word.

One thing I have learned in being a mother is this simple and powerful truth. From 1Corinthians 13:8 the passage starts with "Love never fails."  This truth is what has been the foundation of being a mother. Love, what does it mean?  The passages before this verse are as follows and build the founations of what love is.

1 Corinthains 13:4-6

"4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."

This is my answer to being a mother. In any and all circumstances God's Word taught me to be a mother. Read this passage and ask God to pour His words into you as you mother your children. Those days when you need extra patience, when you need to be kind look to God's Word. In a world of social media conversations I ask that you NEVER dishonor your children on social media or any where.  I have actually messaged mama's carrying on about the negative behaviors of their children and believe me when I say, it was not easy, but it was not honoring to their child. And when you feel your temperature rising, take a walk. Hold that anger in check and be an example to your children of grace in difficult times. Protect, trust and hope because love never fails. 

One day they will grow up and you will leave a legacy of motherhood. What will that look like? I posted on instagram today this picture of my children. A picture taken a few years back. Here is the message I sent to my children...

"My dear children, you have no idea the absolute JOY my heart feels to think that God would choose me to be your mama. The greatest gift you each give me is your love and passion to be like Jesus and your friendships with each other. My heart is full."

May you find peace in this day. Remember that love never fails. If  you have lost your mother, may this be a day to honor and reflect on her goodness. If you have a strained relationship with your mother, remember she chose you. She may have not known how to be a good mother, but she did choose you. For that you can thank her. May you go and in peace today knowing that you were chosen, and loved. Happy Mother's Day.