Promises in the Stars

What fear do you have for the week ahead?

What is consuming your thoughts as you look at the seven days before you?

Do me a favor: look at the stars tonight (or if the clouds are out, remember a starry night). Almighty God not only hung each of those place, but He also knows each one by the name He gave to it!

Now, think back to your answer and hand that thing/thought/worry/problem/need to this same wonderful God and focus on one thing:

He’s got this!

Psalm 147:3-5 (NIV)

He heals the brokenhearted

and binds up their wounds.

He determines the number of the stars

and calls them each by name.

Great is our Lord and mighty in power;

his understanding has no limit.

_____________

Photo credit: kriangkrai wangjai, via Shutterstock

Lavishing Grace!

Don’t you just love this thought:

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us” (Ephesians 1:7–8, NIV).

As if the thought that we—and we each know what we’re really like down deep!—have redemption through His blood isn’t enough to just plain knock our socks off, that expression, “that He lavished on us,” is probably one of the best descriptions in all of word-dom!

Doesn’t that just conjure up the mental picture of grace upon grace upon grace upon…! We don’t earn it. It’s just this unfounded, incomparable, beyond-generous grace that He lavishes on us!

Best word ever!

Carry that thought today: you are, at every moment, being “bestowed profusely” (Merriam-Webster) with His grace!

What possible sin can that grace not redeem?

What possible sincere need can that grace not supply?

What possible problem can that grace not handle?

You Matter

Sweet friend without a spouse in the house (for whatever reason), you matter. What doesn’t matter is someone who doesn’t know that you’re worth both time and effort. Refocus your time and attention elsewhere. You. Matter. That was determined on the cross. That makes it permanent—unable to be changed by how someone does or does not treat you.

You. Matter.

Matthew 6:25-33, NLT

 25 That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear.
Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?
26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them.
And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?
27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?
28 And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow.
They don’t work or make their clothing,
29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are.
30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow,
he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?
31 So don’t worry about these things, saying, “What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?”
32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.
33 Seek the kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

Grandma’s Ideas for Teaching Young Children about God-and-I Time

Dear Grandma,

What is a good way to train kids for daily devotions?  [How do I] develop that habit in kids? Also, what is a good devotion-time plan for them to follow?

~~~~~~~~

Grandma says:

I love your desire to teach your children this Christian discipline while they are young. As Proverbs 22:6 (NIV) teaches:

“Start children off on the way they should go,

and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”

Starting your children early on a planned time of Bible reading is wise and honors the Lord. Of course, as in every area, they learn best by seeing and hearing what you gain and show through your own personal devotions. As soon as they begin reading, they can start having their own devotions. Because there are so many variables, I will not suggest a specific age. But Scripture itself teaches that getting God’s Word into your child’s heart at a young age is a mean’s of protection and spiritual preparation:

How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word.

I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

—Psalm 119:9–11 (NIV)

I’d like to recommend one preliminary step to personal devotional time. When children are ready to begin kindergarten, give them an alarm clock for their birthday or Christmas. Help them learn about time and the importance of being on time. They can then wake up to their alarm, not Mom’s voice. It makes for much smoother mornings and helps develop self-confidence for your child. Then, when they are starting to have their own devotions, they can set the alarm ten minutes earlier, and it will include their personal time with the Lord to begin their day. You might need to adapt this to the time of day that is best suited to your family’s schedule.

Another thing to consider before jumping into some specific ideas is this: If your child is involved in Scripture memory through your church, AWANA program, kids’ club, or a Christian day school, it will help you determine what version of Scripture you would like to use for his or her personal devotional time. It can be very confusing for a child to have varying translations used in his or her teaching, so this is important to consider when getting started.

I spoke with a representative at Child Evangelism Fellowship Press (CEFP) this week to see what they currently have available for young children in the way of personal devotional books. They have a series, Every Day with God, for the child just learning to read. About twenty to twenty-five years ago, our own granddaughters used and loved these little books. One of the things that is best about these is that the series comes in several little booklets so that rather than being overwhelmed by a large book containing all the devotionals for the year, the child can have a sense of accomplishment after finishing each little booklet! CEFP has other devotional material available as well. You can click here to visit the CEFP website.

Check with your local Christian bookstore as well. The owner at our local store mentioned that they carry a popular devotional for children called the Adventure Bible Devotional, though I am sharing that information having not seen the material. She also mentioned the Veggie Tales books, and while I know that those are popular, I caution you about mixing the imaginary world of talking plant life with the real-life characters in the Bible. While the stories may be exciting and perhaps true to Scripture in their content, your children might have a hard time discerning the line between real and make-believe.

Another widely recommended book is The Jesus Storybook Bible. My daughter Brenda often gives this as a gift and likes how the book shows Jesus throughout the pages of the entire Bible. You can click here to learn more about The Jesus Storybook Bible.

One final source for devotional material for young children and junior-aged children is through the Wilds Christian Camp and Conference Center, the organization with which my husband and I were associated for about twenty-five years. Author Rand Hummel has a heart for youth and for the Lord, and his material reflects that. Click here to visit the bookstore on The Wilds’ website.

By talking with your child about his or her personal time with the Lord, you can help to instill the truth that this is not merely a daily “to-do list” item that makes him or her a good Christian. It is a means of learning more about God and finding out how to become more like Him. It’s a way to take His Word and put it into practice. Therefore, it should never be used as punishment or as a forced amount of time (i.e., children should not be led to believe that 20 minutes = good Christian). Be certain that you are aware of each day’s material and then chat comfortably with your child about what he or she learned that day.

May you and your children be able to rejoice in the freshness of God’s Word.

With love,

Grandma (Lorraine)

Do you have a question for Grandma (about marriage, children, women’s groups, being a caregiver, etc.)?

Send your question to: Grandma@PetalsfromtheBasket.com

__________

*Petals from the Basket, PetalsfromtheBasket.com, Brenda Strohbehn, and Lorraine Strohbehn accept no legal liability for the answers given in the “Ask Grandma” posts. We reserve the right to refuse inappropriate content and will deny access to false or contrived e-mail addresses. Additionally, should the e-mails we receive in conjunction with this site or this series of posts contain information regarding illegal activity or actions that would cause injury to the sender or to others, the required legal action and reporting will occur.

How to Keep Order in Your Life

Dear Grandma,

How can I give order to my life—actually, my life and my mate’s life—[in a situation] where I am the caregiver, and my mate is the one I am attempting to give care to. How should my days look so that I can go to bed in relative peace each night and wake to meet each day with confidence, avoiding exhaustion, etc.?

~~~~~~~~

Grandma says:

While I am certainly not a caregiver expert after caring three years for my husband, I learned a lot in those years, and the principles can surely be applied by other caregivers.

Your sense of order will depend on the amount of care your mate needs. If your mate is able to sleep in his or her own bed, eat meals with you, perform a few routine tasks, and at least have input into financial decisions, you should be able to plan your days, eliminating less important chores. This could include things like extra cleaning or doing things by hand, such as hand wash. Of course, sometimes the things you eliminate will be lunch out or a Bible study with a friend.

As a personal example of this: for about thirty years I made sourdough bread. It was a lengthy process, but the results were worth it! However, in recent years, the times when I needed to knead the dough, roll it out, or bake it seemed to clash with the times I needed to assist my husband. At that point, the sourdough bread became history—with no lingering regrets.

If your mate is restricted to a recliner, can no longer eat at the table with you, and needs assistance with normal everyday functions, your days will need to be planned with the knowledge that everything must be flexible. Though you are longing for a sense of order, you must keep calm when that order is disturbed. If your mate is bedridden and needs a great deal of assistance, he or she takes priority over everything in your day—and yes, also your night. Your house and its needs will likely be there in the future, but your mate will not.

Very early I made a decision that I would care for my husband in the same way that I would care for my Lord if He were my patient. I could go to bed exhausted but with a sense of having given my best that day. I could sleep well—though sometimes with several interruptions—but I would awaken eager to see what the Lord had for us each day.

When caring for my husband became a two-person job, our youngest daughter moved into our home to co-labor with me. For that I was always be grateful. So let me encourage you to accept assistance from family, friends, and/or other outside resources (such as a nursing home facility).

Here are a few simple things that can help to add order to your day:

  • Cook in quantity and freeze meal-appropriate amounts.
  • Accept help when it is offered. (Usually this involves someone offering to bring you a meal.)
  • Learn to like soup! Having soup on hand is a great help, because it can simply be warmed up whenever it’s needed.
  • Allow friends or volunteers to pick up things for you when they’re at the store.
  • Play soft, calming, instrumental music in the background of the room that you and/or your patient are in most often.
  • Take time now to prepare a list of your spouse’s medications (needed for doctor visits, hospital emergencies, 911 calls, etc.).
  • Have a list of emergency contacts and their phone numbers near your phone.
  • Keep a to-do list in a central location for things you think of now but can’t get to until later.
  • Ask your spouse what things are of concern to him or her, and make certain that those things are cared for in a way, time, and manner that set his or her mind at ease.
As you think of other things that could be eliminated from your daily routine, be sure that your personal time with the Lord and His Word is not one of them! That is your primary source of strength for the challenges of each day.

Care for your loved one so that you have no regrets. When you do, the peace the passes all understanding will be yours. First Corinthians 10:13 (NKJV) tells us: “No temptation [trial] has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted [tried] beyond what you are able, but with the temptation [trial] will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”

With love,

Grandma

Do you have a question for Grandma (about marriage, children, women’s groups, being a caregiver, etc.)?

Send your question to: Grandma@PetalsfromtheBasket.com

__________

*Petals from the Basket, PetalsfromtheBasket.com, Brenda Strohbehn, and Lorraine Strohbehn accept no legal liability for the answers given in the “Ask Grandma” posts. We reserve the right to refuse inappropriate content and will deny access to false or contrived e-mail addresses. Additionally, should the e-mails we receive in conjunction with this site or this series of posts contain information regarding illegal activity or actions that would cause injury to the sender or to others, the required legal action and reporting will occur.

So This Is What Love Looks Like!

In the true spirit of transparency, I’ll admit it: I’m a hopeless romantic. Oh sure, in my heart I want to be—and try to be—the girl who says, “Oh, I don’t need flowers or chocolates or diamonds. You should give that money to the poor and help feed children around the world.” Really, I know that’s true, and that it’s the best use of funds, and that it’s what truly matters. But I must confess that if the truth were known, I’d have to admit that I want dozens of yellow roses, boxes and boxes of chocolates, and the biggest diamonds in all the land.

And I know I’m not the only one (though your favorite color of rose or flower may differ from mine)!

Maybe it’s just a girl thing—maybe it’s just me. But when I think of love, all too often I think of “romance.” Yes, true romance is a demonstration of the love two people have for one another, and it generally entails the positive, nice to gaze upon, easily framed picture of love. But love itself is so much more.

Oh, I’ve always known that my parents were hopelessly and wonderfully in love. They held hands constantly, and after washing and drying the supper dishes, they would kiss—right there in the kitchen for all the world to see! And they still did this after sixty-three years of marriage. It was sweet, genuine, and driven by the most precious love I’ve ever seen in action.

But in this past year, already in my fifties, I think I finally woke up and saw love from the front-row seat of reality, and I realized that its magnitude ran far deeper than the romantic outpourings of its touches, kisses, gifts, and caring words. With eyes wide open, I saw what love really looks like, and although on many levels, “it ain’t pretty,” at its core, it’s the most beautiful of all human gifts, as seen in the descriptive phrases from 1 Corinthians 13:4–8 (NIV).

Love is patient. When my father needed something, he would ring a bell if my mother or I were out of the room. While many of us (and by us I refer to myself) would be tempted to throw the bell into the nearest dumpster after multiple back-to-back rings, with each ring of the bell, my mother would walk in and ask in gentle, loving tones, “How may I help you, my sweetheart?”

Love is kind. I saw my mom not only respond in kindness to my father this past year, but in spite of probing questions from people who cared, I never heard her speak unkindly about my father.

It does not envy. On more than one occasion, I heard both of my parents say that they wouldn’t trade “this time” (meaning the time of Mom’s providing care and of Dad’s becoming more frail, but from within the walls of his own home) for anything. They didn’t envy the health of others or begrudge each other’s talents, gifts, or moments of attention.

It does not boast. The way I see it, boasting represents an outward show for outward praise. Mom could have told the world all that she was doing behind the scenes because of her love for Dad. But in the quietness of an average bedroom in an average house in an average town, my parents generously and privately gave each other the gift of true, enduring love.

It is not proud. Being a caregiver for a spouse who is gradually becoming more and more physically incapable requires a level of humility that suddenly makes the sparkle of a diamond grow very, very dim.

It does not dishonor others. To his very last day of speaking, my father honored my mother by his words and by his actions. She returned that honor at every given moment of every given day. This is indeed a rare gift. But it exists. I saw it with my own eyes and heard it with my own ears, and I realized that honor most often shows up in words of gratitude.

It is not self-seeking. I will not ever forget seeing my eighty-three-year-old mother lying on the floor next to my father’s bed night after night so that, in spite of the difficulties that come from sleeping on a hard floor, she would be right there when he called out for help in the night. (We later insisted that she use an inflatable air mattress, and she was able to keep that right next to his bed as well.)

It is not easily angered. Love doesn’t make excuses for someone else, but it does allow you to see the explanations behind their actions. Excuses cover or try to preempt anger. Explanations provide the level of understanding that is the result of truly loving someone.

It keeps no record of wrongs. Next time you want to dredge up the list of things your spouse has done wrong or hasn’t done right in order to “win” an argument, gain control, or have your own way, I want you to remember that in my parents’ last days together, those things no longer mattered. Love not only threw away the list; it had never kept a list to begin with!

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It would be so easy to focus on death and dying when its certainty is inevitable, but my parents chose to focus on life. Yes, death was going to be gain, so it was talked about with the delight of seeing Jesus face to face rather than with the “woe is me” focus that would have taken everyone’s eyes off of the One who is the way, the truth, and the life.

It always protects. Sometimes protecting someone means loving that person enough to walk beside him or her through the hurts that you cannot prevent. I believe that Mom would have taken every symptom of Parkinson’s on herself, but instead, she protected my dad from going through them alone.

Always trusts. Trust is a powerful element of love. It provides both the impetus and the reward for giving all that you are with all that you have to the one you trust and to the one who is trusting you.

Always hopes. I thought long and hard about this one, because I do not want to misrepresent any of these illustrations of love. But I can say with sincerity that in the midst of this past year of “final days,” I never saw my parents lose hope. It is true: God’s faithfulness provides “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.”

Always perseveres. The fact that I am able to post this list of ways in which I saw my parents live out genuine love for one another (and for God!) states in no uncertain terms that love endures far beyond the romance of touches, kisses, gifts, and caring words.

Love never fails. “In sickness and in health” is all-encompassing. And while my parents’ love endured and never failed, I would be remiss not to state here that God’s love is the perfect, unfailing, unconditional love that sets the standard.

So in the midst of this Valentine’s Day week, as you see outward displays of affection, which are all very nice indeed, remember to see what the Bible says about what it means to truly love someone. It is there that you will see what love really looks like!

 

 

Valentine Gift Giving Made Easy

Alright, gentlemen, I’m going to make Valentine’s Day extra easy for you this year!

The only thing you have to do is order by midnight (EST) on Tuesday, February 10, 2015, and I’ll take care of the following:

 

 Petals from the Basket

Valentine Package

* One copy of Petals from the Basket: Devotional Thoughts for Women [$7.99 value]

This is a highly popular book of 52 devotional thoughts taken from the blog by the same name—suitable for any age!

The cover is pink flowers, making it just right for your Valentine recipient!

* Gift wrapped [$3.49 value]

* Gift card enclosed (You write the words; we put them on the card in neat, easy-to-read print.) [$1.00 value]

* Mailed directly to your Valentine gift recipient. All orders will be sent two-day priority mail. [$4.00 value for shipping, packaging, and handling]

The value of the Petals from the Basket Valentine Package is $16.89.

BUT

Here’s the bottom line that you’re looking for—Your price: $10.00! (Plus the priceless value of having it taken care of and shipped right to your recipient’s door!)




Grandma’s Advice for Guiding Your Children through Life’s Hurts and Disappointments

Dear Grandma,

As a mom, how can I best help and guide [my daughters] through life’s hurts and disappointments while remaining positive myself?

Thank you!

~~~~~~~~

Grandma says:

Each child responds to hurts and disappointments in his or her own way: one might respond with shrugged shoulders and a “so-what” attitude; another may have a crushed spirit and be certain that things will never be the same again. One child may share with you what happened and seek advice regarding the proper response; another might clam up and require you to use skillful and wise questioning to learn what the problem is.

The earthly parents of our Lord Jesus Christ were challenged to care for Him in diverse and challenging ways. When He was only two years old, His parents were subservient to a king who wanted to kill their son Jesus. They sought refuge in Egypt. (Suggested reading: Matthew 2:12–15.) When Jesus was twelve, they were challenged to retrace their steps to find Him when He was asking questions of the wise spiritual leaders in the temple. (Suggested reading: Luke 2:42–50.)

“And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52, NIV).

Your daughters are also growing in all four of these areas: mentally, physically, spiritually, and socially. You, as parents, want your children to be well-balanced adults. Disappointments are part of the growing process—yes, even for adults. Do not try to solve the disappointments and hurts yourself. It is hard to see your children hurting. But part of growing up is problem solving. You may need to give your children the gift of failure to help them realize that wrong choices bring scars. In the midst of this, they also need to know that you love them unconditionally. Even when they make a wrong choice, you must still love them, accept them, help them, and encourage them.

Seeing you deal with challenges is their greatest teacher. What you value most will determine how you handle the challenges that come your way. Do you most value financial gain, social acceptance, being admired, or honoring the Lord? Your children are aware of your answer!

I would like to recommend two books. If your daughters are preteen, Shepherding a Child’s Heart (by Tedd Tripp) is an excellent basic book on raising children from a Christian perspective. If they are teens, add Age of Opportunity (by Paul David Tripp). My dear husband highly recommended both of these books. He would always defend teens when parents or anyone would put them down. Perhaps this spirit of not belittling teens was why even when he was confined to bed in his final months, he enjoyed several visits from various young people.

As often as possible, allow your daughters to have friends in your home. This will help to prevent many hurts and disappointments by allowing you to interact with them and be a part of their world. You can do this by playing table games, learning about their interests, and sharing experiences with them. They will leave knowing that your home is a caring and friendly place. Many hurts can be eliminated when the home is a haven.

When there is a confrontation between your child and another, be certain that your child is willing to forgive. (This is an important lesson to teach your daughters.) Pray for that individual. Make sure that your daughter knows that she can come and talk to you about her hurts. Realize as her mom that when you give the other person to the Lord, you can help your daughter to feel confident, regardless of how she is treated by others.

The calm in your spirit as you surrender your own hurts to the Lord will be reflected in your children’s response.

With love,

Grandma (Lorraine)

_________________________

Do you have a question for Grandma (about marriage, children, women’s groups, being a caregiver, etc.)?

Send your question to: Grandma@PetalsfromtheBasket.com

__________

*Petals from the Basket, PetalsfromtheBasket.com, Brenda Strohbehn, and Lorraine Strohbehn accept no legal liability for the answers given in the “Ask Grandma” posts. We reserve the right to refuse inappropriate content and will deny access to false or contrived e-mail addresses. Additionally, should the e-mails we receive in conjunction with this site or this series of posts contain information regarding illegal activity or actions that would cause injury to the sender or to others, the required legal action and reporting will occur.

_________________________

Congratulations, Becca F.! You are the winner of a $25.00 Amazon gift card, so check your e-mail!

Thank you to the many who entered by commenting on the previous post (both here and on our Facebook page)!

How Far Do You Read?

For Christmas this year, my parents gave each of us a set of books or commentaries from my father’s library. Dad was still living at the time, and he carefully selected the sets of books he wanted each person to have, based on his or her interests or reading habits. Because he could no longer get out of bed—let alone walk the stairway that led to his office on the top floor—he would tell us exactly where to find the books on his multiple well-ordered bookshelves around the room. While that fact alone is worthy of its own blog post, it is not the focus of this one.

The part that all of us loved best about receiving these books was that my dad had underlined, highlighted, and made personal notes in many of them. To see what was important to him, recorded for all time, was in many ways far more impactful than the published contents of the pages themselves.

When my oldest nephew received his books, he made a unique observation: the underlining and page marking continued throughout the entire book! That simple action spoke volumes to my nephew, and as he mentioned it to me, I quickly saw the depth of character, humility, and thirst for learning this represented, particularly as I thought about my own bookshelves.

Knowing full well what I would find, I walked over and pulled a recently “completed” book off the third shelf. Twenty chapters, carefully marked and underlined—through chapter 16. Maybe I just didn’t need the material in the last four chapters, I tried to convince myself. However, it was a book on Christian living, and I needed that material—oh how I needed it! Maybe I was too convicted by the material in chapters 1-16 to continue. All the more reason to finish!

Surely this book was the exception.

Try as I might, I couldn’t fool myself into believing that. As I continued to pull book after book from my shelves, I saw the visual proof: I had devoured with great delight the first portion of the book, had become sidetracked at times throughout the middle of the book, and all too often had not bothered to complete the final chapter or chapters of the book (or had at least stopped marking anything by that point), most likely distracted by the next “must-read” book that I had heard about.

For those who like fiction, I’m sure it would be difficult to set a book aside without knowing “the ending.” However, this practice sadly seems to be the norm among nonfiction enthusiasts. Perhaps that’s why my father’s final-chapter markings stood out in such strong contrast to “the norm.”

Finish the job. See it through. Learn everything there is to learn. Don’t just read it—apply it. What you read might not help you personally, but it might help you to help someone else. Don’t stop until the end. Never give up. End strong. Humbly acknowledge your need to receive help from someone else. Gather wisdom. End strong.

I’m planning to spend much of February reading—and marking!—the closing chapter(s) of far too many books, with several of the concise reminders above prodding me to the finish line. The correlation between their application to finishing a book and living life with purpose, direction, and an unending desire to live, give, and learn is too great to ignore.

“I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do” (the words of Jesus to His heavenly Father, as recorded in John 17:4, NIV).

_______________________________

SURPRISE! To have your name entered into a random drawing for a FREE $25.00 Amazon gift card (drawing held at 12:01 a.m. (EST), Thursday, February 5, 2015), leave a comment here or on our Facebook page, sharing only ONE of the italicized concise reminders (from the next-to-the-last paragraph) that could help you to “read to the end!” The winner will be announced in Thursday’s blog post! Only one entry per person.

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Photo credit: Lucky Business, via Shutterstock.com