Looking for Hope?

“God has set eternity in the human heart.” Ecclesiastics 3:11. Solomon penned these words along with the verses made into a familiar song. “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” We can all look back at our lives and remember the seasons. We remember what it felt like to perhaps fall in love, have our first child, and the body of an energizer bunny. We can look back at those times with fondness as we enter yet another season of life.  The other day, I watched the parade of cyclists fly by on the street near our house and remembered how easy it was to bike 30 miles back to our starting place, to go out to eat and socialize afterwards, and to get up to teach the next morning. The years have flown by and getting up and having time for reflective thought and a second cup of coffee while glazing at the birds at our feeders is yet another heartwarming season.  Yet, those seasons of intent action were seasons filled with so much adventure.  It’s a time now of losing loved ones like my brother Bob and my sister Ginger. It’s almost as if there is a waiting room where our numbers will be called one day. That is why it is so important to redeem the time, seize the day and love and enjoy each moment we have on planet Earth.  There is a God shaped vacuum in our hearts longing for the time when our soul lives on in eternity. Inside, we know this is not the end. This is not a pipe dream that can’t possibly be true. Just look outside now and see the death of summer as the plants shrivel and look dead, but Spring will once again touch the Earth with its magic wand.  God has given us natural signs to illustrate heavenly principles.  He sacrificed his only Son, Jesus, and sent Him to Earth to show us how to live life by dying to ourselves. He told us to even love our enemies and think of others more than ourselves. Jesus taught us to be servants of one another and to show the world that we are “His” by our love for one another.  He said in John 17, “My prayer is not for them alone, but I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message.” Yes, that is us. Jesus left the world to prepare a place for us that we may see his glory.  The hope is that this experiment called “Life” will teach us how-to live here and in eternity. He says, “I am come that you may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10 and knowing these thoughts make every day of my life richer. So don’t despair because of growing older and fading away like a winter plant; just know that Spring is coming.  GOD HAS SET ETERNITY IN OUR HUMAN HEART.

Manna from Heaven?

I’m sure you’ve heard the old adage, “An apple a day, keeps the doctor away.” But what about a banana a day? My friend, Carol, was bemoaning the fact that she didn’t have a banana while we were on the forest covered path to Sunset Beach in Door County, Wisconsin. She said, “I wish I had a banana. It helps me sleep and helps fill my stomach when I’m hungry, like now.” The six of us continued up the path with the anticipation of seeing a spectacular sunset on Lake Michigan.  Visitors to the park had already begun setting up their professional cameras and I phones. Chris, Carol’s husband, said, “Look, there’s a banana over there.” He passed it up since it was in the dirt, but I picked it up and rubbed it clean. “Carol, look it’s ‘Manna from Heaven’! It looks good,” I said while peeling it. Her expression needed no words. She was surprised to see a banana, but tentative about eating it. She said, “Sue, you take the first bite.”  When I didn’t pass out or feign illness, she gleefully chumped down the tasty fruit. As we joined the group of about 50 people at the park, I excitingly told the story about ‘Manna from Heaven’ in the ear shot of a woman sitting on a rock nearby. She kiddingly said, “That was MY banana.” We all laughed and had such a good time while continuing to watch the most spectacular sunset we had ever seen. Pink and purple hues streaked the sky as the sun peeked in and out among the clouds making its way until it disappeared from our view.  In the past, every one would clap because a sunset at the beach was the best show in town. We made our way to a local restaurant with stomachs growling, but happy to have had not ‘Manna from Heaven’ but a banana from Door.  

I Am My Brother’s Keeper

Whenever the weather permits, I either take a long walk or a bike ride. It’s October and the mornings and evenings are cold, but when the sun comes out in the afternoon, it’s delightful. That’s when I grab my bike, put on some tunes and take off. Each day I take a different route while listening to tunes on my I phone. I marvel at the beauty of flowers and the trees that are just beginning to fade. It’s Ok that I’m riding alone, because I always talk to God and mainly thank Him for health and happiness. But here is what happened last week.

I took a bike ride last Saturday while a soccer game was going on at the park I often ride around. I noticed a young beautiful woman on the walk/bike path. She was distressed. On my second time around the path, she stopped me to tell me she had lost her keys. I told her if she lived locally, I could ride home and get my car. I noticed she had a thick Polish accent. She said, “Could you just look for a shiny object in the grass? This is where I walked.” I continued around the almost mile circular path and asked again. “Any Luck?” I continued the next time around, and she still hadn’t found her keys. I stopped riding and said, “God sees your keys and knows where they are.” And I prayed with her that God would help her find her kays. No sooner had I finished praying, when an elderly woman holding a dog in one arm held up the keys in her free hand. We were so happy that God had answered our prayer. Now you may say, “This is just a coincidence in timing.” But I say, “It has happened to me so many times. What are the odds?”

Reflecting on our Lost Love Ones

The words of Norman Maclean in the book A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT have haunted me since I first saw the movie.” As an old man, he wrote about his loved ones from the past.  “The RIVER was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.” His memories stir in the ripples of time and rise up while he casts his rod on the banks of the Big Blackfoot River.

It made me think of all those who I have loved and lost, and how they have impacted my life.   My father had encouraging words, my mother gave me the gift of music, my brother taught me to stoically face adversity when his cancer was uncurable, and my sister’s words and laughter are with me daily.   

Like Norman, we may not have understood our loved ones thoroughly. Often, we may have cast a rod to help them only to discover that the ones we love the most are hardest to help.   

We can look back to the basement of our time and reflect on how they have shaped who we are today, and how God has used them in our lives.  Like fish rising to the surface at sunset, they speak to us from the roof of timelessness.   lifewithlarry.org

The Magic Kingdom Get Away

I feel like a fairy princess this morning waking up in my magical kingdom in the Black Walnut B&B located in Sturgeon Bay, WI. The 1890 house with each multiple rooms decorated and themed is freshly painted and newly renovated while keeping the original veneer. Each room is equipped with its own jacuzzi which even my 6ft 2in husband could comfortably enjoy despite his recent shoulder replacement. He was so happy to be completely relaxed and pain free.  The jacuzzi faces a mirror for the romantic couple wishing to be framed.  We slept in a very comfortable queen-sized bed adorned with blue and white fluffy pillows and blankets.  While looking for a place in Door, a friend suggested we call the Chamber of Commerce in Sturgeon Bay since there was no place to stay in the Upper Peninsula.  It was reasonably priced with a military discount in a high demand season. Queen Amanda, the owner, greeted us each morning with wonderful breakfast which included ample fresh fruit garnished with Greek yogurt. We dined on the deck outside our room where the sun beamed in and birds sang beautiful songs.  What a wonderful place to get away and spend quality time with my Prince. Sturgeon Bay was less crowded than the Upper Peninsula and easier to find a good restaurant for dinner. There was also interesting stores and live plays close by.

The Black Walnut Kingdom
Our beautiful Fairy Princess Room

It was a short drive to Whitefish Dunes where we spent several hours. I walked along the beach and enjoyed watching children play; it our first time on a beach this summer. We checked out on Sunday morning with warm memories of our stay in the Magic Kingdom refreshed and ready for our volunteer assignment with Humble Design/Chicago on Monday.

Fading Summer 2022

I wake up in the morning to the sound of birds, humming birds are at our feeders and go from flower to flower at the plants Larry planned. Each day is a gift as the days get shorter.

Larry had shoulder replacement surgery and struggles at times to find a comfortable position to sleep in. On the otherhand, I usually sleep well and wake up early to grasp the best of the day for me. But Larry still would use each day to one handedly complete tasks around the house like mowing the lawn and feeding the birds while up on a ladder. As he got better, he continued his volunteering by making Welcome Home plaques and serving at Humble Design, Adaptive Adventures and Habitat for Humanity. I marvel at his dedication in traveling miles to help others with the high prices of gas.

visiting grandson Jasper and daughter Deborah

When I knew he could easily take care of himself, I hopped on a plane to Bozeman MT, and spent 8 days with my Montana family. It was such a delightful time to go with my son, Aaron to his workouts at Cross-Fit at 7 PM. Afterwards, he made me a delicious foamy coffee latte that gave me energy for the day ahead. Aaron and Lynelle have built an art studio and apartment in their yard. I’m so impressed with how they have used the internet to learn how to do difficult tasks like plumbing, etc.

Deb and I went hiking to beautiful places in Montana and enjoyed a lunch with her friend, Bradford, who is an actor and teacher at MSU. We talked about theatre and I shared about directing plays and teaching high school English.

Each day I was there, the mornings and evenings would be cool with the sun becoming intense during the day. A highlight to my week was seeing Shakespeare in the Park’s Twelfth Night at Chico, a beautiful resort in Pray, MT.

The frosting on the cake, was the time I spent with my grandsons, August, Jasper and Isaak. They are young men now with a love for karate and the outdoors. They are so close to one another. I took a walk with Isaak, the youngest of the three, to Yellowstone River. As I absorbed the beauty of the place and listened to the roar of waters, I became emotional about such a special place to visit. I wished it was closer.

As much as I enjoyed my vacation to MT, I missed my husband, my home and friends. There is beauty in almost every place we visit if we can look at it with fresh eyes. I love, love, love summer and I’m holding on to each beautiful day that comes our way. We are so blessed.

Christian Nataionalim is in direct Opposition to the Teaching of Jesus

“Normal Christian political engagement is humble, loving, and sacrificial; it rejects the idea that Christians are entitled to primacy of place in the public square or that Christians have a presumptive right to continue their historical predominance in American culture. Today, Christians should seek to love their neighbors by pursuing justice in the public square, by promoting religious liberty, fostering racial justice, protecting the rule of law, and honoring constitutional processes. That agenda is different from promoting Christian culture, Western heritage, or Anglo-Protestant values.”(Christianity Today)

God calls us to live a life embracing the tenants of Matthew 25: Jesus said in illustration, ” For I was hungry and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick or in prison and you visited me. “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, YOU DID FOR ME!”

This is our life mission as a couple—to live out these tenants on our short journey called LIFE! We also have found that true happiness comes when you reach out and help someone else. It’s then that you forget yourself and your worries about what others think of you.

True joy comes with living the life God called you to live. He said, “My sheep hear my voice and follow me.” (John 10:27)

You will find Him when you seek Him with your whole heart.

Music Brings Me to Ukraine

On Thursdays, I volunteer in the lobby of Good Shepherd Hospital playing background piano music during the staff lunch hour. I was playing the song, The Shallow, when Olga asked if she could videotape me playing the song. We got to talking and I found out she was from Eastern Europe and had a job in the Ophthalmology department at the hospital.  She needed help in English to pass an exam. I said, “I can help you since I used to teach ESL.” We got together about three times before the pandemic hit. She told me about her desire to have a baby, but that she had to be cancer free for 5 years before she could safely conceive. It has been four years now of being cancer free.

When the war in Ukraine hit on February 24, 2022, I thought of Olga and I still had her in my contacts. When I called, I did not know for sure where she was from. She called me back in tears telling me how her mother lived in the beautiful city of Kharkiv in Ukraine known for the arts and exquisite buildings.  Her home town was being bombed and she feared for her mother, relatives and friends’ lives. She sent me a video of what the town looked like before and after the bombings. This was a first hand view of the war I had only seen on the news. My heart went out to Olga and her family.  Her mother has decided to stay in Ukraine,  but her husbands’ family of four came to live with them in April, 2022. There are now 7 people living in a small apartment in Buffalo Grove. The youngest is a 15 year old high school student named Nevor.

Larry and I decided to meet and gift them at their apartment one evening. We sat around their kitchen table hearing their stories and weeping with them. We tried to figure out how to help connect them to World Relief and Willow Creek’s Care Center. Not only did the whole family come to the Care Center for food, but Olga has applied to volunteer at the Care Center where they need her language skills for the many Ukrainian and Russian clients who will be entering their doors for food, clothing and medical help.

We had all seven of them over to our house on Sunday, May 29th. The men helped with lawn and tree removal in our yard.  The woman earlier helped clean my house. They wanted to demonstrate their gratitude. They are hard-working and talented individuals.  One is a nurse, the other has a degree in computer science and film directing, another has a factory job and an on-line business.  The youngest is a student at Buffalo Grove High School. They are quickly learning English.We had a team meeting and lunch at my house recently to figure out ways we can pool our talents to help Ukraine in its fight for democracy and for the needs of the incoming immigrants. So far, they are very touched by the welcome Americans have given them.  

A Storyworth episode/ Julie as a toddler

Julie was always a happy, energetic, strong little one. She was born with curly red hair and I was certain I had the next Shirley Temple or Annie. I remember when Gloria Rendleman came over for a visit and seeing Julie with a cute new hairdo with curls circling around her face, she said,” She’s so cute, I’m going to cry.” Cindy Ginther, also a red-head, wanted to adopt her.

Deb and Julie were the best of friends, almost like twins. Julie was brave and outgoing while Deb was quieter and more introspective. Julie had a laugh that would fill the neighborhood as she wrestled down the boys. One time, they decided to go outside right after their bath. I let them run around naked while I answered the phone. I then got another call from a neighbor saying, “Sue, look outside your girls are going down the slide butt naked.” Yikes.

I remember one time after being up late with Larry that I heard her walk down the stairs to the kitchen. I thought to myself, I better get up and see what my 2-year-old is up to. But it was quiet so I slept a little longer before I came down the stairs to see her covered with powdered sugar. A friend had given us a dozen donuts and Julie had taken a bite out of most of them leaving her and the kitchen a royal mess. I looked at her and said, “Julie, you won’t need any breakfast this morning.” Speaking of breakfast, Larry and I went on a ski trip and left Deb and Julie with Barb and Ken. They fed them pancakes and Julie was able to eat as many as 240 Ib. Ken.

Dad would place Deb and Julie on the dresser and have them jump to him. After Deb jumped, Julie would not hesitate to jump almost immediately afterwards showing her total trust in her dad to catch her. Her spirit of adventure was evident at a young age. Even though Deb was 15 months older, she insisted on doing everything Deb did.

We went on a picnic with a Jesus People group and the gnats were buzzing around Julie’s nose. I had to take her to our VW bus to keep her safe from them. I took her to the doctor the next day, and after some time he found that she had something up in her nose that was rotting. When he removed it, all was well. We never knew what it was. but it brought back memories of my mother putting her finger in a meat grinder out of curiosity and of me trying to make my little iron hot like my mother’s by transferring the heat with my hand.

We loved to take the kids camping at Kettle Moraine and we have pictures of Julie shirtless on the Merry-go-round. We would sleep under the stars and play Hide-and-Seek and Mother May I. Dad and I loved playing with our kids at all their ages.

I remember one trip to Kentucky to see the Mammoth Cave. Dad had a bout of unexpected diarrhea and had to go immediately. He used Julie’s little potty I brought with us in our VW Conversion Van. The rest of the way, Julie chimed in saying, “Julie’s potty, Daddy’s potty” which gave us a lot of giggles.

At a restaurant, we sang songs to entertain our kids while waiting for our food. We just finished singing Six Little Ducklings when the waitress arrived. Julie said, “My daddy calls my mommy “Wibble Wobble”. Dad had names for all of us. Deb was Bear and Julie was Hulia.

Julie never talked baby talk. She could speak full sentences at an early age. She would grow up to be an excellent student, singer, actress, guitar player and a strong and self-assured leader.

Do you hear their Mourning?

As we wake up this morning to the sound of birds, and to the rising sun, to flowers and the sound of children stirring in bed— can you hear their voices–the mothers weeping for those lost in War? They may be half a world away, but God hears their mourning this morning. God, please gently wrap the deceased in your loving arms and take them to a place of peace where the sound of war has ceased. As we go about our daily chores, have us continue to hear their voices and pray for peace in our world. We are all connected in one way or another. It’s the brotherhood of man. We were given free will, free will to make choices— good or bad. Make the right choice today to promote freedom in our land and to give a helping hand to try to understand. This morning, we hear the sound of birds, we see the rising sun—will we extend a helping hand to those from another land? This morning–do you hear their mourning? See Psalm 37

Tips on how to live a long and fulfilled life