My Sandpipers

“My Sandpipers”

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Along the water’s edge

Toward the shallows they run

With long and graceful legs

Chasing the waves and sun.

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Then away from the waves

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They turn and sometimes fly

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Playful in their searching

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Sand, shells and sunset sky.

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“The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises… What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” -Ecclesiastes 1:5, 9

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Watchful and Thankful

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” 

-Colossians 4:2

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On this beautiful October day, I am thanking God for all the evidence of His glory that surrounds us in nature and for the many gifts He’s given this past week.

I am thankful for a quiet hike through the woods.

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I am thankful for the leaves above glowing all golden in the warm sunshine.

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I am thankful for the leaves below that softly crunch as our boots shuffle through them.

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I am thankful for the cute pair of just-the-right-size rain boots a dear friend gave to my youngest.

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I am thankful for the cheerful Black-Eyed Susans still in bloom.

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I am thankful for the fallen tree that makes a good resting spot.

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I am thankful for the little collection of leaves my oldest carefully gathers up to treasure.

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I am thankful for the lemon-verbena that smells oh-so delightful.

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I am thankful for the dazzling dahlias in bloom.

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Oh, the dahlias make me smile big!

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I am thankful for bright orange pumpkins and bright-eyed girls with big smiles, too.

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I am thankful for our annual family outing to the apple orchard.

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I am thankful for the girls’ favorite wagon, Lacie, and all the memories it holds.

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I am thankful for the delicious harvest of apples to fill our pies and dumplings.

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I am thankful for the pumpkin patch nearby and determined pursuers of perfect pumpkins.

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I am thankful for God’s amazing creation and how it points to His goodness and glory.

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

 

Apple Pickin’ with Lacie

Re-posting this because it’s apple season again! Happy pickin’!

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One of our favorite traditions every fall is a field trip to the orchard a few miles down the road. We always go to pick Haralson and McIntosh apples for baking apple pies. But I really can’t tell you about our annual apple adventures without telling you about Lacie the Red Wagon, a faithful companion throughout most of our family’s 10 year history of apple picking.

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The first year we went apple picking as a family of four, my youngest was not yet walking, and so Lacie the Red Wagon helped haul her around the orchard. DSC_0855 She loved getting to chew on her very own apple, and legend has it that she ate the entire thing, stem and all.

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My oldest wasn’t quite 4 then and still preferred that we regularly address her as “Cinderella,” but she could already reach a few apples to pick right off the trees.

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I don’t remember exactly when or how it happened, but somehow the girls decided finding Lacie the Red Wagon among the fleet of more than a dozen wagons at the orchard was essential in our annual apple picking adventures.

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One year, the girls’ great-grandma came all the way from Oklahoma to visit us during apple season, and the girls were sure excited to introduce her to Lacie.

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Another year, my youngest was thoroughly enjoying a crunchy, fresh-picked apple in the orchard until she realized her wiggly tooth was suddenly missing — as in completely-never-to-be-found-because-she-swallowed-it lost.

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That was quite upsetting, and thankfully the wagon was able to console her with a ride as she adjusted to her new smile.

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Her sister’s teeth, meanwhile, were safely secured with braces.

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The next year, the smiles had changed again.

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Now my youngest is almost 9 and quite an experienced apple picker.

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My oldest is still delighted to help pick and especially enjoys climbing into the trees and up the trees.

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“Keep my commandments and live; keep my teaching as the apple of your eye.” Proverbs 7:

Let Heaven and Nature Sing!

Joy to the world! The Lord has come

Let earth receive her King!

Let every heart prepare Him room

And heaven and nature sing!

Joy to you this Christmas!

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Nature sang in 2015 as God blessed us with many memorable outdoor adventures like snowshoeing,

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snow skiing,

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ice skating,

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boating,

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swimming,

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and hiking.

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We delighted in God’s amazing creation while watching Trumpeter swans on the Mississippi River,

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spotting dolphins in the wild in the Gulf of Mexico near Galveston,

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feeding wood ducks in the backyard,

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gazing at the gorgeous lilacs

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and the dazzling dahlias at the Arboretum,

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being wowed by a pair of red foxes up on the Gunflint Trail near the Boundary Waters,

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and admiring some of the 18 baby snapping turtles that hatched in our front yard flower bed.

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We tried to subdue some of God’s creatures during our too-close-for-comfort encounters with a snoozing nighthawk,

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bandit raccoons,

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a sleepy bat, an angry squirrel, a peeping goldfinch,

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a topsy-turvey mama snapping turtle, a strong-minded chipmunk and a brave back-to-school mouse that trapped itself inside our basement wall! Eeeek!

We also marveled at God’s wondrous creativity while gazing at the brilliant autumn colors,

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picking juicy apples,

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and plump pumpkins,

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and most recently, while picking a lovely-smelling balsam fir tree to decorate for Christmas.

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Romans 1:20 says,“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–His eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”

Nature clearly points to its wise and powerful Creator. And that lighted Christmas tree in my living room, it points heavenward, toward the Light of the World.

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It points to Jesus, who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

May we all join heaven and nature in singing our praises to Him this Christmas and throughout 2016!

Merry Christmas!

 

Let This Be Written

A few years ago our family had the privilege of seeing an amazing exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls at our local science museum. How incredible to see those ancient words of God – words that He miraculously preserved in jars inside of caves for two thousand years! What a mighty act of God! Preserving words on paper for two thousand years would be impossible for man, but it was possible with God.

Seeing those scrolls reminded me of Psalm 102:18, which says, “Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the LORD.” I am indeed thankful for those men of long ago who obediently and diligently wrote those precious words down on scrolls so that my generation and my children could see them and praise God.

The Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit also reminded me of Psalm 145:4. “One generation shall commend Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts.” What a great verse this is for homeschool moms – and all parents and grandparents for that matter. If we could only teach one subject as homeschoolers this year, I think this should be it.

In her story book Bible The Mighty Acts of God, author Starr Meade explains that the purpose of telling stories of God’s mighty acts isn’t for entertainment value or good moral examples. The purpose is to make known the wonder of God’s great character.

Likewise, John Piper of Desiring God says we want the next generation to have not just heads full of right facts about the works of God, but also “hearts that burn with the fire of love for the God of those facts – hearts that will sell everything to follow Jesus into the hardest places of the world.”

That’s quite a vision for our students! And as this new school year begins, Psalm 102:18 and Psalm 145 are great encouragements to pass on to my children not just what I know about the one true God from reading the Bible, but also to pass on – heart to heart – what I personally love about God and how I have witnessed Him at work in my life. He has revealed specific attributes of His character – like His faithfulness, compassion, and unfailing love – in specific moments and seasons throughout my life. Knowing by heart those personal faith stories and marveling at God’s great character will fuel my children’s love for Him and better equip them to pass the faith on to their own children someday.

When I take time to recall how God has acted mightily in my own personal history, God is magnified and I am encouraged and comforted. But in order to recall these little faith stories and declare them to my children, I must first record them somehow. That involves watching for God’s grace in daily life, taking lots of pictures, making lists of specific things I am thankful for, writing down prayer requests, keeping a blog, and scrapbooking when I can. These practices take time and no, I don’t keep up with all of them regularly. But these practices are quite meaningful to me because together they build the history book of our lives.

Puritan Pastor John Flavel says, “There is not such a pleasant history for you to read in all the world as the history of your own lives, if you would sit down and record from the beginning hitherto what God has been to you, and done for you; what evidences and outbreakings of his mercy, faithfulness, and love there have been in all the conditions you have passed through.”

So what does praising God and declaring His greatness in the bits and pieces of my personal history look like? Some days it’s telling a story about my childhood as we eat lunch or reading aloud a passage from an old blog post or an old baby journal. Other days it’s looking at photos in a family scrapbook, reading an old letter from a grandparent, or clicking through a digital photo album of last week’s field trip.

In looking back at these records through the lens of God’s goodness, I see things I did not see before. I see ways He has cared for us, provided for us, comforted us, strengthened us, encouraged us, healed us and equipped us. I see how He has brought us through trials and sorrows. I remember joyous moments I would forget otherwise. And as I share all those insights with my children, I praise God.

Jonathan Parnell at Desiring God says the most essential detail to look for in our personal history is God’s mercy to us through Jesus.

“Every detail of God’s goodness to you has come through the blood of Jesus,” he says. “Look back on these providences and remember that you’ve earned none of them. They come by Jesus, or they don’t come at all. His cross is the most vivid demonstration of God’s love for us, and every little good we’ve seen has flowed from that glorious fountain. It did yesterday, and it will tomorrow.”

Parnell also suggests several other details to look for, such as God’s care for you, wisdom for you, grace for you and humility for you, as well as His goal in all your provisions and His goodness in comfortable stuff like socks. He explains each of these ideas thoroughly in an article online entitled “Seven Details to See in Your Past.”

This school year, I pray that teaching the next generation about God’s mighty acts and sharing stories of His goodness and mercy will be a higher priority each day. I pray that we keep pre-algebra and science lessons in the right perspective. I thank God for the fresh encouragement given by Asaph in Psalm 78, a passage which the ESV Bible titles “Tell the Coming Generation.” And I pray that we may arise and tell our children truths about God so that they set their hope in God, keep His commandments, and never ever forget the works of God.

 

Redeeming Ruby

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“It’s a nutshell pram.”

Our oldest was still in the womb when I first heard my husband utter that phrase. We were at a wooden boat show because Michael was in the thick of restoring a 1962 Windjammer sailboat that had been badly damaged in a hurricane. In just two months we’d face the life-changing onset of parenthood, and I honestly wasn’t remotely interested in entertaining any of his wild daydreams about a nutshell pram – whatever kind of boat that was.

“Oh, isn’t it cute?” he exclaimed, pointing out the tiny boat’s beautiful woodwork and oars. “Someday, I’m going to build one of those,” he added dreamily. Cute? Sure. An alluring daydream for a lady who is seven months pregnant and who has been laboriously walking around all day looking at non-descript boat parts? Not really.

Six years and two children later, the nutshell pram daydream reappeared in family vacation conversation while visiting a folk school on the north shore of Lake Superior.

“Oh, girls! Wouldn’t it be fun to build one of these?” Michael implored, not even looking at our young daughters as he spoke. His eyes were wholly fixed upon a shiny little 8-foot wooden boat. At ages 3 and 6, the girls never even realized he was talking to them. Their little hearts were set on finding rocks on the shores of Lake Superior and a sweet treat at the next stop.

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A few years later I found my husband at the computer, feeding his nutshell pram daydream with Google images and researching websites that sold kits to build one.

“This would be a great homeschool project for me to do with the kids,” he quipped, still trying to enthrall me with the beauty of his daydream.

“And how much does it cost?” I asked, trying to pull his head down from the clouds and tally up how many school books I could buy with the same budget.

“Two thousand dollars plus shipping,” he said.

“Wow. That’s a lot of chapter books,” I thought to myself as I shook my head doubtfully.

“We’d just have to save up for it,” Michael said, still daydreaming. He and I both knew that saving up for a boat kit, even as a school project, wasn’t a high priority in our one-income budget, especially when every spare dollar was already committed to the church’s capital campaign.

But God is sovereign, and all that is in the heavens and in the earth is His. Three months later, my father-in-law called us. His neighbor’s garage had flooded and, as part of the clean-up process, much was being thrown away. Into the dumpster the neighbor had discarded a partially assembled boat hull and pieces of a kit for building a 9-foot nutshell pram.

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” –Psalm 37:4

God was indeed giving Michael one of his heart’s desires.

The wooden hull had some water damage, but my father-in-law thought it and the rest of kit were worth redeeming for us. So into the dumpster Papa Larry climbed on a hot Arkansas summer day, pulling out the hull, blueprints, bronze hardware, rope, wood for the mast and spars, and a VHS instructional tape. Later we learned that the neighbor had started the project with his father, who had recently passed away. That loss paired with the flood damage made him abandon any hope of finishing the boat.

Hearing the story and imagining the worst, I really wondered what our daughters, then ages 6 and 9, would think of their grandpa’s dumpster discovery. But at the dinner table that night when my elated husband relayed the news, the two girls excitedly adopted the project and confidently declared they would paint the little boat red and name it “Ruby.”

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When summer arrived, we took a 1,500 mile road trip to haul Ruby’s hull and the rest of the kit home to Minnesota. At first glance, the overturned hull wasn’t much to see, and the girls’ excitement seemed to wane a bit until the strongback was removed and they could imagine the little boat it might become.

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Soon curls of wood shavings, piles of sawdust and woodworking tools littered the garage as Michael and his little crew set to work reassembling the damaged hull and building seats. More than once the girls decorated their daddy’s tool box with curly wood shavings.

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During the winter, they sewed canvas together to make Ruby’s sail.

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The next summer, the girls were 7 and 10, and they continued to help their daddy with the woodwork and staining, rounding the mast, painting the hull red and attaching the bronze hardware.

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In early August, great-grandma came and helped the girls sew a red streamer flag for the top of the mast.

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By late August, Ruby was nearly ready to sail, and Papa Larry flew up with my brother-in-law Lance and our nephew to help us launch her into the lake.

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And the dream of seeing Ruby sail across the water became a reality.

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To Michael’s many years of daydreaming, he and our two daughters added a lot of hard work. They learned about team work and compromise, tools and boat parts, woodworking techniques, sewing, physics and sailing. Some parts of the project were indeed dull and tiresome, but the girls caught on to their daddy’s passion and shared his dream of someday sailing that little red boat across the lake. That dream motivated them to keep at it, and in the end, their perseverance helped build more than a boat and more than many summers of father-daughter memories. It built character.

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Above all, what I pray my daughters will cherish most about Ruby is her story of redemption. Because of a father’s sacrificial love for his son and his granddaughters, Ruby was redeemed from the pit. Redeemed from a dumpster! And because of a father’s love for his daughters and his passions for woodworking and sailing, Ruby was given a second chance to fulfill her purpose.

“Bless the Lord… who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy.” –Psalm 103:2-4

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Like a gem, Ruby is precious because she reminds us that we once sat helpless in pit of sin. She reminds us that we have value, and we have a Redeemer whose steadfast love ran red for us on the cross. Indeed, we have a heavenly Father who loves us, treasures us, delights in us, and is faithful to complete the good work He began in us.

“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble.” –Psalm 107:1-2

 

Fly, Butterfly, Fly!

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When the little package arrived in the mailbox that sunny afternoon in May, I was not sure what to expect inside. My two daughters were busy playing in the backyard, so I was alone when I cut open the cardboard box and found the five tiny caterpillars inside a little cup. It was just what I had ordered. The cup had a thick layer of gooey brown food on the bottom and a nice tight lid on top. This project was to be the highlight of our homeschool unit on butterflies, but I secretly feared these caterpillars were dead upon arrival. I could not detect any movement whatsoever.

Continue reading over here at The End in Mind.

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