Much like your parents attic, treasured memories lay within. So, wipe the dust off my ruminations and remembrances, sit back and enjoy!

Christmas Blessings

Last weekend I packed up the kids and headed to Minnesota to spend Christmas with Lisa’s family. Wednesday night I packed up Hope, Vinny’s and my clothes and all of the presents because the plan was to leave Winona Friday morning and I had to work Thursday. So, after work on Thursday, I picked up Hope and Vinny from school, ran home and loaded the van and was back on the road by 5:40pm. Not bad considering. The trip to Winona was uneventful: Hope and Vinny watched a movie in the back seat and I listened to music on my IPod. Brittany and Trevor wouldn’t be coming until Saturday morning (they both had previously made plans with friends). Friday morning was a little hectic as we had presents yet to wrap and kids to get ready. Lisa ran into town to get her mom (yes, I know…visions of Chevy Chase in Christmas Vacation came to mind!). We had a challenge getting everything (and everyone!) packed and loaded into the van (I felt like I was playing a real life version of Tetris!), but we finally got it all in; leg room is highly overrated and who really needs to see out the back window anyway? Using the rear window is for wimps…I’m a man! I use my side mirrors! So, with the back-end piled high, the kids and mom packed in like sardines, we got on the road at 10:45am. It was like we were on our very first family trip!

Now, Lisa and her family are originally from Worthington. Lisa grew up and even went to the community college that is located either in or near there, before she transferred to Winona State. Worthington is about 3.5 hours from Winona, but we were going to Luverne, where her dad and stepmother built a new home about a year ago. Luverne is about another 30 minutes past Worthington and is a sleepy little town. On the trip over, the boys kept themselves busy playing their Game Boys while Hope and Grandma watched a movie on the portable DVD player. Lisa and I listened to music and talked. All in all it was a nice trip. Once we arrived, Lisa’s dad Leroy (or LeRoar as Hope likes to say!) met us at the hotel and took us to Kathy’s (or Taffy…again, Hope) brother, Curt’s little home to show us his puzzle collection. Now, Curt is retired and lives by himself. He busies himself by assembling jigsaw puzzles…but I wasn’t prepared for what I was about to see. He had hung up his puzzles…not like you or I would hang a piece of art, but more like wallpaper! Nearly every available section of wall space was covered in a fantastic mosaic of puzzles! Cats, dogs, city skylines and western scenes! Beautiful Thomas Kinkade prints, Norman Rockwells and impressionistic Monet’s. Puzzles in the shape of bears, wolves and states! Even three dimensional ones like the cathedral at Notre Dame and I paused looking at a card table that contained a section of New York city…the twin towers (now gone), stood tall against this three dimensional cityscape and I was caught in the remembrance of that horrific day. In all, Curt has assembled 604 puzzles and he has many more in his basement just waiting for his attention!

Leroy and Kathy have a very nice home and play the part of host/hostess perfectly! Leroy like to grow his own hot peppers, dehydrate them, grind them into powder and then mix them into the ultimate collection of pepper seasonings! Some are fire hot and others quite tame, but my favorite was one titles Super Chili’s. It had enough oomph, to let you know it was there, but also adds a great flavor to whatever you mix it with! It was great to see Donna and her kids Stephanie and Justin from Las Vegas again. And it was good to finally meet her other son Brandon. Trevor really took to Brandon and Justin and it even came down to Trevor and Brandon going head to head in Monopoly! I also finally met Lisa’s brother Alan, his wife Robin and his two daughters Ali and Sarah. I also met Justin’s fiancĂ© Jackie, Brandon’s girlfriend, Candace and Sarah’s boyfriend, Austin.

We talked, played games and grazed like sheep! Hope was in top form and charmed her way into everyone’s hearts. If we would have been on a cruise, she would have been our cruise director! She freely past hugs around, took pictures (on other peoples digital cameras!) and just generally brightened everyone’s day! When Britt and Trev arrived the next day, she was watching out the window for them and when she saw the van, she ran into the kitchen yelling. ‘They’re here everyone! They’re here! Now let’s ALL stand up and greet them!’ I swear if she would have had a red carpet, she would have rolled it out for them! We shared laughs, fun, food and even tears. Time, like water in your hand, ran quickly and before we knew it, it was time to leave.
We headed back Sunday after brunch at Leroy and Kathy’s. We had plans to stop and visit Lisa’s Grandmother and then some friends of hers on the way back through Worthington. Brittany and Trevor decided to press on and go home. About 2 hours later, Britt called to report that it was snowing and the wind was so bad that it was becoming difficult for her to see. I told her to pull off into the next town, find a place to hunker down and I’d get back to her. I found out that a winter storm warning had been issued for the part of Minnesota that we’d be driving through and that they were advising people not to travel. Snow accumulations of 8 to 12 inches were expected and winds in excess of 45 mph would make travel hazardous, if not impossible. I called Britt back and told her to find a hotel and call me back. Lisa did some quick calling and was able to get permission for us to stay at the house of the parents of her best friend. It was a beautiful house and they graciously told us to make ourselves at home and to help ourselves to anything. Britt did call back and I set them up with a room at a hotel in Rochester. We ordered Godfather’s pizza (one of my favorites!) and later on, Lisa and I relaxed in their hot tub (I pretty much decided right then and there, that Lisa and I NEED to have one in our house!)

Monday…Christmas eve! I was to sing at Walnut Hill’s Christmas eve services (4:00pm and 5:30pm) and needed to be back at 2:30 to practice. It was between 9:30 and 10:00am when we left Worthington and it would be a 5 and a half hour drive from Worthington to Baraboo and I still had to drop Lisa, the boys and her mom off in Winona…so, I quickly calculated and knew I wouldn’t make the practice, so I called and cancelled the practice, but told Tyson (our music leader) that I would still make it for the performances. We got to Winona and dropped everyone off and was on my way out of town at right around 2pm…YIKES! Winona to Baraboo was about a 2 hour drive and so, with a prayer and determination, I pressed my speed and rolled out in front of my house at 3:30! I quickly ran into the house, re-dressed and was out the door by 3:45! I called Lisa on my way up to the church and found out that she had just left town! Her plan was to leave by 3:00, but didn’t make it! I was originally told that the second service was scheduled to start at 6pm…when I told her it was actually starting at 5:30…she about cried. As the second service started, Lisa still hadn’t arrived, but she still had time as it was about 20 minutes into the service before I would sing. As I sat there watching each performer and listening to each reading, I silently counted down the time until I would have to perform. As the service got to the last perform and reading before I was to go on, I got up from my seat and went to the back of the church. Listening to the performance of O Little Town Of Bethlehem, I stared out of the big picture windows in the foyer of the church, watching desperately to see if Lisa’s car would pull in at the last minute…It wasn’t there. I turned as the soloist finished and waited until the reading was about halfway through when I walked down the aisle to the stage. Feelings of disappointment, not towards Lisa, but that she wouldn’t make it in time, flooded my thoughts and I had to consciously push them aside so I could concentrate on the performance at hand. There were about 600 people at the first service and while there wasn’t that many now, the place was still near capacity. I looked to Ruth (the pianist) and she started playing. And as I sang the first words, ‘Oh Holy Night…’, I caught site of Lisa standing in the doorway at the back of the church! Honestly, it was exactly like a scene out of a movie…against time and against all odds, the heroine makes it just in the nick time! I stood there singing for my church…for Lisa and for my God. I’ve sung O Holy Night countless number of times over the years and it had become somewhat of a tradition for me to sing it…this would most likely be the last time I would sing it at Walnut Hill…I sang from my heart and I pray that it brought glory and honor to Jesus…many babies have grown up to become kings, but there has only been one King who humbled himself for our sake to become a baby. Laying aside His throne and stepping down from the right hand of God, He entered this Earth just like you and I did.

I find it utterly amazing that in this culture of Political Correctness and tolerance, all religions are embraced and even displayed except for one…Christianity. Our public schools openly talk about Chanukah and Kwanza, but the true reason for Christmas is not only left out, but actually shunned in areas. Selective tolerance isn’t tolerance at all…I believe that’s actually called prejudice. Interesting that all throughout the New Testament, Jesus reached out to the poor, the injured, the ‘untouchables’. His door…His path was and still is open to all and all He asked was for us to turn away from sin and to accept Him as Lord and Savior of our lives.

I really missed the boys on Christmas morning, but it was nice having Lisa there. It really felt like we were a family. Over the past month I have watched my kids and have seen an ever deepening love developing between them and Lisa. I’ve seen Hope call her mom…I have heard Vinny say that it will be nice to have a new mom…I have seen Trevor give her a hug and I have watched Brittany warm up to her, even start to joke and tease with her (that is SO one of her love languages!). As I sit back and think about this past year…all that we’ve been though…all that God has done for us, I am in awe and humbled by the love He has shown, the blessings he has bestowed and the restoration He is enacting. I think of Job and all that he lost and through his faithfulness and steadfastness, when his season of pain and suffering was over, God not only restored that which Job lost, but He over and abundantly blessed him. By no means am I comparing what I went through to that of Job’s story…he lost SO much…but I KNOW that God is faithful and He continues to bless us and is restoring ALL of us…Lisa, the kids and I.

Praise be to God, our Father! All day long we will sing of His glory, from the highest mountain we will shout of His greatness, From the depths of the sea the very Earth proclaims His holiness! The rocks, trees and birds of the air resound His majesty, while the plants of the field and animals of the land honor Him.


~ V

The Proposal

The day was beautiful. Cloudless and brisk with a breeze coming out of the North that added to the chilliness of the day. We were supposed to have gotten somewhere around 3 inches of snow the night before, but it was more like a dusting and even at the, the roads were clear and dry. Friday night was Lisa’s office Christmas party and she was expecting me to arrive that afternoon between 2:00 and 2:30…the truth of the matter was that, unbeknownst to her, I was in Winona at 9:00am. Today was the day! I was hopeful and nervous, but mostly very excited! I had arranged with Lisa’s boss weeks earlier to make sure that Lisa would be in the office between 11:30 and noon. Sometime around 11:45, one of the ladies that Lisa works with; interrupted Lisa’s meeting with her boss to tell her someone was at the door for her. Thinking that it possibly could be me arriving early, she opened the door and was surprised and a little confused to see a limo out front and a driver at the door. He asked if she was Lisa Evans and she said that she was. He then told her, ‘I believe you have an appointment.’ and handed her a note. The note, written in her bosses own hand, told her that she was giving Lisa the afternoon off, to go and have fun and that she’d see her that night at the party. Confused, Lisa got her coat…she thought that perhaps I was waiting for her in the limo…I was not, but a dozen white roses were. She got into the limo and the driver took her to Garvin Heights. Garvin Heights is a park that features a spectacular stone overlook of Winona.

The overlook is 575 feet up on top of a bluff and on a clear day, the view stretches for about 17 miles and I was waiting for her at the overlook point. As I stood there waiting for her, looking out at the panoramic vista, I realized how much God has blessed me and how He has restored not just my life, but the life of my kids as well! In that instant, I thought about the past year and God magnificent plan suddenly became clear…it is plain to see now exactly how God’s fingerprints…no, His LOVE was in and through Lisa and my meeting and proceeding relationship.
After what seemed like an eternity, I heard the approaching footsteps of the one who has captured my heart. When I heard her start to climb the stairs, I turned towards her and began to sing. When I got to the end of my song, I dropped to my knee and asked her if she’d do the honor of becoming my wife…and she said…YES!!

Psalm 126:3-6 ‘The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like streams in the Negev. Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.

I have discovered that joy is in the simple things: touching, embracing, chattering on for hours about nothing, sure of your place within another's heart. Simple things like coming home knowing exactly where your treasure lies; like being at ease with who you are and who you're with; Needing, accepting and desiring that which you have been given…content with what you already have; feeling the simple gratitude of being loved; Investing goodness instead of money, time instead of things; giving for the pleasure of giving; seeing Gods plan unfold and take you in its arms. All this joy is ours for the price of loving! Not only loving well, but long days…long years of willing, wise and patient love!


~ V

Living in Squalor

Sally was almost penniless. Her husband Jeb had died years before and while the life insurance paid off the mortgage, she was not prepared. Her life, and the house itself, deteriorated around her as poverty and want became the definition of her daily life. The car was junked long ago as she couldn’t afford to keep it in running condition and had no means to replace it. She scraped by on a few dollars a week for groceries and when the electric bill was too high, she would live by the heat of a Coleman stove and light of a candle. Coffee was too expensive, movies were too expensive, her shoes were too worn and she was too embarrassed so she rarely left home and got by with what little she had. Day after day crept by and she thought, ‘Life was supposed to be better than this, wasn’t it? What happened?’ For years, Sally lived that way, barely getting by and venturing out less and less. One day out of the blue, an old friend from childhood, Miriam, called her on the phone to see how she was doing. Miriam was heart-broken after she listening to Sally’s story and decided to come spend some time with her on vacation. So Miriam flew to Sally’s home and spent a few days helping her sort through her house and clean things up that time and disrepair had deteriorated. In the process of straightening and cleaning out a roll-top desk, Miriam discovered a folder that had the words, ‘For Sally’, written on the front. Inside the folder was a savings book and in the book was an entry made 22 years earlier that showed a balance of $87,000…but that wasn’t all. The folder also contained a yellowed envelope, with a handwritten inscription in Jeb’s handwriting that said. ‘To Sally, with love forever.’ ‘Do you know what this is?’ Miriam asked Sally. Sally searched her memory and at first, couldn’t recall…then she realized, ‘Oh, Yeah…Jeb told me there was something important in his desk for me.’ 22 years after Jeb had lovingly placed the envelope and folder in his desk, Miriam and Sally open the envelope. Miriam watched as Sally opened the envelope and inside was a single folded page and a key. Unfolding the page, Sally read the letter aloud, ‘My dearest love. My time draws short with you, but I want you to know that I’ve provided everything you will need once I’m gone. Check the bank book in the file and take the key to the bank. In loving remembrance, please enjoy life to the full. With love forever…Jeb.’ Sally and Miriam discovered that the key went to a safe deposit box at the local bank. They went to the bank and pulled the box, opened it and inside found several bundles of cash totaling $32,000, a pile of stock certificates and three folders of rare coins. That afternoon, the stockbroker informed them the certificates were worth $550,000. The rare coin dealer appraised the coin folders at $47,000 and the bank calculated interest on the $87,000 of 22 years and brought it to $254,000. All told, Sally was worth $883,000…
For 22 years, Sally had been living in misery and squalor. Her loving husband had prepared for her an inheritance…a way to live her life to the full and not worry and he had provided her access to it.

Lately I have found myself in Sally’s shoes, living in squalor. Not in the monetary sense, but rather in spiritual squalor. I have gone to my spiritual ‘pantry’ and very much like Old Mother Hubbard…I have found that my cupboards are bare. Dangerously low on the things that feed my soul, I become morose, mopey and, well…generally not much fun. When I’m in that kind of funk, I don’t feel that I have the spiritual currency needed to restock those empty shelves & cupboards. Feelings that I don’t deserve happiness or things that are good and pleasing or doubts about my self worth, abound in my mind and steal the joy that I KNOW God intends for me. Some of us needlessly live our lives in spiritual squalor. We’ve willingly signed the adoption papers, accepted His gift of the sacrifice…and yet we sit on His inheritance. We turn our faces towards heaven and bemoan our fate, wondering just like Sally, ‘Life is supposed to be better than this, wasn’t it? What happened?’ Meanwhile, His promises lay unclaimed around us. We have been given the Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit to help us and to encourage us. Both are inexhaustible resources of power and along with prayer, provide sustenance to our spiritual bodies. They are provided to us…all we have to do is pick them up and claim them.

Matthew 25:34 - "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.”

John 10:10 – “…I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full.”

A good place for me to start living the type of life that Jesus talked about in the above verse, was to sit myself down and actually meditate on all of the blessings God has so lovingly lavished upon me. There are just SO many things in life that I have taken for granted…became complacent about…my prayer is that God will allow me to see these things anew each and every day…

Psalm 103

Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits-

who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,

who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,

who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.

He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel:

The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.

He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever;

he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him;

as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;

for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.

As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field;

the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.

But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children-

with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.

The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.

Praise the LORD, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word.

Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will.

Praise the LORD, all his works everywhere in his dominion. Praise the LORD, O my soul.

Have you forgotten all of His benefits?...When everyone else seems to have abandoned you...when everything material seems to have lost its luster...God will STILL be there. He always has been...always will be...

~ V

Reflections on a Journey - part 3

Writing in my BLOG and relating my thoughts, fears and struggles, gave me a sense of comfort and definitely had its therapeutic effects and got me through some of the darkest days of my life.
And then God delivered a droplet of hope onto my dry and weary soul. How many times had I cried out to God, ‘What now Lord?! You KNOW my soul! I know you understand this loneliness…this emptiness I feel!’ Even so, God continued to open the skies and the droplet became a shower. Without realizing it, the shower became a torrent and before I knew it, that small droplet of hope that God had blessed me with became a river which swept over me and even the kids. This river…this hope, washed away the grit and grime of despair and prepared me for where I am today!

River of Hope (by Lisa Evans)

There is a mighty river
Flowing out of your hand
To the dry and weary soul
Hope, like a river flows.
Oh, I’ve drank from this river
I thought would never end.
Now hope eludes me,
Loneliness ensues me
And calls me his friend.
Oh, friend…..I remember you.

River of hope
You’ve gone and left me dry
And I’ve not the will to try
To find my way again.
Lord of all,
Have you let go of my hand?
For I do not understand
Why I walk this path of life alone.

Have I not called you Savior?
Have you not called me your friend?
What have you healed me for?
This open door
That leads to emptiness?
Oh, I closed that door
So many years ago,
Still hope eludes me
Emptiness ensues me
And calls me his friend.
Oh, friend…..I remember you.

River of hope
You’ve gone and left me dry
And I’ve not the will to try
To find my way again.
Lord of all,
Have you let go of my hand?
For I do not understand
Why I walk this path of life alone.

Oh, I’ve lost my way
Come and find me, Lord
I’m desperate for you…
I’m desperate for you, Jesus.
There on the bank of this river
Comes my Savior again!
With His love, He moves me
In His arms, He soothes me
And calls me His friend.
Oh, friend…..I remember you.

River of hope
Flow into my soul
With my Savior, I know
I’ll find my way again.
Lord of all,
You’re still holding my hand
One day I’ll understand
Why I walked this path of life alone.
Jesus, I know I don’t walk this path alone.

Lisa wrote this song at or close to the same time that I was dealing with my feelings of loneliness and struggles against uselessness. She was dealing with her own inner struggles and desires after being alone for over three years. She wondered and struggled against the fact that while God didn’t remove her desire to love and be loved again…He hadn’t opened the door either. It was only after she had finally gotten to the point where God needed her to be…to the place that while she still desired to end her loneliness, she realized and accepted that having God was sufficient, that He opened that door…

…So, here we are, a year later and the path of tears and sorrows are clearly marked with the footprints of Jesus where He walked with me…with us, each and every step of the way. He protected me from bitterness and blaming Him, for which I am SO grateful. He truly became my source of comfort and strength. Am I perfect? Did I always make the right choices or decisions? No…and sometimes when I’m down and my spirit is heavy, the evil one takes advantage and hits those soft…sore spots and some of us still struggle with the whys and the meaning of it all and how to move on, but God has provided that river of hope which is always just a step away where we can cleanse and refresh ourselves. I have seen a great deal of healing in all of us and God wants to finish that…when each of us is ready.

Amy is sorely missed and loved. The legacy she left behind still lives on in our memories and our children. It lives on in the lives she touched and the children she taught. She will never be forgotten because I won’t allow it to happen…Lisa won’t allow it to happen and God won’t allow it to happen.

Ephesians 3:20-21 ‘Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.’

~ V

Reflections on a Journey - part 2

…The days came and went and the weeks ran together. When I laid in my bed alone at night and the house was quiet, my room dark and there was nothing to distract my thoughts…the demons of loneliness and doubt would assail my mind and attack my self-worth. How would I EVER make it?? What am I to do now? I can’t be both father and mother to my kids. Who was I kidding?

Like a worn and used toy, I felt like I was broken and useless…and just like a broken toy, would I be set upon a shelf…forgotten…collecting dust? Or simply just discarded… Often I would cry into the night, wondering if I would love or be loved again. I have never been the type of person who likes being alone for long periods of time. Loneliness does things to my mind and I tend to withdraw more and isolate myself, which creates more loneliness and just adds to my feelings of uselessness and despair. The funny thing is that I knew and recognized this about myself and yet, I had rarely done anything to stop it. For example, I KNEW while in the midst of these feelings, that if I turned to God’s word and started reading about His praises (Psalms), these feelings would quickly vanish because the thoughts had no root in truth.

Over the next several months, through prayer, reading God’s Word and the support of family and a few friends, God started to piece my life back together. As I said earlier, I had done most of my grieving in the midst of Amy’s journey. I fully admit that it was a VERY fine line to walk…grieving and yet trusting and having the faith that God could/would heal her. Faith begins when you see God on the mountain and you’re in the valley…you know that you’re too weak to make the climb. You see what you need…you look at what you have and what you have isn’t enough to accomplish anything…The biographies of bold disciples almost always begin with chapters of honest fear. Fear of death, fear of failure, fear of loneliness, fear of failing to trust that God knows what’s best for us…and so, feeling lost and utterly alone, I clung to God’s promises:

Jeremiah 29:11 ‘For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’

Hebrews 13:5-6 ‘Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. So we say with confidence, The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’

John 14:27 ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid’

Isaiah 26:3 ‘You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.’

~ V

Reflections on a Journey - part 1

...and so, the time is here, the count down has begun. A year has nearly past since Amy lost her battle with cancer and as I think back on that time and even go back and read my entries (in my other blog) for these dates, that time comes rushing back to me afresh. The things I wish we could have…even should have done used to haunt me and cause me much pain and even anger…are but a memory and have lost their significance. The one thing that stands out…has always stood out to me is her bravery and the peace that she displayed to the very end. Yes, she had moments where she was scared…moments of concern for the future, but these things did not rule her. Her bravery and her unwavering faith stood and even to this day still stands as a witness to all of what one should do when facing your own death.

This year has seen a lot of change in each of us, some wonderful and even miraculous…others not so much. Struggles to find ourselves in the midst of pain and sorrow…without a mother…without a wife, cut a deep furrow into the lives we grew accustomed to. Like solders on a battlefield, we wandered…shell shocked and weary, some of us searched for reasons why…and others searched for something…anything to fill the void of loneliness that was suddenly there. Anger, hurt, denial, loneliness, guilt and regret all pursued us and threatened to shake the very faith that Amy held onto and that had supplied the hope and peace all of us sorely needed and depended upon during this journey that all of us traversed. There is a window in our hearts through which we can see God. Once upon a time, for us, that window was clear…our view of God was crisp, sharply in focus and we could see God as vividly as we could see the leaves of a tree blowing in the wind or the rushing water flow over the rocks in a brook. Then suddenly and quite unexpectedly, the window cracked. A small pebble…a pebble of pain…had struck and broken the window. Abruptly and without warning, God wasn’t quite so simple to see. The view that was so crystal clear before, was distorted and twisted from the spider web of cracks that were spreading outward from where the pebble…the pain…impacted our lives. We were confused because our eyes couldn’t see that which our hearts knew to be true and for awhile, some of us started to question: God wouldn’t allow something like this to happen, would He? Hebrews 11:1 says, ‘Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.’ I came to realize that there are times when we can’t see Jesus…when everything around us is pitch black and the world is spinning and Satan is laughing and the world points their finger at you and it seems that you are surrounded and you have no where to go…when you can’t see Him, trust Him. Hebrews 13:5b says, ‘…Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.’ …though our view was dimmed and distorted and that which we did see frightened us…Jesus was closer than we thought...

~ V

Taking Him at His word...

Romans 8:37 'In ALL these things we have full victory through God, who showed His love for us...'

When it comes to healing our own spiritual condition, we don't stand a chance...we simply can not do it! We might as well be asked to pole-vault the moon. We don't have what it takes to heal or even BE healed...Our one and ONLY hope is that God will do for us what He did for the man at Bethesda; that He will step out of the temple and step into our life of hurt and helplessness. Which is exactly what He has done. I wish we...I wish I would always take Jesus at His word...

When He says we're forgiven, let's unload the guilt...
When He says we're valuable, let's throw off the doubt and believe Him...
When He says we're provided for, let's stop worrying how we'll make it through...

God's efforts are strongest when we finally realize that our efforts are useless.

~ V

Of Weddings and Kindness

The weekend before last, the kids, Lisa and I went back to Iowa. It was my nephew (on Amy’s side) Blake’s and his fiancĂ©e Amanda’s wedding. The plan was that as the kids and I would go to the wedding and reception, while Lisa would spend some time with my family getting to know them better (and finding out some secrets about me from my sisters no doubt!). About a week or a little more before the wedding, Kelly, Amy’s older sister and Blake’s mother, called me and extended an invitation for Lisa to come to the wedding and reception. I was a bit surprised, but very happy for her thoughtfulness in stepping forward like she did. Many people wouldn’t have done this, in fact, given similar circumstances; many people wouldn’t want anything to do with a new person let alone invite them to a very special family event like a wedding. Yes, there were some tears, but Lisa was very warmly received and we had many conversations with the ‘fam’ throughout the evening. Amy was sorely missed…she would have wanted to have been there as Blake was our ring bearer in our wedding, not to mention that Hope was one of the flower girls (she was excited beyond belief to have this honor!) and Amy would have been such a proud mom to see her.
Thank you Kelly…thank you everyone for taking that first step and for making Lisa feel as welcomed as you did! You have no idea how much that meant to me…

Ephesians 3:20-21 'Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.'

~ V

The Baton, the Race and the Brownies

…Here she comes around the last curve of her last lap. I’m ready…knees bent…arm back and palm open. I bounce in anticipation as she runs nearer and my heart beats faster, ready for the hand off. As she closes to within 20 yards, I start to jog and I pick up the pace as she closes to within 10. Leaving my arm back, I no longer watch as I start to run harder…coming up to speed and before I know it, I feel the cold, smooth cylinder slap the palm of my hand and my fingers close around the baton…

Thanks for the hand off hon! If you are reading this and are completely confused right now, you need to go to Lisa’s BLOG entry for today to get caught up! But before I get to the story that Lisa mentioned, this whole idea of passing the baton, running a race and having a teammate got me to thinking. Hebrews 12;1-2 says, ‘Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. ‘ Running a marathon…the exertion and pain as well as the dedication, training and stamina needed to finish such a race in many ways mirrors our Christian walk. We encounter hazards and distractions almost on a daily basis and at times we are faced with a choice and if we choose poorly or haven’t prepared and read our ‘map’ of the course, we can stray from the path and soon become lost…taken out of the race. Take a quick look at the top of my BLOG, under the title…It’s a good thing that we have our trail guide! Jesus has gone out before us and knows the course intimately! As long as we ‘fix our eyes’ on Him and refuse to let ourselves become distracted, our pace can be steady. Now, how much easier is it to run with a partner? To have someone run along side of you, encouraging you each step of the way…to help push you just a little further…to persevere. The same is true for our daily walk with the Lord…reading, praying and discussing life, His word and our troubles with another, eases our burden and helps us not to not feel alone. Matthew 18:20 says ‘For where two or three come together in my name, there I am with them.’ Think about that a second…when you pray with your spouse or your friend or just another Christian, He says that He’s THERE in the midst of what you’re doing, listening and worshiping with you! That’s incredible!

1 Thessalonians 5:11 ‘Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.’

Ephesians 4:29 ‘Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.’

Hebrews 10:25 ‘Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.’

I am thankful for the encouragement that Lisa provides to me. When I get discouraged about something, she is always quick with a word of encouragement or a wise word and although there are times when I may not snap right out of my ‘funk’, she has planted the seed of encouragement which grows and just the fact that she’s there and cares enough to ‘plant’ it is always appreciated!

Brownies. Hmmm, yes…

Psalms 101:3a ‘I will set before my eyes no vile thing.’

I was listening to Focus on the Family on my IPod the other day (I download the podcast for the current day and listen to it, and many others, throughout my work day) and the discussion centered around teenagers and what they consider as acceptable today as compared to even what I considered as acceptable when I was a teen. More specifically, what is shown and available in movies these days. About a month ago, I went to the video rental store here in Baraboo and was actually appalled to see that close to 75% of the movies that were on the new releases wall(s) were what I call ‘hack and slash’ movies. It seems to me that blood and gore co-mingled with near-nudity and sex have come into the mainstream. When I was a kid, yes, we had our share of horror movies, but it seems to me with the SAW and HOSTEL movies, they have taken 'horror' to a new level. It’s bad enough to have a monster unleash a killing spree, but now it’s about torture and maiming and showing these acts in vivid, graphic detail. One has to wonder what these images do to the minds of our teenagers. Anyway…A story was related about two teenagers who approached their father about going to a movie. The father asked what the movie was about and the kids said that the movie was super hyped and that all of their friends have been talking about it for weeks about how it’s going to be a blockbuster and set ALL types of sales records within the first week. Again, the father asked what it was about. What the father gathered from what his kids told him about the movie was that it portrayed graphic violence, blood, gore and a highly sexual scene that while not showing any nudity (so it can be PG-13, I’m sure), didn’t leave much to the imagination. The kids ended their sales pitch by telling their father the movie had just a little bit of bad in it and when compared to how great the rest of it would be, it would hardly be noticed. The father told his kids that he’d think about it and let them know his decision tomorrow. The next day, the father called his kids into the dinning room and on the table before him was a plate of brownies. The father explains to his children that he has decided to let them go to the movie…on one condition. All smiles and excited, the kids say ‘Sure! Anything!’ The father proceeds to tell them that they can go to the movie if and only if they have one of his brownies. However, just like the movie, the brownies have pros and cons. He assures them that the brownies are made with the finest chocolate that he could find and with the freshest ingredients that could be bought and personally handmade from scratch. The downside was that he added just a little bit of dog poop to the brownies, but that he made sure to mix it in really well and that he’s sure that any bacteria would have been killed during baking. He went on to say that it was jst a little bit of dog poop and that he was certain that with the high quality of the rest of the ingredients, they would hardly notice. The kids were aghast! They were shocked that their father would want them eat something that was so disgusting and they told him as much! He asked them, ‘Then why on Earth would I allow you to take into your mind anything so vile, so filthy as the movie as you have asked me to allow you to see?’ Philippians 4:8 says this - ‘Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.’ Hmmm, something to think about. We are constantly bombarded with the images that the world tells us are acceptable…would you want to look at these things with the eyes of Christ? If not…why are you looking at them with yours?

What are you mixing into your brownies?

~ V

So…how foolish are you?

1 Cor 3:18

On our very first date, Lisa gave me a small desk calendar as a gift. Through the previous weeks of talking on the phone, she discovered that I like to golf and this daily desktop calendar combines photos of beautiful golf courses and a daily Bible verse. Today's verse says this: 'Let no one deceive themselves. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.' That verse brought to mind an earlier verse in the 1st chapter of the same book. Verse 27 says, 'But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.' That verse has always impressed me. I'm not sure if it's the stark contrast that is portrayed or the whole 'let's root for the underdog' theme, but it shows me how exactly diametrically opposed the world's view is compared to God's.

Being called a fool isn't always an insult…for example, when someone says that he or she is 'a golfing fool' or a 'shopping fool', it really means that the person is ridiculously committed to whatever activity they are diligently pursuing. Are you ridiculously committed to Jesus Christ? Shouldn't we be so ridiculously committed to Him, that we crave to know Him better? Crave to love Him deeper? Crave to put feet and action to our faith. Shouldn't we be so ridiculously committed to Him that just like the need of a firefighter to save the residents of a burning building, we should approach each person we come in contact with the need to share Christ. Ridiculously focused, ridiculously tenacious, with a ridiculous amount of love and patience! We should be so ridiculous about it that we can't help but want to talk to Him and about Him…live in Him and for Him...so ridiculous about Him that we give up what we've been, in exchange for what we can become...

Let mercy lead
Let love be the strength in your legs
And in every footprint that you leave
There'll be a drop of grace
If we can reach Beyond the wisdom of this age
Into the foolishness of God
That foolishness will save
Those who believe
Although their foolish hearts may break
They will find peace
And I'll meet you in that place
Where mercy leads
(as taken from Rich Mullins song - Let Mercy Lead)

~ V

Attention to Detail…

I want you to take 10 minutes, go outside and take a walk. Don’t take your cell phone or IPod or anything else that could distract you while you’re out there. I want you to shut all cares of life and thoughts of what you need to do today out of your mind and focus on the sights, sounds and smells of creation. Keenly observe what’s happening on the ground or in the trees. Listen intently to the sounds of the birds and squirrels…even the sound of the wind through the leaves. Inhale deeply the scents of autumn. Pick up and feel the texture of a leaf or the fine hairs on a wooly caterpillar. Go do this right now, I will still be here when you get back…

It only takes a few minutes looking outside to realize the awesome beauty, splendor and minute detail of God’s creation. I think this is especially true in the fall, where the very changing of the leaves provides a vibrant ‘canvas’ that displays Gods masterpiece of purpose, order and beauty. If you went and sat on the ground and observed the insects and animals during this time of the year, they too are changing and preparing as their fur grows thicker to accommodate the impending winter and they work to store up food so they will not starve during the coldest days of January. Are these changes and actions just some random evolutionary event? Have they been thrown together haphazardly by some cosmic randomizer? Not a chance! These things do not occur out of chaos, if they did, why would winter follow fall each year, why does the Earth spin on its axis at the same rate instead of randomly changing speed and rotation? No, rather they are well ordered and specifically timed…planned by design. The bible says (Matt 6: 26-32) that if the Lord concerns Himself with the delicate beauty of the flower or the feeding of the birds, how much MORE does He care and want to take care of us?! Ok, now I’m going to stretch your thought process a little here…If you can see God’s masterful beauty and plan in the lilies of the field and the beat of the hummingbird’s wings, can you see the stroke of the Master’s hand and the drafting of His perfect plan through the trials, testings and even tragedies this life brings us? There are MANY things that happen to us during the course of our lives that we may not understand; the death of a loved one, a divorce or even loss of income or property. These times are VERY painful and there may even come times when you drop to your knees and cry out ‘WHY GOD???!!! WHY???!!! Where are you in my time of need?’ But even in these trying and troubled situations, Gods hand is at work! 1 Thessalonians 3:3 says this ‘…None of you should turn back because of these persecutions. You yourselves know that such persecutions are part of God’s will for us.’ And in 1 Peter 4:12-13, ‘Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.’ And also in 1 Peter 1:6-7 ‘This means tremendous joy to you, even though at present you may be temporarily harassed by all kinds of trials. This is no accident--it happens to prove your faith, which is infinitely more valuable than gold, and gold, as you know, even though it is ultimately perishable, must be purified by fire.’ I believe that God also uses these times to prepare us for His use. God’s plan for each of us is perfect and perfectly planned down to the finest detail. Take the story of Chuck Colson for example. A former Nixon White House aide during the 1970’s Watergate scandal, he plead guilty to obstruction of justice and was sent to prison for a period of time. Shortly before he was sentenced, A man by the name of Tom Phillips pointed him to Christ and Chuck humbly cried out, "God, take me as I am.” During his incarceration, Chuck observed first hand the hopelessness and desperation his fellow convicts displayed. God started a work in Chuck the very day he stepped into prison and after his release, he founded Prison Fellowship Ministries as a way to provide hope and real change into these men and their families. Who better to empathize with a prisoner then a fellow ex-convict? Who better to empathize with a grieving child than someone who has also lost a parent? These people, acutely aware of the pain and struggles one has to endure, can more readily identify with the individual and the love of Christ can pour out and through them into hearts of the people God brings into their lives.

Romans 5: 3-5 says: ‘but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.’

Wow! Twice in 1 Peter and now in Romans, we are told not only to expect difficult trials, but we’re admonished to rejoice when they occur! How does that work? I mean, it’s one thing to read this and acknowledge what it says…it’s quite another to put it into practice. Believe me; I know…Does that mean you don’t have moments of weakness where you cry out to God? Or where you wonder why this is happening or why God doesn’t change the situation? NOT AT ALL! But it DOES matter where you turn to during these times. Do you turn to God and seek His peace, comfort and solace? Or do you turn to the world and let yourself become embittered and set yourself on a pathway to further pain and destruction? Ok, but practically, how do we do this? How can we rejoice in the face disaster, pain and loss? In 2 Corinthians 10:5 we are told, ‘We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.’ …look at it this way, every thought that enters our mind is processed. We take information, think about it, sort it and use it to formulate decisions and actions. As this information enters our minds, we need to take control of it immediately and hold it up to the truths and teachings of Christ and sometimes even make a seemingly innocent thought submit to God’s will (i.e. you might have the opportunity to make $10,000 more a year in a new job, the job itself isn’t bad or wrong, but if it isn’t God’s will then you have to submit to God’s will). To help us in this mental battle (yes, it IS a battle), Philippians 4:8 tells us, ‘Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.’

I’ve been struggling a lot lately with missing Lisa and the fact that we live 2 hours apart and only get to see each other on weekends. I’ve been focusing on the downside of things and by doing that, have been letting Satan steal the joy from the moments we do have together. I don’t want to do that anymore! I want to enjoy and hold dear every moment Lisa and I spend together and rejoice in the Lord that we are able to see each other as often as we do! Will I still wrestle with the loneliness and the need to see Lisa more? I’m sure of it! But, now instead of accepting a mopey attitude, I can hold those thoughts captive and focus on the lovely things, the admirable, pure and true things that God has done in my life. And so I’ve found that it’s very difficult to maintain any justification for my mopiness when I fill my thoughts with praises for my heavenly Father or when I contemplate the vast number of blessings He has lavished on my unworthy and at times, unthankful soul.

…Can you see Him in the details of your life?

~ V

...do not delay

Psalm 40

1 I waited patiently for the LORD;
he turned to me and heard my cry.

2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.

3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear
and put their trust in the LORD.

4 Blessed is the man
who makes the LORD his trust,
who does not look to the proud,
to those who turn aside to false gods.

5 Many, O LORD my God,
are the wonders you have done.
The things you planned for us
no one can recount to you;
were I to speak and tell of them,
they would be too many to declare.

6 Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but my ears you have pierced,
burnt offerings and sin offerings
you did not require.

7 Then I said, "Here I am, I have come—
it is written about me in the scroll.

8 I desire to do your will, O my God;
your law is within my heart."

9 I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly;
I do not seal my lips, as you know, O LORD.

10 I do not hide your righteousness in my heart;
I speak of your faithfulness and salvation.
I do not conceal your love and your truth
from the great assembly.

11 Do not withhold your mercy from me, O LORD;
may your love and your truth always protect me.

12 For troubles without number surround me;
my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see.
They are more than the hairs of my head,
and my heart fails within me.

13 Be pleased, O LORD, to save me;
O LORD, come quickly to help me.

14 May all who seek to take my life
be put to shame and confusion;
may all who desire my ruin
be turned back in disgrace.

15 May those who say to me, "Aha! Aha!"
be appalled at their own shame.

16 But may all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation always say,
"The LORD be exalted!"

17 Yet I am poor and needy;
may the Lord think of me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
O my God, do not delay.

In the past, when I had my quiet time with the Lord, I’ve chosen when, I’ve chosen the length, I’ve chosen the book…yeah, I have an ‘I’ problem! So, the other day, while reading a paper on blended families, the writer introduced me to the idea of radically changing my approach to prayer. He said ‘If we truly want radical change in our lives, our marriages/relationships, our families, or our children, we need to radically change our approach to prayer. Insanity has been described as “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” The same is true of our prayer life. If we pray the same amount of time, with the same lack of zeal, with the same weak sacrifice and the same level of distraction, we CANNOT and WILL NOT experience change.’ That bowled me over! And it got me to thinking…what could happen, no…what WOULD happen if I applied that to my quiet time…what if I applied that to how I approach reading God’s word? God is challenging me to approach His word with a boldness and expectation. In James 4:2-3 it reads, ‘You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.’ So, that’s what I did today. I prayed in earnest before opening His word. I asked Him to lead me to were He needed me to read, to open my mind to His wisdom and to His teaching and to give me His heart so that I might have the compassion and humbleness to apply whatever teaching He brings to me to my life. The passage above is what He lead me to this morning.

Be bold! Be Radical! Approach God with zeal and a hunger! Approach His word with expectation…but let HIM lead you!

God is SO good!

~ V

Our Hands

Job 17:9 – But those who do right, will continue to do right, and those whose hands are not dirty with sin will grow stronger.

“I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God's hands, that I still possess” ~ Martin Luther

What if a film producer came to you and wanted to do a documentary, a biography if you will, on your hands? What would we see? Most likely it would begin by panning it a newborn’s quaking fist…shaking from the wailing and stark cold of the world you just entered. The next scene might show a close up of your infant fingers gently wrapped around mommy’s finger and the next your toddler hands gripping a chair as you learned to walk…what would we see as you got older? …hands extended as you gave a gift…hands placing a ring on another’s finger…hands cleaning and dressing a wound or making repairs. What about the scenes showing your hands taking more than giving? Or your hands clenched in anger or hurting?
Oh, the power we have in our hands! We can kill with a stroke or save a life through the work of our hands. Leave them unmanaged and they become weapons clawing for power, strangling for survival and seducing for gratification. But manage them, and our hands become instruments of grace…not just tools in the hands of God, but the VERY hands of God!

Oh be careful like hands what you do, oh be careful little hands what you do
For the Father up above is looking down in love, oh be careful little hands what you do…

~ Vince

Winds of Change...

Well, today finally came…first day back to school! It was a mixed bag at my house as everyone got up right away and proceeded to get ready and off on time, but Hope was a little nervous about meeting her new teacher, Vinny was just plain ready, Brittany was very business like and Trevor while ready, just didn’t seem as into it. He’s been taking some hard hits in football lately and so I think he was just tired and a little sore! I must admit that it was odd doing it all on my own this year…the shopping, getting their backpacks ready, going to the school’s open houses…yeah, but we made it and so starts another year. A big year of changes…Vinny’s last year in elementary, Trevor’s first year at the high school, Brittany’s last year in high school…change is everywhere I look, it’s in the air and it crouches as if ready to spring…
If you had the power to change your future, would you? If you knew that on September 25th, 2010 at 5:34pm you would die in a car accident, would you avoid traveling on that day? Or that on December 24th 2009 at 7:13pm, a string of Christmas lights would short out, burning your house to the ground, would you choose to leave your lights off…maybe even unplugged? Of course you would! Who in their right mind, knowing these things were to occur, would allow the appointed time to pass without attempting to alter the outcome?? When faced with the possibility of spending eternity in heaven or hell, why are people so cavalier about their souls? Hell is a place of physical agony, mental suffering, loneliness and emotional sorrow. Jesus described it as a place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. It’s a place of insecurity and fear and is described as a bottomless pit, an abyss, a lake of fire and a place where every moment is lived in uncertainty. Hell is a pit of darkness; totally devoid of light. It is pitch black with nothing to distract people from their suffering, sorrow, fears and torment. All of this will be without end; every moment of every day…for the rest of eternity (Jude 6, Matt 5:21-23, Matt 7:23, Matt 8:12, Matt 13:42, 50, Matt 25:30, 2 Peter 3-5, Rev 20:15).
There is a way, the ONLY way actually, that you CAN change your future and know beyond a shadow of a doubt where you will spend eternity. Romans 3:23 says, ‘For ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.’ You and I are in the same boat…we are ALL sinners, from the little white lie to stealing and much much worse. Again, in Romans (6:23) the Bible tells us the consequences of our sin, ‘For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ The hope that we have is in Jesus Christ, God’s son and perfect payment for our sins past, present and future! John 3:16 says this, ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Believe…trust…be free!

~ Vince

Simple Story...simple choice.

For all of its many books and various authors, the Bible has a basic...very simple story; God made man. Man rejected God. God wont give up until He wins him back.
God will whisper...He will shout...He will touch and tug at our lives...He will take away our burdens...He may even take away our blessings. If we are separated from Him by a thousand steps, He'll take all of them but one. He will leave that final step to us...the choice is ours.
Please understand, His goal is not to necessarily make you happy...or rich...or famous. His goal is to make you His! His goal is not to get you what you want; it's to give you what you need.

God does what we cannot do so we can be what we dare not dream...perfect before God.

~ Vince

Who Can You Count On?

Luke 4: 28-30: ‘All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.’

Between the time when Jesus was a boy and His parents found him sitting among the teachers in the temple courts and the verse above, Jesus had spent His childhood in Nazareth, helping His father with the family business of carpentry. He must have been well known - the excellency of His character and conduct must have attracted notice as I’m sure He stood out among the other children of the town.
In time, after He was a grown man, He left Nazareth, was baptized by John the Baptist, and began the work His heavenly father intended for Him. The inhabitants of Nazareth, no doubt, often said to each other, “He will surely come home and see His parents! When He comes we will go hear what the carpenter’s son has to say.” I’m sure that through the years that Jesus was gone from His home town, curiosity, excitement and I’m sure a certain amount of rumor circulated throughout the town as news of His preaching and miraculous healings reached Nazareth. I’m sure many hoped that He would make Nazareth famous among the cities and the tribes. Perhaps He would even settle down there and attract a crowd of customers to their shops by becoming the great Physician, the great Wonderworker of the district.
Some time later, Jesus returned home, and as Sabbath drew near, interest around town grew very intense as people pondered, “What do you think, will He be at the synagogue tomorrow? And if He is, will He speak?” On the Sabbath, when he saw that Jesus was present, the high priest passed the scroll containing the Holy Scriptures to Jesus, so that He might read a passage and possibly share His keen insight on what was read. All eyes were focused on Him, as the people there eagerly awaited His teaching. He took the scroll, unfolded it to a passage and read: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
They were all astonished as they had never heard anyone speak so eloquently or with such force or conviction. Soon the synagogue was buzzing, as each man said to his fellow, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t His mother called Mary? From where, then, has this Man all these things?” They were astonished and envious, too. Jesus, knowing that it was not His purpose to astonish people but to change their hearts, changed the subject. Jesus turned from a subject full of blessing and promise and He spoke to them personally and pointedly. Jesus told them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: 'Physician, heal yourself! Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.” He then told them that He did not recognize their claims that even though He had grown up in Nazareth, even knew many of them personally, He felt no obligation to display His power to suit their pleasure. And as a case in point, He showed that Elijah, was sent to bless not an Israeli widow, but rather a Gentile woman, specifically a Canaanite! And He also shared that Elisha was sent to heal the leprosy of a stranger in a far off land, rather then one of many Israelis who also had this dreadful disease. In doing this, Jesus introduced the doctrine of Sovereign Grace! This, along with other circumstances connected with the sermon, so enraged the entire congregation that those very eyes which first had looked upon Him with wonder and amazement, now glared at Him with accusation and hatred! They rose up at once, filled with rage and indignation…Forgetting the holiness of the day and breaking up their own worship, they dragged Him out of the synagogue, drove Him out of town and up the side of a large hill that over looked the town where they had intended to throw Him off the cliff to be dashed on the jagged rocks below. Now get this…(I LOVE this part!!), ‘But He walked right through the crowed and went on His way.’

This mob, this riotous group of people who were SO enraged that they wanted to throw Jesus of a cliff, they weren’t strangers…They were close friends…they were people He grew up with. Most likely they were people He built houses for with His father! People He ran errands for as a young boy. Kids He played with…People He knew and knew very well! Some might very well have been Uncles or Aunts…cousins even. These were the people who knew Him, watched Him grow up and knew His character! And yet, none of that mattered! Friendships, neighborly love and even blood relation ceased to matter. His character…His good heart and caring attitude that each of them intimately knew, no longer entered their minds. Although in the past He had proven Himself trustworthy time after time…proven His love and concern for them throughout the years, accusation, fear and anger blinded them to the truth. In an instant Jesus went from being a most honored son of the town, to becoming a stranger in His own land…A stranger who was despised and rejected.

Have you been despised and rejected? Possibly by someone you called friend? Maybe even by your own family? Lack of understanding and of grace…possibly even selfishness, causes us at times to hurt those we love the most. Ephesians 4:31 says, ‘Do not be angry or mad. Never shout angrily or say things to hurt others.’ Hatred will sour your outlook and break your back. The load of bitterness is simply too heavy; your knees will buckle under the strain and your heart will break under the weight. The wisest choice…the ONLY choice is to drop the anger.

Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe, sin has left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.

…You will NEVER be called to give anyone more grace than God has already given you.

~ Vince

God's Eye Exam

Hebrews 10:14 – [With one sacrifice] He made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

Hebrews 10:17 – Their sins and the evil things they do, I will not remember anymore.

Underline the word perfect. Note that word is not better…not improving…not on the upswing. God doesn’t merely improve, He perfects! He doesn’t enhance, He completes!

Now, I realize that there’s a sense in which we’re imperfect. We still make mistakes or make the wrong choices…we still stumble. We still do exactly what we don’t want to do (Romans 7: 7-25)! And that part us is, according to Hebrews 10:14, ‘being made holy’.

People with myopia see nearby objects clearly but distant objects appear blurred. With myopia, the images are focused on the inside the eye rather than on the retina at the back of the eye. Optometrists normally correct myopia through the use of glasses or contact lenses.

When it comes to our position before God, we’re perfect. When He looks upon each of us whom He has called, He sees us as one who has been made perfect through the perfecting ‘lens’…through the only one who CAN perfectly correct the ‘sin vision’ of our heavenly Father…Jesus Christ!

~ Vince

What? Me Worry????

Psalm 32:3 - When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.

Ask yourself two questions:
Is there any unconfessed sin in my life? Confession is admitting to God that you did something that He saw you do. He really doesn’t need to hear it as much as WE need to say it. Whether it’s too small to be mentioned or too big to be forgiven isn’t ours to decide. Our task is to be honest and sincere…

1 John 1:9 - If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteiousness

Are there any unsurrendered worries in my heart? Yeah, that’s a tough one for me; it’s not that I don’t trust God, I do. It’s more giving up the control. The German word for worry means ‘to strangle’. The Greek word means ‘to divide the mind’. Both are accurate. Worry is a noose around the neck and a distraction of the mind.

Romans 14:23b – …everything that does not come from faith is sin.

If you think about it, worry is in direct conflict with faith, how can you exercise faith when you’re worried about a situation? You simply can not have faith that God will take care of a situation and harbor worry about it as well (remember what God tells us about being lukewarm!). Now, being concerned about something is not necessarily the same as worry, but "concern" becomes "worry" when we fail to relate the situation that confronts us to our source of sufficiency in God. To worry is to assume a responsibility that is not necessarily ours to assume; failing to recognize that God is bigger than any problem we might have, and loves us enough to seek our highest good in the midst of every situation, effectively takes God out of the equation and taking God out of our lives shows disobedience.

So…what are we to do? How do we escape the trap that is worry? The energy that we spend worrying can be put to much better use by turning to God in prayer. Remember this: Worry replaced by Prayer equals Trust.

1 Peter 5:7 – Give all your worries to Him, because He cares about you.

Philippians 4:6 – Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.

Matthew 6:31-33 – So don't worry about these things, saying, 'What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?' These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

When we keep our eyes focused on God, remember his love for us and know that He ultimately has our best interest at heart, we realize we truly have nothing to worry about. God has a wonderful plan for our lives, and part of that plan includes taking care of us. Even in the difficult times, when it seems like God doesn't care, we can put our trust in the Lord and focus on his kingdom. God will take care of our every need.

~ Vince

And it Rained...

Lisa and the boys came for a visit this weekend and while it rained almost the entire time, we still had fun. Previous to them coming, we had talked about taking the kids miniature golfing and I had planned on taking Lisa on a romantic walk to one of Baraboo’s most scenic places, Parfrey’s Glen. Parfrey's Glen (a Scottish word for a narrow, rocky ravine), is a beautiful gorge deeply incised into the sandstone that is typical of the Baraboo Hills. The sandstone walls of the glen are embedded with pebbles and boulders of quartzite. The moss-covered walls are moist from seepage, cool and shaded and a fast, cold, hardwater stream flows through the center of it. The rain kept us from enjoying most outdoor activities like miniature golf or going on that walk (I’ll save that for another time), so we decided to take everyone bowling…and so did everyone else in Baraboo! When we got there, they only had one open lane, so we packed everyone up and headed to the Dell’s to one of their bowling alleys…They had an hour and a half wait! So…you got it, we went all the way back to the bowling alley we originally tried, hoping beyond hope that they still had the one lane open, but they didn’t! It was obvious that the rain had driven everyone indoors and faced with the fact that every indoor activity, here in Baraboo or in the Dell’s was going to be jam packed with locals or vacationers seeking a dry place to entertain the kids. We decided to just go back to my house, pop a movie in for the kids and just have a low-key afternoon.

The real excitement came late Sunday afternoon when Lisa and the boys were preparing to leave. We had attended church earlier in the day and Lisa had put her cell phone on silent during the service and had forgotten to switch it back. She checked her phone just before leaving and she noticed she had a number of messages, upon calling she found out that Winona and several surrounding towns had flooded and many of the roads leading to and away from Winona were closed. Unknown to us at the time, many of the phone lines were down, making it difficult for Lisa to get a hold of anyone to obtain solid information. While she was trying to find out if her town had flooded, I hopped online to see what I could find out. Several smaller towns had been evacuated, 4 people had died and many people had to be rescued from their homes by boat. Travel to and from the area was not an option. As Lisa started getting in contact with people, she started to worry for her own home and her dog Kirby. She got word that 4 families from her church were displaced because the water had flooded their homes. She finally heard that her house was alright and that there wasn’t any flooding in her town…Whew!

Please keep these people in your prayers as they face cleaning up and expenses that many can not afford. Prayers for God's goodness, peace too.

~ Vince

The Bridge...

When you’re weary, feeling small,
When tears are in your eyes, I will dry them all;
I’m on your side.
When times get rough, and friends just cant be found,
Like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down.
Like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down.

When you’re down and out,When you’re on the street,
When evening falls so hard, I will comfort you.
I’ll take your part.
When darkness comes, and pain is all around
Like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down.
Like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down.

Sail on silvergirl, Sail on by.
Your time has come to shine. All your dreams are on their way.
See how they shine. If you need a friend
I’m sailing right behind.
Like a bridge over troubled water, I will ease your mind.
Like a bridge over troubled water, I will ease your mind.

He is there for us…even when we think we’re alone.
He is faithful…even when we have lost ours.
He is patient…even when we have had the last straw.
He is strong…even when we are exhausted and feel we can not go on.
He provides…even when we feel we have nothing.
He rescues…even when we feel all is lost.

Psalm 138:7
Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes, with your right hand you save me.

Deuteronomy 31:6
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

Psalm 55:22
Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.

2 Corinthians 4: 8-9
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

...So, who's your bridge?

~ Vince

Busy? or Too Busy?

We have all heard or possibly even experienced vacations that are SO tightly scheduled, so full of activity, that when you return to ‘normal’ life, you need a vacation from the vacation! Even our day to day lives get that way. We get up early, go to the gym, work out, run home to shower and get ready for work, rush out the door, drop the kids off to the sitters, school or one of a 1000 activities that we schedule to keep THEM busy, run to Starbucks or Java Joe’s to get our morning ‘go juice’ and run into work. While at work we weed through 100 emails, 10 voice mails and attend a day full of meetings or planning sessions. You have to stay late to get at least SOME work done, so you leave work at 6pm, run through and get some carry-out to take home to the family. Once home you realize the civic organization that you’re involved in to keep yourself ‘well rounded’ has it’s monthly meeting at 6:30pm, so you dash back out to attend the meeting and finally…after a long day…you get home. The kids are in bed…you haven’t seen them except for the 5 minutes you were home between work and the meeting. Your spouse is getting ready for bed too, unless of course they are already there…never seems to be enough time in the day…when will it be time for your family? Society teaches us that we’re doing this for the betterment of our families that we should work harder…longer…more intensely so that we can provide a better life. When faced with a choice, do you think that little Jimmy would prefer cathedral ceilings or mom reading a book to him? Does sally care more for her own bathroom with a vanity or time spent cuddling with daddy? When will we realize that our kids don’t care about the BMW or the hardwood floors? What they want…what they NEED is our time…our un-filtered, un-divided time & love! It’s something SO simple and it requires so little effort on our part…and yet, ALL of us miss that message at times.

This past weekend wasn’t even in the same league as the above scenario, but it was busy! I had the pleasure of taking Lisa down to Iowa to introduce her to my family. After all of the initial introductions, we sat and chatted, shared stories and laughed! Everyone was kind and extended Lisa a very warm welcome! You have to realize how significant that is, as I’m the youngest and my three older sisters have ALWAYS taken it upon them selves to be my protectors (yeah…I’m 44 and they STILL feel like I need to be protected!). I jest, but I am truly thankful for my family and the love and support they have shown my kids, I and now Lisa! The next morning, Donna and my step-mother Dee planned a brunch and my brother John even drove up from Cedar Rapids to attend and meet Lisa! Again, we talked and laughed and Lisa even played the piano while we sang praise songs.

Now, this is where love separates from true love and just regular love…you see, I and the kids had another event to attend. We had plans to go to Cedar Rapids, meet Amy’s family for supper, a baseball game and to spend the night at Sara and Dennis’s new home in Marion! Lisa was a real trooper and stayed behind with my family…boy is SHE brave! Actually, I know she really hit it off with my sisters and I’m sure they shared some of my secrets with her! When we got down to Cedar Rapids, we met everyone at Buffalo Wild Wings for supper. I think we had close to 22 or 23 people in all and it was nice to see everyone again! The Cedar Rapids Kernels lost, but it was a close game and the fireworks afterwards were very nice. By the time we got back to their house, it was after 11pm and time to get my kids to bed. We had kids and adults spread all over the floors up and downstairs and everyone brought an inflatable mattress to sleep on. In the morning, Sara prepared a wonderful breakfast of fruit, muffins, lil’ smokies, and French toast (yum!). We left right after breakfast as I still had a long day ahead of me with going back to Cedar Falls, dropping off Vinny and Hope (for a couple of days with my family), picking up Lisa and traveling back to Baraboo. Once back in Baraboo, I dropped off Brittany and Trevor and took Lisa back up to Sparta where she left her vehicle for the weekend. I finally rolled back home around 8:30pm…a VERY long day

~ Vince

Summers end...

We’re getting ready to start another school year. The older two have already started their sports practices and I’ve started to gather some of the supplies each will need and even have bought some clothes awhile back. This year will be different, not just because their mother wont be here to see them off on the first day, but this year I have a senior in the house. I swear she was just 6 or 10 last year, or it seems that way at least. I find it utterly amazing that in the blink of an eye children, go from building blocks to building career’s. It seems TOO soon…I haven’t had enough time…imparted enough knowledge…given enough guidance to her. She has a strength and a tenacity…those of you who know her, know this quite well! She’s smart and funny and WAY too critical of herself…she was forced to leave her childhood behind way too soon and while that’s not fair, she has never once complained. From first day of kindergarten to senior in high school, time waits for no one.

My pretty Britti girl, remember these things as you approach your senior year:
1) Be kind. Kindness will earn you respect and will draw people to you.
2) Be your own person. Don’t let others shape who YOU want to be.
3) Have fun! Cut loose, step out of your comfort zone and enjoy yourself.
4) Let NOTHING stand in front of your goals! (except God’s leading!)
5) Most importantly, hold onto your faith! Let God draw you close to Him. No one can out comfort the comforter!


She's a soft cool rain on a hot summer’s day.
She makes me laugh with the funny things she has to say.
She's the beat of my heart, and the air that I breathe.
She's the sun and the wind, and autumn’s golden leaves.
She's the pride that I feel when I know she's done what’s right.
She's that warm feeling I get, when I remember tucking her in at night.
She is homework and sports, and a busy social life.
She has this beautiful smile that could light the darkest night.
She is the scared feeling I have when she stays out late.
Or the feeling that I am losing her, when she wants to date.
She's the mixed emotions I have, as I watch her mature and grow.
I tell myself she will never leave, but, I know in my heart that someday she will go.
I hope the man that steals her heart, will treat her like a queen.
Because she deserves so much more, than a man that treats her mean.
I will always cherish the wonderful times we have had.
The best part of my life was being her dad.
So now you know who she is, she's my little girl.
I love her with all my heart and I always will.
~ Vince


I was reading in 2 Peter today when I read the 18th verse of chapter 3. But grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. I’ve read the passage before and have heard sermons on it over the years, but it struck me today as something very foundational to the Christian faith. Our human bodies, without proper nourishment, won’t grow…in fact they grow weaker and weaker until they eventually stop functioning. Why would our spiritual bodies be any different? Growth is the goal of a Christian. Growth produces maturity and maturity confidence. If your child stopped growing and ceased to develop, you as the parent would be concerned right? When a Christian stops growing, help is needed. If you are the same Christian you were a few months ago, be careful. You might be wise to get a check up. Not on your body…but on your heart. Not a physical, but instead, a spiritual…do a check up on these four areas: Prayer, Study, Giving and Fellowship.

~ Vince

Back From the Edge...

No, I didn’t fall off the face of the Earth, nor was I abducted or anything else quite so dramatic. It’s been almost 3 months since I’ve posted anything here and I think it’s past time to bring everyone up to speed. So…where have I been? What have we been doing? What has God done in my life…in OUR lives? This summer has presented it’s challenges, fun, education and the occurrence of something I wasn’t sure would ever happen to me again.

Trevor, Vinny and Hope were all involved in baseball this year. Trevor made the 14 yr olds traveling team and was kept busy with practices and games about twice a week. This was Vinny’s first year participating in baseball where the kids do the pitching. He had practice once a week and games either once or twice a week. This was Hope’s second year in T-Ball. The problem was this; I was able to go to very few of any of the games and none of Hopes. Vinny and Trevor’s baseball games were almost always at the same time or Trevor’s games started at 4:30 or were out of town and Hope’s games were always in the morning. I’ve missed the majority of my kids’ games and this makes me feel like I’ve let them down. Dads are supposed to go and cheer their kids on…support them and encourage them as they play and dream of becoming a sports icon when they grow up.

In July, we went to Iowa for the 4th. I wasn’t able to stay because I had to work the next day, but Trevor, Vinny and Hope stayed behind with Amy’s family through the rest of the week. On Sunday, Amy’s sister Kelly brought them back to Baraboo (Thank you Kelly!). July 12th through the 15th, I took Trevor and Brittany on a little vacation to Lifest in Oshkosh. Lifest is a 5 day Christian rock festival. We saw Casting Crowns, Jeremy Camp, Barlow Girl, Superchick, Third Day and many other bands, but the group who took the crowd by storm was the Newsboys! They were incredible! There was one part in their show when the drummer’s stand raised about 20 feet in the air…then turned sideways…and then SPUN! Good music…GREAT fun…even GREATER message!

Have you ever found yourself living life, working, eating…just doing the very mundane things of everyday? Found yourself on auto-pilot and just going through the motions of living…less for yourself and more for your children? Not that there is no purpose in these things, but the color has drained out of life…the excitement…the joy…gone. Then something happens…something you didn’t expect and takes you completely by surprise. Someone comes into you life who completely turns your world around. You can tell them things that you've never shared with another soul and they absorb everything you say and actually want to hear more. You share hopes for the future, dreams, goals that were never achieved and the many disappointments, sorrows and heartaches life has thrown at you. When something wonderful happens, you can't wait to tell them about it, knowing they will share in your excitement. They are not embarrassed to cry with you when you are hurting or laugh with you when you make a fool of yourself. The things that seem insignificant to most people such as a note, song or walk become invaluable treasures kept safe in your heart to cherish forever. Colors seem brighter and more brilliant. Laughter seems part of daily life again where before it was infrequent or didn't exist at all. A phone call or a series of text messages during the day helps to get you through a long day's work and always brings a smile to your face. In their presence, you find yourself talking about nothing in particular, just to hear their voice. Things like certain forms of music that never interested you before become fascinating because you know they are important to this person who is so special to you. You think of this person on every occasion and in everything you do. Simple things bring them to mind like a pale blue sky, gentle wind or even a storm cloud on the horizon. You open your heart knowing that there's a chance it could be broken and in opening your heart, you experience a love and joy that you thought was gone forever.
On January 16th of this year, I wrote (in my previous blog) about how the devastation of a hurricane compares to the devastation of losing a loved one. How there are those who will come in…help clean up the mess…at least that which is visible and just as quickly as they descend on ones life, like so much mist…they are gone. Only one person commented on that entry and her name was Lisa. She introduced herself as a friend of Kari Marley’s (a close friend of Amy’s. Kari and Amy got to know each other through the Parent’s Support Group at the elementary school). Kari’s older sister Chris and Lisa have been best friends since childhood and went to school together. Lisa went on to say that she’s been reading the BLOG and that she hoped I didn’t mind. She also said that she’s been praying for the kids and me. I emailed her back thanking her for the note and telling her she’s more than welcome to make comments. Over the next several months Lisa would comment from time to time on something I wrote, but that was it. Until five months later on May 17th…Lisa wrote to me again commenting on my entry for mother’s day and how it touched her and caused her to think of the many children who, like my kids, also didn’t have a mother to celebrate with. She also asked how I was doing with everything. That she noticed how I continue to write about the kids and related how they are doing and what they’re involved in, but really hadn’t talked about how I was doing through all of this. We traded several more emails and over the next couple of weeks moved from chatting online to talking on the phone. Over the past few months that we’ve been seeing each other, we have grown very close and our budding love has blossomed into a genuinely deep, rich, fully mature love! When I’m apart from her, my thoughts and heart never stray far from her. When we’re together, we laugh and we talk like we’ve known each other for years. Through her, God has brought joy and happiness back into my life! Many of you maybe wondering…’wow! Isn’t this too soon?...he’s just replacing Amy.’ Philippians 4:7 says this, 'And the peace of God, which trancends ALL understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Jesus Christ'. I know Gods finger prints are all over our relationship. His divine hand, guidance and healing have touched and lead both Lisa and I to each other. If you think that I’m just out to ‘fill the void’ or replace Amy, then you don’t know the healing peace that God can give those who have asked. I loved Amy and will ALWAYS hold dear the memories of our life together. In my eyes, Lisa stands fully on her own and I love her for what she brings out in me, for the love she shows my children and for the love she has for God. Jeremiah 29:11 says this: 'For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future'. Through the pain and sorrow of last year, God's promise held true...He DOES have a future for us and I quite often find that God's timing isn't necessarily our own...no, His timing is perfect.
So here I sit, watching His plan unfurl before my very eyes! I praise the Lord for bringing Lisa into my life and as we both keep our eyes firmly fixed on Jesus, we ask for your prayers and yes…if we may be so bold, your happiness, as we wait upon the Lord for His leading…His timing…His plan. For He is faithful and will see that the good work He started in Lisa and I is completed!

I love you Lisa!

~ Vince

A Mother's Day

Proverbs 31:25-28
She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.

Today marks another first…The first Mothers Day since Amy’s passing. As you can imagine, it’s been a rather solemn day. Please keep the kids in your thoughts and prayers as everywhere they’ve turned for the past 3 weeks, they’ve been constantly reminded of the absence of their mother. I wonder what must have gone through Vinny and Hope’s minds as their teachers had the kids prepare Mother’s Day projects and gifts over the past week or so…Today Brittany sang in church with the Youth Praise Team. As she sang, tears streamed down her cheeks, but she pressed on. I wonder if she realizes the example of strength, perseverance and servitude she provided to so many today.
Amy was a wonderful mother. She loved and cared for her children and self-sacrificially placed them and their needs before hers on a continual basis. Even near the end, her concern was not for herself as much as for her children and how would they carry on. She was a fairly strict disciplinarian and demanded a lot out of her kids, but it certainly wasn’t for her own betterment. She cared and loved them enough to press them…to challenge them to be better…to strive for their dreams and to let no one tell them they can’t succeed or aren’t good enough…also to ‘toe the line’ as it were, in order that as they grew older, they would adhere to the lessons learned through trial and error…discipline and praise. And as one by one, they leave the shelter and protection of our home, the sense of right and wrong…what’s acceptable and what should be avoided, will be instilled deep in their character. The job’s not finished, but Amy’s portion is…and I must carry on.