Monday, September 20, 2021

Lifes' Roller Coaster- The Uphill Climb

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay 

Starting a Bakery Cafe has been a dream twenty years in the making. If you asked us several weeks ago if we'd ever be where we are now, we might've said in a few years at the minimum, but not anytime soon. But here I sit, in a nearly empty room, hearing the echo of each tap on my keyboard.

It's actually happening!

It all started in July. First, we had a woman renting a room. The original plan was to help her get back on her feet and teach her what she needed to know to be independent within two years. But, instead, she's been with us for almost a year when she announced she'd found an apartment and would move out in a few weeks. 

The first pebble in the avalanche of blessings. We just didn't know it yet!

My husband and I were surprised but delighted to see she was ready to live on her own. But that left us with a few problems. First, we counted on the rent to pay down debts faster, and now we had an empty room. It was time to think seriously about what we wanted to do because she was our only obligation concerning leaving the city.

God had been nudging us to leave Philadelphia for at least two years. We've lived here our entire lives- in fact, in nearly the same area, spanning Olney and all around Northeast Philadelphia.

At first, we started looking in areas outside the city, but close enough that my husband could still work at the mill. Would we sell this house? Would we rent it out? If we did rent, would we rent rooms or the entire house? What would we do concerning the kids? It was a conundrum we were having trouble deciphering.

One bright morning, I was sitting where I am now and decided to have a heart-to-heart with the Big Guy. I'd been holding back, not giving everything up to Him completely. I knew it, and so did He. So I sat back, closed my eyes, spread my arms, and repeated over and over, "I give everything to You, Lord. I'm tired of figuring out what to do. Anything You say, I will follow. Just tell me what to do, and I'll do it. Give me the strength to do it, and I'll do whatever You want."

I said it over and over until I was smiling. Then, I felt a massive weight off my soul- I knew He heard me.

I swear I felt God sigh with relief and say to Himself, Finally

There's one small thing I'd forgotten about when you give God the reins. When He wants to move, He moves. We were about to take the roller coaster ride of our lives.

Within the first few days, my husband found a house in the mountains with a store attached. 

Two days later, we got a call from a family friend, pastor, and real estate agent asking us if we were interested in selling our house. He had no idea we were looking.

My husband told him about the house we were looking at, and we went to see it that week. 

We bid on the house and got it, but the sale depended on us selling ours.

A few weeks later, we were mostly packed, made renovations, and we were ready to have buyers see the house. It wasn't even on the market, and he had four families lined up!

We went from this:

To this:

...in three weeks. Not just this room- the entire house

One family came in, loved it, and bid. We happily accepted. The settlement should be within two weeks. 

Now, we wait. When we settle, and the money is deposited, we'll go up and settle on the new place.

And then, the move begins. The tentative moving date is October 9th.

Some of you who know us are celebrating with us. Others are worried. How can we do this so fast? Are we making sound decisions?

We're doing this at Godspeed. As for the decisions, we feel God is putting us right where He wants us. So allow me to alleviate your fears and share the wonderfulness that is God.

The air is clean and fresh. Whenever we've camped near here, my husbands' hacking cough stops. It's a debilitating cough caused by the chemicals he works with at his job- he can't laugh too hard, or he has trouble breathing. But not up there. 

There's no bread bakery in a fifty-mile radius. 

We are surrounded by farms (potential suppliers), campgrounds (potential customers), and a few stores and small diners (potential commercial customers). 

But wait, I hear you say. There are diners near you. Aren't they competition?

'Near' means twelve miles away, in each direction. The campgrounds are about three miles away. The house is on the main thoroughfare between two larger towns and gets traffic from construction workers, truckers, campers, hunters, and fishermen when their seasons start. So naturally, the diners want fresh bread, and most of their menus differ significantly from what's on ours.

And no one there makes good coffee or bakes fresh bread. Any bread is store-bought, including bagels.

Have you ever eaten a toasted bagel breakfast sandwich with a fresh cup of steaming hot coffee while watching the trees change color on a cool, misty morning in a campground? Don't you want to?

That's where we come in. 

There's even a community meeting place right down the road. We've been involved in our community meetings for years and did many things to help support the neighborhood. And now, God put us right where we need to be to do it again.

The store even has a second floor with one room perfect for a video studio test kitchen. Everything we've ever talked about doing is coming to fruition on a one-third acre patch in the mountains of East Waterford, PA. 

And we couldn't be happier.

Yes, we know things will get more challenging, especially concerning licenses, inspections, permits, and zone changes. There's a lot to do, and we plan to be up and running the actual bakery by spring. In the meantime, we'll be making videos, taking pictures, and blogging about our journey into a small business. 

I promise to keep you posted!


Monday, August 23, 2021

Mountain Moving

Just when you think God is content with you where you are, He decides to move you.

In this case, literally.

Within two weeks, God has merrily turned our entire world upside down. The person we were helping get back on her feet found an apartment. We thought she was going to be with us for another year. That was the pebble that released the avalanche. I believe all my husband had to do was decide what he really wanted out of life, and when we started talking about the possibilities, God chose to take over.

You don't want to get in Gods' way when He has a plan in mind!

The house would be too big for the two of us once our son moved out and our daughter returned to college. So we talked about the possibility of renting out the rooms or renting the house entirely. Should we start that dream business of a cafe bakery? Where would we start the business if that was what God wanted? Would we keep the house and rent it out or sell it? 

The possibilities were unfathomable. There were too many choices to make.

Then we gave it to God. I think He breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, these people were giving Him complete control over their lives. It was about time!

Brace yourself when God takes the wheel.

My husband not only found a house, but it also had a storefront attached. It had a four-car garage and a giant cedar open-air workshop on a third-acre plot of land, right between two mountain ranges, near the top of a vast hill. However, the store had been shut down five years ago, and the owner retired. 

But was it for us?

A few days later, a realtor friend called (without knowing we were looking for a place) and asked if we were interested in selling our home. After talking to him about the possibility, we took a day trip to see the mountain property, and though there's a lot of clearing out and renovating to do, it would serve our needs perfectly. It even had an arbor loaded with grapes for making jams and jellies, a pear tree, and a chestnut tree. Roasting over an open fire, anyone?

The store used to sell gas, but they removed the tanks and pumps and dug a new well before putting the property up for sale. Farmers were all around us. One farmer has beef cattle, another has milk, cream, and cream cheese, and there's corn everywhere you look. 

And right smack in the middle of the property was a newly refurbished outhouse. We had a good laugh over that, and we're glad the house itself had two bathrooms. We figured the outhouse was for customers and would be a novelty for tourists. And there would be tourists. The town has a whopping population of twenty residents, and the house/store was on the main thoroughfare between two more prominent cities. We'd be the only rest stop for fifteen to thirty miles in any direction. The only places nearby were RV parks and campgrounds- perfect for our business- with a few tweaks.

Was there a catch? A little one. We'd have to sell our house because we had too much tied into debt and the remaining mortgage. However, if we sold our house, we could buy the new property outright and be out of debt completely, with no mortgage. We'd have to sell, buy and move within a few weeks.

Yikes!

The paperwork had been signed, sealed, and almost delivered. Unfortunately, the purchase of that property is contingent on selling our house. We need to fix this place up a bit to make it ready for sale, and I'm packing like a madwoman so we can move as much as possible into temporary storage so the handyman can pretty up the place. It's all for looks because the main repairs were done years ago- Thank God.

We've had this dream for decades. And now it's coming true.

Instead of us moving mountains, God's moving us to the mountains!

Image by Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay 

What are those tweaks, you ask?

We talked with a few locals, and they told us the old store was the hub for the locals who needed basic supplies. It was a variety store that sold gas. However, we planned a bakery cafe and decided to have a section for basic needs for the locals. We don't have everything worked out yet, but I take notes when the ideas hit me.

To be honest, this was all going to be my husbands' baby. I was there to work the store and do what I could to get it going. God wants me to be a writer, and that won't change. He also made me creative, and after talking with the locals and the owners' son, I realized God also wanted me to be an integral part of this business. Fishing season is in the spring, and hunting season is in the fall. I can create items to sell in the store for the locals, sportsmen, and campers alike.

Above the store is a second floor, with a small room and a large one. Both are filled with natural light. We're considering using the small space to build a mini test kitchen and create an online TV cooking show. The big room might be used for my sewing and writing space and store storage- we'll know better when we move there.

I can't tell you how excited we are!

We've lived in the city our entire lives. We'll miss everyone terribly, but God has been weaning us away from here for a while now, and we both realize God wants us to move on. 

You'd think I'd be panicking. I thought I would be! But the second we both saw that house and store, we knew it was for us. God is paving the way, and as the handyman finishes, there's a line of buyers waiting.

My husband will finally be able to breathe the fresh air his lungs crave. My body and brain will be getting a lot of exercise. We even have friends close by if you consider forty-plus miles close. I guess, when you think of mountain roads, that is close!

God is amazingly good!

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Through Me

People do it all the time. I know I've done it. We claim aspects of God without claiming the power behind those aspects.

All. The. Time.

I guess I don't know my own strength.

I've gotten through this before; I can do it again.

If I can do it, you can too!

People marvel at our triumphs from adversity, but we often forget to give the Big Guy credit. Maybe we're too afraid to sound 'religious.' Maybe the person we're talking to is a known atheist or unbeliever. Perhaps we're scared of persecution in the middle of being praised.

Maybe it's a mix of all of those things.

I inwardly cringe when I find myself doing it. I cringe after I've done it. I had an opportunity to praise God, and I dropped the ball. It's so easy to drop it. Persecution is prevalent nowadays.

But when I ask for spiritual, physical, or mental strength, He still gives it when I genuinely need it. All things go through Him. All things. Nothing comes from me; everything comes from God. Believers often forget that. I should know- I've probably done it more than most. 

Image by Colin Behrens from Pixabay 

Through Him.

We are His light bulbs. We shine, but only when we plug into Him. We might think we shine when we aren't- we're a bulb with no power to make us glow. 

We need power from an outside resource. Oh sure, we can hook up to a car battery, but we might explode. We can wire ourselves to a 9-volt battery, but the glow would be dim and not last very long. We were meant to shine with the power of God, the everlasting source of steady, reliable energy. 

Not only does He make us shine, but we also illuminate others through Him. And the more we praise Him, the more we shine. Isn't that fantastic?

This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine! 

I love that song. Hmm...I wonder if God sings that about us?


Monday, June 14, 2021

What Forgiveness Really Is

I had a big issue with forgiveness, mainly because of the phrase 'forgive and forget.' Was I supposed to forget everything that was done to me by this person and just let them hurt me repeatedly? If that was forgiveness, then I wanted none of it!

Years ago, I met a woman at a writers' conference that changed my perspective on forgiveness. I can't tell you exactly what she said (my memory fails me), but the heart of the lesson went deep into my soul. I was so angry at someone that it was blackening the spirit within me, and this womans' words made me decide it was time to forgive.

I'm not going to lie. I cried—a lot. The person I needed to forgive was toxic. They were mentally abusive. They tore holes in my heart with every guilt-ridden, angry word spoken. But I needed to forgive them; otherwise, I'd never grow in God's love.

So what is forgiveness? Forgiveness is letting go of your anger towards the person you need to forgive. You try to see the heart behind the behavior and find compassion for them. You try to understand why they act the way they do and give your anger to God- He'll be happy to take it off your hands.

Does that mean you forget everything they did? Absolutely not! Once the anger is gone, you need to decide for yourself if you want to reconcile with this person or not. Even if they are your best friend. Even if they are family. Even if they are your spouse.

Reconciliation is not forgiveness. Reconciliation means you decide if and how often this person is going to be in your life. 

You also don't forget what has happened. Letting go of the anger blunts the pain of the memory, but you don't let go of the memory itself. Our brains won't let us.

Forgive, yes. Forget? No. You learn best from past experiences, and sometimes the best thing is to let those people go.

Even if they were your best friend, family, or spouse.

But what if, once you forgive them, you're unable to let them go entirely? Most times, you can. Best friends aren't 'best' friends if they're constantly causing you grief. Spouses can be divorced. You can distance yourself from family members- even toxic ones. It stinks, but the truth of the matter is, forgiveness doesn't make you a doormat. Instead, forgiveness means you move forward over the bridge to a more peaceful life. 

Image by No-longer-here from Pixabay 

You get to decide who goes over that bridge with you.

I forgave several people. Most wanted reconciliation, and one didn't. 

The person that didn't forgive me was indignant because I forgave them. How dare I forgive them when I was the one clearly in the wrong? So I gently asked for their forgiveness again, and they refused. 

I moved on. Guess which one of us had a lighter heart afterward?  

Want to know something else? One person I reconciled with was toxic. But I had to have a relationship with them. They were close family, and I was all they had at the time. So I distanced myself, did what I could for them with love, and refused to get into any toxic arguments. 

That person passed away a few years later, and I'm so glad I forgave them. I'm so glad I had that conversation with my writer friend. I never realized how burdened my heart was until I released all that negativity through forgiveness.

Forgiveness is remembering without hatred.

Free your heart of anger, hate, and fear. Forgive that person. Even if that person has passed on, you can still forgive them- and yourself- and move forward with a happier heart. 

Talk with the person you want to forgive. If that isn't possible (even dangerous), God understands. So tell God that you forgive them. And if you're the one that needs forgiving, go to the person and ask for forgiveness. 

Your spirit will thank you for it.

Monday, May 17, 2021

God, Me, and Limbo

It's not easy waiting for God to tell you what to do.

Years ago, I asked God where He wanted me. I felt lead in doing creative things, but I wasn't sure which one I was supposed to follow. So I fasted and prayed, listening for His word to come to me.

Three days into the fast, I cried out to Him. I'm such a weenieburger of a Christian. Three days isn't much from a biblical standpoint, but I'm human, impatient, and at the time, famished.

Please, Lord! I cried, throwing myself face-first into my pillow. Just tell me what You want me to do!

I took a calming (if muffled) breath, and to my surprise, I heard Him. Write books, He gently replied.

Now, being the excellent weenieburger Christian that I am, did I thank Him? Did I praise Him for answering so promptly?

Nope. I actually turned my head to the side and blurted, All for them?!?

His voice was commanding but also slightly amused. Yes, all of them.

And then, silence.

Image by nugroho dwi hartawan from Pixabay

Did He have any idea just how many books I had in my head? Not to mention the notes, folders, and files I had that were only partially filled? The children's books, the stories, the how-tos, and the puzzle book series I'd just begun to fathom?

Of course, He did. He's God. Duh.

So what did I do? Procrastinate. I got a job. I did other things and barely wrote at all. I cringe now when I think of it. I know what He wants me to do, but I still feel unqualified- though more qualified than I did when we had our little God-talk.

I became a better writer. I bought supportive software to improve my faulty writing habits. I even had a few illustrations done. But I still felt in limbo because it takes more than writing to create a book. 

I needed the means to publish a book. For me, that means illustrations, printing, and a way to sell the books. It also means I need the funds to pay for all that stuff. For you, the needs might be different, but the same rules apply to your calling. You need to do something to accomplish something else that you're called to by God.

At first, I thought my job would provide what I needed, but I soon realized that the costs of the job outweighed the benefits. So I gave notice and left. Then had to fathom what to do next, so I could accomplish what God wanted.

This was when God granted me a bit of wisdom. Use the talents He gave me to support what He wanted me to do. Back then, I thought I had to choose one creative outlet, but God showed me that I can do more than one thing to further my calling. Hindsight is always 20/20, and when I look back, I regret all that wasted time floundering.

I don't think I was in limbo, now that I look back; I think God was just waiting for my little lightbulb to activate. Now that it has, I have a better idea of how to accomplish what I'm called to do. It won't be easy, but it will be awesome!

The same goes for you. Feeling like you're in limbo? Ask yourself why. Pray on it. Try starting at the goal and work your way back to map out how you can accomplish what God wants. Maybe your little lightbulb will go off too! I hope it does. We need to shine bright in this world!

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Discontent vs. Being Content

I'm going to be honest here...There are rare times I've ever been content with life. I'm not sure I know how to be content- I mean, what does 'being content' really mean?

I used to think being content meant being happy, All. The. Time. Unicorn farts, rainbows, and all that cotton candy-type fluff. The good life I'd wanted, filled with no strife nor stress because all of my needs were met, and everything was running smoothly. 

Hah! We all know how that turns out in our own lives, don't we? 

My friends would tell me the verse in Philippians 4:13- 'I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.' That's a nice sentiment. It's taught over many pulpits and put onto a myriad of mugs, T-shirts, and plaques. But what does that have to do with contentment, I wondered? 

So I decided to look it up. I wasn't familiar with the previous verses that put everything in context. So here's the gist of contentment, according to Paul...

11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.

Interesting.

Paul's needs weren't met all of the time. In fact, his needs were not met a lot- and he was in trouble most of the time! So what was he doing that I needed to do? I thought Christians are automatically supposed to be content with life!

But read verse eleven. He learned to be content. He wasn't given a free pass into the life of satisfaction; he had to learn, step-by-step. He felt the same whether he was living a rich life or not- 'No matter the circumstances.' He was satisfied that God would provide for him when he needed it, no matter what 'it' was.

So contentment isn't the same as a provision. It's the feeling that God's got your back and will give you what you need when you need it- not necessarily when you think you need it.

Big difference. 

Being content is not where you are, what you have, or what you're doing. It's trusting who you're with. So if you're with God, He will give you what you need when you're ready for it. You don't need to worry about all that other stuff!

And if you're doing what He wants you to do, He will also give you what you need to endure the trials and enjoy the blessings in between. 

Energy. 
Time. 
Provision. 
Strength.

Wow. Contentment is pretty powerful. 

We live in a world that teaches- no, revels in discontent. The world rolls in discontent like a pig in slop. The more discontent we are, the funnier we are, the more attention we get, the more clicks/likes/whatevers we collect on social media. 
Image by Chetan Dhongade from Pixabay 

And when we do feel that contentment? Someone comes along and plants thorns in our heads about how rotten life is, and we shouldn't be content at all. Discontented is how the world wants everyone to be! No wonder we have such a hard time remaining content- it's a rare gift that is only seen in those that have practiced it for a long, long time. 

Look at people who are contented (and I'm sure you know at least one person that's like this.) They aren't blasting their contentment from the rooftops. They are the ones working quietly, maybe with a smile of satisfaction on their face, exuding a peace about them that can be felt even in the worst of the chaos surrounding them. How do they do it?

'Be still and know that I am God.' (Psalm 46:10)
They trust God with everything. God never said it would be easy. Just take a look at Paul's life. It took a lot for him to get to that level of contentment. But he did it one step at a time. 

So can we!

Being shaken from my contented treehouse happens more often than I'd like. I need a lot more practice. I'm glad God is a patient Dude willing to wait for me to learn all this. I'm like a toddler, taking one step at a time. But He's always there to catch me when I stumble!

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

When God Speaks

Almost every story in the Bible talks about how God spoke to them, and for the most part, they listened.

For the most part. 

God talks to us each day. Sometimes we can hear Him, and sometimes we are deaf as a stump. 

On occasion, He can be heard quite clearly. I had that happen a few years ago (if you read my other blog posts) when God told me to write all of the books. My reaction was less than stellar- and I'd heard the Big Dude Himself.

Image by Robin Higgins from Pixabay 

I partially wrote some of the books. Partially. Some. I might have finished a story or two since He told me what to do. But it took me years of on-and-off obedience before I finally decided to truly listen.

At least I thought I was listening.

I tried to make time to write, but I kept getting distracted. It's so easy in this digital world we dive into each day. But in the end, I kept berating myself because I, once again, was caught up in the digital world, wasting the time God gave me.

This past week I'd had an inkling. A feeling. A persistent need to make changes. But this wasn't the same voice I'd heard out loud years ago. This was inside. The little voice everyone thinks is their conscience. It's really the Holy Spirit. 

It wanted me to give up something I loved. I was lead to give it up. I was urged to give it up. The Spirit wanted me to give up my phone games. However, I'm a game addict. I'd limited myself to a few games, but they still stole a lot of my attention, money, and time. That persistent little voice came when I wasn't ready to give them up. But I did. Well, I almost did.

I deleted all but one.

I was actually willing to give it up, but I hesitated. I was a long-term player, I was in a group, I'd made friends (Christian ones!) and I'd gotten to a significant level that I was a great benefit to my group. They needed me. 

But did they? Or did I need them more? Did I need them more than God's blessings?

Ouch.

At first I decided to make myself dormant for gameplay. I wouldn't delete the game app, but I would just stop playing. That should be enough, right? Even I knew that wasn't the answer. I'd been playing this game twice a day for almost two years! I felt the Spirit nudge me again. I had to delete it.

The Holy Spirit wafted over me and I felt myself separate from my addiction. I didn't need these games to be happy. I'd be happier without them- especially this one. So I told my gaming buddies I would be leaving, and gave myself one last day for others to get on so I could say my gaming goodbyes. 

I went out in a blaze of glory, fighting one last big battle, using all of my saved up items (read: hoarded items) to beat the bad guy and said my farewells to the other players. (I talk to a few of them on a different chat platform- we'll keep in touch and maybe even meet in real life.) And after everything was said and done...

I deleted the game.

It took three days from the initial urge until I'd finally obeyed everything the Spirit indicated. My obedience was delayed, but I still listened. I want to be able to listen better (and faster) in the future.

Two hours after I deleted the game, my husband called. We were immensely, unexpectedly blessed. I felt like my obedience was possibly the last pebble that needed to be removed to release the flood of blessings!

I still wonder what would have happened if I'd stayed stubborn and didn't delete that last game. Scary.

There are still struggles and distractions to contend with. This laptop (the new one this time!) still needs files transferred, programs installed, and tweaks here and there. I won't be bored! I still have files that need to be sorted, but the writing ones are ready and waiting for me to work on them.

And when I woke up this morning? I didn't miss the game. In fact, I was looking forward to using the 'extra' time to write this blog post!

God is good. The Spirit is good. Jesus is good. I'm part of the best team ever!

And I'm really glad I listened.