The Quest for Peace: Part Four

There are many ways for us to achieve peace in our lives, and I have written about several of those ways in different posts.  God has given all of us certain interests and gifts, and when we participate in those interests, we find ourselves being at peace.  Working with our hands and creating something is one of the best ways to calm our nerves and feed our spirits.  There is something satisfying about creating things with our own two hands that gives us a feeling of satisfaction.  God has given us these interests to help us find more joy in our lives and feel like we are accomplishing something, even when we feel as if we are standing still.  

One activity that brings me a sense of peace and accomplishment is stitching.  For me, there is something about taking a blank piece of fabric and creating something beautiful with it.  I also love the repetitive motion that stitching provides, and it is sometimes amazing to me to see what a whole lot of Xs can create when placed in an appropriate pattern.  

So today I thought I would take a break from my normal posts and show you a few of the samplers that I have made over the years.  When I am stitching, I am only thinking about stitching, and the stresses of my daily life seem to fade away.  When I am finished, I have a sense of accomplishment and when I look at the sampler that I made, I feel happy and at peace.  God wants all of us to feed our spirits, and it is up to us to determine which actives will do that.  Once we discover what will feed our spirits and we do it, we will have more peace in our lives and PEACE MATTERS.  

~Dan~

Pattern by Jenny Hoffman

Pattern by Tina Woltman

Pattern by Dan Weaver-White

Pattern by Tina Woltman

Pattern by Jenny Hoffman

Pattern by Tina Woltman

Pattern by Tina Woltman

Pattern by Dan Weaver-White

The Quest for Peace: Part Three

As I continue to embark on my quest for peace, I have been thinking about the ingredients of peace.  The ingredients of peace are much like reading a recipe.  When we follow a recipe, we know that we have to include all of the ingredients or the end result will not be what we want.  We also know that we have to put the correct amount of each ingredient in so that the recipe we are following turns out like we intend.  

One of the key ingredients to peace is very simple and something that we all talk about and are even obsessed with, and that is love.  We use the word love to mean so many things.  We love our homes, we love our collections, we love our friends, we love our pets, we love our children, and we love our spouse.  It is funny how one little word can mean so much and be used to describe one of the most powerful emotions that we can feel.  It is easy to love the people who are special to us, but it is harder to love the people who are not very lovable.  I heard someone say once that the most unlovable people are the ones who need love the most.  This is very hard for me to remember at times, and I am sure it is hard for you to remember too.  

My grandma had the ability to love the unlovable.  She had a sense about people, and she could read them.  She often found herself being drawn to people who others would deem as unlovable.  I used to worry about her doing this, and I was often afraid that harm would come to her because she would put herself in situations where she was in the company of people who others would turn their backs on.  Looking back on it now, I realize that this was part of her calling.  She was drawn to these people because she had the ability to see beyond their rough, grumpy, and sometimes displeasing exteriors and could see the goodness of their spirits.  Her attention and acceptance would many times bring out the best in these people, and they would be more positive and happier because of the attention and love that she gave them.  When it came to the commandment “love thy neighbor,” my grandma took it to heart, and she truly tried to live her life doing this.  She touched countless lives with this love, and I know that the effects of her love are still felt by many people.  It was a life altering kind of love and a kind of love that I aspire to have for my fellowman one day.  My grandma was able to love in spite of the wrongs that were done to her.  She was able to love even when the world would have told her to stop, and she was able to love when others would have been unable to do so.  My grandma had peace in her life because of that love.  She understood that love was an important ingredient to peace and it served her well.  

So the next time you encounter a person or are faced with a situation that is difficult and is causing you to have less peace in your life than you want, remember my grandma and the countless others like her who love in the face of hate and who love not because it is easy, but because it is the right thing to do.  The people who love when everyone else turns their backs are the people who have true peace in their lives.  It is a peace that will change their lives, the lives of the people they encounter, and eventually the world.  It is that powerful!  We should all try a little harder to pepper our lives with more love.  When we do, we will enjoy the savory sensation of peace in our lives and PEACE MATTERS!

~Dan~

Today, I am sharing my collection of firkins, measures, and pantry boxes with all of you.  I hope you enjoy them and that they inspire you to continue to look for things that fill your life with more peace.  

The Quest for Peace: Part Two

We are all searching for peace.  We each find peace, but we often find it in different places.  What brings me peace may be something totally different than what brings you peace.  I may find peace while watching an old movie, and you may find peace while planting a garden.  Peace, like so many experiences in life, is an individual journey and a unique frame of mind for each of us.  These differences may make peace seem like it is harder to find and to hold on to, but in many ways the varying ways of finding peace makes it easier to find and easier to hold on to.  You see, we can find peace anywhere.  It is in the little things in life.  It is in the simple pleasures of everyday living that peace can be found.  It is in the verse of a song, the sound of the rain, the laugher of a child, or the hug of a friend.  It is everywhere; we just have to choose to see it.  

We often find ourselves saying that there is no peace to be found.  This statement may seem true, especially when we are in the depths of the valley, but really this statement is false.  There is always peace to be found.  One of the most common ways to find peace in our lives is by having gratitude.  Nothing brings more peace to our lives than being thankful for all we have and reciting those blessings to ourselves.  We ALL have something to be grateful for.  We ALL have blessings to count.  

I have personally known people who to me seem like they have nothing to be grateful for, but still I hear them telling others about all of their blessings. They may be enduring a personal, life-threatening struggle, but they continue to see the blessings in the problem.  I admire these people so much and strive to be more like them.  My grandma was one of these people and there are many, many others in my life, and I know that all of you can think of people in your life who are like this.  These people have peace in their lives.  They have true, unyielding peace because they have an attitude of gratitude.  They have an unshakable belief that everything is going to be okay, and they find blessings in every problem.  

We should all allow these people to be a beacon of peace to the rest of us.  We should use these people as a compass to help us find more peace in our lives, and it all begins with two simple words—thank you.

Today I will be sharing another one of the collections that bring me peace, my collection of salt-glazed crocks.  I do not have very many true salt-glazed crocks, but the ones I have truly bring me joy.  I love the surfaces of the crocks, and I love looking at the cobalt blue designs painted on those surfaces.  All of these crocks have seemingly found me over the years, and I truly believe that some of our most treasured pieces of any collection are the ones that have found us.  It is the ones that we just happened upon that bring us the most satisfaction and joy.  This is another life lesson that I think we should examine at a later time.  For now, I hope that you enjoy my collection of salt-glazed crocks, and I hope that you will think of the people in your life who are professors of blessings and you will join me in trying to be a little bit more like them.  When we are truly grateful for all of our blessings, the big and the small, and we speak those aloud, we will have more peace in our lives and as we all know, PEACE MATTERS

~Dan~

The Quest for Peace: Part One

With the recent events in the news and all of the information that we are being given, it is easy to think that our country and even our world is falling apart.  There is so much violence in the news, and it seems that we cannot go a day without hearing about some tragic event.  These events sometimes draw us together, but then in the wake of the disaster we begin to pull apart.  We begin to argue among ourselves about the right way to solve the problem.  We fight and argue and disagree so aggressively that many times we forget about the tragic events that led to the arguments in the first place.  We have all been created to have our own opinions and beliefs about things.  This is what makes each of us special and unique.  It is what makes our country great, and it is what sets us apart from everyone else.  However, we all need to remember that it is important to celebrate our differences instead of tearing each other apart because of them.  I can believe one thing, and someone else can believe something entirely different.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.  The bottomline is that we lash out because we are scared.  We are afraid of losing control, and we are afraid that things are going to get worse.  We look for people and laws to blame.  We look for new leadership and new laws to solve our problems.  This has been going on for centuries, and unfortunately it will continue to go on long after we are gone.  

There is a problem in this world, and it is a lack of peace.  I believe that we can all agree on that.  Peace is what is missing from our world, and that quest for peace should bring us together, but often it tears us apart.  We should all try a little harder to accept our differences of opinion, and we should all agree to disagree with love and respect.  We should step back and realize that we are contributing to the problems by lashing out at our neighbors, friends, and family members just because they see things differently than we see them.  We should all be able to express our opinions without fear of being ridiculed.  We should be able to make a statement without a fight ensuing.  We can all do this if we remember the commandment to love thy neighbor.  That does not mean that we have to agree with our neighbor.  That does not mean that we should allow our neighbor to tell us what we should believe, but it does mean that we should respect each other.  We should show kindness to each other, and we should avoid the arguing and bashing that so many people participate in.  Our loudest voice and are biggest concern should be about peace, love, and acceptance.  If we can all do that a little more and argue a little less, I truly believe it will make the world a better place.  Will all the problems of this world suddenly disappear? No, but it will give us a chance to experience more peace in our lives.

How we see the world is really up to each of us.  We can choose to see the world as a terrible place full of strife and violence, or we can choose to see the world as a wonderful place full of love and goodness.  The decision is really up to each of us.  It is an individual choice and one that should not be taken lightly.  

So in my quest for peace and my belief that the world is really a beautiful place to live, I am going to be sharing things that bring me peace.  For my first four entries, I will be sharing collections that bring me peace.  You may be thinking how can a collection bring you peace?  The answer to that question is quite simple.  A collection can bring us peace when we look at it.  It can bring us peace because it makes our homes beautiful, and it can bring us peace because it takes our minds off of the things that do not bring us peace.  This feeling may be fleeting, but while it lasts it can change our attitudes and begin to spread to the rest of our lives.  

The collection I am sharing with you today is my leather book and hogscraper candlestick collection.  I love these items because of the worn surfaces and their age.  I love these items because they bring character to a room, and they fill my heart with joy.  I hope you will enjoy this collection and the other collections that I present in the weeks ahead. I hope that you will begin to think about the things that bring you peace and realize that it truly is the little things in life that can bring us the most joy. Maybe thinking about those things will bring you a little more peace and you will begin to realize just how much PEACE MATTERS

~Dan~ 

What Are You Going to Do with What You Have Been Given?: Part 2

It is impossible to navigate our way through this life without encountering difficult situations and roadblocks.  God has promised us peace, but He did not guarantee that the road to peace would not have a few potholes.  Sometimes the path is bumpy and makes turns that scare us and shake our faith.  God uses these potholes to build our faith and draw us closer to Him.  When we profess to believe in God and make the statement that we want to follow Him, the world begins to take notice of us.  They are watching us even if we are unaware of it.  They are looking to us to be examples of how to deal with the difficulties and strife that life brings our way.  We are told not to conform to this world, but to be transformed.  God wants us to be an example to the rest of the world.  He wants others to see what He has done in our lives and desire the same blessings for their own lives.  

One way we can show people the influence of God in our lives is by how we handle our challenges.  When we cling to God and have faith that He will direct our steps, we can face the challenges with a different spirit.  His love and peace and our faith in His love and peace can ease our worry and doubt, which makes facing challenges easier.  We have to allow God to carry the worry and doubt for us.  He is far more capable of doing that than we are.  Now, I am not saying that we will not have worry and doubt in our lives, especially when we are facing a challenge, but it can be greatly reduced.  When we have faith that God will see us through and when we let God know how we feel and let Him guide our path, we will see challenges differently.  We should talk to God and let Him talk to us all the time in the good times and in the bad times.  If we spend the good times talking to God and letting him talk back to us, it will become a habit. Then when we face difficult times, we will naturally talk to God and let Him talk to us. If we only talk to God during the difficult times, and not during the good times, we may not be in the habit of listening for Him during the challenges that we face.  

Like I said before, the world is watching us, especially the skeptics.  They want to see how we handle the challenges in our lives.  If they see us face the challenges head on with peace in our hearts, they will begin to realize that our relationship with God is real.  They will begin to see that God is love and that He wants to comfort us and renew our hope.  They will see that what we have is an amazing gift, and they will begin to want the same things for their own lives.  So, the next time your path gets bumping, do not fret.  Lean on God, talk to Him, and let Him talk back.  Thank him for the challenge and rest in his promise of peace.  

We are supposed to pray without ceasing.  He wants us to do that in the good times and the bad times.  He wants us to be an example to the world of what His love can do for everyone.  Turn your worries over to God and be thankful for what you have been given.  Stand up straight and proud and continue moving forward.  Let God be your guide.  After all, He is in front of you, beside you, behind you, and in you.  He will sustain your peace and PEACE MATTERS

~Dan~

What Are You Going to Do with What You Have Been Given?

Every human on the earth has been given a gift from God.  Some of us are aware of our gifts, but many of us are not.  People see gifts as an ability to do something extraordinary or an extreme talent, but that is not always the case.  We think that people who can play an instrument, sing, give inspiring speeches, draw, or paint have been blessed with a gift and that the rest of the population has been left out.  Humans see gifts as something that can only be seen by the eye or heard by the ear.  

However, God views gifts in a very different way.  Many of the gifts that He has given people cannot be seen or heard.  The gift of talking to people, the gift of love, compassion, empathy, generosity, prayer, and influence are some of the most important gifts that people can be given.  Our job is to discover these gifts and use them to serve our fellow man.  We should use these gifts to help people who are less fortunate than we are.  In doing so, we are doing a great service to God, and we are honoring Him and the gifts that He has given to us.  Many of us feel like we have nothing to offer the world or God.  We feel like all we can do is live our lives and try our best to be the best person we can be.  While that is a very important goal and something that we should all aspire to, we should also realize that we have been given a gift that we can use to help others.  

We have all been placed on this earth for a purpose.  God has a grand plan, and the plan has been in motion for centuries.  We were placed in this moment of time for a reason.  We were not just haphazardly placed here without any thought.  God placed us here to fulfill His purpose and to make the world a better place.  We are supposed to help other people.  Life on earth can often be difficult, and we need help in navigating it.  While God should be and is our ultimate guide, He has placed people in our lives to guide us along the way too.  We all have people who we depend on and turn to when things get difficult.  We often do not realize that God has placed those people in our lives for a reason.  While we can acknowledge that those people exist in our lives, we often find it difficult to realize that we have been placed in people’s lives to help them too.  It is not that God is too busy or not interested in helping people, but He wants to use us to help others. 

 Many people can accept help from other people, but they have trouble having faith that God can help them.  When they do accept help from the people in their lives, they are accepting help from God.  Hopefully, in time they will realize that, and their relationships with God will be strengthened.  So, as you have probably figured out by now, we have all been given many jobs to do on this earth.  We need to discover what our purpose is and what gifts we have been given and use those to help others.  When we help others, we make God proud.  We not only make someone else’s life better, but we make our own lives better too.  

I cannot express enough how much God wants us to help others and how much He wants us to discover the gifts that He has given us.  Sometimes we may use these gifts and be completely unaware of it.  Not knowing what our gift is does not keep us from using it and blessing other people with it.  Many times the gift we have is something that we have always known we possessed; we just never thought of it as a gift.  God can and will reveal our gift to us when we ask Him to.  

The most important thing to remember is that we have all been given gifts to use as armor to help others and ourselves.  We have a purpose, and we are important to God and countless others.  When we realize that, it will bring us peace, and PEACE MATTERS.  

~Dan~ 

Do Miracles Really Happen Everyday?

“Miracles happen everyday.” How many times have we uttered that statement in our lives?  We say it to ourselves and to our family and friends, but how many of us actually believe it.  We say we believe it and we do, but how many of us actually believe that miracles happen everyday?  I know that I have made this statement countless times, but I also know that I have struggled to truly believe that miracles do indeed happen everyday.  This is something that I continue to work on in my life and something that I hope to get better at as time goes by.  However, I am here to tell you that miracles do happen everyday.  Often it is only after the miracle occurs and we can look back on the course of our lives that we can actually see the miraculous event in its entirety. 

My grandma was a firm believer in miracles.  She lived her life believing in miracles, witnessing miracles, and sharing the miracles that God had performed in her life.  She instilled this belief in me, yet still I struggle.  I struggle to see them as clearly as she did, and I struggle to share them as boldly as she did.  Even with my grandma’s final breath, she was telling people about the miracles that had occurred in her lifetime.  Her mother had done the same thing, and my grandma even wrote a book after her mother died entitled Miracles From God for Mom. This book was about all the miracles that God had performed in my great grandma’s life.  She shared them with my grandma who then wrote about them so that others could be witness to the miracles. So you see, sharing miracles should come easily to me.  It truly is part of my family legacy. 

In the days following my grandma’s death this past May, I found myself being physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted.  I spent many days sleeping on the couch, in bed, or even in my chair.  To say that I was depressed would not be an accurate statement.  I am sure that I was, but it was more than that.  I was tired.  This went on for about a week and then one day as I was sitting in my chair half asleep and half awake, I heard my grandma’s voice.  I heard it as plain as if she were in the room with me.  She said, “We can all make miracles happen if we follow where God leads us.”  She repeated it over and over again, and when I opened my eyes, I found myself repeating the phrase over and over again, and I have continued to do so.  When we follow God and when we are obedient to Him we can make miracles happen.  God can use all of us to make miracles happen.  We should never forget that.  God uses you, me, and every single person on this planet to make miracles happen for someone else.  So you see, my original statement was correct. Miracles do happen everyday, and we can all assist God in making those happen.  

With that being said, I would like to share a miracle that God performed for me, and you will see how He used other people to make that miracle happen. The miracle that I am going to share with you is how Jeff and I came to live in our rental house.  

When our house sold in February, Jeff and I knew that we needed to find a place to rent while we built our saltbox.  We started looking, but we could not find anything.  It truly seemed like there was nothing out there for rent.  Jeff looked online, and we drove around, but we did not find anything.  Through the assistance of God, I had a real sense of peace about it.  I kept saying, “The right place will come available.  We just have to have faith.”  I said it so often that I think people thought I was crazy.  They could not imagine why I had so much peace about our situation.  I knew, but I think others struggled to understand.  Then on March 6th we were at our niece Katie’s birthday party and our sister-in-law, Amy, told me about a house that a friend of theirs had.  The couple had built a new house, but their previous house was not for sale, and they really had no plans of selling it right away.  Amy had mentioned the house before, but I kind of dismissed it because it wasn’t for rent.  Even the second time she mentioned it I still dismissed it.  Then while Katie was opening her presents, Amy mentioned the house to Jeff, and suddenly it was like I was hearing her for the first time and I thought to myself, “That’s the house for us.”  

Amy contacted her friend, Kristine, who along with her husband, Brian, owned the house.  Kristina said they were willing to rent the house, but they needed to empty it out because they still had some of their things in the house.  Jeff and Kristina began texting each other and discussing the details about renting the house.  It sounded like the perfect house for the dogs and us.  It was located in Herrin, it had a fenced in backyard, and it was a newer home.  When we went to see the house, Kristina and Brian were still moving their things out, but I could tell immediately that this was the house for us.  We were on a time crunch because we had to be out of our old house on April 4th.  On March 31st, the house was ready.  Kristina and Brian had the inside of the house painted and had even replaced some of the carpet.  It was truly like moving into a brand new house.  They told us that we could replace the lights and that we could make it as much like our home as we wanted.  

This house was truly sent to us from God.  He had it picked out for us long before we even knew we needed it, and He used people to make the miracle that He was performing happen for us.  He used Amy, who persistently told me about the house even when I wasn’t really receptive to what she was saying.  He used Brian and Kristina who worked really hard to make the house so nice, and He used Jeff who had the ears to hear what Amy was saying.  

I will never forget the events that led to us finding our rental house, and I will never stop being thankful to God, Amy, Kristina, Brian, and Jeff for letting God guide them and being obedient to what He was saying to them.  It took a team of people working together to make this miracle happen for me, but God was the coach of the team and with Him as the coach, miracles happen. So, my grandma was right. We can all make miracles happen if we follow where God leads us, and now I truly know and believe that miracles happen every day.  We just have to have the faith, the eyes, and the heart to see them.  Believing in miracles and sharing them with others will give all of us hope.  Hope will lead us to peace and PEACE MATTERS!  

~Dan~

Below are some pictures of a miracle house.  I hope you enjoy looking at the picturesas much as I have enjoyed decorating this house. 

Dining Room

Foyer

Living Room

Keeping Room

Music Room

Family Room

Kitchen

Master Bedroom

I Dreamed a Dream

On January 21, 2009, an unemployed woman who had never been married and lived alone with her cat, Pebbles, walked onto the stage in Glasgow, Scotland to audition for the television show Britain’s Got Talent.  When she marched onto the stage, there was a collective laugh from the audience.  I am sure many of you have watched talent shows like this from time to time.  While we watch them to see people perform and succeed, we also watch them to see people fail and to give us all a good laugh.  It seemed the audience was ready to see yet another performer fail and provide them with a good laugh.  

When the lady introduced herself, she informed the judges and the audience that she was 47 years old and that it was her dream to be a professional singer.  She then told them that she wanted to be as famous as Elaine Paige.  She was greeted with rolling eyes and snickers.  She informed the audience that she would be performing the song “I Dreamed a Dream” from the musical Les Miserables.  She gave a thumbs-up signal and the music began to play.  Then she began to sing.  Suddenly the laughs and snickers turned into thunderous applause and within five seconds of the first note she sang, everybody in the audience was standing on their feet cheering wildly for this woman that no one had given a second look.  As she continued to sing, the audience became more and more amazed.  How could it be that someone who looked like this could have such an enormous gift?  By the time she finished singing she was on her way to being one of the most successful singers of our time.  That lady was Susan Boyle.

Susan Boyle had lived a very ordinary and uneventful life up until that point.  She was raised in a small village in Scotland by parents who taught her to have faith in God.  Her mother had once told her that God had a plan for everyone, and she held onto that belief through some of the most difficult times in her life.  Susan had lived a life of solitude.  She was tormented and made fun of in school for the way she looked and for her learning problems.  She had never really had a boyfriend and when her father died she took on the responsibility of taking care of her aging mother.  Susan’s only escape from the reality that she lived was singing.  She sang whenever she was given a chance, but it really never seemed to go anywhere.  As the end of her mother’s life began to grow near, she urged Susan to audition for shows like Britain’s Got Talent, but Susan was afraid.  She felt that she was not talented enough and that she did not have the looks that are required to be a singing sensation.  When her mother died, Susan went into a deep depression.  She would not leave the house and she would not sing.  This went on for close to 6 months, until one day she decided that things had to change.  

She later said that she felt her mother urging her to take a chance and audition for the show.  She decided that she would do it in her mother’s honor.  The day of the audition she got on a bus to take her to the theater.  During the long day of waiting, Susan kept to herself and waited for her turn.  No one in that theater had any idea who she was or who she would become.  It was truly the day that would change Susan’s life, and it was a catalyst to her becoming who she was always meant to be.  God’s plan for Susan’s life was about to unfold right in front of millions of people.  Until that day, Susan had not sung in public since her mother’s death.  She said as she performed she could feel her parents surrounding her and that gave her the courage to keep going.  

We can learn a lot from Susan Boyle’s story.  She had spent the better part of her life possessing a God given gift that no one really knew about.  She had been waiting for what some would call a lifetime to become the person that God had always intended for her to be.  Her journey to international fame was one laid with failure and heartache, but it was all preparing her to become the person that God always knew she would be.  She has said that she does not regret any of the steps she took on her journey and that she is thankful for every twist and turn that she had to experience to realize her dream.  Many people would have given up on achieving their dream by the time they had reached 47, but none of us really know what God has planned for our lives.  Some of us realize our dreams and our purpose early in our lives, and some of us have to wait many years to realize our purpose.  

Susan’s story should remind all of us that we cannot judge a book by its cover.  How many of us have snubbed someone based on what we see on the outside?  How many of us have sold others and ourselves short based on what we present on the outside or because of our own self-doubt?  God truly does have a plan for all of us, and every single one of us has a purpose and a gift that we are supposed to share with others.  In Susan’s case, it took her enduring one of the most trying times in her life to muster up the courage to take a chance and sing in front of a large audience.  This is true for all of our lives.  God can take something that we feel is the worst thing that can happen to us and turn it into something amazing.  We all have endured tragedies and hard times only to realize later that it was through those experiences that we became the person we were always meant to become.  

The most important lesson that we can learn from Susan Boyle’s story is that we should never give up.  We should keep moving forward no matter what happens, and we should never let our setbacks define us.  We should allow our misfortunes and tragedies to make us stronger and help us to realize our dreams and our purpose in life.  I know how easy it is to want to give up, especially when it seems we have spent a lifetime searching for the things that will finally fulfill us, but in most cases it is worth the wait and once we discover our purpose, it will bring us pure joy and contentment.  

God has a plan for your life.  Your job is never to give up and keep allowing God to lead your steps.  You should take God’s hand and let Him help you to become the person that you are meant to be.  It is never too late to allow God to take the lead.  All you have to do is to reach out to Him and listen for His voice and let Him guide you.  God wants to guide all of us.  He wants all of us to discover our purpose and to use the gifts that He has given us to make the world a better place.  Through God’s guidance we all have that power.  God will never leave us or forsake us, and He will always see us through to the end.  We should never let the negative voices in our minds keep us from achieving all that we can achieve.  We should never allow self-doubt to keep us from moving forward.  God will encourage all of us along the way.  All we have to do is hear His encouraging words and be obedient to the things that He is saying to us.  It really is that simple, but it is often very hard for us to do.  We have to quiet the negative voices in our minds and focus on the good in life.  We have to take God’s hand and let Him lead the way.  The road may be bumpy and full of potholes, but God will lead us over them. God can make a way where there seems to be no way.  God can make miraculous things happen for all of us.  All we need to do is trust Him, surrender our lives to Him, and let Him guide our steps.  When we do this, it will make all the difference in our lives and will bring us peace like we have never experienced before, and PEACE MATTERS!

~Dan~

Triumphs Over Trials

We all have tragedies and trials that we have to face in life.   Some trials are small and some are big.  The size of the trial is not as important as we think.  A trial is a trial, and when we are going through one, our feelings are the same.  When we are going through a trial, we feel hopeless, lost, scared, frustrated, and worried.  We often feel alone and believe there is no one who understands.  We can lose faith during a trial and sometimes question God, wondering why we have to go through such a terrible event.  However, there is triumph over the trial.  We truly cannot go through this life alone.  We have to rely on God.  We have to have faith that He is in control and that He will see us through.  

We all know people who do not believe in God.  They are sometimes fairly vocal about their beliefs.  Imagine for a moment being a non-believer and then going through a trial.  Even when we do believe in God, we can lose our hope during a trial.  If you do not believe in anything, that hopelessness is so much bigger.  Everything is that much more difficult for a nonbeliever.  When we believe in God and have faith in Him, we can face anything.  Trials do not last forever, comfort is at our fingertips, and death is not final.  We can draw a lot of peace from those facts.  The trials we face also make us stronger and lead us to a better walk with God.  Sometimes we have to face a trial to get to a new level of living.  Sometimes a trial, as difficult as it is, can be the best thing that can happen to us.  

For example, take Doris Day. I bet you didn’t see that coming.  I am a huge Doris Day fan. Well huge is probably an understatement. I love, love, love her.  When I think of her, I cannot help but smile.  She just makes me feel good.  I love her movies, her songs, her television shows.  I love everything about Doris.  Oops, I think I got off topic for a minute.  I promise that I have a point.  Doris was a dancer as a young girl.  She was quite good, and she believed that was going to be her career.  She had a partner, a young boy close to her age.  Together they danced at local events and become quite well known.  Finally, someone from Hollywood recognized their talent, and they were signed to go there and dance in movies.  Their mothers decided to have a going away party for them.  The party was scheduled the day before they were to leave.  The night of the party Doris was involved in a terrible car accident.  Her leg was severely broken, and the doctors thought for a time that she would never walk again.  Ms. Day did walk again, but she was told that she would never have a career in dancing.  I am sure that this devastated her and that she could not imagine why such a tragedy had happen.  As she was recovering from the accident, she began taking singing lessons, and to her surprise she was quite good.  Her singing took off and the rest is history.  

This story just proves the point that sometimes something we see as devastating and hopeless turns out to be the best thing that could ever happen to us.  Had Doris not broken her leg, she may have never had the long career that she had, and the world may have missed out on her talent and goodness.  Sometimes in our own lives, the trials we face are the best thing for us.  God has to bring a little rain to our lives in order for us to grow.  The rain will help wash away all the bad and unimportant things in our lives and make us focus on the good.  Sometimes the storms of life will help us get our priorities aligned, and we will discover God’s purpose for our lives.  Even though trials are hard, we can grow and have a better life because of them.  However, the only way to face the trials and grow is to have faith in God and let Him guide the way.  He is right there by you, even if you cannot feel Him.  Lean on Him and have faith the size of a mustard seed.  

When we face a trial we cannot give up, and we cannot stop relying on God.  God is the ultimate peacemaker, and He will bring peace to our lives during the trial as well as after the trial.  Peace will set us free and in turn set the entire world free.  So, the next time you go through a trial, don’t lose hope.  Lean on God and trust Him.  I promise He will lead you through it, and when you come through the storm you will have more peace and PEACE MATTERS!

~Dan~

Taking Care of Yourself

Many of us spend most of our lives taking care of other people.  We have been taught that we are supposed to take care of our children, our friends, our spouse, and our parents.  We put so much energy into taking care of all the people in our lives that we often do not take care of ourselves.  The fact is we are not any good to anyone unless we take care of ourselves.  There has been a fundamental shift in our world lately based on taking care of our bodies.  We are obsessed with exercise, eating healthy foods, and not drinking or smoking.  We cannot turn the television or radio on without hearing someone telling us how to take care of our bodies.  This is very important, but we also have to take care of our spirit.  

We can never take care of anyone or do God’s work with a weak or sick spirit.  It is often easy for us to know what we have to do to take care of our bodies.  When we do we can see and feel the results.  Taking care of our spirit will get us similar results.  We will look and feel differently.  Just like exercise, taking care of our spirit takes time.  It is something that we have to train ourselves to do.  It will make us sore, and we will get frustrated that things are not changing quickly enough, but in time we will notice a change.  We have often heard that “Pain is gain.”  This concept can also be applied to our spirit.  You see when we go through a painful time in our lives our spirit grows and becomes stronger if we face the pain correctly.  Having a strong spirit is something we have to train for.  We would never run a race without training first.  Why, then, would we go through the race of this life without training our spirit first?  

There are many ways to train our spirit, and God is the master trainer.  We can train our spirit by having positive thoughts; we can train our spirit by praying and talking to God.  We can train our spirit by reading the Bible and other books that are positive and uplifting.  We can train our spirit by watching the right kind of shows on television or listening to uplifting programs on the radio.  The best way to train our spirit is to surround ourselves with positive thoughts.  We have to think in a positive manner, and we have to project a positive attitude.  In order to do this, we have to rely on God for everything.  We have to allow Him to talk to us and guide our path.  We have to turn to Him when things get difficult, and we have to give Him the control.  When we do this, much of life can seem a little easier.  Once we have trained our spirit and we are in good shape once again, then we can be a service to the people in our lives.  Once we have found peace within ourselves, we can help others find peace.  Once we have discovered the hope that God wants for all of us, we can direct others to the hope that we have discovered.  

While it is very important that we help other people and it will help us in the process, we have to be in shape to do the best job we can.  So, take time for yourself and include God in that time.  Find time to be still and communicate with God.  Allow the pain and strife that we will encounter in this life to strengthen you, not define or defeat you.  Lean on God and let Him train your spirit.  He is the perfect coach and trainer.  Just like exercise, it is something that we will have to make a daily part of our lives, and it is something we have to do everyday, but it will make us feel so much better that we will not want to go a day without it.  When we take the time to take care of ourselves and attend to the wellbeing of our spirit we will have peace, and PEACE MATTERS.

~Dan~       

Independence

There is no better day than the 4th of July to celebrate our independence.  When we think about independence, we think about different things. We think about all of the things we are free to do.  We are blessed to live in a country where we do have the freedom to worship in the way we choose, say what we want to say, and love whom we want to love.  Our freedom and independence has been fought for for centuries, and many brave men and women have made the ultimate sacrifice to insure that we have the freedom to live the life that we choose to live.  

Many of us have grown up in a world where our freedom has always existed, so we do not understand what it feels like not to be free.  However, if we would all stop and think about it for a minute, we would realize that there have been times in our lives when we have not been free to live our lives the way we choose.  We have all lost our independence at one time or another.  We have fought to regain our independence and sometimes we have won and sometimes we have lost.  

We can all have the kind of freedom and independence that will never fade away.  True independence and freedom comes from surrendering to God and letting Him lead the way.  We are all traveling down the path of life, and we all fight to stay on the path.  The path is bumpy and often takes drastic and dangerous turns.  We encounter obstacles along the way and often do not know which way to go.  God wants to lead us down the path.  He wants to be our guide, and He wants to lead us to the things that we are meant to find in this life.  When we spend our lives fighting against God’s will and His perfect timing, we will never feel free.  We will always be fighting a losing battle and we will not have peace in our lives.  

We all need to work harder to submit to God’s will and allow Him to lead our steps and illuminate our path.  He can and will do that for all of us.  All we have to do is surrender to Him and simply follow Him.  It sounds easy, doesn’t it?  However, it is one of the hardest things that any of us will do.  We often say that God is in control and that we want His will for our lives, but we spend much of our energy trying to figure out God’s plan for our lives, and we spend a lot of time trying to make things work out the way we think they should work out.  If we all could just give in and let God do the navigating, we would not have to worry about anything.  

God will never leave us or forsake us, and He will never lead us in the wrong direction.  Surrendering to God means that we have faith that He will lead us to the things that we need in His perfect timing.  He will not get us there too early, and He will not get us there too late.  He will get us there at the perfect time when we need it the most.  

Surrendering to God takes practice.  We are all so accustomed to making our own way and to always being in control of what we do that it is hard for us to surrender to God.  It is something that we will have to strive to do everyday.  It will come when we communicate with God and do our best to discern His will for our lives.  It will come when we are obedient to God, even when we do not understand why He is having us do a certain thing or leading us in a certain direction.  When we truly surrender to God, we will have peace like we have never had before, and our lives will seem so much easier.  I am not saying that our lives will be perfect, but much of the stress and worry that we carry around with us will be lessened when we truly surrender to Him.  

So, let’s all work at surrendering to God and letting Him be in control.  Let’s all communicate with God everyday and allow Him to reveal His plans for our lives in His time.  Let’s all enjoy the independence and freedom that we will feel by allowing God to take the reins, and let’s continue to follow Him where He leads.  It will be difficult to submit to God’s will in everything in our lives, but once we do it, we will have more peace and PEACE MATTERS.  

~Dan~

We hope all of you have a peaceful 4th of July filled with fun, family, and good memories!

Dan, Jeff, Peyton, & Paycee

Being Pulled Back on the Path

When we are not on the path that God intends for our lives, we know it.  We may not be consciously aware of it, but we feel it in our hearts.  Not being on the path can be very frightening.  When we are off the path that God intends for our lives, we lose our hope, our faith, and our peace.  We struggle with the ordinary, daily aspects of our lives.  Everything seems like a struggle.  The hopelessness is suffocating, and all we can focus on is the moment that we are in.  We can no longer look to the future, for if we do all we can see is darkness and the next great struggle.  We find ourselves waiting for the next fire to erupt, and we spend all of our time trying to extinguish that fire, often in vain.  When we are off the path, we have to let go of the dreams and goals to which we once had clung. We realize that those dreams will never come true, and that makes the hopelessness even denser.  Then the day comes when God says, “Enough.”  He has watched us struggle and fight, and He knows that we need His help to get back on the right path.   

Getting back on the path is often a difficult and painful process.  We often have a lot of corrections that we need to make, but we realize that we have to follow Him, we have to obey Him, and we have to trust Him.  When we return to the path, peace and hope are not restored to us instantly.  Like I said before, we have to make amends for the mistakes we made while we were off the path, but if we continue to follow God and trust Him, the clouds will start to lift.  It may seem like this is a slow process, but each second, minute, day, or week that goes by makes the clouds lift even more, and when we look back on where we once were, we realize just how much progress we have made through God’s help.  

Very soon, everything starts to come into focus.  We awake each day with a renewed sense of peace.  Our hope has been restored, strained relationships have been renewed, our purpose has become clearer, and we have peace.  Then the most beautiful thing in the world begins to happen. The dreams and goal we once had and were forced to abandon begin to come back to us.  God hands them back to us like a gift.  The presentation of this wonderful gift gives us even more hope and peace, and it makes us want to follow Him even more.  Once we are back on the right path, everything seems lighter.  Now when we look to the future we can see light instead of darkness.  We can actually breathe again, things seem easier, and we know that all of our dreams can come true.  We actually have the hope and strength to make them come true, sometimes for the first time in our lives.  

You see, God wants to give us the desires of our hearts, and when we follow Him and trust Him He hands them to us, and we feel like a child on Christmas morning, and everything seems possible once again.  We have a renewed sense of peace, and PEACE MATTERS.   

~Dan~

P.S. This is a repost from October 29, 2015.

Seeing the Beauty in Life

Yesterday when I was at school I found myself humming a song for no particular reason.  I often find myself doing this, but when I realized what song I was humming, it made me stop and think for a moment.  The song that I was humming was “Accentuate the Positive.”  I am sure most of you know this Johnny Mercer song, but in case you do not know it, I am sure you will recognize these first lines from the song.  “You have to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative, but don’t mess with mister in between.”  When I thought about the song a little further, I began to see that that is what we all should really do.  We should spend most of our time accentuating the positive and eliminating the negative.  

You see, the thing that many of us often forget is that there is still so much beauty and positivity for us to focus on in this world.  We often find ourselves focusing on all of the negative things.  This is easy to do because it seems that we are constantly reminded of all the negative things that are happening around us.  What we all need to try harder to do is focus on the positive side of life.  That is what God wants all of us to do, and He has provided all of us with positive things that we can focus on if we just take a moment to notice them.  

There is so much beauty in the world.  We all see the world through different eyes.  I see the world differently than another person does, and he sees it differently than I do.  We all have our own unique way of seeing the world.  However, if we are focusing on the beauty of the world, it is true that we may see the beauty in different places, but the feeling that we have because of the beauty that we see will be the same.

Some people see beauty in nature.  There are so many beautiful things to behold when we look at nature.  A misshapen tree, a flock of geese, a mother deer with her fawn, a sunflower, and the list goes on and on.  Others see beauty in their surroundings.  Maybe they see beauty in a painting, an antique piece of furniture, the sound of a loved ones voice, the sound of a child laughing, or the bark of joy that a cherished pet makes when we come home.  Others see beauty in acts of kindness.  They see beauty when someone performs a random act of kindness, gives to a charity, smiles, calls an old friend, or tries to make someone else’s life better.  

Regardless of what makes us see the beauty in the world, the most important thing is that we see it.  When we see the beauty in the world, we will have a better outlook on life.  We will not feel so heavy and we will have more peace and PEACE MATTERS!  

~Dan~

P.S. This is a repost from January 14, 2016.  

Letting Go of Control

The whole world is seemingly obsessed with control, who has it, who wants it, who is going to get it, and who is going to lose it.  Every environment we come into contact with is operated on control.  People at our place of employment want to be in control, people at our place of worship want to be in control, and people in our families want to be in control.  We have spent the majority of our lives jockeying for position to see who is going to end up on top.  We fight for it, we lie for it, and we manipulate for it.  We try to control our lives and our bodies.  We want what we want when we want it, and we try to make sure that happens, often times in vain.   

Ironically, when it comes right down to it, the only thing that is really in control is the control itself.  Not being in control makes us mad, it makes us frustrated, it makes us bitter, and it makes a worry.  We carry the weight of trying to be in control around with us, and let me tell you, it is awfully heavy.  When we try to be in control of everything, we have difficulty maintaining relationships.  We find ourselves fighting with our parents, our siblings, our spouses, and our friends.  We become so obsessed with control that we no longer see the good in the world or in the people we love.  We want them to do what we want when we want them to do it, and if they do not we get mad and sometimes even cut them out of our lives.  

However, if we would just stop and think about it for a minute, having control over everything is not what we should want.  It is not what God wants for our lives either.  Imagine all the strife and worry that could be eliminated from our lives if we would just let go of control.  We all want peace in our lives, and one key to having peace is to stop trying to control everything.  We need to hand over the control to God.  He is in control anyway, whether we like it or not.  When we try to have absolute control, we tend to take matters into our own hands. We often mess everything up and get ourselves into situations that we do not want or need to be in.  Of course, when that happens, we look to God to get us out.  If we had just allowed Him to be in control, we would not have been in the situation in the first place.  

So, let go.  Let God guide your life.  If you find yourself wanting to control a situation, just step back and let God have it.  It is going to be what it is going to be, and no amount of control on your part can change that.  Now, I am not saying that we should just sit back and let whatever happens happen.  We have to be wise and know what we can control and what we cannot control.  We also have to make God part of our decision making process.  If we can give up on trying to control everything and everyone, much of the worry and stress in our lives will disappear.  It is a lot like the song by Carrie Underwood, “Jesus Take the Wheel”.  We have to let God take control.  That’s what He wants and His hands are far more capable than ours.  So the next time you feel the need to control a situation or other people, just say to God to “Take it” and let Him really take it.  Trust that He knows what is best and have faith that everything will work out the way it should and just enjoy the peace that comes from letting God be in control, because PEACE MATTERS.   

~Dan~

This is a repost from October 27, 2015.

Darkness

Who of us did not spend much of our childhood being afraid of the dark?  In fact, who of us has not spent the majority of our adult life being afraid of the dark?  It is a common fear that most of us share.  Darkness is depressing, and it can seem to suffocate us when we are in it.  When we are in a completely dark space, we cannot see anything.  We are frozen and want to stand still to keep from running into something.  When we do move, we do so with trepidation with our arms in front of us checking for dangers that may be in our way.  But think about this, what does it take to get rid of the darkness?  Of course the answer is light, but it does not have to be the most powerful light known to man.  It can be just a little spark. You see, one tiny light can change the darkness and illuminate our path.  Imagine being in a completely dark closet.  The lights are out and you cannot see anything in front of you.  There is a door in the closet, and when you look at the door, you can see light coming in from the crack at the bottom.  Light will enter the darkness wherever it can.  That small light can guide you safely out of the closet.

We can apply this principle to our own lives.  We often find ourselves in darkness for one reason or the other.  The darkness depresses us and can suffocate us.  We can find ourselves so overcome by the darkness that we are afraid to move.  We become paralyzed in the darkness and can spend years there afraid to try and find our way out.  However, the day comes when we realize that hope, love, peace, and God can bring light back into our lives.  It can start with a tiny spark that will give us the confidence to start moving.  The closer we get to the light, the more confident we become and the bigger the light grows.  Soon, we have found our way out of the darkness, and we are again living in the light, no longer afraid to move forward.  

I know if you are like me, you have been in the darkness of this life before, and it is a frightening thing.  It does paralyze us, and we have trouble finding our way out.  God wants to bring light back into our lives.  All we really have to do is ask Him.  The light can come in many forms.  It can start as a tiny spark and grow from there.  You see, the tiniest bit of light will chase the darkness away.  Think about that for a minute.  It only takes a tiny spark to chase the darkness away.  I don’t know about you, but that makes me smile when I think about it.  So, the next time you are in darkness and everything in your life seems to be falling apart and you are paralyzed by fear, remember to look for that tiny spark that can chase the darkness away.  You may wonder what that tiny spark can be.  It can be anything that brings peace into your life.  Love, hope, peace, forgiveness, acceptance . . . any of these can be the spark.  

God does not want us to live in darkness.  He wants us to enjoy the warmth and the beauty of the light.  He wants to be that light.  After all, He said. “I am the light.”  Let Him be the light, and he will fill your life with all the hope, love, joy, and peace you could ever imagine.  Above all, always remember that light will always overcome darkness.  Darkness will never be able to stand up against the light, and light will always prevail.  If we remember this, it will bring us peace, and PEACE MATTERS

~Dan~

This is a repost from October 22, 2015

Having a Positive Attitude

Having a positive attitude while living in this world is essential.  While it is essential, it is often difficult to maintain a positive outlook.  We are bombarded with negative news all day long.  We cannot turn on the television, the radio, read the newspaper or a magazine without hearing or reading some bad news.  Be that as it may, we can still have a positive attitude.  A positive attitude starts with us.  It is something that in the beginning we will have to make a conscious effort to do.  

Recently, I have been trying to have a more positive outlook on life.  Some days I am more successful than others.  One thing that I am trying to do is to be more grateful.  I believe that a grateful heart will see things more positively.  Each morning when I wake, the first thing I do is to thank God for the beautiful day and for giving me another day to live my life.  This is something that I used to do all the time a few years back, but I stopped doing it due to difficult situations in my life.  I realize now just how much good it did me.  If our first thought of the day is positive and one of gratitude, then we have a better chance of maintaining that positive attitude throughout the day.  

Another thing that I am trying to do is to laugh more.  Sometimes this may mean that I am the only one laughing. Second and third graders do not seem to get my sense of humor, but it doesn’t matter. Laughing makes me feel better.  Plus, in this life, there is always something to laugh about.  My grandma often said, “Garbage in, garbage out.”  It is something that she said so often that I got used to hearing it and really didn’t think much about it, but when we stop and examine those words, we will realize that there is a lot of truth in them.  If we allow the negativity of the world to cause us to have a negative attitude, it will undoubtedly show in our interactions with others.   

We all know people who are always positive or always negative.  If you take a minute and watch those people, you will soon realize that the positive person often chooses to surround himself with other positive people and the negative person often chooses to surround himself with other negative people.  Our attitude is contagious.  Something else my grandma always said was, “Love them to death.”  I believe that she meant if you are positive with a negative person, her or she will have no choice but to eventually become positive too.  

I remember once being at my niece’s production of Peter Pan.  While the show was very good, I was struck by one scene.  It was the scene where Peter is teaching Wendy how to fly.  He tells her that in order for her to fly, she has to think sweet thoughts.  Wendy does as she is instructed, and soon she is flying around the room.  I couldn’t help but think how true this is.  If we think positive thoughts we will fly.  Now I am not saying that we will fly around the room like Peter and Wendy did, but we will feel lighter, happier, and more at peace.  Our spirits will soar.  The negative things that happen to us everyday will not have as much power over us.  In some ways, we will fly above them.  

So, let’s make a pact today.  We will do our best to have a positive attitude everyday.  We will begin our day with a grateful heart and believe that this is going to be a wonderful day.  It really can be!  We just have to look for positive things throughout the day.  Once we start finding them, we will start seeing them everywhere.  I know if we can do this, we will soar through the day and soon we will be flying with our friends, and we will begin to see a change in the world.  Having a positive attitude will bring us peace, and PEACE MATTERS.    

~Dan~

Peace

This world has been trying to find peace for centuries.  In fact, every human on this planet has spent most of his or her life searching for peace.  We have fought for it, we have protested for it, we have written about it, we have sung about it, and we have prayed for it.  It seems that we strive for peace, but we never quite get it.  I believe that peace has to start within each person.  Once a person achieves peace, it can spread to another person and another person and so on.  The problem with achieving peace is that there are many outside forces working against us.  There is so much negativity in our world that it is difficult to find peace.  We find ourselves being dragged down by the bad news in the world and in our lives.  However, true peace means that we can see or experience the bad and still be at peace.  I look at peace like a security blanket that we can wrap ourselves in.  

Another way to look at peace is to use the egg drop challenge from science class that many of us have done as an example.  For those of you who do not know what I am referring to, it is the assignment in which an egg is dropped from a high elevation with the goal of not breaking it. The egg is wrapped in all sorts of soft materials.  It is sometimes even given a parachute to ease its landing. Once the egg has been protected, it is dropped, and if it does not break, the experiment is considered a success.  The peace that we can get from God is very much like the soft material that we wrap the egg in.  God wants to wrap us in his peace and even though bad things may happen, his peace will insulate us and keep us from breaking.  It sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?  

You may be wondering how you can achieve the type of peace where the bad and negative things of this world do not break you.  The first and most logical answer is to lean on God and to trust Him and let Him be in control.  So many times we think that we are in control and that we can achieve peace on our own.  We have to work at achieving peace.  We first have to surrender our problems to God.  That is what He wants, and that is why He is there.  We have to trust that He is with us and that He is in control.  We have to stop trying to control everything in our lives.  We have to stop fighting to get our way and find the peace that comes from giving the control to God.  We also have to thank God for all of our blessings.  A grateful heart is a peaceful heart.  If we begin to be grateful for all the things that bring us happiness, we will start to feel the peace that God wants for our lives.  

To achieve peace we have to trust God.  We have to stop trying to control everything and everybody, and we have to have a grateful heart and thank God for all the blessings that we have in our lives.  Sounds simple doesn’t it?  It is harder than it appears to be, but we can do it.  We will have to start small and we will have to train our brains to think in a different way, but it can be done.  All God really wants is for us to have hope and peace.  He wants us to trust Him and to let him be in control.  He wants us to thank Him for the good and the bad in our lives.  When we do this, the blanket of peace that He wants to give us will be ours and the security of that peace will make our lives so much better.  If we can achieve peace within ourselves, it will spread and it will keep spreading and soon maybe peace will dominate our lives instead of being a goal that we never achieve.  I know that I am going to try a little harder to have this type of peace in my life and I hope you will do the same because PEACE MATTERS.    

~Dan~

The Final Walk

The following is the last part of the eulogy that I gave at my grandma’s funeral.  Before I read this, I asked the audience to close their eyes and see with their hearts.  I believe this may have been very close to what my grandma experienced after she left this world.  I hope that you enjoy reading it.

The Final Walk

Milliseconds after drawing her final breath, she opened her eyes to the most glorious light that she had ever seen.  Then she heard a calm, soft voice say the words that she had been waiting all of her life to hear.  The voice said, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”  As her eyes began to focus on the sound of the voice, she realized that the light was emanating from the figure that stood before her.  The figure stretched out His hand, and she instinctively took it and began walking.  

As she walked within the awesome light of the figure, all the questions and problems that she had carried with her on this earth began to fade away.  As these questions and problems began to lift, she noticed that she was walking better and faster than she had walked in years.  As more questions were answered and more problems began to fade away, she realized that she was running like she had never run before.  She was running at an alarming speed toward an unknown destination, and she was not even the slightest bit winded by her run.  She felt free and completely at peace.  It was a peace that went far beyond her understanding and a peace like she had never known.  

She soon realized that she was running down a street of gold and that a crowd was beginning to gather.  The crowd was excited and cheering her every step.  She recognized some of them as those who long ago left her life.  They were mostly friends and old acquaintances that she had long ago forgotten, but as she ran by them her memory began to come back and she could remember every conversation she ever had with them.  There were even strangers lining the streets and cheering her on.  They seemed to know her, but she could not remember them.  As the crowd swelled, she began to see family members whom she had had to give up.  She saw her brothers, sister-in-laws, cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents.  They, too, were cheering her on and celebrating her arrival.  

As she reached the end of the street, there was an even bigger crowd gathered.  They were cheering loudly, jumping up and down, and waving her on.  She thought at first her eyes were deceiving her because one of the women jumping the highest and cheering the loudest was her mother who had died a feeble and old woman years before.  Next to her was her father who had died when she was in her twenties.  He, too, was cheering her on, and she quickly noticed that he was standing on two legs and she thought to herself, “How can this be possible?  My dad lost his leg long before he passed away.” But there he was standing on two legs and jumping up and down. 

Then the figure of light stepped forward again.  He had somehow beaten her to the finish line, and she knew that the figure was God Himself.  In his arms was a baby that she recognized immediately.  The baby was Paul Jerry, the son she had lost so many years ago.  As God handed her the baby, her knees became weak for just a moment as she cradled Paul Jerry in her arms and showered him with kisses.  Then God said, “Welcome home, Ruth.  We have all been anxiously waiting your arrival and we are so happy to see you.”  

With these words, the crowd burst into a thunderous applause like Ruth had never before heard.  Then God spoke again and said, “Follow me.”  Ruth did as she was asked and followed God along with the crowd.  They soon arrived at a home that had been especially prepared for her.  As the house came into view, God began telling her how her mother had been preparing the home for her arrival.  He explained to Ruth that people have jobs to do in Heaven, and her mother had asked that her job would be preparing Ruth’s home.  When Ruth looked at the house, she noticed a handsome man leaning in the doorway with his arms crossed, and she realized in an instant that it was Norman.  He looked at her and said, “Welcome home babe.”  She ran to greet him, and they exchanged a long loving embrace that she had felt in the wee hours of the morning every time she thought of him and longed for his touch.  

Then God said, “We have one more stop to make.” He led Ruth and the crowd into an enormous stadium filled with more people than Ruth had ever seen gathered in one place.  When she walked into the middle of the stadium the crowd erupted once again, and Ruth looked at God with one more question on her face.  Then God said, “Ruth, these are all the people that you touched or helped in some way when you were on earth.  Some of them you encouraged, and many others were the recipients of your generosity.  Some of these people continued to live their lives because of something you said to them, and some of them came to know me because of you.”  Ruth said, “But I don’t even know some of these people.”  God replied, “Ruth, when you touch one life it spreads and it touches another life and another and another and another.  The goodness people do on earth spreads like wildfire, and you started lots of fires in my name, and you have been richly rewarded for that.  

So in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead when you start missing grandma, I want you to remember this story.  Realize that she is happier than she has ever been and that she has been richly rewarded for all the good she did while she was on this earth.  When it is your time to take your final walk down the streets of gold, you can rest assured that grandma will be standing at the end of the line cheering, jumping up and down, and waving you on to your great reward.  When I think about that it gives me such peace, and I think it will give you peace too and PEACE MATTERS. 

I want to let all of you know how much I appreciate all the prayers, support, and encouragement you have given me during this time of great loss in my life.  I also wanted to thank you for visiting my blog and reading all of these stories about my grandma’s life.  I have read all of your comments and each one of them has touched me in a very special way.  I try my best to reply to every comment that is left.  Unfortunately, you do not get any notification of that reply, so I hope that you occasionally go back and read my responses.  Being able to share my grandma’s stories with all of you has been an honor that I am very thankful for.  Knowing that even one of you has been positively affected by an experience that she had while living on this earth is the icing on the cake.  Writing these stories and sharing them with all of you has served as a healing process for me and has given me a chance to share my love of my grandma with more people.  Each time I have posted one of her stories and then read your comments in response to the story, I have felt more peace enter my spirit and as you all know, PEACE MATTERS!    

~Dan~

Grandma's Legacy

The following is the first part of the eulogy that I gave at my grandma’s funeral.  I hope you enjoy reading it and that it will serve as a testament to the life my grandma lived and the relationship that she and I had.

Grandma's Legacy

To say that Grandma’s life was easy would be false.  She battled poverty, she fought cancer three times, she endured numerous surgeries, she suffered profound loss, and she dealt with the aging process, but through it all she maintained her faith in God, her trust that He always had a plan, her happiness, and most of all her sense of humor.  Life truly could never get her down for long.  She always saw the bright side of life, and she had the ability to laugh at life. She brought that out in everyone she came into contact with, especially me.  I always said, “My grandma is the funniest person I have ever known” and she truly was.  No one has ever made me laugh as hard or loud as she has, and I don’t believe anyone ever will again.  

When I think of grandma, my mind is filled with so many things, but the laughter is what has taken the strongest hold.  I always believed with her beauty, sense of humor, and comedic timing that she could have done anything with her life, but she chose to me a mother and a grandmother, and I sure am thankful that that is what she chose to do.  I think the thing that kept grandma going was her ability to laugh at herself.  When she did this, she put everyone at ease.  The world could be crashing down around you, but she had the ability to find the humor in something that happened and everything seemed better, if only for a moment.  She always knew when a witty remark was needed the most, and she used this gift to defuse many difficult situations.  

I remember once when I was with grandma at a church function and people were talking about the hardships of growing old and all the things that came with that.  They were talking about all the things that people had to endure and all the ways to hide their age.  I guess the conversation was getting a little too serious for her so she dryly said, “Well, if I took off everything that was fake on me, you wouldn’t recognize me.”  She then looked at me, and we both burst out laughing.  Her statement was very true, but she made it seem like it was not a very big deal.  

Grandma always said that she was a change of life baby.  I am not a 100% sure that she really was, but I was thinking about her saying that the other day and then decided that she truly was a change of life baby, because she changed the lives of so many people.  Many of those people are in this room today, some of them are with her in heaven, and many of them she never really knew.  She certainly changed my life.  She gave me a foundation and a belief that everything is part of the great plan of life, and I will carry that with me all the days of my life.  Grandma’s life and her story have touched numerous people.  All of you have been touch by her life.  Maybe you knew her all of your life or perhaps you only met her once or twice.  The amount of time you spent with her does not diminish the effect that she had on your life.  Her story will not end today because it lives on in all of us.  It lives on every single time we talk about her or share a memory we have of her with someone else.  The strength and goodness of someone’s life never dies.  It lives on and on.  So, never stop yourself from remembering or telling someone the story of her life.  She is a part of your story, and like all good stories they are best when reread and repeated.  

Grandma spent the better part of her life telling her story and the stories of everyone she knew.  Many times she did repeat them over and over, but they were worth repeating.  Every time she would tell the stories of all the miracles that God had performed in her life, you could literally see the amazement in her eyes.  The stories never grew old to her and anyone new to her life would eventually be told the stories.  From the time we found out the grandma was sick, I would wake up almost every morning and I would be signing a portion of the song “Blessed Assurance” to myself.  I would sing it over and over.  The part I sang was, “This is my story. This is my song.  Praising my savior all the day long.”  That is what grandma spent her life doing.  She never failed to give God the credit for all the blessings she had in life.  She never took anything she had for granted, and she never took credit for anything she had done.  She gave God the credit, and she encouraged others to do the same.  She continually talked about how blessed she was.  She could be in the depths of the valley, but she still remembered to be thankful for all that God had done for her.  I truly believe that it was her thankful attitude that sustained her, and it is what kept her going through the trials of her life.  

Grandma taught me that I should always be thankful for the valleys in life.  I learned that from watching her experience valleys, and her words have echoed in my mind every time that I experienced a valley in my life.  She loved to tell the story about the time that she and grandpa drove out to Colorado.  She said that they were driving through the mountains and God told her to look down below.  When she did she saw the most beautiful and lush valley that she had ever seen.  Then God told her to look up at the mountaintop.  When she did she said all she saw was rock and a little snow.  Then God told her that the valley is where we grow and where we become stronger and the people that we are meant to be.  She told me that once she realized that, she never saw another valley in her life the same way.  She knew that every time she experienced a valley it was making her stronger.  The last time she told me this story she said, “I am so thankful for every step of my journey, the good and the bad.”  When she said that to me I thought, “Now that is a life well-lived.”  When we can truly be thankful for everything that happened to us during our lives and we can truly believe that they happened for a reason, we can face anything.  Grandma is proof of that, and all of us can be too.  

Grandma was a giver by nature.  I don’t think anyone who ever truly knew her could deny that fact.  She gave in so many ways.  She gave financially to her church, to worthy causes, and to her family.  She gave advice, humor, and love.  She was generous in so many ways.  She told me once that she had to be generous.  She said that the Lord had been so good to her and He had given her so much that she had no choice but to be generous to others.  It was her way of giving back all of the blessings that she had been given.  The one thing that she was always generous with was her time.  I think we all were recipients of that gift.  I know that I was.  She always had time for me, and she never made me feel like I was a burden.  She would always come up with ways for us to spend time together.  

One of her ideas resulted in a thirty year tradition.  That tradition was for her and me to make bon-bons together every Christmas.  I remember when she asked me to help her make bon-bons for the first time.  I was twelve years old, and she was fifty-nine.  She told me she was getting old and needed help with the work.  Thinking about it now, I believe that was just an excuse.  She felt like we needed to spend time together, and I am so thankful that she chose me.  I am not sure why she asked me when she could have asked anyone, but she asked me and I will be grateful for that for as long as I live.  It was during those times that we made bon-bons together that she would tell me all the stories that I now hold onto.  It was during those times that we would laugh and share our lives with each other.  It was during those times that we would talk about the good times and the hard times.  It was during those times that we formed a bond that even death can never come between. 

Grandma and I always had a special bond.  We were kindred spirits.  I know people use that phrase a lot, but we truly were. Actually we still are.  Because we share the same spirit, and no one can ever be separated from their spirit.  For years, when we would have a family function, you could always find grandma and me sitting off to the side talking and laughing.  We always gravitated toward each other.  I truly believe it was part of God’s plan for our lives.  I am not completely sure why, but it was His plan.  She would always try to explain our bond, and she found it difficult to put into words.  She would say, “It is like you are another female.”  She would always say, “Dan is Dar’s girl.”  That used to bother me a little.  I know she didn’t mean anything negative by it. She was just trying to explain it.  All I know for sure is that I sure am thankful that I was Dar’s girl.  

On one of the last visits I had with Grandma I overheard her trying to explain our relationship to Jeff.  She said, “I always felt like Dan needed me and I needed him.”  She continued and said, “I always felt like I should spend time with him.  It was like a part of him was inside me and a part of me was inside him.”  Then in true grandma fashion she said, “I know that sounds crazy, but that is just the way it was.”  When I heard her trying to explain our relationship to Jeff, I understood her completely because it was exactly how I always felt, and what a blessing that was!  To have a powerful connection and bond with another person is truly a gift from God and one that does not come along very often.  

When I realized that Grandma’s life was coming to an end I kept thinking that a part of me would die right along with her because we had been so close, and then I decided that a part of me was not dying because a part of her would live on in me.  When I thought about it like that, I was able to make peace with what was going to happen, and the thing that all of you need to remember is that a part of her will live on in you.  Your experiences with her are just as important as the ones I had with Grandma, and she lives within you too.  Never forget that.   

Grandma always said, “It is like the good book says, ‘Life is a vapor.’”  She would always follow that up by saying, “It is over in a blink of an eye.”  I was thinking about her saying that several months ago, and I began to see it a little differently.  Life is over in a blink of an eye, and it does pass quickly, but when it is said that life is a vapor, I think it means a little bit more than that.  Think about a vapor for a minute.  When we spray a vapor into the air it comes out in a million different particles, and we can never really tell where all of those particles land and the effect they have on the surfaces that they touch.  All of our lives are a vapor and we spray that vapor in many different ways.  It is up to each of us to make sure that the vapor that we pollinate the world with is that of love, joy, encouragement, and peace.  We never truly know where the vapor of our lives will land and what it does for the people we touch.  We will all know one day, but while we are still living on this earth we never know for sure.  The vapor of grandma’s life touched so many, and it continues to touch lives today.  Her vapor was one of love, compassion, generosity, acceptance, and laughter.  It certainly touched me many times, and I know that it touched all of you too.  Her vapor has now become part of our vapor.  It will live on in us, and we will pass it on to others.  The cycle of love, goodness, and faith can never be broken and can never die.  

We all know that Grandma’s life on this earth has come to an end.  I am sure if you are like me that is hard to accept.  We know it, but it still seems unreal to us.  We can all see her earthly body lying in front of us now, but that is not Grandma.  She is now living somewhere else, just on the other side.  We may not be able to see her any more, but we can still feel her, and if we sit very still we can still hear her.  The human body is just a shell.  We know nothing but that human body and we hold on to it for as long as we can, but that is not who grandma is anymore.  Someone once explained the human body to me like this. Imagine a jar of jelly.  You can take that jar and empty all the jelly out of it and throw the jar away.  Even though the jar has been discarded, the jelly that was inside still exists. It is just in a different place.  The jelly represents our souls.  The jar represents our body.  Grandma’s spirit will never die, and it will live on forever and ever in the most beautiful place that any of us can ever imagine.  She is at peace, and she is still alive.  She is happier than she has ever been, and she is reaping all the rewards of a life well-lived.  She does not cease to exist. She is just in a different place.  One day we will all be together again, and we will never know the sadness that comes from being separated.  Hold on to that fact and never forget it.   

I have thought a lot about what grandma would want me to say to all of you today and what she would want the final thoughts about her life to be.  I know that most of what she wanted to say to all of us has already been said by her, but I also believe that she would want all of us to know that she lived a good life.  She would want us to know that she was happy and that even though her life was not always easy she enjoyed every aspect of it.  She would want us to know that love is the answer to every problem that we face.  She would want us to know that when we show love and acceptance we always get that in return.  She would not want us to have any regrets about the time we spent or didn't spend with her or the things we said or didn’t say to her.  She would want us to know that she fully comprehends the meaning of life and that all of her questions have been answered.  She would want all of us to live the best life we can live, and she would want us to continue the work that she did on this earth.  That is the thing that all of us need to remember.  We all have a calling on our lives.  Grandma had a calling on her life that she took very seriously and performed up to her last breath.  I have a calling on my life, and all of you have a calling on your life.  She would want us to feverishly answer that call and not to fight what God is telling us to do.  She always told me, “If God tells you to do something, even if you think you cannot do it, you should do it.”  She wants that for me, and she wants that for all of you.  Grandma’s life had great meaning and she performed her tasks with all that she had.  She made mistakes and failed many times, but that never stopped her from moving forward.  She learned from her mistakes.  She allowed them to make her stronger, and she shared the lessons she learned with everyone she knew.  She would want all of us to do the same thing.  

If God allowed grandma to witness everything that is happening today, I know that she would be very pleased.  She would be proud of all of us, and she would be overwhelmed by the outpouring of love we all have for her.  I can almost see her standing at the back of the room next to God watching all of this.  I can see her smiling and nodding her head and saying, “Yes, that’s right.”   I can even see her smiling at God and elbowing Him and dryly saying as she looks to the front of the room, “She most of been a wonderful woman.” And then laughing, just one more witty comment to put us all at ease.  She was a wonderful woman, and I am so thankful to call her my grandma.  

I have been able to talk to a lot of people in my life, and it always seems that my grandma comes into the conversation.  Anyone who knows me knows her.  I always find myself saying to people, “You should meet my grandma.  She taught me to have faith, to trust God, and to believe He has a plan.  She taught me that even faith the size of a mustard seed can move a mountain.  She is the funniest person I have ever known and she is my favorite person on this planet.”  Now, I can say that she is my favorite person in heaven, and I sure will be glad to see her again.  

Most of the time when grandma and I would make bon-bons we would watch something on TV after we were finished.  Many times, it was a Gaither special, or The Waltons, or Little House on the Prairie.  Grandma always had a secret crush on Michael Landon.  She would always say, “He is so handsome, and I think he was a really good person.”  She would follow that up by saying, “I can’t believe he is dead.”  Maybe she has run into Michael Landon in Heaven.  We will have to wait and see.  There was one particular episode of Little House on the Prairie that she and I watched several times.  It was entitled “Remember Me”.  We would watch it and cry, but we loved watching it together.  At the end of the show is a quote that I think sums up how grandma would want all of us to remember her.  I believe she would say to us, “Remember me with smiles and laughter, because that is how I will remember you.  If you can only remember me with tears, then don’t remember me at all.”  We should all hold on to the smiles and laughter that she brought into our lives because that is truly what life is all about, and I am going to do my best to honor her request.  

I hope you will come back on Thursday to read the second part of the eulogy that I gave at my grandma’s funeral.  When I think about my grandma and I remember all the wonderful lessons that she taught me during me life, I feel such peace and PEACE MATTERS

~Dan~

Life Lessons I Learned From my Grandma: The Greatest Gift (Part Three)

This is the third and final installment of The Greatest Gift.  If you have not read part one or two, please scroll down to the posts below this one.  

Everyone began telling my grandma good-bye and made their way out of the house.  Jeff stayed for a little longer and then went home.  The nurse, Shirley, would be staying the night as well.  When everyone had gone, I looked at my grandma and said, “Well, it is just you and me, the way we always have liked it to be."  The thing that struck me the most was how hot my grandma’s hands were.  As I held them, the sensation I felt was stronger than before, but the heat coming off of her hands was incredible.  I then decided that I would play the song that I had finally found a couple of days before.  I placed my phone to my grandma’s ear and played her the song, "It is Well with My Soul."  I am not sure if she heard it or not, but I like to think that she did.  

I then decided that I needed to get some rest, so I lay down on the bed next to my grandma’s hospital bed.  As I was lying there, Jeff sent me a text.  He had a message from God for me.  This may sound strange, but this is something that Jeff and I do.  God will send him a message and then Jeff will relay it to me.  The message was very simple.  Jeff said, “God wanted me to tell you that the crowd is gathering.”  I knew instinctively what the message meant, but I do not think I processed it completely.  It was 11:11 and I went to sleep.

At 1:11, I woke up and checked on my grandma and she seemed fine.  She had not made any sounds since I had gone to sleep.  I lay back down and was awoken by a shove at 2:40.  When I opened by eyes, I saw Shirley standing over the bed with a slight smile on her face and she said, “Her heart beat is shallow and her breathing is erratic.  I thought you would want to know.”  I said, “Okay” and then sat up on the edge of the bed and gathered my thoughts and quickly realized what Shirley was telling me.  I sat in the chair next to my grandma’s hospital bed and took her hand and watched her.  Her breathing was very erratic.  She would take a breath and then there would be a pause and she would take another breath.  I immediately began praying again.  I continually prayed, “Thank you for giving me such a wonderful grandma.”  Each time she would take a breath, I would wait for her to take another, wondering if she would breathe again.  This continued for a few minutes.  It was like watching a clock whose battery was dying and the ticking was getting slower and slower.  

At 2:45 a.m. on Sunday, May 22, 2016, she took a final breath and did not breathe again, and I realized that God had come to get her.  I sat there for a moment and then looked at Shirley with tears streaming down my face and said, “I know everyone says this, but no one had a better grandma than I did.”  Shirley smiled and nodded and then I felt the next words that I was to speak bubbling up inside of me.  I tried to suppress them for a moment until the urgency to speak became too great and I said, “The battle has been won!”  I was immediately reminded that my grandma had said those exact words when her mother had died.  I sat there for a moment longer holding my grandma’s hand and repeating my prayer of gratefulness until Shirley said, “You call your mom and I will call the hospice nurse.”  I called my mom and told her what had happened and then called Jeff.  

While I was waiting on them to arrive, I sat with my grandma a little longer and let the miracle that I had just witnessed sink in, and I realized that I had just received the greatest gift that I will ever receive.  I realized in that moment that God had always planned for it to be her and me at the end, and I was filled with so much thankfulness and gratefulness that I was there.  I will never forget it, and I will never stop thanking God for allowing me to be witness to such a miraculous event.

People have told me how brave and strong I was to stay with my grandma until the end, and I always say the same thing, “If the roles had been reversed she would have done the same for me” and then I add, “There is no other place that I would have rather been.” I know deep in my soul that is true.  I can say that I was with my grandma when she left this world.  I can say that I was there when she took her final breath, and I can say that I saw God take her home.  Even typing those words fills me with such gratefulness.

I have leaned so much from watching my grandma live her life, and I also learned so much from watching her leave this earth.  She never stopped showing me how to live, and now she has shown me how to die.  She has shown me that there is no fear in death, and she has shown me that I should never be afraid of death.  She has shown me that through it all we can be thankful and that when the road gets too bumpy for us to walk that God will carry us.  He was certainly carrying me that morning, and I know now that He will carry me all the days of my life.  It is like the song says, “When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll. Whatever my lot thou has taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul.”  We should all remember those words.  We should remember to be grateful when everything is going well and when everything seems to be out of control.  We should all try a little harder to understand that every situation that comes our way is meant for us, the good and the bad, and we should accept it and allow it to make us better people.  

Living without my grandma is not easy.  I know that it will get easier, but right now it is difficult.  That is the thing about my grandma. She was 90 years old and that is a very long life, but she never stopped being a force or presence in my life.  So many times as people get old they begin fading away and my grandma never did that.  She was always there.  There has never been a time in my life that I do not remember her being there, until now.  I know that she will always be with me in the spiritual sense, but I will never feel her earthly body again.  That does make me sad, but my sadness is very often replaced by happiness for her because I know that she is at peace and she is in Heaven and she will never be sad, have pain or doubt or fear again.  She is free, and she is watching over me, and I know that I will see her again.  I will never talk to her again or sit and watch TV with her again.  I will never laugh with her or hug her again on this earth, but I know that one day I will spend eternity doing all of those things with her and that time will never run out again.  This was my lot in life and it is well with my soul.  When I realize that and let it take hold of my soul, I have peace and PEACE MATTERS!     

~Dan~

In loving tribute:

Ruth Cutsinger

10/12/25-5/22/16

The battle has been won!