Thursday, November 25, 2021

On the home front...

 Or perhaps I should say...  On the garden front...  

Summer is a comin' in, and the garden jungle is keeping me busy...

Here are some recent photos (of the least 'jungle like' areas)...

front garden


back garden


my first rose


jasmine blooming


buds and blossoms on my lemon tree


blackberry blossom


a good crop of blueberries coming on 


looks like my honeysuckle is finally going to blossom this year


baby apples


and my rhododendron is flowering

And on the family front... I've also had family visiting, from South Australia for 2 weeks...

daughter in law Hayley, granddaughter Hazel, son Ben


and when your son is here for a visit...you put him to work :)


they also caught up with daughter Marnie and grandson Denver

It was lovely to see them after two years...

but also lovely to have my quiet routine back again :))

I've not had much time for crafts or reading, but I did start the Advent readings in this book yesterday...


From the book...

Lo, in the silent night A child is born

And all is brought again That ere was lost or lorn.


Could but thy soul, O man, Become a silent night!

God would be born in thee And set all things aright.

(15th Century)

And this...

"Light your candles quietly, such candles as you possess, wherever you are."

- Alfred Delp


It's beginning to look a bit like Christmas...

xx

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Weekend Words

 From Be Still and Know...

By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name." (Hebrews 13:15)

Hebrews 13 is filled with practical exhortations relevant to Christian living today.  In verse 15 we are reminded to be full of praise.  

If a record were kept, we might be surprised how little we praise the Lord.  We sing, "Count your many blessings," but rush through the day without taking time to express our thanks to God for these blessings.  We take the every day things so for granted.

Praise should be our lifelong occupation - not occasionally, but continually.  "Through him therefore let us constantly and at all times offer up to God a sacrifice of praise..."(Amplified)

Praise to God "... is the fruit of lips that thankfully acknowledge and confess and glorify his name" (Amplified)  Is this what God hears from our lips?  Praise to his name?  Or does he sometimes hear murmuring?  Complaining?  Gossip?  Criticism?  Praise to God is not just the verbal expression of our lips, but the reality of praise lived out from our lives. 

We are to offer a "sacrifice of praise."  A sacrifice is something offered to someone, usually at a cost.  "A sacrifice of praise" - that is, praise that cost something.

During the last several years before my husband's death it cost me something to praise God.  It was a sacrifice.  My heart would be heavy, uncertain of the future.  As I watched him suffer, I suffered along with him.  It was not always easy to praise God.  Yet as I lifted my eyes from my heartache to God, praise would not only fill my heart but my lips - a sacrifice of praise.

It is easy to say to God, "I will always trust you, no matter what happens."  It is easy to praise him when everything is going smoothly.  But what about the time when we are suffering, when our hearts are breaking, when there seems to be no solution to our needs.  To praise him at such times is a "sacrifice of praise" that ascends as perfume to the throne of God.


"Cause me to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning, For in you do I trust; Cause me to know the way in which I should walk, For I lift up my soul to you.  Teach me to do Your will, For You are my God; Your Spirit is good.  Lead me in the land of uprightness." - Psalm 143:8,10 



Fixed Focus

Oh, that my eyes might closed be to what concerns me not to see;

That deafness might possess my ear to what concerns me not to hear;

That truth my tongue might always tie from ever speaking foolishly;

That no vain thought might ever rest or be conceived within my breast;

That by each deed and word and thought, glory may to God be brought.


But what are wishes! Lord, mine eye on Thee is fixed; to Thee I cry!

Wash, Lord, and purify my heart, and make it clean in every part.

And when 'tis clean, Lord, keep it too, for that is more than I can do.

- Thomas Elwood

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Weekend Words

 From Be Still and Know...


"Don't hide your light!  Let it shine for all; let your good deeds glow for all to see, so they will praise your heavenly Father." (Matthew 5:16 LB)

We are living in a dark world today, one darkened by pain, sorrow, loneliness, and heartache.  Many people are searching for a way out of their darkness, and looking for just a little ray of light.

An artist once drew a picture of a winter scene.  The trees were heavily laden with snow.  To one side of the picture was a dark, bleak-looking house.  The picture gave a feeling of depression.

Suddenly the artist, with a quick stroke of yellow crayon, put a light in the window of the house.  The effect was magical.  Immediately the scene was transformed into one of cheer.

This is what happens when Christ is invited into a life.  He turns on His light and a life is transformed.

When His light is turned on within it shines out to others.  We are to be "rays" of light, shining His light on the path of those about us.  "YOU are the world's light... Don't hide your light" (Matthew 5:14-16 LB).

Paul wrote, "You are to live clean, innocent lives as children of God in a dark world full of people who are crooked and stubborn.  Shine out among them like beacon lights, holding out to them the Word of Life" (Philippians 2:15-16 LB)

Rudyard Kipling and his wife purchased a farmhouse on a mountain slope in Vermont.  One day they hiked down the mountain back of their house and up the next mountain.  They came to a tiny house where a woman lived by herself.  "Be you the windows across the valley?" she asked.  When they said, "Yes," she told them how much comfort the lights of their home where to her.

Suddenly she said, almost fearfully, "Be you going to stay and keep your lights burning, or be you not?"

After that day the Kiplings always kept the light on the back of their house burning for their neighbour across the valley.

Can people say of us, "Be you the window shining?  Be you going to keep your light shining; or be you not?"


********************************

From A Prairie Devotional (inspired by The Little House on the Prairie TV series)...

A Mind-Set

"I'm a farmer and I love it, and I'm a father and I love it.  And best of all, I'm married to Caroline Ingalls and I love her."  - Charles Ingalls

Contentment is being thankful for our lives and what we have. It's easier said than done; contentment doesn't come naturally.  When Charles and Caroline attend a class reunion, they see their old friends are successful but discontented.  Reflecting on his simple life, Charles is struck by how satisfied he is.  Contentment does not depend on circumstances, but on our mind-set.

Charles Ingalls reminds me of my stepdad.  He was a simple man who worked hard and loved his four girls as well as his wife.  A mail-man for more than thirty years, my dad sorted letters like seeds, drove his mail truck as if it were a plow, and delivered packages as big as sacks of grain.  While rain didn't wipe out his annual salary, it made quite the soggy mess.  Being content with a blue-collar job took more than just a good attitude.  I think my step-dad's faith played a role.  I saw him every dark morning at the kitchen table reading his Bible.  He had a deep love for God.

The secret of contentment is to be grounded in Christ.  When our hearts and minds are focused on Him, we can't help but be grateful for the lives we've been given.  Charles didn't look at his life and see what was lacking.  He saw everything as a beautiful gift from God.  Gratitude recognizes how much we have compared to what we deserve.  We deserve nothing but have been given everything we need to pursue a life of contentment.

Godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out. - 1 Timothy 6:6-7

I seem to have a bit of a 'cabin theme' going this week :))

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Weekend Words

From Beside The Still Waters...


Come Unto Me - Read Hebrews 3:7 - 4:16

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. - Matthew 11:28

In this life we are beset by sin and burdened with cares and troubles.  However, we often think we are strong enough to handle these burdens alone.  We would rather not bother God with petty troubles; and besides, we are not sure that God takes enough interest in us to care about such little things.  So we continue trying to carry our own burdens, even as they become heavier.  Finally we realize that we cannot go on.

The good news is that we don't need to go on like this!  In today's key verse Jesus said, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."  Isn't that a beautiful promise?  How wonderful that God has provided a haven of peace and rest for us who live in a troubled world!  Even more wonderful is the fact that each one of us has ready access to this haven.  No one is turned away because of not being worth enough.  Neither does anyone have a problem too big for God to handle or too small for him to notice.  "The very hairs of your head are all numbered" (Matthew 10:30)

Maybe we are plagued with guilt and sin, or troubled about the physical or spiritual condition of a loved one, or hurting because of unjust deeds that have been done.  In any case, we can give everything to the Lord as 1 Peter 5:7 tells us: "Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you."  He will never grow tired of our coming to Him, but will always be there when we need Him.  Do you feel as if you're shackled by a heavy burden?  Bring your cares to Jesus, and He will give you rest!

Joseph Wengerd - Hersey, MI

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help us in time of need. - Hebrews 4:16

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This arrived in my email box this morning.  You may remember some of Stephanie's previous updates I've posted here.  Thought you might like to hear the good news...

It’s like trying to speak those first words in the morning. Fresh out of bed, still stretching out joints, you open your mouth, and you sound like you’re auditioning for the role of Frog.It has been a long, long night, and in the dark, I have forgotten how to talk.So here comes some throat-clearing. To write, one needs a beginning. I have no idea where to start.I want to tell the story of the last year, mostly because I need to process what happened to us. But right now, I lack the courage. It still hurts too much, and I cry every time I try.There has been joy in this year, here and there, all the brighter for the darkness. Let me tell where we are right now, because right now is beautiful and full of light as golden as an October afternoon. On the last Tuesday of September, Tarica and I went to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh for an appointment. We sat in an exam room, as excited as first graders in August. When Dr. Welch and his team walked in, we greeted them with huge grins.Dr. Welch did not disappoint us. “Tarica! What is going on? Last time I saw you, you were in a wheelchair and a helmet.” He looked at me for confirmation.I nodded. “In May, yes. She had just had another regression.”He studied Tarica, sitting upright in an armless chair. “You could barely hold your head up back then. Now look at you! What happened?”This was the moment we had gleefully (and tearfully) discussed the night before: the big reveal. At the May appointment, Tarica could barely walk or talk. Her eyes were lifeless. I was dressing her and bathing her and sleeping with her. The seizures were destroying her, and no one could stop them.Six months before that appointment, on November 23, 2020, an RNS device was implanted into her brain. The device could be programmed and trained to detect abnormal brain activity and respond to it. Think of it as a pacemaker, but for the brain. Best case scenario, the device would block abnormal activity from turning into seizures. But the device had to be adjusted slowly. It would take time to find the right setting for her brain—time she did not have. Every day pulled her deeper into the abyss.In May, Dr. Welch and his team had analyzed the data collected by the device and tailored a new setting specific for her brain. I was afraid to hope, so I didn’t say much in the weeks that followed. Eventually, either Linford or I dared to say aloud to the other, casually, as if it didn’t much matter, “The seizures aren’t as bad right now, are they?”We exchanged a long look and then shrugged. No more words were needed. She might be improving, but we had lost the ability to rejoice, because years of experience had taught us improvements didn’t last. Every lull in the storm would end, and epilepsy’s grip on her would only tighten.But the facts revealed the truth even if our hearts refused to acknowledge it. For the first time in her epilepsy history, the seizures had become milder. She stopped falling during the seizures. Before long, the wheelchair was folded up in a corner. She no longer wore her helmet. Midsummer, she told me she was ready to sleep by herself, so after two years of sleeping downstairs I moved back up to my own bed. Her handwriting improved dramatically; her balance got better. Although she still seized at night, we were now counting daytime seizures by the week instead of the day.And then weeks went by with only nighttime seizures. We forgot the date of her last daytime seizure. Although we still leaped violently whenever something crashed to the floor, it no longer was Tarica.We had watched Tarica improve over the months, but when I saw her through Dr. Welch’s eyes—the startling difference between May and September—it finally became real to me.I had to know one thing yet. I scooted forward in my chair and met Dr. Welch’s eyes. “The difference is amazing, but I find it hard to believe. I could hardly wait for today because the RNS data will give me an answer to a question I’ve been asking. Is she seizing less because her abnormal brain activity is slowing down, or is she seizing less because the device is blocking the activity from turning into seizures?”This question had kept me awake at night. If her abnormal activity had simply slowed down, then the seizures would quickly resume if that activity picked back up. However, if her brain was as crazy as ever in there but the device was blocking the seizures, then we could hope this was the beginning of her second chance at life.Dr. Welch pulled up the data. The graphs were simple enough to understand at a glance what was happening in her brain.It was as crazy as ever in there.I sat back, limp with shuddery emotions. The device was doing its job. That little machine in her head was all that stood between her and oblivion.For a moment, it was as if a door creaked open somewhere on the edge of heaven, and through that door drifted an ethereal music, soaring and triumphant. It sang in my veins, ran down my spine—and then the door slammed shut. I fought back tears. Were they tears of joy or of sorrow? We had finally drawn a line that epilepsy could not cross. So much had been lost, but the line was holding.Dr. Welch tweaked the RNS settings again, a slight refinement that we hope will stop the nighttime seizures. If the seizure count remains steady or improves in the next month, we will start weaning her from one of her drugs, the one with the worst side effects. When Dr. Welch said those words aloud, I felt a weightlessness in the pit of my stomach, as if I had leaped from a cliff and was free-falling toward the sea. We have never weaned without adding a replacement. Were we ready for this?On the way home, after Tarica finished listening to Ralph S. Mouse, we talked. It is difficult to hear her in a vehicle. She can no longer modulate her voice, so she speaks in a quiet monotone. Certain sounds, especially d and t, are often missing. Her words come with far greater effort, like a non-English speaker learning how to shape words. She frequently has to say things three, four, even five, times before I understand her. But on the road, we had time to work it out.Back home, supper would be already over. Sunlight had turned into twilight. As we approached Altoona, I pointed to a gap in the mountains where the city lights shone below us.“That’s pretty,” she said.“You know what’s amazing, Tarica?” I didn’t wait for a reply. “If you had been born any time sooner, the RNS technology wouldn’t have been available when you needed it. We live close enough to Pittsburgh to drive there. Dr. Abel and Dr. Welch decided to work at Children’s Hospital. They are the ones who started the RNS program at Children’s. You were the seventh patient to get a device, so this is still new. And here you are, talking, walking, going to school, and living again.” By now, tears were running down my face. “Do you know how easily it could have been different?”She did.I fumbled for a tissue and blew my nose. “I thank God every single day all day long that you are better. I can’t get done thanking Him. He’s given us a miracle.”“I thank Him too,” she said and found a tissue of her own.Some of what she has lost may never be regained. But she will build a new life with what remains. It has been nearly a year since I wrote to you. Last fall, I intentionally gave up everything that didn’t pertain to our immediate survival. I whittled my life down to taking care of Tarica, washing our clothes, and feeding my family. Friends and family helped a lot with the last two. Nobody else could be Tarica’s mother, but others could and did fold laundry and make food.Now that she has improved and is able to attend school by herself, I am rebuilding what has been destroyed. I had lived for so long in a state of hyper-alertness and emergency that I lost the ability to concentrate deeply. My mind often feels like a skipping stone skittering over the surface of a lake. So I’ve been keeping my hands busy while waiting for my brain to recuperate. There is plenty of work to be done, corners and closets and clutter that I’ve ignored while tending to what mattered most.In April, I stopped believing she would ever return to us in any meaningful way, so far had she fallen into the abyss. But she is back—a little broken and fragile, yet still smiling. This has not yet ceased to amaze me, and I pray it never will. I want to be perpetually astonished at an ordinary life, because astonishment leads to gratitude and gratitude helps me remember we don’t deserve anything—not even the second chance we’ve been given.How easily it could have been different.And how beautiful it is to live again. We live in a world full of grief and fear and tragedy. I am protected somewhat from it by a cocoon of joy, but the bad news still filters in. As I consider sending these words out to you, I flinch at the thought of those who will read this while sitting among ashes and tears. It is not fair that I should have joy while you do not.I wish I could give you the miracle you are pleading for. Instead, I have only words for you, one small, heartbreaking truth I learned in the last year. Sometimes while you are pleading for one miracle, you are given another, straight from the Almighty: the ability to endure the unendurable.Three years ago, if I had been granted a glimpse into the future and had seen the girl Tarica is today, it would have shattered me. We’ve fought all these years to keep her whole, to preserve the girl she was. In most measurable ways, we lost that battle. But the battle taught me there is something worse than being a little (or a lot) broken.  Fighting alone.Next time, I want to tell you about all the warriors who joined our fight.


Here are a few pictures from the last year.

In the ICU, soon after brain surgery – November 23, 2020
Our first outing with the wheelchair. Such a relief not to worry she’d crash to the floor and take a whole display with her. 
We chose to see the wheelchair as a blessing. It gave her some independence; she could now attend school without me.
In mid-July, she had enough energy to go on a sisters’ picnic in the woods. A small thing, but for us, an astonishing triumph.
The boys are four and eight now. What is it with fishing? I don’t get it.
When the rest of the children went back to school, Gairett and I took a walk nearly every morning. I couldn’t get done marveling over the glorious freedom of choosing how to spend my time. It is a wealth I had not known I possessed until I lost it.
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Copyright © 2021 Stephanie J. Leinbach, All rights reserved.You are receiving this because you subscribed to Serendipity.Our mailing address is:
Stephanie J. Leinbach
521 Cooney Lane
AltoonaPa 16601
Copyright © 2021 Stephanie J. Leinbach, All rights reserved.You are receiving this because you subscribed to Serendipity.Our mailing address is:
Stephanie J. Leinbach
521 Cooney Lane
AltoonaPa 16601
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Sunday, October 31, 2021

Weekend Words

 From Beside the Still Waters devotional...

Save Them All - Read Romans 1:14-32

Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. - Revelation 2:4

I recently saw a lady whose jacket was imprinted with large letters proclaiming "SAVE THEM ALL.'  I later learned that the group promoting this motto is not a Christian organisation, and that "ALL" refers to animals rather than humans.  The mission of these people is to rescue, protect, rehabilitate, and find loving homes for all animals, from stray cats, to old, worn-out horses.

Proper treatment of animals is a legitimate concern of godly people.  "A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast" (Proverbs 12:10).  However, the biblical principle of stewardship, and a common-sense approach to animal care is rapidly being disregarded in modern society.  Indulgent pet owners spend exorbitant sums.  Suppliers promise that their products will make a dog or cat not only healthier but also happier and more beautiful.

On a more somber note, a recent issue of a cat fancier magazine had the following item in the advertisement section: "Animal Communicator, Intuitive Medium; Contact The Other Side."  Someone was actually offering to contact the spirits of dead pets!   One close acquaintance recently paid for grief counselling sessions for himself and his wife after their pet terrier died.  Another paid six thousand dollars for surgery on his setter.

The Bible condemns those who "worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator" (Romans 1:25).  While pets are receiving such undue attention, millions of children are suffering from severe malnutrition, millions of Christians live under intense persecution, and thousands of known languages do not have complete Bible translations.  Our time and money can surely be devoted to far more worthy causes than pampering animals.

Pete Lewis - Halsey, OR

Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. - Matthew 25:40



When the heart is sad and lonely and the eyes with tears o'erflow,

Gentle words and deeds of kindness fall like sunbeams on the snow.


Kind and loving to each other, gentle words to all we meet - 

Thus we follow Christ our Saviour, proving all His service sweet.


Let us help our fallen brother, lift him gently by the hand,

Speaking words of cheer and comfort, point him to a better land.

 - William and Luella Henry

I know its Spring here, but Autumn is my favourite season, and Natasha sent me these photos recently from Vermont.  So I am sharing them with you... :)

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And if you have time, you might enjoy reading some of these lovely posts from Sheryl regarding the family's return to the US after missionary work in Tanzania, Africa.

THIS is her most recent one, but there are more to read HERE.

Along with some beautiful photos!

Friday, October 29, 2021

On the home front...

 Saturday we had rain for most of the day...

So I was able to get on with more of my scrappy granny blanket...


Watched Foxfire recently, and enjoyed it.  You can watch it HERE on YouTube...

and have The Railway Children from the library to watch

I'm working my way through the Children's Classics I didn't read as a child.  Have The Railway Children book to read too, and Pollyanna on order from the library (the book and DVD).  Also want to watch/read The Secret Garden.

Have these two books on the go.  The Janette Oke one I picked up at the op shop.  I read it many years ago, but am enjoying it again...

and Freedom's Star is the fifth book in the Anabaptist Heritage series


Freya continues to find life hard work...


Have been spreading the seaweed mulch I collected recently (on a trip up to Marnie) around the raspberry canes I planted at the side of the house...


My lavender is looking pretty...


Last Tuesday Marnie and I had a walk on the beach at East Devonport when I went to visit her...









And look what the postman brought this morning: Beside Still Waters ...

The first book in the Big Sky Trilogy


I don't usually read Amish fiction, but this series is based on a true story and is written by Tricia Goyer who authored the Amish Peace devotional I am using this year. Will see how it goes...

I have family arriving tomorrow for a 2 week visit.  Hope to still be able to get here for some updates, but if not, you know why...

xx