Finding My Jerusalem

The conversation over a fellowship lunch at church dealt with the California parents charged with child neglect and abuse of their thirteen children, charges to which they pled not guilty. I noticed the men were matter-of-fact and trying to figure out what kind of VT graduate (we’re all fans here) would do what this father did. The women? Pity for the children. Not that the men didn’t feel for the kids, mind you. They just leave their emotions at the door quicker than do the women.

A child said, “I wanted to adopt the three-year-old, but my mama said no.” (There’s more than one reason her mom said No – the beginning one being that moving kids who are wards of the state from California to Virginia would be a mammoth undertaking in itself.)

Anytime, it seems, that a deplorable situation like this comes to light, there are women the world over who offer to take a child or the children. While it’s a noble gesture and could insinuate that no other woman would be willing to step up to the plate, it gives me pause.

What is it about us that makes us want to step up and do the noble thing when the cause is known state- or world-wide?

What about the kids in our own backyards, neighborhoods, or our own counties?

What are we doing about them?!

There are myriads of true stories of folks who reached out and made a difference in the life of one or two kids. They did it right on their front porch or backyard simply by rubbing shoulders with lonely, empty people.

What happened in California could likely be happening in any of our communities. Really – have we even looked?

When Jesus talked to His disciples (somewhere near Jerusalem) before He ascended to Heaven, He told them to stay in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came. He said they would receive Power. You can read about it in Acts 1 by clicking here.

After they received the power of the Holy Ghost, He told them, they would be witnesses for Him. You know where He told them to start? Right where they were: Jerusalem.

He said to start at home. Jerusalem was located in Judea, which was part of the larger Samaria. The words He used are: “both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”

It seems to me that Jesus wanted them to start at home and then branch out. Jesus said to start right where they were. How many of us are willing to start at home?

It’s a lesson for us as well. (A missionary does not a good missionary make in another country if he hasn’t first learned to be one at home.) Start at home and learn to gather in harvest from there, then start spreading out until the whole world knows about Him.

We don’t have to wait until our kids are grown or until we’re debt-free. We don’t have to wait until we’ve truly got it all together because that will never happen, anyhow.

What we need to do is learn how to live out our faith in the Jerusalem of our homes, beginning right with our neighbors. The problem is, sometimes that’s not quite grand enough for us.

What is it about us that makes us want to be part of the grander schemes when we haven’t learned to clean toilets or emptied the trash at home? What is it about us that makes us willing to donate and contribute to causes in prisons in other states when we won’t darken the doors of the jail in our own county? What is it about us that makes us want to adopt* a child from another country when there are kids in our own county who need a home and someone to love them?

God calls us all to be in different places and to do different things. If He calls you to move to the uttermost parts of the world, then you need to pack your bags and go. Just be sure it’s His call and not your own. Just be sure it’s not your escape from who God wants you to be here. Just be certain you’re looking to spend yourself for the cause of Christ and not looking for glamour, significance, or personal fulfillment.

The harvest is plentiful, no matter where we live or where we’d like to move. If we’re faithful in Jerusalem, He will guide us over into Judea and then Samaria and on into the “uttermost parts of the world.”

For many of us, I’d say it’s time to learn to feed the hungry at home instead of looking for fulfillment in other places. It’s time we’re faithful in Jerusalem so He can use us in other places as well.

I don’t know about you, but I’m still finding my Jerusalem. There are places in my Jerusalem that I never considered going in the past. It’s not always easy, or pleasant, or fun. Sometimes it’s just plain inconvenient. A few weeks ago we received a phone call asking for our help in a situation.

I told Dave, “This is not good timing; it’s just so inconvenient.”

Dave reminded me that God’s call on our lives is not about our personal convenience. It’s about being willing to be spent for Him. He is right (he usually is, this man of mine.) Until He calls me to Judea, then being spent in Jerusalem is where I need to be.

 

pinterest Finding my Jerusalem

*I am not opposed to adopting children from other countries. I have friends who have done this. My question is the reason behind the places we choose to minister. If God calls us to adopt a child from another country, we would be remiss if we did not. Does God sometimes call us to reach out to those in our own communities, and are we as willing to do it there as we are if it’s in a noticeable place?

 

Orange Fluff

jello salad

Some folks call this a salad, and some folks serve it as a dessert. Since it has jello and cottage cheese, pineapple and cool whip, you can call it whatever you like. I serve it as a salad because it has more “salad” than “dessert”, me thinks.

You need four ingredients, and you can use low fat, no fat, and sugar-free if you’d like. Or use the 4% fat and the jello with sugar. It’s your choice.

orange jello

Dissolve the jello (sugar-free or regular) in the pineapple and juice. Add the cottage cheese and cool whip (low fat or regular), then chill until set. It’s ready to go. How simple is that?! This really is a cool and refreshing salad but it works well at any time of the year.

Orange Fluff
Author: 
Recipe type: Salad
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
 
Orange fluff is a congealed salad with pineapple, cottage cheese, and cool whip. It can also be served as a dessert if you'd like.
Ingredients
  • 6 oz. Jello
  • 1 can crushed pineapple with juice
  • 32 oz. cottage cheese
  • 8 oz. cool whip
Instructions
  1. Mix jello with pineapple and juice
  2. Add cottage cheese, then cool whip
  3. Chill for several hours until set

orange jello

 




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When Saying Goodbye is Not Forever

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Allen as a toddler – probably around the time his mother died.

Saying goodbye is not forever if you belong to the family of God. I know that in my head, and I believe it with my heart.

On a Friday evening in January, my brother Allen crossed the shores of the Jordan and entered the Promised Land for eternity. It happened on his oldest brother’s 91st birthday and also on the birthday of their mother. While those at his bedside watched his last breaths as he left this earth and told him goodbye, I believe there were those in Heaven anxiously waiting his arrival.

Jesus, for sure. He paid the way for Allen to arrive there redeemed and free from pain, burden, and sin. Jesus was with Him, I know. He promised those who serve Him that we are not alone. “For I,” He promised, “am with you.” I know Jesus was there.

Allen’s mother. I know she was there, and I think she was probably closest to the shore. She never had a chance to say goodbye to her youngest son. Allen was only two-and-a-half when she was ushered into Heaven following the birth of Allen’s baby sister.  Allen acknowledged that he did not remember his mother. He’d heard stories and seen pictures. He had talked to people who knew her. For Allen, crossing the shores of the Jordan brought him face to face with the mother he never knew. What a reunion that must have been!

His father (Floyd) after whom he was named and who died when Allen Floyd was twenty, almost fifty-eight years ago. From his father, Allen inherited his inquisitiveness, his ingenuity and his ability to figure out how things worked.

His next older sister, Mary.  She died at the age of three of scarlet fever, a year to the day before his mother died. Allen didn’t remember her, either. He’d heard the stories and had siblings who remembered Mary’s spunk. Yet, he never remembered the days of playing with her as a toddler.

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Allen with a younger and an older sister

Three brothers and the sister who became his mother when he was two. They were on the other side, waiting. His fourteen-year-old sister cuddled and rocked him after the death of their mother and became a stabilizing force, not only for Allen but for his siblings as well.

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A tire makes a wonderful horse! Allen and his baby sister.

The brothers were his cohorts in crime and as equally entertaining, hard-working, and inventive as was Allen. There was competition, connectedness, and camaraderie among these boys for sure.

When the middle brother died a few years ago, Allen contemplated all those goodbyes. He told us, “There were five boys. Now there are only two: the oldest and the best looking.”

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Circa 1958-The brothers from youngest to oldest

And now? Now only the oldest one is left.

A host of uncles, aunts, and cousins (and grandparents). It’s a big extended family and we’re all getting older. Each year, the ranks on the other side increase. Heaven is more inviting than when we were younger. For the believer, Heaven is going Home.

Who Allen Was

My brother was an inventor and a tease. While he wasn’t interested much in books, he could figure things out and get them to work. At the grade school he attended, Allen was the first student the teachers called on when there was a problem with the furnace (back in the day when the janitor was not on duty and the teachers took care of the furnace themselves).

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Allen enjoyed having the last laugh at folks, like the time he had a driver’s license in two states because of where he was living and working. He lost the one license but retained the other one. An aunt, who didn’t know he had a second license, scolded him for driving without a license. He just allowed her to think what she thought and never told her the truth. Oh, did he have fun with that one!

goodbye

He was always figuring out how to do things to make it easier and faster. There was the time he rigged up a power drill to the Squeezo strainer when his sisters came to their house to make homemade applesauce together.  Ever after that, the Squeezo was powered by electricity instead of arm-power. I heard about it and had my husband try it with our Squeezo, and it worked (of course). He’d never tell you what he was going to do. If you’d ask, he’d just get that impish grin on his face, then proceed to set up his contraption. You’d find out what he was up to when he was good and ready.

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Great-nephews from Nebraska, Delaware, and Pennsylvania wait for Uncle Allen’s homemade ice cream at a family reunion.

Every spring, Allen drove his tractor to the Home Place and plowed the garden so our mother could till and plant her garden. Eventually, he invented a plow-tiller combination that readied the soil so no more tilling was needed.

In the summertime, he took his tractor and ice cream machine to festivals, celebrations, church, and family events. He promised to serve his homemade ice cream for our youngest daughter’s wedding – but she’s still waiting for her groom.

goodbye

In the autumn,  Allen shared his homemade ice cream with us at the annual Springs Folk Festival and helped himself to the homemade bread we made at the bread booth just up the hill from him. His family served the cream, but he kept the machine running and enjoyed tinkering to keep things going as smoothly as possible.

In the winter, he’d be out plowing driveways for neighbors, helping stranded motorists get unstuck, sometimes providing transportation for them. He was always available for his sisters at the Home Place when there were issues with the coal furnace in the cellar. He looked out for his sisters in many ways. Every one of us was proud to claim him as a brother.

Allen was the brother who lived at the home the longest. I was twelve when he got married, but he was always around. As kids, we knew him as a tease. If he wasn’t tickling someone, he was pestering and teasing. I remember the day he told me that kids who played like we did ended up going crazy when they got older. I decided I didn’t think I’d mind going crazy when I was older if it meant having that much fun today. So I kept playing outside with my siblings, pretending and imagining and creating. Allen shook his head at us, but we knew he loved us (his six younger from-another-mother sisters) just the same. He didn’t like cats and promised us a dog if we’d get rid of our cats. Allen kept his promise and we got our first of many St. Bernard dogs whom we named Julie.

goodbye

Over the years, he worked in different capacities: farming, excavating, fertilizing, hauling hay, building, and inventing. He’d say goodbye to one chapter and immediately begin another one. Because he moved in so many circles, he had friends from many walks of life. Everybody knew Allen Miller.

On the Sunday after Thanksgiving in 1974, a snowstorm stranded motorists on the interstate near our western Maryland hometown. With his leg still in a cast following an accident, Allen spent the entire night bringing people to safety. On one trip, he had thirteen people plus two dogs and two cats in his trail duster. We would have expected nothing less. This is who Allen was.

In 2002, Allen and our brother Lewie chauffered twenty-four family members on a 2000 mile round trip for a wedding using a chartered bus. When the bus broke down on the way home, the brothers argued and cajoled among themselves on the best way to fix it. After several hours, they rigged things well enough to get the bus to run and brought us all the way home, none the worse for the wear.

Ingenious as ever, he showed up at a family reunion one summer with a cherry picker to use as a swing. We said, “Only Allen would think of this . . . ”  The kids were enthralled and it was the highlight of the weekend.

goodbye

The cherry picker-turned-into-a-swing

He developed friendships and relationships and garnered respect from old and young alike. We knew that, but it was rewarding to hear others’ stories. A farmer neighbor told us, “I liked when Allen borrowed my equipment because he always brought it back running better than when he took it.”  No surprise to those of us who knew him.

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Solving the world’s problems with a brother-in-law during a family reunion.

That’s how life was with Allen. He was unassuming. I don’t think he realized the way he touched lives just by being a friend. Friendships and relationships were better after Allen had his hands in them. There were times I called him for advice, and there were times when he quietly stepped up to bat in situations when he knew his influence would be positive.

goodbye

We will miss Allen. We missed him before he left because things changed after his stroke. There were times we’d say to each other, “We could ask Allen, but he won’t know now.”

The stroke nearly three years ago changed our Allen as we knew him. He still had his sense of humor and his desire to help others. Physical limitations prevented that, and in time his ability to understand and reason also changed.

In some ways, we lost him after his stroke. We learned to say goodbye to the things he used to be able to do. Now we have lost him again – but not forever. Because, for the Christian, we never say good-bye. We only say good night, for we know we will see him again when our mourning turns to Morning and eternity arrives.

 

goodbye

 

 

“I’m a Mother, Not an Octopus!”

octopus

One of the biggest differences between a human mother and a mother octopus is the amount of “arms” each one has. I used that analogy often when my kids had something they wanted me to do for them.

With a half-dozen wanting homework help or help with chores, there were days I felt pulled in many directions. Some of it was my fault. I allowed my kids to expect me to help them. By bailing them out, I taught them that they could expect me to bail them out. By going ahead and doing their assigned tasks for them because I wanted it done now, I taught them that if they just poked around and waited, they had a good chance of having it done for them. Oh, they were smart kids. They surely knew how to play me.

Like any mother, the octopus is protective of its young. Yet the octopus is different, in that, after the months of caring for its eggs, it dies soon after they hatch. We are not alike in that the octopus has a nerve poison (did you know that?!) which it secretes in its saliva. It can also change colors to blend in with its surroundings.

What I didn’t realize back in the day when I was raising my kids, is that the mother octopus can produce 56,000 eggs. Then she “sews” them together and guards them with her life. She neither feeds or socializes as she protects her unborn young. Then, in the last ounce of energy, she “blows” her babies out of the cave she has provided, and dies. It’s a beautiful picture of a mother’s hard work and sacrifice for her children, and one that I was not inclined to make.

octopus

I’m not like a mother octopus in that I am not willing to go without food or rest for months at a time. I’m not like a mother octopus in that I can’t change colors (although I was good at changing moods when my kids got on my last nerve).

I did learn, however, to help my kids realize that since I was not an octopus, I could not be all things to all kids. I only had two arms (as did they) and was only capable of doing so much.

octopus

Therefore, one of my frequent lines became, “I’m a mother, not an octopus!”

That simply meant, “Do it yourself.”

It also meant, “You’re very capable so you can do this without help from me.”

Or it might have meant, “You need to learn to step up to the plate and take care of it yourself instead of expecting me to bail you out.”

Indeed, it was a reminder to myself: “It’s his job and it’s your job to teach him responsibility by seeing to it that he does his job instead of bailing him out.”

I’m all for helping a kid when he’s struggling and I’m good at pinch-hitting in times of need. Yet I also recognize that the sooner we help our kids learn responsibility, the easier it will be to maintain order in the household, and the smoother everything will go.

Maybe the next time you feel pulled in too many directions, consider whether the pulling is coming because you have not been firm enough or have bailed a kid out one too many times.

octopus

Try my line: “I’m a mother, not an octopus.” Watch your kids show you how well they can function all by themselves!

octopus