Monday, April 14, 2014

Messages Matter

Simple words, strung together. When I taught Kindergarten and First Grade, I remember the joy I felt when my little students could write and comprehend a simple sentence. Because we are all so inundated with words; emails, texts, billboards, and junk mail, perhaps we sometimes ignore messages or disregard their importance. 

Recently I was cleaning out our refrigerator and I decided to make sure all our food was fresh. Imagine my surprise when I read the small print on the back of the mustard bottle. The expiration date was four and a half years ago!! Thankfully we were using the Dijon mustard.

Our family has received quite a variety of messages this month:

On our front door, another notice from the bank to our landlord was hung. That important information seems to be slightly ignored but we're still here on Carver Corner.

There is a crack-down against distracted driving in our Harbor Town that our daughter apparently didn’t think applied to her. She forgot safety rules and ignored the flashing warning...


Yep, she did the VERY BAD, very unsafe, texting and driving and has a traffic ticket to prove it.

After church we noticed a note stuck under our windshield wiper. Thank goodness we read it!

No, we actually hadn't noticed! Wasn’t that a thoughtful thing to do? Our tab was still stapled to the updated registration form in the glove box. We dodged a ticket due to this helpful message left anonymously. Thank you whoever you are!

This card came in the mail for me. It was my "consolation prize." Due to the encouragement of a prayer buddy, I entered a contest of Christian Bloggers at (In)courage. I didn’t expect to be one of the nine new writers chosen, but of course I had dreamed of contributing. The card was a kind way to be notified that even though I wasn’t picked I should keep on writing.

I hope my little See Jane Learn blog gives encouragement to faithful readers or anyone that stumbles upon it. I want my "ministry of words" to matter. That is the goal; to encourage others in their faith and share the lessons I’m learning as I navigate my babies are all in their twenties this current phase of life.

Messages and writing have always been a part of our family. Since the kids could write their ABC’s. My Nashville girl sends me frequent texts and emails keeping me posted on what is happening in her life or thanking me for care packages I mail her. She also brings joy to her Grandma by sending her letters. My youngest daughter (yep, the ticket girl) writes amazing notes to her friends telling them how much they mean to her. The other day she hand-painted Easter cards for them.

My sons are writers too. The oldest, who teaches English in Chicago, has written stories since his fourth grade teacher encouraged him. He's also really great about leaving little post-it notes on the counter. When he's not commuting or battling yet another snowstorm, he writes. His wife (my sweet daughter-in-law) is focussed on writing comedy. One of her class plays was performed at Second City in Chicago! My younger son is getting ready to graduate from Whitworth, so he's busy writing papers. My sweet boy occasionally sends this Mama emails.  My hubby is fabulous at writing letters, he’s written a book and has a blog. I believe he modeled the importance of words to all our kids.

Words and messages matter. They can inform, warn, and encourage. They can bring hope.

The most important message ever spoken or written will be celebrated all over the world this coming Sunday and there's no expiration date.


God's word is his great big message to all of us. Join me in sharing the Good News of what Jesus did for us on the cross. 

The Easter message matters!

In His Grip, Jane

Sunday, March 30, 2014

What I Learned in March

The Month of March has come to an end and although it was one of the wettest March's on record for the Northwest area, I did catch a few glimpses of blue sky. The cool clouds above were spotted on our drive to Spokane last weekend.  Here are six things I learned this month: 

1. I discovered I'd become an online subscription hoarder. I became aware that I'm subscribed to 168 "things"! That might explain why my inbox fills up quickly and why I never seem to read all the blogs on my daily bloglovin. I discovered unrollme. This site lets you quickly decide between three options for each subscription; unsubscribe, get notices once a day, or just once a week. I highly recommend checking it out. 

2. My love for fashion continues. I’ve always loved fashion. I enjoy looking at magazines (especially on vacation) and seeing how other women style themselves. This started back in high school and hasn’t diminished. Here’s a new discovery though; sometimes I wish I wore size 18 clothes! Make that Toddler 18 month clothes. As I’ve been unpacking and steaming the fashions coming into the baby boutique I realize I would totally wear most of them if they came in my size. They’re adorable. Oh, if I was only 50+ years younger...

I should probably consider placing another Stitch Fix order. Have you checked it out yet? Please consider using me as your  referral. They'll be as cute or cuter clothes than the toddler styles and they'll fit!

3. I held the official title of “The Mom" for my children’s University. For a day. You can read about it here.

4. I realized that Testimonies linger long after they're shared. At MOPS, one of our sweet Mamas shared her story this week on the Tea and Testimony morning. I hope she realizes that her message of faith and hope encouraged the mommies and will have a lasting impact. I encountered two women in down on different days this month that I didn’t know. They remembered me and my testimony. I shared ten years ago at a retreat, and four years ago at Mops. God uses all of us in different ways if we trust Him and share how he's working in our lives.  Have you shared your story?

5. I totally need to download music from I-Tunes. The sound track from the award-winning movie, American Hustle, is fantastic! The acting was really good too, even if there were a lot of naughty words...We finally watched the movie last night and since we went to college in the late 1970’s-early 1980’s, the songs brought back lots of memories.

6. I like my name even more now. I knew Jane meant “gift from God” but it also means “Yahweh is gracious/merciful." YES HE IS!  If my sisters and I had been boys, our parents probably would have named one of us Peter.  It means rock~love that too! Do you know the Christian meaning of your name?

How kind the LORD is! How good he isSo merciful, this God of ours! Psalm 116:5

What have you learned in March? I'm linking up with Emily P. Freeman at Chatting at the Sky.

In His Grip, Jane

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Nine Years Later, It's Official

If you spend any time with me you know that my favorite thing in the world is being a Mama. I was blessed with four children; two boys and two girls.  I gravitate toward children (this came in handy as an early childhood educator) and I adore babies (which is why I love my current job at Charlie Barnes, a baby store.) Encouraging other Moms is something I strive to do because even if you love kids, there is no real manual and it's a hard job. 

Apparently I take being a Mom seriously. I was the only tennis mom who created a sweatshirt to be worn at every match back when my daughter was in high school. I had buttons made with their pictures to wear to basketball games and soccer matches when my boys played sports. Obnoxious? Yep. Bragger? Usually. Proud? Always! Do I love them even when they make choices I don't agree with? I try. Jesus is helping me practice grace.

I became a Pirate Mom back in 2005 when my first of four children left our nest for Whitworth College. It’s not a college anymore, it became a University in 2009. I have a rather large collection of Whitworth “gear” that proves I have been a Pirate Mom nonstop for the past nine years; I have the “Mom” hat, the now-vintage “college” sweatshirt, mugs & travel mugs, at least three t-shirts, a blanket, bumper sticker, and several hoodie sweatshirts.

This week I was given the official University Mom title; at least for one evening! Let me digress... The admissions office sent an email wondering if my hubby and I could participate in a prospective student and parent evening in Tacoma. As is usually the case, my man was traveling. I hesitated saying yes and going by myself, but I felt like this might be my last opportunity to go to an event while having a current student and I was honored to be asked.

"If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly." Romans 12:8

I assumed I was one of several parents and several alumni who would be around to answer questions after a formal presentation. Nope. My friend was the alumni, and I was the official Pirate Mom! We presented up front along with a professor, a darling undergrad, the University President and the Admissions director. Thankfully due to my former job as a teacher and other opportunities I’ve had speaking to an audience, I was just a little nervous. My role was to relay some of the things I’ve learned watching my four children head off to the same expensive beautiful university. (Yes, all four of our children chose the same school, although the youngest left after her freshman year and is contemplating returning if we can figure out a way to pay she's re-admitted.) I tried to share tips and information that would have been helpful to me back in the day when my firstborn was heading off. I might have shocked the administrators just a tad bit with my honesty. 

Although the tuition continues to rise and our paychecks don't, I still have quite an affection for this special private university. I have watched my children leave as teens and become young men and women ready to live out their faith and make a difference in the world for God. They've been nurtured and challenged. They've made amazing life-long friends and due to memories made over nine years, our family feels like Spokane and the campus is a second home for us. 

An email arrived in my inbox; it’s time to order my third one's cap and gown and think about commencement.  I searched for his name under Theology Majors and found it, so it's official.

What’s with the eye twitch I've had for two days? The kind that drives you crazy and makes you wonder if other people can see it. Is it stress? Or am I truly becoming a real pirate and I’ll need to start wearing an eye patch?...

I wonder how many other families have had four kids attend (and three earn diplomas plus one master’s degree?) Surely we’re in the minority. Don’t you agree that I earned the title “Whitworth Mom” fair and square? Perhaps I could travel around doing my “talk” for a part-time job... 

In His Grip, Jane

Saturday, March 15, 2014

What Are You Betting On?

Lucky Me. My husband invited me to join him on a business trip where there would be sunshine. Las Vegas wasn't exactly the spot I imagined I'd be spending time when I said my focus this Lenten season would be to simplify and focus on Jesus but the lure of sunshine had me on an airplane headed south.  I was told we weren't on the main strip, so I assumed that meant the JW Marriott would be free from gambling. Silly me! Apparently every hotel in Vegas has some sort of casino...

My husband frequently travels here for meetings and when he comes he'll participate in a few rounds of Black Jack. He claims it’s entertaining and he enjoys playing with work friends while he sips a diet coke. I watched him play one round with his work associates and we left with less money than we arrived with. How is that entertaining?

Our resort had it's casino hooked right next door to the spa and I had to walk through it to get to Starbucks. Smoking was allowed and the ventilation system was old so the air was heavy with smoke. My hair seems to be a smoke magnet. The smell lingered long after I walked outside. My eyes watered, I thought I might need my inhaler...

It’s what I SAW that made my heart heavy. SO many people of all ages. SO many white-haired senior citizens. Apparently they get bussed in because it's less walking, a bit more low-key than the strip. They sat in front of clanging machines, not engaging with others except to order another cocktail. People kept plopping down money on Black Jack tables and getting more money out of the ATM.

Were they really having fun? Will their lives change if they win?

"Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.'" Hebrews 13:5 (ESV)

Can you tell I’m not the betting kind? I don’t play the Lottery, I don’t like to gamble. Chips? I enjoy Lays or Tortilla chips. I have my own bad habits and I’m a sinner, but this entire city is based on something I just don’t buy into. I felt quite out of place.

Perhaps God was reminding me that I AM out of place in "Sin City" and our broken world. 

I know, “What about all the wonderful shows and concerts in Vegas?” you ask. Well, there wasn’t a great stage play going on this week and the Tim McGraw and Faith Hill concert was too expensive.

Despite the fact that I dislike Casinos, I DID have an amazing four days with my man.
The following is a snapshot of my fabulous week of relaxation:

While he worked, I didn't. Wednesday I slept in, headed down for a massage, spent the afternoon laying on a lounge chair by the pool, and then we went to the Yard House for a yummy dinner of appetizers; lettuce wraps, sweet potato fries, and a steak taco. Yep, a pretty perfect day.

The first day we arrived, the two of us sat out for a bit even though it was quite blustery. We drove to the Venetian and had dinner “outside” in "Italy."

Thursday I looked around an outdoor mall, spent a couple hours in the sunshine on my lounge chair and had a short workout at the hotel gym. For our last night we chose to dine in "Paris". (Tip: if pink champagne isn't on the menu don't assume it's going to be the same price as the one listed. Pricey mistake.)

I probably didn't spend enough time on the treadmill to combat the calories in my steak, frites, and Bananas Foster crepes! 
If I'd known the surprise my husband arranged I might not have ordered dessert. Yes, after 30 years he is still very romantic. 

I'm bringing back an itty bitty tan and fun memories of restoration and time with my husband. I also was reminded: instead of gambling or hoping for good luck, I’m “betting” on a sure thing; God’s love and provision. Lucky me! Grateful me!

What are you betting on?

In His Grip, 


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Dirt and Drawing Conclusions

We often observe something or someone and immediately jump to a conclusion without knowing the whole story. Do you remember the Super Bowl commercial from several years ago about the romantic surprise dinner that didn't go as planned? It’s one of my all-time favorites and although I forgot the company the ad was for (Ameriquest), but their message stuck with me; don’t judge too quickly.

Black yoga pants. Someone who works out or is really into yoga? No. Sometimes they are worn strictly for comfort. They are my go-to bottoms of choice around the house, other than my flannel p.j. pants or my nifty velour pair. (Ask my girlfriends...they've met the lovely maroon pair.) If my dog Sydney sees me changing into black yoga pants however, she instantly assumes I’m taking her for a walk. Exercise pants or me tying on shoes means one thing to my dog. WALKING TIME. “Sorry Sydney, sometimes I wear this when I want to sit on the couch rather than walk in the rain with you...”

Audi S4 Convertible. That driver must be loaded, right? Wrong! My man bought a used Audi back in Illinois at a good deal. He is grateful for a company car and we own the cars our kids drive. (Oh, except the Nashville Daughter’s...we’re letting her “get on her feet” before having her take over the rest of the Jeep payments.) No, we are NOT loaded (two in college and renting at the moment), but grateful to have a cute car that brings us joy and when the Northwest finally gets a sunny day we really appreciate it with the top down.

Ashes on someone’s forehead. Probably Catholic?  Not necessarily. Last night Chapel Hill, an EPC~Evangelical Presbyterian Church, along with believers in the Church all over the world, held a service to honor the start of Lent. 

The first time I noticed ash marks on someone’s forehead I was a freshman at Ball State University. I’m not sure why I’d never noticed the marks before; we had a lot of Catholics in my town in the Midwest. I couldn’t figure out why I saw “dirt” on so many faces. I just thought it was weird until the significance was explained to me. If you see people next year on Ash Wednesday with a mark on their forehead, please don’t assume they are either Catholic or had such a wild “Fat Tuesday” evening that they didn’t clean up. The smudge of ashes in the shape of a cross signifies our sinfulness and our human mortality; God created man from dust and if we are repentant He will make us “clean” again. 

“By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” Genesis 3:19

Someone wearing a cross or having one in their home. Church attender? Decoration? Religious fanatic? Rule follower? My mind goes to lots of things when I see or wear a cross; Jesus, suffering, ultimate sacrifice, love... 

I’ll be spending the next 46 days leading up to Easter contemplating all that Jesus gave up for me and you. I want to focus on the cost of the cross. I hope to simplify my days and focus on what is really important; people, learning more about God through his word, and the life and grace we've been given. At the suggestion of my pastor, I’m clearing off my fireplace mantle (and putting up a simple cross) and I put this picture as my cell phone wallpaper.

Lent can be observed as a time of fasting or a time to focus. Let's try to remember, don’t judge too quickly; we ALL have some dirt and even with good intentions make a mess of things. 

I am currently wearing my moose pajama bottoms so you-know-who won't get the wrong idea...

In His Grip, Jane

Monday, March 3, 2014

What I Learned in February

It's March? Where did February go? Usually I keep notes of things I learn throughout the month, but alas...I did not. So I'm linking up with Emily Freeman of Chatting at the Sky with only my menopausal memory to guide me. Here's what I think I learned last month:

1. If you want to remember something, write it down. This applies to many things; to do lists, work schedules, baby shower gifts that need to be ordered, things I learned. At the store where I work we sell a really cute Quote book for parents to keep track of the things their kids say throughout the years. I wish I'd had one of those because quotes come in handy at graduation parties or wedding toasts.

2. This is a good winter to NOT live back in the Midwest. My family in Chicago and Indianapolis has had snow dumping on them week after week. Too much shoveling, super cold, school cancellations. My son and sister who are both high school teachers have to make up LOTS of snow days~they've added minutes to the end of each school day in an attempt to avoid losing their whole summer to make-up days. We had ONE day of snow this winter. The only thing the rain here is canceling is my desire to take my Sydney on her walks.

3. Valentine's Day can be extra-romantic when the power goes out. Michael was traveling on the 14th, so we celebrated Valentine's Day on Saturday the 15th. We decided to stay in and cook. Right about the time we were going to begin making dinner, the power went out. We got creative and thanks to our gas burners we made spaghetti and meatballs and heated garlic bread out on our gas grill. Bubbles, candlelight, dinner, Save Haven on Netflix (he has 3 G network on his I-pad) and our date was perfect.

4. I love my job. This isn't really new news, but I keep having opportunities that make me grateful that I get to work at Charlie Barnes, the baby boutique. My boss took me on a buying trip to Seattle to help choose new books for the store since she knows how much I LOVE children's books. I got the joy of shopping and didn't have to spend any money! Our website is up and running; check it out!

5. Losing my Weight Watcher's password to log into my account must be the reason I gained back the five pounds I had lost. Or perhaps it's due to my consumption of bread, desserts and wine? Shoot! I finally get to get out of the gray and fly to Vegas with my hubby on a business trip next week and this body of mine is not ready to be parading around poolside. Oh well... I won't know anyone there and I'll probably never see them again, so I will focus on enjoying the heat and sunshine and use the opportunity to actually enjoy taking outdoor walks!

6. Firefighters retire in their 50's. I didn't know! We attended a wonderful retirement party on Friday night of a friend who is only 53. I wondered why he was retiring so young, but obviously firemen have a difficult, very physical job, which is best suited for young men.

7. I'm not cut out to be the next Pioneer Woman. My husband I went to see a home that's for sale last week that I'd always driven by and commented on it's cuteness. Yes. It was cute. But...due to the fact that it didn't come with a groundskeeper, we noted; it also was on three acres with huge garden plots, lots of chickens, firewood that needed to be cut, and immaculate grassy areas used to being manicured. I've never ridden a John Deere, my dog would kill the chickens and I'd rather read than garden. That home wasn't meant for us.

8. Prayers are just a text or phone call away. I have some close girlfriends who I share life with and if my heart is heavy all I have to do is text them a prayer request and boom. Done. They are praying. I also have a bestie who prays on-the-spot with me. Not, "I'll be praying for you," but "let's pray." We all need to be better at doing that.

Whether it's parenting or house-hunting, bring on the "March Madness" because this former Hoosier, who will continue to cling to God, knows that..."He is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to the power that is at work within us." Ephesians 3:20

What did you learn in February?

In His Grip, Jane

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

My Mind Keeps Moving

Most of the Olympic athletes spent time imagining and executing their performances in their minds. Closing their eyes, they pictured every move...whether they were maneuvering downhill or spinning on the ice. Years ago when I was on a dance and drill team I did the same thing.

Now I find myself “moving into" homes. Since we’ve started looking at the rental home market in our area, I picture my husband and I living in each house we tour. Where will our sectional fit? Where will our kids sleep when they come home for a visit? Will the yard work for our dog?

Over the weekend we saw two possibilities; one was a “boo” in my book. Ugly, no view. It did have new carpet but no charm. The second one was definitely a "yay"! Granted, it had wood-burning stoves (rather than the gas fireplaces “her ladyship” has become accustomed to) and Brady Bunch gold bathroom counters, and tiny closets, but...this home had two decks with an amazing view of our harbor (note picture above)and was minutes from downtown. I pictured our porch swing on the lower deck. I imagined being just across the street from friends and minutes from work.

Yesterday, on my commute that is truly getting old drive to work (and yep, I was running late again) I got a message from my husband. The house was going to the other interested person. Really? I had almost started packing. 

We think we know how things are meant to be, but only God knows the plans he has for us. I thought our hope of being close to town was coming true. I was glad to have a new place to go to before we get handed the 30 day “move out” notice. And then I remember; this home we’re in wasn’t what we were expecting and it has turned into a blessing. 

One of my dear friends has a special needs son. She shared with our young MOPS mommies that having a baby with special needs is like planning a trip to Italy and having the flight crew say "Welcome to Holland!"  It’s different than what you imagined, but still special.

Proverbs 16:9 “We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.”

Despite spending the rest of yesterday grumbling and disappointed, I awoke today grateful for another morning here on Carver Corner with my cozy fire lit with a flip of the switch. I will try not to pack and move until it's really happening, and I'll think about the saying; "write your plans in pencil and give God the eraser."

Have your plans changed lately?

In His Grip, Jane