Loose ends, Sawyer update, and Dreams of her…

I’m getting ready to go to the Women of Faith Conference in a little bit. Just to give you a little window into the willy-nilliness of my life, I’m still not packed. That’s just how I roll. And, at 5:52am, I’m not even going to apologize. I will say, though, that I do admire all of you who are organized and together. It’s a beautiful quality. Unfortunately, I am wired differently. I won’t say that isn’t a challenge for my very organized and structured husband at times…but God gives us both sufficient grace. He is faithful like that.

If you’re wondering who is claiming the ticket I announced was still available (through a series of twists and events) yesterday, you’ll just have to keep wondering. If all goes as planned, there will be some pictures to share….maybe even a plethora of pictures. And the mystery will be solved. I’m sure all two of you out there in blogland are just on the edge of your seats waiting to know who will come to Women of Faith with us! Don’t worry…all will soon be revealed. =)

I don’t know about all of you, but whenever I’m going somewhere, I feel like I have to tie up all the loose ends in my life before I go. (Not that it ever happens…it’s just what I want to happen!) As if being gone for less than 48 hours is going to cause some sort of irreparable havoc in my life. So, for some reason, while I am yet unpacked, just hours from our departure, it seems necessary to write a blog post. The craziness of the way my mind works…aye, aye, aye!

So…some bloggy loose ends…completely unrelated to one another…

If you’ve been praying for baby Sawyer, thank you so much. Please scroll down to previous posts if you don’t know Sawyer’s situation…just not feeling the Linky this morning. Yes, I’m aware that typing all these words to explain not linking is probably more work than clicking around to do the linking…again, how I roll. At least this morning.

Sawyer did have the procedure to close up the opening left from his open heart surgery, yesterday. The last update was the procedure was a success and one little hurdle in this situation of seemingly endless hurdles is behind him. Please continue to pray for this sweet baby and his family as he heals and faces the next hurdle. (His mama is one of my best friends.)

Speaking of best friends, I’m feeling a little Steel Magnolias-ish this morning. You know, what with getting ready to meet up with some women of faith in my life and worship with about 40,000 other women of faith. And, as I think of the beautiful women of faith I’m going to meet, thoughts inevitably drift to my own mother, a place my mind goes often in a day’s time.

I long to hear her sweet laugh and see her smile…the one that dances in her eyes and warms the whole room. I won’t lie. My mama was a feisty gal. And, she and I didn’t always see eye-to-eye. I’ll be the first to admit that I spent most of her life missing out on all the gifts she had to offer. God did redeem all that was broken between us in the last years of her life. But, I have many regrets over the gifts I missed…the gifts she offered the world. I know when someone leaves us, we often only hold on to the good. But as time goes by, I don’t see anything wrong with only seeing the good in those we love. Maybe, we should do it more with those who are still with us. I think I kind of like that, and I’m going to embrace it. Actually, I think it’s a biblical concept even…check out I Corinthians 13.

Anyway, I miss my mother with a missing that I cannot convey with words. Even when I dream of her, my missing comes out. The ache is so acutely with me that sometimes I am taken aback by it’s strength. My dreams of her have not always been a comfort. So much about the suffering at the end of her life remains unsettled in my psyche. And, I suppose it’s all trying to work itself out in dreamland where I can’t push it back down under the layers where I’d like it to stay. Dreams render you helpless like that.

I won’t get into details here about all of those dreams, but I do want to share about the last one. To tell you the truth, most of them I’d rather not relive.

One of the things I long for the most is to just stand in the kitchen with her, or the laundry room while she does ordinary things and we chat like mothers and daughters do. Many of you are mothers aching for your children. I share that ache with you…those dreams for all that could have been. This ache is different. It is for all that was and all that could have been. I never dream of my babies, although I wish I could. It seems it would be a comfort to feel them in my arms, even if just in dreamland.

So, I was delighted when in this dream, I was allowed to do one of the things I long for most. As always, there was a little bit of reality in the dream. The reality is that my mother’s house will be going up for sale soon. So, in dreamland, my stepfather was packing their things in the other room. I was in the kitchen feeling the usual weight in my chest. And, I looked up and saw her standing at the kitchen counter, wiping the crumbs. (She hated clutter and a crumby counter.) She was smiling and in no hurry at all.

“Mom, you’re here!” I ran to her and hugged her tight, something I did too rarely in real life. The questions followed of “where have you been” and “I’ve missed you” and “There’s so much going on”. Some part of me in the dream understands that she has been gone…that she has died, even as I’m talking to her. I didn’t dwell much on that this time. This time was different. I laughed with her in the kitchen, as they packed her life away in the other room. I laughed with her as she sat at the kitchen table laughing with her grandchildren and doing some craft. I laughed with her while she was in the laundry room. (She really had a thing about laundry. She hated to get behind and was meticulous about the way it was done. I did not inherit this trait, much to my family’s chagrin.)

In many of my dreams, there is little comfort as I work out all that I didn’t know was inside me. But, in this dream, as we stood in the kitchen and I prepared to apologize again, as if I could somehow have prevented all that happened, she put her hands on my shoulders, looked into my eyes and said the words I must be longing to hear…

“This is not your fault.”

She hugged me and I inhaled the smell of vanilla and Tide, drinking in the beauty of her face and the feel of her arms around me, knowing even in my dream state that our time was short. Peace settled in my heart and I awoke with her memory still hanging in the air. It felt as if I did spend time with her. And, I was grateful, even if it was only a dream. Oh, the glory that will be revealed one day when I’ll never have to wake up from that dream as we laugh with those we love in heaven’s glory.

O.K….now that I got that off my chest…I really do need to pack! We will be visiting hospitals in Columbus today to give them some information about Sufficient Grace. Please pray that God will open doors and that we will find favor and make the appropriate contacts. And, please pray for God’s protection and all the other loose ends as we march forth.

For now, I’m off to get my Women of Faith on!

Love to all…

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A Last Minute Women of Faith Giveaway….ENTER FAST

This is very last minute and a little crazy, but I find myself, through a series of events, to have an extra Women of Faith ticket for this weekend’s Over the Top conference in Columbus, Ohio (April 30th-May1st).

I thought about offering it to those who entered the last Women of Faith giveaway, but I’m not sure if they are still available to go at the last minute. I still may notify each. But, I’ve decided to open it up to a giveaway post. I will need to know ASAP if you can go. If not, I’ll start talking to some in real life friends, because I’d hate to see this ticket go to waste.

It sure would be fun to meet some of you in person, though! And, we are having dinner on Friday at The Cheesecake Factory! So…come to meet me, come to meet Holly…or come for the cheesecake….but please, just come!

Leave a comment here to enter…

Gathering, Helping Hands, and Comfort Bears…

I was so hoping to reveal the changes we have been working on for the past two weeks, but there are still a few glitches to iron out. Hopefully within the next few days, our blog renovation will be complete…so stay tuned!

In the meantime, we met with the ladies from the Helping Hands Ministry at Harvest Fellowship Church this Saturday, to make the Comfort Bears offered in our Dreams of You Memory Baskets. These women are such a blessing to me, to Sufficient Grace, and to the families who receive our products. You know, I was sharing a couple posts ago about how the movie Steel Magnolias resonates with me, because of the gathering of women to laugh, cry, and walk through life together. (You may not have read it, because it was at the end of a REALLLLLY long post!) I shared how the generations of women surrounding me have been interrupted, and how much I miss my mother and my daughters.

And, I do miss their presence in my life, everyday. But, God is so gracious…such an abundant and faithful provider. There is not a need in our lives or a desire in our hearts that goes unnoticed by our Father. He knows how I treasure the gathering of women to laugh and cry and walk through this life together. He knows exactly what I’m missing. He has provided beautiful, amazing women to surround me…to encourage me, to walk with me…both in blog world and in real life.

I spent this past Saturday with some of them. Beautiful women of faith, they quietly serve the Lord, honoring Him in the work they do with their hands, using their gift of sewing to bring comfort to grieving hearts and to clothe children in need. They worked on the Comfort Bears for Sufficient Grace, and another worthy project: sundresses and cloth diapers for children in Haiti. (A project they began shortly BEFORE the massive earthquake devastated the region.)

Our Comfort Bears were originally created by my mother, Kathy Rutter. She lovingly sewed each one, as only a grandmother can…filling them with love and prayers for the broken-hearted mothers who would receive them. She worked on them passionately, until shortly before cancer took her life in 2006. Kaye Shively stepped forward to continue my mother’s dream and formed the Helping Hands Ministry. Kaye and her team of faithful servant-hearted ladies have helped us provide hundreds of Comfort Bears to families all over the United States and Canada.

There are not words to express how grateful we are for their efforts. They usually work quietly, behind the scenes. And, they weren’t too thrilled to see my camera come out on Saturday. Hopefully, they will forgive me. I just have to share them with all of you, as they are such a blessing, encouragement, and such an example to me. They are Titus 2, in action…beautiful, God-honoring women…quietly serving the Lord, with willing hearts.

So, on Saturday…we gathered…

Kaye, Joyce, and Jacie…the core members of Helping Hands.

Kaye (left)…the leader of Helping Hands, a gifted seamstress, quiet, humble, gentle-spirited, kind, beautiful servant heart. She is rarely found without one or all of her grandchildren in her arms. Love and gentleness shine through Kaye, whether she’s with her grandchildren or anyone else.

Joyce (right)…another beautiful servant heart, also gifted in sewing, the mother of my Pastor (which alone causes me to respect and love her for helping to mold such a wonderful man). She has a quick-witted dry humor that absolutely blesses my heart, and I love her smile. She is full of wisdom, which she shares in the most natural way as we work. She has a phenomenal gift with children, in her calm, no-nonsense manner, as she takes things in stride. Not only do her own children rise up and call her blessed, but the special needs children she works with think she’s pretty alright, too!

Jacie (front)…daughter of Joyce, talented seamstress in her own right. A no-nonsense girl, like her mother, Jacie also appreciates a little sarcastic humor. She is a loving mother to her own three children…and is always willing to serve in many areas of our church. She and her husband are both servant-hearted blessings, whether teaching the youth of our church, or serving food on fellowship day. So grateful for them.

Patty…I haven’t learned a lot about yet. But, I can tell you one thing. That girl can sew a nose on a bear like nobody’s business! (It’s a little Helping Hands joke that I’m a tad particular about bear noses!)

Stephanie (left)…I am just getting to know Stephanie, but I already love her. She is so easy to be around…and instantly welcoming and easy to talk to. Stephanie has such a heart for grieving mothers and such a willing heart. She and her husband (owner of Zachrich funeral home) have become supporters of Sufficient Grace, and we are so grateful for them. Stephanie’s sweet daughter also came to help, and it turns out we voted the Zachrich girls the best stuffers of the day. (This was decided after they left.) Now, don’t go getting too prideful that you ladies have the gift of “stuffing”!

You already know that other girl in the picture…=)

Susan…a dear friend and fellow praying mama, a woman full of grace, someone you can whole-heartedly trust. I have prayed with Susan in Moms in Touch. We have laughed and cried together. And I adore her. (Hopefully she doesn’t kill me for putting her picture on here. She didn’t know I was taking it!) Love you, Susan! Her sweet daughter (an aspiring seamstress) also came to lend a hand.

Love the gathering of generations of women…to serve the Lord…

Winners Announced…and Some Beautiful Women of Faith…

I really wish I could send everyone who entered a Threads of Hope book and take everyone with me to the Women of Faith. It’s a lot more fun when everyone wins! But this time, that’s not the case. Thank you to everyone who entered.

Threads of Hope Winners:
Shannon
Allison
Cecilia
Kathryn
Kimberly

Congratulations…please email me your address ASAP so that I can send you your book! I look forward to participating in this upcoming Walking With You with each of you. Even if you didn’t win, remember that you can download the book online for free!

The winner of the Women of Faith ticket is Stephanie Gerken. (While I do know who Stephanie is in real life, she is no relation to me! She is an older sister to a high school friend of mine and the daughter of one of my former teachers (who was more recently a co-worker, a dear friend, and someone on MY list of women of faith). I actually have come to know Stephanie better more recently through this blog and email, since her daughter Chloe went home to heaven last year. She is a beautiful woman of faith herself!) Stephanie had trouble leaving her entry in the comments, so she emailed it to me. Her words were such a blessing and inspiration as she shared about her grandmother, Ileen, that I just have to share them here.

(If you did not win a ticket, but still plan on coming, we would love to join you for dinner either Friday, Saturday, or both! Please email me if you’re coming!)

Stephanie’s Woman of Faith Entry:
Thank you for this wonderful request, Kelly. This is something we should ponder far more often. Praise God that he has inspired you to encourage all of us to consider these “daughters of Sarah.” [1 Peter 3]

Choosing just one of these women in my own life seems like an insurmountable task! I have been blessed with several inspirational women, including my mother, Ruth Bloor, and you. During this last most challenging year, your walk of faith and willingness to share have been a lifesaver to me. When I felt as if I were drowning in grief, you were there, Kelly. Your ministry soothes, guides, and exhorts so many broken hearts. It is breath-taking to see how the Lord is working in and through your life.

For the purpose of the Women of Faith conference, however, I will focus on my grandmother, Ileen Steffen. I consider it a great blessing that I was her oldest grandchild because I was able to bask in her unconditional love for 26 precious years. From my toddler days into my 20s, I longed to stay overnight with Grandma like some people anticipate sleepovers with their best friends! Thankfully, I was able to do that at least once a week – and I think that is probably a conservative estimate.

I loved snuggling up with her on her sofa as she read her Bible each night. I learned early that her Bible was her most treasured possession. I remember waking up sometimes in the middle of the night and finding her on her knees in silent prayer. Back then, I had no idea the trials (and yes, there were many triumphs, too) she was facing quietly, prayerfully, and faithfully.

My grandmother was selfless, she persevered through tragedy and great anguish without complaining, and I saw in her each one of the fruit of the spirit.

Her love? lt was boundless; her joy was tangible. Her peace was the God-given peace that passes all understanding. Her patience? Legendary. I have often told my children about the time I accidentally knocked over a gorgeous plant pedestal Grandma Ileen had made in her ceramic class. She didn’t even blink as it sat in pieces, intermingled with dirt and a mangled fern.

Then, of course, was her kindness, which helped make her the teacher others still inspire to emulate. I remember a young student whose mother had passed away. Although I was no older than 5 years old myself, I vividly recall how Grandma tried to comfort the student and step in as a motherly figure. Years later, while enjoying yet another sleepover, I quietly watched as she wept and prayed throughout the night for a student who had lost his life while crossing the railroad tracks on his way home from school.

My grandmother’s unfailing goodness was demonstrated each year in her second-grade classroom, where boldly defying all political correctness, she would decorate a bulletin board without fail. It proclaimed Matthew 7:12.: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you …” She lived that verse and expected nothing less of her students. She also led them in prayer each morning – all in a public school. Given all of these examples, it is probably not necessary to expound on her faithfulness.

As for the last two fruit of the spirit, gentleness and self-control, Grandma combined both as she calmly faced experiences that leave others bitter and cynical for a lifetime. No matter with whom she was interacting – a 3-year-old throwing a temper tantrum, a teenager sporting a less-than-respectful attitude, or an elderly patient with dementia she visited in a local nursing home after her retirement – Grandma exemplified the kind of gentleness Ephesians 4:1-3 calls all of us to exhibit. “ … Walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Through much pain and loss, she persevered, and I know not a single time where she lost control. Her forbearance is something I only hope to one day fully attain. Her self-control was perhaps never more evident than in the final year of her life. She was dying of cancer, but due to her penchant to persevere and never complain, many months passed before she was diagnosed.

When the devastating diagnosis finally came – just three weeks before her death – the disease had spread to nearly every major organ and her bones. To think that she had endured such indescribable pain for so long is unimaginable. Maintaining such self-control.during those long, painful months could not have been possible if not for the power of Christ sustaining her.

My grandmother was a woman of faith unlike any I have ever known. As I reflect, I wonder if she ever knew how strong her Godly impact was on my life. She was my “Titus 2” woman: “Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.”

Many of those concepts seem counter-cultural today, but even as a young wife in the early ‘90s, I definitely lacked in almost every one of those areas. She, however, seemed to shine brilliantly in each one and I have endeavored to follow in those faith-filled footsteps.

When I began this tribute to my grandmother, I referenced the “daughters of Sarah,” in I Peter 3. Several years ago, I shared my testimony during a church retreat. As must be obvious by now, Grandma Ileen played a role of great consequence in my life and witness.

During my testimony, I shared the I Peter passage about her because of how much it reminded me of her life. “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.” [1 Peter 3:3-6]

Her “inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” was evident to me throughout her life. My greatest hope is that I will someday be able to attain what Grandma Ileen did through unspeakable tragedies, heart-breaking trials, and miraculous triumphs.

And finally, Kelly, I would be remiss if I did not express how deeply grateful I am that you have encouraged us to write about our women of faith. Until now, I have not spent enough time explaining Grandma Ileen to the great-grandchildren she did not have the opportunity to meet this side of heaven. My daughter, Hannah Ileen, and my brother’s daughter, Grace Ileen, should especially know more about the cherished woman for whom they were named. May God richly bless you for offering this awesome opportunity.

It was such a blessing to read the “women of faith” entries…I’d love to read more about the women of faith in your lives. If you would like to share a woman of faith in your life, please leave a comment here…just for fun and a little inspiration and encouragement!

Women of Faith Giveaway…UPDATE

UPDATE: So far, there is just one entry! I can’t believe only ONE Ohioan (or those nearby) would like a free ticket to Women of Faith! Come on girls! Contest will be closing on Monday, February 8, 2010…if anyone else wants to join in…

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I am so excited and I just can’t hide it! Just trying to catch my breath….

O.K…I just hung up the phone from ordering my Women of Faith tickets for the weekend of April 30-May 1, 2010 – in Columbus, Ohio. (That in itself is very exciting!) I have been to Women of Faith a couple times and had a blast! It was a wonderful time of worship, encouragement, laughter, tears, renewal and just multiple blessings. One of my favorite things is seeing women minister to one another with the love of Jesus…and that’s what Women of Faith is all about. And, those ladies are so real, you know?

O.K…so I was ordering two tickets…one for me and one for Becki (my partner in crime…ahem, I mean ministry…and the other third of Sufficient Grace). I had a tugging on my heart to order one more ticket, to bless someone by giving it away here. I tried to shrug it off and just be reasonable and order what I originally planned. When I clicked on the seating chart to find my seats, there were even three seats right next to each other on the end…just where I would like them. They are kind of high up, but I knew from experience we would still be able to see fine. Still, I hung up having only purchased two tickets. The lovely lady on the phone gave me a $20 discount, even. After I hung up, I called Becki to share my desire to give a ticket away to someone who really would like to come with us! (We were already able to invite two others who wanted to come by giving them our Friday tickets…so this would be a third person that could join in on the fun! I love how our God multiplies the blessings!) She agreed, and I called the lovely lady named Terry from the Women of Faith registration hotline (yes, the same lady answered!). I was all giddy when she said the third seat was still available, and may have even told her I loved her!!! =)

Sooooooooo…

I purchased a third ticket…

AND NOW…

WE’RE GOING TO…

GIVE IT AWAY ON THIS BLOG!!!!!!!!

Courtesy of Sufficient Grace Ministries for Women (and Families)

How much fun is that?!!!!!!!!!!

One blessed winner will receive a Women of Faith (Columbus) ticket for:

Friday, April 30, 2010 (10a.m.-3:30p.m.)
and
Saturday, May 1, 2010 (9:00a.m.-4:00p.m.)

A box lunch is also included for both days. You may choose to attend both days. We can give you hotel information if you choose to do that.(You will be responsible for accommodations and additional meals.) If you cannot come both days, please let us know and we will split the tickets allowing one person to attend on Friday and one on Saturday. It will be the winner’s choice. Becki and I will be available to have supper with anyone wishing to meet with us both Friday and Saturday evenings. So…even if you do not win and you are going to be there…we would really like to meet with you!

To enter, just leave a comment here sharing a “woman of faith” in your life who has been a blessing and encouragement to you. And please remember…you have to be able to get yourself to Columbus, Ohio to enter!!!!

(Because I can’t stand to be left out…my “woman of faith” is my friend, Dinah, who taught me how to be a wife and honor my husband when I was newly married. Love you, girl…)

This is going to be sooooooo much fun!!!!!!