BASEBALL, FREE TACOS and THE BREAD OF LIFE

IN HONOR OF BASEBALL SEASON EVERYWHERE….
a never-before-shared, journal entry.


It is a blustery cold October evening and I am sitting in the parking lot of a local Taco Bell with my 12-year-old son.  The 2008 World Series has come to Philadelphia and there is a palpable excitement everywhere we go.  Taco Bell has partnered with MLB and is offering a free taco for every stolen base in the world series.

On this Tuesday night the 28th day of October 2008, between the hours of 2 pm and 6 pm, there is a never ending line of kids (and their adults) gathering for one thing and one thing only…..A FREE TACO.

Matt  2008  

Sure, today makes a fun moment and a great memory that I will always have to share with my boy, who is feverishly devoted to the game in his own right.   But, I cannot help but wonder, what it would take for the crowds to swarm after the gift of salvation.  After all, IT IS FREE!  Standing in line to get a free taco doesn’t really require much of me. Maybe a few extra minutes of my day, but certainly nothing of lasting value, really.

Salvation is a free gift!  But first, we need to acknowledge our need before we can accept it.  Why is it so hard for us to acknowledge our need for a saviour, but we don’t think twice about blowing 30 minutes to stand in line for a free taco (that we don’t really need)?   There are no eternal rewards that come from eating a taco, but there certainly are rich and eternal rewards that come from accepting the free gift of salvation.  

in little less than a month, he’ll be 21!  (time flies)


Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life.  No one who comes to me will ever be hungry again. Those who believe in me will never thirst…..For it is my Father’s will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life.”       JOHN 6: 35,40

Enjoy baseball! 
Eat a free taco! 
But do it all, acknowledging and accepting the Bread of Life! 
Crystal

FRUIT DOESN’T LIE

An Exerpt (in highlighted purple italics below)is taken from one of my all time favorite books! (In My Father’s Vineyard, by Wayne Jacobsen)
I have led multiple small groups through this incredible book study. It offers very powerful principles that have been applied to raising my children, building relationships, leading people and walking out every single day of my own life, abiding in Him, “In My Father’s Vineyard”, one season at a time. Because stuff this good never grows old….and is meant to be shared often, I decided to pull it from the shelf, dust it off and crack it open again. I hope it speaks to you today.

***************** IN EVERY GRAPE, the history of the vine is told. If it was a good year and the vineyard was properly cared for, the fruit will burst with sweetness. If the vineyard was neglected, the fruit will be small and tart. FRUIT DOESN’T LIE.
The truth of a branch’s life is found in the harvest. The branch that remains in the Vine will reap an abundance of fruit, useful to the Master in extending his kingdom. His character, developed in the branch, will demonstrate his love and grace to others. However, there is a less joyful side to the harvest. The branch that did not pursue friendship with Jesus wholeheartedly but neglected spiritual nourishment will face a sad reality at harvest: puny fruit, or perhaps no fruit at all.
If we resisted the Master when he sought to train us to the wire or we cast off our fruit in the weariness of summer’s heat, the harvest will reveal what has happened. If we stay just close enough to Jesus to survive, our fruit (if any) will be pale and tasteless.
Worse yet, if we only pretended to draw life from Christ but in fact resisted his work in us while serving ourselves, our fruit will bear our own likenss and not his. FRUIT DOESN’T LIE. It expresses the life of the vine. That’s why scripture views the harvest in both positive and negative terms; it demonstrates the quality of our lives, whether good or bad.
Fruit cannot be faked. Though we may be able to pretend a godly attribute for a brief season, in weak and tired moments our lives will reveal our true choices, priorities and attachments. Fruit makes the invisible visible. It shatters all pretense and over time marks the true depth of our friendship with Jesus. Don’t expect grace to cover up your neglect by producing spiritual fruit. Grace restores us to God’s presence. Grace forgives our sins and offers us a fresh start. But grace will never produce fruit when we have not paid the price to remain in the Vine. It will not make up for the times when we have given in to the enemy’s deception. FRUIT DOESN’T LIE.
When it finally appears, it reveals what has been going on in the vineyard through all the seasons. And God’s harvest is often full of surprises. The people we thought were pursuing God may not turn out to be his followers at all. The activities and pursuits in our own lives may turn out to be fruitless–or they may produce the joyful confirmation that we remained in the Vine. *****************
I know the physical harvest may be far removed from our thoughts. Afterall, it is February. But don’t be fooled. The depth of our friendship with Jesus, will be measured by the fruit we bear, no matter what the season.

No Good Thing Does He Withold! Savoring The Gifts.

Rushing through the crowds of holiday shoppers just a few short weeks ago,  it snuck right up on me, uninvited, yet so very welcome!    It’s amazing how one piece of music can flood the soul and overwhelm the senses.  First I heard it playing loud through the mall and then a  joyful tear and a lump in my throat welled up.  Memories of preparation for that exquisite January wedding day stopped me right in my tracks and I savored the gift…..a very special one of a kind gift that required no wrapping, ribbons or even fancy bows.  

The very music (recorded above) that filled the holiday air, just so happened to be the same music that accompanied the processional of  brides maids, flower girls  and yes,  my own beautiful daughter, as she walked her wedding aisle exactly one year ago today.
(perfectly timed out and dramatized for effect–her grand, closed door entrance, happened at precisely 3:33 min) 

Psalm 84:11 says,  “The Lord bestows favor and honor.  No good thing does he withold from those who walk uprightly.  

What may appear to one as just another arrangement of music, becomes to another,  far reaching passion and emotion during an incredibly beautiful, bridal processional moment….A GOOD THING.    

What may appear to one holiday shopper as joyful music filling the air, becomes to this mother, a gift (of memories) that keeps on giving….A GOOD, GOOD THING. 

This past year as been one of watching my daughter embrace the marriage journey with joy and zeal and tenacity.  So today, just like one year ago…WE CELEBRATE (albeit just a little less exquisite).  The marriage journey is ever filled with new seasons, new hopes and dreams, new goals and purposes, new mountaintops and valley lows.   The memories will always remain our constant joy, but to all that lies ahead, the next year and the next, continue growing in grace, in love and in beauty. 
I’d say there isn’t a finer piece of music that represents more completely the both of you, who you are, and what you share. 
THAT MOMENT, THE MEMORIES, AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, 
YOUR LIFE TOGETHER….A VERY GOOD THING! 
                                                                                                                                                   

  
         Christmas Eve 2016                   Wedding Day January 15, 2016

HAPPY ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY, TYLER AND SARAH
We Love You! 


Settling For More in 2017

Reading a “hot off the press” autobiography, given to me as a gift by my daughter (who completely understands my love for really good books), is how I spent much of my evenings in the days following Christmas.

Now, making my way into the office on these final pre dawn hours of 2016,  reflecting on all that has been and all that is yet to come…. these three words (which also happened to be the title of that autobiography) beat lock step with my heart…SETTLE FOR MORE!

More FAITH….because faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
More HOPE….that necessary posture of the mind that keeps us moving forward, sometimes against very difficult odds.
And,
More LOVE….because it is the greatest of all!

Settling for more is not so much an end game, rather it is an active process (and sometimes a daily choice).  Life changes, therefore, it requries that I change too.  The joyful, exhilorating moments that go perfectly and as planned speak for themselves, but when moments of stress and complacency and disappointment and unmet expectations attempt to define me,  may I find courage to risk, stand alone if necessary, shine a light thru the darkness, and SETTLE FOR MORE….a more that goes way beyond anything good that I could ever hope for or imagine.

The passing of time is marked by a turn of a calendar page, but for this moment,  here’s to a  NEW YEAR and SETTLING FOR MORE.                                

HAPPY NEW YEAR 
CRYSTAL 
   2017 


EXPECTATIONS OF CHRISTMAS–HOPE IS BORN and HIS GLORY REVEALED

EXPECTATIONS OF CHRISTMAS 

                              (originally written in 2009 when Sarah was in Africa)                                   (pulled from the archives and slightly revised in 2016 when Sarah was a newly-wed) 

One of my favorite pictures of Matt in 2009
Preparations are underway for another heart warming Christmas Eve Service as well as everything that goes along with our “usual” Christmas morning. The luminaries line the streets and as dusk draws nigh, I reflect on “expectations of Christmas”.

I make my way through the huge wooden doors to the church. Candlelight and carols fill the air, and…. so does the knot in my throat.
This is our first Christmas Eve without Sarah and the “normalcy” of expectations and traditions feel challenged, changed, and taken away. Although I may not always like it, after 40 plus years, I have finally learned (and in some ways am still learning) to “stand still and see His Glory”.
As you read the remainder of this Christmas Day blog and “Expectant Christmas Reflections” I hope you will be inspired to do the same.

For a weary, stranded traveler who exchanges a warm and festive meal around the table with loved ones, for bad weather, cancelled flights and the uncertainty of what tomorrow will hold…….hope was still born and the glory of the Lord revealed.
For the young mother who struggles to comfort the fevered brow of her child, instead of decorating, caroling and baking…….hope was still born and the glory of the Lord revealed.
Unfortunate circumstances give way to broken homes and broken hearts. Any hopes of happy and joyful Christmas times will have to be put off until next year or the next….but even in that, hope is still born and the glory of the Lord revealed.
The missionary family who embraces the “unplanned”, because there is no other choice (or electricity), exchanges fresh made enchiladas and swimming, for a rainy day and dinner out…hope is still born and the glory of the Lord revealed.
Mary and Joseph resort to a Bethlehem stable because there is no room at the inn…. HOPE IS BORN AND THE GLORY OF THE LORD IS REVEALED!! 

I’m sure there are countless other “real life” scenarios we could add to this list. But let me 

we had fun recreating the picture above….in 2016
ask you, what does Christmas look like this year compared to what you expected it to look like?  Maybe everything went perfectly and as planned, but maybe it didn’t.  

We have 17 more days before we see Sarah face to face. (Thankfully, this year, in 2016, we’ll all be together Christmas Day).   And, although we wait with great expectation, our hearts are learning to take great comfort in the unexpected, in the different, and in the HAND-PICKED, HAND-DESIGNED expectations of the Father (Just like that very first Christmas Night)!
Then and only then, is hope born and HIS glory revealed.
Merry Christmas! 
Crystal

The Gift Of A Good Neighbor, And A Christmas Cup Of Tea.


As we packed the last of our belongings into the moving truck and pulled away, my heart flooded with so many wonderful memories of that great place, the neighborhood where we raised our family.  It would be easy to spend hours talking about all the wonderful memories made and times shared.    So very much goes into making a place great!  For me, the most important, is the people, the vibe of community that is shared, expressions of love and kindness and pulling together no matter what is going on.   For as long as I can remember, my life has been enriched by the gift of a good neighbor.  
Driving away  was like closing a chapter.  But, for every chapter we close, there is another to be opened.  How will I open it,  how will I write it, what sort of people and treasures would my new neighborhood hold?  

Me and my next door neighbor, Carol

    Six years have come and gone now and we’ve done life next door to each other.  Summertime walks, vases of flowers, a crockpot of soup after surgery, shoveling snow, a morning wave, late night visits, a genuine interest and care in every detail of life….graduations, weddings, sickness, health, jobs, joys, crisis, and lots of notes of encouragement just because.


Christmas is my favorite time of all, because no matter what is going on, no matter how busy or full our lives become, we ALWAYS manage to call a time out, share a Sunday afternoon cup of Christmas Tea, and give thanks for the simple pleasures, which really are the best gifts of all.   




                               

Genuine love revealed in both giving and receiving, through flesh and blood, kinduv like I believe it did on that first Christmas.  

                               
                   CRYSTAL

THE GOOD LIFE, AND RANDOM THOUGHTS ON THE EMPTY NEST

I am not sure where I got the idea that the empty nest would be a season filled with 
hours of leisure, 
schedules that were perfectly organzied with no interruptions 
and more time than I needed to nurture friendships,
advance my interests and organize all the parts of life that were pushed to the back burner and remained slightly unorganized thru the wonderful years of teenage drivers, high school sports and graduations, college acceptance letters and marriage proposals and weddings.   
Me and Rick, reflecting on life, in Anchorage, Alaska

I would propose the empty nest is more of a process than a one time event.  It signifies one job completed, but so many more new ones beginning, one chapter written, yet so many more chapters to write upon.   

The moments of “mourning the loss of life as we’ve known it for so long” and creating new normals as a couple have been real and existent.  But really, for us, it’s been more of a shift than a loss.   Putting 18 years into making each of our children a “whole person” has been both exhausting and incredibly gratifying.  Along with the calling of being Godly parents and building a happy, healthy home, comes the grace and wisdom to embrace every season with open arms (even if that means an occassional prying open at times). 
Its an opportunity for us to lay hold of and walk in the promises that we’ve spent so many years investing in and believing for.  

“Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who finds great delight in his commands. His children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed.”                        Psalm 112:1-2 

“Store my commands in your heart, for they will give you a long and satisfying life.  Never let loyalty and kindness get  away from you!  Wear them like a necklace; write them deep within your heart.  Then you will find favor with both God and people, and you will gain a good reputation.”  Proverbs 3:1-4  

Sarah and Me — out to lunch for her 23rd birthday
Matt- Junior year at Grove City College 

As parents we never stop being a sounding board, we offer wisdom for decisions when asked, we never stop praying them thru and cheering them on.  Becoming great friends and watching our children enter adulthood with good reputation, holding fast to loyalty and kindness, seeing God’s favor being poured out,  
It is something to be celebrated and never ever taken for granted!

I am however, still waiting to celebrate that idea of a perfectly organized schedule with no interruptions (wherever it came from) OR enough hours in a day to accomplish all the friendship, interests and leisure time that awaits.  Until then, I press on…… 




KNOWING AND GIVING THANKS FOR LIVING THE GOOD LIFE…
 IN THE EMPTY NEST. 

CRYSTAL 

ALASKA IN OUR HEARTS

A long day of travel and time adjustments on Saturday left us feeling rather exhausted despite all the exhiloration from this amazing week.  We opted to unpack, do laundry and get a good nights sleep before completing and sharing our final leg of the journey.

Earlier in our week we had tried to schedule a hiking tour to Exit Glacier when we discovered guided tours for the season were over.  Hiking it ourselves was an option, so that is what we planned to do until we got up Friday morning to an overcast, damp, rainy kind of day.  Not really having the proper weather proof gear needed for a hike of this nature,  a change in plans would prove providential in allowing us the ultimate prize!
Driving 4 hours back up to Talkeetna to get a majestic view of Mt Denali in all of her glory (it was sunny and clear up there). 

Our view of Denali, the never ending wilderness, breathtaking landscapes and glacier fields as well as our scenic hikes and walks through the mountains, and this great state of Alaska is what will stay with us forever.  

In the grand scheme of things, our time was short but we feel blessed beyond measure to have had this opportunity of a lifetime.  We made the most of every minute and would love to return someday to continue
 discovering the trails and rivers and glaciers that time didn’t permit us to explore this time around.  Although we did see quite a bit of wildlife, the good stuff requires more time for going much deeper into the National Parks and wilderness.

At the Alaskan Wildlife Conservation Center

As we made our way back to the airport we spent our final hours in the city of Anchorage.  That is where we discovered a bike trail that beckons us back.   Time didn’t permit us to bike it, but we did walk a piece of it and got a few  photos.  http://anchoragecoastaltrail.com/




We shared one last meal together at The 49th State Brewing Company, overlooking this great city from rooftop seating….brrrr, the sun was shining but a chill was in the air.

In closing, our time shared with you wouldn’t be complete without at least one “crazy tourist” moment too.    


For so long we only talked about Alaska…..NOW, she will forever be in our hearts!   
Thanks for sharing this most amazing journey with us.
God Is So Incredibly Good. 
Crystal
#Steimling25

A DAY OF GLACIERS AND GOD’S PROMISES

A DAY OF GLACIERS AND GOD’S PROMISES
I wasn’t sure I’d get to post again before our return….but after a day like today, making time to write about it and share pictures is an absolute must!   Just when we think the day before can’t possibly be outdone with wonder and amazement, it is!  Each day bringing with it inspiration that reaches us in places and ways we never dreamed possible.  

Aialik Glacier





5 hours of grand and breathtaking beauty, meeting new people (we met another couple from Conshohocken, PA who was also there celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary) and allowing just another piece of this place to find a special place in our hearts.   
As we headed back to port, it began to rain a little—but no one seemed to even mind.  As Rick and I reflected on 25 years together, and our promise of FOREVER to each other, God gave us this. 
To the next 25 years…..God’s gift, A promise!

Being one of only two people on board to capture this on camera, we received it as God’s blessing and promise to us as we look to the next 25 years.  Sometimes you find the most unexpected gifts, in the most unexpected places.     

As evening drew near,  we warmed our hearts by the fire and savored the contentment in our souls. 

Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O     LORD, and you are exalted as head above all.                             1 Chronicles 29:11 



ALASKA……you’ve been so good to us!  

I still have a few treasures tucked away for Saturday…..stay tuned. 
  
Crystal

LOFTY MOUNTAINS GRANDEUR—HOW GREAT THOU ART!

Seward, AK 
Yesterday we said farewell to Denali and our stay at Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge.  On our way out of town we enjoyed a delicious breakfast at a super warm and inviting cafe.   As we placed our order the owner of the shop asked us if we were from Pennsylvania.  (Uh I have to admit, I was a little freaked out by her accuracy), but  having been from Springfield, Deleware county herself, I guess she knows a Pennsylvanian when she hears one—-even in Alaska.   Her cafe proved to be one of my favorite food stops so far.   So warm, so inviting, and delicious too.     
Flying Squirrel Cafe (note the cool table) 


Onward towards Wasilla and Palmer, we would stop and spend the evening with dear friends Justin and Gina Jones (picture on FB this morning).  We were blessed by their wonderful Alaskan hospitality and pampered with a lavish meal of fresh salmon, moose burgers, and the finest wild Alaskan blueberry milkshakes ever made. 
Today, we were up with the sun and on our way south towards the seaside community of Seward.  Our 2 hour drive held spectacular views as we passed between the dramatic shorelines of Turnagain Arm and the jutting peaks of the Chugach Mountains.  

One of the overlooks on our hike. 

Hiking up Mt Marathon was rather gruelling and strenuous, but getting a birds eye view of the surpassing beauty in this place, coupled with being able to say we hiked this mountain (for all its history and story), makes for 2 really satisfied souls, and some really great “25 year celebration” memories.  http://www.alaska.org/detail/mount-marathon-trail
Along the trail to the top of the mountain


                    The nearness of God has revived our hearts and refreshed our spirits.  There is still much to be experienced and shared with you in our remaining 2 days, but my final two blog posts will more than likely be completed and shared upon our return to the lower 48.  This has been more than a vacation,  more than a celebration…..it has been a once in a lifetime trip that has been exceedingly, abunduntly more than we could’ve ever imagined.                                   

When I think of all the sights we saw today in light of
1 Corinthians 2:9 that says, “no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those  who love him”,  I can’t help meditating on His Greatness…..His Sovereignty!

Scenic View on our way to Seward

                                                                                                                                                                   

                                                       CRYSTAL  


Down by the Pier
Taking a much needed rest by the falls on our hike