Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Make a wish!

Our youngest granddaughter turned five yesterday! I've always found it challenging to find the right camera settings to be able to capture the blowing out of the birthday candles without using a flash.
I am pleased with how they turned out this year.  Boy, did she have a hard time blowing those five candles out!  It took her several tries.  Meanwhile, our youngest grandson, aged two, kept chanting, "Make a wish! Make a wish!"

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Monday, November 28, 2016

Thanksgiving week gratitude...

Thanksgiving week is over and the Advent season has begun.  During Advent we remember the long centuries of waiting for the Promised Messiah. On Christmas Day we celebrate the reality that when the fullness of time came, God really did, on a specific day at a specific time in human history, send His own Son in human flesh as the perfect sacrifice for our sins.  Whether our circumstances are currently peaceful and carefree, or challenging and worrisome, for this we can daily, should daily, give thanks.  We are God's by creation and His though the redemption that His Son paid for us on Calvary.  We are adopted as God's own through His great love, by His unfathomable choice to sacrifice His Beloved Son for His beloved children.  Praise and thanksgiving be His forevermore!
Since 2009 I've been counting my blessings thanks to the prompting of Ann Voskamp.
 I continue to count my thanks
piling up gratitude day by day
in my journal.
(and capturing some of my blessings via my camera or iPhone)

-putting up the Christmas tree!
-homemade spicy butternut squash soup
-my granddaughter's writing that if she was a Thanksgiving turkey she would move to South America!

-a white haired lady at the grocery store that reminded me of Mama
-fresh balsam candles
-our house full of people praying together

-the smell of bone broth simmering on the stove
-going out to lunch and a movie with the two oldest grandkids
-"Nannie!"-the way my youngest grandson lights up and says my "name" when he sees me

-Thanksgiving Day!
-cooking with my daughter and granddaughter
-our son-in-law's yummy deep fried turkey
-oldest granddaughter's pretty table setting
-my sister and brother-in-law, nephew and his family, coming over to have dessert with us

-more Christmas shopping done, and there were no Black Friday crowds at Marshalls!
-eating leftovers and watching the new PBS Anne of Green Gables with the girls while the boys watched football
-going to bed early and watching the new Gilmore Girls

-morning blue hour just before sunrise
-Christmas-y flannel sheets
-cheesy Christmas movies

-worship that lifts up the name of Jesus and Who He is
-God adding to the church
-God's provision

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Saturday, November 26, 2016

Living in peace in the messy realm of "not yet"...

As we wade through the aftermath of, perhaps, the most contentious election that I have known in my lifetime, my heart is craving peace.  Yet, it seems that peace on earth is more illusive than ever.  In our preparations to celebrate Christmas, it might be helpful to remind ourselves that the first advent of the Prince of Peace did not result in political peace.  In fact, that was not even the purpose of Christ’s birth. He was born that His kingdom might first be established in the hearts of men and women.  He came to bring peace within.  While there will come a day when the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ, we are all living in the messy realm of “not yet”.  

In the “not yet” realm of unrealized peace on earth, election time isn’t the only season that can be difficult to navigate peaceably.  Holidays can, unfortunately, be another time when peace feels illusive.  Schedules are fuller, budgets are tighter, relationships may be strained by unrealistic expectations and unreasonable demands.  What can we do, in practical ways, to bring peace on earth into our everyday life?  (Join me for the rest of this post on Sunday, November 27th, at Woman to Woman Ministries where each Sunday I share a bit of Sunday Soul Food!)

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thoughts on this Thanksgiving Eve...

It's the morning before Thanksgiving.  The smell of tomorrow's feast is already filling my house as stock simmers on the stove to add to tomorrow's pan drippings for the turkey gravy.  Thanksgiving day will be spent at our second born daughter's house, but I'll do my part to help her with some of the cooking.

Today, as usual, I woke up early to sip some hot coffee and spend some time reading my Bible and praying. My favorite worship playlist is my background noise.  I've barely left the house since church on Sunday morning due to the remnants of this cold/flu that has sapped me of my normal energy levels.  Instead, I've wrapped myself in the peace and comfort of home and let myself heal, not just from the flu bug, but from the recent death of my mother-in-law, and from the persistent strife on social media.

Perhaps I'm a bit Pollyanna-ish, a bit over optimistic.  I think relational hurts and misunderstandings are something that can and should be talked and walked through. Abandoning relationship is not an option to me. (I'm not talking here about remaining in abusive relationships.)  As a child who's dad, in essence, walked away from me at age nine, abandonment and rejection, either physically or emotionally is about as cruel as you can get.  So, I tend to be extreme in the other direction.  I persist in trying to mend relationship, at times, with others who have no desire to continue in relationship with me.

After the election, on social media, I tried to understand others and be understood by others that voted differently than me and saw the election aftermath differently than I did.  In my attempts to "talk" through things, I made mistakes that hurt others.   While I apologized, I'm not sure it was seen as sincere or as enough.  I'm not sure that my efforts to maintain relationship in spite of still not seeing eye to eye about certain things worked.  I'm still a bit in mourning over this, because, as I said, I'm just not a person who easily lets go of relationship. Those I don't see eye to eye with are still my sisters in Christ.  I still care about them.

As I said, I've kind of hunkered down here in my safe place to let myself heal up in body, soul and spirit.  I've decided to do what I've known was the right thing to do from the beginning.  I'm focusing on making sure that the in real life people in my own sphere of influence are doing ok in this post election chaos.  I've talked to the black and latino members of our congregation, to the immigrants, asking them how they are doing, asking them if they feel anxious or afraid.  Overall, there is not nearly as much panic and fear as the media would have you think. Most respond to me with confidence and trust in God's care and protection.  There's also a measure of trust in us, that we would never sit idly by and watch them be mistreated or abused.

Perhaps, part of my grieving is sensing that God just might be grieving, too, right now.  Surely, the fact that His church is publicly biting and devouring one another grieves Him.  Surely, the fact that we think that Donald Trump or Hilary Clinton or anyone or anything else on this earth could separate us from His loving care and protection grieves Him.  Surely the fact that we are all so hell bent on being proudly identified by our political affiliation, our gender, our race, or our position rather than to humbly accept the truth that no other label or identity will last beyond this world and on into eternity except this one, "Child of God", surely that grieves His great heart.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and the Christmas season is beginning.  For God's sake, for the sake of the one King and the one Kingdom that will last forever and ever,  I pray that you and I can get our acts together as God's children and refocus on the things that unite us instead of the things that divide us. I pray that you and I, each in our own in real life sphere of influence, will go about our Father's business, spreading the good news, making disciples, loving others.  Meanwhile, I pray for God to bless you with His peace, joy and love.  Have a truly happy and gratitude filled Thanksgiving.

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Monday, November 21, 2016

Lots of thanksgiving...

I found out, via an article that someone posted on social media this morning, that I'm not a Christian because of who I voted for in the recent election. (How's that for bursting my bubble! LoL!)  As my husband and I watched the election results from a hotel room, so we could be near to the adult care home where my mother-in-law was nearing the end of her life, I naively thought the contention and strife of this election season would calm down once we had a new president elect.  Once I discovered that wasn't to be the case,  I should have just ignored social media, but felt compelled to both understand and to be understood by those who voted differently than me. I think it may have just made matters worse.  When my mother-in-law passed away there was another trip to my sister-in-law's to help make funeral plans, then there was the funeral, and in the midst of it all I caught a miserable case of the cold/flu.  So, other than a few posts I do for other websites, I've been mostly MIA here for a while.  

In spite of the, previously unknown to me if I hadn't read it on Facebook, precarious state of my soul, I have three weeks of gratitude journal posts to catch up on here.  These posts may be the most important thing I post on my blog, not for you, but for me.  In these seven years of gratitude journaling, life and death have happened, (two grandkids born, my mother's and my husband's mother's deaths).  There have been good times and difficult times, joys and sorrows.  Through it all, in counting my blessings and writing them down, I have seen God's daily faithfulness, His steadfast care of me, His great mercy.  Thanksgiving as a habitual lifestyle is life changing.
Since 2009 I've been counting my blessings thanks to the prompting of Ann Voskamp.
 I continue to count my thanks
piling up gratitude day by day
in my journal.
(and capturing some of my blessings via my camera or iPhone)

-the baby "dancing" on our youngest daughter's ultrasound
-colorful orange berries on green foliage
-a break in the rain for a dry walk
-the grandkids coming by for some trick or treat candy
-an answer to prayer

-November-month of Thanksgiving!
-a refund on defective sheets from Costco
-the perfect warm and cozy sweater
-oh, so good split pea and ham soup
-our home group

-feathery cirrus clouds
-sun glow through the trees
-on my walk, the old man at the park who sits in his scooter eating jalapeƱo flavored potato chips and drinking Mountain Dew and saying an excited "Hi!" to me when I walked by him on all four times around the loop
-the Cubbies won the world series, some happy news amid the election turmoil

-early morning devotions and a walk before watching the grandgirls and their new pup for a few days
-going to the park with the three youngest grandkids
-the younger grandgirls and I meeting Papa at Hula Boy for dinner

-a beautiful day for the grandgirls to go to the park again
-homemade bubble solution
-making homemade spaghetti and meatballs and homemade french bread together
-cuddling in bed and watching "Honey I Shrunk the Kids" with the grandgirls

-the grandgirls playing nice together 
-making paper doll chains for the grandgirls to color
-our church leaders encouraging my husband re. his mom

-a safe drive to meet my husband at his mom's
-youngest grandson being so good on the trip
-my hubs holding his mom's hand and stroking her face
-those who are carrying on for us at church while we are gone

-an answered prayer
-the kind, caring hospice staff
-dinner at my sister-in-law's

-a beautiful spring like day
-Election Day!

-resting and having devotions at the hotel room while my hub's went to sit with his mom alone for a bit
-laughing with my sister-in-law even during this tough time

-this beautiful day and walk
-a great prayer meeting

-breakfast out with a sweet family from church
-finding some great deals on Christmas gifts
-watching "The Crown" with my husband

-a listening ear
-a quiet evening

-my mother-in-law is experiencing the joy and wholeness of heaven after an eight year battle with Alzheimer's
-more baptisms at church
-lunch with our two youngest girls and their families
-driving back up to my sister-in-law's with my daughter

-grieving, but not as those who have no hope
-dinner at my sister-in-law's with her family

-the comfort of home
-quiet time in the Word
-our small group praying together

-being able to stay home when I don't feel well
-writing time
-homemade chicken soup

-God's daily provision
-the joy of being a part of a surprise blessing for someone else
-watching the first Christmas movie of the season

-cup after cup of hot tea
-a dessert night with our church leaders

-breakfast with my husband's siblings before the funeral
-those who drove a long ways to be at the service
-coming home and pulling out the Christmas decorations, because it was somehow comforting

-our church-the comfort and blessing of being with our church family
-resting all afternoon
-the comfort of my husband next to me at night

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Saturday, November 19, 2016

Be thankful...

This week we celebrate Thanksgiving day here in the United States.  I love Thanksgiving!  In fact, I love both the day and the act of giving thanks!  In the fall of 2009, I began keeping a gratitude journal.  Each day since I began I try to write down at least three things I am thankful for.  It has been life-changing for me.  To me, there is no greater tool against hopelessness than thanksgiving and praise. Gratitude journaling has helped me to see God's daily faithfulness in my life, even through the difficult things that I've experienced in the past seven years.  

Some days, as I write in my gratitude journal I don't "feel" thankful. You've heard it said that love is more than an emotion, it's a choice. We choose to love even when our emotions don't feel loving.  The same is true for thanksgiving.  We choose to give thanks and to praise God even when we don't feel an accompanying emotion. When we choose to do loving actions, the emotion of love follows.  Likewise, when we choose to give thanks even if we don't feel anything, the feeling of gratitude and the desire to praise will often follow.

When I think about choosing to give thanks, I am reminded of my husband telling me about an experience he had on his last visit to Ghana, West Africa.  He said that every morning he would be awakened by the sound of a woman singing praises to God. (Join me for the rest of this post on Sunday, November 20th, at Woman to Woman Ministries where each Sunday I share a bit of Sunday Soul Food!)

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Scripture and Snapshot

Also happily linking up with the lovely

Saturday, November 12, 2016

A mandate to love...

I'll admit it, I couldn't wait for this divisive and tense election to be over.  I naively thought that once it was, no matter who our new president elect was, things would calm down.  That bubble burst rapidly on Wednesday morning when I opened up social media. Tensions are still extremely high on both sides of the political aisle, in spite of the genuine plea for us to unite from both the new president elect and his opponent.  Even among our brothers and sisters in Christ, there is much disagreement, offense and hurt. 

As Americans we all have the right to vote our conscience, no matter what others may think.  We also have the right of free speech to express our views.  We Americans are big on clinging to our rights.  However, once we receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord our rights as citizens to any country on this earth become secondary to our submission to Him and His ways. His Word says that we never have the right to hold onto offense and hatred toward a brother or sister in Christ.  (Join me for the rest of this post on Sunday, November 13th, at Woman to Woman Ministries where each Sunday I share a bit of Sunday Soul Food!)

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Scripture and Snapshot

Also happily linking up with the lovely

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

A Spirit Filled Personality...

Hello friends!  I've been away from my blog this week.  My husband and I are spending this week near the bedside of my mother-in-law who is on hospice end of life care at this time.  I did want to pop in here, however, to ask you to join me at Deeper Waters where I have the privilege of sharing some thoughts on one of my favorite scripture passages from the book of Ephesians, (chapter three verses 14-19).   I think you will be encouraged, as I have been, by the powerful truth in these verses.

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Saturday, November 5, 2016

Perfect Peace...

By Wednesday morning the election will be over.  While I'd love to promise you that after all of these months of rancor and division we will finally be a nation at peace, I can't.  No matter the results of this election, no matter who wins, we will still be a nation filled with problems and division.  In fact, if there was such a thing as a candidate we could all agree on, even that would not result in peace.  We would still have tribulations and trials and distress and frustration.  That's normal life in a fallen world. Looking for peace to be found in a set of ideal circumstances in this life is an exercise in futility.  (Join me for the rest of this post on Sunday, November 6th, at Woman to Woman Ministries where each Sunday I share a bit of Sunday Soul Food!)

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Scripture and Snapshot

Also happily linking up with the lovely

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Good gifts...

When our oldest daughter and her family recently sold their tiny little bungalow in the city and moved into a large fully restored farmhouse the desire for a puppy was rekindled in our two youngest granddaughters.  Now that they had a bigger house, they had more room for a new addition to their family, was our granddaughters' rationalization.  Since their old pug dog had died a few years back our seven year old granddaughter had frequently reminded her mama that "a kid needs a pet"!

Last Sunday evening, my daughter and her husband surprised the girls with a new goldendoodle puppy.  Unknown to the girls, their mama and daddy had been researching and planning this surprise gift for quite some time.  The girls were stunned when their daddy walked into the house with the puppy, at first wondering if it was real and for quite some time afterwards repeatedly asking if she was really theirs.

This experience with seeing my granddaughters longing for a puppy finally realized, reminded me of how God gives us the desires of our hearts.  Like our son-in-law and daughter, He doesn't always do it when or how we think He should.  Right now is always our preferred timing, but God knows that a good gift given at the wrong time can turn out to not be the best thing.  Being good parents, my daughter and son-in-law wanted my granddaughters to be old enough to take some responsibility in the care of the puppy. 

My daughter and son-in-law also spent time researching what type of dog they thought would be the best fit for their family and lifestyle.  Sometimes we think we know what God should give us, we think we know best.  But, because God is all-knowing, He knows far better than we do not only about the right timing for our answers to prayer, but exactly what the perfect answer is for us. Proverbs 10:22 says that God wants to give us blessing with no sorrow attached to it.  A gift that turns out to be more trouble than it's worth isn't really a blessing, is it?

In Matthew 7 Jesus says that our Father God is a good Father who wants to give us good gifts.  He says that if a son asked his earthly father for bread, no good earthly father would give him a stone, or if he asks for some fish, no good earthly father would give him a snake instead.  In other words, no good earthly father would intentionally give their child something disappointing, a stone, or something harmful, a poisonous snake.  Our perfect Heavenly Father is even better at parenting than we are.  When we bring to Him the desires of our heart we can get weary waiting for the answer.  But, we have to trust that He knows the perfect timing, and that when He does answer, it will be what is best for us.  He will only give us things that are beneficial to us, not things that are disappointing or harmful.  God is better than the best earthly parent.  He is a good Father Who wants to surprise us with good gifts.

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Darling Downs Diaries

USE this for BLOG

Woman to Woman Ministries

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