Friday, December 28, 2018

A Lover of Words

I hope everyone enjoyed a wonderful Christmas.  Mine was special - and involved a lot of change...or new things for our family.  New, in a good way.  (New people. New places.  New plans and new traditions.)  Actually, there has been quite a bit of change around here.  Hopefully, I will be sharing a bit more about those changes in the weeks ahead.  Without realizing it, I think "change" has even impacted my word for the new year.

Although I do enjoy making resolutions - more of a personal goals-setting activity for me - I really find a "word for the year" to be helpful.  It keeps me mentally focused.  (And, I can use all the focus help I can find.)  I will also post more, next week, about my word...but I can give you a preview.  My 2019 word is:  SURRENDER. See the connection?  Between change and surrender.  It is a great word, for me, for the months ahead.

There were other words that stayed on my heart.  One was SAVOR.  I love that word - and the idea of completely appreciating and enjoying something.  It is so easy to go through the day on auto-pilot.  Or to become so focused on a daily agenda.  Or to become so familiar with our routine and/or comfort zone that we actually miss the day.  We miss the details.  The small things and, often, the divine appointments that God puts in our path.  I don't want to go through my days that way.

To savor my days is to mentally slow down.  To take notice.  To be fully engaged.  And then to enjoy each day. Even if it is not my word for 2019, it is still a wonderful goal.  I tried it over the last few weeks leading to Christmas.  I wanted to intentionally savor all the little details that combine to make Christmas uniquely special for me and my family.   Toward the end of the month, I joined Whitney at Come Home for Comfort, as well as a few of her friends, for an Instagram challenge.  It was 12 Days of Cozy.  My Instagram skills are very basic, to say the least, but I loved looking at the everyday Christmas things around my home and seeing them in a fresh way - and enjoying them.

My Instagram is located on the sidebar and you can see the photos I posted during the challenge there.  I won't repost them here but I hope you enjoy a peek into our Christmas - and, yes, there might be more than just a couple of pictures of our granddog!!  At the end of the challenge, I even won a prize.  Chosen from the participants.  Who would have guessed?  Being chosen is a special feeling - and was actually another word I had prayed over for next year.  CHOSEN.  So many words to choose from.....

I pray that you have a wonderful new year's celebration and that your heart is anticipating good things - blessed things - in the year ahead.  Next week I will share a quick recipe on Tuesday and then will post more about 2019's word....SURRENDER.  I anticipate some changes for my blog, too, but for now, I will continue to post every Tuesday and Friday.

Happiest New Year wishes -


Friday, December 21, 2018

With His Stripes


Today is the last Five Minute Friday for this year.  Not only has this link-up been a wonderful challenge throughout the year - challenging my thoughts and my writing - but the other posts have been encouraging, convicting and helpful as well.  For those new to FMF, each week there is a one-word prompt and then we try to free-write for five minutes.  As in, not a lot of over-thinking, preparation and not (too much) editing.  Yes, it has been a challenge...especially for the over-thinking and perfectionist side of me.

Most often, I go with my first thought after reading the prompt.  But, not this week.  I had wanted a light-hearted, even fun, Christmas post but these (more serious) thoughts from today's prompt - WITH - as well as these verses were on my heart.

  "He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief:  and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised and we esteemed him not.
   Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows:  yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
   But he was wonded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities:  the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed."  Isaiah 53:3-5

With his stripes we are healed.  That is Christmas.  We all have heard, seen or even read blog posts with the reminders to keep Christ in Christmas.  To remember the real reason for the season.  And I am sure, as Christians, we sincerely want to do that.  But, just as quickly, the busyness, the pressure and, yes, the stress that can be Christmas sneaks back in.  Even the extra fun and "merry" of the season - or just all the coziness - can lull us or distract us and we have, too easily, forgotten that Jesus came to the manger in order to go the cross.

We need the reminders.  Often.  We need to refocus.  Turn our thoughts, our hearts, our priorities and our plans back to the manager - which leads to the cross.  Start our days in God's word and then take it with us throughout the day.  Ask Him to show us distractions or misplaced priorities in order to be purposeful this holiday.  Serve others - it is one of the best ways to take the focus off of us, our agenda and our expectations.  Enjoy Christmas songs but play meaningful music, too.  I think this song, by Ron Hamilton, is so beautiful and expresses, much better than I, the true meaning of Christmas.  (These are just the first two verses.)  If you haven't heard it, look for it and enjoy.  

Merry Christmas!!

Born To Die 

On the night Christ was born
Just before the break of morn,
As the stars in the sky were fading,
O'er the place where He lay
Fell a shadow cold and gray
Of a cross that would humble a King.

Born to die upon Calv'ry,
Jesus suffered my sin to forgive;
Born to die upon Calv'ry
He was wounded that I might live.

Jesus knew when He came
He would suffer in shame,
He could feel ev'ry pain and sorrow.
Be He left Paradise,
With His blood He paid the price -
My redemption to Jesus I owe.

Born to die upon Calv'ry,
Jesus suffered my sin to forgive;
Born to die upon Calv'ry
He was wounded that I might live.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Christmas - A little of This and That

Christmas fun is in full swing here.  I am trying my best to be intentional and to really enjoy this Christmas.  With that in mind, this post is the most random assortment of Christmas, of late, around my house.

FUN VISIT - every December, my husband's daughter comes for a visit.  A long weekend, just by herself, to enjoy her dad.  And the rest of us, too:)  We all look forward to these special weekends.  She just left this morning.  As always, the time goes by so fast but we try to make the most of the four days we have together.  The weather was not cooperative (it was plain ugly) and we had to change a few plans but it was great simply being together. 

We so appreciate her husband, and her mom, doing everything back at home to make these special weekends possible. I know it means so much to my husband!!


YUMMY RECIPES - last week I went to a cookie exchange.  This one was so easy (and I don't know why I have overcomplicated exchanges in the past)!  Even though there were a lot of ladies there, everyone brought two dozen cookies.  And went home with two dozen cookies.  Easy....and delicious!  We enjoyed those cookies all weekend!

I found this yummy cookie recipe (on Pinterest, I believe) and it was a winner. I thought I would share it here but you can also visit the link - because I definitely did not remember to take a picture before I shared them.  And devoured them!



Chocolate chip cookies with a peppermint twist


Makes about 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ tsp. baking soda
⅛ tsp. salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1 cup Ghirardelli peppermint chunks

Instructions

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

In a separate bowl (stand mixer with paddle attachment), beat together the butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and vanilla on medium speed just until smooth. Then beat in the eggs.

Add in the flour mixture, then stir in the chocolate and peppermint chips by hand.

Refrigerate dough for about 30 minutes while oven preheats to 350°F; prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper, and then drop 1-inch balls of dough onto sheet (note that these ones spread while baking, so don't place them too close together) Press extra chocolate/peppermint chips on the tops of cookies for a fancier look.

Bake for 11-12 minutes (I like to err on the side of underbaking) and let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for a couple of minutes to firm up enough to move, then use a spatula to transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.



I also scored another (sugar-rush) recipe this weekend.  Super easy and, yes, super rich but a nice treat for holiday company. Or for Christmas morning - you can make it ahead!


Cinnamon Roll French Toast Casserole 

Ingredients
2 cans Cinnamon rolls
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream (half & half works too)
3 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Icing from cinnamon roll packages

Directions
1. In a large glass bowl, melt butter with sugar. 
2. Beat in eggs, cream, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla.
3. Open canned cinnamon rolls, slice each cinnamon roll into fourths. Place cinnamon roll pieces into the bowl of egg mixture and toss to thoroughly coat. Then pour the pieces, coated in egg mixture, into a greased 9×12 casserole dish and spread out evenly. Use any leftover egg mixture to coat the casserole.
4. Sprinkle with pecans and then bake on 350˚ on a low rack for 35-40 minutes or until brown (I stuck a toothpick inside to determine if the casserole was ready. I like mine a little on the moist side, baked for about 35 minutes.)
5. Remove casserole from oven. Warm icing from cinnamon rolls in microwave for 15 seconds; pour evenly over the bake.
*Can be prepared the night ahead without the pecans.  Simply cover the casserole, stick it in the fridge, then in the morning, add the pecans, bake, and voilá! It’s pure deliciousness for your friends or family!
Serves: 6-8

CHRISTMAS TRADITION - while at last week's cookie exchange/party, our Bible study teacher asked us to share a tradition, unique to our family, that we enjoy.  Honestly, I was discouraged because we really do not have many traditions.  Not sure why that is but I have determined to change that.  I am thinking through - working on - traditions for my (all adult) family.  I would love any suggestions you might have.....please share in the comments.

photo from website
My brother and I have actually "created" a tradition that I am so enjoying!  A few years ago, instead of exchanging gifts, we decided to enjoy a holiday event together.  A night out - on the town - just the two us!  We both are loving this new idea and have enjoyed some great shows these past few years.  The Nutcracker.  Elf the Musical at the Kennedy Center (was amazing!!). 


This year was A Christmas Carol at Ford's Theater. (Ah, the costumes!!)   I shared a little bit about it on my Instagram this morning so I won't repeat myself, but it was another wonderful memory.
This week, I have planned extra slow mornings and less busy days.  Hoping to savor this last week before Christmas and to really soak in the story of the Savior's birth. And, perhaps, make another batch (or two) of Christmas goodness!

Friday, December 14, 2018

Be Still My Heart

I shared this photo earlier this week on my Instagram.  It was given to me last weekend while I was visiting my 90-year old aunt.  We were looking through a stack of photos she had stuffed into an old album.  There were several of my parents, my grandparents and many of older relatives I barely remember.  I was, of course, interested and enjoying each one.  However, when I picked up this one and it was my baby, my breath caught.  My buddy.  His matching outfit with the saddle oxford shoes.  The look on his face that immediately transported me back 25 years.  Be still my heart.

That is all I could think....be still my heart.  How often my heart is overwhelmed.  Usually connected with passion or excitement but, most often, simply overcome with raw emotion.  And that tends to happen - more than usual - during the holidays.  These are my simple, five-minute thoughts on today's prompt: still.

No matter how I plan, determine and strategize "to do things differently" each holiday, there always seem to be those moments - even days - that blindside me with emotion.  Most often it is grief-related but, sometimes, I am simply stressed, overcommitted or a victim of poor planning.  And my heart becomes engulfed.  I begin to drown in my emotions.  Gratefully, I have learned to recognize these times before they become disastrous and I know I need to still my heart.  I have to come away and get alone with Christ.  To be honest, often I just want to retreat to my bed; however, I come to my office and open my Bible.

It happened just this week.  The overwhelm.  The wanting to retreat and the armor of apathy that is used for defense.  But, instead, there was a "retreat" to Christ and, then, the calming of my soul. His words speak truth, encouragement and refreshment to my heart.   Isaiah 41:10 ".....I am with thee; be not dismayed; for I am thy God.....I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee....."

Yes, I can be dismayed.  Oh my, grief can be so looming during the holidays. But when my own emotions threaten to engulf me, be still my heart.


Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Christmas Prep and Busyness

I came across a fun link-up the other day.  I'm a bit late to join - but still sharing my thoughts.  Just for the fun:)  Around here, I am:

GIFTING - I have finished my shopping.  (well, 99 percent and that is okay for me!)  Now, it is all about the wrapping, although I must admit my husband does the wrapping around here.  He actually enjoys it.  Is that possible?  I do the ribbons and bows but, for him, it is all about strategically getting the maximum number of presents from one roll of paper!  Love him! 

I do want to make a few homemade gifts (think granola and/or chocolate bark) for my neighbors and my sweet senior friends at Tribute.  Hopefully, that will happen next week. 

BAKING - I will be baking tomorrow for a cookie exchange with the Bible study group.  I have not been to an exchange in years and think this will be fun.  Whatever I bring home will probably be our cookie stash for the season.  No one here really wants the sugar.  Sigh.

SINGING - along with the radio.  Way too loud, but that's okay.  My favorite Christmas song is "All I Want for Christmas" by Mariah Carey.  Not the most spiritual song - or even about the season - but she and I do a great duet.  In my car.  With the windows up:)

MAILING - I only have one gift that has to be mailed.  It was supposed to arrive in Florida on Saturday.  We are still waiting.  PLEASE, dear package full of Christmas joy, do not get lost!!

DECORATING - The tinsel is hung and the twinkle lights seem to be in every room.  I just love twinkle lights!  We also put Christmas balls on the tree at the cemetery.  But the front porch could use a little more something!!  Just a note to self.

Is your gifting, baking, mailing and decorating done?  I am trying to allow plenty of extra time to simply savor the holiday - this whole season and the one that we celebrate - Jesus.  If the porch gets redone, or improved, okay.  If not, I am loving the Christmas memories already made this month (jingled at our annual family Christmas concert outing and enjoyed a great trip out of town last weekend to visit family I have not seen in years!)...and more to come (sweet out of town visitor and fun this coming weekend as well as The Christmas Carol at Ford's Theater downtown!)  Christmas blessings!!

Update:  the package arrived in Florida!:)

Friday, December 7, 2018

Christmas Peace

Off-balance.  Out of kilter.  Or, as one definition described it, "....in a state of confusion or chaos." So much in our world seems to be off-balance.  Everything from politics and popular opinion to sports, entertainment and current events.  It affects our world, our communities, our churches, our homes, and our own hearts.  If we are not careful, this constant state of "off-balance" threatens to steal our joy and destroy peace.

Peace has been a recurring theme for me over the last few days - even weeks.  It has been in my thoughts, in my Bible time and continues to "pop up" in several devotionals I have read lately.  As much as we would like to think of Christmas as a time for "peace on earth..good will towards men," real peace can be totally elusive during this season.  However, the truth is my heart should be filled with peace - even in this Christmas season.  Especially at this Christmas season.

Jesus is the source of peace.  Not only peace for our frenzied, hurried - off-balance - world but for my stressed, overwhelmed, grief-sensitive, anxious-prone heart.  He offers peace of both heart and mind.  Take time each day to soak in His peace.  

Time is up for my FMF thoughts on balance (or lack thereof)...but I wanted to include just a few verses related to peace. I pray if your heart is troubled, burdened or hurting that these verses will help focus your heart on the babe of Christmas.  Jesus, who came to give us peace.

"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.  Let not your heart be troubled...."  John 14:27

"These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace.  In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."  John 16:33

"...the Lord will bless his people with peace."  Psalm 29:11

"and the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."  Phil. 4:7

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Christmas Tree Memories

One of my first (or oldest) Christmas memories is not really "my" memory...but is a memory passed down over the years and shared with me many, many times.  The memory of my grandmother's Christmas tree.  The tree my dad remembered so fondly from his childhood.  Every year, my grandma would begin in November creating the family tree.  It was not an evergreen but a bare branch tree that she lovely, and painstakingly, wrapped in cotton.  Each limb was individually wound in the thinnest layers of white cotton.

I was told this could take her days - even weeks to complete.  With each branch made to look as if covered in snow, then little white lights would twinkle and shine through the "snow" creating a tree that would awe every family member and visitor alike.  Everyone old enough has wonderful memories of grandma's Christmas trees!  I have never seen one of my grandmother's special trees and can only imagine how beautiful it would have been in person.

I do, however, remember the trees we had when I was young.  We would have a real tree (from the nearby shopping center parking lot) and my father would, just as carefully, spray the tree with snow from a can.  Again, each limb was perfectly coated and, then, we would have blue lights.  Blue lights glowing through and reflecting off each white coated branch.  And silver balls:)  It may be hard to imagine but it was beautiful...and it was especially beautiful because my parent's tree was a labor of love.  Just as my grandmother's tree had been for her family.

So much we do this time of year is exactly that - a labor of love.  It might be your tree, the Christmas village you set out or a collection of snowmen everyone remembers.  Maybe it is the color-coded wrapping paper, Grandma's favorite cookie recipe or a million other things.  They probably take extra effort and time (that many do not appreciate) but those extra labors of love are memories in the making - that can impact generations.  Yes, there can be some traditions that change, evolve or even go away as the years go by - I know it has happened at our empty-nest home.  But I don't want to be too quick to let go of all the "little extras" - simply because I think no one really notices or cares anymore.  I believe they do.  Things may take me longer to finish - requiring patience.  I might even have to ask for help - gasp.  But when I see the Christmas labors of love as just that - labors of love for those I love - they bring me real Christmas joy!

Friday, November 30, 2018

Even Deep Truths Should Comfort Us

How Deep the Father's Love for Us.....How Vast Beyond All Measure. 

For a long time, I was not a fan of this song.  I have no idea why - but I wasn't.  Somewhere along the way, that changed and not only do I (very much) enjoy this song but the truth expressed is beautiful.  I posted Tuesday about trying to live loved - acknowledging Christ's amazing love and the truth that He loves me.  And letting that fact impact me.  Every day.  In every aspect.  It is not always easy and I'm not sure we really can comprehend genuine, unmerited, unconditional love without end.  Love that is, indeed, beyond measure - and deep.

That type of deep is wonderful -  even if we cannot completely grasp it - and it comforts us.  But some things that are really deep (as in profound or intense) can have a different effect.  I have been in a Bible study this semester studying the "Mysteries of Heaven."  It has been an interesting look at some of the glimpses about Heaven revealed in the Word.  And there are only glimpses.  There is simply much more that we do not know, or understand, about Heaven than we do know. Or that God tells us.

This can be troubling even causing anxiety for some.  It can be frustrating and I have seen the lack of details and definitive answers lead to fear and even an occasional argument.  However, the glimpses that we have been given are not to confuse us but to excite us.  To create a longing and to keep our hearts turned towards Heaven.  Without a doubt, the beauty, the wonder and all that Heaven and eternity will be is much more than we can understand or appreciate.  It is (beyond) deep.  But we can be sure of the truth that it will be more than we ever imagine.  We will not be disappointed.  Just as I am trying to let the deep truth of God's love wash over me.....I can be confident that when the deep mysteries of Heaven are revealed, it will be amazing!

My (not so deep) thoughts on the prompt - DEEP - for this week's Five Minute Friday.  Have a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Choosing to Live Loved

I'm not feeling the love!

For some reason, I like that phrase.  I may (or may not) tend to overuse it and I usually say it with just the right hint of sarcasm.  Its playful and it makes me smile.  My family - particularly my kids - know I want to feel the love..especially when it comes to prompt replies to my texts and calls.  Prompt, as in right now.  Immediately:)  The longer I wait to hear back from them...the less love I feel!

Feeling the love means I feel not only noticed and acknowledged but also that I feel appreciated, valued and validated.  Having our texts answered is a silly illustration but the truth is we all want to "feel the love."  To be loved and to know it.  We can spend a lot of emotion, mental energy and effort towards being loved.  When our expectations aren't met, we feel less than loved - often quicker than we want to acknowledge.  But the real truth is I am completely loved - beyond measure - by my heavenly father.  He is love.  His love took Him to Calvary in my place and every day He showers me with unconditional love.

I am trying to choose daily to live loved.  Not seeking affirmation or reminders from friends, family or even social media (oh my).  But letting Christ's love not only fill me but also fulfill me.  I'll admit, this is a challenge for me but it is just one more choice I am making this year.

I began this year with my 2018 word - choose - and have been trying to choose wisely this year.  I highlighted a few of those choices here on my blog:  choosing to build my house and choosing to be content.  Some others I have been working on more privately: choosing to trust, to come boldly, to walk by faith and not by sight and, also, choosing to step out of my comfort zone.

This is my last post on this year's word.  I honestly had no idea what impact the simple exercise of choosing a word for the year would have.  But, it has.  It has been convicting and instructive.  As another month comes to a close and this year's end close to follow....I suppose it is time to prayerfully consider a word for 2019.

Friday, November 23, 2018

The Value of One

I love words.  I love grammar and I love vocabulary.  And, of course, I love writing words.  I have always admired those who can use words - eloquently, humorously or any of a hundred other ways - to express themselves.  Poetry and songwriting are some of the most expressive ways to convey a thought.  An idea.  Or, simply, your heart.  I used to write poetry.  I have even tried writing lyrics.  To be sure, it does not come to me nearly as easily or smoothly as it once did.

Today's prompt immediately reminded me of a song - The Value of One.  (By Josh Wilson, I believe.)  I think the lyrics speak for themselves.  If you've never heard it - listen here....but I think the written words are powerful just on their own.  Enjoy.  Hopefully, the season of yesterday's Thanksgiving will remain and we will continue to be humbled and amazed at the price Christ was willing to pay for us...and that He willingly did so!



They say that up in heaven,

God is sitting on His throne

Anticipating another sinner
Will soon become His own.
Years of wasted living and
Years of toil and strife
Are just about to be over
As he receives the gift of life.



Go sound the horn

A sinner is saved-
Saved from the fire
No more in darkness
He's received my Son
All heaven rejoices
That's the value of one.



The Holy Spirit has been working

To soften up a heart
All he needs is a willing servant
To simply do his part.
Can you imagine up in heaven
The joy there'll be that day
As a sinner bows his head to pray
Can't you hear the Father say...





Start construction on the mansion
There on Hallelujah Street
He doesn't know yet what is waiting
When the Savior he will meet... he will meet



Go sound the horn

A sinner is saved-
Saved from the fire
No more in darkness
He's received my Son
All heaven rejoices
That's the value of one.



Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Blessing Mix - 2018

Without a doubt, some of my richest blessings are not only the time I spend volunteering but the friends and sweet relationships I have made doing so.  My afternoons there are the highlight of my week!  Yesterday, we took an afternoon trip to the Air and Space Museum.  One of the other ladies in our group actually volunteers at the museum once a week and we got a true "insider's tour"!  It was so interesting.


Today I will go over for just an hour or so and play some games.  I put together these blessing bags to share.  I think I have shared these before on the blog but it may have been awhile.  The recipe is super easy - all of the ingredients are listed right on the tag.  It is basically a cup of each ingredient except two cups each of the bugles and pretzels.  I usually mix everything except the kisses, divide evenly and then added 2-4 kisses on the top.  Of course, you could have as many kisses as you like:)

I doubled the recipe and made about eight gift bags.  The link for the labels can be found on my Pinterest "Thanksgiving" board.  It would also be super easy to make your own design!


I am also thankful for those who read my blog. I hope that each of you is encouraged to embrace the abundant life that God offers to each of His children.  Regardless of your season of life, live each day with purpose and for purpose - to honor Christ and point others to Him.

  Happy Thanksgiving!!




Friday, November 16, 2018

Two Thoughts on "One" Prompt

Typically, I read the Five Minute Friday prompt just before I go to bed on Thursday.  (It's posted late...really.) :)   I often have a verse, or even a song, that immediately comes to my mind.  But, then I go to sleep.  If the thought is still with me in the morning, I usually go with that idea.  And - that is how FMF works in my brain.  Not that any of that was necessary - just wanted to share that this week I had two thoughts for this week's prompt ("ONE") and have decided to try and share both.  In five minutes, of course.

Both thoughts continue with the attitude of Thanksgiving that I have been concentrating on these last weeks - not only in my devotional time but, hopefully, also throughout the week.  I want to thank the Lord for my husband - my friend and partner through life - and, as well, for the "friendship" that Jesus offers.

GO -

"Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh."  Genesis 2:24

We have been married for almost 35 years.  For some, that seems like a lifetime.  For others, we are still newlyweds:)  But over those years, we have not only created a home, a family and life together but we have "done life" together.  We have rejoiced and laughed and shared the greatest joys...and we have known the deepest grief.  But we have done it together and I am blessed to have my husband by my side.  An encourager.  The one I lean on.  My better half.

It can be too easy to take these days for granted.  I've learned many a lesson from my afternoons volunteering at the Tribute and this is one of them.  There will come a day when one of us will be alone.  I might be me - it really does not matter which one.  But, I want to not only appreciate but savor these days - right now - that we have together.  Sharing life side by side.

But, even as tender as our relationship might be...there is no way that my husband can meet my every need.  Physically, spiritually or even emotionally.  (Nor should I expect it.)  This is so clearly seen, for us, as we miss our son, Tyler.  We grieve differently.  At different levels.  In different ways and at different times.  Most days, we appreciate and acknowledge those differences - truthfully, we do.  But, grief is just more intense - more challenging and more real - during the holidays.  We can have different ideas for handling grief over the holidays.  I can feel misunderstood and even overlooked. (And he could probably say the same.) But my heavenly Father knows my heart.

As His children, we have someone who understands and is able to meet every need.  This week's prompt brought this song - an old hymn - to my heart and it explains it best:

There’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus,
No, not one! No, not one!
None else could heal all our soul’s diseases,
No, not one! No, not one!
  • Jesus knows all about our struggles,
    He will guide till the day is done;
    There’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus,
    No, not one! No, not one!

I am so grateful that Jesus knows my struggles - all of them - and He guides and directs with me every day.  He hears my prayers and sees my tears and comforts, strengthens and restores my joy.  I praise Him for patiently walking with me.

STOP - What are especially grateful for this week...as we head into Thanksgiving?









Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Magic Pumpkin Cobbler

Are you over the pumpkin spice craziness yet?  Or, perhaps you are still trying to savor the very last drop...or piece of pumpkin goodness?  I think I am somewhere in between.  So.much.pumpkin!!  But, then again....so much pumpkin!!:)

I made the mistake the browsing through my "Pumpkin Madness" board on Pinterest and found "just a couple" more treats that I had not yet tried.  So, this weekend I made Magic Pumpkin Cobbler!

(Here's a direct link: https://www.creationsbykara.com/pumpkin-cobbler....or you can find it on my Pinterest board.)  Not only was it magic - creates its own caramel sauce as it bakes - but it was beyond easy.  But super delicious!!



I so wish I had pictures of my dessert.  This is a photo from the original recipe posted by Creations by Kara.  It is every bit as yummy as it looks.  You will want some.  Tonight.

Just a short post today....but please tell me what delicious treat have you discovered this fall?  Only one more week for all that goodness. 

Brace yourself for the sugar cookie, peppermint latte, and gingerbread everything:)


Friday, November 9, 2018

"Rolled Away, Rolled Away"

For years (over 20), I was involved in the children's mid-week ministry at our church.  We called it "Crusaders" and I taught the 3-5-year-olds!  What a wonderful age!  This photo is actually my sweet Tyler at age three...but in his Easter finery, I believe, with his friends.  And a mouth full of graham crackers.  When you are three, life really is all about your buddies and the graham crackers:)

And to think, he grew to be my helper - teaching the 3-5 years olds himself.  Be still my mama's heart.

Crusaders did not have a set curriculum but I simply made my own lessons and enjoyed the evening.  We would have a short lesson - often with puppets:) - color or do a simple craft and, of course, we would sing!  A lot of singing!  Today's FMF prompt immediately took me back to singing with my littlest crusaders and I have had the melody with me all morning.

Rolled away, rolled away, rolled away  (rolling our arms)
Every burden on my heart rolled away!
Rolled away, rolled away, rolled away....
Every burden on my heart rolled away!

Every sin had to go (and the motions continued)
Neath the crimson flow - Hallelujah! (clapping - always clapping!)

Rolled away, rolled away, rolled away....
Every burden on my heart rolled away!

GO -  Like most of us, I have been trying to purposefully focus my thoughts toward being thankful.  Working on gratitude - especially for the smaller and simpler things.  The everyday things.  I don't know why...but this exercise does not always come easy for me.  I even started a "month of Thanksgiving" on my Instagram (and only planning to post every other day) but I seem to struggle with even that.  Sigh.

However, I press on.  Today, I am so grateful:

   *that my sin burden was rolled away!  I still fight my sin nature but I do know that I have been forgiven and redeemed and there is no condemnation for my sin.  I know this because God - in His word - assures me.  I thank the Lord for saving me!

   *that I need not carry other burdens either.  How easily do I forget the One who removed my sin burden will also carry the worries, the hurts, the fears that burden my heart.  I do not have to bear my burdens alone.

   *for the years of precious memories working with the littlest crusaders!

   *for the many who served over the years - teaching and loving my littlest ones - in children's ministries.

   *for precious evenings having my son work alongside me in ministry....and the joy it still brings to my heart.

Isn't it amazing the powerful and wonderful truths contained in "simple" children's songs??  They aren't just for getting the wiggles out but, instead, they bury truths in our heart (and burn them on our memory!) that we can recall years and decades later!  I pray that you have allowed God to roll your burdens away!

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Some Photos of Germany - Including my Favorite!

God certainly blessed us with a wonderful vacation.  We spent seven days traveling around Bavaria - mostly in Germany but also a couple of days in Austria.   We also went as far north as Rottenburg (which is adorable) and spent one day in the city:)  Munich.  We had one day of snow...which was even pretty for a warm-weather girl like me....and the rest of the days were glorious.  We toured a couple castles, visited the well-known filming sites from "A Sound of Music" and even had a cooking lesson at a Austrian cooking school.  Who knew there could be so many varieties of apple strudel...and I think we tried them all!!  I won't get started on the chocolate croissants - or other pastries.  There is even a cafe (a coffee shop and bakery) inside each McDonalds!  Pastry is king.  Just one more thing to love about Germany:)

 


 Everywhere we went, the scenery seemed to be more breathtaking than the day before.  Unfortunately, I am a very poor photographer and my pictures really do not show the beauty...but we were awed everywhere we went!

We visited Berchtesgaden, Salzburg, Augsburg, Rottenburg and Oberammergau.  We toured Neuschwanstein castle, the bunkers near Eagle's Nest, and visited Dachau.

Some of the things that impressed me most about Germany were:  fast cars and driving in the tightest of spaces.  Many roads were one-lane in width but were for two lanes.  You simply had to take turns.

Also, all of the green.  Rolling beautiful countryside with plenty of grazing cows.  And no fences to taint the view.  Indeed - no fences.  One thin electric wire that was hardly noticed.  Along with the green were the beautiful flowers - and flower boxes.  Still so pretty even in November.


But I will always remember the dogs.  Pups are everywhere (except the grocery stores).  There was at least one dog in every restaurant.  Dogs in the mall.  In the shops.  Well, everywhere.  Although it is not the clearest photo, this has to be one of my favorites....


This sweet girl is "parked" outside the ladies' room in the mall.  Very patiently waiting for her human so they can continue shopping.  A doggie parking hook!  Priceless!!

Thanking the Lord for this special vacation as well as the special friends that shared it with us!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Good-bye October...and Hello Germany!!

The end of another month - and one of my favorites.  I always hate to see October end but a look back over the month is always a good reminder of so many good times these past few weeks.  Here is my October, in review, by the numbers:)

TWO - the number of  "field trips" I had to local orchards and pumpkin patches!  There aren't just for kids:)  Actually, my first trip was with my senior friends from the Tribute.  We did not pick apples but we certainly did enjoy apple donuts, apple cider, apple dumplings.  You get the idea.  Apparently, priorities definitely shift as we age.  Forget the harvesting - go straight for the reward!!

FIVE - the number of pumpkins on my porch.  Along with mums and pansies - and even a few scarecrows.  Again, all the cuteness still makes us "old folks" smile!

TWO - the number of said pumpkins that have already expired.  Sigh.  There must be a secret, or hack:), to making them last longer!

FOUR - the number of Bible study lessons this month.  Studying Heaven with a (new to me) group of ladies.  I love Bible studies and I am so enjoying this one....and this group!  If  I sincerely want to be more heavenly and spiritually minded....well, certainly I must learn more, know more and yearn more for this eternal home of mine!

ZERO - the number of minutes remaining on the clock during our escape room adventure.  That's right...we lost.  Such a bummer and not just a little stressful either.  We tried a super hard room and I think moderately hard is much better.  I enjoy a challenge but it should still be fun.  Just my opinion.  We still had a great time celebrating our daughter's birthday.  Um, this fun evening may or may not have also included donuts.  District Donuts in Georgetown.  Oh, and gelato later on.  Oh my!!

THIRTY - that's right.  I said it, Em.  Most beautiful daughter of mine...who wants to live in denial.

NINE - at least.  The number of pumpkin bars my husband devoured and enjoyed after I made a huge batch for a staff luncheon this month.  The recipe was so easy - and, obviously, quite delicious!  Have you made anything pumpkin this month??:)

SIX - the number of nice lunch "dates" with different this month.  Seriously!?!  I love to meet my
friends and stay in touch and, apparently, I love to do so over lunch!  The conversation is wonderful...but oh so many extra calories.  Side note:  one goal of mine is to have more of these afternoons with friends at my house.  Inviting people in.  Doing a much better job of hospitality.  There.  I put it out there - in writing.

THREE - when this is posted, the number of days that we will have enjoyed in Germany and Austria.  Yes, we are planning to visit this castle - Cinderella's castle!!  I hope to have pictures on my Instagram.  You can find it on the sidebar.  Take a look!!

With such a fun start to the new month - maybe I am looking forward to November just as much as October!!



Friday, October 26, 2018

Stop Going With the Flow

To a great extent, our lives are made up - perhaps even determined - by the choices we make.  Certainly there are things that we have no control over but, even then, we can choose how to respond and how to react.  Most things, however, do come with choice and, if that is true, I want to choose wisely.  To regularly and consistently be making the right choice.  I have a well-established routine and comfort zone and it is easy - especially in this season of life I enjoy - to simply drift in my day to day flow.  But I need to be purposeful in the reactions I have and the decisions I make every day.  This requires living in the moment.

GO - Living in the moment, I suppose, can most easily be defined as living in the present.  Our past is full of good and bad.  Good choices and regrettable choices.  Good decisions and poor decisions.  Even good, or great, memories and some we would rather forget.  They all work together to define us and shape our lives.  But we cannot live off of past choices.  Today deserves - even requires - its own choices.  In the same way, the choices we make today cannot be solely determined by hopes or plans for the future.  Making a choice for today simply in hopes of manipulating tomorrow is a risky plan, to be sure.

Determining to live in the moment requires us to slow down.  To not only take notice of the simple moments but also to enjoy them.  To let them impact us....body, soul and spirit.  As well, it might require us to re-evaluate our priorities.  If there never is a slow moment to simply "be" - much less to enjoy our life - a change is probably needed.  Living in the moment also requires gratitude.  Grateful for today's goodness and not just yesterday's blessings.  Gratitude leads to contentment which is also crucial.  Be aware of whatever might drain your contentment.  If you cannot eliminate it, at least control it.

One final thought on living in the moment.  Each of us has the choice to do so.  My comfort zone, or regular flow, might not be as hectic or demanding as another's.  It might not be as slow either.  That is not the point.  None of us benefits from simply going with the routine.  Accomplishing all that we can on our own - in our own strength.  Clicking every box on our to-do list and getting to the end of another day, but having no idea how we got there or what choices we made throughout the day.  Even if it was a "good day"...we get the credit rather than God getting the glory.  Whatever your season of life, or whatever circumstance you might be in.....we all need to live in the moment.

These are my thoughts on today's Five Minute Friday prompt:  MOMENT.  I will miss next week's link-up since I will be on vacation.  There will be a Friday post, however, as well as my regular Tuesday post....and, hopefully, plenty of pictures on my Instagram.  I hope you will enjoy!!


Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Victory Over Satan's Lies - Three Ways to Fight Back

In my last post, I referred to the need of regularly reminding ourselves of the powerful truths found in God's word - rehearsing, remembering and meditating on Bible truths in order to be prepared to recognize and defeat the devil's lies.  There is a constant spiritual battle and so often the attacks are in our thoughts.  Friday's post was about knowing the truth of who we are in Christ; however, Satan's subtle, often seemingly harmless, yet devious and destructive lies can be about just about anything.  It may be a spiritual issue.  It might involve relationships.  It may even be personal - or what we believe about ourselves.  So often, the way we behave or react - we way we make choices or decisions - is based solely on what we hold as truth in our thinking.  It is critical that we are daily asking the Lord for truth.  And replacing deceptions, misconceptions, and lies with clear thinking.

For months - more like years - after our son, Tyler, died, the battles I faced were much more mentally than anything else.  I knew of God's precious promises to walk with me through my grief, to comfort me, to give me the strength needed to continue living the abundant life He gives to all His children.  I knew these and more.  But, it seemed every morning I began defeated.  No doubt, for many different reasons but, most assuredly because I held tight to two specific lies from the devil.  One - I believed because my mother, and her mother as well, suffered from depression that I was destined to be crippled with it as well.  Two - I believed (strongly believed) that there would never really be joy again.  (I may have even convinced myself that joy was wrong for me.)  So, if there was no joy and it was inevitable that I would suffer with depression - it was not hard for my enemy to convince to just give in and give up.

As much as I wanted to take God's promises and live by them, I listened to the lies and I rehearsed them so often, they became the truth I lived by.  Thank the Lord, I have over the last eleven years been able to get victory - physically, spiritually and mentally.  Defeating Satan mentally, I believe, was the catalyst for spiritual and physical victories, as well.

Here are three basic steps for mental victories - defeating the enemy's lies.  Not just victory during grief but in any circumstance or over whatever lies might be holding you captive.  I pray they can be a help - if simply a start in the right direction - for someone.

1 - Recognize, record and rehearse truth.  Often, it seems the first step would be to recognize the lies; however, if you have believed them long enough often it is hard (or impossible) to even see a lie for what it really is.  A better place to start is simply remembering God's truths.  Start with a few you know from heart.  Then, get in God's word and look for more.  As you find them, write them down.  Keep them before you.  Make sticky notes or note cards - whatever works for you.  Have them available when your thoughts start to spiral downward but also simply keep meditating on them often.  Remembering who God is and all His wonderful attributes is key.  Focus on Him rather than on your situation.

2 - Surround yourself with like-minded community.  If there is power in numbers, imagine how much stronger Satan's attacks are when we determine to go it alone?  Your community - those you chose to walk with you and help you stay in the battle - does not have to be huge or necessarily even from your church.  I do believe a church family is essential; but, as well, there may others who can be a tremendous help.  During my early grief, I joined two different grief groups.  They were a tremendous support.  The support you need might simply come from your spouse or a trusted friend.  Maybe you do need a larger, accountability group.  Whatever form it takes, find support and lean on them.

3 - Follow God's plan.  When lies begin to take root in our thinking, often our judgments begin to cloud.  Soon, our emotions are taking control and we can become experts at rationalizing all sorts of wrong ideas and choices.  Whatever the situation, God will never lead us to decisions that go against His word or His character.  Don't convince yourself otherwise.  Many people - some in the Bible - have made very poor choices and thought God would somehow approve.  But that does not happen.  If you are not sure of all the major decisions or changes that involve "the bigger picture" of your situation, start with what you do know.  Each choice to believe God and to obey Him is a defeat over the devil.....and leads to complete victory!


And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.  Romans 12:2

Friday, October 19, 2018

Who I Am in Christ

I'm definitely late today but did not want to miss Five Minute Friday.  I always look forward to these posts....and am always amazed how one word can direct so many insightful, helpful and encouraging thoughts and posts!  Reading through the link-up is always a highlight.  This week's prompt is WHO.

Who am I because of Christ?  Who am I in Christ?  The Bible has many answers, but just to list a few.


Because of Jesus, I am:

   Redeemed and Bought with a price
       "In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins."  Colossians 1:14
   
   Completely forgiven 
       "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,."  I John 1:9

   Loved 
      "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins."  I John 4:10

   A new creature 
      "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."  II Corinthians 5:17

   A temple of the Holy Spirit 
        "....your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own"  I Corinthians 6:19
       
   Free from condemnation
       "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." Romans 8:1 

   Gifted, Set apart and Prepared for good works
         "...he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work."  II TImorth 2:21b

   A joint heir with Christ
      "And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ;"  Romas 8:17a

   More than a conqueror  
       "....we are more than conquerors through him that loved us."  Romans 8:37b

   Blessed with all spiritual blessings 
       "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ"  Ephesians1:3

   A saint - 
      "....to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord...."  I Corinthians 1:2


Oh my...but I could go on.  These truths I know, in my head, to be true.  But, unless I remind myself often - while reminding my accuser - I tend to forget them in my heart.  I get discouraged and defeated.  And how quickly, I can begin to listen to Satan's lies.  I would do well to take one truth each morning - to remember and to rehearse each day.  And to defeat the enemy!

Perhaps you need to remind yourself, too, of a few of these precious truths!  Have a blessed and Heaven-focused weekend!!