Merry Christmas from our home to yours!

Birthday Cake for Jesus
Reading Christmas Story together

MERRY, MERRY CHRISTMAS and Blessings from our home to yours,
from Steve and Teresa and Skipper too

Candles lit one by one
Sacred moments
Put aside exterior noise and commercial trappings
Sit down to view birthday cake for Jesus
One gold candle for the One to be crowned King.

Focus as family take turns reading out loud verse by verse
Oldest to youngest join in reciting the Christmas Story – the
Birth announcement declared in Luke 2
Rest of the world, life, put on hold
Sets us back over 2,000 years ago to Bethlehem, the town of David in Judea.

The angel speaks to Mary,
Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.
You will be with child and give birth to a son,
And you are to give him the name Jesus.
He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.
The LORD God will give him the throne of his father David,
And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever;
His kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:29-33)

Let these sacred words sink in
Find a place to rest, take hold, germinate, and flourish
We sing together: “Happy Birthday to You. Happy Birthday to You, dear Jesus.”
Thank you for coming to earth.
Thank you for saving my soul and saving the world.

Thoughts to ponder – think back to how it must have felt for:
Zechariah and Elizabeth
Mary and Joseph
Shepherds watch their flock by night
Simeon, the Temple priest
Anna, prophetess, who never left the temple awaiting the Savior

Emotions:
Joy, fear, doubt, and elation
Surprise, confirmation, thankfulness, and devotion
Trust, praising God in the Highest, brokenness, and pain
Amazement and relief
Just to name a few

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Posted in Christmas, Family, God, Joy, Life is Precious (soul), Love, Mercy, Peace, Praise | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dad’s Presence – the Best Present

I see my breath in the brisk air. Frost covers the green grass where light snow once rested. Large ornaments hang from our 40-foot evergreen tree sheltering a life-size nativity scene. Faithful Joseph and Mother Mary hover close and guard precious baby Jesus—the baby who will be crowned King. Mary and Joseph know of expectations not working out as originally planned. Yet, their story unfolds exactly the way it was meant to.

Reminds me of our family story. We thought Dad and Mom would age together holding hands and watch our children and grandchildren grow. Instead we lived out a completely different story where Mom passed just short of their 40th wedding anniversary. Dad wandered from us like a lost puppy dog. I wish I could erase the years missed after he remarried and moved 900 miles away. We tried our best to connect with him, but his new family thwarted our efforts. After his wife’s passing, we became aware of the neglect he’d endured and extent of his dementia. Armed with prayer and support, we rescued Dad and brought him home.

That was then; this is now—Christmas Day. Dad is here with us!

From the closet, I bring down the white tablecloths and napkins: linens passed down from my Mom and her Mom. Running my hands over the fabric creases, I imagine those who’d broken bread together over these cloths. I set the table with our light blue china plates edged with petite white flowers—gifts from our wedding day 45 years ago. The night before an event, Mom and Dad brought out the special occasion best, set the table, and ponder where each person should sit.

I lift my husband’s Grandmothers’ orange and blue flowered serving bowls and gravy boat from the shelf. A few age stress marks give the pieces character. Just like us. Together, our family weathered sickness, death, re-marriage, and estrangement. We persevered.

Showering Dad with hugs, we talk of his old farm days, the appreciated tips he received for bussing tables as a teenager, and vintage cars.

Dad’s favorite foods adorn the Christmas table: ham, turkey and stuffing, and all the rest. Like old times, Dad and my brother-in-law fight for who gets the coveted turkey neck. Dad and my hubby’s Mom talk in their own little world. I smile as they share their aches, pains, and memories.

After dinner, we clear the table and prepare for the reading of Jesus’ birth.

For unto us a child is born … and he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace – Isaiah 9:6

Dad settles into a  recliner and nods off. I hope he dreams good dreams. He might not remember our names or recognize us, but he still tells goofy jokes with joy in his eyes. Knowing he’s safe and having him here with us is my favorite Christmas present.

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Grateful

I’m trying my best to be GRATEFUL. After all, yesterday was the day of THANKSgiving—all about the season of thankfulness; being grateful. We hosted a small gathering of four. Our daughter picked up my mother-in-law so we could be together. Plenty of food filled our table. There was no shortage of talk, laughter, and a good time. We tried not to focus on those who weren’t around our table. Note to self: sometimes when there’s so many people involved, it’s tough to make individual, meaningful conversation.

Just a few days before, I’d received a call from the Assisted Living Facility where my Dad has been for the last two and a half years. He tested positive for COVID.

What will the outcome be? I have no clue. But You do. Give our family the strength and wisdom to do/say/be according to Your will. Is it Dad’s time to join Mom? Is it time to leave this isolated, confused, angry planet? For our sakes, I hope not! But for his sake—Thy will be done.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever…The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? The Lord is with me; he is my helper. I will look in triumph on my enemies – Psalm 118:1, 6-7

I’m thinking now about these words triumph on my enemies. What enemies could he possibly mean? I thought of a few: Discontent, anger, comparison, fear, anxiety, doubt. All those enemies creep into in my thinking.

The Lord is my Shepherd I have all that I need. This is true. The foundation of God’s throne is:

  • Righteousness (vs. dishonesty)
  • Justice (vs. unfair, unjust)
  • Love (vs. unloving, hate, scorn)
  • Faithfulness (vs. unfaithfulness, selfishness)

I’m thankful of the reminder that I need to focus on being GRATEFUL. We have so much. He is a good, good God. The Lord is with me. With us through it all.

P.S. Oh, and I forgot to add. We played a game. Yes, a GAME!! Now those of you who know our family know that my hubby, Steve, is not a gamer! Well, the four of us played our mandatory Thanksgiving Day game. Guess who won???  Steve’s Mom!  Plus, it was a game she’d never played before. Yay – way to go!!

Today’s prompt for the #Five Minute Friday group of writers is: Grateful.

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FootPrints

Gull Foot Prints in Sand

We all leave footprints. Heavier prints in mud or wet areas. Lighter, fainter ones in sand or drier surfaces. Some take time to disappear. Other footprints, such as those created in sand, take merely a wave and they’re gone for eternity.

While etched on whatever surface they land on, they make an impression. Question is: will it be a good, bad, or neutral impression?

Will people remember me and you as being a positive encourager? Or, a Debbie-Downer, talk about herself and her life, all the time?

Do you see signs of pride or humility? Helpfulness or selfishness? I LOVE being around and talking to folks who don’t have to be center stage. Someone who shows they care by listening and not filling in all the blanks for me. (I’ll admit that I struggle with this concept. My brain tends to go forward and search for the next thing I plan to say.)

I attended an event where the speaker had the privilege of working with Mr. Rogers, host and producer of the popular kid’s television show, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Earlier in life Fred Rogers studied for a pastoral ministry, but decided on a different career path. The lack of wholesome, educational television for our youth caused him to do something about what bothered him. He chose to devote his life’s work to creating wholesome, educational television programs for kids. What an impressive legacy he left behind!

I learned from this event that everyone who came in contact with Mr. Rogers felt special. Young or old, able bodied, mentally or physically challenged, they were #1 in his book. He zeroed in on that one person—whomever was in front of him at that moment in time. Rogers possessed a gift. You felt you were the only one on Planet Earth. You mattered. Your thoughts, fears, dreams counted. Top Priority! Was he perfect? Of course not, and he’d be the first to admit his imperfections.

At the symposium, the speaker highlighted a trailer scene where Mr. Rogers struggles to pitch a tent. He tried and tried to set the tent up properly. It turned out all wrong. The audience laughs and Rogers tries again to set it up, but it still doesn’t work. Rogers laughs along with the audience, admits defeat, and asks for help. He then patiently moves on to something else.

We miss you, Mr. Rogers! Your positive influence, drive, concern for humankind will not be forgotten.

He left a footprint wherever he walked, whenever he spoke. I came away from the event inspired and motivated to do better, be a better person, and be attentive to my neighbor. My neighbor is whomever God places on my path. Encourage, pray for, brighten the way for those in my sphere of influence.

  • What kind of footprint or mark do you want to leave for the ones you love?
  • Name some ways you plan to leave those kinds of footprints.

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Cancel

My calendar is peppered with the word “cancel.” It’s easier to erase an appointment if it’s written in pencil. At least the evidence of a failed, re-scheduled, or cancelled date doesn’t hit me in the face every time I view the page. Often I’ll place an un-smiley face nearby to remind me I was none too happy to “X” the event out. Most of the cancels can be traced back to COVID-19 pandemic of 2020.

This is the third or fourth time an event or series of events originally planned, and looked forward to, is put on hold or not happening at all.

  • Doctor appointment for my mother-in-law to see her new doctor
  • Breakfast/lunch date for my birthday with my sister (still hasn’t happened)
  • Travel down south to visit family

Disappointment, dashed hopes, plans, dreams gone by the wayside. That’s one perspective—the one I tend to linger in and gravitate to. Woe is me! I can’t do such and such. Go to this place. Have fun.

The flip side is an angle I must work on to develop and make it my go-to lifestyle and automatic reflex.

What if this happened (or didn’t happen), plans adjusted, cancelled because of something else underlying? Something bigger or better? Something neither you or I can see or know on the time spectrum.

Maybe the timing wasn’t the best. If I’d been down south, I’d missed something up north. Who knows? Don’t know if you or I’ll ever know. I’m reminded to be content in whatever circumstances I’m in. Right here and right now. Cancel, no cancel. Re-schedule or no re-schedule.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declared the LORD. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9

What if I were to dwell on these words? My life would be filled with more joy and less stress. I’m see more blessings in the interim vs. just doom and gloom.

  • What ways can you change your thinking around to think less of what you didn’t get to do or be?

This post has been part of the Five Minute Friday writing challenge group. A challenge to write for 5 minutes on a given topic each week.

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How much time do you spend worrying?

If you’re like me, you spend a fair amount of the day worrying. Especially during these uncertain times in the middle of a pandemic in an election year!

On day two of the writers’ conference, I became feverish and sick which landed me in bed wrapped in blankets. My caring roommate, Noreen, attended to me bringing what food and drink I could handle. She even offered to drive me home if I wanted to go. I chose to remain at the conference in hopes the bug would pass quickly. Deferring her own needs and health, she compassionately cared for me. Thankfully, I recovered and was able to enjoy the remainder of the conference.

When I regained strength, I marched into the conference with my head held high expecting God to disclose His vision and great truths. My desire is to carry on with His mission of writing through me. Regardless of anything and everything going on in my life, I just needed to be at the conference. I needed to let it all go and be present here and now.

Maybe you or a loved one has or is experiencing the flu or COVID-19. Your body is worn out, dragged down, and tired all over. Try and take this time to rest and relax your physical and emotional muscles. Use this time to reflect on your blessings.

“If you worry about what might be, and wonder what might have been, you will ignore what is,” unknown

  • In your spare time, what do you immediately turn to first … your computer, social media blitzes, news on the television, your Bible, devotional, etc.?
  • When did you last spend time engaged in a productive, positive activity? What did you do?

Prayer of Encouragement: 

Dear God, thank you for putting guardian angels in my life to care for me. I know You are in control of my life even though the entire world seems to be spinning out of control. Help me put aside issues which might cause me to forget You and concentrate on what You’ve prepared for me. I willingly accept the path You’ve charted in my life. Whatever the outcome, I choose to praise You. Amen.

** excerpt taken from Life is: Good, Fragile, Precious—Loving yourself so you can love others book; Day #20.  

“Do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” —Luke 12:22–26. 

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How Well Are You Taking Care of YOU?

Are you taking care of you? Really taking care of you? Looks like this COVID-19 virus plans to hang around for a while longer. Now more than ever is a good time to begin to care for your own mind, body, and soul. Because if you don’t take care of you, no one else will. And that leaves no one to take care of your loved ones. No time like the present to begin.

As a young mom, I remember the first time I heard an airplane stewardess explain the proper use of an oxygen mask. Since I’d never flown before, I listened intently wanting to be sure I knew exactly what to do in the event of a plane crash. She instructed us to first place the mask over our own face and mouth prior to helping a child or an elderly person. After a mask was securely fastened to our own face, then we should place the mask over the child’s face. Put my own mask on first? Did I hear her correctly? Isn’t that selfish not placing my child’s wellbeing into consideration first?

As I pondered the instructions, it dawned on me that if I did not take proper care of attending to my own oxygen needs, I would not be alive to help a dependent child or elderly person in an adjacent seat. The same guidelines apply here today. By attending to my basic needs, I’ll be available to help others in need. So it is with life.

I see the correlation between taking care of my body, mind, and soul. When I do this, I’m able to be a part of witnessing and enjoying my children, grandchildren, and family grow older and prosper. It makes sense to take care of our bodies in order to be alive, fit, and available for others. If you do not take care of you, then who will? Taking care of you is not a selfish endeavor, but a wise and necessary one.

Jewish commentator, Rabbi Hirsch, interprets Psalm 23:1 this way: “The Lord is my shepherd therefore I suffer no want. I do not miss what I do not have. I do not feel its lack, since it is God, my shepherd, who had seen fit to withhold it from me. He shows me His love by denying me that which I desire, but which if I was to have, it would cause me harm.”

*In what ways do you feel you’re taking care of you during these uncertain, trying times? Maybe taking a walk outside observing fall colors or even a trip to a special store? What refuels your emotional/spiritual tank?

*Can you think of one or two ways that you can begin to take care of you better?

** excerpt taken from Life is: Good, Fragile, Precious—Loving yourself so you can love others book; Day #5.

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Don’t Give Up

Needing some me-time, I traveled to my sanctuary place near the water and pen these words:

I go to my Sanctuary
Quiet reigns
Except for quacking geese
Nearby culinary smells of
Freshly baked bread
American flag flutters over the boat stern
A solitary sailboat with jib hoisted
Moves slowly across the lake
Peace prevails without
From within, my spirit begins to calm

There are no guarantees for a happy or healthy life. Even or especially in the middle of this all-encompassing COVID-19 pandemic. There’s a verse that’s meaningful to me. I hope it is for you too.

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged – Deuteronomy 31:8.

He tells us not to be afraid or discouraged. I have to admit that I’ve been both throughout most of this past year. Even today I wrestle with fear, anxiety, and doubt. I feel jittery, tense, wanting to be someplace else. If I can keep the above words in the forefront of my mind, they’ll give me calm assurance. Confidence. Trust in the One who’s got this whole mess under control. He knows the beginning from the end.

He will not abandon me or you in the middle of a crisis or afterwards. Just knowing He is there beside me each step of the way causes my mind and heart to feel at peace.

When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn,” – Harriet Beecher Stowe

*When’s the last time you felt unable to focus because of anxiety and worry? What’s it like for you?

*What are you fearful or discouraged about right now? How can you get past those negative thoughts?

*****

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The Path

Bricks and sinkholes line the pathway

A crossroad comes into view

He takes my hand and leads the way

“My child, we can do this!”

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Rush

5-Minute Friday

the word’s: RUSH. Go …

RUSH here. Rush there. RUSH everywhere. Never felt more aware of the term RUSH than during this month of the year. December should conjure up scenes of happiness, joy, peace, but it really doesn’t at least not for me. I need to work on this. God and I need to work on this together. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

My life coach, Darlene, suggests: Simplify Christmas. Simplify Life. I try to cram too much in too small of a space. Results: sorrow, unrest, grief, regrets, and even anger. I’m guessing you feel the same way too. This is no way to live a life. Particularly in this season of love, grace and mercy. A season that our Heavenly Father chose to send His only son to come to earth, be born in a lowly manager, live and serve among humankind, die a horrible death on a cross for you & me. This month of all months should be a grateful, kind, and looked forward to (not dreaded) event of the entire year!

Lord, guide me/us to what needs to be done, what can wait/be deleted, and what is the best for my life, my reader’s, and their loved ones lives too.

We love you, Lord Jesus.

This post is part of the weekly Five Minute Friday link-up.  Join me and others as we reflect on, and write about one word each week for only 5 minutes.

Posted in Christmas, God, Grace, Life is fragile (body), Mercy, Peace, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 2 Comments