“The reason one writes isn’t the fact he wants to say something. He writes because he has something to say.” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald


"But how could you live and have no story to tell?" ~ Fyodor Dostoyevsky


"Beauty can be seen in all things, seeing and composing the beauty is what separates the snapshot from the photograph" ~Matt Hardy


“A mother keeps a garden of the heart, planting the seeds of faith and character that give her children hope and purpose for the years ahead.” ~Anonymous


“If your story is never told, it becomes something else...forgotten.” ~Anonymous

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


My house is a mix of boxes, decorations, an unadorned tree and furniture being moved.  Yes, it is that time of year when we pull out those glittery balls, tinsel, candles and wreaths!  I absolutely LOVE this time of year!  I have so much fun decorating (although I admit it was much more fun when the kids were little and helping me....Bing Crosby crooning in the background "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas"....egg nog passed around, candy cane stains ringing round the mouths of the little ones.....and the tree looking like we all had a hand in decorating it...all those hand-made ornaments, stories with each one!  I loved it!  Years of memories!)  It's still fun, but usually I end up being the decorating queen as school, work and events keep others pretty busy at this time.  Although I couldn't do the tree without my partner-in-design daughter who keeps me in line as to how many lights and where the proper ornament should hang. Her word is final when it comes to the tree :)  Love it!

Yesterday when I was pulling out ornaments, I was on a mission...finding my Advent wreath. With the first Advent Sunday behind me, I had to find it so it would be ready for next Sunday.  This bit of symbolic meaning holds a place in my heart like no other decor.  I attribute this to my years in Europe.  Even though we here in America don't put as much emphasis on it as in Europe, I still like to have it sitting on the table - it stirs memories and reflection and hope in my heart.

Advent wreaths take on all manner of appearances (greenery, wood, metal) and have changed over the years, even the colors of the candles changing).  Traditionally the wreath is round (of course!) and greenery woven throughout.  The circle represents God's eternal being, Himself, without beginning or end.  His endless mercy.  The green symbolizes hope of renewal and newness of eternal life in Him.  

The candles are traditionally three purple (some churches have changed them to blue to distinguish from the purple of Lent) and one pink, with a white candle in the center.  The first purple one lit (last Sunday) represents Expectation or Hope....in the advent or coming of Christ.  Purple for royalty, repentance and a changed life.  The first candle lit also speaks of prophecy of the coming King.  An additional candle is lit each Sunday, the pink one being lit on the third Sunday to represent JOY.  The progression of the candle lighting represents the Light of the world and lighting our way in the anticipation of the Advent of Christ.

This week is a meditation on our repentance, His redemption and appearance as our Savior.  Take some time this week to process the significance of repentance (is there something we need to ask for forgiveness for....a changed life means that....not just feeling sorry or bad, but actually turning away from the act, behavior, attitude....asking God for forgiveness and living a different way...with God's grace).  Reflect on the truth that He has already come, paid the price and offers us eternal life, hope, reconciliation with our God who loves us so much!  

I will never forget my first Christmas as a true believer in Jesus Christ.  The entire season took on a new and personal meaning for me.  In the middle of the festivities, parties, frivolity and presents stood the Savior of my soul.  As we like to say...the REAL REASON FOR THE SEASON :)  I never want to lose that incredible overtaking of my heart and emotions as I celebrate the birth of my King.

As we close out November and move into the last month of 2011....anticipate the Advent of the King of kings, the baby born King, the HOPE of ALL NATIONS. Even if you don't have a wreath, light a symbolic candle and reflect on the Light of the World who lights our way, forgives our sins, and gives us a future.  In one word....ANTICIPATE!

Oh, and by the way...here is my Advent wreath....my mom bought this for me years ago....not your "traditional" wreath, but symbolic in character :)

Yes, the gang's all here....three kings, a shepherd, an angel, Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus.  Like I said, not your traditional Advent wreath, but unique and a conversational piece all the same!  

Monday, November 28, 2011

Advent Wreath

We had an incredible message yesterday at our church out of John 9 and the healing of a man born blind.  This is the story where Jesus heals a man by spitting on the ground, mixing mud and spreading it on the man's eyes!  I won't repeat the sermon, but it was one of those that really challenged our hearts.  I praise God and am so thankful to be part of a body where the preaching and teaching is from His Word and you leave carrying with you Truth which can be applied to our lives daily.  Real stuff to live by!!  

We lit our first candle on our Advent wreath, and two adorable small boys with candles doing the lighting.  Our pastor shared a word of Hope for that first candle.  Yesterday when I wrote the blog, I wanted to include a picture of an Advent wreath...still haven't unpacked mine yet :)  So a short blog today before unpacking and decorating today...but enjoy the visual and carry the HOPE in your heart of our returning KING and the JOY of the birth of our SAVIOR this season!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Advent Sunday

Wow!  Did it seem like this last week was a blur and frenzy of activity, only to realize now that another season of busy-ness is upon us?  The planning, shopping, cooking and cleaning that takes place before the guests arrive on Thanksgiving...the fun, fellowship and full stomachs that follow....and then the day after when we stop to breathe?  Unless, of course, you ventured out to take on the masses of shoppers for Black Friday....of which I confess, I do not do.  That part of Thanksgiving week I can definitely do without.  I prefer to stay at home and out of the parking lots :)

And now....we enter into the weeks of preparing for Christmas.  It's was absolutely amazing to me to hear of those who already had their tree up and house decorated by the day after Thanksgiving!! (some even before!)   That tells me this is a season most people love and look forward to.  There is something about the sights, sounds and smells of these coming weeks that brings an anticipation to our hearts of the arrival of family, friends and, yes, presents :)  But even more so, for the believer, we greatly anticipate one of our most joyous seasons of celebration...the birth of our Savior.  

Today is the beginning of the Advent season.  A season beginning anywhere from twenty-two days to twenty-eight days before Christmas of spiritually preparing our hearts and minds to the advent of Christ upon our earth.  This is a church tradition that began in our Western world around the tenth century.  I knew nothing of this tradition growing up, but my early adult years of living in Europe held weeks of enjoying this special and memorable time before Christmas.  Rich in tradition and meaning, it not only highlighted the season for me, but made the holidays so much more personal than presents and decorations.  I love this time of year, but I love what it means much more.

A wreath is the symbol around which we celebrated.  The greenery was adorned in a circle into which four candles are inserted.  A fifth candle, which is lit on Christmas Eve, is placed in the center.  The candles can be any color, but traditional colors are white, purple or blue.  In another post I will expound on the meaning of the colors...as soon as I find my earlier notes which are packed inside my own (artificial, but beautifully crafted wooden) advent wreath....still in storage as I have yet to pull out the boxes to decorate...that comes this next week :)

Each Sunday, beginning with the fourth Sunday before Christmas usually on or nearest to November 30), a candle is lit and a time of meditation on the advent of Christ.   We celebrate and ponder the Advent of the Lord in the flesh at Christmas, His Advent in Word and Spirit, and the final Advent when He will return bodily in all His glory.

Today, Isaiah 9:2-6 brings life to us...

"The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned...
For to us a child is born,
to us a Son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And He will be called 
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, 
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."

Think about darkness.  Our power went out week before last for about 2 hours at the beginning of dusk, so this is fresh to me, and I was alone in the house at the time :(  It is black, dark and silent.  When it is really dark, it is so incredibly silent.  And even the slightest noise can bring your imagination alive with fear. You move around looking for candles or a flashlight, bumping into things, possibly getting hurt because you can't see to live or move.   But when the lights come on, you blink with wonder and relief, and think "now I can live again, move around and get on with life".  

Spiritually speaking, isn't that the way it is with us?  We walk around in darkness, stumbling to find our way, but when the Light of Jesus comes on...enters our life...our eyes adjust, we breathe, and we can finally live and see where we are going.  JESUS is the light that helps us to SEE!  

As we reflect on the birth of this Child that makes such a difference, also is the thought that when a baby comes on the scene, all quietness flees as well!  There is noise, flurry of activity, life abounds!  A baby means LIFE!

As you begin this very busy and hectic season that most of us are entering, take a moment....every Sunday, or at the beginning of each packed and full day, to reflect on the Light that has entered (or wants to enter) your life.  This Christmas season will take on new meaning as you SEE  your way through to the birth of the Savior of the world.

Enjoy this first Advent Sunday, light a candle if you can,  and join me in the coming days and weeks as I reflect on meaning, history, tradition and all the joys of the season.  This will be a fun ride....maybe I can find a sleigh, some reindeer and snow to accompany us :)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What Storm?

There's a messenger at my door knocking loudly to be let in. He's panting, sweating and barely able to stand. He's come a fair distance and encountered many obstacles to bring these words.  He breathlessly cries out,  "The Good News of Jesus Christ - the Message - begins here..."

That's how Mark begins his writing of the Gospel (The Message Version).  I began to read his words this week and was immediately, like never before, impressed with how he wastes no time in getting to the point.  For some reason, to me anyway, the other accounts of the Gospel, are smoother - Mark seems to say to us the sooner we get the message, the better off we will be.  God is good, God is here and He is on our side!  

Mark is black and white...this is what happened and let me tell you.  Easily enough to relate to in our world today when we turn on the radio, TV or any hand-held electronic device and get our news...slam-bam in 30 minutes or less.  And all at the touch of a finger.  Here on the pages of God's Voice to us, in 16 breathless, exciting chapters is some news we can't afford to miss!

Let me just share briefly what I encountered today....chapter four.  The retelling of the famous story of Jesus in the boat with his disciples.  They are crossing the lake and a furious squall came up.  The disciples, scared out of their wits, wake Jesus...who just happened to be asleep with his head on a pillow...and say "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?"   What hit me was, in the previous chapters, Mark tells us that Jesus already healed MANY people....those mentioned are Simon's mother-in-law, a man with leprosy, a paralytic, and a man with a shriveled hand.  There were already demons cast out of men.  All of this done right before the very eyes of the disciples!  And in fear, they say to Jesus "don't you care?"  

He then proceeds to calm the wind and the sea "Quiet!  Be still!"  Hmm...was he talking to the elements or to the disciples :)  He asks them why they are so afraid, do they still not have faith?  They, in turn, are terrified and ask each other "WHO is this?  Even the wind and waves obey him?"

Isn't it just like us to experience the miraculous of God, His provision, maybe His healing, so many monumental blessings from His hand to our lives, and before you know it, we begin to question.  I can sit back and be hard on the disciples reaction....but am I (or us) any different...really?   Sometimes the moment the "natural" around us takes over and our circumstances are being rocked and tossed by the waves of whatever life has just unexpectedly thrown at us, we begin to question and panic. Let's face it, our mornings can begin calmly and the evenings end with disarray, trouble, panic, grief.  One minute we can be on the hillside enjoying our conversations with Jesus, and the next minute in the boat with a hurricane raging around us and asking him "don't you care?"

Don't get me wrong, I don't in any way make light of the horrendous things that take place in our lives....people we love get sick, some die prematurely, accidents happen, jobs are lost, homes are taken and the list goes on and on.  Life happens....we are not immune. Questions are asked of God....and He wants us to pour out our hearts and hurt to Him....who better understands than the One who can calm the storm?  But THANK GOD, we have SOMEONE in the boat with us :)  I rather think I ask a different question when those waves hit me...not so much "Who is this?"  but... "Where are You?"  Not the who, but the where.  I know the WHO....sometimes I question the WHERE.  And oh my heart, why should I?  He is good, He is here, He is on my side and BY MY SIDE.  There is no question, God is WITH YOU.  

Today I am THANKFUL God is always with us.  My life is better because He is.  Mark's message cries out to us to believe that.  I would rather have Him asleep in the boat with me in a storm than being alone on a peaceful sea. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veterans and Ravioli

Today is Veterans Day....and how many of us really know what this day means, other than it is a federal holiday and no mail is delivered?

** A national holiday in America honoring military veterans taking place on November 11th.

** Also known as Armistice Day, the day the Armistice was signed to end World War I.

** The war formally ended with the Germans signing the Armistice on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.

** The official spelling of Veterans (for this holiday) contains no apostrophe, as declared by the American government.

** Officially became a U.S. holiday in 1938 as "a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as "Armistice Day".

** In 1953 the owner of a shoe repair shop in Kansas lobbied to include all veterans honored in the holiday (not just WWI) and on May 26, 1954, by an act of Congress, President Dwight Eisenhower signed and declared the day a federal holiday honoring all veterans of all military conflict.

** June 1, 1954, Congress changed the name from Armistice Day to Veterans Day (without the apostrophe!).

** Lastly, it is a tradition to celebrate the day with a meal of ravioli (okay??) - dating back to President Woodrow Wilson feeling that when the weary soldiers returned home from WWI, they would want a home-cooked meal.  He invited 2,000 soldiers to the White House and helped his staff cook them ravioli, which had then become a mainstay in American households due to the rise of commercial canning.  (thank you Wikipedia :)

TODAY, on this 11th day of the 11th month I am THANKFUL for the many men and women whom over the years have defended our nation and laid their lives down to preserve freedom and democracy.  Thank you for your sacrifice which so many of us cannot begin to comprehend.  Thank you for the months and years you have served away from your loved ones.  Thank you for believing in us. Posthumously "thank you" and "thank you" to those who are still with us, though some continue to be miles away. And to embrace this more personally, thank you Rich, Melissa, Matthew, Micah, Ryan, George - so many more friends and family with real names  - God bless you with safety and His presence.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

God's Story + You = BESTSELLER

Once upon a time.....

In the beginning......

A story, a beginning....the greatest Story ever told...the greatest Beginning ever...

When we read God's Word, we are invited into His Story....not the other way around.  So often we take His Story and fit it into our lives.  The purpose of His Word to us, is to invite us into His Story.  He spoke, He began, He created, He worked, He rested, He gave, He loved and on the story goes.  

I just finished a book which brought a small part of His Story alive to my heart.  We concluded our autumn Bible study last evening, a study on the Psalms of Ascents.  Oh my, words I have read many times over the years came afresh to my hungry heart and I learned so much...and He spoke such fresh bread to me.  New jumped off the page and old was rekindled crisp, clean and alive.   I LOVE how His Word to us NEVER grows old, always has an invigorating, seemingly first-time-read approach.  

In using an addition to the study, this book blew me away....

Eugene Peterson's book was recommended by a good friend and it was a perfect companion to the study!  Any ladies reading this who took the study...read this to finish off a great meal of God's daily bread to you :)  I highly recommend reading this along with Psalms 120 - 134.

But the closing epilogue of the book captured it all for me...and that is where the Story line comes in.....His Story, our life merging together to be complete.  His Word....HIS VOICE to us, Him speaking to us daily as we pilgrimage on our journey on earth.  (I don't think I want to use the term "God's Word" anymore, I think I have fallen in love with "God's Voice"...because that is what it truly is :)

And so.....today, the 10th day of November...I am truly and forever thankful for


Without it, I am deaf and unable to find my way.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Thankful Hearts in a Thankful Month

I just can't seem to get further into the month of November without thanking God out loud to you...Psalm 34:1 "I will bless the Lord at all times, His praise will always be on my lips."  It seems fitting as this is the time of the year most people stop to say they are thankful...at least on one day of the month :)  Considering the words "thanksgiving" and "to give thanks" appear in the Bible at least 67 times that I could find, let's do more than just roll it over in our hearts and minds....

30 days of thanksgiving ....

1)  My salvation (Psalm 40:1-3) is my personal song to the Lord :)

2)  My incredible husband (Psalm 112 is again a personal psalm I pray over him continually :)  God gave me the BEST for me and I am forever grateful!

3)  My oldest son, Andrew, so many stories of God rescuing him and preserving his life so he could fulfill God's purposes for him in his generation :)

4)  Oldest daughter, Anya, the life this girl brings to us is beyond words....God has a destiny for her that is beyond what we could ask or even imagine :) 

5)  Kristina, our JOY (her middle name), really does bring us so much joy...her bubbliness, laughter, and heart for God blesses us more than words can say :)

6)  Jamie, God knew we needed Jamie in our life to complete us...such energy, such life, such prayer that he keeps all his limbs in tact as he skateboards, wakeboards and snowboards....he has kept us young!  

I love my children more than words can say....and there is so much more that I am so incredibly grateful for in their lives...this is a fraction of my heart for them!

7)  My mom....she is 83 now and a blessing to so many of us.  She is always there for us and is a support and friend to my aunt, who is 89; they are the only ones left of her family.  She is so giving and fun to be with.  As a mom myself the last 24-1/2 years, I am so much more aware and thankful for all she did for me, and the first ten years of my life, so much of it alone.  She is incredible!

8)  The "community of families" God has given to our family.  Jim's family is all in Australia and mine lives states away, so the closeness God has given us here with our "family" means more to us than they can imagine....and they know "who" they are.  They really are FAMILY to us in every sense of the word, and we would do anything for them.  We've been together for years (30+ for some of them and our kids have grown up together) - memories packed in our hearts!

9)  Thankful for our church body that loves us and we are honored to minister together with them.  They are committed to God's Word, loving and serving others and reaching out with abundant life and hope to all those around us.

AND that is only NINE days into the month!!  Let's take Psalm 103 literally this month....(Message Version)

"O my soul, bless (thank...my words) GOD.  From head to toe, I'll bless His holy name!  O my soul, bless (thank) GOD, don't forget a single blessing!

**  He forgives your sins - EVERY ONE!
** He heals your diseases - EVERY ONE!
** He redeems you from hell - SAVES YOUR LIFE!
** He crowns you with love and mercy - a PARADISE CROWN!
** He wraps you in goodness - beauty ETERNAL!
** He renews your youth - you're always young in His PRESENCE!"

Now those are words I want to wrap my heart and mind around in the next days...even when I can't quite grasp it or don't actually "see" it in the day-to-day, week-to-week, sometimes hardness of life.  But, I would venture to say, if we are thankful each day for something, God will bless you and you will be singing Psalm 103 along with me.  

Monday, November 7, 2011

November: Beards, Berlin, Billy and Bell

Seven days have flown by and my fingers have been itchin' to try and post a blog.  My husband arrived home on the first and even though we have tried to keep it quiet, restful and uneventful for him to be able to overcome the jet lag, this first week of November is gone and a memory!  I have much in my heart to share but well...November deserves a bit of honorary mention, this turkey-laden month tucked between the beautiful colors of October and the onslaught of winter in December.

Did you know...

** One of the four months on our calendar that has 30 days.

** November is National Beard Month (should I grow one?)

** The third day of November is National Sandwich Day; I found this tidbit of info on the fourth so I had a belated sandwich (pastrami on homemade bread with pumpkin curry soup :) Okay, let's have more sandwich days in November - who says we have to stick to the "national day"?

** November 5, 1935 Monopoly was first introduced to our game world.

** November 6th we turned our clocks back....whoa, it was so dark last night @ 6:00 p.m., but I definitely enjoyed it being lighter @ 6:00 a.m. when I got up!  It is just a tad bit over the top to send your child off to school when it is pitch dark outside.

** TODAY is Billy Graham's birthday (7th)  Happy Birthday sir - may you be blessed and surrounded by your loved ones!

** The day we celebrate called Veterans Day on November 11th actually represents Armistice Day, which is the day that marks the ending of World War One.

** In the country of Finland, November is known as "marraskuu", the "the month of the dead"...okay, that is a bit of trivia due to the fact that my husband just returned from Finland.  I'll find a cheerier one next time :)

** The Berlin Wall began coming down on November 9, 1989 - where were YOU when this happened...considering my background, I remember being glued to the TV and marveling at what an historical event was taking place!

** The first press-on fake fingernails were sold November 13, 1952 (couldn't resist that one...what a weird bit of trivia...you never know when you might need that one!)

** November 17th is National Take A Hike Day...the one day you can tell someone to "take a hike" and feel good about it :)

** November 18, 1963 Bell Telephone Company introduced the push-button phone - I remember thinking this was a very cool and up-to-date thing to have! What would Mr. Bell think of the iphone?

**  Plymouth Rock, Pilgrims, Indians, turkey, corn, pumpkin, squash....and the official date of Thanksgiving wasn't set in the United States on the fourth Thursday of November until 1941. Did they not have a four-day weekend before then...what about Black Friday....what about the sales....what about Cyber Monday... okay I'm getting carried away.

Now, what would you have done if you had to go through this month without knowing all that vital information...you may need it someday, especially during those holiday down-times when you are playing Cranium or Trivial Pursuit with crazy family or friends :)

My absolute favorite thing about this month though is the emphasis on being thankful...even though we are thankful year-round, I love that there is a special day and month-long devotion to it. For me, it would take longer than a month to list all I am thankful for. Let's every day of this incredible month find one thing to be very thankful for and thank God for His blessings in our lives.  That will put a smile on your face!  Perhaps a blog on that later :)

Enjoy the month and especially those with a beard, this is "your" month!  But be careful of the crumbs from Sandwich Day :)