Sunday, December 21, 2014

Thankful Thursday #4

With so many things going on my Thankful Thursday was started but finished very late.  Looking back of the past week, here are some of my favorites.

1.  Spending time with the kids at my school.  They are all so excited for the holidays.  Their unrestrained joy has kept me going day after day.  In spite of the bitter-sweetness of the season for me this year my heart lifted in genuine happiness today as I shared their laughter during our lessons today.  Praise God for his blessings.

2.  Two weeks of Christmas Break!  Time to relax (really? with shopping to finish, wrapping to be done, cookies to bake and Christmas meals to plan and prepare?)  OK. Time to make preparations for the birthday celebration coming on Christmas Day.  Then, time to relax.

3.  A chance to visit with out of town extended family last weekend.  We had a chance to see a play, do a little sight-seeing and just hang out together.  Every opportunity to share love with our families is a blessing from God to be remembered and savored.

4.  Just the little blessings of being able to get up in the mornings, have a cup of coffee or tea and read my Advent meditations in the quiet of the early day before going to work which is a blessing all of it's own.

5.  Opening and reading all the lovely Christmas cards and letters that have arrived.  It's the only time of the year that we really get letters in the mail.

 God is good all the time.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Keeping Christmas Well

Like many people I truly love the Christmas Season.  But do I keep Christmas well?    I love decorating the house (you will be seeing pictures of that soon) and wrapping gifts in beautiful paper with shiny ribbon and placing them under the lovely tree that was chosen and cut by the whole family. I write Christmas cards and donate to the food bank.  There will be Christmas music and lights and laughter, good food and family time.  I put up my nativity sets every year.  Some years I even sing in the choir or ring the bells. And of course, the whole family will definitely attend the Christmas Eve Candlelight service.  But the question I keep asking myself is, "Do I keep Christmas well?"  I am trying to figure out what that means. This year I have been especially focused on Advent with daily readings and prayer trying to capture that true essence of "Keeping Christmas". 

I have also been going through some other readings from old stories written by Henry Van Dyke (1852-1933) famous for his writing of The Story of the Other Wise Man.  Below is a quote from his writing called Keeping Christmas.   

"There is a better thing than the observance of Christmas day; and that is keeping Christmas.

...Are you willing to forget what you have done for other people, and to remember what other people have done for you; to ignore what the world owes you, and to think what you owe the world; to put your rights in the background, and your duties in the middle distance, and your chances to do a little more than your duty in the foreground; to see that your fellows are just as real as you are, and try to look behind their faces to their hearts, hungry for joy; to admit that probably the only reason for your existence is not what you are going to get out of life, but what your are going to give to life;...Then you can keep Christmas

Are you willing to stoop down and consider the needs and the desires of little children; to remember the weakness and loneliness of people who are growing old; to stop asking how much your friends love you, and ask yourself whether you love them enough; to bear in mind the things that other people have to bear on their hearts; to try to understand what those who live in the same house with you really want, without waiting for them to tell you; to trim your lamp so that it will give more light and less smoke, and to carry it in front so that your shadow will fall behind you; to make a grave for your ugly thoughts, and a garden for your kindly feelings, with the gate open--are you willing to do these things even for a day?  Then you can keep Christmas.

.Are you willing to believe that love is the strongest thing in the world--stronger than hate, stronger than evil, stronger than death--and that the blessed life that began in Bethlehem two thousand years ago is the image and brightness of the Eternal Love?  Then you can keep Christmas.

And if you keep it for a day, why not always?  But you can never keep it alone."

Monday, December 8, 2014

Jesus The Savior

An Advent Prayer

Yeshua, my Saviour.  You are God forever and yet you became a little child.  Thank you for saving me from all my sins.  You reached down from on high to rescue me.  Help me to live with the continual awareness of my need for your saving grace, now and always. Amen

Santa Maria dei Fossi Altarpiece (Detail) by Pinturicchio, Italian-Made Fresco Reproduction on Plaster, 6 inches x 7 ¾ inches x 3/8 inches 

"Indeed, Jesus is Yahweh come to earth.  If you have ever pictured God as a distant, wrathful Being, you will have to reconsider that portrait in light of Jesus Christ, who is God bending toward us, God becoming one of us, God reaching out in mercy, God humbling himself, God nailed to a cross, God rising up from the grave to show us the way home.  Jesus, name above all names beautiful Savior, glorious Lord!"  

                                                                                         Ann Spangler
                                                          IMMANUEL, A Daily Guide to Reclaiming Christmas       

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Thankful for my mom

On this Thankful Thursday I am thankful for my mom who is celebrating her birthday today.  At 82 years old her body might be wearing out but not her spirit.  She is still going strong with places to go, things to do. and people to see.  She volunteers with several organizations, entertains regularly, visits family members around the country and travels the world whenever she gets the opportunity.  And no matter what the challenges of her life she rises above as an example of how to live life well.

Looking at the flowers in Costa Rica

Sailing down the river in Guatemala

Hanging with her great-grandson on the wedding day of one of her granddaughters in Wisconsin last summer.

Happy Birthday to my mom. May she be able to look back on her 82 years on this earth and see the hand of God in every situation and know she has always been loved and cherished through every moment of her life.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

First Snow

We woke up this morning to our first snow.  It was only a couple of inches at the most but beautiful none the less.

The snow always brings a kind of silence.  There is only the faint sound of wind chimes carrying through the stillness from the front of the house.  

Already the clouds are rolling back, casting new shadows and revealing bits of green.

 And as the sun comes out and the sky turns blue
We know that soon the snow will melt away.  But it has set the tone for the beginning of the Advent  Season.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Thankful Thursday

Here we are back to Friday already and time for the favorite five.  Except I think that after spending yesterday in thanksgiving I prefer the thought of a Thankful Thursday. It suits my personality.  So that's when I am going to start sharing my thankful, grateful, joyful thoughts.  This week it's just going to be a day late.   

1. Receiving these beautiful flowers at the beginning of the week which had opened to perfection by yesterday.  I don't know who left them for me at work.  I only know that I was feeling a little down that day and these were a wonderful gift from God given through the kindness of a friend.  They have filled me with joy every time I have looked at them all week.

2.  I had fun hanging some new drapes in the living room this week.  I have had the same silly floral window toppers that didn't match anything in the room for YEARS.  And they were PINK flowers at that! What was I thinking?  Just too lazy to take that last step needed for completely changing this room from the cottage look I had 20 years ago.  They are nothing fancy but I do like the more traditional and calming feel they give to the room  It really is morning in this picture but there is a big storm outside at the moment and the skies are very dark.

3.  I am so proud of my mom.  She has been having a hard time with the news of my brother and has also been very depressed and weepy.  But she pulled herself together and put on her best face to come and share Thanksgiving with us.  Here she is with my daughter-in-law who brought all the wonderful snacks for the day.

 4.. Thanksgiving Day

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving day filled with good food including this delicious turkey roasted to perfection.
 And wonder of wonders my son actually ate some of that said turkey.  He usually passes on the turkey.  He prefers the other foods on the table like the mashed potatos and gravy, the broccoli and rice in cheese sauce I make for him every year and the corn pudding better known as scalloped corn in some parts of the country.

But best of all was just spending the day together.  We indeed have so much to be thankful for not just on Thanksgiving Day but every day.  Blessings to all.



Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

Wishing you and your loved ones a Blessed and Joy- filled Thanksgiving Day tomorrow.

Praise God from whom all blessing flow,
Praise him all creatures here below,
Praise him above ye heavenly host,
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Bali Bazaar

About five years ago I learned of a new Children's home that had recently been built in the country of Bali, Indonesia.  The founder and director of the home had begun attending our church and was seeking sponsors for the 36 children, 18 boys and 18 girls who now resided there.  As I learned about the background history and mission see here  of My Fathers Home my imagination was captured and I became a sponsor of a little boy.  Over the years I have had opportunities to pray for my boy, email him and send him special gifts and photos from our family which are taken to him personally by the director who visits at least twice a year.  I have watched him grow from a sad little boy into a young man of quiet spiritual strength.  Right now, my boy at age 14 is battling brain cancer and I know that one of the miracles of his life has been that he is a part of the family of My Fathers Home.  Had he grown up in his village he would not have survived.  Now he has a fighting chance because of the prayers and financial of support of the sponsors of the home.

One of the ways I help out in addition to being a sponsor is to volunteer at the Bali Bazaar which has become an annual event.  While in Bali every year, Kim the director visits all the local artists and purchases items from the local villages.  This helps out the villagers who are very poor.  She then brings all the items home to Washington where they are sold at the annual bazaar and 100% of the profits go back to support the home.  Everything is always so lovely it's hard to decide as the choices seem endless.  Come take a walk through the bazaar with me.

 First, there were lovely wood carvings and hand woven baskets.   Look at the wooden serving bowl that has been carved to look like the back of a turtle shell. Some villages work together.  The weaving of a basket or box might come from one village and then put together with the wood work from another to make one of these pieces.

Aren't these carved angels gorgeous?  I picked up two of them to go with a carved nativity set I found here last year.

There was real silver jewelry and lovely bead work. This was where I was working.

There were these brightly colored purses
And beautiful lengths of material  That piece in purple and gold on the middle left went home with me.

There were even little brightly painted pictures.
We had a whole room set aside just for silken scarves.
By the end of the evening nearly every scarf was taken.   The colors were so lovely.

This is just a small taste of what it would have been like to visit the bazaar last night.  I would urge you to stop and take a look at the link to My Father's Home above and read about how three women came together to create a dream that has changed the lives not only of 36 children but the villages from where they came and all who have sponsored and taken these children into their hearts. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Favorite Five #2

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.
Philippians 4:8

How good it is to remember how blessed my life truly is.  Here is this weeks favorite five.

1.  The sound of unrestrained laughter coming from my son's room as he hangs out with a friend.  It made my heart sing.

2.  Spending an evening with a glass of wine and talking over our latest book from Book Club. I learn a little more about these ladies each time we get together.

3.  Having a wonderful and handy husband.  This week he has helped my mother with some things at her house, put air in my tires and started putting up the Christmas lights outside.

4.  Being sent beautiful pictures of angels to inspire me by one of my much loved cousins.  It truly touched my heart.

5   Spending 45 precious  minutes on the phone with my brother just talking and enjoying each others company.  After listening to his positive professions of faith and hope I came away more cheerful and inspired.  No matter what the future brings, his love for his savior remains not only unchanged but stronger than ever. 

My brother on his daughter's wedding day this summer.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Favorite Five

Since the news of my brother's health situation I have been battling depression.  There are days when I am able to set things aside and go about the day feeling if not happy, at least at peace.  But there are other days when the reality of his situation fills me with such desperate sadness that I can hardly put one foot in front of the other to get through the day.  One of my dearest blogger companions has a site on her blog with someone who does a favorite five things each week.  On that day she lists five favorite things from the past week, things she is grateful for or that have made her or someone else happy.  And while I don't really know enough about blogging to link to her blog I want to begin to take the time to focus on those good things that are happening in my life.  So, here is my first Friday Favorite Five List for the past week

1.  Baking a cake to celebrate the birthday of my wonderful son-in-law.

2.  Sitting in front of a toasty warm fire while the wind blew and rain came down outside.

3.  Seeing my son arrive home safely after driving all day in that same blustery wind and rain.

4.  Being surprised by, of all things, a beautiful pheasant in my own front yard as I left for work the other morning.

5.  Looking at the raindrops on the leaves of this Heavenly Bamboo bush in my front yard and remembering that the hand of God is still upon me.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

November Days

Fall in the Northwest is often more soggy than crunchy especially in November..  As we walk around the neighborhood it's often gray and cloudy and the golden Indian Summer is definitely a thing of the past.  But no matter what time of the year this is one of my favorite walks down and around to the lake. 


And while it isn't New England there are still splashes of color to be seen as you look across the water....

And by the school where I work.

When I stopped by a friend's for tea.  I fell in love with this sight across from her house.  I have always been drawn to photos of empty chairs and paths that go around corners to I don't know where.  I'm not sure what that says about me.

And there is some lovely color to be seen in my own back yard including this Virginia Creeper.

And this Flame Maple.
As you can see we are not quite done with autumn.

As we see the beauty
of Autumn, let us acknowledge
the many blessings
which are ours...
let us think of our families
and friends..
and let us give thanks in our hearts.

~~Author Unknown.~~
Blessings to you this November Day.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Toadstools and Fairies

It has been fairly warm for so late into the fall and after several days of rain the conditions are such that these little visitors have popped in all around the wet grass and trees.

Toadstools love to grow where there are old wet tree roots and vegetation and we have plenty of that around here.  This is Chairman Meow who decided to take a walk around the yard with me.

We found toadstools of all sizes and shapes and different varieties nestled amongst the leaves and tufts of grass and twigs.  Some were in clusters and others stood alone.

 These remind me of  little china man hats.

It looks like something took a little nibble out of these. or perhaps it's a doorway into a fairy's house.

 All this one needs is for Alice to pull up a chair and set the table for tea.

This one looks like it came right out of a storybook.

 But this one is my favorite one of all.

Do you think if I stay very quiet and out of sight the fairies will come and play?