Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A telephone with a cord?


My sweet fourteen-year-old friend leaned back against the wall of the fellowship hall at church as a group of us chatted. Her shoulder hit something and she spun around.

“’What is this?” She asked holding out the cord of a wall phone as if it the most bizarre thing she had ever seen.

“Is it a telephone?” She giggled. “A telephone with a . . . cord?”

More laughter from her.

I am not making this up. By this time, the rest of us were holding ourselves as we cracked up with her.
 
 
 

She picked up the receiver and studied it a moment, then put it to her ear. “It works,” she almost shouted her eyes lighting up with delight. She punched in numbers and someone answered on the other end. “I’m calling you on a telephone and . . .” she cackled again and waited for affect, “it has a cord.”

I don’t know if I’ve ever felt as dated as I did witnessing someone who had never seen a landline phone.

Once while on a prison ministry weekend, I was sitting at the piano about to help lead praise and worship when a telephone behind me rang interrupting the person who was speaking. Somehow, I still don’t know how, singers and we musicians simultaneously launched into a chorus of that old rhythm and blues song, “Jesus on the Mainline, tell him what you want.” The song, maybe written early in the twentieth century, brought in a little of the current technology to communicate a spiritual truth. In any event, it was a big hit that day in the meeting.

As I’ve thought of my young friend discovering the novelty of the landline phone and that she could actually make a call on it, as well as the "Jesus on the Mainline" song, I was reminded that we should have the same delight as our girl did over how we can call on the God of the Universe.

No cords required.

Anytime.

Anyplace.

Shouts and laughter entirely appropriate.

Recently, while I awaited a medical procedure in the hospital, I once more marveled at how comforted I was that others were praying for me, and that I too, could call on the Lord as I faced uncertain results. “Tell him what you want,” the song says. And I did. However, I knew that no matter the results, God would still be there.

So there you go. Call him up. No matter what’s going on. And you don’t have to worry about that pesky cord.

I’m pretty sure it’s going the way of the dinosaurs anyway.

Wonder what my friend would do if she saw a telephone booth?

“In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears”(Psalm 18:6).

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

You Are Mine

“Did Patsy like the flowers?” my sister, Tammy, asked when I answered my cell phone one evening years ago.

I almost dropped the phone. My sister had asked me to take flowers to a friend who had surgery for breast cancer and was hospitalized in my town. I had forgotten, and to make matters worse, I had been the one who originally insisted I could do it.

I hadn’t taken into account Jerry would be out of town, and I would be trying to juggle all the household duties along with childcare during this time.

“She’s supposed to be released in the morning,” Tammy said.

I heard the disappointment in her voice. Heartsick over my forgetfulness, I hurriedly arranged for a babysitter and found a flower shop that opened early the next morning.

As I almost ran to the front door of the hospital, verses from Isaiah 43 came strongly to mind, and I wondered why. It had been years since I memorized them.

Moments later, when I entered Patsy’s room, I had never seen so many flowers in one room in all my life―on every table, windowsill, and all along the floor.
 




 

Why was I there? The last thing she needed was more flowers. I didn’t even know how they would get all these vases in one car to go home.

I introduced myself to Patsy and her husband, and immediately noticed her sad countenance.

“I’m running a fever, and the doctors won’t let me go home,” she explained, disappointment in every word.

She didn’t need flowers, but maybe I could pray with her. I asked and she consented.

As I prayed, those words from Isaiah 43 came back to mind and I prayed them:

 “But now, this is what the Lord says—he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior” (Isaiah 43:1-3).

When I finished praying, tears streamed down Patsy’s face. “I just wrote those verses in my journal a few minutes ago,” she said and showed me the words she had inked on the pages.

Even in her disappointment, she penned in her journal the truth that she was God’s.

When I prayed the same verses, God whispered again, “You are mine,” to her heart and confirmed He had not forgotten her.

When I left, I realized God in his mercy had redeemed my bumbling efforts.

When I called my sister later that day, she asked if I wanted to hear the rest of the story. Of course, I did.

“Patsy’s fever broke shortly after you left, and she’s home now.”

Patsy had called my sister to thank her for sending me. God had a plan.

Years later, when I, too, was diagnosed with breast cancer, Patsy called with words of encouragement. She sent me a note that said, “God knows us so well, and even then He knew I would have a chance to encourage you. He can make a way even when we cannot see a way! He will be strong in us because He is in us! Remember our verses. Isaiah 43:1-3.”

No matter where you are or what you might be going through, please know He has etched those words, “You are mine.”  not on pieces of paper, but on our hearts.

On this Valentine’s Day, when there’s so much talk about love, it’s good to remember this greatest love of all.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

A tribute to Dan, a man with friends in high places

He’s the reason I spent the night in a tent for only the second time in my life.

The first time was in Yellowstone.

Yellowstone was fabulous, but I am not a camping girl.

However, he needed more chaperones for my son’s Boy Scout Troop trip to Camp Rainey Mountain, so my husband and I volunteered.

I remember staring at the tiny canvas structure held up by a couple of poles and wondering how both Jerry and I would fit in it. It was open on the ends. I didn’t know it would be open. Somehow, we squeezed our big bodies under the canvas. Let me add that no one had thought to mention that the women’s bathroom was a half mile down a rutted dirt road.

To get there I’d need a flashlight, because that would be my only light if you’re not counting the moon.

And there were bears. Big ones.

I’ll just have to hold it till morning, I thought trying to console myself.

He’s also the reason I found myself chaperoning a scouting trip to Lookout Mountain. We were to ride the incline railway up the mountain. Not a fan of incline railways, especially ones at an over seventy-two percent grade.

Just don’t look down, I told myself while riding the railway, and don’t think about that big mechanism at the top breaking and sending us plummeting down the side of this peak. (You can understand why it’s not that big of a stretch for me to write fiction).

I pushed past my fear and did it, because he asked me.

Fact is, whenever my son’s Scoutmaster, Dan Bowdoin, asked me to do something, I pretty much did it, because I felt as if I owed him.

And I do.

We all do.

In the late sixties, when I was sitting with my boyfriend chewing my fingernails watching television and waiting to see if his draft number came up, Dan had already earned a Purple Heart for being wounded in Vietnam. He served two tours and was awarded three bronze stars among many other military honors for his heroic actions. That’s when he may have been exposed to the now infamous defoliant, Agent Orange, which has contributed to so many vets’ health issues.

He went on to serve three tours in the Pentagon assigned to the Officer of the Secretary of Defense, the Office of the Army Chief of Staff for Intelligence, and the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Major Bowdoin retired from military service, and earned a master’s degree in public health and spent the next chapter of his life in food services administration at a large state university.

He also volunteered in many capacities in his church, military associations, and Scouting. As my son’s scoutmaster, he wouldn’t give up until that boy, Aaron, earned his rank of Eagle Scout.
 
Dan Bowdoin on right, my son, Aaron, his other scoutmaster Mr. Dickerson on right

When the home stretch came for the Eagle, Aaron had to hike twenty miles for one of his requirements. Dan Bowdoin with his bad knees and all, walked for all the hours it took to finish that hike. He couldn’t keep up with my son, but to show his support he just kept moving along, even with his knee pain, until the goal was reached. Soon after, he had a knee replacement. Sorry, Dan.

Dan was always the same―steady, and consistent.

And there was a reason for that. He had surrendered his life to Jesus Christ during his time in Vietnam and never wavered from that commitment.

As his former pastor so eloquently said at his service, “Dan was more interested in leaving a legacy than leaving a memory.” That’s why he was renowned for lifelong perseverance  in his intentional efforts to share the gospel with others.

I didn’t even know Dan had been sick when my husband called and told me he’d read his obituary that morning.

Really? No, it couldn’t be.

But it was.

As I sat at the service proudly wearing my Eagle Scout Mom pin to honor Dan, I observed the pew full of Purple Heart recipients, many high ranking military officials, and a host of other community and church friends including one former United States Congressman.

Dan had friends in high places.

However, He most wanted to please his friend in the highest place named Jesus.

The pastor concluded by saying there are not many people of whom it can be said on their passing that they helped enlarge the population of heaven, but it could be said of Dan.

What a legacy!

The pastor went on to suggest that our goal should be to have the same thing said about us on our passing.

A great challenge, but if we have that friend in high places like Dan, it’s absolutely possible.

I am going to miss Dan, as I know many others will, and my prayers go out to his family.

If I ever spend the night in a tent or ride an incline railway again, I’ll think about him. However, if I don't manage to get around to those things, I can honor him most by doing what he did, and tell others about Jesus. He’d like that best, anyway.

I love that one of Dan's favorite scriptures has always been one of mine, too: "Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them" (Psalm 126:6). I'd say right about now, Dan's laughing that belly laugh of his, arms  loaded with a harvest.
 

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Glenn, Fisher, Reynolds, and Moore, what to do when the icons fall

When John Glenn made history by being the first American to orbit the earth in 1962, the mission impressed me so much, for Halloween, I eschewed the girly princess and fairy tale costumes, and instead chose an astronaut uniform. Because of John Glenn, I believed I could actually be an astronaut.

How amazing that when my own children were about the same age I was when Glenn circled the earth the first time, he went into space again as the oldest person to ever do so, a member of the space shuttle Discovery crew.
Me as the astronaut and my sister as Mickey Mouse.
Tall for my age, those cowboy boots helped cover the short pants gap.
My son as the astronaut, but my daughter didn't just wear girly costumes.
 I also have a photo of her as a pirate, one of my favorite pictures.
 
A bit of that childhood aspiration came back, because once more John Glenn was teaching me something and that is we can never let age determine how high we can go.

A decorated World War II and Korea fighter pilot as well as a United States Senator for twenty-four years, He died at 95 on December 8 of last year.

Flags flew at half-mast. We grieved.

Then on December 27, we lost Princess Leia, Carrie Fisher. I cried when I read the news. I saw the first Star Wars, yes, on the big screen when I was in college. Later, when my little son became fascinated with the Star Wars story, Princess Leia began showing up on the den floor, the dining room table, and occasionally even went on vacation with us as a little plastic figure wearing an amazingly detailed replica of her movie attire. I was privy to many of her new adventures above and beyond the ones depicted in the movie.

Who could believe only five days after Carrie’s death, her mother, Debbie Reynolds would die? Debbie Reynolds of Singin’ in the Rain fame, who danced and sang her way alongside Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor in what some have called the best movie musical ever made. At our house, we have laughed ourselves silly many times over a lesser-known movie she made playing opposite Tony Randall oddly called The Mating Game. You can’t watch it and not laugh out loud at the slapstick comedy.

Then last Wednesday, while sitting in a hospital with a family awaiting news of a family member’s surgery, a television played in the background and someone said, “Mary Tyler Moore died.” For just a tiny moment, the earth seemed to pause, as I looked up and saw the news bulletin on the screen. I had just been writing in recent days about Mary’s influence on my life in a book project I’m working on. I called her my seventies “paragon of fashion,” but I’m wondering now, if she’s been that for my whole life. She was even the reason I liked orange for an oh, so brief period. If you know me now, orange is not even on my color wheel.

However, Mary was much more. She inspired a whole generation of women like me, that they could after all life had thrown them really “make it.”  And when things don’t go the way you’d hoped in your life, it’s a good thought to hold on to.

So, in a few short weeks, several iconic figures fell. Although, I may not have been in the same political, spiritual, or ideological camp as these folks, still they had given me much.

As those pillars start toppling, what do folks do who don’t know there is One who will always remain steady in our lives?

When a beloved pastor and mentor planned his move from this town many years ago, it left me and many others devastated. What would we do without him? We had so counted on his wisdom and guidance. However, in his final words of the last service he preached, he gave us these words from Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday and today and forever.”

Those powerful words sustained us in the days and weeks ahead as we realized that we had been clinging to Him because He loved God, and now it was time to cling to God alone.
When the lifelong heroes like John Glenn die and the cultural landscape shifts as it has in the past few weeks, we once more take comfort that there is One who never changes, who is eternal.


Many years later those words became part of Glenn’s social media hashtag: #Godspeedjohnglenn.

So, God Speed John Glenn . . .  and Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds and Mary Tyler Moore.

Thank you for being part of our lives.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

When you're up against impossible, yet again


As I shared last week, I’m deep into writing another book project.

Nonfiction this time.

From everything I read, it’s almost impossible to get a nonfiction book published these days. Many publishers are looking for a person who already has a sizable platform, someone famous, which would translate into mega book sales. I am not anyone famous and actually prefer anonymity in many ways.

Yeah, that word impossible haunts me.

So, why would I write this book?

Because I believe God is leading me to do it.

The messages began last April. Nine months prior, I had written “The End” on a novel on which I was working. That evening, I received a phone call my dad had suffered a stroke. Twenty-two days later, he died, and since then, I had only edited what was already written and kept up with posts on my blog. A hard grieving time, it felt as if someone pulled the plug on all the creativity that drove my fiction. I had worked continuously on a fiction project as either a screenplay or novel for almost ten years.

Now―nothing.

I almost became panicky about it, thinking the work I considered my calling was over.

Then, God began sending dreams and scripture all with a message indicating He was doing something new.

What, I wondered. Did it have anything to do with my writing?

I had absolutely no idea.

I’m keeping the details close for the time being, but in June, I read a humorous nonfiction book from a Christian author I know. As I read, God brought ideas to mind for my own book project―a memoir.

No, no, no, I thought. I have never wanted to write a memoir. First, it’s so difficult to find a publisher for them, and I didn’t want to be that person at writer’s conferences going around saying “I’m writing a book about me.” Most of the folks I meet at conferences are doing just that. Nothing wrong with it and great to have for your kids, but it’s not what I wanted to do.

Additionally, I already have a blog with over 700 posts on it. That’s a whole lot of what I think about a gazillion topics.

However, this new project was a unique perspective from a very narrow period in my life, which made it a little more palatable for me to accept.

I made an appointment with the book’s author to discuss his process while writing the book and found him helpful as well as encouraging when I shared my idea.

Then, I did what I’ve done many times when faced with a situation that seemed impossible, I began―one page at a time.

I worked on it for several months, and then I hit a wall. In order to write this project, I would have to go back through my journals from that period. Even though the struggles noted in those journals are resolved now, still those times were hard to relive. The pain of those difficulties on top of the grief, which I was still experiencing, seemed too much.

 I put the project down.

When the ginormous viral bug hit Jerry and me over Christmas, and I was out of commission for weeks, it gave me time to think once more where I was headed with my writing. The end of December is when I set up writing goals for the next year. What were my goals?

God began bringing this project back to mind.

Dread came over me, but at the same time, God brought a dream back to mind that He gave me weeks earlier. I was in my back yard and a red Chevy Nova was chasing me. I knew when I woke that because Chevy Novas are considered muscle cars, God wanted to give me power, but I was running from it. But power over what?

The truth is probably obvious to you as you read this, but it was quite oblique to me. Then at a speaking engagement, I was sharing this dream just off the cuff with another woman who experiences dreams in the same way I do. “Oh,” she said, “It’s your back yard, so God wants to give you power over your past.” I couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen it.

Of course. Power over my past. Great, but what in my past? I still didn’t associate it with my writing until I began looking at the writing goals for this year. God wanted me to write this project, and He was already saying He wanted to give me power over my past to do it. He would help me face those journals.

Amazing.

So, I’m on the 1,000 word a day trajectory and then there’s all the editing to do. Most nonfiction books are sold off a proposal, but anything to do with a memoir needs to be finished up front.

I walked into my office the other day and picked up a gift I received from my granddaughter at Grandparent’s day in November. She had made a paperweight for me. Guess what the verse is?

“. . . with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
 

When I received it, I loved the idea of it, but it wasn’t until the past few days it hit me―God had used that sweet girl to send me the message nothing is impossible with Him and that I can write this book. The paperweight is a constant reminder to keep at it.

So, my computer is like another appendage these days. Some folks don’t realize that writers really do work eight, ten, sometimes twelve hours a day. My physical therapist knows it, because my back is such a mess because of the writing I do.

But I am determined. I’m not sharing the details of the project, because someone has said, if we talk too much about our writing, it has a tendency to get away from us, but I’ll keep you updated on my progress. Friends, if I come to mind, would you pray for me regarding this new endeavor?

It will be much appreciated.

If you have an impossible type project facing you, well, we’re in it together. But most importantly, we’re in it with God.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

When you don't know what to do next


I am currently immersed in writing a new project which seems to be using every creative cell in my brain. So, today, I'm pulling a post from the archives, which God is using to speak to me. Hope it helps you, as well.
Sometimes the path seems a little fuzzy.





And we long for definite direction a message in a dove's beak or a sign. 


 
A few days ago in Streams in the Desert, I read an excerpt from F.B. Meyer, “Beloved, whenever you are doubtful as to your course, submit your judgment absolutely to the Spirit of God, and ask him to shut against you every door but the right one… In the meanwhile, continue along the path, which you have been already treading. Abide in the calling in which you are called, unless you are clearly told to do something else.”

Oswald Chambers says, “Do the next thing.”

So, we continue even if the road narrows to a barely discernable trail in a dense wood. We take the next step in the light we have.

It’s good to know that even if our way at times feels like a dead end road to nowhere, across it falls the shadow of two cross members.




Early in last century, Jessie Pounds wrote these lyrics:

I must needs go home by the way of the cross,
There’s no other way but this . . .
The way of the cross leads home.

Jesus goes before us, and his way leads home.

Consoling words for confusing times.

“Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him… “(Psalm 37:5).

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

What to do when you're snowless


The weatherman pointed to the numbers on what I assumed was a green screen. “Two to three inches of frozen precipitation,” he said confidently with a big smile on his face. He seemed trustworthy.

I just love snow.
 
 

So, like others in our area. We battened down the hatches. We made the trip to the grocery store, actually two grocery stores, because that precooked bacon with no nitrites at Trader Joe’s is yummy(they don't even pay me to say that). We added a trip to a big box because I had to stock up on birdseed and suet, too.

I made sure the Styrofoam covers were on the outside faucets and swept the patio so the snow wouldn’t have leaves sticking up through it. I wanted some great pictures.

We fetched the formerly feral Mama Kitty and brought her inside. She was extremely grumpy about being pinned up for days.

Then we waited.

And waited.

I even got up during the night to check outside.

Four flakes and cold rain.

Seriously.

Then for two days, temperatures that would make a polar bear shiver

Snowless.

If I’m going to be cold, I’d like to have something to show for it.

But nature didn’t see it that way this time.

Mama Kitty glared at me. I went out and knocked the ice out of the birdbaths. Disappointment and big sigh.

Perhaps, in a greater way, here at the beginning of the year, you’re experiencing disappointment because you thought things would be different today. You trusted someone who didn’t come through. You’ve gone to great measures to prepare in anticipation of what you thought would happen. But it didn’t.  

Life can be like that.

However, what you choose next can change everything.

Here at the crossroads of dismay and hope, we have to choose hope no matter what. Because the minute we turn in the other direction, it’s a rough road of constant regret.

Yes, you’re probably going to be let down again at some point. On the other hand, who knows what God will do?

So, even though the temps are going to be in the sixties for the next few days, I’m not putting my snow boots and down vest up yet. The biggest snow of my life fell on April 1, so we have plenty of time.

“God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us” (Ephesians 3:20-21). 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Your One Ringing Bell January Survival Guide

As I mentioned last week, my husband, Jerry, and I have been trying to get over a bug. Well, bronchitis now. It hasn’t made for a great start to the year. And January is always a challenging time, because I am not a cold weather gal. In fact, I’m very thankful my son and a couple of friends decided to have their birthdays in January to give the month a little happy. When January 1 rolls around, I have to get proactive to fight the cold, dark, often rainy days. It’s easy if your resources are unlimited to book a flight to a tropical island and spend a month basking in the sunshine, but most of us have to figure another way to navigate nature’s nasty nods at the beginning of the year.




Ten suggestions in no way conclusive or in any particular order.

1.       Flowers. If you haven’t already done this, go to a plant nursery and walk around. See what’s blooming and buy it. In my area, that’s probably going to be a camellia, which comes in all kinds of amazing colors. When the ground warms up to the point you don’t need a jack hammer to dig a hole, plant the shrub and look forward to something wonderful blooming in January next year. There’s nothing like having a pink bloom in your yard smiling at you on a gray day. If you live in an apartment or are just not a gardener, go to the grocery store and spend five dollars on a bouquet for your office desk or dining table at home. Best money you’ll spend this month.

2.       Set a creative goal for the month. For me, that often means beginning a new fictional story, which I haven’t done in quite a while. I also plan to complete a couple of paintings this month. When February rolls around, it may have been gray outside, but I’ll have something wonderful to show for the time spent indoors.

3.       While we’re talking about goals, this is a good time to set goals for the year. What do you want to accomplish? Get a list going. Put them on your calendar so they stay before you.

4.       Read a happy book. Or reread a happy book―nothing where someone gets a terminal disease. Anything by Jan Karon usually works. I especially loved her recent Come Rain, or Come Shine. Or read gardening books, if that works for you. If I can’t actually plant flowers, I can dream about what I will plant.

5.       Especially focus on what God is saying. That means keeping his word before you. So, make a point of reading your Bible and devos every day. Keep yourself spiritually strong. I often will jot a verse down and put it over the kitchen sink or on my desk. You’d be surprised how quickly that verse gets commited to memory.

6.       Try to keep the exercise going. Usually there’s at least part of a day that works for Lucy and me to make our rounds.

7.       Go to T.J. Maxx and study the new home furnishings (They do not pay me to say that). I don’t usually buy anything, but I get a few new ideas for how to freshen up what I already have. I can’t tell you how many times that involves spray paint. While reading a Martha Stewart Gardening book, I find she’s a big spray paint gal, too. Even made a couple of Styrofoam garden containers look like burnished copper with the stuff. Brightening the space you live in can help you and your family find a refuge against the cold in more ways than one.

8.       Take a class. My daughter is starting a new oil painting class this month. January is the time new art, gardening, Bible Study etc. classes usually begin, so check online to see who’s offering what. Many classes are very affordable.

9.        Be intentional about setting up lunch dates. It’s a good month to really connect with friends after the blur of December activity.

10.   Finally, put some thought on this particular verse, because I think it helps set the tone for the month. “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse . . .  Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies” (Philippians 4:8-9).
Happy January, anyway!
 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Old Christmas and putting Baby Jesus back in the box

An especially mean viral bug grabbed Jerry and I before Christmas, and we're still trying to get over it. My brain is a bit fuzzy, so I'm pulling from the archives today. Praying a wonderful new year for all of my readers.

Up and down my street, wreathes, and bows are disappearing from doors and mailboxes, and former brightly lit trees are stripped of their twinkles and headed for the recycling center.

Not me. 

Being of strong English-Scotch-Irish descent, I’m hanging on to Christmas. My ancestors used to celebrate Christmas on January 6, the date we observe as Epiphany when the wise men found the baby Jesus in the manger. 

When Christmas day arrives, I’m just beginning to celebrate. I can’t bear to put all the baby Jesus figures back in the box until at least January 6. 




Just the other day, I overheard someone in a store say, “I’m so glad it’s over.” 

It’s not over. 

It’s just beginning. 

This morning I read these words from The Message in Romans 8: “With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah… Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death… In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all.”

That little manger baby is here to put it all straight. What all the king’s horses and all the king’s men could never put back together, an infant comes to restore. 

In my life. And your life. 


Thank you, Jesus.

After Scrooge’s life altering encounters with the three ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, Charles Dickens writes, “It was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well..”

May it be said of us that we keep Christmas well, that we allow Jesus to enter the garbage heap of our lives with his beauty and power and restoration. 

And so, old Christmas or new, no matter which day we put the clay baby Jesus back in the box, let's allow the eternal One to reign in our hearts.



Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A One Ringing Bell Home Tour


I have this dream of inviting all the Ringing Bell readers to my house at Christmas, and we’d sit around sipping mocha punch and swapping stories. But practically, that’s not possible, so I thought I’d do a little home tour  of our living areas this week.

A few caveats first. I’m obviously not a designer, just a gal who for years has made do with what she has. The most resourceful people I know are those in ministry, because we’ve learned to make art from what we already have. I love what Ann Voskamp writes, “We get to make beauty, we get to leave loveliness, we get to make art for all who come in our wake―so they get to wake to wonder.” As a pastor’s wife, most of what I have has been gifted to me, handed down, homemade, repurposed, found at a garage sale or plucked from final clearance at TJMaxx.  I “shop the house” as the Nester says and try to make things feel fresh.

This is not a grand home, just a parson’s house.

For Christmas, I intend to keep Jesus ever before us, so each room has a nativity of some sort.

My house was built in the sixties and with the exception of an enclosed garage and an added sunroom, it has had few changes to the original footprint. So, that means little rooms instead of one big open space.

I surround myself with colors I like rather than what’s trending at the moment, which puts me a little off the center line.

And I deal with critters, lots of critters, so part of the house is off limits to felines. The Lab Lucy goes anywhere she wants. What can I say? She doesn't tear up things.

Almost everything I use has a story, but I’ll try to restrain myself and not diverge too much in what already is a long post, so here we go.

When you enter our home, there’s a tiny foyer, but front and center is a nativity set my husband gave me many years ago when we were dating. Fortunately, the baby Jesus has never been lost, and a parade of cats has not broken any of the pieces . . . yet.
 
I love green and blue together.

 
In my living room, I had a big tree ornamented with my angel collection, but it began losing needles, so it had to go. I brought this smaller tree from another part of the house. I actually wanted a flocked tree, but the budget wouldn’t allow, so I used flocking spray and sprinkled snow on it. Then I hung a few angels and some birds I’d had for years and couldn’t use in the other part of the house, because they have feathers on them (Cats love, love, love feathers of any kind). So now, I call this my wings tree. And of course, another nativity, also a gift from my husband.
 


 

My table is semi-set for this weekend, and since the cats can’t get in here, it stays that way. And I love those little star twinkle lights I found this year. They're on a timer.
 
 
In the kitchen, I’m ready for hot chocolate drinkers with this set up and I love this cracker jar my dad gave me long ago. I put cookie cutters in it.
 

 
 
This Christmas village started when the kids were small and I was given a gift certificate to a Christmas store. It has been added to through similar gestures through the years. It's pointless to add more snow as it has a tendency to drift when the cats nest in it. In fact, if you look closely you can spot a sign my son made for the village when the cat Misty, who we called "the terror of tiny town,” used to frequent it. She’s old now, but Wilbur has taken her place as the new tormentor of all who dwell in the village. A recent addition is the origami tree on the department store made for me by a young friend. I'm noticing now that a few of the trees have been moved by cat visitations.
 
The village sits on a cupboard my dad made for me. It’s one of my favorite things in the whole house.

Lambs nestle in a bowl my mother used to make bread in.
 
In the sunroom, which I use for my office, a handmade tree stands which was fashioned from boards removed from our 100-year-old church when it was resided. A lighted star garland wraps around another nativity and a favorite Tasha Tudor illustrated book.  I'll probably add greenery near Christmas.


This year I changed up the sofa in the den with pillow covers I’d never used and one of my two new purchases this year (the other was the star lights), the gilded print pillow in the middle (on clearance). I added the brass bowl I’d found at a garage sale and filled it with red ornaments. Carl standing guard.


Our tree is decorated with ornaments given to us through the years, collected through our travels, or made by the kids. A man famous for his needlework and a woman who was one of the first people I met in this community when I moved here made crocheted angels and snowflakes on this tree as well as the one in the living room.


Another crèche made by a friend. I love it.
 
 
The woman in our church are card makers extraordinaire, so I made a garland of handmade cards we’ve been given through the years (a little blurry picture, sorry).
 
Even though the kids have flown the coup, I still like to keep a few kids things around. Makes me happy. I always have a basket of children’s books for perusing.
 
These carolers remind me of my years of directing choirs.


 We'll skip the kitchen cabinets which need painting and a worktable in my office covered in Christmas doings.
 
But I will show you one more thing―upstairs in my daughter's room, we hang all these ornaments on her chandelier. Some handmade by a dear neighbor who has passed on, some by an artist we love, and some sea creatures from the days when she had fish (thankfully that phase has passed).  This crazy assortment makes me smile.
 

It reminds me of this wild love that God has for us and expressed by sending his Son Jesus. With that in mind, may your Christmas be especially blessed!

"There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, 'Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.'

At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises:'Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all men and women on earth who please him'" (Luke 2: 8-14). 

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