Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Forward...March!

I love this week between Christmas and New Year's. It's always been a time of reflecting and thinking for me, as well as resting and reading, but this year it's been entirely different.

Christmas afternoon, after the gifts were opened and dinner was done, I reached for my journal, eager to start my yearly time of reflection. That's when I realized my journal was missing. My search turned into a hunt as I racked my brain trying to remember when and where I had last used it. I finally found it, a half-an-hour later—in the little drawer unit I set up earlier this year to help keep me and my writing somewhat organized and consolidated.

I settled in my chair, and while the family watched Lord of the Rings (again) I eagerly turned to my last entry, ready to begin my journey. I could not believe my eyes when I saw the date of that entry: January 20, 2008. That's 11 months ago! Nothing could have reminded me of the changes that have taken place in my life this last year more than that jolt did. When I realized that blogging was the next step God wanted me to take, I set my journal down and started figuring out Blogger (sheesh, what a journey that was!) and working on Patterings. I determined that whether anyone ever found me here didn't matter, it was an act of obedience on my part, and my obedience could not be contingent on other people.

God has blessed me so abundantly! The changes that have come about in my life are not the ones I anticipated, they are completely different, and so much better than I could have imagined! This last year my life has changed tremendously--not only am I writing on a regular and consistent basis, but God has blessed me with a circle of soul sisters that I never dreamed of having.

As I look forward, I've really been wrestling. One of my goals that was modified, has been plaguing me for three months. I've wrestled with it, prayed over it and even tried ignoring it (which, btw, didn't work). I wanted direction. Handwriting on the wall or even a neon sign would have been nice, but that hasn't happened. Instead I feel God asking me to simply trust Him and keep writing. I feel a bit like Namaan might have. He went to the prophet looking for a miracle, and received a message through a servant instead. 'What? Dip in the Jordan River seven times?' What? Keep writing and trust You? How can something that sounds so simple be so hard? I want answers, I want definites. But I also know that if I knew I probably would never budge from where I am. So, I'm strapping on my seat belt (to keep my tail plastered in this chair to ensure that I finish this project God has not released me from—even though I asked for release) and taking one baby step at a time and trusting Him.

God is faithful.
He will finish this work He's started in me.
My mission: obedience.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Be Involved in Missions!

Okay, here's a confession: I was very frustrated in Sunday School the other day. The church we attend has been participating in the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (for missions) throughout the month of December, which is wonderful, and our Sunday School lessons have had a missions emphasis. As you know, missions is a passion of mine, especially foreign missions. But that lesson made me want to take over the class (which is extremely unusual!) I felt they were completely missing the point, and me, being a genuine know-it-all, wanted to tell them so. But, thanks be to God, I kept my mouth quiet because there wasn't room to get a word in edgewise--and I tried. So, I decided to use Patterings as a soap box. Sorry, but you'll get both barrels of my rant now—also something very unusual for me. But this is missions and I'm Patty...

Missions is so important and we need to support missions and missionaries in every way we can. Not all of us are called to leave our home countries and go, but all of us are to be involved.

Involved in giving so that those who go are able to focus on the ministry and not worry about money to feed their family and pay their bills—even missionaries have electric bills they need to pay! That's part of our responsibility—not just corporately, through the missions budget of our local church, but individually as well! Those who can help support a missionary on a monthly basis should! Those that can't might be able to find a way.

How? I've seen people receive a cash birthday gift and be thrilled because they found they had the money to send to a missionary they felt burdened to give to. Another time someone found money they had stashed away for something they were saving up for, but had long since forgotten what the item was. The amount found was the amount they felt burdened to give to a missions project, but didn't have. God had provided long before the burden was felt. Want another example? Someone I know saves the quarters out of the change she receives while grocery shopping. The quarters go into a special jar and find their way to missionaries. She's not able to give regularly, and her family is currently on a tight budget, but she's been amazed at how many quarters find their way into her jar.

If you just cannot give, you can still be involved through prayer. Missionaries need a network of prayer support. Even if you don't know how to pray for them, you still need to pray. Do they have children? Then pray for their children just like you pray for your own and for your nieces and nephews. That's an obvious one, but what about time for them to spend at the feet of Jesus? Pray that they wouldn't be so caught up in the good work that they forget the best—being in the presence of Jesus. Burdens are heavy no matter where you live and what you do. Pray for refreshment and joy as they carry their loads. How about those that are teaching and preaching? We can pray that they would be sensitive to the message God has for them. There are so many ways to pray without knowing the missionaries themselves.

When I was little, before we went to Ecuador, we were members of a small church on the coast of Maine. In that church there were prayer warriors named Mr. And Mrs. Arrington. They were ancient when I was little and even more ancient when I was in college, but they exuded peace and joy like few others I've known. They had a prayer calendar and they faithfully prayed together. While in college, I learned that my day (not just my parents, but me individually!) was Tuesday, and one time, when I was looking back over events in my life, I noticed that all the big things that 'came together' all happened on Tuesdays. Coincidence? No way. Prayer warriors faithfully praying for me. That's something you can do when you don't have two nickels to rub together and when you're playing taxi driver or washing dishes. Prayer warriors, like any warriors, are not poufed into being, they are grown and trained.

So that leaves us with 'But I don't know any missionaries!' Start praying that God would lead you to them. Search on-line for mission agencies—there's lots of them. Ask your friends and your pastor and church secretary (those ladies are fountains of knowledge!). Many missionaries even have blogs or are on Facebook, now. (There's a few in my sidebar and there's more under my missions tab at the top of this page.) Many have e-newsletters now, and it's a great tool—get on their list and use those newsletters as prayer sheets for them. Mission agencies have prayer calendars and email lists. In today's society, and with our technology, we can easily find missionaries to pray for.

For this coming year, consider finding and becoming involved with missions (if you aren't already). Make it personal and commit to pray regularly. Your prayer has far reaching effects—effects of eternal value!

Here are a few links that I've had some contact with over the years. There are others, but these are the ones that came immediately to mind because of my friends.

HeartCry Mission Society (they support national missionaries)

CrossWorld Missions

Child Evangelism Fellowship

Heart of God International

One Challenge International

International Mission Board

Friday, December 26, 2008

Looking Back at Fiction Friday

Merry Christmas!
Today is Favorites Day for Fiction Friday, so this is a rerun. LoL. My sister and I were just talking about this story, and it was my theme for last year, so I think it's a great thing for me to be thinking about this week as I look back over this last year.

At the end of the story you'll find links to more Fiction Friday favorites (and Josh, it does NOT have to be a rerun!! Post whatever you'd like! *grin*)

Prepare to Jump

Raising four boys, my sister's motto in life was “Be prepared.” For years Cindy's house was party central. There was a constant ebb-and-flow of teen boys, complete with their sound effects and other sensory delights. Every room in her house contained at least one basketball and one lone sneaker, which was always strategically placed in the middle of the floor, ensuring you would trip over it if you weren't looking where you were walking.

During those years her pantry was an amazing thing. The shelves were well stocked with chips and cookies, granola bars and packaged munchies, brownie mixes and microwave pop-corn, and of course sodas and sports drinks. And that didn't count the stuff she kept 'tucked away' for emergencies. Her pantry blew my mind--her preparedness blew my mind.

While our husbands and kids went on a white water river excursion, we opted for tubing down a quiet, peaceful part of the river. I have to admit to being gleeful that we had the day to ourselves—it was a rare treat and we planned on enjoying it.

“So, what are you going to do now that the boys are grown?”

“I don't know,” Cindy admitted, her head resting back on the inner tube. “You know how you feel when a word is on the tip of your tongue but you just can't get it out? That's how I feel--like I just about know, but not quite.” Her voice was both wistful and frustrated at the same time. “All I've ever done is be a homeschool mom and a wife,” she paused and chuckled. “A basketball coach's wife, maybe that counts for some extra points, ya' think?”

I laughed with her, but didn't say anything.

“Remember going to Gram's house that time she had bought us new coloring books, but then didn't have any crayons? We had forgotten ours at home, but thankfully, the restaurant had given us a little box of four crayons to use on the place mats, so we colored in our new coloring books with just four colors.” She turned her head and looked at me. “That's about how I feel—like I've been given a really neat coloring book, but I only have four colors to use in it.”

I laughed. “You have more colors in your box than just four, but I know what you mean. It's disappointing and frustrating, too. So, what're you going to do about it?”

“Can't I just sit here and color with the colors I have?” Cindy was laughing but I could tell she was a little serious, too.

“You'd be bored to tears in no time, Cindy, you know that. Besides, color is too important to you for you to ever be content with just four colors.”

“Yeah, I know, but what can I do?”

Before I could say anything we were interrupted by hollering and screaming.

We looked at each other and groaned. So much for a totally quiet day. We had rounded a bend in the river and saw a rock wall that people were climbing up then jumping off of. There were no rocks in the water, just a sparkling pool that looked enticing.

“Remember that rock climbing wall the guys got us to climb?” Cindy asked

“That was fun! It wasn't nearly as hard or scary as I thought it would be.” We grinned at each other, feeling suddenly courageous.

“Yeah, and this isn't even straight up and down. It'd be a piece of cake by comparison.”

“C'mon, let's do it!” We beached our tubes with the others and made our way to the bottom of the wall. We were so busy talking with a young couple that we didn't stop to look up or consider what we were doing.

About half-way up the wall Cindy looked over at me. “This isn't as easy as we thought.”

“No, it isn't, but we can't stop now.” Before I could stop her Cindy looked down. What a mistake.

Her eyes were round when she looked back at me. “What are we doing here?”

I said the first thing that popped into my mind. “We're adding crayons to our coloring boxes.”

“What? You finally went crazy, Girl!” At least the panicky edge was gone from her eyes and she went back to climbing. A moment later I heard her voice off to my side, but I didn't dare stop to look at her because the height was getting to me, too. “How is this adding crayons to our coloring boxes?”

I grinned at the rock only inches from my nose, thankful for something to take my mind off where I was and what I was doing. “Every time we do something out of our safety zone we take another step, which makes it so we can take another step. It's a new experience and the reward is a new color for our box.”

Cindy grunted that she heard me, but she must've been like me, too winded to talk more. We continued to climb until we felt a pair of strong hands grab us and pull us onto the top. We stood there, gasping for air but grinning like fools.

Arms around each other, we surveyed our success.

“You're right,” Cindy said, still grinning. “That did add a new color to my box. I can't believe we did it!”

I began looking around. The view was great, but I was starving, so I looked for the way down. A quick question confirmed my fears: the best way down was to jump, otherwise, it was a long hike back to our tubes and lunch.

“We get to add another color to our coloring box,” Cindy said, still smiling.

It was my turn to panic. “But I can't...”

She didn't let me finish. “You just climbed up that wall, don't even try telling me you can't jump—you can. Think about the color you'll get to color with the rest of your life; and this will be a gorgeous color! But you know, you missed the best part of the analogy.”

I laughed. I had to. It was either laugh or cry, and crying wasn't an option. “What's that?”

“Not only do we get to use that color, God does too. I was thinking about that just before reaching the rim--the more colors we have in the coloring box of our lives, the more colors God can use when He's working in, and through, our lives.

Cindy never ceases to amaze me.

“Prepare to jump!” she said theatrically, grabbing my hand.

I caught her silliness and her hope. “Prepare to be used by God!” We laughed, took a few fast steps, and jumped.
********


This story is special in that it's a take off from my sister and me--there are bits of truth in here, but it's mainly fiction. Thank you C. for helping me add new colors to my box!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

My Free Gift

The greatest gift I've ever been given is forgiveness.
Without Jesus' death on the cross, I would be paying the penalty of my sin: death and eternal separation from God. But thanks be to God, Jesus paid for my sin, and by accepting the gift He's offered to me, my sins are forgiven. Through Christ, I have God's love, His peace and joy and salvation. How blessed I am!

This is, ultimately, what Christmas is all about.


For links to more Word Filled Wednesdays
run to the 160 Acre Woods!




Graphic, without verse, by Madartists.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Laundry Moment

I just put in yet another load of laundry today, and as I was sorting I came across items that I knew were not dirty. The vest one of them wanted to wear on Sunday, but didn’t because it didn’t match, the sweatshirt my youngest wore for 2 hours, because I was cold…Why were those things in the laundry?

Oh, that's right. They got in big trouble recently for their messy room, big enough trouble that their room’s been clean now for four or five days. Just last night I complimented them on the good job they were doing because I was so impressed. Obviously, that was before sorting the laundry.

I was loading the washing machine, griping to myself about kids and their penchant for cleaning their rooms by throwing it all in the laundry, shoving it under their beds, or cramming it into their closets when I had a moment of truth. Moments of truth are good, but they’re not always pleasant or enjoyable, at least not those that come to me.

Those boys were cleaning their room like I clean, or try to clean, my life. Instead of picking up and dealing with the sin in my life, and getting rid of it, I tend to relocate it and shove it out of sight. Just because someone passing through my life can’t see my sin, doesn’t mean everything is ok. It’s still there needing to be confessed, repented of and gotten rid of. The more I shove and cram, hiding my sin, the worse it will be when I get around to doing a deep clean. Just like my boys don’t want me to have to pull their closet apart, I don’t want God to have to empty out my closet of sin, it’s much better if I just don’t cram it in there to begin with!

As I started the washer I realized I had some cleaning to do in my life. No more simply relocating the sin in my life--out of sight is not good enough. Confessed and forgiven is the only way to being clean.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Exile ~Fiction Friday

A Christmas story.

Welcome to Fiction Friday! This week our host is Rhonda over at Beach Reads. Join us over there for links to more fun fiction.
*****


Exile to Siberia couldn't be worse than this. I wrapped my heavy sweater closer about me as the wind whipped through the converted monastery. A nun led us across the compound, my classmates following eagerly while I felt like I was being shoved into the heart of Siberia.

I grabbed Debbie's arm. “I only know one or two Christmas carols in Spanish!”

She laughed. “Just smile and sing in English.”

“But I can't sing, have you forgotten that?” Panic closed in around me as surely as the stone walls crowded us.

“So? Our being here is what's important to them, not how good we sing.”

How did Debbie get so wise? I decided it came with being born on the mission field, and those of us new to being missionary kids had a lot to learn—fast.

We passed through an arch and then into the commons room where ancient people were huddled around a weak fire, thin blankets wrapped around their stooped shoulders. Watery eyes blinked at us, a few smiles greeted us, and hands reached to touch us, as if they were trying to convince themselves we were real. My friends stopped along the way, holding bony hands within theirs, gently patting shoulders and smiling as they spoke with the people.

I trailed along, shocked by their shivering misery. When a leathery hand clutched my arm, I jumped and pulled back, but the lady held tight. There was wonder in her eyes as she looked at me, and when she pulled me down, I shakily knelt beside her chair. Gnarled fingers gently touched my hair, then combed through my blond curls.

My throat tightened and began to burn. It had been almost a year since I had seen my grandmother, almost a year since she had combed through my hair and crooned to me like this at the airport. This was my first Christmas without her. I knew she had sent gifts, but I would've traded every gift I'd ever received if we could just be together for this one, too.

I joined my classmates and shoved clenched hands deep in my pockets. Singing Christmas carols was the last thing I felt like doing, but Debbie's nudge and smile reminded me of my duty. I looked at the lady I'd knelt beside and found her watching me, her knotted knuckles pressed to her lips as if she was willing me the courage to sing. After several attempts, my voice finally made it past the tennis ball that was wedged in my throat.

I sang, returning the smiles of the old people as they joined in with their rusty voices. Debbie was right. They didn't care that I sang half in Spanish and half in English, and they couldn't have cared less about my bad voice. They were hungry for smiles and a touch of Christmas joy to brighten and warm their cold lives.

Time after time my gaze returned and found her eyes on me. She'd smile and nod, her lips mutely moving. “Oh santisimo, felicisimo, grato tiempo de Navidad! Cristo el prometido, ha por fin venido: alegria, alegria, cristiandad!*” Christ, the promised One—the reason we celebrate Christmas. The reason my family had left home, so others could know Him, too.

Tears ran down the crevices that time had etched on her face, but her eyes shone. She pulled out a hankie edged with green lace and patted her cheeks dry before drawing the edges of her shawl close again.

After singing, we handed out the small candy bags we had made for them, and I returned to her chair, kneeling beside her again.

“Feliz Navidad,” I said as I gave her the bag, marveling at the pleasure the small gift gave her. I wondered when she had last received a gift, or even a piece of candy.

She looked into my eyes, as only a grandmother can, and pulled out another hankie, edged in purple lace and neatly folded. She pressed it into my hand. “For when you cry. Feliz Navidad, hijita.**” When she gently cupped my cheek and kissed my forehead, her hand was so cold it almost stung my face. At that moment I knew exactly what I was going to do and I felt the joy we had just sung about—Christmas joy.

I took off my sweater, gently wrapped it around her shoulders and dropped a kiss on her wet cheek. With the hankie she had given me, I dried her tears. “Gracias.”

*****

This is a Christmas story that comes from my years in Ecuador. Although the setting and the condition of the 'old folks home' is close to how I remember it (LoL, realizing my memory of some things is sketchy), the rest is fiction--I was so overwhelmed that first year I was in Ecuador, that I never thought to do such a thing. Looking back, I can easily picture Debbie doing this--and yes, there is a Debbie--she is definitely not ficticious!

Next week we'll be doing 'Fiction Friday Favorites' since it will be the day after Christmas.
Merry Christmas!


*”Oh Santisimo” A Spanish Christmas carol
**Merry Christmas, little one.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

To: God From: me

Last week it was Friday or Saturday when I finally remembered Word Filled Wednesday, and I was so disappointed to have missed it! I had my picture ready and everything--but in the busyness of last week, I forgot. *sigh* So, I wrote it down in my day-timer so as not to risk forgetting this week.


Lord, I give You my life, my heart, my all. It's all I have to give, and it's still not near enough. You've done so much for me, and blessed me so abundantly. Please be glorified in my life.

For links to more Word Filled Wednesdays
run to the 160 Acre Woods!



Graphic, without verse, by Madartists, who has many wonderful free graphics.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

It's the Clothes!

This weekend I've had the privilege of participating in our church Christmas program. For over 25 years our church has done the Living Christmas Tree--it's a big production, requiring not just the full (and extended) choir, but drama people and 'extras', of which I'm one.









When everyone arrived for dress rehearsal, they wished they had been extras, too. Why? You should see our costumes! Wowza, they're beautiful! Never in my life have I been able to wear a Victorian style outfit, but I've always admired them, especially the hats. Guess what? I get to wear not only the hat, but the gorgeous dress to go with it!
During the Victorian scene I stroll along a 'street' with a (self-proclaimed) dapper gentleman. (Sorry, Jeff—you are dapper even though you have your shepherd's beard. LoL) Wearing that outfit makes me feel like a true lady--except for when it's hiked up to my knees and we're dashing to and from the dressing room. Strolling the aisles on Jeff's arm has been quite an experience for me, and it's given me a better understanding of being clothed by God.

I will rejoice greatly in the Lord, my soul will exult in my God; for He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness,
~Isaiah 61:10


It's made me remember that God has dressed me in His righteousness, so when He looks at me, He sees the robe of righteousness that He has wrapped me in, not my abundant, ugly sin. It's not that I've done anything to deserve that most precious robe, it's a gift from God Most High, and those without that robe are sent away from Him.

But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes, and he said to him, 'Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?' And the man was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, 'Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' For many are called, but few are chosen. ~Matthew 22:11-14

If wearing a Victorian dress and hat makes me look similar to a Victorian lady, wearing God's robe of righteousness makes me not just look the part, but BE the part.

The wrong clothes got the wedding guest kicked out of the wedding feast, and the right clothes get me into eternity with Christ. But it's not clothes that we can purchase ourselves. They've already been purchased by Jesus when He died on the cross to pay the penalty of our sins. He died and conquered death by rising from the dead. So it's not dressing in style, or out of style, or any particular kind of clothing—it's only through God's grace that we are dressed in God's righteousness.

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. ~Ephesians 2:8-9

How thankful I am that God has given me the robe of righteousness—there is no greater gift He could give me.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Bloggy Love

Those of you who know me well, know very well that my brain is like a sieve. And it's not only very annoying sometimes, but it's very embarrassing, too! I've had to revert to using a day-timer like I did during my baby days—you know, those years when I was either pregnant or nursing and sleep was a prime commodity. I think I need to put a pretty ribbon loop on the thing (my day-timer) and carry it like women carried dance cards during the Victorian era. Wouldn't that be quite a fashion statement? Oh. my.

Then there's the whole thing about not just remembering what day it is, but putting together that if today is, say, Tuesday, that means the next day is Wednesday, which means doing my Word-filled Wednesday picture and posting it!! (which, incidentally, I looooove doing! See my elephant in the hot air balloon? LoL) This week I had my picture made and ready to go, I had a blog post in mind to go with it (which is where the problem was—my mind!!) and forgot about it. Because I had it figured out, my mind checked it off. *duh* Note to self: must not check things off in my mind until they are fully completed, not just thought through and figured out.

So, Here's the skinny on this: I forgot about an award I had been given! It's not that I don't want or appreciate it, but I forgot. I carefully recorded the information to go with and put it in a document, but had to file said document so my computer could do the update-thing. And that's when I forgot it. (Now, why is it I can remember all that, but it took me forever to remember the award? Hmmmmm?) Second note to self: that's what the day-timer is for!

Beckie at Only With God's Blessing has passed the Proximity Award on to me.
"This blog invests and believes in PROXIMITY - nearness in space, time and relationships! These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers! Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award."

Wow. Thank you so much, Beckie! This is so special. (I loved the line 'and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award.' It just made me smile. LoL) Beckie has an incredible heart for adoption, and a tremendous ministry. I only wish I could attend the ladies' meetings she does! Wow! Thank you, Beckie!

Now, I realize this says to pass it on to eight others, but I'm a rebel at heart. (Finally admitting that was fun! Kinda like coming out of the closet—the rebel-in-hiding closet, not that other one. LoL) Soooo, I'm only passing it on to three.

Stonefox (otherwise known as Heidi) of Moms, Ministry and More. I never know what to expect at Heidi's, and I love that. She tickles my funny bone (a highly valued commodity some days!) and makes me think. Heidi, and her family, work (minister) in Asia, and that puts her very close to my heart. Heidi, I love visiting you—just please keep putting spew alerts when necessary! (my computer thanks you! LoL)

Joanne of An Open Book is a constant source of encouragement to me. She's the Energizer Bunny—truly, and she astounds me. I've watched her plug away at her goals in the midst of all the other things she's juggling and I'm shamed. She's the tortoise, and I'm the hare—and we all know the outcome of that story. Joanne is teaching me her tortoise ways, so maybe there's hope for me yet. *grin* JoDear, you never cease to amaze me. You are a sparkly jewel that I treasure.

Sunny of Jesus Rulz Me keeps challenging me. Some days I tip toe in, fearful because my toes still smart from my last visit, and sometimes I walk in while still chewing on what I learned from her on my last visit, and sometimes I just plain storm in with a sign around my neck that says 'hit me!' I wish I had flowers in my yard, Sunny, so I could give you some.


There's more to this post, but I'll spread my joy over a few days—a little here and a little there, which is exactly how I like to savor sweets. And these blessings are truly sweet so I want to savor them.

Thank you so much, Beckie, for that award!

(Pictures of Victorian dancers and the 1882 dance card are courtesy of the Victorian Dance Society of The Amherst Museum.)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Forever and Ever, Amen.


Welcome to Fiction Friday! This week our host is Shirley over at Sunny Glade. Join us over there for links to more fun fiction.
Some tongue-in-cheek humor for today...
*****


Sometimes this husband of mine is enough to drive me batty! Even though I love him dearly, and wouldn't trade him for another make or model, there are days when I wish I could send him right back to where he came from--my father.

Yes, this husband of mine was a Christmas gift from my father. What's that? You mean you've never received a husband as a gift before? Well, all I can say is, be thankful! Once you receive him as a gift, there's no getting rid of him. He's in your life forever and ever, amen. And I know what I'm talking about!

All I wanted for Christmas that year was a word processor. Yes, that was a long time ago, when those things were not your common household appliance. Still, a girl's allowed to dream, isn't she? So when dear ol' dad sent me to the office that Christmas morning to get my gift, I was sure I'd finally struck it lucky and hit the mother lode of Christmas gifts.

The hallway was short and I made fast work of it, my fingers itching to caress my new toy, my mind whirling with the hours of potential delight with such a machine at my fingertips. Never mind about the time it would save me as I slaved over all those college projects and papers I was wading through—those would almost be a delight with that new word processor. Almost.

The office door was closed, and I paused there for a brief moment to take a breath and try to appear cool and composed, but inside I was screaming. Open the door already!

My hand wrapped around the cold doorknob, my fingers almost white with the will power to slow down. I turned the knob and pushed the door open, but the shade was pulled and the lights were off, so I still couldn't see anything.

Ha! They're just trying to be tricky and prolong this, I thought. I reached in and groped for the light switch but that switch was in an odd place and it took me a moment to locate it. I wanted to see, and get my hands on, that word processor so badly I could almost taste it. When I finally felt the switch, I flipped it on impatiently and nearly jumped out of my skin.

Sitting there, in the desk chair, in the dark, was a man. A man with his hair sticking up at odd angles and big smile beneath his beard.

I clapped a hand over my mouth, but, I'm embarrassed to say, not before a shriek slipped out. Once I was confident no more hidden girlieness would slip past me unaware, my hand slid down to make sure my heart was still where it belonged. I just knew it was beating out of my chest like you see on the old cartoons my dad and I were so fond of.

The man just sat there grinning, as if he found me highly amusing. “Merry Christmas,” he finally said in a rough morning voice. And my knees turned to jelly.

“Phil! What are you doing here?” I tried to bluff my way out of my faux pas.

His laugh rumbled from his red checked flannel. I loved that flannel on him. He had told me he couldn't come for Christmas, but here he was.

He shrugged as he gave me a hug. “Work was canceled at the last minute, but I can leave if you want me to.”

“Oh, no you don't!” I pulled him into the living room to confront my smug-faced dad. “And you didn't tell me!”

Dad just laughed and pointed out the living room windows. I turned and looked. There sat a red pick-up that I hadn't noticed in my headlong rush to get to the Christmas tree that morning.

I looked at Phil, in his red checked flannel, and knew I was sunk. Not only was he not a word processor, but he was a man and I thought I was done with men. I tell you, I was doomed.

It's been twenty-some years since that Christmas, and I have to admit--but certainly not to him!--that he's still the best Christmas gift I've ever received, and I've received some good ones since then. Especially from Phil.
*****


Okay, so here's the scoop on this story--it's mainly true! Jim was a Christmas gift 20 years ago, and other than my salvation, he's the best gift I've received. The fictionalized part is how much I wanted a word processor. LoL--I barely knew what one was, but Mom and Dad had been mentioning it, so when they sent me to the office 'to get my gift', I seriously wondered.

Up until that point, Jim was the big brother I never had, but we started dating that Christmas day...and were engaged on Friday the 13th, just 3 weeks later! (Disclaimer: I do NOT advocate that time table! It's just that we had gotten to know eachother as brother/sister, without the whole dating thing--and that was great!)

And I still love it when he wears red-checked flannels.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

And the Winner Is...


Last Thursday I participated in the Holiday Giveaway at the Internet Cafe, and I had sooooo much fun visiting other blogs and meeting new friends. Let me tell ya, there were not only wonderful gifts they were giving away, but the sites and the ladies are beyond wonderful! I'll be going back to visit!

For my giveaway I had a little knit purse and Handel CD and the winner is Jen, of Reflections in the Window, who is recovering from back surgery.


To be entered in the giveaway, I asked the ladies to share a verse, and Jen said that 2 Corinthians 12:9 is the one she keeps coming back to at this point in her life.
"My grace is sufficient for thee:
for my strength is made perfect in weakness."


Christmas at Our House

Hello and welcome to my house! I'm participitating in the Internet Cafe's Holiday Expo, and this week is the Tour of Homes. I know you're not usually greeted at the door with a list of rules, but it will make me feel better to give you some house rules. LoL.
Photobucket We have 5 kids that are home ALL day, EVERY day (homeschool).
Photobucket Our home is pretty utilitarian in nature.
Photobucket I'm severely decorating challanged. If something is decorated nicely in my house, it's almost guaranteed that my wonderful husband picked it out. He's very artistic and talented. (Thank goodness!)

If you keep all that in mind, I'd love to show you the things that make-up the Christmas season at our house.

The very first Christmas decorations that come out every year are the Nativity scenes, and quite often they'll be out for a week before our tree gets put up. I have a small set that I brought back from Ecuador, and it sits on my kitchen window sill--it's probably my favorite simply because it came from home.

Then there's the set that Jim brought home from Kenya, when he was there on a missions trip just a couple weeks before our youngest was born. This set isn't pretty, but it resembles the Masai people who carved it, and that's where the beauty is for me. Yes, the wisemen pieces are up, and I understand that they weren't at the manger that night, but I can't bear to not put them up, so they're there, too.

The kids' favorite Nativity set, by far, is the set my parents gave us. They made sure to find a kid-friendly set that will last for years even with constant kid-handling. This one goes on our school cabinet that puts it within reach of the younger ones (but not toddlers LoL) and they love arranging it. When they set it up, it does not look like this--LoL, I played with it to get the picture.

On Saturday the boys put the tree up for us and managed to get the lights on (Jim & I were thrilled that they did it this year!) LoL--for some reason they didn't think it was quite as fun this year as it's been in the past for them. Reality does that you, huh? That night while they relaxed with a movie, the youngest wasn't feeling well and he and Linus curled up under the tree. Linus napped while my little guy watched the movie.





Monday night we were able to decorate the tree and put out the rest of the Christmas decorations. As always, they're thrilled with the tree. And I'm happy to have it up. I love Christmas!

One of the favorite Christmas decoration is this train. It doesn't normally sit in front of the fireplace, but the kids were watching a movie (our tv lives in the closet) so we moved it out of the way so they could camp out on the floor and not be scrunched up on the couch.

This year I tried to get out of setting up the Christmas village, but the kids vetoed that. For some reason they really like it, and they get quite upset when a piece gets broken...like it did right after I took this picture. LoL. But they'll glue it, just like they have in past years. On the window sill is Mr. & Mrs. Snowman, who were some of my very first Christmas decorations.


These little guys are some of my favorites and every year they sit on the sashing of my kitchen windows. They're among the last of the Christmas decorations to be put away, and often hang around until almost Spring.

And there you have it--a simple Christmas out in the corn fields at the edge of nowhere (LoL, or so I'm told). The only thing missing is about 20 family members crowded in all together--now that's when it's truly Christmas here!

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to stop by the Cafe for links to many more homes.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Just a Reminder

I have entered to win a personalized Mother’s Bracelet from Bracelet Stories. You can enter too by going to Writing Canvas for details & entering by 12/11/08!


Okay, I was just finishing up the rounds for the Cafe's Holiday Expo, and I ran across these bracelets. This is the second time I've seen them--the first time was on CWO's Facebook, and they choked me up then, just like they did this time, so I wanted to share it with you, in case you've never heard of them.

I blogged about My Other Boys, and it was a healing post for me...but I'll always miss those little ones. Loni's bracelets are a wonderful way to remember your little ones--whether they're with Jesus or with you.

The Holiday Expo Giveaways are, for the most part, still going on, and you have until Thursday midnight/Friday morning to enter, and lemme tell ya, there are some incredible giveaways there!! WoWwee! So, if you haven't already, be sure to enter my holiday giveaway and LauraLee's and Joanne has TWO giveaways going on! Then, get over to the Cafe--there's over 50 links to more giveaways, with something for everyone! Don't miss out!

On Thursday I'll be giving you an exclusive glimpse into my decorated for Christmas house. (LoL--I'm so glad I got the cleaning done!) Just remember, this is a fully functional, utilitarian house that is fully occupied by my large family 24/7. That's ALL day, EVERY day. And if that weren't enough, remember that I am a decorating challanged chick!

Monday, December 08, 2008

No Door Mats Allowed

This week At the Well is hosted by Laurie Ann at A Magnolia's Heart Beats and she's chosen a hot topic for us: Submission. Here's what she gave us to get us going and work with...
The Submissive Heart of the Titus 2 Wife; Living the Life, Teaching the Life

As Titus 2 Women, we are called to teach live our lives reverently and teach what is good. The result of that teaching is that the younger ladies will be subject to their husbands. Life in the this day and age doesn't make all God's commands easy to follow. Let's dispel some myths and see if we are living a life that honors God and teaches other women to subject to their husbands At the Well this week.

Would others view you as being subject to your husband?

Does the phrase "being subject to your husband" bring to mind positive or negative thoughts?

Do you find being subject to your husband an easy command to obey or a hard one to follow?

How can you teach other women to be subject to their husbands?

Submission. It sounds so good. But it's so hard to do. Oh, not necessarily when my husband is doing the things I want to do anyway, but when things aren't going my way, wow, is it ever hard. And then, if you combine that with when I get angry? Man-a-livin' is it ever hard then. But that's still not when it's the hardest to submit to my husband. It's when I feel he's leading the wrong way, and that I know better, that's when the submission-thing is the absolute toughest!

So what's a girl to do? Be a door mat? Most definitely not! God did not create us to be door mats. We're to be helpmates to our husbands, and although the basics seem to be the same across the board, the fine details vary from marriage to marriage.

In our home, Jim manages the finances, but I do all the bookkeeping—the finger work. Jim is very wise with our finances and makes great decisions, but the bookwork weighs him down, not to mention the time factor. By doing the finger work, I can help my husband and help carry the load. Also, by doing the bookwork, I'm involved with our finances, which helps especially when money is tight—I know and can plan our household budgeting and purchasing accordingly.

One of the things that has helped me the most, is to respect my husband. When I chose to respect him, as a man and a leader, I found that I followed (submitted!) him much more willingly. It was a choice I had to consciously make, and until I did, we were miserable. Maybe that's why Paul says, “and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33)

Would others say I'm submissive to my husband? Yes. Would Jim say I'm submissive to him? He'd probably say sometimes, and I have to agree with him. In many ways I'm submissive, but in other ways I'm not. But I'm working on those areas, and I'm a work in progress, which gives me hope.

As far as what I'd pass on to younger women—respect your husband. Give him the benefit of the doubt and trust God to move his heart.
The king's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes. ~Proverbs 21:1
If God can direct the king's heart like water in His hand, and He can, then directing our husband's heart is an easy matter for our God!! Many times I've prayed that God would direct me through Jim, that God would direct his heart. It's a huge blessing and comfort to me every time.

We're not to be door mats. We can thoughtfully and respectfully voice our opinions, and more importantly, we can pray, with confidence, that God would direct our husband's hearts.

My dear friend, Joanne, is having a giveaway this week (well, two if you count the Holiday Expo with the Internet Cafe which we're both doing--here's mine: Holiday Giveaway) ANYway, Joanne has hit her 100th post and is celebrating in a special way. Check it out!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Missing Ingredient

When I copy a recipe, I'm very careful to write 'B. Powder' and 'B. Soda' to make sure I focus on the powder and soda and not only on the 'baking' part. If I see 'baking' and focus simply on that, it's easier to end up with the wrong ingredient, which will ruin the finished product and make it inedible.

The other day my friend talked about motivation and attitude, and it was like being hit with a one-two punch. The more she talked the more convicted I became. Truth does that to you.

Let all that you do be done in love. ~I Corinthians 16:14


Too many times I focus on the doing and not on the love. My motivation is all wrong because I'm doing things out of necessity and not out of love.

Our motivation should be our love for Jesus.
Not obligation, not duty or self-recognition.
An act of love for Jesus and nothing else.

That love is like the difference between baking powder and baking soda in a cookie recipe. If I do something out of duty or obligation, the final product will be of no lasting value. Sure, there will be a finished product that might look just right, and everyone around us may be convinced and the need may be filled—but will it be edible in God's sight? Will it have lasting value? No.

Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men's hearts; and then each man's praise will come to him from God.
~I Corinthians 4:5


God sees our hearts. He knows the real reason we're doing things even when people around us don't. Love is the missing ingredient far too often in my life, and look at what Paul has to say about that missing love in I Corinthians 13:
PhotobucketIf I ___ ...but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. (Nothing pretty sounding about that! That's just being a loud, obnoxious noise-maker in God's ear.)
PhotobucketIf I ___ ...but do not have love, I am nothing. (Sound good, huh? Nothing. No one wants to be a nothing!)
PhotobucketIf I ___ ...but do not have love, it profits me nothing. (Not only is it obnoxious and being a nothing, but the profit, the bottom line, is nothing, too. In business, if there's no profit, it gets eliminated.)

But the good news is that we can choose love and we can choose to do things as an expression of love to Jesus. Now that's something I can wrap my mind around. Because I love my husband, I choose to do things for him and with him that I would never do on my own. But I'll do it gladly for my husband. And as believers, the body of Christ, who's our husband? Jesus. We can do things simply out of love FOR HIM that we would never choose to do on our own. That attitude of love falls in the category of gold, silver and precious stones. The love will last while the rest burns.

Now if any man builds upon the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay straw, each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it, because it is to be revealed with fire; and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. ~I Corinthians 3:12-13

What's our motivation? It should be love for Jesus.
What's the attitude we do things in? It should be an expression of our love for Jesus.

Lord, there are many things in this life that I'd rather not do for one reason or another. I'm a sinful, selfish girl, but Father, I don't want to stay this way. I want to live for You. Help me do things as an expression of love for You. Teach me to love. To love others, to love You. Thank You for the ultimate expression of love when You gave Your life for me—help me to remember that when I'm digging in my heals. I want to love You more, Father. Please, help me. In Your most precious and Holy name, amen.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Oops!


I accidently scheduled tomorrow's post, 'The Missing Ingredient', for today's date, so if you're wondering if I've lost my mind, the answer is yes. LoL. Sorry about that. 'The Missing Ingredient' will be reposted after midnight--for Sunday's post.
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