Christmas 2015

O Holy Night

O holy night!
The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of the dear Savior's birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till he appear'd and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary soul rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!

Fall on your knees
Oh hear the angel voices
Oh night divine
Oh night when Christ was born
Oh night divine
Oh night divine

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming
Here come the wise men from Orient land
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger
In all our trials born to be our friend

Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name

One of my most favorite Christmas hymns. 

May Christmas 2015 be a time of peace and joy and fellowship.  May you sit in awe and amazement as you contemplate the birth of Jesus and what it meant for all of His creation.

From my family to yours, Blessed Christmas and a glorious 2016.


Do More...

A quote flashed by in Pinterest the other day.  It's annoying to look at Pinterest on my phone because it auto-refreshes and when something pops up, it often disappears in that auto-refresh and I can't find it.  I was going to follow this pin, see where the quote came from but I couldn't.  I'm not trying to take credit so if someone knows where this originates, I'd love to hear about it.  (the quote I saw on Pinterest - the Bible references I added for my own reminder)

With that said, the quote struck me.  In a culture where "it's all about me" is prevalent (sometimes overtly, sometimes quite subtly), this reminds me of what I need to focus on doing instead of what the world tells me I should be doing.  

Our Lifegroup is working through Jerry Bridges' "Respectable Sins" study and this week we're talking about ungodliness and ungratefulness.  Perhaps seeing the quote on Pinterest wasn't quite so random.  There have been a few things to "make me think" this week.  It's difficult, it's hard to dig deep because that involves looking at the blackness that is your own heart.  I know I tend to think I'm doing better than I am and while I know I am covered by God's grace and that Jesus' blood is the filter God sees me through, if that alone does not make me want to please Him in every way, shape and form then I am too involved in my own self.  If God does not enter my thoughts constantly, then I am being ungodly and I am grieving Him.  That is being much less than holy.

There is more, so much more.  There is a danger of getting stuck in self-examination and beating oneself up quite a bit.  I can do that quite easily.  I must remember God's wrath has been poured out, through Jesus, for my sins and I bow my head in awe and wonder at that gift - and I have to ask God to help me avoid belittling that gift by not accepting His grace.  

May I forever be living Romans 12:1-2:  "Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."


Words Have A Way

My seventh grade reading teacher used to tell us that if the use of profanity was the best word we could come up with in any given sentence, we needed to expand our vocabulary.  Profanity proves laziness and a lack of personal integrity.

I've always remembered that, every time I've uttered a vulgar or profane word.  It is about the only thing that has probably kept my mouth "clean" long before I came to Christ.

Don't misunderstand - I am definitely no saint.  I get angry, I slip.  I get passionate about something, I slip.  There is, though - always - instantaneous conviction.  I KNOW I could have said something better the moment I use profanity.  Always.

Now that a friend of mine has posted the above quote, it'll probably ring in my head each time I go to speak, too.

A thought to ponder - why doesn't Ephesians 4:29 or Colossians 3:5-17 bounce around my brain when those words pour off of my lips?   Why is that?


I Am Quite Confused

I was doing some looking around on Pinterest (a site I can get lost in for HOURS.  You?) and someone posted a picture of "a perfect fall bed."

People change their bedding by the season?  I mean...I can see buying some snowman sheets to use in December but an entire comforter/sham/bed skirt set for fall?  (a beautiful rusty color by the way)  My first thought was what are we coming to when even our beds have to get decked out for the season?

Maybe we're taking our comfort a bit too far?  Maybe we're too affluent for our own good?  I know my grandmothers would have both been shocked at not just the waste of money in buying different bedding for the seasons (they would have had two - a blanket they added, under the bedspread, to the bed in the winter and then removed in the summer) but a waste of space to store them all.

As we look at Pinterest and Facebook and Instagram and all sorts of social media, "keeping up with the Jones'" seems to be so far out of hand I'm not sure what would bring it back.

For instance...dishes.  I saw an advertisement today for four different sets of new dishes and could find a reason to use all of them.  (Believe me - I am not immune to this.  I love pretty, sparkly things, too.)  I actually started justifying to myself the cost of four sets and then I had to stop.  FOUR NEW sets of dishes???  Who do I think I am?  The White House?  Am I deciding the china patterns for the next three Presidents (I'll keep one for myself...)?

Am I the only one who feels like my priorities might be a bit out of whack?  I can't speak for anyone else but I know I, for one, need to skip the material stuff for a while.  There is certainly more "stuff" in my possession than my house can hold (I've started to bring some of it to my office in the guise of making it more "homey") and it's time to simplify.  Simplify.  Perhaps I'll start posting more as I figure out just what that looks like...


A Mountain to Climb

Two Sundays in a row.

TWO whole Sundays in a row.

Aaron and I loaded up the dog and headed into the woods.  Last weekend we drove the hour plus to Anacortes and took in the absolutely stunning beauty of Washington Park.  My back was still bothering me quite a bit so my walk wasn't anywhere near as "hike" like as Aaron and Bandit's but we went.

Puget Sound from Bandit's viewpoint
I'm hoping to turn this into a regular habit.  I want to - as many Sundays as possible - walk.  Just walk.  I don't want to do any kind of major climbing yet.  I have a lot of "shape" to get into first.  It's also better for Bandit.  Have you ever owned a high energy dog and then watched him droop and get bored because his people couldn't offer him enough exercise?  We can - we just stopped when I hurt my back.  Yesterday I watched him LOVE every minute of the hour we spent hiking around Evans Creek Preserve and that place?  A new favorite.  It's about a half hour drive but it's mostly freeway driving and when you turn off the major roadway, it's a 1 minute ride to the Preserve's parking lot.  Then?  Acres and acres of beauty and pristine trails.  We went with no set plan, we just walked a loop.  Came to a cross-trail and decided - left or right.  Came to a fork, decided left or right and just went.  Now we know we have miles and miles of walks all in one place, just by turning left instead of right and vice versa.  I can't wait to explore it further!

Excuse A's finger in the picture.  Bandit didn't want to keep still for these.

Can you see why I need to walk?

A will not be thrilled with me but...I posted one of me so...

One of the things I love about Washington State is the mind-boggling beauty that is here.  You can't throw a rock without hitting something of magnificence, usually.  And now I'm ready to get out and see it from a perspective other than the driver's seat of my car.

Here's to getting out and walking!


Jumbled Thoughts

I'm not spending enough time alone with God.  You know how I know?  I rush to judgment.  I speak in certainties - I don't ask questions.  I assume.  I form opinions based on very little.
And that is a horrible, horrible way to be.  It is also not at all the way God wants us to think.  Actually, He considers it foolish...
A fool does not delight in understanding,
     But only in revealing his own mind.  (Proverbs 18:2)
That's been me lately - speaking without really listening or thinking.  Or, if I don't speak, in my mind I've made UP my mind and I don't have all the facts.  Or I don't know the people I'm talking about or listening about.
Or worse.
A couple of huge things have happened in the last couple of weeks.  A local church's Pastor is dealing with very serious accusations by some of his parishioners and we have almost all been reeling from the unexpected death of Robin Williams.
Both of these stories have me evaluating how I come to conclusions, make decisions and just how much DO I judge others? 
Do not judge so that you will not be judged.  For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.  Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:1-5)
I don't want to rabbit trail about different "judge"ing - this verse speaks to not judging and there is another verse later that speaks to how we ARE to judge but that's a conversation for another day.
In this verse, I am not to rush to condemn someone to hell for something they have said or done.  It isn't my job to say whether or not someone is meant for heaven.  That is Jesus' job and His job alone (For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, John 5:22).  I try to worm in on that and I'm asking for trouble unleashed against me like I can't begin to imagine. 
I've let this blog go, not writing, not journaling anywhere near what I used to and while seasons in life are not at all uncommon, some habits shouldn't disappear just because life itself has changed.  I am to draw near to God in all things.  Pray unceasingly and NOT make rash statements or draw hasty conclusions.
With all of the "facts" coming to light little by little I need to wait.  Be patient.  Wait on God to reveal things to me - those things He wants me to know.  Love.  And pray. 
Always, always pray.


Mother's Day... again

There are a couple of things I've said dozens, if not hundreds, of times since my mother passed away.  I am not the first person to lose my mother and I won't be the last.  I've also said I knew my mother's death would be hard but I had NO idea what hard really was until she died.

On May 15th it will have been three years since she went home.  It's interesting.  I know exactly where she is but I still refer to it as "losing" my mother and in the three years since she died, I've tried to figure out just what "losing her" is.  Yes, my mother's body died and she is no longer visible here on earth but I know when that happened the true her, the spirit of her, went to be with Jesus and when He returns, she will have a new body and I will know her better than I ever knew her before.

On days like tomorrow I feel my loss in such an acute way that it's a physical pain.  My heart feels like it's being rended in two, from top to bottom and at some point it's going to rupture.  It takes my breath away, stops me in my tracks - literally.  I'm not talking about this in some sort of figurative way - it's physical, the pain of great loss. 

And that's the loss.  That part of you that was a part of them. That part of you who relied on them for an ear, advice, a hug...  It can't be, you can't make a phone call and connect and it's a wound.  An open wound that tries to scar but... another anniversary, a smell, another memory - something... SOMETHING rips it open again.

I know I'm not the only one who will struggle tomorrow.  I know I'm not the only one whose world seems to stop on birthdays, Mother's Day (or Father's Day), other important days...holidays.  The truth is - and this is where I hope I don't sound like a cliche - I will spend tomorrow praying through the day.  I will pray for comfort and grace from God (more grace...after all He's already given...) and the ability to smile and enjoy the new memories.  To be reminded that this is the way of life, that it is hard but He is Sovereign and none of this is too hard for Him.  That He will carry me - and anyone who is hurting and asks - right on through it.  Again.  Because as great as our loss is, His love for us is greater.  There will be a reunion.  This ache, this pain, the tears - they will end.  He will end it in His time.

And so I trust.  I hurt, yes.  I cry, oh yes - a LOT, usually tears that seem as if they'll never stop.  I'll wish for the day to end, the commercials to stop, yes.  But I trust.  Ultimately I trust.  I trust that God knows exactly what He is doing.  That He works ALL things to the good of those who love Him - even when that "good" doesn't feel good (in human terms).  He loves us more than I can ever describe here.

So...there I will rest tomorrow.  At least as much as I possibly can.  And for all of you who are without your mother tomorrow, I pray He comforts you, too - in ways that surprise and overwhelm you.

Be blessed this Mother's Day.  God be with you.