What Do You See Outside YOUR Open Window Today?

What Do You See Outside YOUR Open Window Today?
Remember: "When God closes a door, He always opens a window!" You never know what might be out there waiting for you!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Thinking About New Beginnings

As we draw the year 2014 to a close and look forward to the start of a new year, many of us are thinking about "new beginnings".  Some may call them "resolutions"...being resolved to do something new, different, better with our lives in the new year.  That may involve giving up something to gain something better. Or it may mean that we have to take a step of faith and leap into the unknown to achieve the goals and plans we are dreaming of.

Whatever it takes, we know that in order to make something different or new happen, we have to take action of one kind or another.  Step out of our "comfort zone"..."get out of the boat"..."turn over a new leaf"...all types of catch phrases that denote deliberate activity to get from here to there.

I know that I want to see some new things happen in this upcoming year...positive things that will enhance my life in a meaningful way.  I have some "secret" desires (don't get excited)...just some things that I hope I will be able to accomplish...but it is going to take some major effort on my part and a lot of prayer to see it through.  I say "secret" because I don't want to speak it out loud just yet...I need to get my "ducks in a row" before I can take action and "go public".

It is also time to select my "One Word" for 2015....that One Word that will become the byword for my life for the year.  Last year the word was "strengthen."  I have decided that I want to be more careful what I ask for this year. That one was painful.  Not so much in the physical sense, which is where I probably need it still...but the strengthening came in doses of excruciating emotional and mental anguish...extreme feats of growth and development that I did not bargain for.  God never let me break down completely under the strain...but He sure had His hands full of a blubbering,weak, sad and weary child all too often. No, I don't want another word like that again. So I am giving it a lot of thought and prayer before I select a new "One Word".  (But...didn't God know what He was doing in directing my steps to that One Word?...Yeah, He did...)

I know I have quoted this verse before, even recently , but I keep coming back to it:

"Do not remember the former things,
Nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I will do a new thing,
Now it shall spring forth;
Shall you not know it?
I will even make a road in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert..."
Isaiah 43:18-19

Yes, I am looking forward to "a new thing"...that "road in the wilderness and river in the desert", as long as God goes with me. Of course He will.  He has never left me alone...not even during my time of "strengthening".  He was always there...and He always will be.

This could be the start of something wonderful! Won't you come along with me? Who knows what adventures lie in the road ahead?  Wherever it leads, God is already there waiting at the end of the road. So, we can't go wrong.  Let's go!!!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Advent Thoughts: Today I Choose JOY!


"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
Because the Lord has anointed Me
to preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,
and the day of vengeance of our God;

To comfort all who mourn,
To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of JOY for mourning,
The garment of PRAISE for the
spirit of heaviness;

That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord,
that He may be glorified."
Isaiah 61:1-3

As most of you who have followed this blog the past few months know, I have been working through the grieving process since the passing of our son this past May.  Most of the time I seem to be doing just fine, continuing to go through the motions of life every day.  There have been some difficult days, and there have been some wonderful days.  

Particularly as we have approached the Christmas season, there have been waves of grief come over me from out of the blue...totally unexpected and catching me off guard.  I expressed my feelings to friends and family, sharing my frustration with attempting to Christmas shop and send out our usual Christmas letter.  I have felt locked up inside, unable to render enough energy to handle these basic functions of preparing for Christmas. Most people have responded with love, compassion and understanding...helping to relieve the pressure that was building inside and freeing me to not cave in to the expectations of the season by doing more than I was capable of doing.  

Others attempted to remind me that I should think about the family that I still have here and not spoil Christmas by my lack of participation.  This was done in a spirit of good will and encouragement, and I understand where they are coming from, but as I tried to explain...this is not something I am doing deliberately. It is something that is occurring from 'out of the blue', totally unannounced or expected. Not something I can control....it is grief...pure and simple...well, maybe not so simple...rather complicated when you think about it. 

However, as I read these verses today, I recognize what Christ came to earth to do for us ..especially in the verses that say:

"To COMFORT all who mourn,
To CONSOLE those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
the oil of JOY for mourning,
The garment of PRAISE for the 
spirit of heaviness..."

and remarkably, that has given me "COMFORT", JOY, and a GARMENT OF PRAISE!"  It has unlocked something inside so that I am able to CHOOSE JOY in place of the mourning. I am deliberately choosing to put on that "garment of praise" and rise above the "spirit of heaviness" that has been pulling me down.  That is not to say that there won't still be times when the grief will hit me, but claiming God's Word gives me the strength to stand up against the sorrow and not allow it to drag me down.  

This reminds me of another one of our Christmas Carols:



"God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen" (click here to hear)



And may the Lord be glorified as we preach these "good tidings" of comfort and joy everywhere!

For previous thoughts on this subject from this time last year, Click HERE.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas at The Cabin ~ Updated




This story was originally written in 2008 for my Father's Christmas card, after my Mother had passed away in 2006.  In 2011, my Father joined my Mother in heaven, and the family home was sold and all the family belongings were dispersed to the four winds (and the four kids).  But the happy memories linger...and those can never be taken away. I originally posted this story in 2010, but just thought you'd enjoy reading it again.


"The Cabin" drawn by my father, William F. Mursch, circa 1933
Story written by Pamela Mursch Steiner, for the Mursch Family Christmas Card, 2008

A long time ago in a land far away, a young man spent his summers and weekends helping his father build the family vacation home, better known as “The Cabin”. It was a rustic and quiet place, far from the black soot and noise of the big steel mills in the city. Oftentimes some of the gang from college would go up to “The Cabin” with the young man to spend the weekend in the woods, just having plain good fun away from their hard work at school.

Three Beautiful Girls...(front) (Dad Mursch's sisters:) Marion Mursch Ryder and
Ruth Mursch Gammie. (Back) Dorothea Tedlie Mursch (my mother)  This
was taken  at The Cabin either before or shortly after my parents were married.
On one such weekend the young man was looking forward to his trip to the cabin, for his sister had promised him a “surprise”. She was bringing up a friend from the city...a young lady who yearned for the fresh air of the country…

That weekend forever changed history in the life of this young man...for when he saw the beautiful girl with the dimpled knees coming across the field to meet him, his fate was sealed. His heart went out to her at first sight and he told his college friend beside him, “That’s the girl I’m going to marry!”

And so after a night of walking and talking with this beautiful maiden and singing in the moonlight together, her heart too reached out to his, and in a short time they became Man and Wife.

“The Cabin” became ever engrained in their hearts as the beginning place of great joy and happy memories. Even when they lived on their own farm just a few miles away, they still spent many holidays with loved ones and friends at “The Cabin”.

As the years went by, the family moved south to find better opportunities, and “The Cabin” was sold to a new family. Our “couple” was now a family of six, and the young man built a new home, with the help of his retired father, working together side by side as once before. This new home was built of brick and mortar instead of logs and chinking. It soon became the place for all the family gatherings and times of making happy memories together.

Christmas at their home was always a very joyous time, with the whirring sounds of a toy locomotive running under the tree, a warm fire by which to hang our stockings with care, the aroma of Mom’s apple pies and sugar cookies baking in the oven, and the sounds of Santa’s sleigh bells ringing with a “Ho Ho Ho!” shouted from somewhere in the night stillness filling our minds with wonder and delight!

Now the once young man (at the time of the original writing in 2008)  has reached his ninetieth year, and his beautiful girl with the dimpled knees is running through the fields of glory, helping the angels build the new “Cabin” in heaven, as she looks forward to welcome him there someday. He sits by his fireside and remembers all the good times they had together, and reminisces about all the friends and loved ones who have gone on before him, and especially those idyllic days of yore spent at “The Cabin” with his beautiful girl.

Oh what happy memories! God so truly blessed this family with such a home! Only God knew what joy was in store for that young man and young lady on that day at The Cabin...for 64 years their time together was so precious! And that couple became a family of six, which added four “in-law” children, plus many grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and the family traditions go on and on...The sons build their houses and the daughters bake the pies like their mother taught them. The grandchildren and great grandchildren play with the trains and the dolls and carry on the family traditions each in their own way.

Thank you, Lord, for these precious memories....

May Christmas at your "Cabin" be a time of joy and peace,
filled with happy memories for all!
 
"The Cabin" Birdhouse, built by my son Benton Steiner, circa 2010,
which now sits on our bookshelves to remind us of those pleasant memories every day.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Christmas Is For Others...Not Just Me!

So, last night I was spilling my sad tale of woe about not being able to go Christmas shopping because I just can't seem to get my act together.  (Click the blue underlined words to see that post).
To be honest, I actually did do some Christmas shopping when I went to the local D.G. with my 91-year-old mother in law yesterday.  It just wasn't for my family.  And, for some reason, that seemed to be a lot easier, more fun, and very fulfilling! Why?  Because it was for others...people who won't have any gifts on Christmas unless strangers give them something.

Recently I have mentioned to you that we have been having a Bible Fellowship in our home on Sundays.  It is a very small gathering, mostly of our immediate family and a couple of neighbors. Anyone is welcome, but we are not trying to compete with any other church or group.  We are doing this for now as it seems to be the way the Lord has been leading us.  Anyway, one of our friends has a handicapped son who lives in a kind of "assisted living" home, and many of the other residents there do not have anyone who visits them or any close family or friends.  They seem to be the forgotten ones, living in a place where their basic needs for food, shelter, and healthcare are being met, but the need for love, companionship, family and friends is often left unmet. So the suggestion was made that perhaps we could gather some little gifts for them and our friend will deliver them this week when she goes to visit.

I can only tell you that we had such a great time of fellowship today after our worship time followed by a shared lunch, as we wrapped simple things like word search books/puzzles, lotions, shampoos, soaps, playing cards, manicure sets, and other personal items for them, and labelled them so the attendants would know how to give them to the residents.


It made each of us feel so good that we were doing something to lift the spirits of others...such a simple thing, really.

I would love to be there when they receive their gifts to see the looks on their faces as they realize that these items are just for them...and that people do care about them.

I know many of you are doing other similar types of charitable acts at Christmas.  The church where I currently work gathered many gifts for children living in a home for orphans, which I know will be a huge blessing for those kids as well as their houseparents.   Some church groups do the "Operation Christmas Child" ministry to kids in foreign lands that Samaritan's Purse sponsors every year.

There are so many needs everywhere, for people young and old, near and far.  If we each could do our part in some small way, what a blessing that would be for so many.  

I can only say that for me, this was a huge blessing.  I needed to find a way to reach out to others less fortunate than myself.  I am not telling you this to give myself any credit.  It wasn't my idea...I had to be prompted and directed...and I had to step outside of myself to reach out and touch others and give them hope and show them Christ's love at Christmas.

Sometimes we wonder what we can do to show our love for Jesus at Christmas.  This is just one small example.  I am certain you can think of other ways to show Jesus your love.  Here is a sweet example from a child:

"What Can I Give Him? I'll Give Him My Heart"...from a "Living  Christmas Tree" program found on YouTube.  I think you'll enjoy this little song, sung so sweetly by such a darling child...and such a message. 

I pray that God will help me be aware of other ways to be a blessing to others as we begin this New Year.  That is my "New Year's Resolution" for 2015.  

"What Can I Give Him?...Give Him My Heart"  Amen.


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christmas Shopping Avoidance

I should be shopping for Christmas presents...I should be writing my Christmas card letter and sending it out...I should be cleaning my house...I should be baking...

My 91 year old mother in law has been staying with us this past week and every time she walked by our Christmas tree she would say, "That Christmas tree looks so sad. It needs some presents underneath it."  Numerous times throughout the week she repeated this comment along with expressing the desire to go to the local Dollar General store to purchase some "tree gifts."  No, I don't believe she meant gifts for the tree...but "tree gifts", as I have come to understand the terminology, are little gifts that really aren't anything of major significance, but just some fun or simple little gifts to give to the family...almost more like "stocking stuffers", but they go under the tree before Christmas Eve apparently.

I tried to explain to her that in my family's tradition, we never put any gifts under the tree until Christmas Eve. The only presents that would be "present" under the tree prior to Christmas Eve would be gifts that arrived either through the mail, or gifts that came from friends or neighbors or people not in the immediate family.  Of course, when I was growing up, my parents would not even put up the Christmas tree until Christmas Eve...and we would help decorate it until our bedtime, but it was not completed until after we children went to bed, and then it would be a surprise to see it on Christmas morning, along with all of the gifts that we had never seen until that moment as well.

Of course, I found out in later years that one of the reasons we never saw any presents under the tree before Christmas morning was because my mother rarely finished her Christmas shopping until a few days (or less) before Christmas, and that she was usually up until 2:00 A.M. Christmas morning wrapping gifts.  Now, to her defense,  my mother worked full time and at that time we did not have any local shopping centers or malls.  Shopping meant traveling at least thirty miles or more to the big city.  But I think my mother may have suffered from "Christmas Shopping Avoidance".  At least that is what I am naming it. Why? Because I have it. Seriously.  Not just in the sense of being a procrastinator, but I literally have panic attacks when I try to go Christmas shopping...just thinking about it and writing this for all the world to see gives me sweaty palms and heart palpitations.  If I could afford to do so, I would gladly pay someone to go do my shopping for me.  But they would have to figure out what to get everyone and where to get it and if they would really like it...and ....and....well....you see what I mean?  I know...all you great shoppers out there that have had your Christmas shopping done since July...some even since last January...maybe some in October...or perhaps you waited until "Black Friday"...but you got it done. Your gifts are exquisitely wrapped and under your perfect tree, and you are now baking cookies and gingerbread houses and taking gifts and cookies to your neighbors and children's teachers and the old folk's homes and ....and...and...here I am writing about it and not doing it....

I haven't written my Christmas letter yet or sent the first card. I can't even think of what to say...most everyone knows everything already about me and our family....so what is there to say that you don't already know?  And, it isn't that I don't want to give gifts and do nice things for others...I just seem to be locked in place and frozen in space...I can't do it.  Yes, it has been a difficult year for us. Yes, I think it may have something to do with that.  Yes, I need to deal with it.

Okay, so today I gave in and took my mother in law to the local Dollar General so she could buy some "tree gifts".  And then we came home and I actually wrapped them for her, and we put them under the tree. Now every time she walks by our tree she claps her hands and says "Now the tree looks so happy!"
"The Tree Gifts"
Yes, she has dementia, and yes, she says a lot of things over and over again. But this resonated in my heart as a plea for me to get on with Christmas.  Quit avoiding it.  Embrace the joy of giving to others. Don't worry about what to get, where to go, or whether or not they will like it. Just do it. They will love it. They aren't expecting anything especially remarkable or expensive or wonderful.  It truly is the thought that counts... the fact that you cared enough to step outside of yourself and do something for someone else because you love them.  That's what Christmas is all about. Doing something for someone else because you love them.  That's why God sent His only Son to earth in the first place...because He loves us.

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life..."
John 3:16

Ok, I get it.  I need to embrace the joy of Christmas again...stop avoiding it.   But I need God's strength and help.  I know He'll be there for me.  He always is.

Thank you for listening friends.  Just say a prayer for me.  Oh, and Merry Christmas from me to you! Not sure if the Christmas letter will get written or sent...but...well, you already know everything anyway, right?  Even some things I probably shouldn't be telling you. Now you know more of my "deep dark secrets".  Good night everyone. Thank you for letting me ramble on. God bless you and keep you all in His tenderest care.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

"I AM... I AM...I WILL...I WILL..." ~ God. The Greatest Christmas Gift of All.

Have you ever seen those billboard signs that have messages from God?  Here's an example:


and here's another:
This sign compliments of Ben's Country Woodshop
This morning I was feeling somewhat overwhelmed with all the "stuff" I need to get done between now and Christmas...and I didn't have the ability or strength to even know where to start.
When I opened my Bible for morning devotions, I discovered some statements from God that weren't on a billboard, but it stood out in what appeared to be bold highlights...I even had it underlined...and this is what God said that gave me encouragement today:

"You are My servant, 
I have chosen you and have not cast you away:
Fear not, for I AM with you;
Be not dismayed, for I AM your God.
I WILL strengthen you,
Yes, I WILL help you,
I WILL uphold you with My 
righteous right hand."

Isaiah 41:9-10

And then I dropped down a few more verses to verse 13, and God reiterated the same message:

"For I, the Lord your God, 
will hold your right hand,
Saying to you, 'Fear not, I WILL help you.'"

I had previously written in the margin of verse 13, "I AM HERE TO HELP YOU."

I can only tell you that those words spoken to me this morning through God's Word gave me great hope and encouragement...and the strength to make it through this day.  My work tends to be very stressful at the end of the year and also at the beginning of the new year...and when you couple that with Christmas preparations, and also with the other issues we are dealing with in our home and family, and the fact that I am still working through the grief of losing one of our precious sons this past year to cancer, well, I needed to hear these words from God today.  Perhaps you did too.

As we plunge into the busyness of preparing for Christmas...let us not lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas. Let us not worry so much about the "gifts" that we forget about the "giver" of all gifts, that Babe in the Manger, Jesus, who gave us the greatest gift of all...His life, so that we could have eternal life with Him.
 Click HERE for THE BEST Christmas gift of all: "Son of God" as sung by Michael W. Smith  Be sure to turn up your volume, and open this to full screen, and sit back and enjoy and be comforted, strengthened, and encouraged.  God said, "Fear not, I WILL help you."...I took that to mean:  "I AM HERE TO HELP YOU."   Immanuel...God WITH us...I AM here to help you...Yes, this is THE greatest Christmas gift of all...take it, open it, and make it your own gift today.








Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Journey of Two Mothers

Today two mothers met who have never met in person before, and one of them was me. The other mother was someone who had a lot in common with me.  We have both lost an adult child to cancer. Not a club or sorority that very many mothers are rushing to join. But sadly, there are already way too many members.

Our meeting was a "God-Thing".  She is originally from Maine, and even though I have lived in Maine and my son who passed away was also from Maine, that is not how we met...or maybe in an indirect way it is. Several years ago I was looking at some information about a town in Maine on the internet and somehow clicked on a link that led to my friend's blog that she and her daughter were writing together. Here is a link to that blog:
http://ourjourneytogether-susan.blogspot.com/

Once I started to read I soon realized that we had a lot in common...my friend's daughter was about the same age as my son.  She had a very rare form of cancer, and so did my son, although they were different types of cancer...they were none the less deadly.  They were both married and each had one child.

My new friend and I are also Pastor's wives...and both of our husbands are retired. We both have three children, all born in the same years.  Oh, and she and I are very close in age.

Throughout the years that she and her daughter were writing their prayer requests, sharing the journey of struggling through the realities of living with cancer, I was also doing the same with my blog as I dealt with the reality of my son's journey with cancer. And we began to encourage one another through comments, prayers and even on facebook.  When my friend's daughter died two years ago this past November, I grieved with her. My heart was broken for her and her daughter's family.  I had prayed and hoped that somehow she would be healed, but that wasn't God's plan.
During the intervening time, my own son was continuing to fight his own battle, and I know my friend also prayed for him to be healed just as I did, but sadly, that wasn't God's plan. When my friend saw that my son had died six months ago, she messaged me that we needed to get together.  I replied that I hoped that day would come soon.

Oh, the other thing I forgot to tell you is that my friend has a home in Florida, which is also where I live.  And last week she contacted me and invited me to meet her in a community not too far away from where I live, as she would be passing through. I was delighted to accept that invitation. And so that brings us up to today.

What do two mothers who have so much in common do when they finally meet in person for the first time?  They hug. They smile. They talk. They pray. They almost cry...the tears were very close to the surface. They share their current concerns for their loved ones who have been left behind...our grandchildren, the widowed spouses of our children, our other immediate family members, husbands, other children who are also grieving the loss of their sibling. They share their stories of how they are dealing with the grief, and how they continue work through the sorrows on holidays and other events.
They encourage one another and hope that this new friendship will continue into the future. They take selfies:
My new friend and I.  Yes, I was having a bad hair day.
But everything else was wonderful. :)
They promise to stay in touch and continue to pray for one another.

That's the story of two mothers who have so much in common...and even though we don't like the reason we were brought together, we thank the Lord that He saw fit to allow our paths to cross.  We have both grown in our journey...grown in faith, grown in the ability to show empathy and compassion for others in similar circumstances. We've grown stronger.  Who knows how God will use this experience in the future? Maybe He has plans that we don't know about yet. But even if we never have the opportunity to meet again here on earth, we know that we will continue to carry that little place in our hearts for each other...because we both know that this was one of those God-appointed times....a "God-Thing."  And we WILL meet again, someday...where we will both enjoy a wonderful family reunion with our precious children who have gone on before us.  I have a feeling our "kids" were smiling down on us today.

I know there are many other mothers out there who have suffered such a great loss. Some of us have already connected on facebook and through blogging.  I encourage you today to continue to reach out to others.  Some of you have been an encouragement to me during the years that my son was fighting his battle with cancer...even though your child had already lost the fight...you went out of your way to share knowledge with me about the disease we were fighting and about ways to turn a negative thing into a way to help others.  I thank you for that. Your courage and strength was an inspiration to me. I hope that I can also be a help to others along the way. That is my prayer. May my son's journey not be in vain.

ADVENT DAYS Seven and Eight!

I got a little off schedule in my writing...but the Advent season tends to get busier as the days go by.  Yesterday I spent time doing some decorating:
Me, Hard at work putting up our Christmas tree



and today we started the day with worship...and the lighting of the Advent Candles for weeks one and two since last Sunday we weren't able to do so:


As we lit the first candle we read:

"This candle reminds us of the promise of the prophets that a Messiah would come.  The prophecy candle is symbolic of long years of waiting during which the prophets, inspired by God, kept alive the hope that the Son of God was coming to redeem us."

Then we read the following scriptures:

Isaiah 7:14


"Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign:
Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall
call His name Immanuel."

Isaiah 9:2-7

"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, 
Upon them a light has shined.

You have multiplied the nation
and increased its joy;
They rejoice before You 
according to the joy of harvest,
As men rejoice when they divide the spoil.
For YOU have broken the yoke of his burden
and the staff of his shoulder,
the rod of his oppressor,
as in the day of Midian.
For every warrior's sandal from the noisy battle,
and garments rolled in blood,
Will be used for burning and fuel of fire.

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
there will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
to order it and establish it with judgment and justice
from that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this."


As we lit the Second Advent Candle we read the following:

"Today we light the Bethlehem candle.  It is symbolic of preparation.  The prophecy in Micah 5:2 that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem has significance because it indicates how God prepared even the last detail of the coming of Christ."

The following scriptures were read:

Micah 5:2

"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Though you are little among the thousands of Judah,
Yet out of you shall come forth to Me
the ONE to be Ruler in Israel,
Whose goings forth are from of old,
From everlasting."


Matthew 2:1-6

"Now after Jesus was born in BETHLEHEM of Judea 
in the days of Herod the king,
behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem,
saying, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?
For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him."
When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together,
he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
So they said to him,
"In BETHLEHEM of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:
"But you, BETHLEHEM, in the land of Judah,
are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel."


I will continue the Advent Candle series next week when we light the third candle.  If you have never experienced the lighting of an Advent Wreath before, here is a little bit of the history:

"The word "Advent" comes from the Latin, "Adventus", meaning "coming" or "coming in", and the "coming in" of Christ has been celebrated by man on many different levels, both spiritual and social since the first years of Christianity.  The traditional Advent Wreath, like most Christmas and Advent customs, has been passed on from generation to generation.  In the Advent Wreath's evergreen boughs we are reminded of the eternalness of God.  In it's perfect circle, His all-encompassing love is symbolized.  Each week, as we add the glow of one more candle, we meditate upon another facet of the life and role of our Lord.  Candles, which are living flames, are symbolic of Christ, the Light of the World, Whose coming is nearer as the light of the candles is increased.  The purple candles represent the royalty of Christ.  The pink candle is the purple fading into the white candle, which represents Christ's birth and His purity.
Jesus said, "I Am the Light of the World...Whoever follows me will have the light of life and will never walk in darkness."  (John 8:12)" 
For our home Advent Wreath, I gathered some fresh green boughs from one of our cedar trees, and wove their stems into a grapevine wreath that I already had.  Then I placed the candles in candle holders inside the circle of the wreath.  Our special antique table that we have been using for our home Communion Service (click HERE for more about that story) is also a perfect place to hold the Advent Wreath.  Little did my husband's grandfather know when he built this little table so many years ago how it would continue to honor the Lord in the homes of his future generations.

If there are times in your life that you are unable to attend worship services at a local church, there is no reason why you cannot have a home worship service.  Although for me it is unique because my husband is an ordained minister, but one does not have to have a seminary degree to lead your family in a time of worship.  You primarily need your Bible, and ask the Lord to guide you and give you insight into His Word.  The Bible tells us that "where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them."  I am not suggesting that this should be the norm, but there are times and seasons in life when it may be necessary for reasons beyond your control.  And, even if you DO attend church regularly, there is still no reason why you cannot have times of home worship and prayer as a family or with your neighbors and friends. As a matter of fact, it could be a true blessing for your family as well as those around you. 

In many nations of the world, this is the only form of church worship available, and that is often in what is considered "underground"...hidden and in secret, due to government restrictions and anti-christian leadership.  I pray that America never has to find out what that is...Pray for our nation. I look forward to the day when the fulfillment of the Isaiah prophecy will be complete:

"Of the increase of HIS government and peace 
there will be no end..."
Isaiah 9:7

"O Come, O Come Emmanuel..."

Click HERE for Advent Day Five and previous days.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Something to Be Thankful For...I took a bath. UPDATED 11/29/2014


UPDATE 11/29/2014: I wrote this exactly one year ago today.  Today was a day exactly like last year, except I'm so tired tonight I don't feel like even trying to slip and slide in and out of that bathtub...so I think I'll just have a cup of Revolution brand Golden Chamomile Herbal tea that was a gift from a dear friend today (thanks Marsha!), and then go take a long hot shower and head for bed....Happy Thanksgiving to you all...and to all a good night!

ORIGINAL POST, 11/29/2013:

I did something tonight I haven't done in over ten years...I took a bath! Now before you start thinking about how unclean and uncouth a person I must be, let me clarify.  I take a shower every night whether I need it or not! (I always need it, whether or not I am dirty...)  And no, there are no pictures to go along with this post. I can't even find a free clip art pic to insert...so let me just describe this event.

The last couple of days have been rather busy.  I love Thanksgiving.  I love visiting with friends and relatives and eating turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, dinner rolls, butter, cranberries, pumpkin pie smothered in whipped cream, ....well you know the routine.  You eat until you can't possibly stuff another bite into your mouth, and then someone tells you it's time for dessert!

It's a wonderful ritual we go through every year. But all of this eating and spending quality time with our families has a flip side....Someone had to cook all of that food and get the house cleaned and the table set just so, with the little Pilgrim Salt and Pepper shakers filled and the fall flowers, candles, little turkey figures arranged attractively on the table.  Now I am not suggesting that I did all of that by myself...I did have some help from my family...and a lot of help cleaning up from our guests...and others brought food to share as well. But the burden of cleaning and preparing and having things just right in time for our guests to arrive did take a lot of planning and work.  On my feet, back stretching, shoulder/neck aching work.

And so tonight I didn't just take my usual shower and go to bed.  The very ordinary common bathtub beneath my feet began to look extremely inviting as I stood there letting the warm water pour over my tired, aching muscles and joints. I thought to myself, "why not just sit down in that tub and let it fill up around me and sit there and soak awhile?"  And so I did.  I plugged the drain, poured some "Bath and Body Works" Lavender and Chamomile foaming body wash into the tub, and anxiously awaited the tub to fill up deep enough to cover the parts of my body that were hurting. Well, actually not quite THAT deep...remember, this is just a common, ordinary bathtub...not one of those fancy soaker tubs with jacuzzi jets and contours that hug your back and neck in just the right places.  And it wasn't all that easy to ease myself down into that common ordinary tub, but once I got down...I stayed until the water turned cold.  And then I had to figure out how to get myself back up and out of that common ordinary tub all by myself. Because who wants to admit that she can't get herself back up out of the bathtub?  Not me...and have my hubby come in and laugh at me shivering and stuck inside the tub while the last of my soothing, warm soapy water swirls down the drain? No sirree! This old gal slipped and slid and flipped herself around on her hands and knees and held on to the sides of the tub and tried not to pull the shower curtain down on top of herself and somehow managed to pull herself up and rinsed off and got out of the tub without nary a slip or fall!

And I thought to myself, "I just know all my friends out there in blog-land would LOVE to hear about this!"  So here I am, although the bath has left me sufficiently relaxed and drowsy and my eyes are going shut as I write, so this may not even make sense to you. But I want you to know that taking a bath once in every ten years is a worthwhile experience...even for old folks like us.  The only thing that would have made it better would have been a few candles burning, a bigger, deeper tub, some jacuzzi jets, and a toasty warm- fresh- out- of- the- dryer bath towel to wrap around myself ...aaaahhhhh.."Calgon, take me away!"

All in all, I must say, this was a great way to end an already picture perfect Thanksgiving two days of celebration...Did I mention that?  Yes, two turkey dinners in two days with two different set of relatives and friends...Yes, I do have a lot of somethings to be thankful for...and a bath to boot!


This was a little different than my usual Thanksgiving messages...but full of thanks-giving for sure. I am praising God tonight for ALL His mighty blessings...way beyond the bathtub. Too many to number.

Well, the lavender and chamomile has done its work...I am sufficiently sleepy and more than ready for bed. Good night my friends... Now, go take a bath!   And remember to "Give Thanks"always!!!


Thursday, November 27, 2014

Our Thanksgiving Gift


Just as our family was gathering together to enjoy a Thanksgiving feast, this lovely, regal creature, an American Bald Eagle, flew into a nearby treetop to bless us with his presence. Actually there were two of them, but this one stayed long enough for me to get a few pictures.





It is not very often that we have an opportunity to witness such a magnificent bird up close.  I was awestruck by his beauty and majestic bearing. I was also somewhat comforted by his presence. There was something about this unusual encounter that brought tears to my eyes and a smile to my face.

All week long I have been trying NOT to think about the fact that this week marks the sixth month since our son Matthew passed away.(Click HERE for more about that).  It isn't so much the fact that this is Thanksgiving, the first significant holiday since he left us for heaven...primarily because we really have not celebrated Thanksgiving with Matthew and his family very often due to the fact that they lived so far away from us and we had more family here near us that we usually spent this day with.  It's actually just the reality that he has been gone for six months...and there are times that I find myself thinking that it still can't be true.  There are moments when I still feel like I should be able to pick up the phone and call him and hear his voice...and sometimes the longing to do that gets to me.

So anyway, today I was trying not to think about the fact that our family pictures will never be complete again...and our Thanksgiving table will never be completely full...and there will always be someone very dear missing from our family gatherings no matter how many people are there...or how many months may go by...our son's sweet presence will never be physically with us again.

Then this eagle flew in and just sat there for a spell.  That was pretty significant if you ask me. Sometimes God knows how to send us little love messages from heaven.  He knows how to reach us and give the comfort we need at a tender moment.

I like that He chose an eagle to show us His love today.

"But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint."
Isaiah 40:31  

Have you ever sung this song?

"On Eagle's Wings"
by Michael Joncas

"You who dwell in the shelter of the Lord
Who abide in His shadow for life
Say to the Lord
"My refuge, my rock in whom I trust!"

And He will raise you up on eagles' wings
Bear you on the breath of dawn
Make you to shine like the sun
And hold you in the palm of His hand.

The snare of the fowler will never capture you
And famine will bring you no fear
Under His wings your refuge
His faithfulness your shield.

And He will raise you up on eagles' wings
Bear you on the breath of dawn
Make you to shine like the sun
And hold you in the palm of His hand.

You need not fear the terror of the night
Nor the arrow that flies by day
Though thousands fall about you
Near you it shall not come.

And He will raise you up on eagles' wings
Bear you on the breath of dawn
Make you to shine like the sun
And hold you in the palm of His hand.

For to His angels He's given a command
To guard you in all of your ways
Upon their hands they will bear you up
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.

And He will raise you up on eagles' wings
Bear you on the breath of dawn
Make you to shine like the sun
And hold you in the palm of His hand..."


This was an unexpected blessing for our Thanksgiving day. God knows exactly what we need.

How about you? What unexpected blessings have you experienced this Thanksgiving...or this past week? Has God gone out of His way to show you He is always thinking about you, and that He loves you so much that He would go to extra lengths to show you just how much?  Think about it. I'll bet you could come up with something if you try.

"And God will raise you up on eagle's wings, Bear you on the breath of dawn, Make you to shine as the sun, and hold you in the palm of His hand."

Friday, November 21, 2014

Do You Long for Peace?

Sometimes we just get so tired of the rat race of this life...and all the distractions of things, wars, strife, anger, circumstances beyond our control...and we find ourselves longing for something we can't put our finger on...a release from the stress, fear, anxieties, and frustrations of not being able to cope with the way we see things going in the world...how the younger generation seems to not have any clue as to why we members of the baby-boomer generation cannot accept the changes we see taking place in our nation, government, so-called church hierarchies, and the world in general.

I've had a week like that. I'm beginning to wonder if I am getting too old for this world.  Not so much in age, but in my mind and spirit. When I try to express my concerns about the things that I see happening that have a much deeper and farther reaching effect than what the younger generation seems to recognize I discover that I am wasting my breath.

Anyway, rather than continue this litany of frustration...I want to share with you the way the Lord helped me this morning.

First of all...think how Jesus must have felt as He entered Jerusalem...

"And as He went, many spread their clothes on the road.
Then, as he was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives,
the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God
with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen, saying:

'Blessed is the King
who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!'

And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd,
'Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.'

But He answered and said to them,
"I tell you that if these should keep silent,
the stones would immediately cry out."

Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying:
"If you had known, even you, especially in this your day,
the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.
For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an 
embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side,
and level you, and your children within you, to the ground;
and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, 
because you did not know the time of your visitation."

Luke 19:36-44

As I was expressing my frustrations to my husband this morning during our time of Bible reading and devotions he suggested that I just let go of the battle I was trying to fight alone. The individuals that I was trying so hard to reach weren't listening...nor did they comprehend my concerns or fears. The generational gap was too great. I was crying out much like Jesus did as He entered Jerusalem the week of His passion...the ones He was ready to die for had no comprehension and were totally missing the purpose of His fervor.  My wise husband suggested that I just pray for them, pray for our nation, pray for our world, pray for peace, and leave the results to God.  And then we both started humming and singing this chorus to an old hymn in harmony....

"Peace, peace, wonderful peace, 
Coming down from the Father above,
Sweep over my spirit forever, I pray,
In fathomless billows of love!

(The Hymn is "Wonderful Peace" by W.D. Cornell)

As we sang this precious little chorus together the tears rolled down my cheeks...we were reading excerpts from Psalm 119, and the verses that touched my heart were these:

"The entrance of Your words gives light;
It gives understanding to the simple.
I opened my mouth and panted,
for I longed for Your commandments.
Look upon me and be merciful to me,
As Your custom is toward those who love Your name.
Direct my steps by Your Word,
and let no iniquity have dominion over me.
Redeem me from the oppression of man,
That I may keep your precepts.
Make Your face shine upon Your servant,
and teach me Your statutes.
Rivers of water run down from my eyes,
Because men do not keep Your law."
Psalm 119:130-136

What was it that was helping me?  "The entrance of Your word gives light..."

"Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven...
Your faithfulness endures to all generations...
You established the earth, and it abides..."
(Psalm 119:89-90)

I began to realize that I was not responsible for trying to change the hearts and minds of the younger generation. I have to leave that to God. His Word is settled in heaven....Forever!  His faithfulness endures to ALL generations...He established the earth...and it still abides.  And it will always abide. His Word will always abide...forever!  


"Peace, peace, wonderful peace, 
Coming down from the Father above,
Sweep over my spirit forever, I pray,
In fathomless billows of love!

I don't have to worry or fear.  God is in control! Forever!  That gives me great peace. "Forever, O Lord, Your word is SETTLED in heaven!"  Hallelujah!

Oh...by the way, have you ever seen this particular video or heard this song?"Forever" by Kari Jobe
I encourage you to listen and watch all the way through to the end of this song/video. If this song doesn't move your spirit, you may want to pinch yourself to see if you are still alive.