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 29, 2015

Things that Make Me Smile

Last evening I was overcome by things that make me smile.  I was simply standing in my kitchen, and looked around and suddenly felt this overwhelming urge to smile and say "Thank You" to the Lord for all the good things He has done.

As I reflected back on the day and the week that has passed, joy filled my heart.  This little "Cloudless Sulphur Butterfly" caught my attention earlier in the day...actually there were many of them twirling around, sampling the nectar of any flower they could find...and danced their way merrily throughout the yard.  I tried to capture more pictures, but they would not be still long enough..so this one happy little lady will have to do.  Actually...there is more to this little butterfly than meets the eye. I was reminded early in the morning that this particular day was the birthday of a dear friend who had passed on to heaven almost two years ago...just before my own son also entered heaven's gates.  So I envisioned these butterflies as little messengers from heaven as they danced to and fro, letting me know that all is well...and that I need not be sad for them...


Thanksgiving and Christmas has come and gone, and it was a joyous time of blessing.

Our friends and families came together and we celebrated the fact that we could be together...and that we are healthy, strong, and doing well, all things considered.  God has been very gracious to us.


Our home Bible Fellowship ushered in the Advent season with the lighting of the Advent Wreath each week as we gathered to worship and prepare our hearts for the coming of the Messiah...


and we had sweet fellowship around the table as well...
New friends and old...




During the past month we ate a lot of wonderful food... (and I'm feeling the effects of that now...)

 We spent time with my side of the family...













With my oldest brother and my sister...



And actually, not long before we had Thanksgiving with my next to the oldest brother and family as well...another blessing!
and also my husband's side of the family...


My cousin and wife visited all the way from Iowa...

 Much laughter and fun with brothers and sisters and cousins and friends and sons and nieces, nephews and families...


And then on Christmas Day with my husband's side of the family...again with friends, family, 





crazy brother in law, silly kids...





Happy times...joyous times...





My 92+ year old mother in law who could still be with us and enjoy this time with family...



















We remembered loved ones gone on before us:

This picture of our son Matthew is on my refrigerator, and it always makes me smile 
as I remember him this way


Matthew's preschool stocking  on our tree, with a little boy angel ornament in memory of him...

And we talked to loved ones far away who couldn't be with us on Christmas
Our grandson Noah and his mother Nicole, in Maine on Christmas Day


Others things that make me smile:

Our Nativity...and the Baby Jesus...



The Christmas Tree
Our Front Porch and the lovely wreath sent to us from our kids in Maine...
"For Unto Us a Child is Born" sign created by my son

Our little "Baby Elva" doll, all decked out for Christmas.... a gift several years ago from a special friend...she always makes me smile....

Last year's Poinsettia planted and blooming...


Christmas Cactus blooming...






Early Camellia blossoms...

My hubby on Christmas morning as he was sharing with me just before we started opening our gifts how thankful he was for all the beautiful things God had done 


Our fun loving wonderful sons on Christmas morning...always make me smile...


Surprises that made me have to close my eyes!




Yes, these are just a few of the things that make me smile.  As we draw to the close of another year...I am counting my blessings....oh, did I mention that I RETIRED this past fall?


And now I am looking forward to all that the Lord has in store for us in the New Year.  I am actually getting excited about the possibilities...looking forward to some fun activities with friends and family...hikes with my hubby...maybe even a trip out of state or two...who knows?  God knows...

Jeremiah 29:11(NIV)

   11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.


This little angel, a creation by one of my sons, opens her arms wide to share with us
God's message of:

PEACE

HOPE


AND LOVE

May your New Year be filled with blessings and joy and many things that make YOU smile!
HAPPY NEW YEAR!




Thursday, December 24, 2015

An Advent Message: "A Baby Does Change Everything" Updated

A Baby Changes Everything updated for 2015...nothing to change about this message.  That precious Baby in the Manger truly did change EVERYTHING for this old world, and for each of us, if we will pay attention to the message He brings...and claim it for our own.

Merry Christmas dear friends!





Do you remember what it felt like when you first learned you were going to have a baby?  Depending upon your circumstances, it was either great joy and elation, or it was possibly great fear and concern. If you were unmarried, not only fear, but shame, anxiety over how you would be able to take care of the child, what would your parents say...what would your boyfriend say? Would he stand by you, or run away? Would he demand you have an abortion, or force you to give the baby away? Would he love you enough to marry you and give the child a home?

Even if you were married, there were a lot of questions and concerns. Will the child be healthy? Would your husband be a good father? Will you be a good mother? Will you be able to properly provide for your child? Will it be a boy, or a girl? What shall you name him or her?

Regardless of your situation and how long you've waited for a child or whether or not you were prepared for this event at all...one thing is for certain:  "A Baby Does Change Everything!"

Now think about Mary, the mother of Jesus...single, yet betrothed to a man named Joseph. Young, pure, a virgin, and faithful to her fiance' Joseph.  Can you imagine what it must have been like for her? First of all, there was the Angel Gabriel...making such a strange announcement...and the fear and wonder over how that could even be possible.  (Luke 1;26-38).  "A baby? Me?  But I haven't even known a man that way!"  But the Angel told her "For with God nothing will be impossible..."

And then there was Joseph, a carpenter...hard working, honest, a good and noble man. And his beautiful young fiance' is pregnant...and he knows it can't be his child.  And another Angel...this time in a dream...but a very real dream  (see Matthew 1:18-25) comes to Joseph and tells him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife...because the Child she is carrying is conceived by the Holy Spirit...and His name will be called Jesus..."for He will save His people from their sins."  Can you imagine how Joseph must have felt?  Talk about shock and awe!  But what an amazing young man he was!  He did just as the angel told him, and not only took Mary to be his wife, but he did not "know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son."    He did not claim his rights as a husband until the Child was born.  And he called His name Jesus.

Yes, a baby certainly does change everything!    In this case, this Baby changed the world!  This Baby changed my life from being lost and without hope to being found and full of hope and assured of a heavenly home forever. How?  Because this Baby didn't just come to live and be a good man, a carpenter's son...but this Baby came to die.  He came to die so that we might have everlasting life. This Baby was not just any baby.  This Baby was the very Word of God:

"In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.
In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.
And the light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness did not comprehend it."
John 1:1-5

"And the Word became flesh
and dwelt among us,
and we beheld His glory,
the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,
full of grace and truth."
John 1:14



Yes, a baby does change everything!  Especially this Baby,  
who came to save His people from their sins.


I woke up this morning singing a song...and then when I got into my car to go to work, that very song was already playing on the radio..."A Baby Changes Everything", by Faith Hill.  So I knew I was supposed to tell you about it...click on the title to enjoy this beautiful message in song.  I hope you know this "Baby"...and that He has already changed everything for you.  If not, I pray that before this Advent season is over, you will come to know and love Him...like He already knows and loves you...yes, you!  Why not let Him change everything for you? That would be the very best Christmas present ever!






Thursday, December 17, 2015

"The Voice said, 'Cry out!' And he said, 'What shall I cry?" Updated



This was originally posted on 12/8/2011.  I no longer work at the church where this took place, since I retired this year, and I believe the group "BarlowGirl" no longer exists, but the message of this post and the songs that were sung are still so relevant today.  Be sure to click on the links for the songs to get the full message of this post. I still think of those girls who were at the concert...and I wonder where they are today.  They would be four years older, so possibly out on their own. Lord, I pray for these young women tonight. You know where they are. I pray that You are still reaching down to them...and that perhaps they have reached up to You and have found "The Light Has Come"...May they place their hands in Yours and know that true love that only You can give.  In Jesus Name, Amen.

Original Post from 2011:

Isaiah 40:6 says, "The voice said, 'Cry out!' and he (I) said, 'What shall I cry?'"

Isaiah 40:3 says, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the LORD; Make straight in the desert a highway for our God." 

Last night I attended a BarlowGirl concert at the church where I currently am employed.  Actually, I was there as a volunteer, working at the merchandise table for the BarlowGirls.  I was enjoying the concert from a little bit of a distance, watching through the sanctuary doors. The music was inspiring...the BarlowGirls are a unique blend of beauty and superb talent, with a seriously powerful message for today's generation.  However, there was something equally interesting happening in the lobby area where I was tending the "merch", as our youth pastor teasingly called it. 

One of the charitable organizations that our church supports is a ministry to teen girls at risk.  As a part of the outreach for this concert, girls from this group were invited to attend the concert at no charge.  Several of these young ladies did attend, but from their appearance and actions it was apparent to me that they were really not too interested in the concert. They kept coming out into the lobby and going from door to door and up into the balcony, supposedly looking for their "friends".  A couple of the girls came to my table, admiring the many articles for sale.  At first I was not aware of who these girls were, or where they had come from.  But I couldn't help but notice by their shabby attire and obvious piercings and numerous cuttings on their bare arms that they were troubled youth. One particular girl hung around beside me for a few minutes making small talk and saying how much she liked the concert (which she had not sat down to watch for more than five minutes), and that she liked the music, but she'd never heard of them before, and had never been to our church before. She also told me that she would like to buy something but she had given all her money to a homeless person out on the street before she came in because they needed it more than her.  Somehow I didn't quite believe her...it seemed to me that she was embarassed that she really didn't have any money and it sounded good to say that she had done something so noble with her money.  She told me that her counselor had invited her to come to the concert, and she was glad that she did.  Then her "friends" came and grabbed her and they decided to leave out the front door of the church, and I never saw them come back in.   

As I continued to listen to the music, I could hear the lyrics to so many songs that I wished these girls could have heard.  It grieved me that the very ones who needed this hope and love so much were the ones who just refused to listen.  I felt burdened and sad that I was not able to point them in the right direction. I comforted myself with the fact that I had at least been kind and listened, and I had encouraged them to go back in and find a seat to listen to the music several times...but they just could not surrender to that calling yet.    Maybe another day...I pray...they will get another chance to draw near to God and hear Him beckoning to them.   Right now they are the ones who are crying out with their very actions that they "need God to love them"...but they don't realize that is what is happening.  God is indeed calling...seeds are being planted in their hearts (I pray)...                                                         "I Need You to Love Me"  (BarlowGirl) (click on link for song)

One of the T-Shirts being sold at the "merch" table had the following saying written on it: "Be a Voice, Not an Echo"...  I like that thought..."Be a Voice"...What shall I cry out?  Isaiah 40:6-8 says,
"All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, because the breath of the Lord blows upon it; Surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of the our God stands forever."

Isaiah goes on to say in verse 11: 
"He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young."

Perhaps God will indeed gather these "lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom."  That is my prayer for the girls with the shabby attire, the obvious piercings and the numerous cuttings on their bare arms tonight. God knows who they are and where they are right now...and I believe because they have been brought near His light...His light will continue to shine on them and lead them safely home. 
"Hallelujah-Light Has Come"  (BarlowGirl)  (click on link for song)

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Opening Another Advent Window (Updated)

This is a rerun of a post from a couple of years ago.  I must say that I still love to read from the devotional book "Jesus Calling" every morning, along with its companion "Jesus Today", also by Sarah Young.  I received that book from my sister as a Christmas gift that same year.  It is amazing to me to see how these little books have an appropriate message just for me every day...and then they lead me to passages in the Bible that further show me God's message for the day. This is a marvelous way to to start each day all year long, not just during the Advent season!



The original post written on 12/2/13 begins here:

If you recall reading about my "Jesus Calling Experience"  a couple of weeks ago, you will recall that I had finally responded to the "call" of Jesus to pick up the little devotional book, "Jesus Calling",  written by Sarah Young that I found in my church library...and then a dear friend said that she wanted me to have my own copy as a gift.

Well, today was the day.


Have you ever felt overwhelmed with humility upon receiving a gift from someone when you felt like you should be the one giving a gift instead?
That's how I felt.

This is my Open Advent Window for today.
As we prepare for the coming of the Christ Child, the Babe in the Manger,
remember that He is the Divine Gift to us, we who are so unworthy. 
But He came down to earth for us,
to rescue us from our sins,
and to save us for all eternity
to live with Him forever.

What does He ask from us?
Nothing really...except that we love Him
with all our hearts.

Here's a little song I remember hearing and singing at Christmas time:

In the Bleak Midwinter (click on title for link to song by Gloucester Cathedral Choir)

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Christina Rossetti (written 1872, published posthumously in 1904)
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"In the bleak mid-winter

Frosty wind made moan,

Earth stood hard as iron,

Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty,
Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air,
But only His mother
In her maiden bliss,
Worshiped the Beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him,
Give my heart."

Thank you to my friend today for the wonderful gift of "Jesus Calling".  This gift is helping me to prepare my heart for Christmas.
How about you?
Is your heart ready for Christmas?
Could Jesus be "calling" you?


Friday, December 11, 2015

Open the Advent Window to Let Others See Jesus in You!

My sister, our cousin, and myself
Yesterday my sister, my hubby and I had the pleasure of visiting with a dear cousin and his wife from afar...meaning we live many states apart and rarely have the opportunity to get together. So this was truly special. After a delightful lunch we went out onto the porch of the restaurant to chat further and to take some family pictures.  We were having such a wonderful time together, laughing and snapping pictures of each other and carrying on like what we were...a group of people happy to be together.

We realized that we didn't have anyone to take a picture of our entire group, so we asked  the next people who came out of the door of the restaurant if anyone would mind snapping a picture for us. A lady volunteered, and so we posed and she very kindly took our picture.

Here we all are, smiling and feeling thankful for a stranger's kindness.

We thanked her as she started to leave, and she turned and said that they were on their way to another state for the funeral of her nephew, who had been tragically killed in an auto accident that week.  I could see that she was about to cry.  Suddenly I felt guilty for our giddiness in the face of her sorrow, but of course, we did not know.  The Holy Spirit prompted me to embrace her, and to tell her that we would pray for her. As I wrapped my arms around her, I could feel her holding on to me with such emotion...she truly needed that hug...and she thanked me for the promise of the prayers. It was as if there was a transference of energy between us in that moment of time...a Holy Transfer...and as we separated I was almost overcome with emotion myself.  I realized that I needed that hug as well...it was as if I could feel her pain and sorrow...and then it dawned on me.  It wasn't all that long ago that my own precious son left this earth for heaven and there have been many occasions that I truly needed a hug, and others were there for me.

After we all parted and went our separate ways, I couldn't get this dear one off of my mind. I wondered if she thought I was crazy for hugging a complete stranger.  But I realized that it wasn't really me...it was JESUS reaching out to her through me.  It was His Holy Spirit prompting me to action.  It was a divine sense of empathy, actually feeling her pain, that caused me to spring into action.

This Jesus, the "babe in the manger" whose birth we celebrate each Christmas, grew up to sacrifice His life for us...and He is acquainted with our sorrows and grief.  Isaiah the prophet told us long before Jesus' birth that He would do this for us:

Isaiah 53:2-4

"For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant,
and as a root out of dry ground.
He has no form or comeliness;
And when we see Him,
There is no beauty that we should desire Him.
He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
Surely He has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows..."

What a comfort to know that our Savior knows our hearts and carries our sorrow!  This experience with this  perfect stranger yesterday ministered to my heart as well as I trust it ministered to her. And what can I learn from this experience?

  • Don't be afraid to open your heart to the sorrow of others
  • Listen to the prompting of God's Holy Spirit when He speaks to your heart
  • Obey that prompting...don't hold back because of fear that you will be misunderstood
  • Let others see the Jesus living in you! That is what Christmas is all about....Jesus came to earth to draw us to Himself...and to save us...and to live through us so that others will be saved and find rest for their souls.
So, today's Advent message is to Open the window of your heart...and let others see Jesus in you!
That leads to pure JOY!  Jesus...Others...You... J-O-Y!!!


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

"She Can Laugh at the Days to Come"

"She can laugh at the days to come."
Proverbs 31:25, NIV

Quite a few years ago I attempted to write a devotional booklet for women based upon the "Proverbs 31 Woman".  You know the one...that marvelous example of womanhood that many of us would love to emulate, but all too often we sadly fall short and find ourselves thinking we can never measure up to her standards.  If you are interested in seeing some of what I did write, I'll leave a few links at the end of this post. You will quickly see what I mean about not measuring up...

Anyway, before writing this post I searched back through the things I had written from Proverbs 31, and discovered that I had written something for every verse in that chapter except for this particular verse 25.  I'm not sure why I skipped over this one. The other verses were certainly more difficult in some ways...

But let's look at the complete verse...in the New International Version it says:

"She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come."

The version of the Bible that I normally read is the New King James version, and it reads this way:

"Strength and honor are her clothing;
She shall rejoice in time to come."

Either way you read it, this Proverbs 31 woman has the courage (strength) and dignity to not worry about the days to come; she can actually LAUGH and REJOICE perhaps even in the face of adversity and the unknown.  Why? Because this woman has confidence in God...and she knows that no matter what, God is with her. She need not fear the future, because she knows WHO holds her future.

As most of you are aware by now, I just recently retired.  To be quite honest, it was a risky move, financially speaking.  There are many "unknowns" in my future...but there is One constant "KNOWN"...and that is the fact that God holds my future, and therefore I can enter into this season of life with a smile on my face and joy in my heart. Yes, I can "laugh at the days to come"...and with every new day of this retirement I am finding more and more ways to rejoice.  Thank you, Jesus!!

My prayer today is that other "Proverbs 31" women out there will learn how to laugh at the days to come with the confidence that God is already there...no matter what.

Now, if you want to go back and read a few of my early escapades attempting to be a "Proverbs 31 Woman"... and some other examples of this remarkable woman...check these out:


Thank you, Lord, for this powerful example of a Godly woman. Help me, Lord, 
to rejoice in all the days to come.
Amen.