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!

Friday, December 30, 2016

"Thus Far The Lord Has Helped Us" ~ Last Friday Foto Friends for 2016!

"Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between 
Mizpah and Shen, 
and called its name Ebenezer, saying, 
'Thus far the Lord has helped us.'"  
I Samuel 7:12

As we come to the end of another year, can we look back and say with Samuel, "Thus far the Lord has helped us?"  I don't know what you've been through during the past year...perhaps there has been  sickness, sorrow, disappointment...or maybe you've actually been blessed with good news...happy occasions and times of great joy.  Most likely, if we would be honest with ourselves, we've probably had some of each...the good times, and the bad times.  But can we see the hand of the Lord in the midst of it all?  Have you felt His Presence beside you, undergirding you, giving you strength for the tasks ahead?

The picture below was taken one morning this week as my hubby and I took our early morning walk...in the fog on this particular day.

As I looked to the east I could see the sun trying to break through the fog...but as I looked ahead it appeared that we were walking deeper into the mist...into the unknown...

And it occurred to me that this is where we are on these last days of 2016...walking into the unknown days ahead of 2017.  The current events of the world are enough to cause us to pause and wonder just what truly may lie ahead.  Kind of a "Closed Doors-Open Window" event, huh? 

The Old King James version of I Samuel 7:12 uses the word "hitherto" in place of "thus far".  When we say "hitherto", we most likely think of the past experiences only.  But "hitherto", or "thus far" is not the end.  It merely means that we've come this far...but we are still moving forward.  

In the little daily devotional book, Streams In The Desert, by Mrs. Chas. E. Cowman, it is stated in the reading for December 31st the following:

"For when a man gets up to a certain mark, and writes "hitherto," he is not yet at the end; there are still distances to be traversed.  More trials, more joys; more temptations, more triumphs; more prayers, more answers; more toils, more strength; more fights, more victories; and then come sickness, old age, disease, death.
Is it over now? No! There is more yet-awakening in Jesus' likeness, thrones, harps, songs, psalms, white raiment, the face of Jesus, the society of saints, the glory of God, the fullness of eternity, the infinity of bliss.  Oh, be of good courage, believer, and with grateful confidence raise thy "Ebenezer," for,
      "He who hath helped thee hitherto will help thee all thy journey through."
According to this same little devotional, it is stated that
"The Alpine shepherds have a beautiful custom of ending the day by singing to one another an evening farewell.  The air is so crystalline that the song will carry long distances.  As the dusk begins to fall, they gather their flocks and begin to lead them down the mountain paths, singing,
 "Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.  Let us praise His name!"
"And at last with a sweet courtesy, they sing to one another the friendly farewell: 'Goodnight! Goodnight!'  The words are taken up by the echoes, and from side to side the song goes reverberating sweetly and softly until the music dies away in the distance." 
Beautiful Sunset on Christmas Day

As we approach the final hours of 2016, can we sing and echo across the miles to one another:

"Hitherto hath the Lord helped us. 
Let us praise His name!" 
"Goodnight! Goodnight!"

And may our song reverberate around the world and into the New Year...encouraging us as we face the unknown future ahead of us...and give us 

Hope ornament from my Christmas tree

Let us now mark this moment in time with our "Ebenezer", a stone of remembrance commemorating that "Thus far the Lord has helped us", and look forward with great hope...that as surely as God was with us in the past, He will go forward with us into our future.
Happy New Year!! 

Linking up today with Deb and our friends for Friday Foto Friends.  Click HERE to visit with others to see what special fotos  and messages they may be sharing today. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

New Creatures in Christ - recycled

This post is being recycled from its original posting on 12/30/2010...and the message is still the same today...some excellent points to ponder as we prepare for the closing of one year and the beginning of the new.
This Nativity Ornament has been a part of my parent's Christmas tree ever since I can remember.
II Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new."

As I reflect back on this past year and all of its important events in my life, I can't help but think that through all of its trials and tribulations, old frustrations and new beginnings , closed doors and open windows, losses and gains...that God has been busily re-creating, molding and shaping and refining me into the "new creation" He desires me to become.  Every aggravation, new challenge, defeat, and victory are all a part of that bigger picture...the grand scheme...the masterpiece that God is creating in my life.

Looking ahead into the New Year I can't help but wonder what joys and travails are awaiting my discovery...but I can only move forward with faith, trusting in the same God Who brought me through this past year...the God Who never changes...He is the same, Yesterday-Today-and Forever...

In the words of an old A.B. Simpson hymn:
"Oh, how sweet the glorious message simple faith may claim; Yesterday, today, forever, Jesus is the same. Still He loves to save the sinful, heal the sick and lame, cheer the mourner, still the tempest-Glory to His name!"
"Yesterday, today, forever, Jesus is the same; All may change, but Jesus never! Glory to His Name!"
"For I am the Lord, I do not change..." Malachi 3:6

We can trust fully in this God, Jesus Christ, that little baby Who was born in a manger...Who came to save us and set us free from all our sins and shame...He is still working in our lives today just as He did when He walked upon this earth... and He is preparing us for His soon return...of that I am certain. 
Dear friend, are you ready to meet Jesus face to face?  Do you know this Saviour Who is working behind the scenes of your life, re-creating you into the beautiful image of Himself?  Perhaps this New Year will be full of life-changing events in all of our lives.  My prayer is that we will face each new challenge full of faith and trust in our life-changing God.  May it be a year of truly becoming a "New Creation" in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Angels From The Realms of Glory...

This afternoon I was sitting on my back porch, relaxing and having a cup of post-Christmas tea...and as I looked up into the skies, I noticed the clouds were so wispy and graceful...having the appearance of angels flying through the heavens.  My mind immediately went to the Christmas carol 
"Angels From the Realms of Glory"...
heralding the Messiah's Birth on this the day after Christmas:

"Angels from the realms of glory

wing your flight o'er all the earth;

Ye who sang creation's story,
Now proclaim Messiah's birth:

Come and worship, 
Come and worship,

Worship Christ, the newborn King!"


Christmas may be over...but I believe the angels are still singing His praises throughout all the heavens and over all the earth.
Let us not put away Christmas too rapidly...
Continue to proclaim Messiah's birth wherever you go...because, as the last verse of the song says:

"Saints, before the altar bending,
Watching long in hope and fear,
Suddenly the Lord, descending,
In His temple shall appear!
Come and worship,
Come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King!"

We need to keep watching and waiting and preparing our hearts...because now, more than ever, 
I believe we are nearer than ever before to seeing
"Suddenly the Lord descending..."
and "In His temple shall appear!"

Be ready, my friends...because He has told us:

"Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh." 
Matthew 24:44 KJV

"Wherefore, comfort one another with these words!" 
I Thessalonians 4:18 

Things to "Ponder"... Updated

Our son Matthew, on one of our last
walks in the woods together
UPDATE 2016: I wrote this original post right after Christmas in the year that our precious son Matthew passed away from cancer the previous May. (2014).  We've just gotten through another Christmas without him, and I must say it really doesn't get any easier.  The holidays will always bring back memories and thoughts of our loved ones who have gone on before us.  But what we do with those memories is what matters. I choose  try not to wallow in sorrow or grief...even though there are moments when I feel overwhelmed and can't help but let the tears flow.  I had one experience during my Christmas shopping excursions this year that left me almost ready to start crying and screaming in the middle of a store (well, okay, I did my crying and screaming in the car afterward). That was the last store we visited together with our son before he died...one of his favorite kind of stores to shop in...Gander Mountain...because he loved the outdoors so much and loved everything about the woods, fishing, hunting, camping, survival stuff...and I could just feel his presence with me as I shopped in that store...it was comforting and heart wrenching at the same time. I wanted to leave, and yet I felt compelled to visit every department that I knew he loved...just to see those things the way I know he would have loved them...fishing lures, knives, camping stuff, all of it...

Okay, I apologize for rambling, and I certainly don't want to put a damper on a very happy season...and a marvelous Christmas that we have just had with our loved ones here. It was all wonderful...but sometimes we have to allow ourselves to acknowledge the underlying thoughts and sadness that may be affecting our emotions in ways that we don't even realize.  Many are going through grief and loss and loneliness...and may have many things to "ponder"....so read on...and be blessed and thankful for the wonderful gifts we do have through Christ Jesus our Lord...and allow Him to comfort and bring healing to the tender spots in our hearts and minds.

ORIGINAL POST 12/28/2014:

One verse kept leaping out at me this past week as we read the Christmas story from Luke 2:1-20...

"But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart."

What kind of things do you think Mary, the mother of Jesus, was pondering in her heart? 

  • The Angelic announcement of the miraculous conception and birth of her baby, The Son of God.
  • The kindness, love and support of her betrothed husband, Joseph, in the face of tremendous stress and concern.
  • The unusual visit from the shepherds to the manger, and the excitement they shared over the angelic announcement of the birth of her baby. 
And then a few days later, when she and Joseph presented Jesus at the temple, Old Simeon came and prayed such an amazing blessing over the Baby... (Luke 2:29-32)

  • "Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace...
  • My eyes have seen Your salvation 
  • which You have prepared before the face of all peoples,
  • A Light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel..."

and it says in Luke 2:33 that "Joseph and His mother marveled at those things which were spoken of Him (Jesus)."  

How would YOU feel if someone came and prayed such a prayer and then made this pronouncement over YOUR child?

"Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother,
'Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many
in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against...(yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."
Luke 2:34-35

Rather startling news I would say.  Not the kind of "blessing" a new mother would want to hear.  
And yet, every day there are new mothers and fathers, old mothers and fathers, friends, loved ones, spouses, hearing difficult news about someone they love...
  • a dreaded diagnosis
  • a terrible accident
  • family problems
  • a wayward child or mate
  • loss of job, home, or loved one
Difficult things to ponder for anyone...and yet...because of the birth of this Child, The Son of God, we are not alone in our ponderings.  The protection and comfort of our Lord was promised to us throughout all of history, so that we need not fear.  Here is just one example of that promise:

"Be strong and of good courage, 
do not fear nor be afraid of them;
for the Lord your God,
He is the One who goes with you.
He will not leave you nor forsake you."
Deuteronomy 31:6

I can testify to you today, after a very difficult year and the loss of one of our precious sons, there were many days that I "pondered" many things in my heart. Even though our deepest prayers for our son's healing were not answered in the way we hoped they would be, I cannot question the promises and wisdom of God. I know that my son is now healed...and alive and well in heaven. So ultimately, our prayers were answered.  I cannot say that I understand everything, the why's and wherefore's and reasons...but I trust my Lord and Savior.  He sees the things that I cannot see. He holds our future in His hands...and because He is God, He will do all things well.

As we approach the New Year, I can do so with confidence, knowing that the God of the universe holds my life in His hands. I can say with the Psalmist:

"The Lord will perfect that which concerns me;
Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever..."

and then, because I am human, just like the Psalmist, I can add this little plea, and God will totally understand my heart and "ponderings"...

"Do not forsake the works of Your hands..." 
Psalm 138:8

What kinds of things are you pondering at the close of this year and the beginning of the new?  Are you ready to trust the God of the Universe...Jesus Christ...God Incarnate, Who came in the flesh as a little baby...and now lives forevermore on the right hand of the Throne of God, interceding for you and me...to "perfect that which concerns" you?  Now would be a good time to "ponder" that in your heart.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Friday Foto Friends - God's Little Blessings

Well, friends, today is Friday Foto Friends day...and I noticed already that most of my "Friday Foto Friends" are posting wonderful Christmas fotos, and rightly so, as this is the 23rd of December...two days before Christmas!  I am looking forward to seeing what others have shared today...and especially to continue to enjoy the celebration of Christ's Birth.  But my fotos will be a little different, because I just went outside and took an early morning walk, and wanted share with you the fotos that God provided!  I haven't been outside much this past week due to the busyness of shopping, wrapping, and just plain preparing for Christmas.  Then yesterday we picked up my mother in law for the weekend a day early, and so that took up the rest of my time.

So, yes, Christmas is very much on my heart and mind...almost to a fault...keeping me awake at night and anxious by day.  I don't think Jesus intended it to be that way, do you?

So, before I share my pictures from my morning walk with you let us just pause and focus on Christ, the reason for Christmas, the reason for joy, the reason for hope, the reason for LIFE!

There, I feel comforted and strengthened now...just breathing in Christ and His peace...and breathing out His praise.  Thank You, Jesus, for coming to earth, seeking me out, and saving my soul.  Blessed Jesus. Amen.

Now, here's what I saw this morning on my walk...

For those of you who may not recognize this creature, this is a Pileated Woodpecker, way up on the top of an old dead tree...searching for his morning breakfast and surveying the world around him...

Isn't he handsome?

Then, on my way back down the road, he had moved over to this other tree, and was way out on a little limb...gathering berries for his breakfast....

Seems like I wrote about "Going Out On a Limb" not too long ago, in one of my Advent devotionals. Now this is a great visual example of that!

This is one determined woodpecker!!

I was thanking the Lord for allowing me the privilege of witnessing His creation at work...praising Him for the beauty surrounding me...and the little gifts He bestows along our pathway.

This was a sweet gift to me today...I consider these little blessings gifts from God, because He IS the One Who created and provided it for me to enjoy.  So I wanted to share it with you, so you could enjoy this little blessing today as well.

May you each have a blessed and joyous Christmas with your loved ones and friends near. And, if perhaps your loved ones and friends can't be near, then take notice of the special blessings the Lord sends your way to brighten your day.  You may be surprised at what you will discover!

Merry Christmas everyone!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Greatest Gift of All - Updated again!

I just re-read this post that I had updated last year from the original post of 2014. Today is 12/21/2016...and I'm not much better off as far as the gift wrapping and shopping goes...been wrapping all day,
Yes, that is an ironing board, disguised as a gift-wrapping table
in my bedroom.  Once a year I pull it out of storage and put it
to a good use! The adjustable height makes it a good table to
do my wrapping!  I can iron out the wrinkles of the wrapping
paper and recycle the gift bags as I go...Ho! ho! ho!
and trying to be sure I don't need anything else while I still have a few days left before Christmas...I wish I could say that being retired for a whole year changed my habits regarding shopping, etc., but alas! Some habits are very hard to break. Next year is a new opportunity to try again...we'll see what happens.  Meanwhile, this message written originally in 2014 is still very poignant and meaningful today.  I hope you will take the time to read it and be blessed as I was in writing it.  Yes, I am blessed when I write, because the Holy Spirit seems to take over and minister to me as He directs my thoughts to write what He wants to share with you and me.  

This was my update LAST year, 12/23/2015:

So, this is where I was around this time last year...Last year (2014) WAS a difficult year, and Christmas was something that I wanted to avoid.  Be sure to read the links included in this post from last year.  Now today, one year later, I am doing much better.  Although here it is December 23rd (Christmas EVE EVE), and I just finished wrapping our gifts. Finished the shopping yesterday...and can you believe that I actually retired a month ago, so I really shouldn't be so far behind...but some habits are hard to break...procrastination..especially regarding Christmas...I am hoping to be much better by this time next year, since I am retired I have no good excuse!

Anyway, please read on to get the full impact of this message written one year ago.  The purpose and plan of Christmas has never changed.  Jesus is the Greatest Gift of All!

Original post from 12/21/2014:

This post is not what it appears on the surface...Please keep reading...

By now most of my friends and family know that we did not send out our annual Christmas letter...and only a very few cards to some who don't have email or do Facebook.  And many of you also know that I had a hard time getting myself into the proper spirit for Christmas shopping, etc.  (click on the blue words for a link to these posts).
But if you have been following along the past week or so, you also will know that God came through, and He met me in my deepest place of sorrow, and gave me the strength and courage to choose JOY!

I am happy to report that after two long, grueling days of shopping and gift wrapping...I am feeling much better prepared to face this week and truly enjoy Christmas!  Thank you all for your prayers and words of support and comfort. You have blessed me with your love and wisdom, and I thank God for you.

Today has been a wonderful day of Sabbath Rest.  We had our
morning worship service here in our home, and the lesson today was taken from Matthew 13:45-46, which says:

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls,
who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it."

Not exactly an Advent or Christmas message for this fourth Sunday of Advent, the Sunday before Christmas.  At least not at first glance.  But as the message unfolded, we were asked to imagine ourselves as a person who had been captured and held prisoner, chained to others and forced to walk many days in the hot desert, back in the days of the Roman Government, which was in power at the time of Jesus' birth. Instead of food we were given very little water and a detestable watered down broth of some kind, just barely enough to keep us alive. As our horrendous journey continued, we were not permitted to speak or cry, and if one did, he would be severely punished by many lashes of the whip.  

After many days we finally arrived in a city, where the slave auction was held. One by one we watched our traveling companions be auctioned off to the highest bidder, to be purchased as a slave to cruel taskmasters who would make the previous journey seem like a vacation.

Suddenly it was my turn on the auction block. I was forced to stand before the bidders, my clothes were tattered and torn and filthy. I had not eaten or bathed in many days. My hair was matted and dirty, my body was bleeding from the many lashes I had endured. Weak, weary, and fearful, I tried to stay conscious as the bargaining and bidding began for my life. As I struggled to stand, listening to the jeers and jests of those around me shouting all manner of ugly and disgusting insults regarding my appearance, there was One bidder who stepped forward, and with a commanding voice He spoke His bid loud and clear above all the others.  The amount that He shouted out caused all the other slave traders to stop and turn around and look.  They began to question among themselves, "Who can this be? Why would He want this worthless prisoner...the one who looks completely beaten and defeated...the one who probably couldn't do a day's work no matter how hard she's whipped?  And what is that He said? He's giving all that He has to purchase this piece of human refuse! Who IS He?
And who can this person be who has such value in His eyes?"

Finally I heard the auctioneer shout, "Sold to the Highest Bidder! Take her away!"  I was expecting to be yanked up and rudely jerked off of the block and dragged along by my chains.  But instead, my Purchaser was kneeling before me, tenderly washing my wounds, removing the chains from my ankles and wrists, holding a cup of water to my lips, lifting me up and carrying me away in His arms. As He lifted me high above my previous tormentors, He gently whispered my name and called me His beloved child. I thought I must have died and gone to heaven, but He said, "You are my precious child...my chosen one...my "Pearl of Great Price!" 

I did not quite understand then what He meant by that...but when the day came that I saw this One hanging on a cross, crucified and dying, I understood.  You see, He did give all that He had for me...He gave His life, so that I might live.  And before He died He told me all that I would need to know so that I could one day join Him.  He said,

"Let not your heart be troubled; 
you believe in God,
believe also in Me.
In My Father's house are many mansions,
if it were not so, I would have told you.
I go to prepare a place for you.
And if I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come again and receive you to Myself,
that where I am, there you may be also.
And where I go you know,
and the way you know...
I am the way, the truth, and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through Me."

John 14: 1-6 

You may be asking yourself, "What does this story have to do with Christmas?"  Well, my friend, it has EVERYTHING to do with Christmas!

Why did Jesus come to earth in the first place?

"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, 
but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."
Mark 10:45

And again:

This sign hangs in my living room...a very old heirloom from my husband's grandparents' home.  A powerful message there to remind us every single day that we were bought at a great price...the very life of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  He gave His life a ransom for us all...(see I Timothy 2:5-6)

This Christmas song tells it clearly: (click below for the song)

Bill & Gloria Gaither,  copyright 1963

"From God's heaven to a manger,
From great riches to the poor,
Came the Son of God, a little Child;

From the azure halls of heaven
To a lowly manger stall,
Jesus came, and here He gave His life for all.

From a loving heavenly Father
To a world that knew Him not,
Came a man of sorrows, 
Jesus Christ, the Lord;

In my wandering Jesus found me,
Touched my life with His great love,
And this Babe has grown to be my sovereign Lord.


Redeeming Love,
a love that knows no limit;
Redeeming love,
a love that never dies;

My soul shall sing 
throughout the endless ages
The adoration of this great love on high!"

My friend, I am that precious pearl...and so are YOU.  This same Jesus left the "azure halls of heaven...to a lowly manger stall...Jesus came, and here He gave His life for ALL!" ...and that includes YOU! YOU ARE ALSO THAT PRECIOUS PEARL!  JESUS CHRIST HAS PAID YOUR RANSOM WITH HIS LIFE.  Won't you accept this greatest gift of all this Christmas?  The gift of your redemption from sin and sorrow...from the slavery of this old world...freely given for you, so that you might live! Yes, that IS THE GREATEST GIFT OF ALL!

Merry Christmas from our house to yours!

Update:  These pictures are from our front porch this year, 2015

Merry Christmas from our house to yours, 2015

This is the Greatest Gift of All! 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Let's Go Caroling!

Today, 12/20/16, is the 24th day of Advent! I hope you will  enjoy going caroling with us in this delightful Christmas village of yesteryear!

Open the Window today and what do you see?  Ah! Yes! We are going caroling! There is nothing I can think of that evokes more pleasant Christmas memories than going caroling with our church friends and family ~ and don't you just love this vintage caroling book? I discovered a real treasure trove of these old familiar caroling booklets in the bench of the organ that came from my parent's home.  Some of them go back to my childhood and beyond...

Those of you who grew up with me will recognize the advertisement on the back of this caroling book...from the Bank of Tavares...which used to be the only bank in our little town back in the day...the kind of bank where everyone knew you by name...and the tellers and bankers went to church with you and their kids were your friends and school-mates.   Ah! yes...such memories!

Sing along with me as we ride along in our "one-horse open sleigh!"

I hope you are enjoying this caroling experience as much as I am! It's a shame that more people don't actually go out caroling anymore, from door to door, house to house...and get invited in by the grateful people to have a cup of hot cocoa and some Christmas cookies, or some Christmas wassail and fruitcake...as our little group warms up by the fire while visiting with the people and having such a merry time together...

And then it seems that we always close our little concert with:

"Silent Night, Holy Night, 
All is calm, all is bright,
'Round yon Virgin Mother and Child,
Holy infant so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace..." 

followed by a joyful chorus of:

as we gaily dance out the door and onto our next place to start all over again!

What a wonderful way to continue to prepare our hearts for the Advent of the KING!

"Rejoice! Rejoice!  
shall come to thee,
O Israel!"

"There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse,
And a Branch shall grow out of his roots.

The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon HIM,
The Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The Spirit of counsel and might,
The Spirit of knowledge and of 
the fear of the LORD.

His delight is in the fear of the LORD,
and He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes,
Nor decide by the hearing of His ears;

But with RIGHTEOUSNESS He shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
He shall strike the earth with
the rod of His mouth,
and with the breath of His lips 
He shall slay the wicked.

Righteousness shall be the 
belt of His loins,
belt of His waist."
Isaiah 11:1-5

"And in that day there shall be
a Root of Jesse,
Who shall stand as a banner to the people;
For the Gentiles shall seek Him,
And His resting place shall be 
Isaiah 11:10

I hope this little caroling adventure has brightened your day!  Perhaps it will inspire you to actually go out and do some caroling for real!  I am sure there are people around you or in the local nursing homes, hospitals or retirement homes who would love to hear some Christmas carols.  So gather up some of your friends and go out and cheer someone up today!

Merry Christmas!