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!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

On the 4th Day of Advent My True Love Gave to Me...

On the 4th Day of Advent my true love gave to me, 
a Scrub Jay in a pine tree!

For those of you who do not know what a Scrub Jay is...here is more information:
http://fl.audubon.org/birds/florida-scrub-jay    But to sum it up...This elusive bird lives only in the scrubby woodsy areas of Florida.  The Ocala National Forest, where I live, is an excellent habitat for the Scrub Jay, as the forest is also known as "The Big Scrub".

So, today, on this fourth day of Advent, my true love (hubby) took me to walk where we are searching for our (what I am calling) Charlie Brown Florida Cracker Christmas Tree.  So named because the Christmas trees grown in Florida, at least in this part of the state, are not your perfectly shaped spruce, fir, or scotch pine type trees that you can get in most other parts of the country.  The natural Christmas trees that you can go out and cut here in this part of Florida are known as sand pines...because they grow in the sand and have  shallow root systems.  They grow very tall, but before they do, there are some areas where, with a permit, (and payment of $7.00) we can go and cut our own Christmas tree!
So that is what we have decided to do this year, replacing our almost 20 year old artificial tree with a real live Florida Cracker Christmas tree. I call it a Florida Cracker tree because the "Florida Crackers" were the first pioneer settlers in Florida...mostly cattle and citrus farming people and just good old country folks.  They would go out in the woods and cut their own tree for Christmas, and they weren't the fancy trees of their city and northern friends...just ordinary little pine trees that served the purpose just as well.

Since we live out here in the forest, and these cutting areas are close to where we live, I figured it was a good time to try it out and see how it goes.   We got our permit yesterday, and now we are on the search for the perfect tree.  I'm not in a big hurry, because I don't want it to die before Christmas if we cut it too soon.

So we went back to the woods today to continue our search, and that is when we saw this beautiful Scrub Jay, flitting around from tree to tree and to the bushes, calling us and welcoming us to his part of the scrub woods...

 When we go back again I intend to take some unsalted peanuts and see if he will come to me, as they are known to be very friendly birds.  We shall see how that goes...

Isn't he beautiful?   I feel honored to have had this special visit with him today.  He really didn't seem to be very afraid of us, even though I am sure he doesn't have much opportunity to communicate with humans very often.  Perhaps he is lonely out there in the big old scrub woods!

Of course, there are plenty of other creatures out in those woods to keep him company, I have no doubt.  We saw plenty of tracks of coyotes, bobcats, rabbits, turkeys, and even bears...so you can be assured he isn't too lonely...but maybe he just likes to meet and greet strangers...and has the gift of hospitality!
Perhaps he would make a good innkeeper...and would welcome 
the Holy Family to his woods....

Thinking about which...since it is the Advent Season...the time of preparation for the advent of our Lord Jesus Christ....the time of celebration of His birth...and the time to look forward to His soon return...
I wonder how many of us would make a good innkeeper?

I saw this picture on the internet the other day

How about you?  Do YOU have room for Jesus in your heart and life today?
Would you welcome Him into your home if given the opportunity?

Christmas is more than just the perfect  (or NOT so perfect) Christmas tree, gifts, parties, and even more than church programs and musicals...Christmas is about accepting the greatest gift of all,

born in a manger,
died on a cross,
rose from the grave,
came back to tell us that because He lives 
we can face our troubles and sorrows 
and look forward to eternity in heaven with Him

I hope you have enjoyed the opening of this Advent Window for today!  We just never know what surprises we may find in our ADVENTure  preparing for Christmas!  Who'd ever thought a Scrub Jay would appear?  A special gift along the way...Thank you, Lord, for brightening our way!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Let the "ADVENTURE" Begin (again!)

I started this Advent calendar a couple of years ago, and am trying to keep it going and updated each year.  Advent actually started on Sunday, now three days ago, so technically this is a day late...but it really doesn't matter!  Let's just enjoy the days together, regardless of which day it really is, okay?  Okay!  Here we go!  

Advent Day Two  

I've decided to create my own personal Advent Calendar this year...one day at a time. Yesterday was the first day of Advent...and you can click HERE to open the first window!

This is rather experimental, and I'm not too sure exactly WHERE this "ADVENTure" will lead...well, let me take that back...I do know where this "ADVENTure" will lead...and my goal is to help you find your way as well. And we will follow our "Leader"...God's Holy Spirit...the True Spirit of Christmas...Who will show us the way.

Some thoughts for today, this 2nd day of Advent:

"Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof.  But only speak a word, and my servant  will be healed."  Matthew 8:8

These words were spoken by a Roman Centurion to Jesus...a man who most likely could not be a follower of Christ openly, and yet, he saw something in Jesus that caused him to have great faith...so much faith that Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!..."Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you."  "And his servant was healed that same hour."  Matthew 8:10, 13

My prayer for this Advent season is to have such faith as this centurion.  Even in the face of strong opposition and the world's rejection of our Messiah...I pray for the faith to believe that He only needs to speak a word...and my prayers will be answered.

"Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof...but only speak a word..."
Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!

What are your prayers for this ADVENT season? What are your great needs? Perhaps now is the time to think about that, now at the beginning of this holy season of hope and promise. List your expectations and desires for answers to prayers...then approach the Messiah humbly, but with faith. Expect Him to hear you and to heal...heal hurts, fears, sorrows, disease.  What a marvelous gift that would be for this Christmas season!

Today I prayed for some visible sign of God's presence with us...you know, "Emmanuel...God with us?" (see Isaiah 7:14 and Matthew 1:23), and I saw it in the clouds on my way home this afternoon...the shaft of sunlight was so bright I could barely look at it in my rear-view mirror. The light made me think of Christ's return for us someday...hopefully soon.  It was a holy moment there in my car as I praised Him for that great hope.  Sadly, I didn't have my camera with me at the time, and by the time I got home it was starting to dissipate, but here is what I was able to capture:

Still pretty awesome.  

And then, as I drove into the yard, this is what I saw waiting for me:

(Signs are created by my son, Ben's Country Woodshop)
My son builds/creates these signs...and he had just completed these today...so this is our first Christmas decoration for our yard!  A very fitting beginning to our ADVENTure, don't you think?
This is how this sign looked on 12/1/2015!

And here it is again, on 11/29/2016!  Still my first decoration for the front yard and porch!

Lord, again, I pray for Your healing power in my life today...and in the lives of my friends who are here with me, praying along.  I pray that we will have the faith to believe You, no matter what the future holds. Thank you for Your healing power today, In Jesus Name, Emmanuel, God with us!

"Return for Your Servants' Sake..." An ADVENT Window

11/29/2016:  This is a repeat from last year two years ago, 11/30/2014.  I intend to open the Advent Calendar windows again this year, hopefully with some NEW and exciting "ADVENTures" each day, but since I am getting off to a late start, I will just share this post again . Tomorrow is a NEW day...and I can't wait to see what God is going to show us when we open the Advent Window of the new day.  Have a blessed day today my friends!  (We are actually on the 3rd day of Advent today, so we will have to play catch-up as we go along).

Last year at this time I was beginning the Advent season by opening new Advent Calendar windows each day:Click HERE,  and then  HERE.  But it kind of fizzled out as I got busier into the ADVENT/Christmas preparation season for real.  This year I hope to do a little better at keeping up with the ADVENT window tradition...but looking at my schedule and household situation, I shouldn't be making any promises that I can't keep.  However, since today IS the first day of ADVENT, here is my first window or glimpse into the real meaning of ADVENT...something to think about as we prepare for the coming of our Lord...

In our morning devotions today
we read some verses that I had never noticed before as being used particularly during the Advent season.  I was somewhat taken by surprise as I read these verses aloud to my loved ones gathered in our living room early this Sunday morning.  They were not the traditional verses I expected to see during this season of waiting for the celebration of the nativity of our LORD.   However, as each written word was spoken, I could see the expediency of each verse as we look at current events and anticipate our Lord's RETURN.

Read along with me, and allow these words written so many centuries ago (how many, Lord?~8th Century B.C., which would be over 2800 years ago) to sink in...

Isaiah 63:15-19 (New King James Version)
(Isaiah's concern and confession for his people)

"Look down from heaven,
and see from your habitation,
holy and glorious.
Where are Your zeal and Your strength,
The yearning of Your heart
and Your mercies toward me?
Are they restrained?

Doubtless You are our Father,
Though Abraham was ignorant of us,
and Israel does not acknowledge us.
You, O LORD, are our Father;
Everlasting is Your name.

O LORD, why have You made us 
stray from Your ways,
and hardened our heart from Your fear?
the tribes of Your inheritance.

Your holy people have possessed 
it but a little while;
Our adversaries have trodden 
down Your sanctuary.
We have become like those of old,
over whom You never ruled,
Those who were never called by Your name.

Isaiah 64:1-7
(The remnant's prayer for deliverance at the return of Christ)

"OH, that You would rend the heavens!
That You would come down!
That the mountains might shake at Your presence~

As fire burns brushwood,
As fire causes water to boil~
To make Your name known to Your adversaries,
That the nations may tremble 
at Your presence!

When You did awesome things 
for which we did not look,
YOU came down,
The mountains shook at Your presence.

For since the beginning of the world
Men have not heard nor
perceived by the ear,
Nor has the eye seen any God
besides You,
Who acts for the one who
waits for Him.

You meet him who rejoices and 
does righteousness,
Who remembers You in Your ways.
You are indeed angry, for we have sinned~
In these ways we continue;

But we are all like an unclean thing,
and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags;
We all fade as a leaf,
And our iniquities, like the wind,
Have taken us away.

And there is no one who calls on Your name,
who stirs himself up to take hold of You;
for You have hidden Your face from us,
and have consumed us
because of our iniquities."

Our next reading came from Psalm 80, selected verses...as you read through these words perhaps you will get the picture of the ADVENT of the RETURN of CHRIST, for WHOM we are all awaiting at this present time...

Psalm 80

1.  "Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
You who lead Joseph like a flock;
You who dwell between the cherubim,
shine forth!

2.  Before Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh,
Stir up Your strength,

Cause Your face to shine,
And we shall be saved!

14.  RETURN, we beseech You,
O GOD of hosts;
Look down from heaven and see,
and visit this vine

15,  And the vineyard which Your 
right hand has planted,
and the branch that You
made strong for Yourself.

16.  It is burned with fire,
it is cut down;
They perish at the rebuke of Your countenance.

17.  Let Your hand be upon the 
man of Your right hand,
Upon the son of man whom
You made strong for Yourself.

18.  Then we will not turn back from You;
REVIVE US, and we will call upon Your name.

19.  RESTORE US, O LORD GOD of Hosts;
cause Your face to shine,
and we shall be SAVED!"

So, what is Advent...and for WHOM are we waiting? How are we waiting? What is the purpose of Advent?

In my mind, Advent is a time of preparation for the coming of the Messiah...and in our case, the RETURN of the Messiah.  Yes, we as Christians are preparing for two different types of celebrations...As we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in His first Advent to earth...we cannot truly celebrate the first Advent without being conscious of and ready for the Second ADVENT...the RETURN of our Messiah to earth to redeem His people from the world.  He came the first time to REDEEM us from our sins...from an impossible situation from which there was no rescue without His perfect sacrifice.  He will RETURN in the second Advent to claim His children and take them home to live forever with Him in heaven.  But we have to embrace and believe in the Christ of the FIRST ADVENT to be redeemed and accepted and claimed by Christ in His SECOND ADVENT...and to live eternally with Him forever.

I know my description and explanation may not be totally theologically and eschatologically (things to come in the future) correct...but in essence it is exactly what we are waiting for....the RETURN of our Savior, Messiah, and King to earth to claim His bride and take her home to live forever with Him in Heaven.  Kind of puts Christmas in a whole new light, doesn't it?

Something to ponder as we go about our hectic days of shopping, baking, decorating, partying, eating and celebrating.  This first Advent window opens up a whole new realm of possibilities and purpose. 

"He who testifies to these things says, 
'Surely I AM coming quickly.'
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!"

"The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Revelation 22:20-21

Friday, November 25, 2016

Thankful Thoughts and the Black Friday Grinch

Okay, It's over!  Thanksgiving Day has come and gone
...today is "Black Friday"...when everyone forgets what they were so thankful for yesterday and goes in search of MORE...okay, hopefully more for others...great deals on Christmas gifts for others...and that's just fine for those who are so inclined to go out and fight the terrible traffic, crazy crowds, and punish the weary worn out body you may have from your busy activities of yesterday...but for me...there is no bargain, no deal, no desire so great that I could be tempted to leave the cozy confines of my house today in search of anything except rest and relaxation.

Perhaps others weren't as busy as I was this week, preparing for our lovely gathering of family and friends at our house for Thanksgiving dinner.  Maybe others are younger, more energetic and excited about the wonderful purchases they could make today that they disregard how tired they might be and go shop til they drop anyway. I guess I just have to admit...I'm a "Black Friday" Grinch.  For those of you who enjoy shopping today...I say, "More power to you!"  Just don't ask me to go along!  Ha ha!

Now, all of that being said, I want to stop ranting and start praising! Yesterday was wonderful!  We had approximately 25 people at our house, and everyone pitched in and brought wonderful food and helped with preparation and clean up...and made our day so happy.  We ate til we popped, we laughed, we sang, we played games, and we just visited.  All the good stuff that happens when great people come together with a heart for being thankful.

 And thankful we were (are!)  Thankful to our God for His wonderful provision and loving care for us, His children.  Thankful for living in the land of the free, where we can gather with our loved ones and friends and not fear being stopped by a hostile enemy or government.  Thankful for our Savior, Jesus Christ, Who gave His life for us, so that we are free from our sins and have the promise of our heavenly home...where there is no fear of any hostile enemy ever hurting us again. Wow! Now that's something to be thankful for!

As today is not just "black Friday", but it is also Friday Foto Friends, (click on the link to see what others are posting) the day when those of us who love to photograph everything we see that we think you might enjoy, I thought I would share some happy memories from our Thanksgiving gathering yesterday.

The cars were gathering in our yard, filled with happy people coming to "gather together to ask the Lord's blessing..."

Some of the family playing in the yard before dinner...

If you note the little "Bear Crossing" sign in the yard, that will explain our first visitor very early in the morning.  Yes, that is our neighborhood "Little Bear", who stops by frequently for a "drink".  I think we should rename our yard "The Bear Crossing Tavern" or something like that.... Ha!

In addition to our "Little Bear", we had lots of not so wild "game"...well, I mean family and friends playing games...mostly a friendly game of "corn-hole", but the competition did get pretty tough at times...

and there were cheerleaders and spectators watching and enjoying the fun...

Here's my two sons playing on opposing teams...

And here's one of my nieces and my nephew playing...
Not sure who won, but it was all in good fun and a great way to burn off some of the calories after our dinner...

Speaking of which, let me take you inside to see what was happening there....

My hubby John entertaining the guests 

Some of our great helpers getting things ready for the big feast....

My son Scott carving the turkey while my sister Doris supervises...
My niece Shannon, always a blur of activity and cuteness...

Our friend Maura helping organize the buffet table...

And then we sat down and ate and ate and ate...

and we also surprised three of our guests with a birthday celebration, since they had recent birthdays:

 Our friend Sharon's was the big "65"

 And then we flipped the candles around for my sister in law Peggy's 56th!

 And then my nephew David, who usually refuses to celebrate his birthday, got tricked into this one...Ha ha! We got you!!

Later, some gathered on the porch just to visit

 and some of the kids went out to the workshop and painted some signs...
 and one of the bigger "kids" enjoyed photo-bombing his niece and nephew's pictures...
(some kids never grow up, even when they ARE 48!)
And my lovely niece asked if I would take a family picture of her family before they had to leave...

So today, I am reflecting on a beautiful day...and giving thanks again to the Lord for how He brought us all together and made it a day full of thanksgiving and joy for this family.
Oh, one more family pic...me with my sister Doris...we always have to be sure get a picture of us together...the two original "Mursch" girls...carrying on the "Mursch" family traditions with our kids and friends and inlaws and outlaws...we're missing our brothers who are with their families in their homes out of state, and of course we miss our parents who are celebrating thanksgiving every day in their heavenly home...and I'm particularly missing my son Matthew who is also celebrating Thanksgiving in heaven every day...

As I reminisce and rest from my labors, put away the Thanksgiving pilgrims and other
decorations, I just want to say Thank You...to everyone who was here...and to the Lord for all He has done for us to keep us healthy and alive and able to gather together with our loved ones again.

So until next year...be blessed...and keep Thanksgiving in your heart all year long...

Y'all come back now, you hear?

Monday, November 21, 2016

"Tiny Treasures" along the way... UPDATED

Going back through previous posts from a few years ago I discovered this one from 11/23/13. Since this is a busy week preparing for a house full of guests for Thanksgiving, I most likely won't have much time for blogging...or even for watching for those "tiny treasures strategically placed along the way."...But it is still such good advice...and perhaps there is someone out there who needs this message today.  In the midst of your hectic preparations for family gatherings and travels, take a moment to recognize those special treasures that God has placed in your path. It could truly brighten your day and help you relax and enjoy the "ride".   Happy Thanksgiving!!
These were the "tiny treasures" I found today...holly berries have turned red and look so pretty outside my bedroom window.

This was originally posted on 11/23/2013:
First thing this morning I read the following thoughts in the little devotional book , Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young, on the page for today's date, November 23:

"As you go through this day, look for tiny treasures strategically placed along the way.
I (Jesus) lovingly go before you and plant little pleasures to brighten your day.
Look carefully for them, and pluck them one by one.
When you reach the end of the day, you will have gathered a lovely bouquet.
Offer it up to Me with a grateful heart.
Receive My Peace as you lie down to sleep,
with thankful thoughts playing a lullaby in your mind."

 Shortly after reading this passage, we took an early morning walk in the woods.  I almost forgot to take along my camera, but quickly ran back into the house to get it before we had gotten very far. I'm so glad I did, because otherwise I would have missed the first "tiny treasure strategically placed along the way."  This perfect Golden Silk Orb Spider web, "strategically placed" directly in my path.  There was no way to get under it or around it, so we just had to turn around and go back a different way.  I wasn't about to destroy it!
 Can you imagine how difficult it must be to get all those silken strands so perfectly lined up in complete circle? Such amazing creatures!  You have to admire the skill of these spiders even if you don't particularly appreciate the spider itself!
The next treasure (not quite as tiny) that I discovered today was this sink! You may not think much of this old well used sink...but it has been in my sights actually for awhile...left over from a local church yard sale sitting rather forlornly under their "van-port" (where the church van sits), and it kept beckoning me to look a little closer.  I am sure you are wondering why I would want this old (very heavy cast iron!) sink...well,
I have my reasons...thinking of an outdoor sink for my son the carpenter to wash up brushes, hands, equipment...and also a place for doing some flower potting, washing up after working in the yard...LOTS of uses!  So I contacted the Pastor's Wife and asked how much they wanted for it...and she said, "It's yours! Come get it!"  And so I did...rather my son and I did. Thank goodness! I had NO idea how heavy that little cast iron sink would be!  Now to get him to build a potting bench/workbench to place it on...
But don't you agree this is a treasure?
As I walked around our back yard I noticed the next tiny treasures..These two sweet little blossoms on my Louis-Philippe Rose bushes, which were a gift from a dear friend who has since moved away and they are here to remind me of her kindness!  The Louis-Philippe Rose is also known as the "Florida Cracker Rose".  They are finally starting to bloom a little more freely, and their sweet delicate little faces make me smile.
 It smells so nice too!
Especially I am happy to see  this one blooming, because I recently transplanted this plant to a new location so that I could plant my new "Don Juan" rosebush birthday gift from my sister in its former spot so I could see it from the window.  I was afraid it wouldn't bloom again after transplanting it, but here it is!!!

The day is not done yet...and I may add more "tiny treasures" before the day is through.  But I wanted to take the time now to offer these up to the Lord with a grateful heart!  He knows how to bring joy to us in the simplest of ways.

What "tiny treasures strategically placed along the way" have YOU discovered today? Why not share them with others and be a part of the lovely bouquet being offered up to Jesus with a grateful heart full of Thanksgiving?