December 29, 2008

No Greater Love

The last girls' Bible study session took an unexpected God-turn. We were talking about commitment, which led to a discussion on love and marriage (which appears to be the final destination for practically any discussion with teenage girls). I shared the story of my not-so-great college years with them. Afterwards, one of the girls came up to me and told me that when I talk about R and our life together, it seems like a movie.

I was surprised, because I'd just spent our time together trying to convince the girls that real-life love is not a Nicholas Sparks book (my girls are enamored with "The Notebook", while my idea of romance is coming home to find clean clothes and dishes!). Love's not all butterflies and candlelight and roses. The world tries to sell us a bag of lies that love is a feeling, a Hallmark card or jewelry store commercial. Everyone wants the love that's found in the movies, not the love of the everyday, steadfast variety. I thought I'd made myself clear to the girls, but this comment made me wonder.

As I was driving home after Bible study, the Lord reminded me of these verses. I decided then to choose them for Memory Monday:

My command is this: love one another each other as I have loved you. No greater love has any no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
~ John 15:12-13

I've always thought that Jesus was predicting his death for us, and telling us that we should be willing to die for those we love. Yet laying down our lives is much more practical than's a giving of ourselves, letting go of our rights and putting another's needs and desires ahead of our own. You see, every day for the past 15 years, R has laid down his life for me. He has exemplified this passage.

Oh, that I would do the same!

I won't find perfect love til I get to Heaven. In the meanwhile, my Jesus has given me a glimpse of what it's going to be like. I can honestly say it isn't "The Notebook".

It's much, much more.

For next 2009 theme verses:

Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths.
~Proverbs 3:5-6 (AMP)

December 22, 2008

Double Vision

(This is an annual re-run.)

To understand what my Savior means to me
You must look beyond Calvary.
No, I do not deny the impact of the Cross,
For it was there my Beloved paid the cost
Of my sin; my shame and guilt He did bear
So that I could look at my life and see Him here:

In the hug of a child, so precious and dear;
When she says say “I love you”, it’s His voice I hear.
In the love of a friend who holds my hand tight,
I can hear Him whisper, “My child, I’m here. Everything’s alright.”
When I was ready, He made me a wife
To a husband who ministers to me each day of my life.
So many other blessings I can’t begin to count.
I’m afraid if I do, I’ll leave something out.

But it’s this about my Jesus that I most truly love:
That He left His glorious home up above
To come to this world. My heart can’t comprehend
How He could leave His Father for this place of sin.
Born among animals. He died amidst thieves,
Ridiculed and mocked. Oh! Soul can’t you see
That my Jesus left Heaven that night long ago
Because He knew that years later I would be needing Him so!

I ask you to put the manger beside the Cross.
See them together, and realize God’s loss.
How it must have hurt to send His Son away,
Yet He did so, even knowing there would come a day
He would see Jesus again, but covered in blood,
So that all of His children could say “JESUS IS LORD!”
And reconcile with Him in our Heavenly home;
This is the reason Jesus left His Throne.

Don’t focus on one and lose sight of the other.
To know the whole story, you must put them together;
The manger of hay and Calvary’s tree
Unite with the message: MY JESUS LOVES ME.

(*photo credit:

Memory Monday - December 22nd

Are you joining me for Memory Monday yet? I encourage you to try it. Hiding God's Word in my heart these past few weeks has been a tremendous blessing. Click on the button to find out more.

Whom have I in Heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. Though my flesh and my heart may fail, God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
- Psalm 73:25-26

Hey! I didn't do too badly!

Like everyone else, I'm short on time this week and blogging is taking a back seat. I'm going to memorize John 14:12-13:

My command is this: Love each other and I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

When I come back next week, I'll let you know why I chose these verses!

I pray that all of you will have a Merry and Blessed CHRISTmas.

December 17, 2008

More Than I Ever Imagined

After I wrote about visiting my college town, my good buddy Jill & I got to chatting (okay, emailing) about our college years. I told her that, although I love visiting C'ville, I really don't have many good memories of that time in my life.

I've shared a glimpse of those years in my testimony. When I look back now, I see a girl trapped by her own need for love and acceptance...a need which ruined many relationships in my life, both friendships and romances. I see a girl who was desperate and lost, and who felt utterly hopeless that life would bring any sort of love and happiness her way.

But Jesus.

He has poured out His blessings on me abundantly...held nothing back. I am a woman whose life is overflowing with the love of others. A fantastic husband, a great daughter, phenomenal youth girls, dear friends and beautiful children regularly love on me. More than that, my sweet, sweet Jesus is constantly showing me how much He cares for me.

If, during my high school and college years, you'd told me that my life would be so rich and full, I would've insisted that you were talking to the wrong gal. I never, in a million years, would have imagined that I'd be in this place...and I am completely undone.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
~Ephesians 3:20-21

December 16, 2008

Lost in the Memories

Last week, R and I participated in one of my favorite traditions, Christmas Communion Away. Deacons visit shut-ins from our church family and have a mini-Christmas service. Family members are encouraged to take part in this special time, and it's always a blessing.

This year, we went to visit a widow I know but haven't seen in quite some time. Mrs. Mary's husband sang in the choir with us. Such a sweet couple. He died several years ago and Mrs. Mary is now in a nursing home. When we got there, R's Deacon partner had already arrived. Mrs. Mary greeted us warmly, and they told us they were chatting about her husband. When I asked her how long he'd been gone, she said he'd been working in Pennsylvania for about 6 months now, but she gets letters and phone calls from him nearly every day.

My heart started to break right there in the hallway.

Mrs. Mary went on and on about how she's having to do things she's never had to do before...writing checks and paying bills. We talked about how he's taking good care of her, how he loved singing in our choir and misses it, and how his co-workers look after her. I could hardly contain the tears.

During our service, Mrs. Mary read the Scriptures aloud, sang and prayed. For those brief moments, she seemed quite lucid. When we were through, I spotted a photograph taken on their wedding day and a plaque commemorating their 50th anniversary. Mrs. Mary spent more than half a century caring for the love of her life. She's still doing it. She told me she knows he isn't eating right on the road and she wants to go back with him so she can cook him decent meals. She misses him terribly, and wants him home soon.

She doesn't realize he already is.

What first struck me as terribly sad now seems like a gift. After you've been married that long, how do you get through the day without your spouse? How do you get out of bed, knowing you're not going to see your beloved again in this world? How do you make yourself content with that? Perhaps the Lord knew that Mrs. Mary wouldn't be able to face life without the man who'd taken such good care of her for so long. Maybe He knew that every day her heart would shatter under the weight of such heavy grief, so He's allowed her to escape the burden and pain. Instead of living out her life without her mate, Mrs. Mary is lost in the memories of a lifetime of love.

Place me like a seal over your heart,
like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death,
its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
It burns like blazing fire,
like a mighty flame.
~Song of Solomon 8:6

December 15, 2008

Memory Monday - Dec. 15th

Is it Memory Monday again already? Last week zoomed by in a flurry of activity. I did have time to hide God's Word in my heart, though (typing from memory):

We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
~1 Thess. 1:3

I got it right! What a powerful verse, and one that I pray may be said of me one day. I want everything I do to be a product of, prompted by, and inspired by God. Only then will I have victory.

This week, I'm moving back to Psalms.

Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.
Psalm 73:25-26

Stop by and visit Joanne to see how everyone else did, and to join us.

December 12, 2008

The Santa Clause

This post by His Girl and this one over at 5 Minutes for Parenting, and the comments on both, made me realize that I may be in the minority of Christians who "Santa" (I'm using it as a verb because, as you know if you participate in this tradition, it's hard work).

I have friends who Santa and friends who don't, and respect the choices they've made. I love Santa. I loved him as a child, and I still do as an adult. I think he's great fun and a magical part of childhood.

Do I believe some people worship Santa more than they worship Jesus? Without a doubt.

Do I believe that if there were no Santa, the world would celebrate Christmas for the holy-day it is? Not really.

Before CJ was born, R and I discussed whether Santa should be a part of our Christmas traditions. Both of us enjoyed Santa as children. Neither of us were disappointed to find out the truth. We agreed that when CJ asked the question, we'd answer honestly. I guess you could call it The Santa Clause.

We also decided that Santa is most definitely not the center of our celebration. We have more nativity scenes than Santas. We have family Advent readings and an Advent wreath. We've never put an emphasis on Santa...asked CJ what she wants Santa to bring, stood in line to have a picture taken, or told her she better watch out because Santa is coming to town. When CJ wakes on Christmas morning, she comes to our room to read Luke's account of Jesus' birth before we look at the presents. We sing Happy Birthday to Jesus.

We don't balance Santa and Jesus...we don't even try.

We enjoy the fantasy of Santa. We cling to the reality of Jesus.

Santa brings to gifts, but we give others to those in need because Jesus commands it.

We have Santa in our home for a few weeks. We have Jesus every day of the year.

Engaging Father Christmas

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Engaging Father Christmas

FaithWords (October 30, 2008)


Robin Jones Gunn

Robin grew up in Orange County, California and has lived in all kinds of interesting places, including Reno and Hawai’i.

She and her husband currently live near Portland, Oregon and have been married for 30 years. They spent their first 22 years of marriage working together in youth ministry, and enjoying life with their son and daughter who are now both grown.

As a frequent speaker at local and international events, one of Robin’s favorite topics is how God is the Relentless Lover and we are His first love. She delights in telling stories of how God uses fiction to change lives.

Robin is the recipient of the Christy Award, the Mt. Hermon Pacesetter Award, the Sherwood E. Wirt Award and is a Gold Medallion Finalist. She also serves on the Board of Directors for Media Associates International and the Board of Directors for Jerry Jenkins’ Christian Writers’ Guild.


Miranda Carson can't wait to return to England for Christmas and to be with her boyfriend, Ian. She has spent a lifetime yearning for a place to call home, and she's sure Carlton Heath will be it, especially when a hinted-at engagement ring slips into the conversation.

But Miranda's high hopes for a jolly Christmas with the small circle of people she has come to love are toppled when Ian's father is hospitalized and the matriarch of the Whitcombe family withholds her blessing from Miranda. Questions run rampant in Miranda's mind about whether she really belongs in this cheery corner of the world. Then, when her true identity threatens all her relationships in unanticipated ways, Miranda is certain all is lost.

And yet...maybe Father Christmas has special gifts in store for her after all.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Engaging Father Christmas, go HERE

December 10, 2008

Around the House: December

I'm thanking God for:

~His provision
~the wonderful group of Godly young women He has brought into my life
~a church family that loves me, my man & my girl
~Christ come to earth
~my 18th Christmas with R.

I'm thinking:

~if the angels in Heaven sound much better than Josh Groban singing Ave Maria, I probably won't be able to contain myself!

~I wish I knew what God is up to around here

~I should write the final two posts in The Balancing Act series...but I'm not very balanced right now.

~candy canes should be a year-round treat, and so should the Ghiradelli Peppermint Bark squares

I'm planning:

~a cookie-decorating, ornament-exchanging Christmas party for CJ's friends on Saturday

~an upcoming dinner for my boss & his Christmas present to them each year

I'm enjoying:

~morning quiet time by the Christmas tree (sorta' like Joanne)
~my Netflix subscription. Blair, Jo, Natalie & Tootie are due in the mail today
~family Advent readings

I'm hoping:

~to start the gift wrapping this weekend (while drinking eggnog & watching a sappy holiday movie, of course!)

~to finish reading this before I have to return it to the library Monday

~for more snow, but Virginia weather is often screwy. Temps are spiking 30° 2 days this week.

I'm anticipating:

~going to one of our church shut-ins tonight, while R administers communion. Christmas Communion away is one of the highlights of the year for our family.

~the Deacon banquet Thursday night, catered by our pastors. Not only can these men preach the Word, they both can cook like you wouldn't believe.

~my birthday present. It's not til March, but I'm so excited because Elizabeth George is coming to our state convention's annual women's conference that weekend. A Woman After God's Own Heart radically changed my life and was the catalyst for the Pursuit of Peace & Simplicity.

I'm praying:

~to trust Him more fully
~for His continued protection & provision
~to get out of the way & let Him work
~for clarity on a few things
~to see beyond all the twinkling lights, pretty paper and, yes, even the sappy holiday turn my eyes upon Jesus & look full in His wonderful face during this season.

December 9, 2008

An Altogether Lovely Evening

Spending time in my college town ranks high on the list of things I enjoy. It's such a beautiful town. I was born for the mountains, I think (though I'm certain Virginia's mountains pale in comparison to others).

Saturday, I took CJ & one of her friends to C'ville for a girls' basketball game. It was blustery and cold...a perfect day for snow. I was hopeful. We passed the morning and early afternoon with no precipitation. But my dreams came true after the game. As we walked out of the arena, CJ noticed a few fine flakes. I was giddy.

If your daddy loved me, he'd move me back up here! I cried.

To which my sensitive daughter replied, He does love you, so shut up.

(*Note...normally she would never get away with that! In this instance, her response was classic, fitting, and rather funny.)

The snow continued while we shopped just off grounds (campus at other colleges) and ate dinner at a wonderful deli. I promised the girls we'd stop by Starbucks for dessert before heading home. Still warm from the creamy tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwich, snow falling as we walked past the shops, I was struck by how much that moment felt like a Hallmark holiday movie. I could almost hear Burl Ives crooning "Silver Bells". It was perfect.

An early Christmas gift from my God, who cares for this lover of all things sappy & holiday!
I said to the LORD, "You are my Lord;
apart from you I have no good thing."
~Psalm 16:2 (NIV)

December 8, 2008

Memory Monday

It's time for Memory Monday again. I've been slack in posting, but I have memorized a couple of verses.

This past week was Romans 15:13 (typing from memory)

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you might be filled with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Well, I was close! See:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
This verse has been a lifeline for me. I don't know many people who couldn't use some hope right now.

This coming week, I'm going to work on memorizing 1 Thess. 1:3, because it lays out three things I desperately need to exercise in my life: faith, love & endurance.

We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

What about you? Are you up for joining us for Memory Monday? If so, visit Joanne and tell us about it!

December 4, 2008

10-Year Old Theology

My family is trying to be more diligent in reading the Bible after dinner. Each night, one of us picks a verse we'd like to share and then we spend a couple of minutes discussing what it means to us. Before we started our Advent readings, I was spending a lot of time in Psalm 16. This Psalm has captivated my attention. It's jam-packed with things I need to remember. One night last week, I chose Verse 2 for our reading.

I said to the LORD, "You are my Lord;
apart from you I have no good thing."

I shared that we're never blessed apart from God's doing. CJ had a slightly different take (I'm paraphrasing): since everything we have is from God, everything we have is good (brings Romans 8:28 to mind).

She's right.

In the midst of the uncertainties of life, I have to continually remind myself that it's all from God...and it's all good. Everywhere I turn, He's telling me to trust. From the songs in my head (I kid you not, either "Still I Will Trust Him" & "On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand" is constantly running through my brain) to the devotions in my email...He keeps saying TRUST ME.

May it be so, Lord. May it be so!

It is a glorious thing to know that your Father God makes no mistakes in directing or permitting that which crosses the path of your life. It is our glory to trust Him, no matter what.
~Joni Erickson Tada

December 2, 2008

The Balancing Act: Making a Routine Work for You

Well, I didn't plan to be gone for so long! Just as I planned to write about having a daily routine, mine nearly fell apart. A crazy-busy week with Southern Living at Home, followed by R's week of 3-11 shift, ministering to a couple of friends in need, and hosting Thanksgiving times like these, maintaining a routine is difficult. Yet there is something inside me that craves a routine and its dependability. It calms me.
Wash on Monday,
Iron on Tuesday,
Mend on Wednesday,
Churn on Thursday,
Clean on Friday,
Bake on Saturday,
Rest on Sunday.
~ from Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
I admit, the idea of such a routine thrills me. I've tried several times over the years to have designated days for chores. When I failed, I shut down. Perhaps one of the most important lessons I've learned during the Year of Peace and Simplicity has been to let go of unrealistic expectations. I've stopped trying to micromanage my days, and discovered that a routine can be flexible and still be effective. Here's what routine usually looks like for me:

5:30 - 6:30 quiet time
6:30 - 6:45 quiet chore (usually folding laundry)
6:45 - 7:20 wake CJ; make her breakfast & lunch; hair assistance when needed ;-)
7:20 - 7:30 empty dishwasher while CJ waits for bus
7:30 - 8:15 make bed, get ready for work, and head out for the day
R's shift is the big variable here. Sometimes I get up later (so the quiet chore doesn't get done) and don't make the bed (hard to do with him still in it!). Like Joanne, my schedule isn't written down anywhere, but being intentional in using my time has many benefits.

~Dinner - either from the crockpot, or something quick & simple
~Homework & reading
~Clean Kitchen (usually while CJ sits at the bar during homework)
~Laundry, if necessary
~General Pickup
~"Free time" hour
~Start dishwasher & washing machine as needed
Again, this is how it GENERALLY works. I try to keep my weeknight commitments limited to one per week (aside from Wednesday night church). There are plenty of weeks when I have no other plans, but occasionally I have more than one. I'm blessed that R's schedule allows him to help. He frequently starts dinner. Most of the time, he's home to greet CJ after school and they have about an hour to unwind before I get home from work. I make an effort to come straight home from work, which means I often use my lunch hour to run errands.

I get off work early on Fridays, and use that time for grocery shopping and appointments. For the most part, cleaning and seasonal chores are reserved for Saturdays. I just don't have the time or energy during the week!

I'm a
control freak planner, so I keep my eye on the weeks...but I've found that my life works better when I focus my energy on the daily routines. Taking each day as it comes. Accomplishing what I can. Reminding myself that the world won't come to an end if something doesn't get checked off my list. I'm convinced it's what Jesus wants for my life, and for yours.
So do not worry or be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will have worries and anxieties of its own. Sufficient for each day is its own trouble.
~Matthew 6:34 (AMP)
Next up...restful Sundays.