November 30, 2010

Thanksgiving Doesn't End Here

The calendar page is turning from a grist mill surrounded by vibrant oranges and reds, to an old red barn blanketed by white...peaceful, expectant.

As much as I need this Advent season to focus my heart on the arrival of the God-child, I am sad to see November go. A month of intentionally giving thanks, of seeing Him in splendor more glorious than even the most beautiful autumn hues. Some of those sights are recorded here for all to see. Some, highly treasured, are written only on my heart.

And then there are these:

~the first playing of the Ave Maria

~a sweet sister in Christ, returning from China with big smiles and bright eyes bearing witness to His work

~God's gracious, incredibly generous provision

~my dear husband's words that woo and soothe my savage heart

~time alone with my closest friend, celebrating her life and just how much it means to my own

~my daughter's wisdom, knowing what I need when I don't even know it myself

~unpacking treasures from the attic.  Among them, a stocking crocheted by my grandmother, a nativity painted by my mom, and the angel that sat atop our family's tree each year until it was passed down to me.

November is coming to an end, but a thankful heart never stops looking for the One who provides us with every good gift. He is all around us, waiting to be found.

Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. ~Jeremiah 29:12-13 (ESV)

November 29, 2010

A Season Set Apart

Her head is bent, face hidden behind a curtain of curls. She stumbles over words, tough ones like Ephrathah. Yet she continues reading the Word of The One who will come. Then she reads about a Christmas tradition. We are reminded that we can find Christ in our celebration. He is everywhere, hidden beneath the boxes and bows, ornaments and obligations, food and festivities.  And I wonder if He willingly humbled Himself to this as He did to the manger and the cross.

She lights the first candle and my heart is set afire with hope. Hope that this season will be different. That we will look for Him more earnestly. That we will no longer relegate Him to the background, but celebrate Him more fully.

The candle burns brightly in the corner of our kitchen. It illuminates the Word and this year's Advent resource.  An ordinary kitchen table has been set apart for this season, an altar for the three of us to gather round each night in the dark quiet and prepare for the birth of our Immanuel.

How are you preparing for Him this season?  Leave a comment here to share, and visit Ann and Christmas Change (both must reads) to see how others are practicing Christmas.

holy experience

November 23, 2010

What's On My Nightstand: November

What's On Your Nightstand

Just Finished:

~Women's Ministry in the Local Church. I cannot recommend this book enough. This thought-provoking, Biblical approach to women's ministry goes beyond the current fluff served up to women.

Currently Reading:

~Jayber Crow. My first time reading Wendell Berry. I'm loving the rich language of this book, even though it's not a fast-paced read.

~The Holiness of God. Wow.

~Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure. I'm working my way through this one slowly. It's not a light read, but it's heaviness is rich wisdom.

For Advent:

~Through the Year with Martin Luther: A Selection of Sermons Celebrating the Feasts and Seasons of the Christian Year. Luther's capacity to gain so much information and insight from a few words of Scripture constantly astounds me.

~Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas. I want to begin this one on December 1st so that I can read it right up until Christmas, but waiting is so hard.

Up Next:

~The Chosen. I've heard raves about this one. Anyone read it?

~Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives. Because I need this. So badly.

~A Way with Words: What Women Should Know about the Power They Possess. Because I need this one, too. So badly.

You can see what others are reading here.

November 22, 2010

Simple Beginnings

The title grabbed my attention, How to Keep Your Desk Clear. I want that, I thought.

I read. I re-read.

I thought about how I could make it happen for my desks, at work and at home.  I implemented some of the suggestions at work right away.

Who knew a clear desk could make such a difference?

But it has! In my attitude, my focus and my productivity.

It's been nearly three years since I declared 2008 the Year of Peace and Simplicity (relive the journey under the Yearly Themes tab at the top of the page).  When the year ended, I intended to make it a life-long process, but it hasn't quite worked that way.  Simplicity is wooing me again.  I find myself letting go and rearranging and seeking to make the most of what we have, to treasure it.

I'll be writing more about that in the days and months to come.  For today, I'm thankful for a clear desk.

November 19, 2010

The Tall & Short of It

Wait, he says.

I think she's taller than you.

And so my girl and I stand back to back, shoulders brushing. Does she feel it, the time growing short as she grows tall?  His hand moves from light brown to darker, straight to curly.  He declares us the same height.

And I smile, though I feel like crying.

It won't be long before I'm the smallest in the family. I already feel so small 

when I remember how a ruptured appendix could have ended her life in my womb;

when I recall our first meeting and seeing her, so new, in her dad's arms;

when I reflect on one of the first times she said Jesus, holding out her hands to me, closing her eyes and saying Let's touch Him now;

when I look back at the night she found salvation and the morning she was baptized;

when I listen to her talk about youth group and Bible study, friends and activities;

when I realize how special she is and how humbled I am to be chosen as her mother.

I feel so small at those times, but smaller still when I think about how quickly these first 12 years have gone and how much faster the next 6 will go. I'm running out of time to teach, to model, to encourage, to love.

For now I will cherish the sound of her calling Mommy, though each time I wonder if it will be the last.

For now, I will continue to look her in the eye, though I know soon I'll be looking up.

For now, I am thankful that I still have a girl in my home.

November 18, 2010

Thanksgiving - Day 18

How long has it been since God arrived in my mailbox? I've had good intentions to reach out and let Jennifer know she is loved. I've let the multitude of ordinary tasks crowd out the chance to do something extraordinary.

And then He showed up in my mailbox again.  Jennifer, reaching out to thank her correspondent.  The girl with so much less than I, giving me the gift of life.  She writes of her family and friends, her hobbies.  She draws a picture of three hearts.  I see mine, hers, and His.  There, in the middle of her words I find the Word, encouragement especially for me.

My heart breaks.  I have not been faithful.  And in that moment, I want to pack my bags and fly to South America and find this precious girl who knows little of abundance but gave anyway.  I want to throw her a lifeline, even though I am the one being rescued.

Today I am thankful for this child who has looked beyond her circumstances and offered love, hope and grace to a wretch like me.

And I pick up my pen to write.

November 17, 2010

Thanksgiving - Day 17

Peace came first.

Then Faith, followed by Amazing Grace, Trust in the Lord and Simplify.

I've just added Great is They Faithfulness and Give Praise.

Small signs scattered around our home, touchstones that remind me of truth and Truth.

As I remove clutter and leave only items of true worth and significance, these words stand out more. I notice them more. I cling to them more. I am challenged to live them more.

Today, I am thankful for these words and the comfort and conviction they bring.

November 16, 2010

Finding More Margin

The shrill cry of the alarm clock pierces the waves of slumber. I allow my eyes time to adjust to the darkness before rising, stealing out of our room and into my favorite chair. There, among the pens, highlighters, books, journal, and coffee, I open the Word and feast. My spirit is awakened as I rest in His presence. Quiet envelopes my soul.

Before I know it, the quiet dissipates. It has been replaced by noise, noise, noise.

cell phone

So many things clamor for my attention, I find I can't keep up and keep my sanity.  I need quiet. My family needs quiet.

I am thankful for the margin we've found, but we need more. I need more.  In an effort to bring more quiet into my life and our home, I'm:

~once again looking at each room in our home, deciding what's clutter. When my eyes fall on something, I want it to have meaning rather than just taking up space. I've already decided to take a week off after the holidays to do some major purging.

~giving myself some careful guidelines with Facebook. No more posts about what my family's doing or what we've accomplished. I'm considering it to be a ministry opportunity, as I consider my blog to be.  That calls for some changes.

~agreeing with my husband that 8:00 p.m. is the "technology curfew" in our home.  No computer or cell phone allowed, for any of us unless schoolwork demands it.

~instituting 3-P Family Fridays.  Homemade Pizza, Popcorn, and Play (board games or a family movie).

I'm sure this will continue to be a work in progress for us.  What are you doing to protect your family's margin?

November 15, 2010

Thanksgiving - Days 11 - 15

Playing catch-up today:

Day 11 - Thankful for the men & women who've sacrificed for my freedom, including my grandfather who fought in WWII.

Day 12 - Thankful that in 4 weeks, R's first semester will be over, and we'll be 1/3rd of the way there.

Day 13 - Thankful for our home. When I'm thankful for it, I don't mind cleaning it quite so much.

Day 14 - Thankful for the opportunity to teach 7th & 8th grade girls in Sunday School, including my own girl. I'm just the substitute teacher, but I love hanging out with them when I have the chance.

Day 15 - Thankful for the Lord's provision for my family through my job, which has helped make it possible for R to return to school and pursue his dream. I am thankful that I have a job that allows me to minister to my family in this way and serve them at home, too.

Visit Rebecca and Leah to see other thankful lists.

November 10, 2010

Thanksgiving - Day 10

Some time during the Year of Peace and Simplicity I discovered the effect music has in the atmosphere of our home.  I started by playing the "Singers and Standards" channel (Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra) during meal times.  I would play classical when I was reading, much to R & CJ's chagrin. I'm not quite sure how or when it happened, but they discovered that classical music is calming and very conducive to reading/studying.  Now they're just as likely as I to turn on the music. We love how it softly fills the quiet, surrounding us with beauty and carrying away the cares of the world at the same time.

Not that I'm a musical snob. In fact I'm a little schizophrenic when it comes to music, as my list of 10 favorite albums indicates.  In no particular order, they are:

1.  Sinatra's Reprise Collection
2.  Yo-Yo Ma's Appassionato
3.  When Harry Met Sally: Music From The Motion Picture
4.  George Winston's December
5.  Randy Travis' Trail of Memories: Anthology 
6.  John Waller's While I'm Waiting
7.  Big Daddy Weave's Every Time I Breathe
8.  Billie's Best
9.  Patsy Cline - The Definitive Collection
10. James Taylor: Greatest Hits

Today,  I'm thankful for music. 

(Giving thanks at Rebecca's and Leah's; also listing my 10 on the 10th at Meredith's)

November 9, 2010

Thanksgiving - Day 9

It was wonderful to see her eyes sparkle with laughter. Faint, but noticeable. In the 25 years I've known her, she's always had a gleam in her eye to match her bubbly personality. Her husband's untimely death two months ago extinguished that light.  As we sat around the table recounting stories of our youth, I saw her smile. My heart leapt when I heard the laughter burst forth from her throat.

After she left, I glanced over at my husband.  How many times have I taken him for granted?  How often do I ignore his needs in order to meet my own?  Why don't I cherish him and serve him as if today is our last day together?

Because it could very well be.

Today I am thankful for my husband and the fiery love we share.

*Still giving thanks with Rebecca & Leah.

November 8, 2010

Thanksgiving - Days 6, 7, & 8

She was a blur this weekend. My girl flitted in and out of the house, barely stopping long enough to eat and sleep. When she is home I often find myself staring her in the eye and wondering who this stranger is, the one who doesn't have to look up to me and who borrows my shoes. Even though I hardly recognize her these days, our home feels empty without her.

Still, I am thankful.

Thankful that she could spend a night with my parents and make memories with my dad.

Thankful that she could spend an afternoon and night with a friend who recently lost her dad.

Thankful that she was eager to go to church last night and spend time with the youth group.

All good things, true blessings.  But I'll be thankful when she decides to spend some time at home again, too.

November 5, 2010

Thanksgiving - Day 5

Elliot, Lloyd-Jones, Tchvidjian, Sproul, Duncan and Hunt. Then, of course, there's the the sword.

I start and end my days with them.  They are now familiar friends, stacked on tables throughout our home.





Today I am thankful for those mighty men & women of God who share their wisdom.

November 4, 2010

Thanksgiving - Day 4

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. - Proverbs 17:17, ESV

I've discovered many things this past year.  One of the greatest has been my need for true friends.

Those who love with a hand-dirtying, death-defying, self-sacrificing love that is only possible because the nourishment of the True Vine courses through their veins.

Those whose knees are bloody from the battlefield of prayer, who've stood fast in the gap when I can't find my own voice.  My Father has not ignored their constant, earnest pleas on  my behalf.

Those who have faithfully and patiently sharpened me with the Word.  I am prone to follow my own course, and they gently bring me back to the Way, the Truth, the Life.

Near and far, these are the friends I cherish.  They are more precious than silver or gold.  Today, and every day, I thank God for each one of them.

*Continuing a November of thanksgiving at Rebecca's & Leah's.

November 3, 2010

Thanksgiving - Day 3

As a young girl, I couldn't wait to leave. To shake the dust off my Bass blucher moccasins and get out of this town that never understood me. Suitcases in hand, I tore out of here eager to separate myself from the smallness of my life here.

It wasn't long before I accepted the fact that the very thing I didn't want to be defined by was the one thing that defined me most.

I am a small town girl, and I'm thankful.

Thankful that I live in a place where my morning commute is slowed by tractors and trucks carrying hay bales rather than stop lights and cars with horns blaring;

that rush hour traffic means that my drive home takes 15 minutes instead of 12;

that if I forget my wallet, I can walk into the bank and get money from my account;

that I can feel comfortable when my daughter spends time at her friends' homes, because I've known their parents since we were children ourselves;

that she has classes with first cousins and can ride the bus to my parents' house;

that my town is the kind of place where you can buy a pumpkin in the gas station parking lot;

that the post office has a dry erase board with birthdays and community announcements.

So what if I listen to Yo-Yo Ma while driving a truck? This is where I belong.

Today, I am thankful for home.

November 2, 2010


My attempts to find margin have fallen flat lately. As a result, today I find myself weary. It's a heaviness that has crept into my bones and seems perfectly content to reside there.

Today I am thankful that October, with all its comings and goings and excess commitments, is behind me. I am thankful that the weekends of this month are free from excess.

I'm also grateful for opportunities and reminders to be thankful. I truly have so much to be thankful for.