Sunday, December 26, 2010


With the quiet passing of Christmas Day and the New Year now quickly approaching, I find myself with a sense of urgency to start the process of wading through the “stuff” in my life.

To cleanse and purge.

To renew and refresh.

I don’t do “New Year’s Resolutions” – at least not in the traditional sense. Every day brings each of us the opportunity to start over, grab hold of a fresh start and try again at what we perhaps didn’t quite accomplish the day before.

Because of that, my “resolutions” tend to come on a day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month basis, which turns into a year that very often shows a good deal of growth and accomplishment. Of course, this growth and accomplishment rarely happens in the way I imagine it, and many times what I might have had in mind isn’t exactly how things turn out. But the evidence of change is still always there.

I look back on this past year, and think about the things I had originally thought were important to accomplish (you know…losing “x” amount of pounds; doing more of this and less of that). Many of the things I started out with were “me” focused.

Somewhere along the way, seeds were planted and the notion that “it isn’t all about me” began to grow inside me until I started to burst at the seams.

I began to look outside myself and my own sorrows and the things I thought were wrong and pitiful with my life. It didn’t take long to see that the only thing wrong and pitiful with my life was my attitude!

I found that the more I looked outside of myself – the less I focused on what I didn’t have – the more I focused on how I could give to others…I was able to clearly see the blessings in my life. Not just the roof over my head or the food on my table. I actually began to SEE God loving me.

Hard decisions were made.

   Comfort zones were stepped out of.

      Relationships were built...and relationships were severed.

All done in faith because of the seeds of wisdom and love that were carefully placed in my heart.

Wisdom and love that says:

“You are worthy”
“You are beautiful”
“You are unique”
“You are blessed”
“You have strength beyond your own knowing”
“You are loved for YOU, not for what you can DO”

Because of that I have been enabled to go out and plant seeds in others; usually in quiet ways, but still being done.

There is a world FULL of people in situations that may be completely different from mine, but there is still the same struggle, the same pain deep in the heart and soul, and the same desire to make it better.

To fight the struggles, to heal the pain and to make life better, the focus must shift from “things”. THINGS do not produce happiness. THINGS are blessings for which we should be grateful but they should never be exalted to “god” status. Family, friends, houses, cars, jobs, clothing, food…all necessities of life, but never intended to be obsessed over, hoarded, or obtained in excess. If you wake up one day and all of those things are gone, is life over? No. Difficult? Painful? Incomprehensible even? Yes.

So as I begin this process of going through my stuff…examining each and every thing (material or otherwise), I am eagerly expectant – and admittedly even a {little} nervous – to see how it feels to release much of the unnecessary weight I carry around with me each day.

I think it will be quite wondrous to experience even just a touch of true freedom!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Here We Come A'Wassailing

I recently attended a Christmas gathering with some of my girlfriends, and one of the delights of the evening was a delicious, warm mulled cider. I don’t remember exactly the ingredient list, but I believe it was a mixture of apple juice, brown sugar and mulling spices. It was so good, and made me feel warm all the way to my toes!

I had often heard of this delightful beverage referred to as “wassail”. The word wassail is derived from an old Anglo-Saxon term meaning to “be whole”, and when drinking it you were said to be drinking to the health of someone.

One tradition from England that became known as “wassailing” was to have a party where carols were sung and the wassail was accompanied by many toasts. Some of these parties even involved traveling from house to house, caroling and giving blessings to neighbors and loved ones. Thus we now have the familiar and famous wassailing carol:

What a lovely tradition!

Wouldn’t it be nice to visit a simpler time when the best gifts (and many times the ONLY gifts) were handmade with love – not bought last minute in a rush?

Wouldn’t it be nice to walk from house to house visiting neighbors, family and friends, truly sharing the season in a relaxed, easy way – not rushing to see how fast we can pull our car in the garage so we don’t have to even see our neighbors?

There are many things I am grateful for in our modern times, but there are many things from times long ago that I wish would come back in vogue. Families that lived close by; lifelong friends; long, warm evenings spent by a fire or beside a piano… it seems that much of our modern-day life has lost its sweetness, even its romance.

I often think about what we could do to bring back that sweetness.

To make each day a little more lovely…a little more magical…a lot more meaningful.

I haven’t come up with a lot of solutions, though. It seems the world is spinning at break-neck speed and there’s no way to stop it.

What do you think?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

When Christmas Loses Its Sparkle

As kids get older and families get ever busier, it seems that Christmas loses some of its sparkle.

But what are we to do? We certainly can’t stop the kids from growing (although I wish I could freeze time)!

And with so many families having every child in 2 or more extracurricular activities, it’s not likely that our busy lives are going to get any less busy.

Many times, rushing around with all this busy-ness can bring on a lot of stress, strain and tears – particularly during this time of year.

So it seems to me the answer lies within how we use the time we are given. Here are a few suggestions that might help bring your Christmas season back to being merry and bright!


#1 – For those who celebrate Christmas, there really IS a reason why! Remember that reason daily by participating in Advent using an advent calendar (click here for a few examples) or by doing Jesse Tree devotionals (click here for a beautiful e-book you can download). Even though Advent has already begun, it’s not too late to jump right in on remembering the “Reason for the Season”.

#2 – Make a little extra time by NOT slaving over a hot stove every night of the week. If you don’t have a crock-pot, I highly recommend at least TWO in every household! One of our favorite meals, especially this time of year, is a crock-pot roast with potatoes & carrots. Here’s my simple recipe:

Shoulder roast, 6 medium potatoes quartered, small bag of baby carrots, 1 can of cream of mushroom soup, 2 pkgs of onion soup mix, 2 cups of water.  Place roast in crock-pot, put potatoes and carrots on top, mix together soups and water, pour over entire contents in crock-pot, cook on low 8-10 hours.

#3 – Put on some Christmas music, make some hot chocolate, light a fire and gather around it together – even for just ½ hour. Take turns sharing your favorite thing about Christmas. If you don’t have a fireplace, sit around the Christmas tree. Just be sure everyone gets a turn to share.

 #4 – Bundle everyone up, grab Fido, and go for a walk around your neighborhood to look at all the decorated houses. When you come back, make some S’mores (we’ve done this via microwave even, so you don’t have to have an open flame – although I think that a little burnt marshmallow just makes it so much better!).



#5 – I mentioned this in one of my previous posts, but get out some paper and scissors and make some paper snowflakes. Hang them with string from the ceiling or tape them to your windows.

These suggestions all still take some time to actually do, but hopefully they will prove to be simple enough that they can be slipped in-between some of those busy moments we often catch ourselves in.

What can you think of to do when your holiday season starts to lose its sparkle?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Saving Me

Who am I?

I am “mom” to three great kids; I am “friend” to several bright, beautiful women; I am “daughter” to my sweet daddy; I am a “worker” at my job. I am a “member” at my church.

I DO all of those things. Yes, they are all pieces of what makes up “me”.

But who am I? Who do I want to be?

I suppose I should have been asking myself that 25-plus years ago when the world was right there at my feet waiting to be discovered and conquered.

Instead, I was busy trying to find love – definitely in all the wrong places.

It was a while before I found it.
Real love.


In tiny pink feet and hands, wrapped in a pink blanket.

And then two years later in even tinier pink feet and hands – a double blessing, each wrapped in blue.

That was love. That was my soul incarnate. That was straight from heaven, knowing that I would never make it through the next several years of life without it. Without them.

They saved me.
HE saved me.

Not for the first time by far. But this time in the most tangible way I had ever known. He picked up the pieces of my broken past and my broken heart. He gently washed each piece in a river of His own tears and fit together all the jagged edges, and for the first time in my life I felt alive. I felt the beating of hearts and the sweet softness of little hands that knew goodness and love unending. I had been given a life of purpose, promise and meaning.

The world and its prowler couldn’t leave well enough alone, though. Lies were slyly whispered. Tantalizing images were dangled in front of me. And like Eve so very long ago, I blindly – weakly - believed, and with selfish abandon I destroyed the world and the lives around me.

For some reason that still hasn’t been revealed to me yet, He has once again found favor with me and picked up the pieces. There were a lot more of them this time, but nothing is too great for Him. And even though they were shattered and scattered and all mixed together in a burning, smoking heap of ashes, He knew where each and every piece belonged.

Somehow… even though looking back at the path behind me, it is crooked and broken and in some places there are spirals that seem never-ending… somehow, He has brought me – all of us really - to a place where love is flourishing again.

To a place where the discovery of who I am and who I want to be is far different from that other lifetime long ago. A place where I do not come first, but He does. And those He calls His own come next. And I am daughter, humble servant, faithful companion.

So...Who am I?  I think the better question is WHOSE am I?

I am loved… I am worthy… I am His.
I am one He calls “beloved”.

"My beloved spoke and said to me, “Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, come with me."
Song of Solomon 2:10

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like....


Really????   Already??????

As far as the weather is concerned here in Central Texas, it still doesn't LOOK like Christmas, but the lights, the sounds, the songs and the shoppers all tell us that it certainly IS that time again!

Even though I grew up in Texas, I spent many Christmases in Indiana visiting family, so I am not unfamiliar with winter weather.

I love snow.  I love how magical it is, when out of the corner of your eye the first few little flakes begin to quietly fall from the sky.  And then little by little the world turns into a larger-than-life snowglobe!

Standing on my parents' back porch out in the country... listening as it falls... yes, there are sounds in the snow.  Whispers of beauty... whispers straight from heaven, as each snowflake gently lands on the tree branches, slowly but surely covering the ground like a blanket laid out by the angels.

One year - I can't remember exactly how many years back... 6 or 7 maybe - we were spending Christmas here in Texas.  I was determined, however, to have some winter wonderland in my house!  I pulled out scissors and white paper and coffee filters.  I sat the kids down at the table.  We folded paper.  We cut.  And magically our dining table became covered in a blanket of beautiful paper snowflakes.  It was only last year that I finally took down those snowflakes from the window.  One of my boys still has his window filled with them. sweet and never too far away to remember the happiness felt in those simple moments together.  And I think it might be time for us to pull out the scissors and paper and make all new ones.  It doesn't matter that they are all teenagers now.

Now, if you don't cherish the thought of trying to pick up a million-billion-gadzillion little pieces of paper (ok, I exaggerate), you can go here and cut a "virtual" snowflake.  It takes a little getting used to how to wield the scissors, but it is so fun...and addicting.  So go....go create a little magic of your own!  Let me know how you like it!

Oh, and for those of you who really would like to try the paper version, here are some instructions to get you started.

Put on some Christmas music, gather around the table, and let the memories begin!!!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

It's a Family Tradition

I seem to have gotten a bit off-track on my proposed “Things November” series. Honestly, there are some days in November that, for centuries, have just been… well… boring – plain and simple. Today is one of those.

So, with the holiday season in full swing and families starting to gather all around the country, I started thinking about traditions – particularly those that kick off Christmas. Most families have at least one tradition that gets passed from generation to generation – sometimes quite on purpose and sometimes it is just such a part of who we are, we don’t even know any different.

Here are a few traditions that I have either personally taken part of, or have wished I could!
I grew up an only child, so needless to say there were lots of presents…just for me. My mom was always too excited to wait until Christmas for me to open them, so beginning on or around the first of December, I was allowed to open a present a day – HER choosing of course! Amazingly, there were still a ton of presents under the tree on Christmas morning. I compromised on this little tradition with my own kids. They are allowed to open ONE present on Christmas Eve, but nothing else until Christmas morning!

My parents’ respective families all lived very far away from us, so we often ended up traveling long distances to visit over the holidays. There was one particular set of aunt/uncle/cousins that we visited where every year they made holiday cookies with colored cookie dough – red, white and green. They were in many different shapes – candy canes, wreaths, etc. They all tasted the same but I think it was just how festive they looked that made me completely fall in love with them. And of course, we were always sent home with a tin!

When I was a freshman in college, I dated a blonde-haired, blue-eyed Polish boy from Syracuse, New York. One of his family’s traditions was the making of pierogis, and let me tell you…he brought me back some frozen ones that he had saved for me…oh, myyyyyy…if they were that good frozen, what in the world must they have tasted like fresh?? Apparently it was quite the production, as everyone in the house was put to work to help make them!

My parents had some neighbors for many, many years who really liked to par-tay! They were well known for their big bashes, which always seemed to involve the host and hostess becoming what my mother called “schnockered”. And it’s no wonder…every year they would send us over a box of homemade bourbon balls and all I can says is WHOA! They must have used a whole bottle in the recipe. They were actually fun, sweet, delightful people who were very giving. I remember them fondly, although I have to admit I think I remember the smell of them first. ;-)

The one tradition that I started with my own kids and have carried through the years is what we call “special ornament shopping”. Every year, within a day or two of having set up our tree, we venture out to several stores in search of the perfect ornament for each of us to add to the tree for that year. The purpose behind this is so that when each child leaves home, they will have a full box of ornaments to decorate their own tree. Plus each ornament has special meaning to them. It’s really sweet to see almost-grown kids choosing carefully – sometimes painstakingly – their ornament.

What traditions do you and your family share that make the season memorable?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Everyday Miracles

My pastor began preaching a sermon series on Miracles today, and as usual his words have had a profound impact on my thinking.

Webster’s dictionary defines the word miracle as “an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs”.

A DIVINE intervention in human affairs.

Personally, every day of my life has what I consider to be “extraordinary” events. Yes, I know that extraordinary means unusual or out of the ordinary. But is there really anything just plain ordinary? If I’m thinking on the level of “divine intervention in human affairs”, certainly not. Divinity is anything BUT ordinary.

In a 24 hour period, the world spins on its axis and we have day and night.


The sun rises and the sun sets.


Each morning, we wake up. We take in breath. Life.

Although some of us do not experience all of our senses, we each are still blessed with at least some, if not all.
Seeing, smelling, hearing, feeling, tasting.
Experiencing God’s world.
His presence.

So many miracles. Every day. And I fear we have become numb to them.

We take them for granted like spoiled children.

Or if we don’t receive them when and how we think we should, we stomp and pout and point our fingers in accusation…toward others…toward God.

In rebellion we close our eyes, shake our heads, turn our backs. And then…

Miracles pass us right on by.

The very breath I breathe in and out is a miracle.

My heart that beats in the center of my chest – in the center of my very soul – THAT is a miracle.

The fact that food is put on the table every night, that I am blessed with shelter, clothing, and the One Great God who loves me…totally all miracles.

Family, friends, kind strangers (even the not-so-kind ones can be blessings if you look a little deeper) – miracles.

Why do I call all of these seemingly ordinary things miracles? Because I believe that every single one of them is presented to me through divine intervention.


I may not always treat these gifts as the miracles they are. As a matter of fact, I am guilty of taking for granted many of these at any given time. And ashamedly, there are times when I’ve just tossed some of them aside like garbage.
Funny thing is, though…God is in the business of picking up what we throw out as garbage and turning it back around into something gorgeous.


“and provide for those who grieve in Zion — to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.”
Isaiah 61:3

What miracles have you missed because of your stubborn ways?

What miracles are staring you in the face and you aren’t even recognizing them?

Don't let them pass you by.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Things November: Nov. 16, 2010

November 16th is International Day for Tolerance

The International Day for Tolerance is set aside to teach about respecting and recognizing the rights and beliefs of others. It is a time of reflection and sometimes even debate on the negative effects of intolerance. Live discussions and debates take place throughout our planet on this day, focusing on the negative impact that different forms of injustice, oppression, racism and unfair discrimination have on society.

This day is also an opportunity taken by many human rights activists to speak out on human rights laws, and in some workplaces, special programs, talks, or messages from leaders about the importance of tolerance are presented.  More information can be found at the United Nations web page.

In the past, the word “tolerance” has had a negative connotation to me. As illustrated in the definitions below, it seems to indicate more of an attitude of just “putting up” with something or someone, rather than “acceptance”.

Tolerance -

1. to endure (or in my own terms: to put up with)
2. sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one's own

Accept (root of acceptance) -

1. to receive willingly
2. to give approval to

I have come to the conclusion, however, that tolerance is not a negative word, but rather the context in which we use it is either negative or positive. Tolerance is not the same as accepting all practices or views as equal. More accurately, it is developing a higher awareness of and respect for many different universal human rights and basic freedoms.

Tolerance is intended to show respect. Respect for people, not necessarily for their actions. I do not have to accept another person’s actions as right, but I do need to respect that person’s right to their viewpoint. I do not have the right to degrade or look down upon anyone because of their views. But that does not mean I have accepted those views.

Does that mean I am not going to stand up for what I believe in? That I am just going to roll over and play dead when someone does or says something that I believe is morally or ethically wrong? No, not at all. It means that I will respectfully, openly approach that person in an attitude of humility. I will make the environment such that they do not feel threatened. I will welcome rebuttal and feedback, and expect to receive the same – all in love and the need to understand. Ignorance is NOT bliss. Ignorance leads to prejudice and hate.

That’s not the kind of world I want to live in, nor to hand over to my children when the time comes.

"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love."
Ephesians 4:2

Monday, November 15, 2010

Things November: Nov. 15, 2010

November 15th is America Recycles Day

This is the one day out of the year that is officially dedicated to the promotion of recycling programs here in the US. Since 1997, there have been celebrations in communities across the country to inform, educate and encourage people to recycle. You can go to the Keep America Beautiful site for more information.

I know for my family personally, for the longest time we didn’t recycle because it was just too difficult to know what you could or could not recycle – you could recycle plastic, but only certain kinds; you could recycle paper, but only certain kinds. It was very frustrating. Now our city has a program where many different items can be put in one large bin that they will pick up curb-side, and they do the sorting. There are still some do’s and do not’s, but overall it is MUCH easier!

Not sure where to take some of those “not-so-easy-to-recycle” items, such as oil, paint, computers, etc.? At, you can enter the type of item you want to recycle and the city/state or area code and you will get a list of places that will accept your items.  Really nifty little gadget!!

 Ok now, listen up...

Did you know that it takes up to 4,000 years for glass to decompose in a landfill, but that glass can be RECYCLED indefinitely?

Did you know that the plastic bottles that our water comes in is made of oil? The same oil that makes gasoline? The same oil that is in high demand and is NOT an unlimited resource? Good reason to recycle those plastic bottles, don’t you think?

Did you know that to produce an average run of Sunday papers, 500,000 trees must be cut down? Just imagine how many trees could be saved if we recycled all of our newspaper instead of putting it in a landfill!

Oh, and those Hershey’s kisses we all love so much? Wrapped in aluminum foil – 80,000,000 of them each day - EACH DAY PEOPLE!!! All aluminum is recyclable – even itty bitty pieces.

If you haven't started recycling, won't you consider it?  We've only been given one earth!

Psalm 8:3-8
"When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas."

Friday, November 12, 2010

Things November: Nov. 12, 2010

On November 12, 1980, the NASA space probe Voyager I made its closest approach to Saturn and took the first images of its rings.

Simply stunning.

I gaze at this in awe and wonderment...

...ponder the beauty.

How could this possibly be anything other than an amazing creation?  My mind cannot even imagine how anyone could think that this is just an "accident".

No, this is MADE. 

by God's hands. 

I imagine it.

He cups his hands, as if forming a snowball.  Slowly he brings his hands up to his mouth...he softly breathes into them, opens his hands and in utter delight lets float this breathtaking sphere of G0d-breath.

He sprinkles all around it layer upon layer of texture and color and places it among his beautiful collection of other God-breathed creations.

Shhhhh...can you hear it?  The soft whisper of him, as he moves throughout the universe, placing one treasure after another just where he wants them to be? 

Shhhhh...listen.  He's there.

"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth."
Genesis 1:1
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