Thanks for stopping by, whether you got here by a link or hitting "next blog" -- I am glad you are here. I've also done some writing on homeschooling, and what I learned thinking I was teaching.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Christmas Ornaments as Ebenezers*

One holiday tradition we established was buying ornaments after Christmas, wrapping them up for the next year’s tree.  Another was always having a fresh tree until the year I invested in an artificial tree . . . I didn’t think it looked so bad once the ornaments were in place; although this was not a universally accepted opinion. 

I don’t remember exactly which year we packed away all the decorative trappings and tree – but, we haven’t decorated a tree for many years, preferring to enjoy the ones our kids and others create – especially since in God’s providence, we travel at this time.  

Doug's Sister's Tree 2013

I now use some fresh greens, and a few holiday ornaments, recently collected to mark the season.
Our Mantel 2013
In her blog, a friend asked what do you love about your tree this year, after sharing pictures of baubles that anchored her heart to joyful memories of Christmas past. (Working Moms Weekly) Coincidentally, this was the year I inventoried some of our ornaments – well, three boxes of them, splitting them up between our kids and into a keep pile, and discard pile. So, her question made me think back to favorite trees . . . each we declared was the best ever . . . until the artificial one.

Decorating Christmas trees over more than 30 years, generates quite a collection of ornaments, not to mention more boxes of decorations, a few of which I inherited. Nearly all of the most favorite Christmas decorations and ornaments were the ones that our kids gave us, or made. So, I re-gifted most of them back.  The best ornaments, real and remembered, included:

·      a peanut shell, wrapped and decorated as baby Jesus, now long-gone, was our son’s kindergarten era gift to us;

·      a clothes pin swaddled in white and pink, a friend’s commemorative of our daughter’s first Christmas;

·      a crafty reindeer with a tiny tinsel swag, and

·      a little salt-dough lamb.

I just wish I could give with them the warm-fuzzies I felt each year unwrapping them.

We still are storing [too] many Christmas decorations in our daughter and son-n-law’s attic. But nothing compares to these treasures, and the memories they stir up.  I remember  the dearest children ever, family and friends who came to dinner, sometimes bringing gifts of ornaments and leaving memories of laughter and good conversations.I remember misunderstandings, frustrations, and failures that have disrupted friendships – stinging, when I unpacked these seasonal trinkets.   

From art classes, I have learned what is light and gay never looks so bright and appealing as it does against some dark edges. That’s not  a bad image for all the Christmas ornaments, real or just remembered,  glistening against the dark evergreen trees -- even artificial ones, or the ones I remember.

The Christmas tree is a symbol of love, not money. There's a kind of glory to them when they're all lit up that exceeds anything all the money in the world could buy.” ― Andy RooneyAndy Rooney: 60 Years of Wisdom and Wit

Christmas 2013

*Ebenezers – stones of mercy, guidance  and comfort, even the ones I tripped over. (1 Samuel 7:12) Please God forgive me for stumbling others on their journey.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Reflections on Being a Grandmother, Again

We welcomed our sixth grandchild into our hearts the other day – and have enjoyed hearing all the congratulatory wishes, mindful that they and their parents have been the richest blessing either of us have ever received.

Babies are such a nice way to start people. ~Don Herrold
Smarter, wiser women than I have commented on this unique station in life – but this observation comes closest:

Being a mother and grandmother is the best of the best in my life. My grandchildren multiply the joy my [son and daughter] bring me. (Alexandra Stoddard)

 I recognize the emotion I feel for each little life when our kids put them in my arms – it is similar to the delight I felt when I first held them – but altogether different. The feeling is even more wonderful, humbling and bittersweet  . . . for I am holding the greatest agent for change in our own children’s lives.   

Few things are more delightful than grandchildren fighting over your lap. ~Doug Larson

Saturday, December 20, 2014

When I Grow Up . . .

Good Friends . . . help each other cope

Heather Holleman writes in her blog about hearing a little child say what she wants to be when she grows up. (She Wants To Be a Great Friend)

Wow . . . I am as impressed as Ms. Holleman – what an ambition!  Hooray for the influences in this child’s life that sparked such a thoughtful aspiration.

Being a great friend isn’t being a people pleaser. People pleasers aren’t always residents of the real world – been there, done that – and did little good for anybody by pretending, ignoring, or placating, especially myself.

I don’t need a friend who changes when I change and who nods when I nod; my shadow does that much better. ~Plutarch

God has put people in my life whose friendships have led me out of crazy dark places and kept me from wandering over stupid cliffs.  They have loved me despite myself, and believed better about me than I did of myself. 

Friendship is Love with jewels on, but without either flowers or veil. ~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827

And they have told me the truth.

Only your real friends will tell you when your face is dirty. ~Sicilian Proverb
Other people’s courage, compassion, commonsense and forbearance have been more important to me than any day dreams I had about what I wanted to be when I grew up – and it’s a comforting challenge to know I am not too old to still want to be a great friend as I grow up!

  • "He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him." (The change in Scrooge -- Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol)

from Pinterest

Friday, December 19, 2014

Looking Past the Smudges

The sun shines through the large double windows dominating the living room in our little rental apartment, and what captures my view is not the splendid water view but the smudges on the old panes. 
Almost missing a great view!
Now, in fairness, the glass panes are old – and the windows high up; they are also protected by storm windows – so, keeping them transparent is hard and expensive work!  When the sun ducks behind a cloud –the smudges fade; I can look beyond the windows and take in the familiar, agreeable view.  

The Christmas season is a bit like these windowpanes – it is the lens through which I may view the pivotal historical event  -- Christ’s birth, and its attending hope of peace with God and His good will towards us.  But evil, and its attending suffering splatter grief upon this lens – and like seeing the apartment’s windowpanes, these smudges distract – and I lose sight of the Gift .

The sun shines and warms and lights us and we have no curiosity to know why this is so; but we ask the reason of all evil, of pain, and hunger, and mosquitoes and silly people. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I indulged this propensity Emerson described in last week’s worship.  In the church’s sanctuary, decorated with poinsettias, greens and candles – my mind only saw the images of what is happening to people and their children around the world and close to home. Image after image – from what ISIS does, to what we may have done to enemy combatants suffocated me. Not to mention the images from my less than stellar performances, which my own conscience kept inserting!  It was a battle during the service to subdue their power to assault my hope that God so loved the world, He sent His Son to save us. But,

God doesn’t meet us in the hypothetical places we go to in our minds – he’s a God of REAL time and REAL space. So we can wallow in “what-ifs” and find little comfort. But when HARD shows up, God shows up bigger. (quote source)

Christmas is God saying He’s in it with us. He didn’t come to make life perfect – but to purify a people for God – usually in the midst of sorrowful sorrows. (Matthew 2)  Christmas, often the occasion for great gatherings of folk to celebrate the season, is first a time of private revelry between the soul and its Maker.  (1 Timothy 1:5) If He is for us – who can be against us? Christmas, the day Christ was born, began the change that changed everything – God took on flesh so that He might give His life as the perfect ransom for yours and mine at Calvary.

The one day – when Christ was born, whenever it really happened – is the reason I know light from darkness, can live, and have second chances – and give Him the thoughts of my heart which are often filled with conflict, doubt and pain.

Jesus King of Angels By Fernando Ortega

Jesus King of angels heaven's light
Shine Your face upon this house tonight
Let no evil come into my dreams
Light of heaven keep me in Your peace
Remind me how You made dark spirits flee
And spoke Your power to the raging sea
And spoke Your mercy to a sinful man
Remind me Jesus this is what I am


The universe is vast beyond the stars
But You are mindful when the sparrow falls
And mindful of the anxious thoughts
That find me, surround me and bind me
With all my heart I love You Sovereign Lord
Tomorrow let me love You even more
And rise to speak the goodness of Your name
Until I close my eyes and sleep again

Jesus King of angels heaven's light
Hold my hand and keep me through this night

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Stay Out of Dark Corners

Still Alive in December!
The other day I visited a friend who is staying a spell in an assisted living unit. I looked at my friend’s lovely face – so glad to see her. She is younger than I am – but her body is not cooperating with her heart’s desire to be active, enjoying her husband and children – taking in all the good things that Dallas offers, and contributing her talents to helping others.

Her mother, adjusting to her own limitations, came by to say hello – and it was a lovely, bittersweet moment – a tiny peek into how two brave women are supporting each other in ways they could never have imagined – sadness illuminating sweetness – the most tender gesture unable to soothe what MS and age wrecks.

Life doesn't always follow the script we might write – but wise women won’t let its orneriness back us into dark scary corners – that’s what my friend and her mom showed me.   

·      Oh, my friend, it's not what they take away from you that counts. It's what you do with what you have left. ~Hubert Humphrey

·      If you have nothing to be grateful for check your pulse. ~Author Unknown

·      Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy. Psalm 126:5

·      Lord, I believe; help Thou my unbelief. (Mark 9:24)

Monday, December 8, 2014

Reflections on Christmas Light

Seriously -- Just One Among BLOCKS of Beauty!
The folks in our neck of the woods are again doing their part to create a magical spirit for the holidays. Nightly, house after house lights up –some more imaginative than others – more than a few are dazzling. Against the sky’s blackness, the lights and lawn displays are wonderful, even the LED displays that look as cold as ice feels seem enchanted – like a fairyland.

During the day, though, the lavish lights are invisible, and the ginormous inflatable characters in many yards and balconies deflate – and look like I feel, given current events. With age, comes the certain awareness that some things just might not work out – and not just on the account pages of my life’s ledger.
How I Feel Reading the News
We don’t have anything like peace on earth – riots, terrorists, sex trafficking, Ebola, disappointment, and spiraling national and international debt – and the forgotten survivors in Syria. Life is as downright scary and painful today as it was when B.C. became A.D. The nighttime magic doesn’t lighten the load many of us bear.  And when January comes, and the outdoor lights are gone – the burdens remain. 

But for now the lights and their glory in the dark night remind me of Christ, who is the Light shining through darkness – light that doesn’t fade in the sun’s brightness.  The God who took on flesh offers to bear the load. (Mathew 11:29-30)  And His is the very breath of life. God is, and became like thee and me, mortal, so that you and I might escape what binds us – and live freed, being useful.  (John 1)

In all the wrappings covering up Christmas, I can become useless. Being useful can be as easy as doing a little something for somebody who can’t repay me -- Christ didn’t come to bear my load so I could enjoy all the season but forget to share.  

We live in a culture that lives in excess. We have so much and we want so much more. It’s so easy to get sucked in and think everyone lives the way we do:  Everyone spends money decorating their homes, everyone bakes 8 varieties of holiday cookies, everyone gets the best cyber deals and everyone has the opportunity to make Christmas magical for their kids.

And it’s easy to forget those who don’t live like “everyone” else. (What the Poor Really Want for Christmas)

Praying and giving, serving and sharing, just showing up are year–round opportunities. But I seem to see them more clearly in the light of this season.
Still Blooming!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Christmas Spirit 2014

We Can't Download PEACE*
Yesterday, I opened some windows and crisp clean air blew through the house, making me think of a quote that I first liked, and then realized I wasn’t sure what it meant the more I thought about it:

For the spirit of Christmas fulfills
 the greatest hunger of mankind.
~ Loring A. Schuler, editor of The Ladies Home Journal, 1928-1935.
It’s a charming corroboration that the delights of the holiday season -- gifts, lights, decorations, music, food, and festivities -- make us feel special. 

Like the unseen fresh air that filled up the rooms, the spirit of Christmas is wafting around and about me – stirring me up, even though I am more like a Grinch than an elf. This spirit urges me to give gifts worthy of the love I have for all my people – and bids me hope I get gifts reflecting their love for me.

Is giving and receiving love then what fulfills the greatest hunger we have?

Yes, but . . .

My humble opinion remains that our greatest unfulfilled hunger is for peace:  peace -- within ourselves, with those we love, amongst our fellow man, and with God – the God who so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son – not to condemn us, but to save us. (John 3:16-17)

Whatever spirit of Christmas is goading us to make or buy presents, God’s Spirit wants us to listen – amidst this wonderful old world’s babble sounds -- and hear Him – urging us to accept His gift, then in His love give the gifts that are incalculably costly – grace, forgiveness and restoration. In our own strength, none of us has the resources to give these love gifts. In the strength of Him whose birthday we say we celebrate, though, we can be lavish. 

 Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.

*Source for Image: Jorodo