Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Trees Glow

 
       
               I saw this tree topper on ebay. I just love the bow and how the streamers hang down.

Last week I enjoyed walking through the Festival of Trees in the Westminster Town Mall. This is the eighth year for this Yuletide fundraiser for The Shepherd's Staff. You can bid on the trees, or like me, just enjoy them by taking pictures.

I hope you enjoy the walk through! Step right inside and enjoy some of my favorite trees!

          The entrance was delightfully decorated and you felt like you were walking into a fairyland.

                                                                 "Penguins on Parade"

The proceeds from the auction go toward The Shepherd's Staff's emergency financial assistance programs, which focuses on helping working families who do not qualify for assistance from government agencies.

                                    The "Star Spangled Spectacular" proudly waves its flags!

Each tree is decorated along a theme. I like this "Beary Merry Christmas" below!

                       
I smiled at the "Polar Bear Express" below.


Last year $38,000 was raised, and the Festival of Trees is the largest fundraiser of the year for the nonprofit organization.

                                           I love the flower color on this "Victorian Tea" tree.

                      "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" was nicely done with the light sitting below.

"Through the Woods" we go.
 
                                                     Jerry liked "Lucky Leprechauns."

                                                                 And Mom liked "Frosty."

"A Christmas Carol" was festive.

                                                    "PeppermintTwist" was alive in color!

Overall, the Festival of Trees was well done and enjoyable!

My friend, Linda, sent me this poem. I share the sentiments.


The Older I get… 
                                        The simpler my holiday preparations become…
                                        The closer I feel to old friends as I write my Christmas cards…
                                        The more I cherish the oldest ornaments…
                                        The more fondly I remember Christmases past…
                                        The longer I hold on to a holiday hug…
                                        The more I realize Christmas is a matter of the heart…
                                        The tighter my throat gets when I sing “Silent Night”…
                                        The more I enjoy giving than receiving…
                                        The more I try to see Christmas through the eyes of a child…
                                        The longer I sit at night in the glow of the Christmas tree…
                                        The more wondrously beautiful the Christmas story is…
                                        The deeper my awe at God’s infinite love…
                                        The More I Love Christmas!

My next post will be December 31st. I hope your Christmas celebrations are happy and joyful!

          "But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more."  Psalm 71:14

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Kindred Spirit


Earlier this year I purchased the above book by Michelle DeRusha. It's similar to Warren Wiersbe's book by the same title, changing "women" to "people." The lives of women starting back in the 1700s are shared, and I am continually encouraged reading about courageous women of the faith.


Last week I read the biography on Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896). Most people know her as the author of Uncle Tom's Cabin. Her greatest contribution was that of an abolitionist writer, but I remember a few lines from a hymn she wrote that touched my heart. My friend, Jeanne, gave me the book Streams in the Desert, Volume One, back in 1985. The September 13th devotion shared her hymn, written in the 1850s. I've shared the first verse many times to remind others that Christ is always with them.

"Still, still with Thee, when purple morning breaketh,
When the bird waketh, and the shadows flee;
Fairer than morning, lovelier than daylight,
Dawns the sweet consciousness, I am with Thee."

The last two verses:

"When sinks the soul, subdued by toil, to slumber,
Its closing eyes look up to Thee in prayer;
Sweet the repose, beneath Thy wings o'er shadowing,
But sweeter still to wake and find Thee there.

"So shall it be at last, in that bright morning,
When the soul waketh and life’s shadows flee;
O in that hour, fairer than daylight dawning,
Shall rise the glorious thought, I am with Thee."


You can hear it at the Cyber Hymnal:  http://cyberhymnal.org/htm/s/t/stilstil.htm

                                                    So peaceful when they're sleeping.

The subtitle the author gave for her biography is: "She Wrote for Freedom, She wrote for Hope," and it grabbed me. That's why I write. To spread God's Hope to others, encouraging their hearts and sharing His Promise. And before I continue, lest anyone wonder, I'm in no way comparing myself to this great women of faith. I'm a single soul doing my best at what God gave me to do. Stowe's life is a voice of encouragement to carry on with vigor. Even the encourager needs to be encouraged.

The author wrote this about Stowe's work: "Stowe's prolific writing is a powerful statement about basic human rights, justice and freedom that made an indelible impact in American history. But on a more personal level, her novels are also an intimate walk through suffering and grief--a walk each one of us, in one way or another, recognizes and understands.

President Lincoln said upon meeting Stowe: "So you're the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war!" She was able to reach her readers on a personal, intimate level.

"Parlor literature" ('singing, piano playing and dramatic reading of essays and poems') afforded her 'an intimate relationship to her audience.," the author wrote. I like that. Since I'm not good with the spoken word, I can become close to hears with the written word.

"Right before her marriage to Calvin Stowe, a half hour before the marriage ceremony, she wrote to her sister that she had been 'dreading and dreading the time' when she would cease to be Hatty Beecher and change to nobody knows who. But her husband proved to be her most enthusiastic advocate and an unwavering supporter in her writing career. 'You must be a literary women. It is so written in the book of fate' her husband told her."

With our 29th wedding anniversary on the 14th, I would be remiss if I didn't stop and thank Jerry for his encouragement and support of my writing. I spend large amounts of time in the writing room both writing and working with pictures. It's my haven of rest where I share God's love and receive His love. My window opens to the back yard and so many times I've been inspired by the animal life and nature as I sit and create.

I am also grateful for the encouragement I receive from my pastor, Michael Trammell, who has verbally and in written word voiced his support for the work I do for God. All of us need words of assurance as we labor for our Lord, and I exhort you to thank and show your appreciation to those who have touched your heart and soul.

 
I decided to put my Robert Frost book out with the Christmas decorations. In the movie The Christmas Kiss, a penthouse was being decorated for a party and the owner had a first edition of The Christmas Carol so they displayed it. I liked the idea and decided my 1978 edition of  "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" would look nice  too!

Do you have a kindred spirit? Someone who's heart shares similar interests and hopes. Who makes life easier to get through? Now's the time! Let them know you care.












 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Miracle of December

                    The decorating has begun! The front doors say, "Welcome! Come on in!"

This year my mind has been playing over and over the miracle of December. It doesn't happen every year. In fact, there have been quite a few years when the unhappiness of  life overruled the excitement of December and the joy of Christmas.

Not this year. The Saturday after Thanksgiving I put up the garland and lights around the ceiling in the living room and dining room. When I worked in Rockville 20 years ago, one evening driving home I took in all the decorations of the homes I passed. Through the front window of one home I saw garland and lights around their ceiling. I liked the effect it made inside. A new tradition in decorating began!

         The garland and lights are up. The mantle is being dismantled for Christmas decorations! My Longaberger Sweetheart baskets will have a rest, except for one which holds the Christmas cards that arrive.

In earlier years, when Jerry and I were better able to get around, along with the garland and lights we put up red bows on each hook and ornaments hung from the garland. I tried to find a picture of those earlier years, but have not been successful.

                                Thank you, Jerry, for getting behind the grandfather clock!

Now, Jerry isn't able to hang the garland and lights, so I gave it my best attempt and after two hours it was done. No red bows or ornaments, but the ambience from the garland and lights was inviting and warm. Jerry did come to the rescue in reaching the hook behind the grandfather clock to attach the garland and lights. I couldn't stretch that far.

Last Sunday afternoon, I began putting the living room year round decorations in a plastic tub in preparation of bringing out the Christmas decorations. Again this year and all future years, the decorating is toned, but joyful enough to enjoy.



Last week the DVD of The Christmas Candle by Max Lucado arrived in our mail. We've watched it twice so far and will probably watch it a few more times through December. The main song in the movie, "Miracle Hymn" is sung by Susan Boyle, who has a supporting role in the movie.

I love the music and the lyrics, which were co-authored by Candace Lee. Following is the chorus:

"There are miracles all around, miracles yet to be found.
Hid in every heart is an answered prayer, Like a candle's flame, hope will lead us there."

You can see Susan Boyle sing this hymn at the following site:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fd1LPKuAQZw

 Yes, the miracle of December is showing up around our home. I love sitting at night with only the Christmas lights and decorations on. It's a time to get quiet and prepare my heart for the greatest miracle of all. The celebration of the birth of our Savior, Jesus.

                                           The mantle is now full of snowmen! Let it Snow!

"Ah! dearest Jesus, Holy Child, Make thee a bed, soft, undefiled, Within my heart, that it may be A quiet chamber kept for thee."  Martin Luther (1483-1546)

May the miracle of December wrap itself around you and rest in your heart all the month through!

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Time for Testimony


A Time for Testimony was the sermon title of my pastor's Sunday message. We're in the book of Revelation, and he was teaching from chapters 10 and 11 about three witnesses: the mighty angel; the two witnesses, and the 24 elders (who represent the saints of all the ages).

The title caught my eye. (There's those titles again!)  A Time for Testimony is very accurate for the week of Thanksgiving and coming Christmas season. As I concluded last week, accepting God's control of your life enables you to be thankful in all things.

Sharing your testimony during these two seasons of thankfulness and hope may not always be easy or accepted well by the hearers, but they provide a seed that can grow and touch the hearts of others. In Matthew 28 we're told to bear witness for our Lord. So whether it's easy or hard, our joy should be so complete that we must tell others about our Lord and God.

So when you gather together and ask the Lord's blessing with your family and friends, I trust your heart will be full and your words will be a testimony of all He's has done for you! And in the
upcoming days, your heart will shout of His goodness for all the world to know!

On Facebook I saw this display of colors. Don't know who created it, but loved seeing the cycle of color from beginning to end on these leaves,

One of my most cherished blessings I will be thanking God for this Thanksgiving are my friends. In John C. Maxwell's  book: The treasure of a friend, these words are shared:

"Warm as a crackling fire, Sweet as hot chocolate, Comforting as a child's embrace. Few things are more precious, Few more cherished, than the value of a genuine friend."

John Oliver Hobbes said: "There are deep sorrows and killing cares in life, but the encouragement and love of friends were given us to make all difficulties bearable."

I think of the happy song, Count your blessings, name them one by one; Count your blessings, see what God hath done; Count your blessings, name the one by one; Count your MANY blessings, see what God hath done."

Start counting!


 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

What a Question!

                                                      Fall scenes from 2011 and 2012

A good title catches your eye. A good song lyric stays in your head. A good caption speaks volumes.

And that's what happen to me as I was reading through the November issues of Home Life and Mature Living. "What if This is as Good as it Gets?" caught my eye as well as "When the Rain Falls . . . Things Begin to Grow."


As a writer I was trained to create catchy titles because that's what draws the eye. Some of the titles I've created and had published are: "Are you Afraid of a Divorced Person?" "A Life Changing Truck" "My Melody of Words" "Out of Tune" and "Is The Answer Reverence." Titles get you thinking, and that's just what I did!

"What if This is as Good as it Gets? . . . Are You Ok With that?" For me. For my personal life. Here we are one week from celebrating Thanksgiving - a time of giving thanks for God's blessings. Am I truly thankful for my life and all the joy and sadness I've been through? Wow. That's a doozy of a question.


The truth is, we all have our stories of life, the joys, the disappointments, the weaknesses. There's always something we wish could be rewritten and have a happier ending. Many times I voice David's words in Psalm 55:6: "Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest --."

Accepting all that has happened to me doesn't mean I like everything, or I'm happy about everything. It means I've accepted my life and trust God. Whether it's good or bad, God picks up the pieces and continues to work in my life. He continues to work. He continues to work. Thankfully, He continues to work.


All that my life is, God has provided and directed, and I trust Him to bring me safely home to Him.

"When the Rain Falls . . . Things Begin to Grow." When I accept God's control over all the things that happen in my life, patience grows, understanding grows, humility grows, compassion grows, acceptance grows. Of course, if I don't accept God's control, bitterness grows, anger grows, indifference grows, hate grows, dissatisfaction grows.

 
Life sure is a journey. As I age, accepting God's control in my life and letting Him work, gets easier. It sure helps my day-to-day living when I accept His way. But, I'm not perfect yet and still have a ways to go before my growing season is up.

On my pastor' blog last week, he shared a quote by Melody Beattie that seems appropriate here:

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.
It turns what we have into enough, and more.
It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order,
and confusion into clarity. It turns a meal into a feast,
a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.
Gratitude makes sense out of our past,
brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow."


I believe I have accepted the course of my life, definitely not liking everything, but I can say: "Yes, I'm ok with it as long as God is in control."  Farther down in Psalm 55 my heart is expressed completely: "But as for me, I trust in you." And that's definitely a reason to celebrate this Thanksgiving!

Two little titles brought quite a discussion in my mind. What about you? What if this is as good as it gets? Are you ok with it? I think it's worth your time to consider as you prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas.


God is the giver of all good things. "Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt His name together."

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

November Joy

                                          I've attached some of my favorite snaps of fall!

I've written about the practice, November Joy, before, but it is definitely a practice that needs repeating. And let me say at the very beginning that I've been remiss in fulfilling this practice in recent years. So may my heart be encouraged to be faithful and begin again.

I don't remember when I began November Joy, but when the calendar turns over to November I recall those individuals I have been most thankful for that year and write them a note telling them so. It's a special way of recognizing someone to let them know your heart, and possibly encourage and cheer their heart.


Thanksgiving and Christmas are not always happy occasions for many people because of broken families and broken hearts. Receiving a note, or call, a home baked treat, or a visit brightens hearts and helps them go through the coming events. Knowing somebody cares about them may have a huge impact on how they're able to get through Thanksgiving and Christmas. And yes, even Christians have sorrow through these "family" occasions.

For those who enjoy happiness at those times, an unexpected reminder from someone of how thankful they are of that person, becomes a special joy to help them celebrate too. We all need encouragement.


This year I have a very special person to write to and express my thankfulness. I lost touch with a dear sister-in-law over 30 years ago, and though I tried twice to find her, I was not successful. Then by chance last year I found her daughter on Facebook. I sent a message hoping to finally have a connection.

Several months later I received the anticipated response and had her address and telephone number. I immediately wrote my friend a letter thanking her for the years I'd known her and how happy I was to be in touch again. The day I received her response was a very thankful day for me.


I'm definitely not one who likes to talk on the phone, but Beverly and I spoke for over an hour and what joy filled my heart! There was sad news to tell, and happy news to share. And my joy was complete when she shared she'd found Jesus and was now my sister in Christ.


I have been thankful for that contact all year. My daughter and I would visit her and her children in West Virginia twice each year. It also awoke happy memories of my daughter and I driving there and singing John Denver's Country Roads hit as we entered West Virginia: "Country roads take me home To the place I belong, West Virginia, mountain momma, Take me home, country roads."


So I ask you, who has brought you a smile, helped in a time of need, or brought some encouragement into your life this year? What friend do you take for granted? Relative? Co-worker?

Do your thing! Write, visit, call or bake. Let them know how you feel about them. I will too!


In closing, I want to thank my God for my 36th anniversary of salvation on November 14th. A new life was born, and I'm eternally grateful to be a part of the family of God because of what Jesus did for me. I celebrate my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.