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.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Catching the Color

Enjoyed this lovely sunrise on the way home from the grocery store last week. The sun was up and gone before I knew it, behind the clouds in a flash.

"Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns."  George Eliot

A few days ago we went to the Craft Fair at the Howard County Fair Grounds. The cold coming our way hadn't settled in yet, and the sun was shining. The last day of October was before us.

On the way I found some lovely scenes . . .

There were cows everywhere on this farm on Bushy Park Road. Just a quiet fall day with a slight chill to the air. Wasn't a lot of color to be seen, but the scene was lovely to behold.

"October was a beautiful month at Green Gables, when the birches in the hollow turned as golden as sunshine and the maples behind the orchard were royal crimson and the wild cherry trees along the lane put on the loveliest shades of dark red and bronzy green, while the fields sunned themselves in the aftermaths. Anne reveled in the world of color about her . . . ' I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers. It would be terrible if we just skipped from September to November, wouldn't it?'" Lucy Maud Montgomery

Just a few little blue flowers beside this tall grass caught my eye. We're still seeing flowers blooming with November upon us. Can't recall enjoying blossoms this long into fall.
"In autumn, don't go to the jewelers to see gold; go to the parks!" Mehmet Murat ildan

These geese were resting calmly on this pond when I stopped to take the picture. I was thrilled when they decided to take off.
"I love autumn, the one season of the year that God seemed to have put there just for the beauty of it." Lee Maynard

This colorful scene caught my eye as we came around a curve. Was too refreshing to let go.

"Autumn carries more gold in its pocket than all the other seasons." Jim Bishop

I also found a few treasures at the show . . .

A cloth book with fun illustrations!

            As fall color winds down, I'm getting ready for beautiful snow with this kitchen towel!

This lovely fall table runner I just couldn't pass up! With Karla Dornacher's "Give Thanks" picture and my fall snaps, I'm in the spirit of thanksgiving!

I always browse the photographer's displays looking for matted prints and note cards of their snaps. I love to purchase ones I may not have the opportunity to snap myself, like bear, eagles and foreign land, and some I just plain admire!

And I loved these Christmas bows! Bows have always been a favorite of mine. They'll sit somewhere in my Christmas decorations this year!

The day ended and night fell. The sun gave me this gorgeous sunset to end a lovely day.

"Autumn is sweat shirts and wool socks . . . gold, orange and cherry leaves . . . lovely sunrises and glorious sunsets . . . the chill of morning and the peace of night . . . warm fires and hot chocolate . . . far too many joys to think of . . . live each day to the fullest and thank God for His amazing creation."  Yours truly

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Read it Again

Colors of fall as seen on my drive to Breezewood PA. on the north and south sides of I 70. It was hazy and bright, and I couldn't get good snaps of the far valley. Had to cut the sky out of most of the east snaps. I always enjoy looking at these valleys when I make that drive. Other snaps from the valleys are below. 

Back in the early days when I first began writing and dreamed of being published, I bought a book called "Behind the Stories" by Diane Eble. It's filled with personal stories of Christian novelists, their hopes and dreams, how they got started, their failures.

As much as I wanted to be a novelist, I knew I was not a story teller, and I didn't have enough words to write a novel. But I did like writing articles, so I was looking for encouragement.

Through the years I did get some of those articles published, but God redirected my focus to writing notes of encouragement. The other day I went downstairs to choose some books to read. I picked up "Behind the Stories" again, some 14 years later. In each author's story there are choice words of wisdom and encouragement.

Jan Karon, of Mitford fame, is one of the authors who shares her story.
I had to laugh when I read: "I remember playing the card game called
'Author,' with pictures of authors such as Henry Longfellow, Henry David
Thoreau, Jane Austin, and Charles Dickens." I immediately went to the
 internet to try and find a set. I found three card games: America Authors, Women Authors and Children's Authors. I'd never heard of that game before.

Karon also shared these words of wisdom: "God can't give you a gift to touch other people in a variety of ways unless He has put you in the valley in a variety of ways. That's the only way we can ever reach people." Most of us, through the years, have learned the lesson that our trials and burdens can be used for God's glory if we let Him work in us.

Janette Oke is another author featured in this book. She was a pioneer in Christian fiction, and as a new believer I learned a lot about living a Christian life through her stories. She calls her books "paper missionaries." They certainly helped me.

A while back I recall a quote that went something like this: "If a book isn't worth reading over a few times, it's not worth reading at all." I don't remember who said it, but my memory is leaning towards C. S. Lewis. (I decided to try and find it and found my remembrance isn't quite right, but I still like my version!) Here is what Lewis actually said: "No book is really worth reading at the age of 10 which is not equally--and often far more--worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond."

I'm glad I decided to reread this book. It's good to become acquainted with people who share a similar gift. They have the ability to encourage you and inspire you in your work.

I'm looking forward to reading stories on Karen Kingsbury, Jerry Jenkins, Beverly Lewis, Gilbert Morris, Jack Cavanaugh and T. Davis Buss, some of the authors whose books I've read and enjoyed.

What books do you have that are calling for you to read a second, or third time? A good book is worth reading again!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Top of the Hour

     I liked this lone tree with the yellow flowers underneath it as I drove the back roads of Vermont.

A fiction novel I read recently, Book of Hours, by Davis Bunn,,focused around an English town, an English manor and the broken lives of the people who lived there. And there were riddles that had to be solved to bring a happy ending to the story.

It reminded me of a practice I had forgotten about. A good practice. And I want to share it with you. In this little town there were seven churches and they all rang their bells every hour, day and night. There were people in the town that wanted the ringing to stop.

         A lovely lake hidden behind the hills in Vermont. The flowers were showing their color!

One of the main characters gave a talk about why the bells rang in hope of persuading the people to keep the bells. Following are portions of her talk:

"This village has known some very rich times and some very hard times. Nine hundred years ago when William the Conqueror made this his first capital in England, Knightsbridge was one of the wealthiest communities in all the land. Records show that by the end of the following century, work on four of our seven churches had begun . . .

      The small village of Wilmington was decorated in beautiful flowers along the main street,
                                                        as many of the town were.

"So long ago we don't even know when the practice began, people saw the need for regular prayer. The account I read claimed it started in France almost fourteen hundred years ago, and it told how people from all walks of life began halting every hour to give a short prayer. Only a few brief words, but every hour they took time to turn to God . . .

"But how could they do this? How did they know when to pray, since there were no clocks? The answer is, they rang the church bells. Seven churches planted so that their bells could be heard everywhere in the region. And each time they rang, people stopped what they were doing and said a prayer, one that lasted no longer than it took to ring the hour. Those who could read carried a miniature text called the "Book of Hours." In it were prayers and short poems, brief words to inspire and direct  . . .

                Loved driving over and around mountains and coming up on a scene like this!

"Save our heritage. Remind us of our needs, however dated they might seem at the moment. Let the bells of Knightsbridge ring for centuries to come."

I say that is a pretty strong message for the 21st century! How long has it been since you've heard the bells toll and talked with God? It certainly would be a welcome reminder in this day and age to call out to God.

                         Love this scene I found hanging in Norman Rockwell's studio.

I drafted this post before I went to Vermont. One early morning recently the grandfather clock in the living room began it's chimes for the top of the hour. The light came on in my mind! "When I hear the clock chime, turn my mind towards God!" I wish I could say it's been a great reminder, but  I'm so use to hearing the clock chime that I don't always "hear" it. It will take some time before a routine will set in, but my heart's desire remains firm. I want to "turn my heart towards God" frequently throughout my day.

                                                          Please, Mom, can we go out?