Saturday, December 31, 2011

Reflecting on the Year Just Past

Looking back, 2011 has been a year filled with more ups than downs.  Our highlights are listed below and we give God the glory for each of them:

•    Beyond our wildest dreams, our small two-person business was contracted by the U.S. Marine Corps Band to provide them with 35 of our custom music stands (see Noteworthy Music Stands).  This provided excitement, confusion over government contracts, nerves and lots of attention for us.

•    Our son Craig and his wife, Gigi, were able to purchase a small vacation getaway at the Oregon coast which they have graciously offered for our use from time to time.  We rejoice with them that even though the economy has impacted them to some extent, they have both continued to be employed by long-term employers over the past four years.

•    Connections with writers and the writing world have increased for me, and I am hopeful that this year will provide some sort of publishing experience. 

•    Our granddaughter Alyssa gave birth to Everett William Ellis, our second great-grandchild on November 20th and he is a wonderful and happy little guy.  Big sister Kylie is coming into her own as mommy’s little helper.

On the downside, we hit some bumps that involved medical issues, including:

•    Just when I thought we were going to make it through the first quarter of the year home free, I was scheduled for surgery for reconstruction of my left thumb joint.  Not a horrible surgery, but an incredibly long recovery for something so simple.  This effectively brought to a halt my desire to start flute lessons and to be more active in my writing.  After long weeks of therapy, I was finally home free.

•    In May I was hit with the worst episode of sciatica I could imagine.  I hoped it would pass, and it has finally but only because of spinal fusion on December 8th.  I’m glad to write that the recovery is going well but it too isn’t a fast process.

•    At the same time I was suffering, my husband also was experiencing sciatica and eventually received amazing relief with a cortisone injection.  I’m so glad he didn’t have to have surgery!

Even in the lows, God was ever present and has kept us strong as a couple.  Through devotionals and prayers together each day, we have grown closer, even after 30 years of marriage.  My work with MOPS is still going strong and I managed not to miss too many meetings in spite of the pain or surgery. 

I want to thank each of you who has stopped by during the year to read something I’ve written and to leave your words of encouragement and hope.  I don’t know where 2012 will take me or us, hopefully wherever and in whatever way God's will directs us.  I love writing and would like to think it is a full-time endeavor for me.  However, there are many other things I love as well and must decide on some priorities.  Right now I have to focus on healing and healing well, and then on regaining a fitness and healthy lifestyle that benefits me day after day.

Blessings to each of you for a grand New Year in 2012, one filled with love, joy and peace!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Heart Overflowing: Counting One Thousand Gifts (#235-251)

Learning to count is one of the many things we hope to teach our young.  Often it is a painstaking endeavor, not just for us but for the child.  Many learned tasks are.  However, learning to count becomes one of the handiest tools in our bag of skills.  Counting money is almost essential.  For little ones, counting on their fingers becomes a game.  As we get older, we'd like to stop counting the years that add up!

Counting gifts almost sounds like something we shouldn't be doing, as it might imply competition on special days like Christmas and birthdays.  Or it could mean we're checking to make sure we got everything we think we deserved and a number will define that for us.

However, counting gifts has an entirely different meaning for the child of God.  God blesses us with so many gifts -- a new day, blue skies, rain for the fields, snow for winter activities, food to eat, water to drink, and so much more, even more than some of our brothers and sisters in other countries will ever have.  Let me share some of my recent gifts:

235.  Christmas letters from friends who live far away.
236.  Joyful sounds of Christmas music.
237.  Good call with Jim and Helen.
238.  Caregiving and loving husband.
239.  Winter solstice and sunlight peeking in at the windows.
240.  Positive follow-up visit with surgeon.
241.  Celebrating Christmas with family.
242.  Playing with great-granddaughter Kylie as she opened presents.
243.  Meeting and holding new great-grandson Everett.
244.  Meeting grandson's girlfriend for the first time.
245.  Gift of Christmas Eve and a beautiful church service.
246.  The manger.
247.  Worship on Christmas morning.
248.  The quiet of Christmas afternoon.
249.  Tiny ray of sunlight on a gray day.
250.  Calls to family members across the country.
251.  Gift of the Christ Child.

I hope someday soon you'll begin counting One Thousand Gifts with us.  Just visit Ann Voskamp's site, A Holy Experience, to learn more.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Reflections of Christmas 2011

Unexpected richness still pervades the air around me.  This Christmas season has been unusual to say the least.  Scheduling surgery for December 8th caused friends to think I'd lost my mind.  Pain was debilitating, and its intensity guided our choice.

Together, my husband and I made the choice that Christmas would be downsized this year.  No tree, no other decorations except the wreath beside the door, early shopping and addressing of cards.  Festivities would be held somewhere other than our home.  And so, it was that this became the richest of all Christmases.

My goal was to be strong enough to celebrate Christmas with our son and his family on December 23rd, or as we call it, Christmas Eve Eve.  And I made it!  My delight was in watching our 3-year old great-granddaughter Kylie, open her presents, and then go right back to the baby doll in a quilted carrier -- obviously her favorite of the evening.  She gave me a manicure that I'm sure you'll not be able to find at your local manicurist's shop!  Then I met and held for the first time Kylie's new baby brother, Everett, now a month old.  He slept in my arms, and I looked in his face and realized that Mary would have held an infant about this size as they raced away from the threats of Herod.  How her heart must have pounded!

Not one to set just one goal, I also wanted to pace myself to attend an early Christmas Eve service and worship on Christmas morning.  I was able to do both!  The early Christmas Eve service was directed toward young families with children, but adults find it enjoyable too.  I watched and listened as two little girls, ages 6 and 9, sang the French carol, Le Divin Infant (The Divine Child), every word memorized.  A children's choir of almost 30 treated our ears to O, Little Town of Bethlehem.  And the beauty of the night kept coming through music.

AND Christmas morning's worship service was once again filled with music and readings from The Gospels.  My heart was swelling with joy, gratitude, and blessings.

And today I sit here in the quiet continuing my reflections on Christmas realizing that Christmas is new every year -- a rebirth of sorts of the Christ Child in each of us if we are willing to open ourselves to this experience.  By virtue of being in recovery mode, I patiently sat and waited through the hustle and bustle of early December and was allowed to enjoy the unfolding events of Advent.  I don't recommend experiencing this through surgery and recovery, but I do recommend slowing the pace and giving yourself the opportunity to taste fully the delectable love that God has shown us through the birth of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Heart Overflowing: Counting One Thousand Gifts (#225-234)

Can't you hear the whispers going on under and around family trees?  Wonder what's in that box?  That one is mine and I bet I know what it is!  I hope that's what I think it is.  I can't wait until Christmas morning!

Well, there are no little whispers under our tree this year.  In fact, with my surgery and recovery we opted to not have a tree and experience Christmas focusing on the most important element, the babe in the manger and the promises His birth brought to earth.

On Christmas morning, we won't even open packages.  My husband and I stopped buying for each other year's ago.  We could buy what we needed or wanted any day of the year, so why focus on Christmas presents?  It hasn't changed our life together.  We still have children and grandchildren, and now great-grands to buy for, and that's joy in itself.  But this year as I focused on the babe and His mother Mary, I thought about her waiting.  Waiting for the curious, the whisperers, the nosey, coming out of the wordwork to talk about her so-called predicament.  The wait must have seemed interminable to Mary.

Although my predicament has not been like hers and my physical problems as serious as many others, since May I have suffered pain on standing, while sitting, and even lately while lying in my bed at night.  The waiting for decisions, diagnoses, and finally a surgery date seemed never-ending.  I am not a patient person.  Ask my husband!  But God has brought me through this with a teaching like none other I've received before.  I learned that waiting is best to get to the right diagnosis and problem, to find the specific place that will alleviate the pain, and to find the right doctor to do the surgery.  I can tell you that last night for the first time since May I stood in my kitchen and prepared our evening meal without once having to grab my mother-in-law's old kitchen stool or lean on the cabinet to alleviate the pain.  Today I wrapped packages for our grandchildren and their little ones and stood for an hour in my sewing room doing it, and never realized until I sat down here that I wasn't hurting!  Praise the Lord for so many gifts, but most of all for the teaching He has given me these last months and weeks and days.  And that only begins my counting of one thousand gifts:

225.  Blooms on the Christmas cactus!
226.  David's miraculous recovery.
227.  Good nurses and doctors last week in the hospital.
228.  Successful surgery showing a much straighter spine!
229.  Healing and recovery progressing well.
230.  Lessons in patience along the way.
231.  Messages from family and friends.
232.  Preparations for Christmas with family.
233.  Meals prepared by friends.
234.  A loving husband who has cared for me every step of the way.

Have you started counting yet?  It's an amazing experience!  Won't you join us at Ann's place, A Holy Experience?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Signing Off for a Few Days

As I mentioned in an earlier post today, I'm undergoing surgery tomorrow and expect to not be up to blogging for a few days.  However, at this season of the year, I wanted to leave a short post to say where I am and to wish you the very best of the Christmas season.  Remember to take time to anticipate and wait patiently for the gift of God's immense love.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Philemon 1:3 (NIV)


Advent and Still Counting One Thousand Gifts (#218-224)

Each Sunday we're counting down to that special day.  The day we gather around the tree, open packages . . . . . no, wait!  Aren't we supposed to be patiently waiting for the celebration of His birth long ago?  We get so caught up in the world's Christmas that we often tend not to focus on the importance of Advent in our Christian focus.

The Christmas season is an unlikely and inconvenient time for scheduling surgery.  But in my life this year, it is a fact of life.  Tomorrow at noon, surgery to fuse my spine, then a recovery and rehab.  Well, Husband and I discussed it, and this year we're not decorating to any great extent.  Just small touches here and there.  I've been frustrated by my situation since it began last May and I remarked the other day that the journey to tomorrow has been just too long.  The waiting just too much.  But has it really?

In the midst of waiting, God has worked in me.  I have been forced to slow down.  I have had no choice.  Decisions were made around the house about what we could let go and what we would do together.  Oh, I forgot to mention -- my husband has been suffering with sciatica for three months!).  So, our  home isn't as tidy as usual, I haven't written or quilted as much, cooking demands are simpler, and on and on and on.

Yes, life has taken a turn, and yes, it could be worse.  The point is we stopped, looked around and made new choices about our life during the holidays.  And perhaps you might want to try doing the same even in good health and spirits.  Just a snippet here from these demands, and another little adjustment over there.  What do you say?

I know one thing -- my awareness during this Christmas season of what I've been missing during those other Christmases past when I ran myself ragged is like the diamond-sharpened edge of a knife!  And it's given me more time to focus on counting his marvelous gifts:

218.  Encouraging visit with surgeon.
219.  Advent's peace and fulfillment of promises of long ago.
220.  Hymns and songs of Christmas.
221.  A new mom to mentor at MOPS.
222.  Sense of peace as surgery date approaches.
223.  Husband's gift of a poinsettia in a year we're not decorating.
224.  Good talks with friends.

Although I'm a day or two late in linking up with Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience, won't you join me in going over there today?  Ann's book, One Thousand Gifts, is an awesome read and truly awakens your soul to the tiny gifts all around you.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Counting in December

It isn't often I double up and post twice on the same day but December is so full of such joy and anticipation that I couldn't wait another day to talk about December.  December holds so much in store for us, and we wait for it all year long.  It's the last, the 12th month of the year.  Remember how you disliked being picked last, or being the last in line to receive a treat, or the last line in at the gas pump.  December, although it's last, is chock full of surprises, joys, smiles and so much to anticipate.

Advent is the first thing to happen, and it actually began last Sunday, November 27th.  The advent wreath and its candles signal the message of hope, anticipation, waiting, the coming of the One who gives life and hope to the world.   In our Presbyterian tradition, we use a wreath very similar to the one here, and as a child I could not wait for the Christ candle, the white one, to be lit.  Even then I knew it signified something special.  Today I learn from the Christ candle.  Together the white candle and I wait patiently for its lighting, its affirmation that once again the Christ Child has come into our midst.

My hope this Advent season is to learn to wait more patiently and to focus on the Christ child the first eleven months of the year as fervently as I do in December.  Why is it we forget so easily that which is so important to our faith and salvation?  Think on the candles, especially the Christ candle.  What does it mean for you?  What is special about Advent that touches you?  I'd love to hear from you!

A Heart Overflowing (Counting One Thousand Gifts, #205-216)

We travelled out of town over Thanksgiving, and upon returning home it seems I've not been able to get in the groove with my writing, my blogging, my housework, my to do list . . . . in other words on this post and many other things, I'm running late like the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland who cried, "I'm late, I'm late for a very important date.  No time to say 'Hello.'  Goodbye, I'm late, I'm late, I'm late."  Lewis Carroll's words typify the season we're entering, and I need to slow down this season and take it slower for a number of reasons.

The main reason I want to slow down is because of what I witnessed over Thanksgiving.  We were with my husband's brother and his wife for four days.  In late spring, my husband's brother was diagnosed with Parkinson's, and anyone who knows anything about this disease knows that it differs greatly from patient to patient.  Our last visit with them was in August, and we were startled by the changes we saw when we arrived a week ago.  Watching and listening to this once vibrant man struggle to find the words he wants to say, who can no longer do the small things for the love of his life, who is so emotional over things that reach in and touch his heart . . . and more made me realize that slowing down, stopping to smell that rose, touching another's hand or giving a smile or sitting and talking with your husband or wife, and a long list of other things, take so little out of our days and put so much into someone else's.

My eyes have been focusing on the little things I'm blessed with since reading Ann Voskamp's great book, One Thousand Gifts.  And as I have drawn my focus closer to the little things, I find a greater satisfaction in my own soul for all that God has done for us.  Won't you join me over at Ann's site where I love joining in on her Monday Musings, even if I'm a little late. 

A Holy Experience

Continuing to count with the Multitudes on Monday.
205.  Improvements in my husband's pain level.
206.  Call from my younger brother.
207.  Anticipation of Thanksgiving travel.
208.  Thanksgiving with family this year.
209.  Raised awareness of everyday blessings.
210.  Gift of unexpected piano recital of Thanksgiving hymns.
211.  Seeing old friends.
212.  Safe travel to and from.
213.  Faithful friends.
214.  Refreshing rain.
215.  Opening my eyes to each new day.
216.  The joy of waiting during Advent.
217.  Successful surgery for my younger brother.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Day Inspirations

Help Me
(A Thanksgiving Day Prayer)

O God, when I have food,
help me to remember the hungry;
When I have work,
help me to remember the jobless;
When I have a home,
help me to remember those who have no home at all;
When I am without pain,
help me to remember those who suffer,
And remembering,
help me to destroy my complacency;
bestir my compassion,
and be concerned enough to help;
By word and deed,
those who cry out for what we take for granted.
-Samuel F. Pugh

Psalm 100

Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands.
Serve the LORD with gladness:
come before his presence with singing.
Know ye that the LORD he is God:
it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving,
and into his courts with praise:
be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
For the LORD is good;
his mercy is everlasting;
and his truth endureth to all generations.

Wishing each and everyone of you, a glorious day of giving thanks and sharing with family, friends and community.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

God's Palette

The Pacific NW rarely experiences vivid fall colors on the leaves, and the evergreen trees far outnumber deciduous trees in many areas.  Yet this fall has been on fire!  The colors have been vivid, varying from tree to tree in ways that reflect an artist's palette, and for this year it took God's palette. 

I can see God reaching for the trees and touching each one into vivid reds, oranges, yellows.  Then reaching out to turn the next leaves to deep, full browns, rusts, purples.  And He doesn't fail to leave a hint of green to remind us that these trees represent a cycle of life -- life that falters, and wanes, and catches hold again, and once again flourishes.  All because God's palette has touched life into being.

As we've driven or walked the sidewalks, we have witnessed this amazing cycle all around us.  If we would only pause, we would witness this same cycle at work in us.

"The Lord is good.  His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness
continues to each generation."  Psalm 100:5 (NLT)

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Heart Overflowing (Counting One Thousand Gifts, #195-204)
Here we are just a couple of days before Thanksgiving.  It seems the year has flown by again, and I'm reminded of how many times my mother cautioned not to wish my life away, that as I grew older it would go by faster anyway.  I've tried to heed her cautionary statement, but I truly believe this year has flown by so quickly because I've changed.

After reading Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts, I was drawn into the concept of taking greater notice of the many things around me which were from God.  In turn, I began to realize that thanking Him daily made me feel better, made me a blessing to others as I shared this newness of gratitude I'd embraced.

Continuing counting with the One Thousand Gifts community:

195.  Sounds of stormy weather.
196.  Intercessory prayer life.
197.  Words and language, written and spoken.
198.  An evening with our small group from church.
199.  Mission opportunities.
200.  Quiet Saturday at home.
201.  Thanksgiving dinner with our church family.
202.  The arrival of our second great-grandchild, Everett William Ellis.
203.  Talking with great-granddaughter Kylie about her new baby brother.
204.  An unexpected visit from our eldest this morning.

Time to link up with the community --  see  you there!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Double Scoop of Blessing on the Sabbath

Each Sunday morning during our worship service one of our pastors calls the children forward for their Children's Sermon.  Today it so happened that it was our Pastor Husband (we enjoy the benefits of a married couple pastoring our church).  Pastor Husband began by talking to the children about turkeys and what was the turkey's first name.  There were many shouts of "Tom!" (this just happens to be his first name too).  The message then turned to what they were thankful for today.

A soft voice came out of the crowd of children and said, "The sun!"  And today the entire congregation was in agreement with the little girl who'd uttered everyone's thanksgiving.  Living in the Pacific NW in late fall and winter means many days without the benefit of sunlight, and this morning we awoke to a strange occurrence.  A large bright orb was beaming down on our corner of the country, and yes, we were all blessed by its presence.  Thanks be to God for a child so small who recognized her gratitude and was able to speak to it.  So, this was scoop one.

Now, for scoop two.  Today our family has been blessed once again by new life.  Our second great-grandchild, Everett William Ellis, was born at midday weighing in at 7 lbs. 2 oz. and at 21" long.  A family photo shows him with his mom, dad and big sister, Kylie, who is already calling him Baby E.  Everett made his appearance in this big world about two weeks early but is doing very well.  We are so grateful today that God has provided this new life for our family to nurture and love.  Thanksgiving will truly be a day filled with thanks for Everett's safe arrival, his mom's good health, his dad's safe return from the Marines, and sister Kylie's love for him.

The gift of offering back to God our gratitude is one we all too often take for granted.  We should take time to notice not just the stunning things God places in our lives but also the tiny gifts along the way, the ones we most often overlook and thereby fail to offer up thanksgiving.

"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus."
I Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Gift of Intercession

This quote by Alfred Lord Tennyson says a lot about the hidden benefits and qualities of prayer.  His words indicate that much is done by prayer that no one is ever really aware of.  Indeed, answered prayer is not always obvious to us because we may be expecting another answer.

However, we have been given a special gift -- the gift of interceding for one another and even those who may be unaware of our prayers on their behalf.  Intercessory prayer is a gift given to us by God.  Often we see the gift only when we are praying for someone else.  And yet I know many times when I've been the recipient of God's blessings, healing, and understanding because of the prayers of my church family, my own family, and many friends.  In Timothy 2:1-3, Paul writes to the church about intercessory prayer:

"I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and
thanksgiving be made for all people—"

In many churches today, a time is reserved during the worship service for prayer requests in the form of joys and concerns.  Many church newsletters carry lists of those in need of prayer.  If we are indeed gifted with intercessory prayer, we should be making note of these needs and lifting them to God during the coming week.

Today Beck Gambill in her Thursday Sister to Sister post references Ephesians 6:18 which speaks to praying for "all the Lord's people."  These are powerful words, and we take them to heart to strengthen the family of God and to continue His work here on earth, today and tomorrow and forever.

Won't you join me over at Beck's site today and read more of Beck's post?  Linking up with her at

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Heart Overflowing (Counting One Thousand Gifts #7 (184-194)

The closer we come to Thanksgiving celebrations next week the more it seems we think about giving thanks and showing our gratitude.  Yet, we can count these blessings every day, and for me doing so has sharpened my senses to the many small things I often overlook as gifts from God.  This last week it's been impossible not to give thanks:

184.  Ann's writing of their Compassion International experiences.
185.  Compassion International and the work they do around the world.
186.  Freedoms fought for by our veterans and current military.
187.  Nature's fall decorations.
188.  Calls from our kids.
189.  My husband's slow, loving smile.
190.  Time with friends sharing a meal.
191.  Breakfast out.
192.  Mosaic seen in leaf-covered sidewalks and roads.
193.  Children singing and playing bells in church.
194.  God's incredible fall palette.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Unexpected Joy!

Lately, the gray skies of fall and winter have begun descending on the Pacific Northwest.  With those skies come what I call the doldrums.  Hard to wake in the mornings, unmotivated throughout the day, longing for sunlight, wondering if you suffer from SAD, taking extra Vitamin D just in case.  Add to that the fact that we live under approximately 25 old growth Doug firs and our home is often dark these days requiring lighting almost all day.

And yet this morning has dawned gloriously with sunlight streaming through our windows.  The sky is blue, and the birds are singing!  What an unexpected joy this day is!  The mere sight of sunlight casting its wondrous beams on our floors lifts my heart and makes my soul sing.

"Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth."
Psalm 96:1 (NASB)

I wish you unexpected joy in your day!

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Heart Overflowing {Counting One Thousand Gifts #6 (172-181)}


Full to the brim and more.

So very full.

Joyfully filled each and every day.

Filled with God's gifts to me, a sinner, flawed and damaged.  And yet He keeps on giving what I need and what brings me joy.

On Mondays, I link up with Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience to count the gifts that have touched me in the previous few days.  So here goes:

172.  A good start to the week.
173.  A friend's slow but sure recovery back in Virginia.
174.  Another friend who keeps me updated on my Virginia friend.
175.  Husband and I working as a team to clean.
176.  Volunteers from our church traveling to Guatemala on a mission trip.
177.  My Bible study group.
178.  MOPS meeting with moms and seeing their little ones.
179.  All the volunteers that make MOPS happen.
180.  More new moms in our MOPS group.
181.  The amazing faith of the moms I'm mentoring this year.
182.  Relaxing time after meetings.
183.  Breakfast for dinner -- a favorite around here!
184.  Talking with each other about little things and big.

Won't you take the time to jump on over to A Holy Experience and read some of Ann's writings and to see who else is counting to one thousand gifts?  Maybe you'd like to join us!

Friday, November 4, 2011

JOURNEY OF A LIFETIME – Installment 5 [Early Memories]

Note to readers:  These "installments" are posted in the roughest of draft form.  My sole purpose in posting them here is to perhaps illicit from anyone comments, criticisms, editorial suggestions, grammatical errors, etc.  Additionally, suggestions about voice, characterizations, and story/plot welcomed!

Mama and Daddy, with me looking on -- one of my
treasured photos of Mama laughing!
My earliest memories begin somewhere around 3 or 4 years old.  Research has shown that anything earlier than this age falls victim to what is called "childhood amnesia."  As with most people, some memories are filled with delight and joy; others are not so happy.  Happiest among my memories are those associated with my father -- learning to ride a bike (or even a trike!), listening to music laying on my tummy flat on the floor beside daddy’s feet and the Stromberg-Carlson radio/phonograph playing one song after the other, spending time outside when he gardened, Sunday afternoon drives through the park, teaching (or trying to teach) me to fish, working for him part-time as a proofreader, and the list could go on.  Each of these memories carries with it a sense of pride exhibited by him in what I was learning to do or accomplish.

Some other memories where daddy played a primary role were our infrequent summer vacation trips.  Daddy took great joy in surprising us with vacations.  He would come home from work on Friday afternoon and announce that tomorrow we would be leaving for a destination, and we'd be on our way the next morning.  The only one not overly excited would be mama because it was such short notice to get us all packed up and ready to go.

As I think back through my childhood and youth, however, it's difficult to find many happy moments involving my relationship with my mama.  Instead those memories are tense, painful and often heartbreaking.  My mama memories bear none of the positive impact that I received from my daddy.  Instead, the feedback from mama was constantly negative.  And that is the basis for the story I shall attempt to share – my relationship with Mama and the impact it had on both our lives.

I dreaded getting in trouble with Mama.  From a very early age, I can still conjure up the emotions following one of her favorite punishments.  Inflicting humiliation and dread on the object of her anger seemed to bring her great satisfaction.  I hated to hear the words, "Go outside and bring back a nice long switch.  And while you're walking back make sure you pull off all the leaves.  That way it will hurt more and the sting will last longer so you'll learn from this." 

It didn't help to cry -- tears only increased her anger.  And if tears were shed, there'd be another barrage of words, "I suppose you think those tears will make me feel sorry for you.  Well, they won't!"  So, off I’d go to pick the tool to render my punishment and walk back to the house, tears coursing down my cheeks, while my child fingers stripped the switch bare.  I could already fill its sting on my legs and back, and so I walked what seemed the longest walk cloaked in a blanket of dread for what was to come.

Soon enough I became stoic during my punishments, and sometimes I think it angered her even more that I didn't show some fear or pain.  She would then hit harder and longer with her tool – the switch, one of daddy’s belts, her bare hand or a yard stick, to name a few.  Finally, if she could bring me to tears, the punishment would stop.  As a child, it was hard to discern just what she wanted from me.  I'm not sure that mama even knew the answer to that question.

As I grew older and began to want to do things for myself, times became more difficult.  I think it's safe to say I was a bright child but according to mama, there wasn't anything I could do correctly.  This was thrown at me when it came to brushing my hair, tying my shoes, putting on my own clothes, straightening and making my bed.  It was soon obvious to me that if I thought I was bright, I must be mistaken because obviously Mama thought I was dimwitted.  And weren’t parents right about everything?  The humiliation of being told “I wasn’t good enough” to do certain tasks for myself began to tear down any sense of self-confidence I might have.  Eventually, I accepted the fact that I was better off relating to Mama in a submissive state of mind and body.  I just finally gave up.

I so desperately wanted and needed her love and affirmation that I would stretch my child limits to reach for any affirmation that I was what she wanted me to be.  I firmly believe that I reached a realization that fighting against her was not in my best interests.  So, I turned myself into the complacent child around 5 or 6 years old.  By this time, my older brother was 19 or 20 and married and in his own home.  I was the only child in the house.  To avoid the infliction of her temper against me I decided to just go with the flow.  This worked for a while.  However, Mama figured out my ploy and soon it made no difference whether I appeared cooperative or not.



Thursday, November 3, 2011

"New Every Morning"

Today I'm linking up with Beck Gambill over at Beck Far From Home.  Beck always shares amazing insights on her blog, but I especially enjoy Thursday's at Beck's place as that's the day that we come together as Sisters to share our faith together as a family.  Our word for reflection today is "new," and I immediately knew what would be the basis for my post.

Lamentations 3:22-23 are some of my favorite verses from the Bible.  As I read them, I feel washed again  each day from those trappings that layered on the day before.  Trappings of the world that I let take hold by keeping silence when I should have spoken up, by ignoring those in need when I should have helped, by shunning those who believe differently than I do.  The world's trappings . . . not supposed to be a part of me.  I'm a child of God.

But in Lamentations 3:22-23, we read, "Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." (NIV)  And his love and faithfulness are great enough that each morning we can open our eyes and face the morning knowing that his mercy, faithfulness and love will rain down on us again and again as we need to be made new again.  Like the dewdrops on the grass, each part of me sparkles as I start the day ready to serve him and blissful that he has made me afresh for this new day.  New, newness, newly made . . . don't you just love those three letters n-e-w?  They say so much about our relationship with our God when we believe on his Word.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Words Have Power

We've all heard it and said it, "Sticks and stones can hurt my bones, but words will never harm me."  At one time or another, I would guess that we all have experienced words that actually did hurt us, cut deeply into our being, and maybe even broke our heart.

Words have power for either good . . . or bad.  I know -- I have experienced both, and words that hurt us can leave deep, invisible scars that last for a lifetime.

At this point in my life, I don't believe my mother knew how her harsh, critical, demeaning words took those around her to a dark and doubting world.  I remember coming in from school on several occasions so excited by something a teacher had said, or an accomplishment I was proud of, and trying to tell my mother.  Often, it would be that she was just too busy with chores.  Other times it would landslide into a full out questioning of the incident I wanted to relate.  Was I sure that was what the teacher said?  Did I really accomplish something on my own, or was I making it up?  Now, those words don't necessarily sound too volatile, but imagine yourself as a child, your heart and soul bursting with pride, only to be brought down by someone's expression of doubt.

Years later, I realized that subconsciously I had absorbed my mother's ability to spew words in ways that hurt others, but most especially my young son.  My marriage had ended in divorce and I was left a single, working mother raising a son alone.  Circumstances had eventually placed us in my parents' home following the divorce, and this meant that my son received not only a barrage of words from my mother as she cared for him while I worked, but I would come home tired in the evening and my patience diluted by the day's stresses. 

As he grew and began school, homework and studies became a problem at night because of my fatigue, and one evening I heard myself using some of the same litanies my mother had used with me.  Imagine my shock as I looked into my son's face and saw that I had just destroyed the joy and excitement of a day that for him had been special.  That is when I began to rethink who I was and what my childhood had bequeathed me in the form of words and language.  It took me some time to put that behind me, and when my son grew older and began college, I had the opportunity to sit down and explain to him what had happened to me and to him.  I apologized for the treatment I had rendered in the form of powerful and hurtful words.  Hoping that the power of my kind words and explanation would preclude or change the course of our family's temperamental verbal barrages, I have patiently watched and seen him grow into a more patient individual in that regard.  That isn't to say he isn't impatient in other areas of his life!

So, when you use your words, think first and speak when you're certain that what you are about to say has God's seal of approval as found in Paul's letter to the Ephesians:

"When you talk, do not say harmful things, but say what people need
—words that will help others become stronger."

(NCV) (emphasis added)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Counting One Thousand Gifts #5 (160-171)

I look forward to Mondays.  Not many people think about looking forward to Monday.  For a lot of folks, it's the return to the work week, the school week, running kids here and there.  Mondays can be hectic for many.  For our household, my husband and me, retirement has made it possible to look forward to any day of the week.  The Sabbath is our favorite day, but I look forward to Mondays because it's the day I link up with Ann Voskamp over at A Holy Experience to count our gifts and blessings from the previous week.  Oh, I could do this on my own, but the accountability and the joy of seeing all the other folks' lists of blessings and thanksgivings is a joy!  Take a moment and come over to see what I'm talking about.

160.  Morning devotionals together over breakfast.
161.  Laughter and tears as we remember the life of our dear friend, Bob.
162.  Joy of sending handwritten notes by snail mail!
163.  Planting winter pansies and violas.
164.  Reading Margaret Feinberg's Hungry for God.
165.  Reading The Blogger's Prayer (thanks to Ann for posting it!) (
166.  Lessons learned -- again!
167.  Celebration of Bob's life with his family and friends.
168.  Time spent with Bob's family enjoying memories and stories.
169.  Joy of worship and celebrating The Last Supper.
170.  Quiet Sunday afternoon.
171.  Monday morning and giving thanks!

Hope to see you over at A Holy Experience.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

One of a Kind Man

That was our friend, Bob.  A one of a kind man.  A husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, loving friend, storyteller, hootenanny leader and guitarist, successful in his work and in his life, but above all, Bob was a child of God.  And you knew it.

We attended Bob's memorial service today.  Yes, he lost his battle with a rare and debilitating disease over the last year, and with the loss of his battle many lost one of the best things that ever happened in their lives.  A beautiful wife, Helen, lost the love of her life for the last 59 years.  Three sons and a daughter lost their dad.  The numerous grandchildren are too many to count, but they lost a grandfather.  And little tiny girl called a great-granddaughter lost him too. 

Yet, we all gained something in losing Bob.  Memories will last awhile longer, at least as long as each of us breathes on this earth.  His love will be passed on if we take on the challenge to love as we are loved by our Heavenly Father.  In being loved by Bob, we are better people. 

And yes, we all have a very special angel watching over us from Heaven on high.  Bob's smile will greet us at the gates of Heaven and will likely ask, "What took you so long?" 

Bob soared today, on eagles' wings he took to the skies and flew to his next adventure, the one he's been waiting a lifetime for.  We're so glad we crossed paths with this one of a kind man.  Thanks be to God!

A Blogger's Prayer (Compliments of Ann Voskamp)

I sit down to write.  Something, words that I don't know yet.  Because He hasn't given them to me. 

Pray.  Yes, I pray first but do I ask for what I really need to ask?  Often I've questioned how do I pray about blogging.  What words would you use to ask for help for something that may be so foreign to God?  Or does He understand technology stuff?

"Help me," I pray.  "Give me the words You want me to use."  Is this right?

Yesterday, Ann Voskamp posted a beautiful and perfect prayer for the blogger in each of us, especially if your goal is to give and write your best for God.  You can download your own copy of  "A Blogger's Prayer" at Ann's web site, A Holy Experience.  For now, here's a copy of the download:

The power of our words is immense.  No, the power of His words is immense.  He is all power, all grace, all knowledge.  We must commit ourselves, our writing, our lives to Him if we are to be called His Own.  Why not begin each blogging moment with this beautiful prayer?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Counting One Thousand Gifts #4 (146-159)

Quote attributed to Johannes A. Gaertner
Graphic from Deb Fisher Designs

Ah, to have the chance to touch heaven!  Johannes Gaertner to whom this quote is attributed must have had that opportunity.  How else could he write such grace-filled words for our eyes to read.

We have much to be thankful for and often get too busy to say thank you to the One to whom we should be offering our gratitude.  It isn't too hard to say thanks to the clerk at the grocery store, or to the doctor who has made our child whole again.  Nor is it difficult to say thanks at the table as we hold hands.  Why do we make it so hard to share our gratitude with Him at every opportunity. 

Here's my list:

147.  Serendipitous visit with Ava, one of my Sunday School girls.
148.  Healing for Julia's broken hip.
149.  Changing fall colors on our vine maple outside our family room window.
150.  Bob's patience with my pain and his own.
151.  Good doctors.
152.  Kylie' 3rd birthday!
153.  God's presence in m life.
154.  Beautiful moms and kiddos at MOPS.
155.  Holding baby Lillian for her mom.
156.  Joanne's amazing recovery!
157.  Mike's constant attendance to Joanne's needs.
158.  Claire and Madeleine, two of my little church girls.
159.  Beautiful life of Bob Hedberg, another angel now resident in Heaven.

I hope you'll join me today at Ann Voskamp's blog, A Holy Experience.  Just click the image below to come on over to Ann's!

Friday, October 21, 2011

THE VIOLETS OF MARCH by Sarah Jio (© Sarah Jio 2011, published by Plume, a member of the Penguin Group) (A Book Review)

Remember the last book you picked up and then couldn't put down?  For me, that book is The Violets of March, by Sarah Jio.  As Jio's debut novel, it is an amazingly well written and captivating tale of a young New York woman who has ties to Bainbridge Island in the Puget Sound near Seattle, WA.  Living close to the area, the setting was a principal draw for me but also the hints on the cover intrigued me . . . "discovers a red velvet diary," "startling connections to her own life," "intriguing dual story line." 

Any author who can write a dual story line and keep the reader's interest without the necessity of flipping back 10 or so pages is a stellar plot artist and writer.  Jio does just that.  Her main character, Emily, also an author, comes to Bainbridge Island to regroup following a divorce.  Emily, however, is also curious about some perceived family secrets and she hopes that perhaps her next book is waiting for her on the island.

It is difficult to review The Violets of March without giving too much of the story away and thereby robbing you of the enjoyment of the read.  Just trust my instinct that if you love a story from the past woven by tiny threads to the present, you are going to love The Violets of March

Serving Is a Two-Sided Gift

When I first think or hear the word "serving," I immediately think of my own service in Mothers of Preschoolers ("MOPS") and in the children's ministries program of our church.  Then my mind begins to wander, and a conversation at my Bible study a few days ago came to mind.  There were only four of us there, and we were sharing from our hearts.  One of them asked what my parents were like and did they teach me to be the servant that my friends see.  I had to answer that it had not been watching my parents or hearing them talk about serving.  In fact, it was a surprise to my brothers and me to learn during our mother's early 80s that she had been a volunteer for 40 years.  It wasn't something that had been made known to us.  We knew she had taught Sunday School, but this volunteering was with a state agency for those who were mentally challenged.  She was even up for Volunteer of the Year for the State of Tennessee!  I will never know why she didn't share that part of the Good News with us.  I was saddened that it had been hidden all that time.

Perhaps knowing that and reading God's Word worked together to bring me to this passionate need to reach out and touch others.  One of the tenets of the MOPS program is intentional relationship building and as mentor moms, we are asked to reach out a hand to the young moms in our group.  A touch on the back or shoulder can be the simplest of acts, but it really does let that mom know she is loved.  And isn't loving all about who God is?  How simple it is to pass along the message of love.

I'm dating myself now.  In the 1970s and 1980s, Diana Ross had a popular song on the charts, and the refrain goes:

"Reach out and touch
Somebody's hand
Make this world a better place
If you can
Reach out and touch
Somebody's hand
Make this world a better place
If you can."

Songwriters: Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson.

Those words have always resonated with me because it doesn't take much to "make this world a better place."  Why don't we all try to do that today, tomorrow, and the next day, and on and on . . . . .

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

MAJOR PETTIGREW'S LAST STAND by Helen Simonson (© 2010 by Helen Simonson, published by Random House) (A Book Review)

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand was recommended to me by a dear friend as we sat waiting in a jury room to see if we would be seated later that day on a jury trial.  After her brief description of the story line, I couldn't wait to put it on hold at my library.  Finally, I received the notice that I could pick the book up.

The moment I read the first page I was drawn into the character of Major Ernest Pettigrew, who has developed disdain for today's mode of dress, the improper brewing of a cup of tea, and language.  Further to his list of dislikes are the "proper" things of life that are fading away:  decorum, honor, duty. 

The Major is an immediately lovable character, and the reader begins to champion his ups and mostly his downs.  Early on a loss devastates the Major and an unlikely neighbor comes to his aid. 

Not long after this encounter, the Major and his neighbor, Mrs. Jasmina Ali, a Pakistani shopkeeper in the village of Edgecombe St. Mary where the Major resides, develop a friendship which is frowned upon by many in the village as well as in their families.  Risks must be taken in one's life sometimes, but the question remains can those risks be survived. 

Major Pettigrew and Mrs. Ali solve this ever-present mystery of life for the reader with the help of author Helen Simonson's lyrical and loving writing style.  A debut novel, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, will likely be on bookshelves for decades to come.  Can you tell I really enjoyed this read?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Counting One Thousand Gifts - #3 (129-146)

"Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever."
1 Chronicles 16:34 (NIV)

My list grows longer, and each day giving thanks is becoming an important, unforgettable part of my day.  My eyes see things they've never seen before, my ears hear things differently.  Love grows in abundance in my heart, my home, my marriage in ways I never imagined possible.  The Lord is good; He loves and that's all I need to now to give Him thanks.

129.  Sun breaks on rainy days.
130.  Constant and faithful friends.
131.  Baby Nyeli's new home.
132.  Enjoying the gift of water.
133.  Day trip to the coast to visit our son and DIL's recent cottage purchase.
134.  Beautiful weather at the coast -- sun shining, brilliant blue sky, mid 60's.
135.  Beautiful drive through the Coast Mountain Range with lovely pastoral views and changing colors.
136.  Seeing Craig and Gigi's happiness.
137.  Productive days.
138.  Friend Joanne's amazing progress after heart surgery.
139.  Gift of prayer.
140.  The Book of Psalms.
141.  Laughter with my husband.
142.  My dad's Christian walk.
143.  Sound of music on a lovely fall afternoon.
144.  Walking with my husband.
145.  News of Josie's birth.
146.  Fall mornings.


Linking up with Ann Voskamp today giving thanks for the many gifts God has given us.  Won't you join us?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Radical Living in a Comfortable World

I subscribe to a writing blog called The Write Practice.  Today its author, Joe Bunging, posted a blog entitled "Will You Help?"  Being a servant-oriented personality, I immediately read on and was disheartened and saddened to learn of the criminality being flaunted in a Haitian orphanage and the number of children gone missing from it.  Joe included a link to Radical Living in a Comfortable World written by Seth Barnes of Adventures in Missions, one of the agencies supporting this orphanage.

I challenge to read Seth's article at Radical Living's link above, and then turn and walk away to your well-stocked kitchen for a snack and a cold drink without blinking an eye.  How can people mistreat the innocent and young?  How can they take advantage of an orphanage situation?  I have no answers, and I'm sure you don't either but perhaps there's something we can do.  If nothing else, we can pray for these children and those who have gone missing.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Message for Suzanne

I follow several of my favorite writers on Facebook, and this morning Lysa TerKeurst used the following verse of Scripture in her post:  "A fools lips walk into a fight and his mouth invites a beating."  These words are found in Proverbs 18:6.  Something about them grabbed at my heart, and immediately I knew what it was that had grabbed at me.  God was trying to tell me something that I had ignored and avoided for so many years.  The following will explain, I hope, my need to write out these thoughts.

Suzanne, I don't quite know how to begin other than to say I'm sorry.  Sorry for the times we have hurt each other, but more so for the times that together we have hurt your dad, my husband.  For 30 years now, we have each allowed our pride and stubborness and yes, our words, get in the way of maintaining a peaceful relationship for your relationship with your dad.  Somehow, "we" doesn't always work for you and I, and I'm willing to admit my guilt and my part in that.  But this isn't about the past, it's about moving forward.

In the beginning, when your dad and I married, I spoke to the fact that I wanted us to be friends.  I told you that I couldn't be your mom simply because I wasn't and I shouldn't try to be.  You seemed pleased with that.  And I have kept my promise there.  But one promise I've not kept is one I've made over and over again to God and that is to hold my tongue when the words I emit aren't helpful.  Thus, my letter.

On Father's Day this year, you called your dad.  For months, it had seemed that we had finally reached a point where the three of us could hold a pleasant conversation on the phone.  Living and talking long distance isn't easy, but you need to know that a threesome was what dad always wanted.  But on Father's Day, it all fell apart.  You and I couldn't restrain ourselves to not "get into it" over certain words you had used to describe your dad.  I should have just let it go, but Satan was sitting on my shoulder urging me to defend my husband.  That isn't necessary -- God is always here to make things right -- and I should have just stayed silent.  My words weren't necessary.  I am really sorry that the call ended so abruptly with so many hurt feelings. 

It has bothered me ever since and although it seems we are at an impasse again, I am writing down these words because I have prayed and God has lead me to accept my place in this difficult place.  I very much want you to have time with your dad.  So, I'm willing to allow you and dad to have your phone calls alone, the way they probably should always have been unless you invited me in.  Dad and I have talked about this, and we are in agreement that it should be tried.  I hope you will accept my apology and that you'll be willing to pick up the phone and call dad real soon or email him.  He misses you, and his heart breaks when he doesn't hear from you. 

Most importantly, I have asked God's forgiveness in all this, and I ask for yours too.

I should tell you that Suzanne responds best to emails via Facebook so I've left this message for her there.  My hope isn't that I'll hear from her.  My hope is that she will take up that cell phone and call her dad.  She and I have hurt each other, and most of all my sweet husband, more times than I'd like to count.  I've never reached out like this before.  When I saw Lysa's verse today, I knew what I had to do.  I had been foolish in ignoring God's guidance before but now he had literally called my hand!  I needed to accept responsibility and no longer be a fool in subjecting my husband's heart to hurt by my lips and my words.


I'm linking up with Joan over at Grace Cafe today, a part of her Reflections of His Grace blog.  Won't you join me there to read Joan's post for today as well as those of others who have linked up?  You won't be sorry!

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