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.

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