Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Old and The New

Yes, it is that time of year again.  I am not sure about all of you out there, but this is when I say to myself, "I can't believe the year passed so quickly."  As 2013 started out, I had many lofty goals that I wanted to achieve - many things that I wanted to improve - many things I wanted to get done.  As with every year, some of them have been accomplished and some of them have not.  Think with me over the past year.  What were some of the things that you wanted to change, improve, do differently, achieve??  Was it a good year for that?

There were the things I always have on my list - I was going to lose weight, exercise more, and be healthier.  I will share - that was one that didn't happen this year.  I was going to overhaul my wardrobe and come into this century.  Nope, that didn't happen this year either.  There were some wonderful things that I wanted to happen that did come to fruition, thanks be to our Dear Lord.  My mom had some very serious open heart surgery in the beginning of the year.  One of my goals was to try and help her to feel better - be there for her as she was so many times for me.  I tried, but the greatest blessing is that she is in tip top heart shape now - and could probably run circles around all of us.  The Lord certainly was there for mom during her recovery - it was great to watch Him work in her.   

I also prayed to our Lord to get closer to Him this year, to gain perspective with my life and to give Him and His word the attention He so richly deserves.  I will always continue to work on this, as I believe I am always a work in progress.  Yet, this year found me less stressed about this life and much more at peace by bringing God's word more abundantantly into my life.  It was truly life-changing, and continues to be.  This new peace, this new desire to serve God in many different avenues, enriched my life  in so many ways.  The richness that comes from studying his word - whether it be with on-line friends or weekly with our dear friends from church - filled my soul and brought my life to a new level.  God truly gives us everything we need, in one place.  The answers to our questions about this life, a greater understanding of the life to come, peace when it is needed, and a friend when we are alone can all be found in The Bible.  It is all right there for us, each and every one of us.   It was a great year to move forward with the joy that is found in the pages of The Word!!  I have been richly blessed.

One of my greatest blessings this year was to be able to start this blog.  It was a result of participating more in-depth in an online Bible Study.  I knew nothing about "blogging", but with a quick lesson from my daughter and experimenting, I was able to start a lifelong goal of writing about our Lord.  Each week, I have looked forward to sharing thoughts, verses, and experiences with others.  As many of you responded back to me, I felt inspired to continue.  I thank each of you for reaching out and giving me the drive to continue this small method of ministry with you.  As the Dear Lord provides to me, I will share with you.  I never thought this would be something that I would be able to share, to actually DO, but once again, God had much bigger plans than I did - for that I will be eternally grateful.

Now, 2014 is right around the corner.  What might be on the horizon?  I believe the greatest journey I want to focus on is to continue the one that The Lord has mapped out for me.  He has given me a path to follow.  I want to follow HIS path, not mine.  I realize that when I follow His journey, my life is filled with joy, with peace, with love.  There is no discontent.  There is no emptiness.  There is no worrying about what other people are doing or are not doing.  I am only concerned about what I can do better for Him, and that's a great feeling.  How will I be doing this?  Getting stronger in The Word - continue with the Bible Studies - both online and around the kitchen table.  Getting stronger in my faith by interacting with those that fortify my love of The Lord.  I can't wait to see what He has in store for me!

What about you?  What does 2014 have in store for you?  I pray for each and every one of you who read this blog that the New Year finds you encouraged to do something different in the name of The Lord.  Maybe it is to join a Bible study.  Maybe it is to serve your church or local charity in a special way.  Maybe it is to bring your family a bit closer to God's love.  Maybe it is to strengthen your prayer life.  Whatever our Lord has in store for you, I guarantee you it will be a wonderful journey.   May the New Year bring you joy, good health and rich blessings.  God Bless You All!!

P.S. - Yes, I will try again to lose a few pounds and eat healthier too - I will let you know how that turns out in December, 2014!!

"As for God, his way is perfect:  The Lord's word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him."  (NIV) Psalm 18:30

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Greatest Gift

Here it is,the final Sunday of Advent.  It is amazing to me how each and every Christmas, admist traditions and greatest desires to keep things "the same", each Christmas is different; different details, different circumstances, different relationships, just different.  In our home, it is a different Christmas this year.  One that includes me not being as "mobile" as I have been during other Christmases.  I felt the limiting effects of this throughout the season, and it precluded me from being able to keep some of our family traditions or things that I enjoy doing!!  I missed the hussle and bussle of doing my shopping among the masses, everything was ordered online this year.  I missed doing a lot of baking and sharing it with friends.  I missed driving in my car and singing to carols throughout the season.  I missed being able to pick up the poinsetta I always buy my mom and just dropping in with it to say, "I love you - Merry Christmas" and spend a few moments with her (sorry Mommy).   Yes, there were many things I missed this Advent season.

The greatest gift, though, is the same each and every year.  It never changes, it always is full of awe.  I won't miss it this year; I haven't missed it in past years, and I won't miss it in years ahead.  You see, the greatest and most constant gift that comes every Christmas, without fail and with much joy, is Jesus.  He is always there for us, no matter how different each Christmas may be.  He is there regardless of our circumstances, regardless of our details, regardless of our relationships - HE IS HERE!!  The great joy this brings my heart, and I hope brings your heart as well, makes up for all the "missed" things I wasn't able to do this year.  Our lives may be full of desires for traditions of the past, and making memories for the future.  That usually involves some sort of change that we may not always see during the moment.  Looking back upon those changes, we see the greatness of Jesus' presence in our Advent  season, and all that He brings us.

So for this, my last symbol to share with you the meaning of this Advent season, I'd like to share the nativity scene.  To me, it will always be the greatest symbol of Christmas.  Along with Christmas each year, I have been able to unfold a nativity scene each and every year regardless of where I called home. I have incredibly fond memories of being home as a child and waiting for my mom to take out the nativity scene.  Yes, when I was very young it was fun to "play" with, but as I grew older and better understood the Christmas story, the beauty of each and every piece meant so much.  The animals, the wise men, the shephards, Joseph, Mary, and Baby Jesus.  As I moved out of my childhood home and into my own, I bought a scene that I found to be beautiful and simple.  Today, our living room table is adorned by a nativity scene that was made by my mother, and a true familly heirloom.  As I sit and look at each piece, it is hard not to imagine what it was like that first Christmas.  What did the shephards think when the heavenly angels appeared?  What did Joseph think when the innkeeper said there was no room at the inn?  How did Mary feel holding the Savior of all men for the first time?  These questions fill my heart each Christmas as I look at the nativity scene; questions that bring my heart peace.

This Christmas, I wish everyone a Christmas filled with tradition and change, same and different, and ultimately, the peace that only Jesus, our Savior, can bring to each of us.  I thank everyone around me who has helped me through this Advent season.  Yes, I might have missed things, but I have been blessed with so much more.  Giving that has come in so many forms, from meals to cards to flowers; giving in the form of precious time; giving in the form of physical labor that many have endured for me (thanks so much Juan); giving in the form of patience and kindness.  To experience so much giving from others has humbled me greatly and has shown me Jesus in so many people's hearts.  To all my friends and my wonderful family, thank you, for showing me the true meaning of Christmas this year.  My love to all of you - 
Merry Christmas!! 

"...and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.  She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in manger, because there was no room for them in the inn."  (NIV)  Luke 2:7

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Passing the Light

The third Sunday of Advent.  My, how time is passing.  Here, in NH, we are waking up to a winter Wonderland this morning.  As I look out the window, there must be at least 10-12" of snow (with a light coating still falling).  There are many pictures of peace that I have been privileged to see over my 50 years, but I truly don't think much rivals the peace that comes watching the beauty of new-fallen snow.  Maybe it is the gentleness and grace of how it comes down (most of the times), maybe it is the pure white hue, maybe it is the picture of it not yet trodden on - a beautiful blanket.  I'm not sure, but there is a certain peace that pours into me when watching it.  As the peace filled me this morning, it is the same peace that I feel with my third symbol of Advent this week, the Christmas Eve candle.

Our family last night was sharing some of our favorite Christmas memories.  As we went around the table and shared special gifts that were chosen or received, times in our past when we woke up to splendor and wonder, or shared times with those who are now with our heavenly Father, it reminded me that nothing rivals each and every Christmas Eve Candle Light Service.  As I type these words, the memories come running back of so many of these services. 

I remember the church I grew up in, same candles as in the picture above.  As a small child, I anxiously awaited my turn to light my candle and hold it up so proudly, singing "Silent Night".  I would watch the flame and, even now as I remember, there was a sense of peace for a brief moment (for the anticipation of presents to come was certainly there).  Yet, that sense of calm.

As I grew up and was on my own, there was my church home now (which has grown over the years and has seen many locations for our Christmas Eve services).  Yet, each and every one had the candles shown above, the candles that seemed to bring that sense of peace.  Over those years, those Christmas Eves have come with great highs and lows - the birth of children and bringing them to their first service, family from afar joining us for services, new families being joined at these services or illness plaguing the times, or relationships that were broken, or other struggles.  Yes, there have been highs and lows as I would enter the church door.  But, when the candles were lit, the struggles went away, and the busy activity of the "perfect Christmas" went to the wayside for the moment of peace the candle brought.

The peace, I know, truly comes from the Christ Child that was born on that Eve so many years ago.  There is no doubt in my mind that when the light is lit and passed from person to person, when it reaches me, Jesus envelopes me with His true peace that can ONLY be provided by Him.  No other person, no other vision (not even newly fallen snow), can provide the true peace that our Savior provides for us.  The lit candle so boldly represents that peace.  

As we sing "Silent Night" each Christmas Eve, the tears flow.  They flow for many reasons; for those that cannot be with us but are singing so proudly in heaven, for those that are suffering, for the joy that I have in Jesus, the flow.  And I don't stop them - for they are my reminder of the peace that fills me up as they pour out.  Jesus never lets me down.  As we extinguish our candles, I'm filled to the brim, with the peace that brings me everlasting joy, everlasting life.  I pull from that moment many times throughout the year when I need it.  Once I year, I am rejuvenated by it.  Jesus lights our world, He brings us the promise of everlasting peace.

Whatever hardships we might be facing, whatever stressors have found their way into our lives, whatever joys we may have, we all need a time for perfect peace.  I encourage you, if you don't already, to find a Christmas Eve Candlelight Service to attend this year.  Find the peace that comes with lighting the candle.  Find the peace that Jesus gives JUST TO YOU!!  He is waiting to give His gift to you.  May your Advent season continue to be blessed with all that our Savior brings to us.  Christ the Lord is coming, He is coming soon - Alleluia~~

"When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."  (NIV)  John 8:12

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Show Your Stripes

The second Sunday of Advent.  We are getting closer - it is so exciting.  The anticipation of celebrating Christ's birth becomes ever more meaningful with each year. Maybe it is because I am getting older and certainly see things in a different light.  Maybe it is because as I get older, I enjoy reveling in a more simplified look of Christmas - one that focuses on Jesus more than anything else!! It hasn't always been that way.  My Advent season used to find me checking things off multiple lists that never seemed to end.  The "to do's" far outweighed the "take time".  

Often, we wonder why things happen in our lives.  That was certainly the case about 6 weeks ago when I broke my ankle and found myself unable to put any pressure on my foot.  Yet, for probably the first time in my life, I decided not to put a lot of thought in the "why".  I believed that there must have been a reason and that God was going to use this time for goodness.  He Has!!  I have realized that the shopping and such can be simplified (it's amazing what you can do from a laptop).  I always enjoyed the busyness of going to the stores.  Yet, this year, I haven't been able to.  All has had to happen from the comfort of my home. The wonderful part is that, with Christmas carols in the background that I can actually hear and appreciate, my viewpoint has changed.  The words seem to mean more.  Our decorations around the home seem to mean more.  Notes from family and friends have truly touched my heart.  The lights and trees, when I am able to get out, touch all my senses.  

Then, as I was sitting at my kitchen table looking at my kitchen Christmas tree, I realized the candy cane.  I remembered  the wonderful story I read many years ago.   It spoke of what the candy cane represents and as I looked at the simple candy cane dangling on the tree, a tear came to my eye.  The red & white candy represents so much of our Savior and the Advent season.  The cane (a symbol of a shepherd staff) symbolizes our dear Shepherd, Jesus, who was born in the lowly manger.  The red color, symbolizes the blood that was shed for all of us by our Savior, Jesus, as he hung on the cross that Good Friday for ALL of our sins.  The white represents the purity of Jesus -the one who never sinned, yet, took on the sins of you and me.  The purity of living at God's right hand - preparing a place that we can come HOME to for you and me.  The purity of being born of a virgin, dear Mary, through the Holy Spirit.  The sweet taste?  Yes, that certainly represents the sweetness we receive by being saved and believing in our Savior; the sweetness of eternal life in paradise, the sweetness of hope and unconditional love - sweetness.

So, as we prepare this Advent season and experience all that is around us, I ask that you look at the candy cane in a new (or remembered) sense of gratitude.  Show your stripes of the candy cane - display them proudly.  Find a way for you and your family to revel in the simple spirit that Advent and Christmas has to offer.  Spend time, special and precious time, to read the Christmas story right where it is most beautiful, from the Bible (Luke 2: 1-20).  Cherish each word.  All the stories of Christmas can't compare to that precious one.  Bring simplicity to this Advent season - simple faith in knowing that Christ is Coming- for each and every one of use.

"But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin."   (NIV)  1 John 1:7

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Evergreen of Life

Advent is upon us!  For those of you who don't know me, you will soon find out that Christmas is my favorite season. I wait for it with much anticipation and am sad when the season is over.  Some people feel that I can be a bit obsessive about the holiday, but as far as I am concerned, you cannot appreciate this season enough.  Yes, there are all of the preparations and lists and shopping and cooking and cards and more cooking and more shopping and, . . . .  Yet, it is the truly special moments that this season offers that brings us so richly close to our Savior, Jesus.

During Advent, I hope to share with you what different symbols of Christmas mean to me.  Some of them I have read about, others I have shaped myself over the years.  My prayer is that throughout this Advent season, the words of this blog will bring you closer to Jesus, through a simple faith, that will enhance this Christmas.  Advent means "the coming of Christ" .  Our preparations for Jesus' coming do not have to be flamboyant or grand.  What they need to be is meaningful to us and to our Savior.  Think about how much we prepare when family or friends come to visit.  When we know someone special is coming, we prepare, we cook, we clean, we shop, we want their visit to be perfect. Such should be our Advent season, inviting Christ into our home for a special time when we glorify Him!

For this first blog during Advent, I wanted to take the symbol of the Christmas tree.  I love Christmas trees.  So much so that I have one in every room of my home.  We have the "live" tree in our living room (the one that you see in the picture), which is our family tree.  The rest of the trees are artificial but each mean something special.  The one in the kitchen?  This one is decorated with cookie cutters and candy canes.  The dining room is coordinated with the decor of the room - cranberry color.  The one in our family room is filled with ornaments that have been given to me over the years from my Sunday School students. The one in my bedroom is a small lit tree that has lit my way through dark times and bright.  Why so many trees?

Yes, they each have special meaning, but wherever I go in my home, I am reminded of the evergreen tree.  I am sure it was something I read many years ago, but the evergreen tree is a wonderful symbol of everlasting life.  It is strong and tall and the green color represents the life that we always have in Jesus.  As he came into this world to save us from our sin, he came to give us the everlasting life that can only come through him.  Through a simple faith of saying "Yes, God, I believe you came and suffered and died for me -for my sins", you gain the eternal life of joy in heaven.  The strength and life that comes with that simple faith, the same strength and life found in the evergreen tree, is what we strive for as Christians.  Yes, sometimes we might sway with the wind, but our strength that comes from God will last us an eternal life.

Thus, the evergreen tree, a symbol of Christmas is a special part of our home's Christmas celebration.  Yes, each child has their own tree that they also decorate in their room.  And as they move out on their own, as our oldest child Sarah has done, their tree goes with them.  I pray that the everlasting faith that we have tried to share with them as well will go with them for eternity.

My trees are all up for the season.  As the last of the decorations were delicately placed, tears rolled down my cheeks.  The house, once again, shared our joy of everlasting life - in each and every room.  I pray as we begin this Advent season, you may take a few moments to appreciate the evergreen and be reminded of everlasting life in Jesus.  

"I am telling you the truth: he who believes has eternal life."  (NIV). John 6:47

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Thank you for visiting my blog. I hope we can share how God's grace has been life changing and that SIMPLE FAITH, getting back to a life that is rooted in the basics, can truly set us free to achieve so much in our lives.