Friday, December 31, 2010

Still Waiting...

On Jan 2, 2010 I wrote the following about this shirt:

I call it the skinny white shirt...not because I would be skinny in it, but I would be skinnier. It doesn't fit at the moment! Ahh! This is the first time I've ever been cajoled into buying something that I actually can't wear. What Not To Wear would be all over this one! Anyway, I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw it and thought it would look sooo cute on. Ashley said to try it and I assured her it wasn't in my size. We took it to the dressing room anyway.

Needless to say, I did get it on my body, but just barely. I'd have a ways to go before wearing it in public. When I got home and told my husband about my purchase (emphasizing the great price!), I then hung it on the knob of my closet, saying that I should leave it there for a reminder. Then I stepped back and said, "I should leave it hanging on my refrigerator as a reminder." Don't think that would really work too well; it's white, you know.

I am hopeful that I will be "IN" the shirt by my birthday in mid-March. I am hopeful that this doesn't make it in my last blog post of 2010 as "the shirt never worn...but what a good price!" Nineteen year olds...what influences they can be!

Well, it's made it to the last blog post of 2010 as "shirt never worn...but what a good price!" I have a better plan for 2011, plus the motivation of my daughter's June 4th wedding, to get me into that shirt. We'll have to see how long it takes me! I don't want to see it still hanging in the closet at the end of 2011. If so, we'll give it a proper going-away party!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Blog Make-over

Do you enjoy giving your blog a fresh look every season or holiday? I've enjoyed surfing the net for cute blog backgrounds and thought I'd share my favorite sites with you. Maybe you'll find something you like, as well. Enjoy!

The mother-lode of cute backgrounds:

Arts & Crafty looking, plus a few photo backgrounds:

Lots of unique patterns:

Talk about creativity: (keep scrolling down!)

Another popular site with LOTS of designs:

One of my personal favorites:

My newest favorite and the one I'm using:

There's some winter backgrounds under the Christmas tab here:

Bold is the word here:

The title says it all:

Got a free background site you love? Share it with us in the comments!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Promise Kept (devotional # 6)

Yesterday I read this quote by Fredrich Beuchner from the book Secrets in the Dark:

Those who believe in God can never in a way be sure of Him again. Once they have seen him in a stable, they can never be sure where he will appear or to what lengths he will go or to what ludicrous depths of self-humiliation he will descend in his wild pursuit of man. If the holiness and awful power and majesty of God were present in this even, this birth of a peasant’s child, then there is no place or time so lowly and earthbound but that holiness can be present there also. And, this means that we are not safe, that there is no place where we can hide from God, no place where we are safe from his power to break in to and recreate the human heart because it is where he seems most helpless that He is most strong and just where we least expect Him that he comes most fully.

I couldn't shake the thought of what it meant to have the Holy Son of God coming to earth as a babe in a stable. The treasures of Christ's birth are too many to count. My mind wandered to varying themes on the story until I landed on the thought, "He kept His promise." Mary knew this. She ends her Magnificat with (Luke 1:54-55), "He has helped His servant Israel, In remembrance of His mercy, As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and to his seed forever." God fulfilled prophecy through her and kept His promise.

Ok, God kept His promise. Fundamental. I know that one. But do we LIVE like we believe it? When Romans reminds us that "All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose," (8:28) do we KNOW it's true for us?

The children of Israel were blessed, but let's not forget that when Christ appeared, they didn't have everything. Their lives were oppressed. Mary and Joseph were peasants. Poverty and subjugation to the Roman government was the order of the day. Ultimately, they only had the promise. And that was enough.

Think of the OT saints who had given their lives for the hope of the promise. Hebrews 11 records how they "died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them." They embraced them.

What God did when he sent his Son into the world is an absolute guarantee that he will do everything he has ever promised to do." (Martyn Lloyd-Jones)

For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us. (2 Corinthians 1:20)

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:23)

The birth of Christ in glorious simplicity is a promise kept. Do I trust that what I can not see will come to pass? (faith!) Do I look to the future fulfillment of His promises yet to come and embrace them?

Oh, to have the faith to say, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word." To trust in the promise. That's my heart cry today.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas Ornaments

Linda at 2nd cup of coffee has a link for our tree/favorite ornaments. I wrote about the ornaments below in a Random Dozen last year and thought I'd share them once again. Our tree this year, doesn't go up until tomorrow.

I inherited my grandparent's Christmas ornaments. When being stored they still reside in their original boxes which date back to the late 1920's and 1930's. They are delicate and beautiful. If for some reason I lost everything, Christmas would not be the same without a tree full of these family favorites.

If you'd like to see some beautiful trees, click the button below:

Be a tunnel (devotional # 5)

Yesterday I was involved in two different white elephant gift exchanges. Although one of the host groups encouraged re-gifting something unused from home, you could tell most of the participants had purchased a small gift for the swap. There was the random bowling ball and silver baby plate and spoon, but otherwise the gifts were typical - bath product, Christmas tchotchkes, candles and gift cards.

At one of the meetings where the exchanges took place, a devotion was given on God's forgiveness. The speaker noted that during this stressful time of year in preparing for Christmas we should be like Christ, forgiving. I guess, because of the activities of the day (or the late hour), I thought, "Yeah! We should re-gift forgiveness!" The analogy doesn't completely work since a re-gift is usually something you didn't use or didn't really care for. Or is it right on target?

We're commanded in Matthew 6:14: For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.

My pastor, speaking on offenses/forgiveness one Sunday, used the word picture of being a tunnel, not a wall. When someone offends or hurts you, let it go right through you to God. In reverse, allow His forgiveness to flow through you in response to that person. Don't be a wall, where the offenses stack up and hit anger, impatience and bitterness, a place where God's forgiveness can't be shared because of your hard heart.

It's often difficult to be a tunnel with our immediate family, but being a conduit of forgiveness at this time of year is truly THE picture of Christmas.

My prayer is that we can say like Paul:

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save [forgive] sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. (I Tim 1: 15-17)

Whether you're trying to navigate around rude shoppers and drivers or facing the heavy load of "doing it all" at home, be a tunnel. Allow forgiveness, what ultimately Christ came to earth to give us in love, to flow through you this season. You'll be glad you did!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Kind Yoke (devotional # 4)

As mothers, how often have you had the thought that you don't know if you could have endured what Mary experienced?

Secret-keeping, shame, separation from family, being misunderstood, having a child unlike anyone else, trying to understand your place in the relationship with your son & Heavenly Savior, the indescribable pain of watching your child die, and grief.

We can't imagine it, can we? She was given a unique call to fulfill and she did it faithfully. We've touched on these subjects the last few days, but HOW did she do it?

This fall I attended a Beth Moore Simulcast. It was my first one, actually. One thing I admire about Beth is that she allows the Lord to direct her topics when speaking at these events. Beth spoke on kindness, and although it was very good, it didn't seem to speak directly into my life at that moment. I had sense enough to take copious notes, however, knowing that at some point I'd need to remind myself of what I had learned that day. In contemplating Mary's life, Beth's topic of kindness came to mind. This might just give us the insight we need to see how Mary lived a life of faith and obedience.

In one of Beth's points she talked about Matthew 11:30, "For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." It's so hard sometimes for me to wrap my brain around that concept when life can be so hard. Then I thought, God didn't say life would be easy, He said the yoke would be easy. Easy is accurately translated as "kind" from the root word philanthropia.

A kind yoke. His binding us to Himself and directional navigation is kind/easy. He wants us to walk where He leads. We may be mired in the mud of life, but HE leads. We don't have to worry about our Creator's good purposes for us.

The burden is light, because He never gives us more than we can carry WITH HIS ASSISTANCE. He wants you in that place where the burden of life may SEEM unbearable, but He gently reveals that with Him, the One carrying the weight of direction and transformation, the burden of your obedience to Him is light!

So, I ask today, can we accept the kind yoke and fully depend on Him? I tend to think that Mary understood that within herself, she wasn't able, but with God all things were possible.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Perfect Timing (devotional # 3)

We return today to Zacharias and Elizabeth. Luke 1 tells us that while Zacharias was performing his priestly duties the angel came to tell him he would be conceiving a very special son. Verse 8 states that Zacharias was serving "in the order of his division." I Chronicles 24 explains that the Temple priesthood was organized into 24 divisions, with each division serving twice a year for one week. As a descendant of Abijah, Zacharias' division was the 8th. In ancient times the Lord had set the schedule for the priest's rotations. At some future date Zacharias was going to need to be on duty so that Gabriel could appear and tell him that what he has hoped and prayed for - a son - would finally come to pass.

Verse 9 tells us that Zacharias' lot fell to burn incense. This was a high honor. MacArthur's study Bible sheds light on the perfect timing of God. "Because of the large number of priests, most would never be chosen for such a duty, and no one was permitted to serve in this capacity twice. Zacharias no doubt regarded this as the supreme moment in a lifetime of priestly service. The incense was kept burning perpetually, just in front of the veil that divided the holy place from the most holy place. The lone priest would offer the incense every morning and every evening, while the rest of the priests and worshippers stood outside the holy place in prayer (v. 10)."

Zacharias had been born into a priestly family (the right job) and within a specific lineage (the right division, thus the right week of the year to serve). Then the lot (an unknown procedure divinely controlled by God) fell to him. He was given the honor to enter the holy place where Gabriel would bring him the good news.

Are you resting in the knowledge that God's timing in your own life is perfect? Maybe it doesn't seem perfect to you at the moment, but can you look back and see other events that, at the time, didn't seem to make sense, but in hindsight were perfectly timed by God?

Psalm 18:30 reminds us, "As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him."

James 1:17 encourages us; "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows."

I remember several years ago just after Katie had been born. Within the span of one month our landlord sold the house we were living in, Mark lost his job and we found out we would be having a second baby right on the heels of our newborn. My parent's graciously offered to let us move in with them. We knew God would use this time as blessing and restoration, but had any of us known it would last 10 1/2 months, we may have questioned our resolve. There was discouragement and faith-challenges during that time, but God's hand was evident. His timing would be perfect.

As a faithful priest, Zacharias, enters the Temple to burn incense and the angel, Gabriel, appears. Gabriel shares how Zacharias' prayer has been heard and that he will bear a son. Gabriel tells him to name the baby John and shares how great this child will be in the sight of the Lord.

I marvel at how perfect the timing of the Lord is in this story. Not only does the Lord prepare the way for John's birth and future ministry, but the timing of John and Jesus' births also brought comfort and joy to Elizabeth and Mary.

Following the account of Zacharias in the Temple is the revelation of Christ's birth that Gabriel shares with Mary. In verse 34 Mary basically says, "How on earth is this going to happen?" A few verses earlier Zacharias has asked the same thing. Gabriel said that he was the sign as the answer to the long-awaited prayer and gently rebuked Zacharias by making him mute until it happened.

Zacharias was expected to believe.

In contrast (vs. 35-37) Gabriel explains to Mary that the Holy Spirit would come upon her (the how). One commentary says that Mary's was not unbelief, but wonderment. I don't know if there was a stark difference between their questions, but God gave them each what they needed to grow their faith and it didn't look the same. Gabriel also encouraged Mary's faith with something akin to "by the way, Elizabeth is also having a baby because" "For with God nothing will be impossible." That was quite a faith-boost to a young girl who has witnessed the longing and faithfulness of her dear relatives. Then Mary in faith says, "let it be to me according to your word."

God gives us all we need to trust Him. Zacharias' name means "Jehovah has remembered." He was not forgotten; He just needed to wait for the perfect timing of God. He lived faithfully, but he should have lived expectantly too. Easier said than done, isn't it!

My family and my parents recognized that God had given us a unique opportunity when we lived together. We did our best to maximize the time together and allow the Spirit to bring restoration/healing amidst a trial.

God has not forgotten you! Luke 12:6 says "Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God." God is good and He is for you. Rest in faith, believing that His timing is perfect, not only in the lives of Biblical characters, but in your life, as well.

Remain faithful and expectant; God remembers you!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

His plans (devotional # 2)

Last December I posted a two-part Christmas devotional. I'd like to share an edited version of those posts with you again. I share it with hopes that it will refresh you in the midst of busyness and encourage you to see God's perfect timing in your life.

In Luke 1 Zacharias' story opens in verse 5 with "There were in the days of Herod...." MacArthur's Study Bible notes that this was Herod the Great, the first of several important rulers descended from the Edomites, offspring of Esau. "Herod was ruthless and cunning. He loved opulence and grand building projects, and many of the most magnificent ruins that can be seen in modern Israel date back to the days of Herod the Great. His most famous project was the rebuilding of the temple at Jerusalem [although it] was not completed until long after Herod's death."

The stage is set. In Jerusalem there are massive building projects, trade, worship - the hustle and bustle of a busy urban life. The scene opens on "a certain priest named Zacharias." We quickly learn that he and his wife Elizabeth were from the priestly line of Aaron, but more importantly "they were both righteous before God, walking [emphasis mine] in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless."

Can you imagine being recorded for the rest of human history as righteous and blameless before God? This couple's life was marked by faithfulness. Day in and day out they lived according to the Law. They faithfully worshipped at the Temple and sought to please God with their lives. Then the next word of verse 7 strikes me,


Luke records the faithfulness of two people, BUT the one thing in life they desired more than anything else - a child - they had not received. Then, as if to highlight the tragedy, Luke tells us "and they were both well advanced in years."

We, as 21st century Christians, know this story well. We read over these first eight verses as the descriptive precursor to a miracle by God's hand, and although it is the exciting culmination of Zacharias and Elizabeth's story, there is much to be learned in the preamble.

When I was thirteen-years-old my mother took me to my first women's conference. I'm sure she just wanted to spend some time with me and give me an opportunity to hear encouragement from a female perspective. Little did either of us know that by the end of the conference I would walk out with a calling of God on my life. The conference speaker didn't even address the topics of callings, and I was thirteen - what did I know about them? All I know, is that I left that meeting knowing - completely assured - of what God was going to do in my life. It was quite a moment for a young girl.

I continued through my teen years, not focused on what God had revealed, but aware enough to not make any decisions that would exempt me from fulfilling God's work. I went off to Bible college and began looking for opportunities to fulfill my calling. God, in His great kindness, gave me room to grow and I, like most college students, felt I had the world by the tail. It was all going according to the plan I had envisioned.

Then I got married to a pastor and we began working with youth and teaching in a Christian school. Life was hard, but again, God had put me on the path I had imagined. I thought my life would be this way until death. BUT...

God delights in change. He loves to take a scenario in our life, and if it were recorded for history, it would include the word "but." It's as if God voices

"you may have thought this, but..."

"you may have wanted this, but"

"you may have gone here, but..."

Not only does this challenge our trust, but it challenges our faithfulness as well. When those unexplainable circumstances in life come, are we faithful like Zacharias and Elizabeth? Do we accept the life God gives to us, trusting that He knows best?

In my early thirties my life fell apart and from my perspective, I thought the calling of God would never be fulfilled. Instead I was just beginning to be refined by fire. Oh, how I needed it! God had not shelved me, but it sure felt that way. All that I had been striving to accomplish went up in smoke. I had some God-sized lessons to learn.

In my late thirties, as healing progressed, I realized that I didn't truly grasp foundational truths of God's love and grace. It's as if I had known about God, but didn't know Him. He patiently unfolded truths that had been so obvious mentally, but never truly experienced. God was real; He really loved me and there was enough grace to continue on.

Now in my early 40's I see the Lord's restoration in my life and I've stopped striving for the calling in my own power. Like Zacharias and Elizabeth, my greatest desire is to be found faithful. Living daily by the Holy Spirit's guidance is challenging, but as I give up my own will and rest in what He calls me to do, I find that faithfulness manifests itself.

Like Zacharias and Elizabeth, God's calling will be fulfilled in me. I may be advanced in years, but God is faithful.

Jeremiah 29:11 reminds us, "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

I encourage you to take some time this holiday season to think about where you are in your walk with the Lord. Do you need to be more purposeful in your obedience so you will be remembered as faithful? Maybe you're in the middle of circumstances that have you clinging to God's faithfulness. Wherever you are, Immanuel, "God with Us," is there for you. Praise the Lord!

Update: In July 2010 I had the courage to ask the Lord in prayer to, once again, fulfill that calling in my life. I had fearfully held on to the dream, afraid that God would not allow it to come to fruition. (Can't you just hear Satan's whispers?!) I thought it was just too BIG, too impossible. It was a BIG prayer for me and one that I imagined praying faithfully for many years. Guess what happened! Two days later the Lord gave me this verse as an answer,

Psalm 145:19 "He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He also will hear their cry and save them."

I was shocked, amazed and in awe. My Father confirmed through His Word something that I already knew, but had forgotten, He cares about what I care about and He is faithful.

What can you entrust to Him this Christmas? He is faithful and He will uphold and empower you to walk faithfully in Him.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Emmanuel: God With Us (Christmas Devotional # 1)

Please, join me for a Christmas devotional each day this week.

At Christmastime I enjoy taking the month of December to focus on the Christmas story during my devotional time. As I spend mornings meditating on the story of God's redemptive plan to clothe Himself in human flesh and dwell among us, the revelations into who the Lord is, continue to amaze and inspire me.

I am awed by Mary's answer in Luke 1:38,

"Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her."

A moment of clearly defined faith and obedience. How often I ask myself, "How did she get to the point where she could answer like that?" Couldn't your mind go in a million different directions, giving application over and over again? Yes, of course, and that's why I enjoy meditating on the Christmas story each year. The characters in the narrative are so vivid and we can learn so much.

I will be honest, I struggle with submitting to God with full abandon. I'm afraid. I have studied the lives of saints before me and the Lord ASKS so much of them. It doesn't feel safe. When fearful thoughts pervade my thinking, I am reminded that, although we have no idea what our future will be, the truth is that He will be with us. Mentally I've played out what I would do if the Lord took my spouse or my children away. The truth is that in the midst of the most difficult circumstances, I wouldn't be alone. God would be with me. Emmanuel: God with Us. As a believer, how often have we observed the world and wondered, "How do they live without Christ?" I can't imagine it!

So this week when you are faced with challenges, lack of sleep because of the long to-do list and added commitments, remember God is with you.

Deuteronomy 31:8 reminds us,

"The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged."

My prayer is that we will dwell in the fullness of His presence this season.

Friday, December 3, 2010


I'm doing all I can to keep my heart and mind focused on Christ this Christmas, and yet, each day I struggle with the myriad of things to accomplish. I love the video below, because even in the midst of the commercialism - in a mall food court, the Lord is proclaimed. Love it!