1. So, when did you last take a walk in the woods? A stroll along the beach? A drive going nowhere in particular in the car?
A stoll down a country lane? A couple months ago.
2. Are you sending Christmas cards this year? About how many do you send? Photo card or something more traditional? How do you display the cards you receive?
Yes, I'm sending a little over 100 cards. This year I purchased inexpensive cards at a local store, but usually I buy high-end cards and include a letter and photo. Not this year, just didn't have it in me.
We display our cards in a box on the coffee table so we can look through them at our leisure. When the season is over all photos get updated in our Friends and Family album which is a small photo album kept on a shelf in our dining room.
3. What's a word you've heard too much of in the past week?
Busy. Yes, we're all busy. Welcome to America! I think busy is a frame of mind. You can engage in a lot of activity, but being prepared, getting enough sleep and not OVER-committing can allow you to do a lot with calm and peace. Not a sermon, just a thought.
4. December 13th is National Cocoa Day-are you a fan? Plain or flavored? Marshmallows or no marshmallows?
I enjoy hot chocolate. I like the flavored packets you can buy individually at the grocery store...raspberry, mint, hazelnut, caramel, supreme. No marshmallows, unless I'm having a fun "beverage moment" with the girls.
5. What is something you do to help alleviate the hectic pace of the Christmas season?
I have a Christmas folder - everything goes in it. Lists, addresses, ideas, plans, calendars. Everything Christmas. Many years ago on Christmas Eve (after a meltdown) I sat and wrote myself a letter about what I didn't want Christmas to be anymore. I always hated the season (and I hate the word "hate.") I decided that the traditions were only wonderful IF I could pull them off stress-free. That takes a lot of planning, letting go of expectations and reigning in my "let's do it all perfectly!" tendencies.
I am also purposeful about pampering myself. I dislike shopping...a ...lot! So I take myself out to a salad bar for lunch or grab a hot cocoa at Starbucks (which is not normal for me) or I might even purchase myself a small item for getting out there and getting it done. (new fabric!) Yep, I have to reward myself for shopping. Ha!
6. Besides jewelry, what's a favorite sparkly-glittery item in your home or closet?
The girls and I couldn't think of anything that belongs to me. I guess I'm not sparkly-glittery. The only thing I could think of are my daughters' clothes. They are super cute in sparkles & glitter!
7. Share a favorite line or two from any Christmas carol.
Ok, this year I am obsessed with How Many Kings by Downhere, maybe not quite a carol, but a Christmas song.
How many kings step down from their thrones? How many lords have abandoned their homes? How many greats have become the least for me? And how many gods have poured out their hearts To romance a world that is torn all apart How many fathers gave up their sons for me?
* I know this is a long post, but I think you'll be blessed for reading to the end. A Christian community either lives by the intercessory prayers of its members for one another, or the community will be destroyed. I can no longer condemn or hate other Christians for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble they cause me. In intercessory prayer the face that may have been strange and intolerable to me is transformed into the face of one for whom Christ died, the face of a pardoned sinner. That is a blessed discovery for the Christian who is beginning to offer intercessory prayer for others. As far as we are concerned, there is no dislike, no personal tension, no disunity or strife that cannot be overcome by intercessory prayer. Intercessory prayer is the purifying bath into which the individual and the community must enter every day. Offering intercessory prayer means nothing other than Christians bringing one another into the presence of God, seeing each other under the cross of Jesus as poor human beings and sinners in need of grace. Then, everything about other people that repels me falls away. Then I see them in all their need, hardship, and distress. Their need and their sin become so heavy and oppressive to me that I feel as if they were my own, and I can do nothing else but bid: Lord, you yourself, you alone, deal with them according to your firmness and your goodness. Intercessory prayer is also a daily service Christians owe to God and one another. Those who deny their neighbors prayers of intercession deny them a service Christians are called to perform. Furthermore, it is clear that intercessory prayer is not something general and vague, but something very concrete. It is interested in specific persons and specific difficulties and therefore specific requests. The more concrete my intercessory prayer becomes the more promising it is…
All this proves that intercessory prayer is a gift of God’s grace for every Christian community and for every Christian. Because God has made us such an immeasurably great offer here, we should accept it joyfully. The very time we give to intercession will turn out to be a daily source of new joy in God and in the Christian congregation.
The paragraphs above were Saturday's, Sunday's and today's email devotionals by Bonhoeffer sent to me from Bible Gateway. Two days ago when I read the first paragraph I wasn't surprised when the Lord immediately brought to mind a dear friend who has chosen not to speak to me for about a year. This broken relationship has weighed heavily on my heart off and on and when I couldn't make sense out of any of it, I would just pray. I would pray for my friend. I would pray that I would have humility and see my contribution to the break down. I would ask God to work. The prayers ended up being wordless, because I didn't know what else to pray.
I read the three devotionals and thought I will just keep praying. She is my sister-in-Christ and I love her. We're sinners, but we're still a part of the Body and even if I can do no more towards restoration, I can still pray. I prayed fervently over the past three days, often times barely able to keep her off my mind.
While I was showering today I thought, "I'm going to see her today." Logically, I knew it was possible since we both homeschool and one of our local Universities was hosting a school performance of The Christmas Carol. We've been to many of these plays and I've never seen her there before, but today I just had a sense that would be different.
My girls and I arrived 45 minutes early. We live over an hour away from the University and driving in DC...you never know how much time you'll need. My girls and I went up to the foyer's balcony and waited for the theater doors to open. I sat on a bench while my girls kept running from their perch overlooking all the incoming attendees back to me to inform me of all they saw. When Tara came running back and told me that she saw the friend mentioned above and her two daughters, I knew the Lord had orchestrated this time.
They came up to the balcony and we greeted each other with hugs. My next door neighbor also came up at the same time and we joked that we should have carpooled. It made the situation lighthearted. We all sat next to each other and I chose to fall back and sit right next to my estranged friend. We fell into easy conversation about sicknesses, haircuts, homeschooling, our children, work, etc. We chatted easily for a long time. The show got a late start, but I think that was in His plan, as well.
At the end of the show we said our good-byes and hugged, but still ambled out to the parking lot together, commenting here and there as we walked. When we got near our parking spots my friend turned to me crying and asked for forgiveness. I, of course, broke into tears, but was honestly taken by surprise. (I missed the Lord's preparation of my heart in some ways.) Out stumbled some stupid words that I immediately knew would be hurtful; I was defensive, but through tears also let her know that I missed her friendship dearly. We talked a little more and then went our separate ways.
All afternoon the Holy Spirit was telling me to call and apologize for my defensive words. At first I thought, "but they were true and she didn't know it." He gently reminded me that truth wasn't needed. What was?
After dropping my girls at Grandma's I called my friend and apologized. It was exactly what was needed. My words had hurt and I was wrong. We then talked for two more hours about everything we had missed in each other's lives over the past year. I'm sure we didn't get it all packed in, but it was so good. How I missed my friend!
I just kept thinking, "Lord, this is a great Christmas gift! Thank You!"
We've promised to set up a time for dinner together once we get into the new year. I'm just so thankful that the Lord doesn't give up on us. These three devotionals have challenged me even more to pray...really pray for my family in Christ. He can do miracles and I've just experienced a Christmas one.
I've been sick for the past week with the flu/cold and just now feel like I'm ready to face December.
We've gotten a tree decorated and the boxes of Christmas decorations down from the attic. I've purchased ONE gift and a few stocking stuffers. Lights have been hung on the porch. We've attended practices for concerts soon to come, but that's it around the Martens' house.
It doesn't quite feel like Christmas around here yet.
The calendar boasts a flurry of activity over the next two weeks which seems daunting from my easy-chair today, but we'll manage one day at a time.
The girls and I will take in The Christmas Carol at our local University tomorrow. Maybe that will jump start my Christmas Spirit! If not, we'll be baking cookies for teachers on Wednesday, followed by our CoOp concert and Christmas luncheon on Thursday. Then Christmas parties fill Friday, Saturday and Sunday so I'm guessing by the end of the week we'll be fully immersed in the Christmas spirit! Yay!
What Christmas activities do you have upcoming this week?
Last night all the kids were away and Mark and I went to the movies for a double feature! I've only done that one other time in my life (good memories with my son), but when there are two movies you're anxious to see, why not catch them both in the same night.
We started off with Lincoln. Wow! Daniel Day-Lewis is beyond amazing. I had read a review that said you'll forget he's not the real Abraham Lincoln and it was true right from the opening scene. I cried, I laughed and I enjoyed the nuances of dialog. I now have to own Dorris Kearns-Goodwin's book, one of the two books the movie was based upon. I've always been a fan of Dorris. She's a big fan of Reagan too, but I digress. Anyway, Lincoln was one of the best movies I have ever watched. I do smile when I think about my about my son-in-law's Facebook post, "Lincoln seems to be doing really well in theaters. That's not always been the case." Har Har, TJ!
We had a 15 minute pit stop/snack reload and then went to the next theater to watch Skyfall. Daniel Craig is growing on me. I think he's become my second favorite Bond. No one will ever best Sean Connery. Blonds don't usually do much for me (I prefer dark hair with light eyes - like my man), but 007 had his moments. Maybe it's the light eyes. I digress once more. :)
I enjoy the pace of the Bond movies and it was certainly a good choice to take it in after the historical drama. I have to say that when I saw the mansion at the end of the movie, with all it's amazing wood built-ins, beams, etc I knew I would be sickened when that house would be destroyed. I knew the gunfire would come, but really did we have to raze the whole thing? My husband must have understood my angst when he leaned over and said, "It's just a set." Ha! Crazy stunts scare me, but destroying a gorgeous home, ugh. Truly frightening.
I have to say Javier Bardem as a blond psycho bad-guy was disturbing. He did a good job-ish. I just couldn't get over how icky he was. Guess that was the point.
Judi Dench? Why? I will miss you, Judi! Such a pretty lady/great actress.
The new Moneypenny...I don't know. Jury's still out on that one.
1. Turkey-love it or leave it? White meat or dark? What's your favorite thing to make using leftover turkey?
Turkey is delicious; dark meat only for me. My boys live for leftover turkey made into turkey salad. We usually never have enough leftovers so we buy an extra turkey just for turkey salad. Really.
2. Gotta burn off all those carbs the day after a holiday feast so which would you rather do-run a 10K or climb a mountain? Despite the heights issue, I'd rather climb a mountain. Not only would you feel like you accomplished something, you'd get the reward of the view too!
3. Do you feel like social networking has made your relationships better or worse? Explain. Honestly, I'm not a Facebook fan. I keep threatening to quit, but during Dad's funeral it was such an easy way to share the information with such a large and varied group of friends/family, that I've kept it for that reason alone. I have a twitter account and I believe I looked at it once this year. Do you really want to know what I had for lunch? Didn't think so. I love blogging, but have settled into what it really means to me. At first I wanted a large following and I wanted it to launch into something. (??) That mindset left me discontent and unhappy. Once I realized that my target audience was our family who did not live close I then settled into my true blog identity. I just want to share my life, grammar mistakes and all, with those I love. When life is busy, I don't blog and I'm ok with the living of it and not sharing. When I have time to connect through blogging, I do. Because I've adopted this mindset, I've met some wonderful blog friends who check in every so often. I would truly love to meet you all in person, with the hopes that we'd enjoy each other's physical company just as much. I talk about you all with my family and say, "my blog friend..." Whoever thought that would be a category? So in answer to the question I think I've navigated social networking in a way that works for me. 4. How do you find and express gratitude for the hard things in your life? When going through the hard time, I pray and ask the Lord to reveal Himself and I thank Him for His care. I share the Lord's faithfulness and my stories of tough times with others as the Holy Spirit leads. 5. In the US, the day after Thanksgiving has been dubbed 'Black Friday'. Is most of your holiday shopping done live and in person, or is it done more through the magic of the Internet? How do you feel about stores opening at midnight Thanksgiving night? Will you be out amongst the masses on Friday? I've shopped on Black Friday once and it was a good experience. I'm not much of a shopper so I don't put a lot of time and energy into doing it. We make up Christmas lists and share them with grandparents. I usually shop about three times in December purchasing everyone's gifts at retail stores. If there are requested items from catalogs, I definitely take advantage of shopping online. 6. Speaking of the color black-which black item in your wardrobe would you say is your favorite? I have a black sweater that is dressy and comfortable. It's a winter staple. 7. What do you appreciate about your life today? We moved out of the rat race of northern Virginia/DC chaos a little over a year ago and I appreciate the calm peacefulness that comes with living in the country on a farm. It's a dream of many people to live the way I do and I am so thankful for what the Lord has provided. I love our way of life. 8. Insert your own random thought here.
All this talk of purchasing gifts reminded me of something I bought online a few weeks ago.
My daughter, Ashley, and son-in-law, TJ, moved to CO in July and this will be our first Christmas away from each other. Sad.
To give Ashley a little taste of home, I purchased the same Advent calendar for her family as the one she had in childhood. I told her not to open it without TJ 'cause I knew there would be lots of crying. There was and TJ was a little confused until she explained.
Here's a goofy picture taken of her putting the last ornament on our Advent calendar tree in 2010.
Shared memories are sweet; passing them on...priceless.
the eternal corrective. It is ripeness and color and a time of maturity; but it
is also breadth, and depth, and distance. What man can stand with autumn on a
hilltop and fail to see the span of his world and the meaning of the rolling
hills that reach to the far horizon?"
Some weeks just feel like a quintessential sampling of life; this past week being one of them.
Sat - Last Saturday the girls and I spent the morning at church packing boxes for Operation Christmas Child. With other families, we packed 450 boxes! A good way to begin November.
We brought home 2 guinea pigs that we're watching for 3 months while friends take a temporary job in Hawaii. A great trial run to see if we want some critters of our own.
Sun - Worked a very full morning at church, followed by a database training (while I scarfed down lunch), set up for our evening events, then worked the night shift. Talked to my step-sister on the way home and laughed at the crazy dating scenarios she finds herself in.
Mon - back to the grind... schooled the girls, made a nice dinner for the boys and then went out to dinner with a girlfriend. So needed!
Tues - voted in our Presidential election, brought the girls home after 24 hours at Grandma's, worried about the limping of my 9-yr-old, affixed myself to the web all evening watching the results come in, received news that a friend had died.
Wed - depressed about the election, death of my friend and my child's leg I spent the morning web surfing/playing games. Anyone else have one of those days? Took child to Urgent Care, called a friend for a second opinion, went out to dinner with my family, prepped for classes to teach the next day, rejoiced in the news of baby # 1 born that afternoon to a co-worker/friend.
Thur- sat in morning traffic trying to get to CoOp, taught 3 classes, went to the library (ahhh!), met friends for froyo then went to their house to play for an hour, drove college students back to their dorms (fun), had Taco Bell with my kids, caught up on work/email.
Fri - Rejoiced to hear of another baby born on Thursday to a sweet friend who lost a newborn last fall. They named this new little boy, Jasper Henry, after the walls of Heaven. What a sweet gift of the Lord! Cleaned my house, made soup, salad & apple crisp, hosted company and taught them a new card game.
Sat - spent the night sleeping in the guest room from 2:30am after child with a head cold crawled into our master bed, found out baby # 4 was born to one of my earliest blogging buddies. What answers to prayer and blessings to me...new life in the midst of sadness.
Sometimes I get so bogged down in the details and miss the big picture of life. I have been known to say regularly, "I just want off the roller coaster!" However, after a recap, I see the Lord working in the details and realize that I really did accomplish more than I think. I'm thankful to the Lord for a full life.
One of my newest most favoritest blogs is (in)courage. I don't think there's been a daily post that I have not loved and/or been inspired to do something. It just speaks to my heart as a woman, a sentiment included in their blog header.
Anyway, yesterday they introduced me to a blogging phenomenon called More Love Letters. You can read about it in this post.
I went web surfing and read about this endeavor of encouragement and can't wait to give it a try myself.
Write an anonymous note of encouragement and either leave it in a public place or send it to More Love Letters. You can send a note to the organization for someone specific and it will be sent to them anonymously, say a co-worker who has just gone through a tragedy, or you can send letters that they can use in bundles to support someone going through a hard time.
We've all heard of Random Acts of Kindness, and while paying for someone's order behind you in the drive-through is a pick-me-up for that moment, a letter can have a lasting effect. It can be kept and reread again. There is something "magical" about getting a handwritten letter that expresses care and encouragement.
There are testimonials on moreloveletters.com and there are tips on how to get started. One of their suggestions was to have a group of girlfriends get together with stationery/pens/markers and spend an evening writing letters of encouragement to others. Wouldn't you feel great after an evening like that? I know I would.
I'm going to give this idea some more thought and see where the Lord leads me to encourage others. Check out both sites; I think you'll be glad you did.
I Thessalonians 5:17-18 pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. O, Lord, You are still on the throne. You are the King of Kings and we thank you for the freedom in America where everyone can have a vote and be counted. Today we thank you for a decisive win instead of a contested one. We are reminded that Your ways are not our ways and we trust You. It is your work to set kings and rulers in their place and your will has been accomplished. We pray that You will give us hope and strength to face the coming days.
We ask for your mercy. Forgive our many sins and heal our land. We ask that You move in the heart of our president to seek You and follow You. Father, may we continue to be a true friend of Israel. May we see believers mobilized to pray like never before. Thank you for the promise that You never leave us nor forsake us. Have mercy on America and bring revival so that we can see Your mighty works. Thank You for being our trustworthy Savior. May we find peace and rest in You today.
I had dinner with a sweet friend last night and we talked about sacrifice. This morning I was drawn to the Scriptures which included that word and enjoyed some time delving more deeply with my study Bible into Romans 12.
For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.
I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
In my own words:
I counsel you, because all glory belongs to God, brothers (& sisters), by the gracious, extravagant love, grace, righteousness and faith in God, that you offer yourself completely to God's control, a living offering, holy, acceptable to God, which is your logical response. Don't masquerade or act like the world, but be transfigured by being saturated and controlled by the Word of God so that you can be God-approved, morally and spiritually spotless, just as the sacrificial animals were to be.
We have been studying John 15-16 in our small group recently and our conversation has mainly focused on the Holy Spirit. We've talked about receiving the Holy Spirit, walking with Him, not grieving Him, not quenching Him, and being filled with Him. Honestly, this is one of my favorite subjects and I have enjoyed the Scriptures that tell us more about this person of the Godhead.
As many of you know from my devotionals and in talking with me, I have been studying various aspects of walking with the Lord (Spirit) for several years now. The subject will never be exhausted, but I was searching for a more effective way to walk with the Lord than I have done in the past. Many truths have been revealed to me during my personal study, however, none has been more enlightening that a simple truth that was shared this week.
9 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.10 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (emphasis mine)
We are to ask for the Holy Spirit. Many believers want to debate the filling of the Spirit. In my opinion, that argument can be simply explained with the indwelling of the Spirit at the time of conversion vs our surrender to continually live under His influence. Whether you believe you have all of the Spirit you could ever get or you believe you can be "more filled," clearly, this verse in Luke tells us we can ask for Him.
My small group leader shared that he and his family routinely ask the Lord to fill each of them with the Holy Spirit - to live in a way that is controlled by the will of the Lord. He shared a word picture of this by using a glass of chocolate milk. When you have a glass of chocolate milk, at first the chocolate sits at the bottom of the glass. (chocolate=Holy Spirit.) We have all we need, but until it is stirred up we do not have chocolate-y goodness (influence of/control by the Spirit.) This asking for the Spirit is asking to be stirred up. He summed it up with, "We should all desire that chocolate-y goodness." :)
Do we have within our own abilities/our own flesh to live according to the Lord's will? In Romans 7 Paul says I do what I don't want to do and I don't do what I want to do. We fight against our fleshly desires and we are supposed to die to them, but we can't do that in our own strength. It is only the work of the Lord in our lives that can change us to be more like Christ. So if we don't do the work, who does? The Spirit within us. If it is He who grows the fruit of the Spirit, then doesn't it make sense for us to ask our Father in heaven for more of that Spirit to be evident in our lives. We are then asking for the best thing. Our Father knows how to give good gifts and desires for us to ask for His indwelling Spirit to be stirred up to control us.
So many times I try to live the Christian life in my own strength. Instead I need to ask for the Spirit to do the work in me and then cooperate by surrendering to His still small voice. I encourage you to ask for Him today.
I teach three classes at our Homeschool CoOp on Thursdays. I teach Choir for 1st - 3rd grade, Home Design & Decorating for Jr. High & High School girls, and Handbells for 4th-8th grade. By the end of the morning I'm tired to say the least, but I get such joy being in the classroom! I look forward to every Thursday with my students.
This summer when I was praying about what to teach in my classes, the Lord impressed upon me to begin each class period with devotions. I balked at first since we only have once a week to study and prepare for a concert, but when I realized I had an opportunity to share the Word with over 50 kids every week it dawned on me that there could be lasting impact from the devotions far more than anything else I would teach them. Saying "yes" to the Lord seemed like a "duh!"
Today our devotions centered around being thankful. I asked each student to share one thing they were thankful for and to use the month of November to practice thankfulness. Their answers were sweet. Many said they were thankful for "God," "Jesus," "my parents," which is wonderful, but I had to coax a few younger kids to really think about something. One little girl was complaining about her brother and I said, "Ok, let's think of something you could be thankful for regarding your brother." She answered, "Well, he gave me half of his candy bar that he won for saying verses in church." I said, "That was very generous of him, wasn't it?" She answered, "Yes, but ..." I immediately was struck with the thought about how often in my own mind and heart I say, "I'm thankful for ____, but..."
This month I think I'll try to just be thankful (period). No buts...
No "thanks for bringing me flowers, but you know I don't like those kind." (Yep, I've said that!)
No "thanks for sweeping the floor without being asked, but how about your other chores?"
No "thanks for cooking dinner, but what about the mess you left behind?"
No "thanks for fixing _____, but when will you get to ________?"
This month I think I'll just practice "Thank You!"
Sharing devotions with my students might have more of a lasting impact on me, don't you think?!