Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Take Time Tuesdays

Chapter 7 ~ The Freedom of Abandonment

"My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself to me." Galatians 2:20

"There are three marks of one who is crucified. One, he is facing in only one direction. Two, he can never turn back. And three, he no longer has any plans of his own. " A. W. Tozer

"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross!" Philippians 2:5-8

There was a period of time in my life when this was my attitude, but when push came to shove ~ I "kept a slight grasp" just in case things didn't go the way I desired, never wanting to be completely out of control in my own life... With Tozer's quote, I don't think I ever really got to the third mark ~ but I'd like to get there. Why is it so difficult to let go and let God? To give up all control in our lives and trust God completely?

As the author shares, "Romans 6:11 says that you should consider yourself dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. Do you consider this verse to be true in your life? Why or why not?" I'll let you wrestle through that one on your own...

"In our struggle with flesh, the Holy Spirit is our special Helper. He knows all the subtle wiles of the flesh... The Holy Spirit is on our side. He is our ally against this subtle foe. He dwells within, where the battle is to be fought. We are not left helpless in this battle, nor are we simply the battleground between then two foes. We are to "walk in the Spirit." That calls for a deliberate choice. We yield either to the flesh or to the Spirit... We must deny our natural desires. We are to do things that the Holy Spirits wants us to do." John Phillips

Okay, so we have an ongoing struggle - but we have the Holy Spirit, so making the right choices shouldn't be that difficult, should it? Why do I battle on and on in this area? Perhaps my flesh is so weak and I don't really want to give up "the things of this world". It's easier to fit in with everyone else... I have a right to eat that chocolate or have cookies or cupcakes, or watch certain movies or television shows, buy myself a new purse or treat myself to lunch, etc - it's just the way this world works. Well, not necessarily. Isn't it true that if the Spirit is telling us not to eat something or not to do something, we often get bent out of shape, defend ourselves and justify why we should do something, complain and whine that it isn't fair that we are being denied... We can resist, we can change our attitude, we can overcome any obstacle ~ and we don't have to do it on our own, BUT we must be willing to die to our self first to allow Christ to live victoriously in us! It's really quite simple, isn't it?

From our study: "Lawrence O. Richards wrote, "obedience is the outward expression of a heart that has turned to God."

"Why do you call Me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears My words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on a rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears My words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete." Luke 6:46-49

I've lived in both types of houses... My temple (body) has been a strong tower, because of Christ and living out His Truth and I have not been swayed in the midst of challenges, trials and difficulties, but I've also been a temple with no foundation and allowed sin, fear, and unbelief cause me to fall, be swept away and second guess His truth. I know by experience that when I am living in His Truth, died to myself and I'm being obedient to what He desires of me ~ no matter what comes into my life, He enables me to stand firm and strong and not be destroyed. No, at those times He is gloried and gives me victory in my life!

And I must remember:
"But the man (and woman) who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it - he will be blessed in what he does." James 1:25

Aren't those wonderful and encouraging words? I hope you realize that these words are still not about us choosing the way we live our life, but when we're totally abandoned to Christ, He will bless our lives for His glory. And that's a really wonderful thing!

"So obedience, properly understood, is never a cold or impersonal thing. God's call to obedience is a loving invitation to experience His best." Lawrence O. Richards

I love this quote! If you're anything like me, it's wonderful to feel loved; to be invited into someone's inner circle; to be an important part of a special family! That's what God is all about! He wants all His children to experience His amazing love and when we're obedient to Him, He knows we love Him and, in return, He loves us even more!

Do you still want to keep control over your life? Have you abandoned yourself to God? These verses will help you see a bit more what that "looks like!"

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful natural with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other." Galatians 5:22-26

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." Philippians 2:3-4

How I desire my life to be testified of in this way, but how short I fall (and so often)... And yet, I know that God continues to transform my life a little each day, each season, each new stretch of my journey here on earth. I do try to live this out in some measure, but I realize what I really need is to completely let go of my control of my life.

"The word walk... refers to our outward life, which people all around us can see. "Let your conduct be controlled by the Spirit," is one way of rendering the Word here... Inherent in the concept of "walk" is the idea of making progress. We walk one step at a time. Our progress might not be fast, but it should be steady. We might stumble and fall, but we get up, seek cleansing, and keep moving forward." John Phillips

Hopefully, you don't feel like an utter failure in working through this week's study ~ and I've just skimmed the surface. There is so much to learn in this chapter. When I read this quote, I smiled. Yes, Lord - I'm making progress. I'm making progress toward You!

"Christ died to save us, not from suffering, but from ourselves; not from injustice, far less than justice, but from being unjust. He died that we might live - but live as He lives, by dying as He died who died to himself." George MacDonald

This is such a wonderful image. Perhaps it will give revelation to some who read this... He is so good!

To close this week:
Reflections ~ "This is a difficult chapter. It is not easy to give up control of your life, but what we give up cannot compare with what we gain." Are you willing to abandon your life to the Lord that you might really live?

"Have I ever been carried away to do something for God not because it was my duty, nor because it was useful, nor because there was anything in it at all beyond the fact that I love Him?... Not Divine, colossal things which could be recorded as marvelous, but ordinary, simple human things which will give evidence to God that I am abandoned to Him? Have I ever produced in the heart of the Lord Jesus what Mary of Bethany produced?" Oswald Chambers

It's not easy to give up complete control. It's not easy to abandon what we have "planned" for our lives, but He's promised to be with us. He's told us that it will be an exciting adventure like nothing we could ever ask or imagine. It could be high profile or humble and simple, but your life will never be the same if you will surrender control of your life to Him. And, you will gain so much more!

Lord Jesus, I've wanted to give you complete control but I know I've always held, at least, a little something back. No more. Today, I'm giving you ALL of my life; surrendering to You. Take my life, crucify it in You so I may really live!

Monday, December 28, 2009

A delightful celebration!

That's how this website describes Epiphany! Well, let's keep learning together how this is celebrated around the world. :)

Traveling during the holidays in Europe, you'll find the season marked not by the number of shopping days left until Christmas, but by a long series of winter festivals — pagan and Christian — that stretch from late November until early January.

Advent (the four Sundays before Christmas) starts things off, as people begin to anticipate the arrival (or advent) of the baby Jesus. (In Europe, this is truly the start of Christmas. Advertisers there seem reluctant to commercialize the season any earlier.) Next up is the Feast of St. Nicholas, celebrated mostly in Catholic countries with lots of gift giving on Dec. 5 and 6. In some countries, St. Nicholas' feast is even bigger than Christmas Day. Dec. 13 brings Santa Lucia Day, a logical highlight in Europe's darkest corner — Scandinavia — where young girls decked out in candles lead processions promising the return of the light.

Dec. 25 is a day of quiet celebration and happy reunions with relatives and friends. Christmas in some European countries — including Italy and France — kicks off 12 more days of religious observance (the famous Twelve Days of Christmas). They end on Jan. 6 with the Epiphany holiday, when the Three Wise Men were said to have finally brought their gifts to the baby Jesus.

In Italy, Epiphany is the time of "La Befana," the legendary Good Witch of Christmas, who gives gifts to children. My Roman friend, Francesca, explained to me, "On the night before Jan. 6, the Befana flies over the rooftops of Rome on her broom, and brings gifts to the good children or coal for the bad ones. Well, these days the 'coal' is a crunchy black candy you buy from street-corner carts. In return, Roman children leave her a gift of soft ricotta cheese, since she has hardly any teeth!"

According to Italian legend, the Three Wise Men stopped to ask La Befana for directions to Bethlehem and the Christ child, but she was too busy to help. As time passed, La Befana kept thinking about the strange visitors and their quest. With a sack filled with bread, she set out to find Jesus, too.

Whenever La Befana saw a baby boy, she broke off a crust of bread and gave it to him, hoping he might be the Christ child. Befana — whose name means "gift-bringer" — still wanders, searching through Italy each Christmas season, leaving little goodies for the children.

The legend of La Befana may stretch back to pagan times. She first appeared in ancient Roman winter festivals as an aging Mother Nature, delivering her last gifts. Today, the best place to meet La Befana in person is at Rome's lively square, Piazza Navona, at the Christmas bazaar known locally as the Befana Market.

France, not surprisingly, celebrates Epiphany in an edible way. For several days from Christmas until the Feast of Epiphany, the French line up at bakeries to buy "Galette des Rois," or the "Cake of Kings." They bring these to dinner parties, and enjoy them as snacks and with mid-afternoon tea. The tradition of the treats dates back to the 14th century.

Each region in France has its own version of the Galette des Rois. In the north of France, galettes are puff-pastry cakes, usually filled with fragrant almond frangipane, a kind of custard. In Brittany, they resemble shortcake. And in the south of France, galettes are brioche — a sweet bread decorated with candied fruit, and flavored with brandy or orange-flower water.

What's the reason for this enormous amount of pastry consumption? (Although, honestly, who needs a reason to eat pastry?) Inside each galette hides a tiny trinket, usually made of porcelain. While these once had religious significance, today they range from miniature paintings of Picasso's Guernica or Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa to figurines of Zorro or even Harry Potter. The trinkets hidden inside each galette are called feves, named for the fava beans that were the original prizes. Today, feves are highly collectible.

Traditionally, the cake is cut while the youngest child at the table designates who will get each piece (so there's no cheating). Everyone takes careful bites of the pastry until someone finds the feve. The excited winner gets the feve, as well as a golden paper or plastic crown that tops the cake — and becomes king or queen for the day.

While the history of the traditions of La Befana and Galettes des Rois may be clouded by myth, this much is true: The French and the Italians make Epiphany a delightful celebration, filled with goodies more fun than frankincense and myrrh.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Epiphany Season

The Season of Epiphany

Dennis Bratcher

In western Christian tradition, January 6 is celebrated as Epiphany. It goes by other names in various church traditions. In Hispanic and Latin culture, as well as some places in Europe, it is known as Three Kings’ Day (Span: el Dia de los Tres Reyes, la Fiesta de Reyes, or el Dia de los Reyes Magos; Dutch: Driekoningendag). Because of differences in church calendars, mainly between the Eastern Orthodox and the western Catholic and Protestant traditions, both Christmas and Epiphany have been observed at different times in the past. Today, most of the Eastern Orthodox traditions follow the western church calendar. The exceptions are some Greek Orthodox Churches and related traditions (for example, Russian and Serbian Orthodox) that still follow the older calendar and celebrate Epiphany as the Theophany on January 19th.

Epiphany is the climax of the Advent/Christmas Season and the Twelve days of Christmas, which are usually counted from the evening of December 25th until the morning of January 6th, which is the Twelfth Day. In following this older custom of counting the days beginning at sundown, the evening of January 5th is the Twelfth Night. This is an occasion for feasting in some cultures, including the baking of a special King's Cake as part of the festivities of Epiphany (a King's Cake is part of the observance of Mardi Gras in French Catholic culture of the Southern USA). In some church traditions, only the full days are counted so that January 5th is the Eleventh Day of Christmas, January 6th is the Twelfth Day, and the evening of January 6th is counted as the Twelfth Night.

In traditional Christian churches Christmas, as well as Easter, is celebrated as a period of time, a season of the church year, rather than just a day. The Season of the Church Year associated with Christmas actually begins with the first Sunday of Advent, four Sundays before Christmas Day. Advent is marked by expectation and anticipation in preparing to celebrate the coming of Jesus. Christmas begins with Christmas Day December 25 and lasts for Twelve days until Epiphany, January 6, which looks ahead to the mission of the church to the world in light of the Nativity. The one or two Sundays between Christmas Day and Epiphany are sometimes called Christmastide. For many Protestant church traditions, the season of Epiphany extends from January 6th until Ash Wednesday, which begins the season of Lent leading to Easter. Depending on the timing of Easter, this longer period of Epiphany includes from four to nine Sundays. Other traditions, especially the Roman Catholic tradition, observe Epiphany as a single day, with the Sundays following Epiphany counted as Ordinary Time. In some western traditions, the last Sunday of Epiphany is celebrated as Transfiguration Sunday.

babyjesus.jpg (30908 bytes)The term epiphany means "to show" or "to make known" or even "to reveal." In Western churches, it remembers the coming of the wise men bringing gifts to visit the Christ child, who by so doing "reveal" Jesus to the world as Lord and King. In some Central and South American countries influenced by Catholic tradition, Three Kings’ Day, or the night before, is the time for opening Christmas presents. In some eastern churches, Epiphany or the Theophany commemorates Jesus’ baptism, with the visit of the Magi linked to Christmas. In some churches the day is celebrated as Christmas, with Epiphany/Theophany occurring on January 19th.

The colors of Epiphany are usually the colors of Christmas, white and gold, the colors of celebration, newness, and hope that mark the most sacred days of the church year. In traditions that only observe a single day for Epiphany, the colors are often changed after Epiphany to the colors of Ordinary Time, usually green or thematic sanctuary colors, until Transfiguration Sunday, the last Sunday before the beginning of Lent. The colors for Transfiguration Sunday are usually the colors of Holy Days, white and gold.

As with most aspects of the Christian liturgical calendar, Epiphany has theological significance as a teaching tool in the church. The Wise Men or Magi who brought gifts to the child Jesus were the first Gentiles to acknowledge Jesus as "King" and so were the first to "show" or "reveal" Jesus to a wider world as the incarnate Christ. This act of worship by the Magi, which corresponded to Simeon’s blessing that this child Jesus would be "a light for revelation to the Gentiles" (Luke 2:32), was one of the first indications that Jesus came for all people, of all nations, of all races, and that the work of God in the world would not be limited to only a few.

The day is now observed as a time of focusing on the mission of the church in reaching others by "showing" Jesus as the Savior of all people. It is also a time of focusing on Christian brotherhood and fellowship, especially in healing the divisions of prejudice and bigotry that we all too often create between God’s children.

An Epiphany Prayer

Father, we thank you for revealing yourself to us in Jesus the Christ, we who once were not your people but whom you chose to adopt as your people. As ancient Israel confessed long ago, we realize that it was not because of our own righteousness, or our own superior wisdom, or strength, or power, or numbers. It was simply because you loved us, and chose to show us that love in Jesus.

As you have accepted us when we did not deserve your love, will you help us to accept those whom we find it hard to love? Forgive us, O Lord, for any attitude that we harbor that on any level sees ourselves as better or more righteous than others. Will you help us to remove the barriers of prejudice and to tear down the walls of bigotry, religious or social? O Lord, help us realize that the walls that we erect for others only form our own prisons!

Will you fill us so full of your love that there is no more room for intolerance. As you have forgiven us much, will you enable us with your strength to forgive others even more? Will you enable us through your abiding Presence among us, communally and individually, to live our lives in a manner worthy of the Name we bear?

May we, through your guidance and our faithful obedience, find new avenues in ways that we have not imagined of holding the Light of your love so that it may be a Light of revelation for all people.

We thank you for your love, praise you for your Gift, ask for your continued Presence with us, and bring these petitions in the name of your Son, who has truly revealed your heart. Amen.

Click on the title to go to the web page when I got this information...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Family Christmas Tradition

These are the BEST satsuma oranges and they are only available at Christmas time! We always purchase, at least, one box ~ but usually several.

We love eating them ~ it wouldn't be Christmas without them!

This year, we shipped a box to our daughter and son-in-law, Elizabeth and Josh, in Colorado AND it's become a must include for our neighbors' goodie bags (one per each person in the household)...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Basement verses...

Part of this week's Take Time Tuesdays, but I wanted to highlight these verses separately from what I'm going to share regarding the study. These verses are great foundational verses that help shape our faith... What verses are your "basement" foundation verses? Do they guide you? Do they challenge your heart and the choices you make each day?

As the author of the study shares, these verses are clear, simple and easily understood...

"Whom have I in heaven but You? And earth has nothing I desire besides You." Psalm 73:25

"I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against You." Psalm 119:11

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:5-6

"Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man." Ecclesiastes 12:13b

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protect, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." Ephesians 4:29

Take Time Tuesdays

Chapter Six ~ Living in the Basement

"The apostle Paul had a strong and steady underlying consistency in his life. Consequently, he could let his external life change without internal distress because he was rooted and grounded in God. Most of us are not consistent spiritually because we are more concerned about being consistent externally. In the external expression of things, Paul lived in the basement, while his critics lived on the upper level. And these two levels do not begin to touch each other. But Paul's consistency was down deep in the fundamentals. The great basis of his consistency was the agony of God in the redemption of the world, namely, the Cross of Christ." Oswald Chambers

I am continually amazed how God prepares me for the "lessons" He wants me to learn and what He's about to teach me. He's been speaking alot to me about the FOUNDATION in my life. I'll be posting a separate blog entry about this topic later. While I have tried to ground myself in His Truth, I still struggle with the external expression in my life. To be honest, I've lived in the "basement" and in the "upper level" ~ a great challenge to try and balance in this world, because you can't have it both ways. I'm so thankful for continued transformation in this area of my life and it's getting easier to allow God to change my external life, as I strengthen my foundation in Him.

The author begins the study this week by sharing how, as new Christians, she and her husband attended many Christian conferences and read the latest Christian books ~ but they discovered that what they needed to focus on (the most) was the Word of God. Okay, that was my story too. Been there, done that - but something always seems to be missing... Building and strengthening their foundation (their basement) in Him. We need a strong foundation for it keeps our lives, choices and reactions to life centered on Christ. I love these words shared by Paul:

"As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world's interest in me has also died. It doesn't matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation. May God's peace and mercy be upon all who live by this principle; they are the new people of God." Galatians 6:14-16

Cynthia Heald shares: "The way we preserve this purity (devotion to Christ) is to know, understand and cling to the foundational principles of Scripture."

"Christ is not one of the many ways to approach God, nor is He the best of several ways; He is the only way, "the Way, the Truth and the Life."" A.W. Tozer

Is this what we really want in this life? Is this what we believe? Do we stand up for this Truth? Do we share it with others?

I can answer YES and NO to each of these questions from over the years. I've reached a point now that I can't be balancing life and choices on a teeter-totter. I must firmly make a decision to live my life firmly grounded in His Word and Truth... He is the only way!

"If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him." 1 John 4:15-16

This is great news, but we can't live this out in our own strength. We need God in our lives every moment or we fall short of what He desires and plans for our lives. We must constantly be with our foundation in Him.

"Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. I was astonished that you are so quickly deserting the One who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel - which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be servant of Christ." Galatians 1:3-10

"I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how orderly you are and how firm your faith in Christ is. So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority." Colossians 2:1-10

These two passages say much to my heart... I struggle within some churches, as I see values and ideals embraced that, to me, do not reflect the gospel as I have known it. I don't understand how people can support candidates for electoral offices when that person supports abortion, same-sex marriage, or has the "face" of faith but does not live it out in their daily life or in their policies in a position of leadership. I don't understand how Christians can read Harry Potter and Twilight books (and see the movies) and not have a conflict with their belief in the gospel. I don't understand how Christians can play video games with characters that are ungodly or commit acts of violence and violate others. I don't understand how Christians can watch television shows or movies that contain sexually intimate scenes or laugh at sexual jokes. I don't understand how those raised in the Christian faith are easily swayed by the "appearance" of faith in others, and choose to walk away from all they have ever known to be good and true. While we all fall short and are prone to sin, we are to encourage one another to live in the Truth of the gospel and to turn away from these worldly things. God's Word encourages me to take a firm stand for what I believe, continue to love others because He loves me and allow Him to continually transform my life... Often, I've tried to look the other way ~ but I cannot. His Word and Truth is too strong in me and I cannot bend to accept what I know is wrong and not of Him. How I pray His children - all of us - wake up from our slumber and hear His voice and turn away from our wicked ways and return to Him and His Truth that sets us free! If we're not the examples of His gospel in our daily lives, who will be?

"Jesus replied, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: "Love your neighbor as yourself." All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." Matthew 22:37-40

So, let's just say for discussion sake that all the rest of the Bible doesn't exist and these are the only words we have to live by. It's easy to understand, clear and quite simple. Right? Then, why do we have such a difficult time living this out every day of our lives? Am I the only one who struggles with these words and the actions associated with them?

When we returned home from Colorado, the neighbor above us was leveling the back portion of his driveway and cutting away at the hill behind us (yes, it's his property and he can do what he wants - but it could have a negative impact on our property). We have talked to him, at length, about the instability of the hillside and the need to have large landscape rocks added to the hill, so no one has any problems with the changes he told us he planned to make. He agreed and told us he had connections and would try to find some to stabilize things. He hasn't done it so far... And, lowering part of his hill has taken away more of our privacy in the back. AND, the neighbor next door re-sided his house while were away and took the land line phone lines off his house and hooked them to a t-bar post in his yard just on the other side of our fence. Well, that's great - but those lines hung across our yard and you had to duck under them to walk up to our house. When Blaine brought it to his attention, he told Blaine that they didn't need them anymore - maybe he should call the phone company to have them removed. He agreed to tack them back onto his house, even though his wife fussed and didn't want any holes in their new siding (trim). Neither neighbor cared that they'd caused us inconvenience and it really unsettled me and I stressed over these two issues for days... Then, I suddenly realized that it may negatively affect us, but this world is temporary and if something does happen we will do our best to react in a loving way in dealing with the situation. Until then, God just taught me that I need to live in TODAY and let Him deal with the tomorrows. Is it worth alienating our neighbors over these issues - they are not biblically immoral issues; just incovenient - and the answer is, NO! And yet, it is so hard to love our neighbors as ourselves when other people don't act the same way we do. And then, there is the whole issue of how we're to love God...

Cynthia Heald shares: "living the Christian life - "keep a simple, but profound" approach to following Christ."

This is challenging to do living in a complex world, isn't it? Or is it?

"This is what the Lord says: "Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls." Jeremiah 6:16

How have we gotten so far off the path God has for us? How have we wandered so far away? It should be easy - ask, walk in it and devote yourself to Christ and you will find rest...

Much to think about and consider from this week. Our focus should be a strong foundation in His Word - simple, pure devotion to Christ and loving Him and others as we love ourselves. Can't get much easier, right?

In closing, a quote from Amy Carmichael:

"If I covet any place on earth, but the dust at the foot of the Cross, then I know nothing of Calvary love."

I'm actually thrilled that this week's message is perfectly timed, as we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Savior, the wonders of His life and gift of eternal life for each one of us and His never-ending love for all people!

Abundant blessings dear friends and may you experience the wonder of that Holy Night ~ rejoicing and singing JOY TO THE WORLD!

Gluten-free/Dairy-free Pumpkin Pie!

For years after I discovered I couldn't have dairy, I missed one of my favorite holidays pies ~ pumpkin! Last year, Living Without magazine, published a pumpkin pie recipe using coconut milk. After tweaking it to my personal desires ~ we are so enjoying it!

The ingredients! (oops ~ forgot to have the eggs on the counter)

The sugar and spices

Such a gorgeous color!

The pie crust ready for the filling!

Ready for the oven...


To decorate: I cut out a pumpkin shaped piece of dough (extra pie crust dough), cook it separately and then put it on the pie at the end of the cooking time.

Pumpkin Pie

3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 Tbsp cornstarch or potato starch
dash salt
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
3 large eggs
1 (14 oz) can coconut milk
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree

In a separate bowl, combine sugar, cornstarch, salt and spices. In a large mixing bowl, beat together eggs and coconut milk. Add pumpkin and beat well. Add sugar mixture to pumpkin mixture and beat to combine. Pour into unbaked deep dish pie crust.

Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 40-50 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool. Store in fridge. Serve chilled with your favorite whipped topping!

*Need additional substitutes for ingredients listed ~ visit Living Without!

Pie Crust recipe - click this!

Gluten-free/Dairy-free Fudge!

My Auntie Chris shared her Five Minute Fudge recipe with me years ago and I've been making it every Christmas since... This year, I had Blaine make the recipe with substitutions to see if we could make fudge that we could enjoy too. And, it turned out great!

The ingredients: Jet-Puffed mini marshmallows, granulated sugar, Tropical Source gluten-free/dairy-free semi-sweet chocolate chips, Earth Balance buttery sticks (no dairy), Flavorganics organic vanilla extract and Thai Kitchen organic Coconut Milk

A happy baker and yummy "so chocolatey" fudge!

Five Minute Fudge

2 Tbsp Earth Balance buttery sticks
2/3 cup coconut milk
1 2/3 cup sugar
dash of salt (optional)
2 cups miniature marshmallows
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Combine Earth Balance, milk and sugar (+ salt if adding) in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil. Cook 4-5 minutes; stirring constantly. Start timing when mixture starts to "bubble" around edges of pan. Remove from heat. Add vanilla. Stir in marshmallows, chocolate chips (and nuts, if adding). Stir vigorously for 1 minute. Pour into a glass 11 x 7 pan lined with parchment paper. Hold paper with thumb on one side while gently encouraging the fudge to spread out and fill the pan. Cool. Chill in fridge and cut into squares. ENJOY!

Take Time Tuesdays ~ delay...

My sincere apologies again... I'm hoping to post some time during Tuesday, but that will depend on how our youngest son, Nicholas, is feeling and if I can devote time to the post. Our kids at home contracted the swine flu just 6 weeks ago and although they didn't have full-blown symptoms, they were pretty miserable. Our naturopath told us to keep supporting their immune systems, as there is a possibility of a flu recurrence (the body allows the virus to resurface again) within a 6 week window. Well, Nicholas just squeaked in and became ill again last Friday night after work. He is much more miserable this time around and likely has strep throat 'as the cherry on top'. He has missed 3 days of work already and will miss the next 2 days, as well. Our naturopath started him on several natural medicines yesterday afternoon, as well as some additional therapies, and we're praying he starts to show signs of improvement today! Depending on his needs, will determine whether I can devote significant time to posting this week's study...

I pray you are well and the excitement is building in your homes as the days draw closer toward the celebration of our wonderful Savior's birth!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Take Time Tuesdays

Chapter Five ~ This One Thing I Do

"There is only one relationship that matters, and that is your personal relationship to a personal Redeemer and Lord. Let everything else go, but maintain that at all costs, and God will fulfill His purpose through your life." Oswald Chambers

As soon as I began working on this chapter, I felt a great "YES" well up inside of me. This is my great desire. The author shared, "Paul's goal and passion was to know Christ not by gaining more information, but by personally experiencing His presence. " This is the desire of my heart. I do want to have a pure devotion to the Lord and make Him my one thing. I'm so thankful for His grace and patience as I continue to learn and my life is transformed to living this out daily!

Isaiah Chapter 43 is one of my favorites in the Bible! Reading it often brings tears to my eyes, as I realize how much He loves and values His children... So, when the author highlighted verses 10-13, I knew I had to share them with you too:

"You are My witnesses," declares the Lord, "and My servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe Me and understand that I Am He. Before Me no god was formed, nor will there be one after Me. I, even I, Am the Lord, and apart from Me there is no savior. I have revealed and saved and proclaimed - I, and not some foreign god among you. You are My witnesses," declares the Lord, "that I Am God." Yes, and from ancient days I Am He. No one can deliver out of My hand. When I act, who can reverse it?" NIV

Just typing these words makes me so emotional. To know I am CHOSEN by our amazing and wonderful Heavenly Father. Chosen! He wants me and you to be His witnesses; that we would know He is God. It is almost too wonderful to accept and embrace. Me, a sinner saved by grace, chosen by God! Can we ever really understand how great His love is for us? Yet, I can love Him throughout my whole life by being devoted to my Lord! What an honor...

"For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light." Colossians 1:9-12

While the study had us focus on verses 9 and 10, I couldn't stop there for the whole passage touched my spirit in a significant way and gave me a new way to pray for those I love ~ my husband, our children, our family, friends and even the neighbors around us. He wants our lives to bear fruit in all we do, to grow in our knowledge of Him and to have the strength, endurance and patience to fight the good fight and finish strong while giving thanks of great joy to Him always!
As I sat here writing, my "fortune" from last night suddenly entered my thoughts. To be honest, I've been waiting for some wonderful "thing" to happen today ~ an unexpected gift or visitor at my door, an e-mail to brighten my day or bring wonderful news, someone on facebook to say something to make my day - but it's already 4:20pm and just nothing until I typed the words from Colossians. PRAYER! I used to be a real prayer warrior, but it has slipped away from me in the busyness of my life since we moved to Seattle 3+ years ago. Yes, opportunity is knocking at my door. It's time to become a prayer warrior again! Not a high profile job like we humans like to have, but a job in the trenches filled with great honor and tremendous responsibility. I am humbled, Lord, and hear You clearly; including the "act soon". Thank you. This is a very wonderful thing to happen today!

"We cannot know God if we are rushing here and there, with countless calls pulling us in various directions... We must 'take time to be holy,' to get to know our Lord as a person with whom we delight to spend time." John Phillips

Okay, so the time has come to visit Mary and Martha. I so want to be Mary, but I struggle as Martha. So much to do, so little time - yet I know that without dedicated, focused time in His Word and sitting at His feet, I will never achieve the One Thing in my life: pure devotion to Him. This is one of my biggest battles. I so desire to be more like Mary and let go of Martha. May He help me overcome!

"But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ - the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow to attain to the resurrection from the dead." Philippians 3:7-11

Is it my desire to live a life of wholehearted devotion to Christ and this passage in Philippians is well known to me. I have told the Lord that this is what I want - and I think I've "tasted" some of this in my years, but when you read it and meditate upon what it is saying... Wow! If you agree, you're telling the Lord that you are willing to give up much, willing to suffer to know Him more; with the goal of being completely devoted to Him. What a struggle for me humanly. My heart says yes, but my head says, "but what about this or what about that?" It is my desire, but I'm realizing that I struggle against myself and what I've told the Lord I desire. Sigh. I still have much to learn...

This quote by Warren Wiersbe blew me away this week:

"In David's case, his battles were won in his private times of worship with the Lord. David had many responsibilities, and there were many demands upon his time; but his number one priority was seeking God's face. He said, like Paul, "This one thing I do" (Phil 3:13). Without satisfying worship, there can be no successful warfare. How did David know that God was a light, a deliverer, and a fortress? He learned it while gazing on God's glory in his time of worship and meditation... How he longed to leave the battlefield and dwell in God's house! But, wherever he was, he took time to come into God's presence, meditate on God's gracious kindness and contemplate the person of God."

If you get nothing else out of this week's study, I hope the above quote touches your spirit in life changing ways! I get caught up in the busyness of life, but I am the one who has things messed up. I try to squeeze God in here or there or in between the other things. And, I wonder why my faith and spiritual armour isn't stronger... Well, now I know if I didn't before. In every area of my life, God needs to be my one thing! If I accomplish only one thing each day ~ coming into His presence, meditating on who He is, spending time sitting at His feet and learning from Him.

A time for reflection this week: Take a few moments and examine your life and determine what your main focus is...
  • Mine has been raising our children in the Lord; developing their gifts and talents and encouraging them to use them for the Lord's Kingdom purposes.
  • Encouraging others
  • Teaching and training children in their service to the Lord
BUT ~ has my #1 priority been to know God above all else? My answer is YES and NO. I want to know Him, but I have not devoted the time or energy to REALLY know Him. I still have much to learn.

What is your main focus?

This chapter contained so much this week. So much meat to chew on... I have much more to share, but it's more important for you to spend time seeking who God is and to decide what you want in your relationship with Him. I'm going to share a couple more quotes that really touched me this week.

"The Father, the Husbandman, watches over your union with and growth in the Vine. You need be nothing more than a branch. Only a branch! Let that be your watchword; it will lead in the path of continual surrender to Christ's working, of true obedience to His every command, of joyful expectancy of all his grace. Is there anyone who asks: "How can I learn to say this aright, 'Only a branch! and to live it out?" Dear soul, the character of a branch, its strength and the fruit it bears, depend entirely upon the Vine... Therefore worship and trust Him; let Him be your one desire and the one occupation of your heart" Andrew Murray

How often I've tried to be the vine instead of the branch...

And, from Tozer:

"Yet for all God's good will toward us, He is unable to grant us our heart's desire till all our desires have been reduced to one."

May your great desire be pure devotion to our amazing Lord! Abundant blessings...

Celebrating 24 years of marriage, December 14!

The market is a magical place as they close up shop for the evening... Love the lighted pear, carrot and strawberry!

It's us outside by the market tree

We started a new tradition this year ~ buy an ornament on our anniversary! Will be fun for Blaine and I through the years ahead...

Downtown Seattle ~ where last night it seemed there were more homeless people than shoppers. A sad sight amidst all the Christmas lights and decorations...

The Christmas star at Macy's

Christmas tree at Westlake

Toasting to each other with organic green tea :)

It's us!

Gluten-free chicken lettuce wraps at PF Changs

Ginger chicken with broccoli

*This dish was not as tasty as usual last night. After being served, our server didn't come back and ask how things were. She came by with desserts, but we told her no. She then brought the check and we told her we were disappointed with this dish. She took our check away, the manager came and talked with us and told us he took care of it. Our server brought our check back again and we owed nothing. They wanted us to return again. We were completely surprised and didn't expect this at all. Wow! Thanks, Lord.

My fortune (can't eat the cookie though)

Blaine's fortune

We watched this movie after we got home. A must see for everyone!

Homemade apple crisp ~ yummy!

Blaine and I decided that we should go out on mini-dates each evening this week. Stayed tuned and see how we do... Thanking God for 24 years of this crazy and amazing adventure!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Take Time Tuesdays

Blaine and I celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary tonight, so my Tuesday post will be slightly delayed in publication time. Normally, I prepare it Monday night for posting early Tuesday - but I will be writing and posting it tomorrow during the day...

Friday, December 11, 2009

So cold...

It's been SO COLD in the Seattle area for the past week! I've wrapped my baby vine maple trees and pray they get through this cold weather... And, it's not even officially WINTER yet!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Take Time Tuesdays...

Chapter Four ~ Unshakable Simplicity

"I've told you all this so that trusting Me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I've conquered the world." John 16:33 The Message

"Nothing influences the quality of our life more than how we respond to trouble." Erwin G. Tieman

Thank you for your patience over these past few weeks, as I've worked through some difficulties in my life and also traveled out-of-town. I'm back and even though the holidays are approaching ~ I'm ready to take time out of my weekly schedule to focus on becoming a Woman of Simplicity!

I had no idea what the topic of this week's study was until I sat down to work on it - finally... I was shocked! God continually amazes me as He teaches me exactly what I need to be learning on this incredible journey with Him! I shouldn't be surprised, should I? I'm pretty sure I've been living this chapter ~ most of 2009...

Cynthia Heald shares her insight regarding the most pressing problem women face:

"The greatest challenge women face is life - life that not only brings joy, but also pain and uncertainty."

And I like what she said to follow this, "I think it is important to understand that choosing to live life simply devoted to the Lord does equip and enable us to remain unshakable in the midst of stressful and trying circumstances."

I've had my share of pain and uncertainty in the past, but this year took it to a whole new level. I cannot imagine getting through it without my faith and devotion to Christ. It would have been completely unbearable. And yet, I have a long way to go still to be a woman of unshakable simplicity...

"I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

"For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered."

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:35-39

There is such comfort and security in knowing that NO MATTER WHAT, we shall NOT be separated from God. That said, human emotions are still my greatest challenge and obstacle in living in His peace each day; especially during great trials and sorrows. During our great trial this year, I drew closer and closer to Him, to His promises, to the assurances in His Word ~ yet I struggled with my human emotions and having to let go of someone I dearly loved; who has been a part of our family for so many years ~ who still is, but has chosen to live a life away from us. While the wounds are still raw and we pray are slowly beginning to heal, I am holding to His Word and His peace much more than ever before. I try to help others do the same, but I'm learning that while I can share or encourage others to move in that direction ~ I cannot make them choose the same path I am following. This brings more trials and more pain, but I am learning to trust Him at an even greater level than ever before and continually pray for everyone involved... He is so able to heal and restore and set people free! I keep trying. When will I learn that it's not my job? He has already overcome the world ~ how can I do any more? I can't, but He can!

"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us." Romans 5:1-5

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave on the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does." James 1:2-8

"...though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith - of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire - may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy." 1 Peter 1:6b-8

It's verses like these that have been my anchor and have given me great strength when I have felt at my weakest. There is great joy in knowing that God is shaping my life; my character; my faith and He doesn't give me more than I can handle. Yet, I know I fall so short of what He desires for me in each trial. But looking back over the many trials in my life, I can see how my faith is growing stronger and hope is nearly always present. This gives me the courage to go forward knowing there will be more trials to face while I am here on earth - yet I am also aware that my faith and trust in Him grows with each storm that is faced and I am delivered through for His glory... What great importance there is for each of His children to meditate upon His Word so we have our daily food which causes us to grow and His Word hidden in our hearts when the next 'crisis' in this life arises! Just typing His Word to share with you fills me with a great joy!

"All people - believers as well as unbelievers - experience anxiety, frustration, heartache and disappointment. Some suffer intense physical pain and catastrophic tragedies. But that which should distinguish the suffering of believers from unbelievers is the confidence that our suffering is under the control of an all-powerful and all-loving God; our suffering has meaning and purpose in God's eternal plan, and He brings or allows to come into our lives only that which is for His glory and our good." Jerry Bridges

If you agree with this quote above, when we suffer, we shall remain people of hope. Yes, even in our family situation we know that God can use it for His glory and our good. Blaine and I are believing that He has a purpose and a plan ~ and we pray He will one day bring restoration and reconciliation. And, in the midst of it all ~ we pray He brings joy, hope and His amazing love continually to our boys that they are able to overcome and be strong, God-fearing men as they continue along their journey. We believe He will do just that. And, we believe He will transform Blaine and I for the next phase of our journey with Him ~ using our pain and suffering that we may, hopefully, one day minister to others who are facing their own trials.

"Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

These words mean a great deal to me right now. I continue to hope. I'm not willing to give up. Yes, there are times when I feel that my physical body is slowly wasting away, but my spirit grows stronger within me. This fills me with a wonderful and great joy! The more I focus on Jesus, the more this strength grows. It does not mean I don't continue to suffer, but I trust my life more and more into His hands for my wisdom does not match His ~ and there is much that happens in this life that I could never comprehend. I am learning to fully trust Him more and more.

"Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him." Lamentations 3:22-24

When I looked up this scripture for the study, I was surprised to find it underlined in my Bible. Some time along my journey, these verses were brought to my attention and I considered them important. And reading them again, I am overwhelmed with how much God loves me and cares for me anew each morning... It is because of His amazing love that I have not been overwhelmed in this life. He has never failed me - not once.

A final scripture to share:

"Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes." Matthew 6:34 The Message

Okay. Guilty as charged. This is a big obstacle that trips me often. I'm always thinking of the future; planning and preparing for what I'd like to have happen or hope will happen or what might happen... And yet, I'm realizing more and more that I'm missing on being fully here today. This will be one of my resolutions for 2010 ~ learning to live in today and let tomorrow worry about itself for God will be in the midst of that day too, but I have plenty to take care of today...

A final quote to meditate upon:

"We can be sure that the development of a beautiful Christ-like character will not occur in our lives without adversity... We may think we have true Christian love until someone offends us or treats us unjustly. Then we begin to see anger and resentment well up within us. We may conclude we have learned about genuine Christian joy until our lives are shattered by an unexpected calamity or grievous disappointment. Adversities spoil our peace and sorely try our patience. God uses those difficulties to reveal to us our need to grow, so that we will reach out to Him to change us more and more into the likeness of His Son." Jerry Bridges

I've still got a long road ahead of me and so much to learn still. I am so thankful that He is continually transforming my life ~ and how I pray I will hear those words one day, "Welcome home good and faithful servant."

Abundant blessings as you simply devote yourself to Christ...

Monday, December 7, 2009

Reflections of a challenging time...

I am still amazed when something is happening in my life (trials/challenges) ~ and in an unrelated Bible study that I am working through, God speaks directly to me and the situation. And even more specifically, to an area that I am learning and growing through. Well, you'll have to stay tuned for tomorrow's Take Time Tuesday, won't you?!

Before I share regarding this week's study, I have been wanting to share a very big something that occurred while Blaine and I were in Colorado and on Elizabeth and Josh's wedding day. It has been a great difficulty in my life to have a very close relationship with my daughter and then suddenly she is nearly a stranger to me. Gone is the daily chatter, bantering about style, sharing our experiences in life, encouraging her in her faith, family laughter and craziness together. We love Elizabeth and Josh and pray God will guide them, provide for their needs and draw them to Him ~ and continually transform each of our lives. We pray our wonderful Lord will knit our lives together in His timing...

The morning of the wedding, Blaine and I were quite sad. Due to the timing and location of the wedding, Benjamin and Nicholas were not able to be there. My parents were not able to travel that great a distance either. Other family and friends were not there to celebrate with us. We were thankful that Blaine's parents and his brother, Richard, were able to fly in that day and drive up to the wedding... It's just not what we had imagined it would be. Blaine and I had plans for that day, but found out the day's schedule would not allow for them to happen ~ so we let them go. It had been a long journey and we were weary and we didn't know what the day would hold for us. Okay, Lord ~ I really need a sign. I reached for my "Streams in the Desert" and opened it to November 22nd.

"Do you believe that I am able to do this? (Matthew 9:28)

God deals with impossibilities. It is never too late for Him to do so, as long as that which is impossible is brought to Him in complete faith by the person whose life and circumstances would be impacted if God is to be glorified. If we have experienced rebellion, unbelief, sin and ruin in our life, it is never too late for God to deal triumphantly with these tragic things, if they are brought to Him in complete surrender and trust.

It has often been said, and truthfully so, that Christianity is the only religion that can deal with a person's past. God "will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten" (Joel 2:25), and He is trustworthy to do it unreservedly. He does so not because of what we are but because of who He is. God forgives and heals and restores, for He is "the God of all grace" (1 Peter 5:10). May we praise Him and trust Him. from Sunday School Times

Nothing is too hard for Jesus
No man can work like Him.

We have a God who delights in impossibilities and who asks, "Is anything too hard for Me?" (Jeremiah 32:27). Andrew Murray

While great sadness remains in my heart, we knew that morning that God was in complete control. Elizabeth and Josh belong to you, Lord. You are able to work everything out for Your Glory. We don't know when or how, but we do know You can accomplish it in Your timing - some day. In the midst of that unknown, we are able to continue on each day trusting You and believing Your Word. Your Word does not return void.

And, these words shared in Streams in the Desert also reminded me that even in life's darkest hours I need to keep Christ as my center; His peace as my companion - for I know that He is with me always. He has overcome this world and all the challenges this life holds for us. And while I know all that in my head, sometimes it takes a bit for my heart to catch up... To really embrace it and make it my daily walk. He was and is the God of impossibilities and I am SO THANKFUL He is!

I am closing the chapter on this part of our journey and preparing myself for what lies ahead! My faith has grown stronger through all of this. I am steadier in my beliefs and the Biblical values I hold. Through all of this, we have friends who have stayed close and supported us, friends who have detached themselves from our lives, we've experienced great changes in our family life and the choice of one person has possibly changed the future course for the rest of the family. And still, I have a great peace that God is able in the midst of much. We know not what the future holds, but I know that He is my joy, my peace, my strength and my source to love others in ways that He has loved us (though I have so much to learn in this regard). I'm excited to walk with the God of impossibilities each day of the rest of my life... He is good! He is always good!

The World is too much with us...

In preparation for Take Time Tuesdays' post tomorrow, I thought I'd leave you to consider this from "Thoughts from an older woman" - from the last lesson:

"My concern is that because the world is too much with us, we easily forfeit the blessing of living a God-paced life that has time for solitude and respite from our noisy world. It is our time spent quietly in His presence that transforms our minds and renews our strength to go back into the world to be the women He wants us to be."

Agree or disagree? And why? Is it true?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Quilt's story: a gift of love...

This is the story that I wrote to accompany the prayer quilt I made for Elizabeth (our daughter) and Josh's wedding... I considered not sharing it, as it is a personal story, but it's even more than that ~ a story of the Father's love for His children. I chose not to include pictures of all the people who participated, as there are too many to post. His love truly endures forever!

MY STORY ~ as told by the Quilt

In the land of the living, two Dear Ones dwelled with their three special Blessings. These Blessings were precious gifts given to the Dear Ones by their loving Father. There was the Musician, the Seamstress and lover of people (Sweet Rosebud) and the Techie aka the family comedian. The Dear Ones cared for them, taught them, encouraged them, disciplined them, played with them, and so loved them ~ and they lived a unique and wonderful life together; and all the while the Blessings grew. One day, their Sweet Rosebud met a young man. In a short time, he convinced the Sweet Rosebud to leave her home, her family, her friends and her church and move to the place he dwelled in. A great sadness settled over the Dear Ones and the Blessings left behind, yet they continued to seek the Father for understanding and tried to love their Sweet Rosebud from a great distance... A day arrived when the Sweet Rosebud called to tell her family that she was getting married. They tried to be happy for her, but it was so difficult. They still didn't understand why the Sweet Rosebud couldn't be part of her family and love another too.

Upon the engagement, the Father spoke to one of the Dear Ones (who was also a Quilt Maker). He told her to construct a queen-size quilt for this upcoming wedding. Upon completion, the Quilt Maker was instructed to insert ties and travel with me, so people who loved the Sweet Rosebud could pray for her, bless her and share their love with her - and her future husband - and then tie-a-tie to represent that prayer... The Quilt Maker agreed to what the Father asked of her, but let Him know that her heart was broken and a great sadness was making it difficult to be obedient and complete her task. She wanted to show her Sweet Rosebud how much she loved her, but didn't know how to get past this great sadness. The Quilt Maker visited many fabric stores trying to find the inspiration fabric for my design, but nothing seemed right. On the last day of searching, and as she prepared to enter the last fabric store, she said to the Father, "Unless you show me the fabric you've chosen, I am afraid I shall not be able to make this quilt you desire and I shall fail you." As she walked through the door, she heard a small voice tell her to go straight forward to the back wall. She began to scan the rows of fabric, but still nothing. Suddenly, her eyes landed on a fabric and she heard the Father say, "Yes that is the one!" 3 of the remaining 4 fabrics were found quickly - and after getting the other Dear One to help her, they found the final fabric together at another fabric store.

Now that the Quilt Maker had all my pieces and parts ~ it was time to put me together. Still finding it difficult to focus on the project, the Father provided the Quilt Maker with special music to listen to as she worked on me. This encouraged the Quilt Maker and she spent many hours praying, sewing, and loving her Sweet Rosebud as she worked. She allowed tears to flow, joy to fill her heart (as she remembered the special times she and her Sweet Rosebud had shared, as well as the entire family) and the Father’s Hope kept her going. The Quilt Maker’s loving hands were gentle and handled me with great care. Her thoughts were filled with her Sweet Rosebud constantly... Oh, how she loves her!

As the Quilt Maker sewed, she looked at pictures the Sweet Rosebud took in Colorado quite often. She saw how the fabrics the Father had chosen were the colors of His Creation all around the Sweet Rosebud. She knew I was to be a reminder of how much He loves His Sweet Rosebud and how the evidence of whom He is exists everywhere that she looks. The blue is the color of the sky. The creamy white fabric – upon close examination – reveals the wildflowers that fill the meadows. Yet, take a few steps back from me and you’ll notice it resembles the snow-capped mountains. When looking at the mountains around you, Sweet Rosebud and your young man, there are cool and warm browns. These colors are reflected in the remaining fabric choices ~ as well as the variety of textures too. The paisley design in the blue fabric represents the trees and shrubs that appear in the landscape. The imperfections in the quilt remind us that we are human, sinful by nature, living in a broken world and in desperate need of a Savior. Only He can set us free ~ completely free! And as a whole quilt, I shall remind you that all you need to do is “lift up your eyes to the hills from whence cometh your help. Your help cometh from the Lord, Maker of Heaven and Earth...” He is with you always!

The Quilt Maker worked through many challenges ~ and at times wanted to give up ~ but the Father and the other Dear One encouraged her and sustained her to finish sewing me together. When the sewing was finished, she loving threaded over 200 ties through all my layers. The Dear Ones were filled with love and hope as they packed me up. I couldn’t imagine the places they were going!

The Dear Ones got into the car and drove off. We were in the car a very long time. When we stopped, they brought me into a place and many people began to touch me and love you! First, I met Kenny and Denise. They were joined by Uncle Jim, Aunt Judy and cousin Jennifer. I heard that I was in Lewiston, Idaho. After lots of hugs, the Dear Ones packed me up and we were on the road again. We arrived in a small town out on the prairie and I was taken into a house where many people gathered ~ Nezperce, Idaho. I was spread out on the dining, room table and family gathered all around. I met Uncle Greg, Aunt Kay, Riley, Allison, Casie, Brett, Uncle Bob, Aunt Kathy, Scott, Melodee, Aunt Maxine, and Grandma and Granddad. Even one of the Dear Ones tied a knot that evening... I enjoyed many hours of listening to family chatter, laughter and the warmth of loved ones together. The next morning, I was packed into the car and we headed north to Spokane. The Dear Ones arrived at Uncle Richard’s house and the hustle and bustle began again. I was laid out on a sofa in a bright room and basked in the late morning sunshine and the love of family together. Uncle Richard, Aunt Suann, Cade, Ragan, Uncle Justin, Aunt Shannon, Maia and Loran all added their knots to me! Each one was like a precious hug! After waiting for the Dear One to play Wii with young Cade, the Dear Ones packed me up again and we headed home. I even saw snow in the mountains!

On Sunday evening, the Dear Ones put me in the car again and we traveled for a distance in the rain and darkness. We arrived in another small town, Granite Falls, and I was unfolded upon one of many tables in a fellowship hall. Many young people ~ and a few older ones ~ blessed you that night. Tina Riley, Lauren Moushey, Tanner Moushey, Dean Riley, Emily Clements, Becca Hoeglund, Christa Moushey, Alison Siedenburg, Amanda Hoeglund, Grant Siedenburg and RuthAnn Hoeglund. The sounds of the Community Choir practice filled the church with beautiful music!

Valerie Olson came by the house to tie-a-tie. She had a lovely conversation with the Quilt Maker and really loves going to school at the International Academy of Design and Technology. After a day’s rest, I was packed up again and back in the car. This time, we went to Third Place Books and met up with an energetic woman named Carla Peery. She hugged the Quilt Maker and talked about how special the Sweet Rosebud was and how much she missed her. Then, it was off again and we stopped at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. When asked if Grandpa knew how to tie a square knot, he did a funny little dance and made silly little comments. Aunt Marilyn and Uncle Len came by the house mid-afternoon when Grandma and the Quilt Maker returned from shopping. I waited for them to tie their special knots until after the gifts were wrapped. Once again, I was folded up and put into the bag and we were off to the next stop. Vanessa Norris is a lovely woman with a great love for the Lord. I knew her quickly, as I’d heard her music played while the Quilt Maker sewed me together. She’s a prayer warrior! On our way home, the Quilt Maker stopped in downtown Seattle. She couldn’t take me with her, but went to Banana Republic to pick up notes left by former co-workers. It certainly is a busy season downtown. She saw JoJo who asked the Quilt Maker to tie-a-tie for her! What a precious friend...

At home again, cousin Denise came by a day later! Oh, how she loves you. She, too, is a prayer warrior and spent much time praying for you both... Friday evening, I was packed up again and taken to the SPU faculty lounge. Elizabeth Dueck and Shannon Heckelsmiller came by to pray for you and tie a knot. You know many people and they all love you! Beautiful music resounded from First Free Methodist Church that night, as I waited for the Dear Ones and the Blessings to return me home. Saturday, I was at Bethany Community Church during the Prayers and Squares work day. Pat Collins came by to pray for you and share her love. Beth Gerlach prayed for you too! Next, it was off to the Greenwood Library so Shirley Riley could tie a knot for you. Oh, the places I’ve been!

Sunday morning, the Dear Ones were up early and prepared to be out for the day. We drove quite a distance again and arrived at Stephanie Singer’s parent’s house where she, her mom and Debbie Olson were waiting to tie knots for you! Stephanie loves you so much! She’s a bit heartsick that she is not able to be there for the wedding... Then, it was off to Sisco Heights Community Church. The Dear Ones were so delighted to see old friends and eagerly anticipated Pastor Dan’s message. They were so loved by everyone! After the service, Jan Eide, Kris Gieseking, Becky Jolly (married Mike Jolly), Sarah Gieseking and Pastor Dan all prayed for you! These are all prayer warriors and love the Sweet Rosebud greatly! From here, the Dear Ones headed north and we arrived at a home familiar to the Quilt Maker. I heard stories of the many hours that you, Sweet Rosebud and the Quilt Maker spent in Pat’s sewing room. What a special place! I was laid out on the pool table and Pat and Barbara Tunestam tied several ties for you... Even Bob Watson wanted to tie a tie for the Sweet Rosebud and said that she and the Quilt Maker should come by more often, as he missed them. The last stop of the day was in Shoreline to visit the Aw family. Valerie and Natalie tied a tie for you ~ as so did their parents! What delightful people!

My final day of travel before being packed up for a long drive to Colorado was Monday. The Quilt Maker took me to a loving doctor’s office. What a caring and compassionate woman she is! Then, it was over to the chiropractor where his skilled hands touched me. Then, I headed north to a noisy place ~ a church bustling with many children and lots of moms! I was greeted by a lovely woman, Kim Nelson. She hugged the Quilt Maker and asked about the Sweet Rosebud. She took us upstairs and I was spread out on a table near the study hall room. Kirsten Nelson, Julie VandenBos, Judy Collins, Laurie Morrison, Robin Stangland, and Sue Danielson all prayed for you. Acacia wanted to be there, but was home ill and quite disappointed at not getting to participate. They all asked about the Sweet Rosebud and who was this young man, etc. In the pouring rain, we departed again and headed south. We arrived at Northwest University and dashed into Perkins Lounge where Teixeira Clark and Melissa Newhouse met up with us and prayed for you. What delightful friends you have!

Upon arriving home Monday night, the Quilt Maker spread me out across the futon so the family could pray and tie ties. The Musician’s beloved, the Musician, the Quilt Maker and the Techie were the final people from home that tied and prayed; missing you greatly as they did so. And yes, even Coco wanted to be a part of this gift too. This loving dog has remained close to the Quilt Maker for hours upon hours ~ even when she sewed late in the wee morning hours. As I lay upon the futon, I reflected back over my journey with the Dear Ones. I think of all the people I met along this journey and the many others, who were unable to be a part of it, but sent a message and let the Quilt Maker know how much they cared about the Sweet Rosebud. I have yet to meet you, but I’ve learned that you have touched many lives, impacted many who say they are better people because you have been a part of their lives, are loved by countless people, are special and very talented, and missed by all! So many desired to be part of your wedding celebration, but found it to be too short of notice and for most, too far away for them to afford to travel there. Everyone wants the Dear Ones to give you a hug and tell you hello from them and remind you how much they love you, Sweet Rosebud... That’s going to be a lot of hugging and loving shared!

Now, the Dear Ones are preparing to wrap me up for the longest journey of all to you and the young man. The Quilt Maker has left a dozen ties untied, so the young man’s family and Sylvia may participate in this special gift too. I hope I will be an ongoing reminder of how much you are loved, Sweet Rosebud. I desire to keep you warm and safe under my layers throughout each season and constantly remind you that the Father is always near to you... I look forward to spending many wonderful years with you. May you rejoice and be glad as you receive this gift of love!

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly light, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the Word of Truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all He created.” James 1:17-18

“...the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.” James 3:17-18

You are loved Elizabeth and Josh...

My own personal reflections: This was a difficult and challenging journey for me to undertake making this quilt, but I learned that even in the midst of great trials in our lives God remains faithful, there are still times of joy, we have a greater strength within us (because of our Lord) than we realize, and our lives are not just about us - but who we are is partly based on all the people who come into (and some who go out of) our lives. I would be such a different person without the countless people who have crossed the path of my life through my short years on this earth. And while I would prefer not to go through these hard times, I wouldn't trade the opportunity to grow in my faith, to be refined and learn to love others at a greater level. I have been far from perfect, but I'm so thankful God has met our needs in more amazing ways than ever before and shown us that He is in our midst, even in our darkest hours. He has brought us hope, joy and blessed us to overflowing with His love. He has the same for you...