Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Bluebirds

I just want you to know that I have seen tons of bluebirds this Christmas. No, unfortunately they weren't the tiny, fast-flying type that catch your eye as they flit through the air. But they were the blessings of a truly special Christmas season, one filled with family and good food and fun times and significance.

And so, here is a list of some of the beautiful "bluebirds" I enjoyed this Christmas:

  • A responsible teenaged daughter who is helping take care of 3 dogs down the street while their owners are away. Abby has gotten up every morning on her own to walk down the street to tend to these dogs, most mornings in her pjs and a coat. She has to give one of the dogs a pill at 7:00 am & pm. She wraps the pill in cheese and the dog bites her hand each time he takes the pill. Another one of the dogs likes to dart out the door and jump in the ornamental pond in the backyard a couple of times each day. Subsequently, Abby has to get the dog out of the pond and bathe it. After the dogs have been in the yard for 20-30 minutes she lets them back in to eat. Inevitably they choose to then poop in the house, which of course she cleans up. I'm proud of her. She's been a real trouper about this ordeal!
  • A son home from college. I LOVE having my son home. Yes, he sleeps most of the time. We rarely see him before noon, but just knowing he is here is a blessing to me. I miss his dry wit and charming smile. I miss hearing him go on and on about thngs I know nothing of, like calculus and computer science and all things technical. Today I will do some of his laundry and I will love it!
  • A husband who insisted that he and the children clean up the dinner dishes, pots, and pans after the big Christmas meal yesterday. HUGE, HUGE blessing to this weary cook.
  • Sitting around the dinner table with my small but so complete family. They thrill me.
  • Sweet and precious Christmas cards from friends far and close. Many included pictures and/or letters. We enjoy these so much. I often feel very isolated out here in the 48th state. It is good to hear from loved ones at this time of year.
  • Going on a spiritual Journey to Bethlehem with my blogger friends on my other blog, Off the Beaten Path. I'm sure there were many days when no one actually read my posts, but writing the posts each day certainly helped me to think more about the meaning of Christmas and our wonderful Redeemer. So thankful for an opportunity to take that spiritual journey.
  • We woke up to a beautiful snow one morning this week, can't even remember which one it was now. But snow always completes a Christmas season.
  • I've been watching the first season of The Waltons on DVD for the past couple of weeks. I started out watching the first season of Thirty-Something, but found my old addiction, I mean friends, to be too whiny.  No kidding, they're ridiculous! And I used to make sure I had my babies down for a nap each day by 1:00 so I could watch Michael and Hope and Nancy and Elliot and Melissa and Ellen and Gary on Lifetime TV. I guess I was whiny back then too and that's why I liked them so much. But after watching about 6 episodes a couple of weeks ago, I couldn't take any more. I asked my husband to get me The Waltons instead (he has NetFlix!). And I've been so grateful for this not-whiny-at-all family. And if one of them does whine, you know John or Liv don't put up with it!
  • I have been a little sentimental lately about FaceBook. That's right, FaceBook. It struck me just the other day how glad I am that this crazy social networking site has allowed me to reconnect with friends all over the world. Most of my FB friends are people who are no longer part of my daily life - friends from high school, college, former churches, extended family relatives or military families who have moved away. I no longer talk to most of these folk on the phone or see them in person. Even if I did live close to them, I probably wouldn't be tightly involved in many of their lives. But FB has allowed me to see what kind of people they have become, a glimpse into their family life, and hear their views on politics and even Jesus. For the most part (probably 99.9%) I have been very delighted at what I've seen. It's so nice to see that so many of my high school classmates are raising their children in godly homes, active in their churches, and worshiping the one true God. I love that most of my friends have the same political views I do. And I love hearing about the little things that fill their days - visiting grandkids, cooking dinner, going on mission trips, going on date nights, taking the family camping, watching the whales, homeschooling, you name it. And it really tickles me when friends who don't even know each other and live in different states are doing remarkably similar things or having the same sentiments about some common, everyday type of event. Amazing.
Precious bluebirds, everyone. I guess it doesn't take much to please me. These are all so simple and ordinary. But lovely blessings all the same.

What are some of the blessings you've enjoyed recently?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas at Our House '09

Welcome "Christmas Tour of Home" Friends!

Welcome to Christmas at our house! 
We're not fancy, but very comfortable and nostalgic. 

The dining room is the first room you see as you enter our home. I love this metal tree. I use it for Easter and occasionally Valentine's Day too, with different ornaments of course!

Another view of the dining room featuring one of my favorite Christmas treasures: a fairly rare Blue Ridge China Christmas Tree plate in mint condition.

My husband gave it to me one Christmas along with 11 other Blue Ridge plates in a 12 Days of Christmas extravaganza. I got a plate a day for 12 days and this was the 12th.


This tapestry of the three wise men actually hangs in my dining room year round, but it is especially significant at this time of year. I just can't bear to take it down after Christmas.

We have a couple of nativity sets. This one sits in the dining room on a table that belonged to my great grandmother. I love the fact that I have this precious little children's book to sit beside it.

We got a new tree last year and everyone in my family except me is still miffed about it. The old one was exceptionally gorgeous, but it took a full day to assemble and then it took me a whole day and a lot of scratches to put the lights on. This one has lights already, though one strand has already burned out! :(

The tree is decorated with the same bows, candles, and garland we started with over 20 years ago. But we've added hundreds of ornaments over the years. I think we have over 400 now. Some belong to my two kids (Cherished Teddies for Abby and Santas for Daniel)and will leave with them one day (boo hoo!) and others were collected on vacations. And I have a few created by my children which are very precious to me.

Here are a couple of my favorites:

These are my hikers!

This is Abby's newest one.

This is a Hallmark ornament modeled after the very first Barbie I had as a little girl. Love it!

One of my Madame Alexander ornaments my friend Kim gives me every year.

Two vacation ornaments and one of Daniel's Santas.

By the way, James has a whole tree for his own ornaments at his office. They are, fittingly, all shepherds.

This little mouse hangs on our drapes every year.

 Greats me every morning.

Maybe you'd like to join me for a cup of hot tea now?

Hey! Join me at my other blog for a 15-day Journey to Bethlehem!

Merry Christmas!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Last Teenage Birthday!

My college boy turns 19 today, his last year in the teens. Despite the fact that he just left for Vinny's where he will eat a slice a pizza by himself because he prefers to (and refused to let any of us go with him), we think he's a great kid, um young man.

Daniel's never been a conventional kind of guy, and his birthday celebration is no different. Instead of a birthday dinner, he chose to have a birthday breakfast at Denny's. Then he took a birthday morning nap from 11:00 - 12:30. Now he's off to Vinny's by himself. While he's gone to lunch by himself so he can read while eating pizza, I'll be baking his birthday brownies. Then he's organized an afternoon game of four square for him and some friends at the park. He says we can join him for that if we want, but not to play, just to watch. I doubt we will. Finally, we'll cap his birthday off with an animated movie, "The Fantastic Mr. Fox," based on one of his favorite childhood books by Roald Dahl. Oh, and for a birthday gift, he requested a Math text book. See what I mean? Not conventional at all.

But we're crazy about Daniel. And here's why.

Daniel has always been a very well-mannered, respectful young man. He's bright and fun to be with. And he loves his family. Daniel's teachers and coaches have always spoken very highly of him and that means the world to us. He's a good son and brother and grandson. He's a serious thinker, a little quirky, and knows exactly who he is. He puts on no pretense and doesn't expect you to either. He's a great conversationalist, once you give him the freedom to talk honestly with you, and he's full of interesting information - like obscure web sites, Japanese short stories, and the exact date the University of Arizona mascots were married.

Now if you know a different side of Daniel, don't assume that we're disillusioned and blinded to reality. We are all very well aware that Daniel can also be cynical, sarcastic, and a little moody. But nobody's perfect. We certainly aren't. Daniel is a work in progress like all of us, but the man we see Daniel becoming is right on track. God is at work in his life and we like what we see Him doing.

Daniel is generous to those he loves, compassionate toward those who are struggling, and patient with those who are trying. He tips well, waits patiently in lines, and speaks kindly to sales clerks. Daniel has worked hard at the part-time jobs he has held and has developed a true compassion for the working man or woman.

This year we are praying that God continues to bless Daniel with good health, good friends, good experiences, and good times. We ask Him to help Daniel to grow closer and closer to Him so that he can see just how much God loves him and has good things in store for him. And we pray that Daniel grows in godly wisdom at the same rate he is growing in knowledge (basically at supersonic speed). May Daniel always use his talents and gifts and knowledge for the glory of God and the good of others. May he stay humble so God doesn't have to knock him down to get his attention. And may he always feel loved and protected by his family.

Happy Birthday Daniel. We love you!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Picture This!

They say a picture's worth a thousand words. Actually words are so overrated, it would probably take a lot more than a thousand to express what a good picture can with a single frame. Problem is, my pictures aren't worth two words. I'm not a great photographer.

Here is an example of my picture taking ability and you can see that you wouldn't pay 2 cents, much less 2 words for it.

So if I want a picture that's worth a thousand words or more, I have to go to the professionals. And I've found a great one that I would love to pay a few thousand words for her photos.

I stumbled across a great contest here in Arizona. Jaime Hulsey Photography is offering a free photo session with a CD loaded with photos to some lucky winner. I hope it's me! But if not me, it could be you! Check it out and look over her portfolio while you're at it. You can enter too, thanks to me telling you all about it - in less than a thousand words, mind you!

Monday, November 9, 2009

I'll Have Water, Thanks

Normally when I go to a restaurant I have a battle with myself over whether I'm going to order a Diet Coke or a glass of water. I love a good fountain soda and it doesn't faze me at all that it's diet. I'm so used to it by now that Coke tastes too sweet. I know water is free and it's better for me, but still...

This morning my Bible reading was from John 4 where Jesus encounters the Samaritan woman at the well. He doesn't have to decide between Diet Coke or water; He just immediately asks this woman to give him some water. Tired from His journey and waiting for his disciples to bring Him something to eat, Jesus knows that nothings satisfies like good fresh water. So He asks for some.

Of course the woman is startled that Jesus is even talking to her and says as much to Him. But Jesus' response is even more surprising than His first request.

"If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water."

Did this woman know what "living water" was? I don't know, but it seems odd to me that she glosses right over this part of his offer and instead gets all hung up on the fact that He doesn't have anything to draw the water with. Who cares? What I'd want to know is what is this living water?

Living water. When I put those two words together, here's what I come up with. Tell me if you agree. I get fresh, clean, good-tasting water that isn't stagnant and never has been. It's moving water, like in a bubbling fountain. And it's just the right temperature - pleasantly cool, but not so cold that it hurts your teeth - heaven's no, it's not that cold! It's just right. And it's shiny because the sun is dancing off of it. That's how I picture living water. You wouldn't even have to add a lemon to it (that's what I generally do at restaurants so that it tastes a little fresher!).

And what promise did Jesus make concerning this living water? In verse 13 of Chapter 4 he tells her, "Everyone who drinks of this water (meaning the water in the well) shall thirst again." But He goes on to say of His living water, "but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life." Wow....

Folks, I want me some living water, the kind that satisfies completely, the kind that doesn't leave you thirsty for anything else, the kind that even bubbles over in your life so that other people around you can get a swig and taste it for themselves. Then they get satisfied and have their own well springing up in them and so on and so on and so on....

You know, we want for so much and we partake of so much in order to feed our wants. In other words, we get thirsty and we drink Diet Cokes and orange juice and milk and Koo-laid and sweet tea ('cause I'm from Georgia) and hot chocolate. And all that is good and satisfies for a little while. But nothing satisfies like good 'ol water! Just ask someone who's been hiking in the mountains or working in the fields or roofing a house. Nothing satisfies like water - good, clean, fresh, cool water.

Now you know I'm not talking just about physical thirsts beverages, and Jesus wasn't either. We're talking soul thirsts and soul quenchers. The stuff we long for, crave, desire. Love, support, friendship, significance, attention, security, peace, rest...... The stuff that really matters. That's what Jesus was talking about.

Regardless of what we're craving, Jesus offers us a plentiful supply of the very best, the most filling, the most satisfying. But we're so accustomed to our "sweet drinks," we're not thirsty for what He has to offer.

Jeremiah 2:13 says, "For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water."

Are you trying to fill up some broken cisterns? Are you substituting the "real thing" with sugary substitutes? I know I have. But today, I have a hankering for some good fresh water and I'm going to drink it in. And don't worry; there's plenty to go around. It's bubbling up!

Friday, November 6, 2009

My Search for Significance

Lately I've been experiencing one of those divine lesson plans. You know, it's been one of those weeks where everywhere I turn God is sending me little learning exercises that reinforce the overall truth He seems to be trying to teach me. He is indeed the Master Teacher, even uses multiple teaching aids to get His point across so that no matter my learning style that particular day, the lesson finally sinks in with me. And He's not afraid to load me down with some homework either!

At any rate, this week our theme has been "The Search for Significance." Through multiple venues God has been teaching me that indeed we all desire to feel a little important, noticed, sought out, significant. And maybe, if the truth be known, I'm one of those people who is more hung up on that particular craving than most. Some people crave security, others hunger for love, and others desire companionship. To be honest, I want to be noticed. Some of you who know me pretty well are probably thinking, "I knew it! I'm glad she's finally admitting it!" Indeed, I do relate to those pathetic people of Babel who were trying to make a name for themselves! It's sad, really. But don't worry, God and I have been working through this and He's already shown me where my pride is tripping me up. He's faithfully knocked down every tower I've tried to erect and, just like at Babel, He's made sure I'm left stunned and confused when necessary.

But here's the good news. I've learned from so many different sources this week that I can indeed be important. That is, I'm already important. To my God, that is. He loves me. I'm the apple of His eye. He wove me together in my mother's womb and designed me just so. He chose me to be one of His own. He sent His son Jesus to live, die, and rise again for me. He forgives me for every wrong I do. He's preparing a lovely place for me to spend eternity. And one day He's going to send Jesus to come and get me and bring me home. I'm extremely important. And, good thing is, I don't even mind that you're extremely important too. With a God as big as mine, there's plenty of significance to go around.

You see I believe our pride can fuel an over stimulated need to feel important and that kind of drive can lead to arrogance, self-importance, defiance, and a life poorly lived. But I also believe that God Himself has planted within each of us a certain measure of desire for significance. He wants us to hunger for significance. Why? Because He wants that hunger to draw us to the only true source for significance - Him.

Have you ever so admired someone famous or important that you just want to rub shoulders with them a little? You think that maybe if you hang with them a little some of their importance might rub off on you? I know I have. But when I really put enough thought into it, I realize that hanging out with someone famous in this world would not be fulfilling at all. For instance, if I were having lunch with, say, Laura Bush at a cute little restaurant in Dallas, I might feel important for a little while, but inevitably people would probably keep interrupting our lunch so they could talk to Laura. They wouldn't, however, pay me any heed. As we left the restaurant, the manager would probably smile and say, "Thank you for dining with us today, Mrs. Bush. Please come again." But he probably wouldn't say anything to me. No, the truth of the matter is that rubbing shoulders with Mrs. Bush would not make me feel significant at all. In fact, I'd probably go home feeling less significant than ever!

On the other hand, when I spend time with Jesus, He makes me feel like He is totally focused on me, and I believe, somehow, He is! Not only that, no one is allowed to interrupt Him when He is talking with me or listening to me. If there are any interruptions, it is on my part, not His. And when I close the time on our session together, I leave His presence feeling more significant than ever. He elevates me by giving me purpose and work to do on His behalf. He reminds me just how important my work is to Him - the little things, that is, like taking care of my children, encouraging my husband, and speaking a word of kindness to a Christian sister. And I can go through the rest of my day knowing that I matter. Not because I built a mighty tower or made a name for myself. Not because people are lined up for my autograph or even because some editor wanted to buy my article. Not because I have money or talent or fame. No, I'm important and significant because I ... am ... His.

Feeling a little insignificant lately? That's how my week began. But God has been so good to teach me this week that I am extremely significant. If you're hungry for a little significance, tell Him. In fact, whatever you're needing, tell Him. He's a Master Teacher and I bet He can give you some homework too.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Looking Back At Yesterday

First of all, if anyone at all read yesterday's blog entry, let me apologize profusely. What was I thinking? Well, actually I think I was delusional when I wrote the post. You see, I have since realized that I had the beginning of a stomach bug yesterday which is still lingering with me today. That is why I had so many issues with food - loving it, hating it, shopping for it, not wanting to prepare it, etc. Who cares! For Pete's sake, I am so sorry if anyone actually read that post!

But yesterday's craziness only got me to thinking about deeper matters today (praise the Lord! Get us out of the shallow end, please!). As I've continued to feel less than great today, I've realized that yesterday my behavior was a direct result of an inner sickness, a physical one. I didn't know I was ill yesterday; I just thought I was having some strange food issues. But today I recognize that I am and indeed was ill. Thus, my thoughts, attitudes, behaviors, and words were a reflection of that illness yesterday.

Perhaps this still isn't a pleasant subject for a blog post and not much better than yesterday's delirious ramblings about food, but stay with me if you can stomach it (pun intended, I must confess). I think I've stumbled across something here. You see, it occurs to me that we often act out of our inner illnesses, and indeed we always act out of our inner condition whether that be healthiness or sickness. In fact Jesus taught this in Matthew 12:33-37 where He said that good trees produce good fruit and bad trees produce bad fruit. The inner condition of the tree determines the fruit.

Now many of us grasp this equation and it even makes sense to us. But my realization today is that often I have already thought, spoken, and acted before I realize what is on the inside producing my symptomatic thoughts, words, and behaviors. By then it is too late to do anything about it beyond apologizing and doing my best to mop up the mess I've left behind me.

I had an experience like that last week. I yelled at my husband and stomped up the stairs and locked myself in my bedroom. (Completely unjustified, I assure you!) Later I yelled at my friend on the phone and insisted on getting off the phone in a huff, coming just short of hanging up on her. (Also unjustified and childish) Now I'd like to blame all of this on a major PMS week. I do have some crazy symptoms during this time of the month and these behaviors do seem to pique on this week like clockwork, but I refuse to cling to this excuse any longer. I don't believe I have to live in bondage to even a medically excused syndrome. I'll accept the terrible cramps, the hot flashes, the digestive issues, and the cravings for chocolate, but I refuse to blame my bad behavior on a biological occurrence that I've dealt with for over 30 years.

Folks, the truth is, what is inside comes out on the outside for all to see eventually. And if it's not on the inside to begin with it can't come out. Yesterday I was sickly and delirious and, so, a delirious and sickly blog post came out. No big deal. I was ill and I didn't really post anything offensive or hurtful or damaging. But what about when the sickness of my heart comes out in the form of hateful words, a bitter tone, slammed doors, rude facial expressions, or haughty body language? That's a big deal. In fact, Jesus said in Matthew 12:36, "And I say to you, that every careless word that men shall speak, they shall render account for it in the day of judgment." Now I may get a pass on the day of judgment because of the grace of Jesus my Lord, but I don't want my speech even to be "judge-worthy", if you know what I mean. Jesus takes my words and behavior seriously, and I do too.

If you've noticed like I have that sometimes your behavior and words are less than desirable, maybe you need to consider the source. What's going on inside that eventually produces such bad fruit? For me, I know I have some poor-mouthing self-talk going on that needs to stop. I also need to be more consistent about forgiving other people and keeping a clean slate in my relationships instead of allowing bitterness and resentment to build like a cancer in my heart. Then perhaps I'll show a little more patience and grace when push comes to shove, or when my hormones are pushing all my buttons.

Today, while I'm still on the mend from a yucky stomach bug, I'm thankful for God gently using a little illness to show me a bigger truth about myself. Is God showing you things every day too? He wants to. He wants to speak to you through His Word, through your interactions with others, through nature, through the simple words of your children, and so much more. So even if you're a little under the weather today, take the time to ask God to speak to you. He will. Even through a stomach virus.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Got Me Some Grub

I love grocery shopping. Or maybe I just love groceries. That's probably it. Brand new food, fresh bread, pretty fruits and vegetables - I love the way they mound up in my buggy! I know, I sound sick, but it's just one of those quirky little things about me. If you haven't ever actually met me, you're probably thinking by now that I must weigh about 400 pounds. No... not yet anyway. I battle my weight constantly (because I love groceries and the foods you get at restaurants as well!) but so far I've managed to stay a decent weight for a middle aged woman.

But today, I didn't love grocery shopping so much. First of all, I was famished when it was time to go to the grocery store. I knew that was a bad idea - I'm really trying to stay within my grocery budget these days. So I ate a chicken wrap before heading to the store. Then I felt so full and sick that the thought of going grocery shopping repulsed me. So of course I had to lie down and take a nap. What else would I do in such a situation? Still, when I woke up 30 minutes later, I had no desire to get groceries.

But I did go on to the store. I bought just what was on my list. I get a star for that. But it was no fun and I have no desire to cook or prepare or even eat any of the $105 worth of stuff I bought. So now I'm going to go pick up a pizza for our dinner. What is wrong with me? Lord help!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Our Thespian

I've decided I'm not going to wait until the night I'm watching Abby receive her first Oscar to say, "That's my girl!" I'm going to claim her right now and hope she remembers to mention me during her acceptance speech on that dazzling night.

Our Abigail is quite the actress. Recently she was inducted into Buena High School's local chapter of the International Thespian Society. Each of the 7 inductees had to do a short performance of some kind. A couple of the students played musical instruments, one danced, and four performed monologues. I know I'm biased, supposedly, but Abby really was the best. And that's not to say the other students didn't do well. They all did impressively well. But Abigail somehow managed to even shed a tear in a two minute monologue. How in the world do you get a tear out in two minutes? But she did, and it seemed real and genuine.

We're proud of Abigail's talents, and petrified at the same time. She actually wants to pursue a career in the field of acting, or directing or editing - something to do with drama. That would be a little scary for most parents, especially parents who are trying to raise a godly young woman who will keep herself set apart from the world while treading lightly through it. I'm excited at the prospect that God may have a great plan for her in New York or Hollywood, but I'm daunted by the fact that Satan has plans for her too. Anytime someone tries to make an impact in such a godless portion of our world, a portion that is largely mastered by the deceiver and prince of this world, he is bound to get agitated and do his best to work against her. Lord help our Abby to make her mark without bearing the marks of this world. While we certainly don't claim to know for certain that Abigail will ever make it in the entertainment industry, we have already begun to pray for her protection and her godly influence in the event she does "make it there."

Recently I heard someone say, "Your talents and abilities are your gift from God; what you do with them is your gift to Him." It is simply our hope that Abby will always used her gifts for good and for God. Oh, and to Him be all the glory!

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Friday, September 4, 2009

Happy Sweet Sixteen to My Sweet Abby

Today my baby turns Sweet Sixteen! I could do the normal trip down memory lane and reminisce about the beautiful Saturday she was born in Texas. I could tell you about how my labor lasted all of about 1 1/2 hours and I endured it with no pain medication at all. Or I could pull out baby pictures and weep about where the years went. But I have a better idea. It's Abby's day; let's talk about her!

Abigail Grace is a beautiful young woman, inside and out. Let's face it, she loves dressing up, shopping, playing with her hair, and picking out just the right accessories for every outfit. Amazingly, she has a real eye for fashion, a keen sense of how to put herself together for every occasion, and a natural talent for doing intricately fabulous things with her hair. I learned how to do my hair a few years ago; she's lightyears ahead of the game! She's the same height I am (5'8") but so much more comfortable with her stature than I was at that age. She has no qualms about wearing 2" heels and holds herself with dignity and grace. Though she knows how to apply her makeup with a steady and light hand, she also looks equally beautiful with no makeup at all. I never want her beauty to go to her head, but God has truly graced her with lovely features.

But Abigail is also lovely on the inside. She is enthusiastic about most every day (you have to give her a day here and there to just chill with no disturbances - other than that she plugs right in with full gusto!), she is determined to succeed at anything she tries, she's extremely responsible and rarely requires any oversight, she's a great student, and she seems to have a plan. Abby also has a great heart. First of all, her heart belongs to Jesus. I truly believe that. When she was two there were a few instances when I could have sworn a demon had moved in, but now I'm convinced that the Holy Spirit resides in my precious girl's heart and that He is diligently chiseling, scrubbing, and polishing that heart every day! And I'm convinced He is able to keep that which she's entrusted to Him until that day... No more little demons!

Abby has a heart for people too. Just in the past year I've witnessed several incidences where Abigail could have just trampled over someone, but instead she compassionately and tenderly tiptoed around their feelings, careful not to hurt them if at all possible. While many girls her age get caught up in catty gossip and vicious attacks on one another's character, I've seen Abigail express true concern about the "underdog", befriend the friendless, and encourage the lonely. She's certainly not perfect and I know she has her moments like the rest of us. Still, I'm glad to report that I see Abigail maturing nicely into a young woman who is very aware of others and careful to help them feel at ease.

Enough of a proud mama's boastings. I think it's time for the blessing!

Lord, bless my precious girl, most importantly, with Your constant presence and unmerited favor. Shine Your light on her and illuminate her path every day until she walks into Your arms. Make her a warrior for Your truth, a blessing to those who encounter her, a reflection of Your glory for those who need to know you, and a princess in Your court. Help her to live wisely, discerning what is Your best for her and following Your path at all costs. Give her courage to stand alone, compassion to stand beside, humility as she stands in the limelight, and confidence to stand in the shadow when it's someone else's turn. Thank you for blessing our family with her presence, her lovely smile, her joy, and her somewhat twisted sense of humor. She is a delight to us and we thank You for her.

Happy Sweet Sixteen my precious girl!

Monday, July 27, 2009

A Good Hair Day

Warning!!! If you can't stomach a little vanity in good humor, you might want to skip today's entry! I'm just being real here, so if you're game, take this in the good spirit in which it is intended and read on!

Never underestimate the power of a good hair day! Personally, the older I get, the more things like good hair days mean to me. Face it, your hair is about the only thing that can be better on some days than others. All of your other attributes you're pretty much stuck with. They age and may even age well, but they don't surprise you with delightful and unusual cooperation day to day. I mean, my eyes are pretty much always the same, as are my lips. And I have yet to experience a perky little nose day. No it's always long and pointy regardless of humidity levels, wind, or the type of conditioner I use. But, thank God, every once in a while I get the thrill of an especially nice hair day!

It never fails that if I do get a good hair day, I have absolutely no where to go. No one gets to see my perfectly coifed head except maybe my family. And I don't fool myself by thinking that any of them even notice. So today I'm sharing my good hair with you!

What's a good hair day to you? Good hair for me means it's not frizzed with humidity, it doesn't look like Betty Boop, the gray takes on a silvery sheen instead of a flat metallic hue, and there's just enough height to do Texas proud but not so much as to make Arizonans stare! It means it swings naturally but it still keeps its shape. And I look more blonde than I really am. That's mighty fine hair!

It's actually pretty easy to have good hair here in Arizona. That is indeed one of the perks of living out here in the desert. My friend Ed who lives in New York recently travelled out to Phoenix to a football game. When he returned to New York he told his wife Anna, my college roomate, that all the women in Arizona have the same, wonderful hair. Now to me that's pretty amazing when an ex-football player even notices women's hair and the quality thereof.

So, having a good hair day today and once again having no where to go (legitimately, that is) to show it off, I decided to take some pictures and share it with the three of you who read this blog. My daughter Abigail was horrified and I suppose I would be too if she did the same. But, c'est la vie! I'm having a good hair day. And that, my friend, is a blessing!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Bluebirds in Bright Orange Shirts

I had the joy and privilege of working a little with our church's youth group this past week. Perhaps "working" is the wrong term. They actually did a lot of work, but I did very little.

Our youth conducted a 4 day missions effort right here in Sierra Vista this week. Approximately 21 of them took free bread and batteries (9 volt for the smoke detectors) to homes right around our church and offered to pray with the residents. They also washed cars for free, made repairs and did yard work at the homes of about 14 senior adults, took cookies to the local fire departments and prayed with them, and prepared and served a nice lunch for our senior adults. They were really busy!

I simply led the kids in a daily Bible study - something I hadn't done with youth in about 16 years, other than my weekly teenaged girls small group. I was a little intimidated by the prospects of trying to relate to these kids each morning, but I was pleasantly surprised. My worries were for naught! The kids soaked up the Bible lessons each day and made me feel like they were actually enjoying it. What a relief and a blessing. I am so thankful for the opportunity I had to spend such great time with them. These are 21 of the finest kids I've ever met. I wasn't with them 24 hours a day like our youth minister Dennis and his lovely assistant Erika were, but I saw enough of them to know that they got along beautifully, worked hard, and loved every minute of their challenging week. I must confess, each morning I headed to the church expecting them to be dragging and complaining and even bickering with each other. But they weren't doing any of those things! Every morning and even when the week ended Thursday afternoon, these kids were acting like they were really enjoying one another. God bless their sweet hearts. We adults could learn a thing or two!

These are simply a few pictures I snapped at the Senior Adult luncheon they prepared and served at our church. As you can see, they were serving with all they had and the seniors were loving it. The theme of the week was "What's 'N Your Serve?" I'll tell you what's in these kids' serve - good attitudes, servant hearts, sacrifice, love, and team work! Talk about some lovely bluebirds. This week I saw some of the loveliest bluebirds I've ever seen and they were all wearing bright orange shirts!

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Summer Sandwiches

For some reason I am in a summer sandwich craze! I have a few sandwich recipes that I just love to make and eat during the summer and recently I went to the grocery store to buy the fixings for all of them. So that's what my family is eating right now - sandwiches.

Here are the recipes for two of my favorites:

Ham & Cucumber Croissant (the recipe makes one sandwich - you do the math for how many you want to make!)
3 slices thin deli ham
1 large croissant
2 tablespoons chive & onion light cream cheese
1 clove garlic, minced
1 - 2 tsp. horseradish (depending on taste)
approx. 10 slices of cucumber

Mix cream cheese, garlic and horseradish together. Spread onto both sides of split croissant. Put three slices of ham on bottom slice of croissant. Top with slices of cucumber. Eat up! It's cool and refreshing with a kick!

Turkey & Pesto on Ciabbatta Bread
2 slices of mesquite smoked turkey sliced thin
1 ciabbatta bun (ask at your bakery in the grocery store)
2 tablespoons pesto (I make mine, but store bought is fine)
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 slice provolone cheese
1 - 2 slices fresh tomato

Split open the ciabbatta bread. Place provolone cheese on one side of bread and put both sides under the broiler of your oven just long enough to warm and slightly toast the cheese. Meanwhile, mix the mayonnaise and the pesto. Spread mayo/pesto mixture onto other side of toasted ciabbatta. Top with two slices of turkey and fresh tomato. Warm and bursting with summertime flavor!

We're also eating good ol' BLTs, French dips, and tuna on rye at my house. These, accompanied by some fruit and pretzels, are the tastes of summer to me!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Just a little tip

I've never shared this with anyone until today when my 15-year-old daughter Abby went with me to the grocery store. I usually go grocery shopping by myself. I'm ok with that because I love, love, love the grocery store. I tend to spend way much time and money there. But that is not what I've never told anyone. Many people know this weakness of mine.

As I pulled into the parking lot at the grocery store today, I told Abby my bright idea about where to park. It is my theory that when grocery shopping with a cart as opposed to a little carry basket, one should always park not near the doors, but near the grocery cart return dowappy. I certainly need the exercise of walking a long way from my car to the store and back again, but I hate having to hunt for a cart dowappy once I am through unloading my groceries into my car. Thus, I always park near one. I personally think this is a brilliant tip, but I have hesitated to tell others about it because I don't want them to take all the parking places near the cart dowappies. As it is, these spaces are generally easy to find right now because most people waste their time parking near the store then having to hunt for a place for their buggy. I personally can't stand it when there isn't a dowappy anywhere near my car and I end up walking the buggy back to the store. That is a huge waste of my time!

Yeah, I'm a pretty shallow person. But efficient, too. Got any bright tips like this to share? Please do, just remember they have to be silly, inconsequential, and completely nonessential. That's pretty much the categories all of my bright ideas fall into.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Don't You Just Love Index Cards?

I have a wild affinity for simple index cards. While the rest of the world is now organizing their life on electronic gadgets and cyberspace calendars, I continue to put everything I can think of on plain index cards. No, I don't calendar my day, week or life on them, but most of the events that eventually end up on my calendar do begin on index cards - more on that later.

I've learned that index cards have been around for over 100 years and the theories behind them even longer than that. Indexing began with the monks of medieval times when they attempted to organize the subject matter in books by using some sort of symbol that pointed to a subject reference on a page and then later "indexing" that material in the back of the book in what we now know as the Index. But the reason it is called an index is because the symbol used to "point out" the subject reference on a page was named for the finger you usually use to point out things - the index finger. We, of course, use sticky notes for this same sort of purpose and, instead of calling them index notes, we call them sticky notes because they are sticky! But I digress...

Later in the 1870s when Melvil Dewey attempted to index not just the subject matters in a book but the books in a library, he invented a card catalog system that used 3x5 cards for the same purpose the monks had used their index markers. Thus these 3x5 cards used to index information became what we call index cards. Aren't you so glad you now know this important information? I am because I love index cards!

What do I do with index cards, you ask? Here are a few of my favorite uses for the 3x5 or 4x6 varieties:

1. Of course I use them for recipes. Who doesn't just love a good recipe on an index card? And it doesn't have to be one of the cute ones made just for that domestic purpose. Any old index card will do for me. I don't keep my recipe cards in a cute little recipe holder any more. I'm not that organized. I keep a notebook of recipes I use most often, so if I write a recipe on an index card it just gets shoved into the handy side pockets of that notebook. Still, I love a recipe written on an index card because it is not so big that it takes up too much room on your kitchen counter and it's a good size to share with a fellow cook.

2. As I mentioned before, many of my to-do dates show up first on an index card. I keep a stack of them in the top left drawer of my office desk and when I learn of appointments or lunch dates via e-mail or a telephone call I record them on a card. Then, later when I am through with my work for the day, I take the card to the kitchen where I keep my calendar and transfer the information. Otherwise I would be hopping up and down from my desk all day to write in lunch dates, gynecologist appointments, dentist appointments, praise team rehearsals, etc. on my calendar, giving me just one more reason to avoid my work. I do not need another reason to avoid my work. I already have a very handy 232 of them. And why do I not keep my calendar in the office by my phone and computer? Because I just don't; that's why!

3. When I teach women's Bible studies I always begin the session by asking the women to fill out an index card for me with all their vital information: name, address, phone, e-mail, birthday, shoe size (not really!) etc. I do this on a 4x6 variety because women have lots of information. I also ask if they mind praying in public, if they have children in the nursery, and what other Bible studies they've taken recently. I put these all important cards in a 4x6 photo album for each class and, voila, I have a class roll with everything I need! I take these albums and make e-mail mailing lists from them and sell them for big bucks - again, not really! I do make e-mail mailing lists for myself and use them to contact my ladies whenever I need to. Handy dandy!

4. But my most favorite use for index cards is much more important to me and the very reason that I love them so. I love to write Bible verses on index cards. This year I have compiled a set of 14 scripture passages on index cards that I have put to memory! Beth Moore has sponsored a scripture memory challenge on her LPM Blog where we select a scripture of our own choice to memorize on the 1st and 15th of every month. I learned from her years ago the effectiveness of writing your memory verse on an index card, putting it in a small photo album and rehearsing your set of verses every day, meditating on them and memorizing them as you go. So I am pleased to say that I have kept up with the LPM challenge and I have stored all these scriptures in my heart where they are already doing me some mighty good!

5. Along those same lines, I gather scriptures for the Bible studies I write and the messages I speak and put those on index cards as well. Each Bible study or message gets its own photo album and I wear that thing out as I work on building the message or writing the study. I don't just do this so I have the scriptures handy. I do it so I can learn from the scriptures as I go over them and meditate on them. I want God to teach me and change me so I can write and teach from what He's first done in my own life. And for that reason perhaps more than any other, I love my index cards. For you see they have become somewhat of an agent of change and growth in my life. They represent the work that God is most currently doing in my heart, my attitudes, and my behavior. They are personal between me and the Almighty God of the universe. They are "our thing."

Thursday, June 18, 2009

These Are the Things He's Learning

Daniel began a new job this week. He worked at Target for two years and we enjoyed that because we enjoy Target. But he had to go and upset the apple cart by getting a different job for the summer. He likes Denny's, so he got a job there. They're going through this massive orientation this week because our Denny's is not a very good one and corporate is determined to set this aright, so he is benefiting from lots of training though he will only be there a little less than three months. And here is what he is learning.

He has learned to say "yes." Daniel tells me that Denny's policy is to say yes to customer requests as much as possible, say 99.8% of the time. If you ask to sit in a particular booth, yes you may. If you ask to substitute pancakes for that side of toast, yes you may. If you ask to have a specific waiter, yes you may. Yes, yes, yes. I like this. I think we all need to say yes 99.8% of the time. Good PR, if you will. And mighty nice too.

Daniel is also learning how to tie his own apron in the back. When he was at Target he pulled the long apron strings around to the front and tied it there. But Denny's wants their employees to look sharp so they must tie their strings in the back. Now this is a no-brainer to me, this tying the strings in the back without any assistance. But then I grew up, like most little girls, tying my own dress sashes with no problem. I really hadn't considered that boys never have the opportunity to master this important skill until Daniel proceeded to practice over and over this evening, even timing himself and checking the results in the mirror. Here, here! Let's hear it for the boy! He's learning something new that girls can do in their sleep. But hey, he's willing and he's taking it seriously!

And finally, Daniel learned this morning to iron his own uniform - his idea, not mine. He learned quickly too. That's right, the guy we had to threaten with his life to get his haircut, beg to wear a decent pair of khakis to church, and coerced to wear a belt maybe once a year, is now willingly dressing in nice black pants that he has properly ironed each day! He wears a neat black undershirt under his pressed button-up uniform shirt, tucks it all in, puts on a belt, and finishes it all off with a pair of nice black shoes he bought with his own money. Moms, there is hope. Hang in there. I'm amazed, proud, thankful, and trying really hard not to put too much stock in all this. After all, his room is still and mess and he still doesn't know how to make his bed! But he's got a great learning curve!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Heavy Reading

Some may think I goofed when I picked one of our summer reading selections for our women's ministry's Breakfast & Books club this summer. I'm thinking I picked a really hard read but I'm counting on it being worth it.

I've often heard other Bible study teachers and writers say they enjoy reading biographies about Christians who have paved such a road of godliness ahead of us. They've lauded the drive, commitment, zeal, fervor, and sacrifices of such godly heros and heroines as Jim Elliot, William Carey, Eric Liddel, William Tyndale, Martin Luther, Corrie Ten Boom, Gladys Aylward and George Muller. And while I am vaguely familiar with some of these people and the lives they lived, I've rarely read an entire book about a hero of the faith. So I decided we should read a biography this summer - me and anyone who chose to join me.

Our summer reading list also includes a fiction book (The Swan House by Elizabeth Musser) and a devotional book (A Place of Quiet Rest by Nancy Leigh DeMoss), but I am reading the biography selection. I've chosen Elizabeth Elliot's A Chance to Die about Amy Carmichael. I began the book yesterday and realized immediately that it is not an easy book to read. While it is beautifully written, the vocabulary is rather old-fashioned and reflects the time of Miss Carmichael's life. And because the author is talking about a different place and time, contemporary readers may struggle to understand what she's talking about at times - I know I'm struggling! But I've decided it is worth the struggle.

Perhaps I have become spoiled by easy reading, contemporary lingo, and simplistic storylines. This book will definitely be a stretch for me, but isn't that what I'm after? To be stretched? Indeed it is. I fear we've all become a little complacent in our personal and spiritual growth, depending on video driven Bible studies, study helps found on Internet web sites, and 30-minute sermons to feed us our "daily bread." But enough of the milk toast already! I'm ready to flex my study muscles a little and read something that isn't necessarily going to entertain me. The ideas and concepts may not jump off the page at me; instead I may have to read a few paragraphs over and over in order to really follow the author. Yes, I'm determined to read this book and enjoy it for what it is - the life story of a godly woman who left her comfortable world to live for Christ and others. I'm not going to demand twist and turns, wrenching love stories, superb character development or a dramatic ending. Instead I'm going to learn from a simple woman who chose to live a simple, yet extraordinary life.

Monday, June 1, 2009

So Past Due!

I probably do not have anyone even reading this blog at this point because I've been so unfaithful in writing it. I have no one to blame but myself. But today I am turning over a new leaf, a pretty green summer leaf that is!

I'm going to try to blog every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at least, this summer. I have got to work some routine into my summer or I'm going to catch a full-blown case of my kids' contagious laziness. I'm determined to be productive. In fact, I need to be productive. I have college and braces to pay for!

Today, I'll begin with a little about Daniel's graduation from high school. He graduated May 21 ( I know, that seems like forever ago now! Like I said, I've been pitiful about blogging!). We had such a great week. Both sets of grandparents drove in from their respective states, Georgia and Texas. The weather threatened rain all week, but no wet stuff ever really materialized. So that simply meant that the temps stayed nice and low - in the 70s and 80s, tops.

James and I got to go to Daniel's dress rehearsal on Wednesday night and take all the pictures we wanted. It was such a neat night. All the parents could just get on the football field and right in there with the grads. The administration just conducted the rehearsal as though we weren't even there and didn't seem fazed by our noisy conversations, flashing cameras, and laughter. I'm so glad we had that opportunity. With over 600 graduates it's impossible for everyone to really see their graduate on the Big Night, so this up-close-and-personal experience made up for all that.

Here's Daniel receiving his parking passes, tickets, and commemorative program in lieu of his diploma on the rehearsal night.

Graduation night we all went to an early dinner at a local Italian restaurant and headed to the stadium. We were there nice and early. Graduation went off without a hitch and we got the boy graduated. But the neatest thing was the big party the grads had at the school afterwards. Project Graduation is sponsored by hundreds of community members and organizations. It's an all-night, drug and alcohol free party at the school with tons of games, food, and prizes. The theme was "It's a Jungle Out There", fitting for graduates, I thought, and they had decorated the whole school in a jungle theme. The grads had poker tournaments, basketball tournaments, BINGO, Guitar Hero, tricycle races, etc. And they all got to choose from hundreds of huge gift baskets that included things like microwaves, bikes, IPods, etcs. They also had huge cash prizes and even airline tickets as door prizes. Daniel had a blast and, of course, slept the entire next day!

The day after graduation we hosted a party for Daniel in our backyard. Lots of friends came to help us celebrate the big event. We had hamburgers and hotdogs. We had spent all day getting ready for the party, with grandparents doing the bulk of the work. They helped us plant flowers, string party lights, clean off the lawn furniture, and prepare the food. Kudos to great parents/grandparents!

Here's our all-grown-up grad with his two grandmothers, Nana and Mammaw.

Here's Abby with Tiffany and Blake.

Notice how we segregated into girls and guys tables/areas! Here's Carlos, J.R., Papa, Mike and Ben.

And some of the girls at the girls table, Abby, Tiffany, Blake and Lilly. Wasn't it a beautifuly evening? And our yard looked so pretty and festive.

Thanks to all our family and friends for helping to make this a great graduation week. And congratulations to Daniel! We're so proud of him!