Saturday, December 22, 2012

A dusting of snow.

Clangy carols from the miniature Christmas town music box.

Shopping all done and the wrapping's begun.

Twinkling lights.

Cookies baking. Giggles and yums from the decorators hard at work.

So much to love and find joy in this time of year. Celebrating the greatest gift ever given, the incarnation of the one true God that loved me enough to humbly take on human form and eventually suffer and die in my place to purchase my place in heaven.

Amazing love.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas ornament - Bahamian style

Our second Christmas as a married couple -- 1994.

Our tree was a broom stick with holes in it and some random artificial branches from who-knows-where sticking out. I know we had some lights, but I don't remember much beyond that. All of our newly collected Christmas trappings from our first Christmas (as well as most of the rest of our  belongings) were tucked away in an attic hundreds of miles away.

The weather got down to a cool 50 degrees over night that felt surprisingly frigid to these native Chicagoans.

It was a very simple Christmas. Guests from home joined us for part of the Christmas break and we enjoyed gifts that we had not expected to be part of our celebration that year.

This lone sandy ornament brings it all back. The sand, the shells, so foreign to suburban Illinois became a part of daily life as we worked at Windermere High School in the Bahamas that year. We like to tell people we were on Eleuthera (the island name) because that sounded a little more respectable than being a missionary in the Bahamas. But make no mistake, there was nothing cushy about this role.

That year grew us in amazing ways. Daily reliance on God for strength and wisdom, weekly faith-building to pay the bills without a salary, continual revelations of the power of God and his stunning love for us.

We lived with whatever we could fit into our two allowed suitcases on the trip there, and God provided the rest, which was enough.

That year shaped us in so many ways. It taught us what enough really was. Revealed God's sovereignty in an amazing way. Schooled us in living by faith. Built relationships that remain to this day. Enriched our experiences to heighten our learning when we returned to wrap up our degrees at Moody Bible Institute the following year.

Unforgettable. And, the little ball ornament hangs with that story to tell over again each year.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Verse of the Week -- John 5:30

Full surrender.

John 5:30 -- I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge ; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.

We read through the gospels and marvel at God's power on display verse after verse. His love, miracles, authority, intentionality, compassion, humility, focus.

Aside from being fully God, the reason Christ could live this out in such clarity for us is because his fully human side had surrendered completely to God's plans. 

He lived absorbed by the Father's will. He set aside any human agenda and resisted the temptation to seek worldly acclaim. His choices fell completely at God the Father's disposal.

Now and then I live that way, for a few minutes. I so quickly take command again. 

When I relinquish full control His thoughts weave their way into my thinking. Verses pepper my day. Opportunities materialize. All that needs to get done in a day gets done.

That's how Christ lived each and every day. I would have stressed over all that I was choosing not to do by choosing to go to a certain town or talk with a certain person. Why spend an evening with just Nicodemus? Masses wait to hear! 

Even Jesus just needed to accomplish the Father's will for that day, for that hour. All that was asked of him was what his human self could accomplish when fully surrendered.

Surrender can't be temporary, partial, or grudging. Just like I tell my kids -- true obedience is immediate, complete, and cheerful. Same with surrender to God. 

Jesus didn't reclaim control. He went 40 days without food and still resisted the devil's temptations. He mourned the loss of a friend and cousin, John the Baptist, and continued to minister. With hunger gnawing at his stomach he found sustenance in sharing God's promise with the undesirable of the Samaritan town. He experienced the anguish of surrender in the garden of Gethsemane, and still followed.

Daily, fully, willingly. Complete surrender.

I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge ; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.

~John 5:30~

Friday, December 7, 2012

Note to Self

Be sure to make the time, because otherwise it will get taken with everything else.

Nothing on Facebook is as interesting as what your child just discovered in the backyard.

The to-do list will still be there after you watch the amazing cartwheel that you've just got. to. see.

In 10 years you'll have no idea what was more important than snuggling through another book with your toddler.

Your kids are growing faster than your Twitter or Pinterest following, but who gets more attention?

There's always tomorrow, for getting the rest of that stuff done. Fifteen minutes of eye contact and real conversation won't neglect anything that matters.

Yes the calendar is bulging at the seams, but your 8 year old has so much to say before they turn 9, and then 10, and 11, and 12. Don't miss it.

No YouTube video can compare to the antics you can observe in your kitchen each day if you stop and watch.

Need some stress relief? Get your eyes off the laundry and onto the wearers of it. How can you not smile?

And the list goes on. 

What would you add in your note to self?

Especially this busy Christmas - end of year - New Year's time, what priorities do you need to re-establish?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Why is there anything good in the world?

Thinking today during my quiet time.

Praying for friends that are hurting, aching their way through times of uncertainty and grief.

The too often asked question came to mind: How can a good, sovereign God allow suffering in this world?

Now, in one brief blog post I do not deceive myself into thinking I can completely refute this challenge that has driven people to atheism and blasphemy for millennia. And, likely what I write someone else has written at some point in time ("I dunno if I ever had an original thought" -- in the witty lyrics of the Newsboys), but God washed this truth over me afresh today.

Reading through the life of Rehaboam after the misery that came near the end of their lives for both David and Solomon, I wondered again about the evil that befalls even God's people.

Suddenly the question twisted in my mind, "Why is there anything good in the world?"

Every good and perfect gift comes from above. The only reason we enjoy any blessing, goodness, and hope is because God has not completely left us to our sinful humanity.

Praise God for his daily renewed mercies. His compassion protects from the flames of hell yet another day for those who have rejected Him. His love allows us to see another day to pour out on others that need to change their heart before they leave this earthly shell behind.

The suffering is just a growing reminder that our time is short, we cannot put off sharing our faith, speaking the gospel, scattering the seed.

Suffering also reminds me of His goodness and all He saved me from. I deserve none of the goodness, yet He loves beyond reason.

God is good, all the time.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Creating Christmas memories

When we first started creating Christmas traditions in our home, we largely copied ideas from our childhood homes or other homes we had visited. Of course, this was long before Pinterest, so we had to actually see the idea or clip it from a magazine. No virtual "pins." 

We first decorated our tree with mostly ball ornaments and color chasing lights. An artificial tree that served us very well for many years. These little skiers appeared early on and they spin, too. Something we sought out after seeing moving ornaments on someone else's tree.

All these ideas and plans began to become our own. Stockings filled the night before. Staying up late on Christmas Eve just enjoying the lights and each other's company. Driving around and looking at lights. Finding our style, and taking our own sweet time about it.

As each year goes by we add, remove, and alter our traditions. I am reminded that it is never too late to start a new tradition. That's a conversation I want to have with my family again soon, any new traditions to incorporate into our Christmas? As long as it remains ultimately His Christmas, there is room. And, if it is detracting from the celebration of Christ, maybe it is time to remove it, as hard as that might be..

One of our longest standing traditions is buying new ornaments for each person each year that we open on Christmas Eve. The ornaments have such stories to tell, so they will be the backbone of my posts this holiday season.

Treasuring the season, 


Sunday, December 2, 2012


Two months? Doesn't seem possible.

I've started a number of blog posts in the last couple months, but apparently never returned to finish them.

God continues to teach me so much, through His Word, through a small group study, through weekend sermons. I am truly feasting spiritually right now! Which at times means Satan is all the more active to counteract the growth.

Now, with Christmas just three weeks away (that just does not look right, there in black and white), I feel the need to record the richness that is bubbling inside.

I have always loved this time of year. The lights, the decorations, the music, the chill in the air, the family time, the focus on church and Christ's birth. Our Christmas celebration has changed over the years. When we first started married life we decorated. Lots of color and lights, music all the time, shopping, wrapping, lots of family gatherings to go to. And, church was in there, too. The birth of Christ remembered through it all, but more in the midst of the wrapping, not the center of it.

Times change. Families spread out. Things accumulate, children come and grow, and the birth of Christ becomes all the more precious.

This year as we put the ornaments on the tree, I reminisced about the evolution of our Christmas celebrations. From where we came to where we stand now.

As a little extra motivation to settle back into some type of blogging routine, I'm going to share pictures of some of the ornaments on our tree, some favorite, some significant, some typical and give you a glimpse into our Christmases past.

In the midst, I'll share my Christmas priorities, projects (very few), motivations, and focal points that have grown and changed as well.

I'm sure you'll hear it often in the weeks ahead, Merry Christmas!

Please feel free to share your favorite ornaments and maybe the stories behind them throughout the weeks ahead, either in the comments or by sharing a link.