So Many Opportunities for Joy, Why Let Anything Steal Them?

We went to a Christmas ballet we’ve dubbed “Ballet Bizarre”.  We looked at the checking account and decided repurposing is indeed a wonderful thing.  It will be our first Christmas with our son overseas in the Middle East.  The world is a powder keg, and our child is in the smack dab middle of it.

And so on.  There are reasons to lament during this Season.  There are reasons (but then aren’t reasons simply excuses?) to Bah Humbug it all.  But I am not one to say “Tis the season to be jolly!, or as I was singing (shouting) all morning, “Tis the season to be Jarry, fah, rah, rah, rah, rah!”, and leave it at that, fun as it may be.

I am here to dig and delve deeply into the Reason for the Season.  I am here to say the money (or lack thereof) in the checking account and the bizarrre-ness of “Art” and the locale of loved ones are simply opportunities to remember Jesus.  This is the season for the ultimate of all beauties – the Love of Christ.

And so the bizarre ballet is an opportunity to be thankful that I have yet another focus for prayer.  The repurposing is a reminder of all the treasures I own that will now grace the lives of others.  The son overseas reminds me that technology can be a wonderful thing – his Christmas package will arrive today or tomorrow most likely, and he will open it in our presence via Internet.

The powder keg world?  Still and as always, Jesus is our refuge and our strength, our high tower and deliverer. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever, Amen!

Sharing Him at Christmas can be done with or without cash.  We are opening our home on Christmas Day for the first time.  We will be sharing a Christmas brunch with people the Holy Spirit has put on our hearts to invite, and there will be much merry-making, joy and celebration.  We’re including the most important of guests via the special invitation of prayer, and as always, He will be right on time.

I have decided and decreed that I will not even think, for one moment, thoughts of lack this Christmas, much less speak words of lack.  What indeed, do I lack?  I serve a Risen Savior.

As for those pesky arguments about December 25 not actually being His birthday so what?  I was born December 28 and I would have no problem with people celebrating my birthday on July 28 or whatever day suited them.  What I would have a problem with would be people being upset because they didn’t have a gift for me, or feeling pressured because the day was a reminder of what they lacked in their lives, rather than a reminder that I loved them.

So, that’s it – the key to joy in this Season, no matter what your circumstances:  We must choose to worship and serve and receive His great gift to us all.

Mr. Bennett, in Pride and Prejudice says, “No lace, Mrs. Bennett!”  I say to myself, “No Lack, Mrs. Bev!  You have Jesus and it’s time to celebrate.  Each and every moment of each and every day.”  Jesus the Savior is Born.

You ask me how I know He lives, He lives within my heart.

Thanksgiving Thoughts

Send the poem below as an invite/reminder to those coming to your house for Thanksgiving.

 

Or, try an e-mail such as this one I’ve sent out to my guests:

 

Hi,
I am praying we are all overjoyed at the goodness of God this Thanksgiving.  To that end, if you have something to share – a testimony, poetry, a song of thanksgiving perhaps!!!, and if ____________ would sing too that would be SO marvelous.
No pressure, and please pass on to your beloveds if they have something to add/share.  Anything at all, maybe something from American History???  A favorite psalm or other verse?
Love and Hugs and Can Hardly Wait!
Bev
And now for the food:  “We’re not having ham this year?” Seth asked in wonderment.  “No, we’ll have ham at Christmas maybe,” I answered.  The truth was that I have other meats in the freezer I want to use.  I think it’s OK to deviate a little from tradition, just as long as you keep the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy.
Gravy can be tricky, but it’s nothing compared to who to invite.  The key is that, after prayerful consideration and family discussion, YOU INVITE.
There are countless people who would love to come to your house, but you need God’s
guidance to get the right group together.  I like to have it all nice and tightly sewn up, so I can plan.  Let’s see.  If we take the folding chairs off the balcony, if we mix the old steak knives with the new, and alternate the plates – green, gold, white, green, gold, white . . . Should we move the loveseat into the living room for more seating???  
How many people?  One couple has to go to Minnesota to see ailing folks, and that other couple who’s on the outs with their own families could take their place . . .
Or, I could invite that little single mother down the road . . .
In all this there are, thanks be to God, some people coming who will back us up and stand with us in prayer if there are some “messy” folks there, some folks who really need extra, extra, extra love, love, love.
Thanks be to God for Thanksgiving.  Amen.
 

Thanksgiving Day

Over the river, and through the wood,
  To grandfather’s house we go;
       The horse knows the way 
       To carry the sleigh
  Through the white and drifted snow.

Over the river, and through the wood—
  Oh, how the wind does blow!
       It stings the toes 
       And bites the nose
  As over the ground we go.

Over the river, and through the wood,
  To have a first-rate play.
       Hear the bells ring 
       “Ting-a-ling-ding”,
  Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day!

Over the river, and through the wood
  Trot fast, my dapple-gray!
       Spring over the ground, 
       Like a hunting-hound!
  For this is Thanksgiving Day.

Over the river, and through the wood,
  And straight through the barn-yard gate.
       We seem to go 
       Extremely slow,—
  It is so hard to wait!

Over the river and through the wood—
  Now grandmother’s cap I spy!
       Hurrah for the fun! 
       Is the pudding done?
  Hurrah for the pumpkin-pie!

 

Don’t Hide Behind What’s “In”

One size does not fit all.  If you have a brand new home in a look-alike neighborhood, then go ahead with what’s “in”.  But if you have an old and beleaguered house, with crooked walls and battered  baseboard heater covers, with weird angles and misplaced windows, you need to form a cohesive whole.  One that goes.

Goes?  Yes, goes.  One that goes with the house, the setting, and one that suits you, even if no one else gets it at all, even if it couldn’t possibly be less “in”.

A brief history of decorating:

Our house had darkly stained (almost black) wood trim, unpainted.  The walls were a dark diarrhea color, and the crowning touch was the mauve Formica countertops to match the pink-ish stain on the cabinets.  My budget was for paint.  Not new trim or countertops or cabinets.  Paint.

After much searching I finally hit on a golden apricot for the walls and a trim color called “Blackberry” which was deep purple most of the time (I took the doors off the upper cabinets and display dishes rather than pink-ness).

But there was that time of the day when the purple trim was just garish as heck against the white areas of the kitchen, and not all that complementary with those  lovely mauve countertops.  The countertops were the sticking point – the mauve against the apricot, which also at some times of the day was just plain orangey papaya, began to be a thorn in my side.

I griped in my head every time I looked at it.  If I could just get new countertops.  I spent a couple of years on this “if” but to no avail.  Fine.  One fine day I would have new countertops.  In the meantime I would go to what always works for me.  Paint.

Don’t want to repaint the whole thing.  How about just the kitchen including the wall that is also the window wall of the dining room?  What color then?  Finally I found it.  A lovely and very pale green/yellow (depending on the light, but more green than yellow).

The mauve countertops against the green look fantastic.  The ugly old now appears lovely vintage.  I am so very pleased with this outcome of my efforts.  However, there was one thing.  The corner.

With a bit of uncertainty I had stopped in the dining room corner, where each color refused to cooperate with or give way to the other.

And so.  Something to tie it all together.  Perhaps a border that went all the way around the dining room.  I found the border.  A year later I thought (border still in drawer) of stripes on the lower part of the wall, beneath the border.  Another year later I did it, and you see the results above.

I leave it to your imagination to  envision how awful this room looked before I painted, but let me assure you that when that trim was stained walnut, and later when those walls were painted in shades of body excrement, those things were “in”.

Again, what’s “in” should be what works for you.  My house is high in the Rockies and it’s often chilly.  I want warm colors.  My house is also a 70’s monstrosity of vaulted ceilings and weird angles, and the argument could certainly be made that “granny” decor doesn’t fit.  But the final word on it all is “mine”.  This is house is mine, and so what’s “in” is irrelevant.

No design police are coming, no magazine photographer either.  What’s “in” about this house are the people who LIVE “in” this house (continual compliments from my beloveds on this new creative endeavor).

I encourage you.  Go browsing and digging around thrift shops, estate sales, antique stores, kitchen stores and consignment shops, and your own “stuff” for something that absolutely delights you.  Let your imagination go.

Just remember this:  “In” is based on someone else’s imagination, or lack thereof.  Again, this house is your house!

Happy Real Decorating!

P.S.  Somewhere in all this – about a year ago, I think, I painted the trim white, a lovely brilliant white with the very teeniest hint of rose (in certain light).

Love Reasons and the Loveliness of “No”

There is a child in my church who looks like a fairy wood sprite.  Her hair is white, her skin almond pink, and her large and luminous aqua eyes slant up with intelligence.

Her voice is intriguing, and for me it defies describing.  Perhaps because I am more interested in the mobility and expressiveness of her face when she’s talking.  Were it not for the new daddy in her life who understands the value and loveliness of the word, “No,” this child might be easy prey for the enemy of her soul someday.

But the fairy wood sprite is winning, and if this new daddy has his way, her entire life will be a fairy tale.  She is learning that she is royalty, deserving of all the best things, which include discipline.

I usually sneak peaks at this child from afar, but Sunday I went so far as to kiss her white head when she wore a bit of a frown on that dear face.  “Here’s a feel- better kiss,” I told her as she passed, and was gratified to see her smile as she walked away.

This child doesn’t need yet another adult fawning over her beauty, trying to make points with her mom and grandma by giving her whatever she wants, feeling sorry for her because (until lately) she was daddy-less.

If this child does what most kids do, she will act up a bit now and again.  And again.  If her parents do what most parents do, they will ground her, speak sternly to her, get angry and tell everyone who will listen all about it.

But if these parents are bold and brave because they know they’ve done the training, the nurturing, the hard part in saying “No” when it needed saying, they will also have the strength and wisdom to speak straight to this child.

I imagine such a scenario as this:  “The answer is ‘No'”, Dad says, (parents agreeing ahead of time after prayers together for wisdom) “And I’m going to tell you some of the reasons why.”

Child looking mutinous, still standing, so very wronged is she.

“Sit down.  I want to look you in the eye because I want you to see the love in my eyes.”

Child sits.

“So many reasons.  The phone is keeping you awake, keeping you from other activities, making us feel left out of your life, exposing you to things that may or may not be healthy for you.”  Mom thinking the main reason is that the more her child is hooked up to electronic devices, the less respect she shows her parents, and she chases a niggling thought that sounds something like, “And whose fault is that?”

Child rolling eyes.

“Please don’t do that.  Do I ever do that to you?  Because if I do, if you learned that from me, I sincerely apologize and give you leave right now to call me on it if I ever do.”

No comment.

“But there is another reason.  I call it The Love Reason.  The reason that someone who loves to make you happy, who loves to see your smile and hear your laughter, who wishes every moment of your day was pure joy – the reason such a one as your ma or I can say the dreaded “N” word is The Love Reason.

Child looking interested, alert.

“See, if I notice a kid in the store hooked up to her phone, it exasperates me.  But when it’s the child God gave me to love, in kicks The Love Reason.  The Love Reason is also God’s reason.  He says “No” about certain things because He loves us and doesn’t want our enemy to get at us.”

“He has high hopes for us, a destiny planned, a hope and future beyond what we can ask or think or even imagine.  So, you could just say my Love Reason is Love.  I love you and don’t want you harmed, hindered, or set back.  I don’t want you following the crowd and not going on your particular and beautiful adventure path in life.

Child listening.

“It’s my job.  God gave you to me as a responsibility and a gift to steward.  Even God Himself doesn’t own you – He wants you to give your life to Him willingly.  But He does have Love Rights.  Love Rights include the right to say “No”.

“So, Love Reasons and Love Rights. I could bore you with all the science behind what that phone’s doing to your fine brain, but suffice it to say watching instead of creating and doing shrinks the imagination part of the brain.  I think we can agree imagination is a marvelous and precious thing.”

Child nods just a little.

“So, here’s the deal:  Along with the No Thing I’m going to do the Hard Thing.  I’m going to put myself at your disposal to facilitate electronic alternatives – creative, action things that you can think of to do.”

Parent wonders what possessed him to make this offer – Mom raises eyebrows very high.

Child is quick on the draw.  “I want you to help me build a canoe, and take me fishing.  And my bike tire is flat.  Plus Mom said we could have a tea party and I want to do that.  Tomorrow afternoon.  So, maybe we need to go to the store right now to get the stuff.”

Mom is laughing right out loud.  Dad takes deep breath.

“Well, it just so happens I’ve been looking at canoe plans on the Net.  Let’s go to the garage and see what we have and what we need, then we’ll go to Home Depot and the grocery store.”

“Isn’t that technology, looking on the net at canoe stuff?”

“Why yes, it is.  But I wasn’t just watching people build, and fish in, canoes.  I’ve been finding out how they did it.  And we’ll make one even better.  I’m thinking your canoe should have pontoon floaters on the sides so it won’t tip if you want to stand up and fly fish.”

“Can we make a campfire and cook the fish at the lake?”

“Absolutely.”

Phone forgotten.

What do you do?

I was asked this question by a “working” woman and I didn’t answer.  I knew she didn’t have time.

But I’m going to give it a try, as it’s early still, and by day’s end I’ll have done so much I won’t recall it all.

I awoke around 6:00, thinking of yesterday’s blessings and thinking of God.  I “slept in” until 6:20, which is 7:20 in Texas.  After a quick face wash teeth brushing, it was time to pull on my warm robe and to call my daughter, who was on her way to class at Kenneth Copeland Bible College, and to thank her for sending to me some of her class notes on prayer, as well as a lovely scripture.

She was, as always, happy to hear my voice.  I shared devotionals with her, and talked about revelations from the day before, what was on her agenda, and then prayed with her before she left her car and started her classes.

It was then time for my early morning “encouragement cuddle” with John, which he seems to think is necessary to give him strength to get out of the warm and cozy covers.  Next came the fun job of picking warm clothes for this bright and chilly Rocky Mountain day – black jeans and thick black socks with a black, pink, and blue plaid Betsy Johnson flannel shirt (nice and long and flattering).

This accomplished I returned to my Quiet Time with God, listening first to Joel Osteen’s timely words which were direct answers to questions I had about a few of my endeavors, including writing.

I went from Joel to Audrey Mack, whose thoughts about the joining of the Spirit and the Word gave me more prayer fodder.  And somewhere in there the complicated became simple, and I knew exactly how to solve a writing problem that had been vexing me for some time.

Wow, wow, wow.  I didn’t waste time.  I wrote.  An entire chapter.

I then awoke Seth with a coffee promise, put the heavy whipping cream into a warmed Mary Engelbreit cream jug, heated cups and put on the percolator.  Such a joy, the soon gurgling coffee rising up and showing off through the glass atop the percolator.

John had already told me he didn’t want breakfast (we ate late last night), so I talked food talk with Seth as we satisfied our tummies with very creamy coffee.  We also covered a bit of history – things like the amazing tonnage of steel the US produced in peacetime Depression years, when various automakers went from steel to aluminum, then “after-market” work on less than stellar truck engines, and finally, comparisons of 20th-century world dictators.

Next we went through the fridge freezer and found nothing for lasagne, which Seth thinks is the thing for dinner tonight.  He took off to my writing cabin, where there’s a freezer full of meat (he is very fond of coming home with sausages, bacon, deer, and various other treasures).

Somewhere in all this I wrote a letter to our son, Benjamin, who is overseas in the Military, and tucked it into a card.  John found a lovely verse to add (Psalm 139:9-10 NIV) and Seth added a couple of words as well.

We will make a special trip to the post office soon to mail this along with a letter to a loved one in prison, and I’m about to write a short letter to Rebekah, as well.  Don’t we all love to get real mail?

Sending real mail is one of the lost arts of this age of “working” women, but I am determined to do my part to keep it alive.  That’s what homemaking is about, keeping the worthwhile alive.  That’s what home is:  Life.

“What do you do?” she asked, truly curious about how I spend my time.

So far this morning I have also washed the sheets and a white blanket, and put in a load of jeans and dark T-shirts.  I have resisted the urge to fold the whites done last night, as there are major things I want to get to today, and I can fold the whites later, perhaps when my daughter Jane calls me back (I called her as well this morning, but she was at work early and couldn’t talk).

Back to the utility room:  Ignoring the whites, I filled a pot with hot water, vinegar, and a little bit of Dawn, because I’m about to scrub the trim and railing in the stairwell, as it is high time it was painted to match the trim at the top and at the bottom of the stairs.

My first plan for today was to deal with apples.  I have a big box completely full (given to me yesterday at church) that I plan to turn into apple sauce, pie fixins, etc., but that will wait until afternoon.  The stairs must be done first, while the motivation to scrub is living (which is why I must stop blogging – I have already written a blog post this morning about homeschooling!).

I am no doubt leaving things out – like the skimming of a magazine, straightening the living room, sweeping under the table, and in the foyer, checking mousetraps, the underlining of a favorite verse in The Passion Bible, with a mental note to share it with Hannah, the daughter who gave me this Bible for Christmas last year.

I hear the truck – Seth has returned.  It’s time to do something.

Praise the Lord, first of all, for the endlessly rewarding, challenging, and beautiful gift of Home.

Blessings all over you, Dear Reader!

Bev

Hands-on Parenting is NOT Evil!

It comes from every direction.  My daughter is encouraged to drink by our “friends.”  She is on her way home and tells them that her parents wouldn’t be pleased by her driving and arriving under the influence.  They assure her that it’s time to be her own person.

She just proved that she is.  And that she’s not dumb as a post.

She leaves home and supposedly Christian women make fun of her for calling “your mommy” every day.  “You need to grow up,” they say when she won’t take their negative and decidedly unChristian advice.  No, they need to grow up to the point they can actually keep their mouths shut about that which is none of their business.

She is grown up, and yet still a child.  Aren’t we all?  I call my parents when I need to hear the voice of one who will always love me, one who will not belittle me for being a bit sad or needy or unsure.  Does that make me defective, immature?  No, it makes me human.

My daughters communicate with me – when they’re feeling on top of the world, when they’re under a cloud, when things are rolling right along fairly smoothly.  Why should they not?

Rather than apologizing for having a good relationship with a parent or a child, we should thank God for it, and continue to do those things that brought us to this happy outcome – be there for that person, pray with and for that person, and let them know we will be as the Lord Himself is, the one who will never leave them nor forsake them.

It’s called giving them a strong foundation on which to stand, as well as wings for flight.  It’s called love.  And because of that love, my child feels free to let me know when she wants to handle things on her own.  I have such faith in her and respect for her, that I always ask her how she wants me to proceed, what she wants me to do or not do.  

We prayed this morning about a difficult situation, and I read scripture aloud to her, and encouraged her.  But when it comes down to the tough part, she must walk this walk alone.  And yet, when a child knows that she knows that her parents and Jesus will never leave her nor forsake her, how can she be alone?

Something about such a person really gets to people who don’t have this kind of surety.  Is it jealousy, or is it simply the all-pervasive societal view that parents are inherently stupid and faulty and should be sidelined and ignored in pursuit of . . . what?  The lovely mess that these anti-parent folks have made of their own lives?

What is this unholy desire to separate children from their parents?  What is this need to control and convince and influence?  And why is this invariably from people who have little or no control or success in their own lives, and with their own children?  But I must say in our case, most of our most vitriolic critics are themselves childless.

And yet, no need to fret.  My daughter, the one accused from every direction of being “too dependent” on her parents, is so much stronger than her accusers.  She goes on about her merry way, and forgives.  And she prays for those who show her nothing but disrespect and contempt (that after a bit of exasperated venting).

Just as I communicate with my parents and with my Savior, I have raised a child who does the same.  So to all these busybodies, I say, “Just mind your own business,” or as my mom says, “Tend to your own pea-pickin’.”

 

Anyone Can Find Crappy Christians – They Advertise Quite Effectively, But . . .

The only Christian we need to be looking at is Jesus.  I am always meeting people who justify their faithless lives with their sob stories of mistreatment by Christians.

Consider this:  Just because someone calls themselves Christian does not mean they know Christ, and that His Spirit has shed abroad the love of Christ in their heart.

And consider this:  Even born-again, Spirit-filled (yes that’s a thing, and I do mean a THING) Christians can really miss it and really be deceived and deluded (they can spout the BLASPHEMY that God does horrible things to people to “teach them a a lesson.”   See John 10:10).

And consider this:  If you let any person be your lens for looking at Christianity, you’re looking through a clouded lens.  Look at Jesus Himself.

The Christianity of the Bible is about love, hope, and victory through a living Savior, and if anyone presents it as a religious set of rules, they look suspiciously like someone who does not know Him.  Christianity is a relationship, not a religion.  It brings life not death, conviction but not condemnation, victory rather than victimhood.  Again, real Christianity brings life, because it is alive.

Jesus is alive, and He lives in the hearts of those who will invite Him in.

What a deal.  Don’t let any poor specimen of Christianity steal the deal.

Amen!