Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A New Year

I've been missing-in-(way too much) action these last weeks as you may have noticed.  If you haven't noticed, please don't tell me!  We have had family here and there, friends coming and going, the last vestiges of the Advent season to mark, and of course the great celebration of the birth of our Lord.  It's been a full time.  There has been much to be grateful for, some things to grieve over, and some great excitement for me as I look to the New Year.  It is true that His mercies are new every morning and every new day is a fresh start, but there is something special about a clean new year.  Some of you may understand my love of an unused notebook to write in, a brand new pencil to sharpen, projects to start, a planner to fill.  I love new beginnings!

My husband preached a sermon on Sunday about how meeting Jesus in the Christmas season should motivate our desire to change.  We cannot be the same after the Christ child has come into the world and we have seen Him.  We have a whole new beginning and there is much to do!  I wish I could say that I've spent a lot of time praying about these "resolutions," but for now I will write them down and pray that God would bless the ones that He, too, would see me accomplish.  And so, with God's help I resolve this year to:
1) Reach 1000 blessings in my thanksgiving list,
2) Finish a quilt,
3) Have one ladies tea a month to encourage and teach the women of my congregration.

I would love your prayers as I seek to fulfill these resolutions.  Pray that God would be glorified through them all and that I would see Him at work in my life, too.

Oh, and here are Monday's thanksgivings!
122.  Christmas!
123.  My parents buying groceries while they are visiting
124.  Listening to my brother playing his guitar
125.  God taking those babies that mothers have chosen not to let live
126.  Nicholas
127.  Ian playing with his Grandma Kate

128.  A new camera
129.  A new sweater
130.  Christmas goose, mmmm....
131.  Laughing until I cry
132.  Playing cards with family (see #131)
133.  Beautiful Christmas Eve service
134.  My husband's grace in accepting so few people at the Christmas Day service
135.  A visit from dear friends
136.  Their sweet little girl
137.  A delicious salad (prepared by my mother)
138.  My mother preparing #137 so that Rob and I could visit with our friends

May God go with you into this new year.  May He give you a fresh start, a fresh outlook on his plan for you, and a fresh urging to take the light of the Christ child to all the world.  For we can never be the same again.

holy experience

holy experience

Monday, December 21, 2009

Odd Thanks

My thanksgivings are odd this week.  Even to me.  It has been an incredibly full week and when that happens, invariably, some parts are less pleasant than others.  This week that has included sick children, a funeral for a long time member of our congregation, panicked cleaning before parties, along with a host of regular frustrations and challenges. (Read: Ian won't nap.)  My great praise in all this, however, is that many of these frustrations have actually shown up on my thanksgiving list!  I have been encouraged to praise no matter when and it seems to be working.  So, while some of these may seem strange to you, my first praise is:

99.  God is still doing the work of sanctification (growing me up!) in my life
100.  Seam rippers (multiple sewing mistakes)
101.  My generally healthy children
102.  Only three of the four kids got sick
103.  Someone else's very sick child reminding me to cherish my own
104.  Delicious bean soup given by a new friend
105.  Story hour at the library
106.  Sewing my first dress since I was a child (see #100)
107.  David announcing during a song, "You just got to got to dance to this!"
108.  My young adult group as we studied...
109.  Mary, Jesus' mother
110.  Snowshoeing in 10 degrees Fahrenheit
111.  Hot drinks
112.  Someone cleaning the house before our parties
113.  A clean house!
114.  Ian's poopy diapers (Don't ask me to explain this one.  It was a random joy moment.)
115.  The Holy Spirit working in people
116.  Church Christmas play
117.  My sewing machine
118.  Seeing my first dead body
119.  The girls wrapping their own Christmas gifts this year
120.  Truffles from one of my young adults.  So tasty!!
121.  The kids so excited during our Jesse tree devotions today because Jesus is coming soon!!!!

Thanks for sharing these blessings with me today.  Merry Christmas!

holy experience

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Pop Quiz

"So," my husband asks, "where do you find Hanukkah in the Bible?"  We're in a warm inviting kitchen, sharing latkes with a few new friends, including one from Israel.  No one answers, everyone thinking.  All of us there know the story, of course, but is it even in the Bible?  A few hesitant guesses and finally he says, "John."  There is a moment of confusion.  John?  As in, the New Testament John?  It's true!  In John 10:22 we find Jesus in the Temple in Jerusalem during the Feast of Dedication, the translation of Hanukkah.  How strange for some people to find Jesus in Hanukkah!

Not so strange for my husband who grew up knowing he is Jewish and that Jesus is his Jewish messiah.  Nor for me who was raised knowing that my Christian faith is both founded on and informed by the Jewish traditions that Jesus would have celebrated.  And so my children grow knowing that they are both Jewish and followers of Jesus.  They celebrate Easter and Passover, Lent and Shavuot, Purim, Advent, Christmas and Hanukkah.  What a blessing to find Jesus in so many places!  

holy experience

Monday, December 14, 2009

Continued Thanksgiving

It's been a busy, busy week.  Four parties and a play.  Christmas shopping and tree decorating.  A sick child.  And all the regular stuff, too.  I'm grateful for my regular times of thanksgiving and prayer to keep things centered.

89.  Holy Spirit reminders of what I need to do
90.  Husband's hand not broken, only sprained
91.  The internet working even in the snow
92.  Snow play timing (the snow plow arrived just AFTER we had a brilliant time in the parking lot)
93.  Just enough flour
94.  Emma asking for Uncle Daniel for Christmas
95.  Hanukkah celebrations with new friends
96.  My finger not needing stitches, only a bandaid (hmm...seems familiar)
97.  A sweet time with my husband and my little lady Emma at the high school play
98.  Katie taking care of her sick sister

Almost one hundred blessings to give thanks for!  Praise the Lord!

holy experience

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Preparing for Christmas

We have several traditions in our family preparing for Christmas.  Last week I shared our Advent package tradition.  We also gather as a family every night (yes, even when my sweet husband is in the Urgent Care clinic) to do devotions.  We use a devotional that my family has used since 1982.  I particularly enjoy it because of all the memories associated with it.  Memories of frantic (in this time of intentional stillness) lighting of the candles as we get closer to Christmas.  (Can you light all four candles while saying these phrases without burning your fingers?)  It's hard to sing "O Come, O Come Immanuel" anymore without giggling as I remember my mother making faces at my father's seriousness.  How to keep it together when everyone starts on a different note?  (That was my family then, too!)  What a blessing it is to light those candles - Peace, Hope, Joy, Love - and say the words that I've spoken, almost since I could speak.  I'd like to share those phrases with you so you, too, can meditate on them as you light your candles this Advent.  I pray that your family would have memories of their own to cherish as these traditions are passed on.

"This candle represents 'peace.'  As the shepherds of old, we wait in expectation for the fulfillment of God's promise of peace on earth."

"This candle represents 'hope.'  As long ago people hoped for a Saviour, so we wait in hope for his return in glory."

"This candle represents 'joy.'  Because of Christ we can truly say, 'Joy to the world, the Lord is come!'"

"This candle represents 'love.'  For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten son, that whosever believes in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life."

Happy Advent!

holy experience

Monday, December 7, 2009

That Time of the Month

My husband told me early on in our marriage that he would not let me get away with saying anything to the effect of, "Don't worry about it, it's just that time of the month."  It's true, he would say, that hormones seem to exacerbate things in our lives, but they are never the only cause of them.  So, as I look at my thanksgiving list this afternoon and it seems shriveled, my first thought is that I haven't been as grateful this week because I think it's "just that time."  But he's right.  If I haven't been particularly noticing God's blessings this week then I need to know what the real cause of it is.  I've obviously allowed myself to get distracted from His good gifts.  After some thought, I don't know why.  I guess that's okay, too, not to know.  It's time to get back on track.  To look out for his thousands of blessings, beginning with:

78.  Good books.  This one may repeat regularly!
79.  A friend's joy
80.  Snow!!!
81.  Frost designs
82.  Faithful parents
83.  Chicken coop is finished (not in this picture)
84.  Doorknobs on most of our doors
85.  A beautiful Lessons and Carols service at the local Episcopal church
86.  Moses
87.  God's work in the Passover story
88.  Christmas lights

holy experience

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Christmas Tradition

Memory is a funny thing.  As my husband and I discussed one of my family's holiday traditions, he expressed uncertainty about the amount of work we were putting in to it.  Growing up, my mother had put together Advent packages for several families we knew.  She would wrap one small present for each day of Advent, label it with a number, and then put a corresponding clue from Scripture on a separate sheet of paper.  A verse about God creating the birds of the air and the fish of the sea from Genesis might be the clue for a package of Goldfish crackers.  With twenty-some days in Advent and multiple families (she did 15 this year!), this project could quickly become both time- and money-intensive.  But she did it almost every year for as long as I can remember.  And I remember why.  This might be the only time that a family gathered around the Bible together all year.  What an opportunity to share these words of life with those who had never heard!  The Gospel light shining in this Advent season!

With that explanation, any doubts my husband had were gone.  We looked forward to gifting our friends, both with the little wrapped packages and with an opportunity to read this book we hold so dearly.  Packages wrapped, a party held, our friends grateful for their gifts, and two days later talking to my mother on the phone:

Me:  Mom, thanks again for this wonderful tradition.  I hope that our friends will enjoy opening the presents and that the Scriptures will encourage them.  Most of them don't read the Bible or go to church usually.

Mom:  What?  We never gave Advent packages to people outside the church.  We made them to encourage our church friends during the Advent season so that they would feel equipped to share with others.

Me:  Funny, I don't remember it that way at all.

True purpose aside, obviously my family's tradition encouraged me to share this Book and this season with those who might not otherwise not meet with them.  May you, too, be encouraged in this season of coming to gather together around the Word as we prepare for His adventus, His coming.

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