Friday, December 31, 2010

too funny not to share

Kids say the funniest things.

Yesterday we watched 5 munchkins for some friends, and we were laughing as we talked over the day last night. Here's a few snippets of conversations from the day:

L, 7 years old, while tending to medical needs and discussing medical stuff:

L: Has Mr. Bobby ever fallen off the bed?
M: Not out of this bed or since he's been in a wheelchair. He might have when he was a child. You'll have to ask him.
L: Was he in a wheelchair when he was a little boy?
Me: No, he was almost 25 years old when his accident happened. It was 31 years ago.
L: 31 years. Hmmm, that was before we came to your church.

The 5 year old twins, while discussing how "low" my (9ft) ceilings are and tossing Pooh and a stuffed squirrel up to see if they'd bounce:

B:  Wow, Pooh can hit the ceiling!
C: I bet if Mr. Bobby stood up out of his wheelchair, his head would touch the ceiling!
Me: Um, I don't think so.
B: But if Pooh can touch the ceiling Mr. Bobby could!
C: Yeah, he would touch the roof.
Me: No, if he could stand up, he could probably jump real high and touch the ceiling, but his head most certainly wouldn't touch the ceiling.

At this point I received very skeptical looks, shrugs, and faces that said Who are you trying to kid? Just how tall do they think my husband is? :)

And B received quite the shock yesterday. Before the snow came I filled one of the tubs half-full of water. Since we're on a well, if we lose power, we also lose water (because of the electric pump). I had totally forgotten about it.  During a game of hide and seek, he came hopping into the room with a sopping wet sock and pants leg. "There's water in your tub!  I climbed in to hide and got WET!" And if they needed convincing I'm crazy, the fact I started laughing probably did it. He just kept repeating "There's WATER in the tub!"

And my shock for the day: we had another first with Bobby's wheelchair. A child actually made it to the top  and STOOD UP ON THE HANDLEBARS OF HIS CHAIR!!! My heart froze and I could barely get a word out. Bobby heard me utter the name, and turned (unaware of where they were), sending the kid crashing to the ground (and narrowly missing the tv!). We had a quick lesson on where to stand and wheelchair riding safety tips. I am now of the mindset that parents must have very strong hearts or they would all be dead from heart attacks.

And last, but certainly not least, there's nothing more exciting than watching a child experience something new. Little Bit discovered the air vents. She was sitting on one when the heat kicked on, and was THRILLED. She scooted off, and put her head over it, off, over it, off, (letting it blow her hair out) and then began experimenting with placing things on the vent. Not sure where she found the bread tie, but after the air blew it off several times she managed to fit it inside the vent so it wouldn't blow away. Once the air went off she lost all interest. And I don't think I will ever see another cotton ball without hearing her exclamation of "FLUFFY!" I'm still finding "fluffies" all over the house.

And as we head out for the day, acknowledging that it's the last day of the year, I realistically don't think I'll finish up any more scheduled projects for the year. BUT... Bobby's quilt is now half-way finished! ;)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

In Memory

Seven years.
88 pounds.
December 28, 2010 at 6:15am, Charlotte Ann Parrish stopped fighting her earthly battle with breast cancer, and heard the words "well done".
I go shopping with my mother-in-law.  Charlotte went to chemo treatments with my Aunt Ovelene. They found things to laugh about together - like the man who brought sardines to eat and made everyone else in the room sick, and shared the trials and sorrows. Charlotte not only lost her cancer companion when Aunt Ovelene died, but she also watched as her husband grieved the loss of his Mom, and her grandchildren grieved for their great-grandmother.
Charlotte defied the odds, again and again.  Doctors would laugh when they'd give the prognosis, saying things like "The normal statistics are... and then there's Charlotte's statistics." And when people would ask how she was doing, she'd always respond "I'm still buying green bananas."
I don't want to know the depth of pain from losing a brother, a mom, and a wife within the space of five years. But I do know that Charlotte would be quick to remind people that we serve the Great Physician, whose speciality is broken hearts, and His Spirit brings peace and comfort. Some of the family joked somewhat that as long as it took for God to call her home, then He must be doing some awesome preparations on her room.
So as I pray for my cousin Tim and the rest of the family, I'm reminded of the song by Steven Curtis Chapman:

This is not at all how we thought it was supposed to be.
We had so many plans for you; we had so many dreams.
And now you've gone away, and left us with the memories of your smile.

And nothing we can say, and nothing we can do
Can take away the pain, the pain of losing you, but

We can cry with hope. We can say goodbye with hope.
'Cause we know our goodbye is not the end. oh no.
And we can grieve with hope, 'Cause we believe with hope.
There's a place by God's grace.
There's a place where we'll see your face again.
Oh we'll see your face again.

And never have I known anything so hard to understand.
And never have I questioned more the wisdom of God's plan.
But through the cloud of tears I see the Father's smile and say "well done"
and I imagine you where you wanted most to be.
Seeing all your dreams come true 'cause now you're home
And now you're free.

We can cry with hope. We can say goodbye with hope.
'Cause we know our goodbye is not the end. oh no.
And we can grieve with hope, 'Cause we believe with hope.
There's a place by God's grace.
There's a place where we'll see your face again.
Oh we'll see your face again.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

the overdue vehicle update

Hahaha!...okay. I know this is NOT the vehicle picture you've been waiting for.  But I did want to show off the really cool car tag I got for my birthday!
 And here it is...the new van! (Well, new to us!)
 A "bench" seat of sorts. I specifically like this because the seats fold down, making it easier (I hope!) to store luggage and such when traveling.  And while it's a very tight squeeze, you can fit three adults here.

 And trunk space!!! The spare tire is hidden! Whoohoooooo! (Can you tell that's been a problem in the past?)
 One of the many delays in the new vehicle...the turn signal controls.  For the first time ever, these are not controlled by his shoulder, but are now controlled by the elbow and is actually a toggle switch as opposed to a bump pad (for lack of a better word).
 The lock controls on the tie downs are different in this vehicle in that they are somehow connected to the door locks. For the longest kind of time they wouldn't release until the van was unlocked. We think that's finally adjusted correctly.
 And the lock down box is the same, just cleaner! :)
 ahhh...a CD player AND a mp3 jack AND Satellite radio!  All are firsts for us! Also new to us but still not quite as exciting (yet) is the video backup camera.
 And my personal favorite...twice the leg room! Trips will be MUCH nicer now!

And a side door for people who are riding in the back. They don't have to wait on the lift to get in and out!

There's a few other new/different features for us, and some things we're still trying to work out (and some things we've already worked out...thanks for the seat belt help, Rich!).  Sadly, one thing may require sending the van back to Chrysler. Since it's still under warranty, we think it makes sense to get those things squared away immediately (like the transmission gear not always shifting!).

It took a few months longer than we anticipated, but it's been worth the wait!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

the grey birds

One day last week I noticed a flock of four-five birds consistently coming to the bird feeder.  They were HUGE, and a species I was unfamiliar with.  With the snow and the bird feeder being almost empty (and me not wanting to fight the snow to refill it), I simply through the feed out towards it from the back porch.  And they came, and came, and came.  Bobby says they are doves.

Fluffy and fat...does that mean a long winter is ahead? I like seeing the new birds, but I miss seeing the cardinals, bluebirds, and little yellow bird (I don't know its name). Maybe they will be back tomorrow!

Monday, December 27, 2010

gently wash in cold or warm water

While re-arranging one end of the house this summer, we/I discovered that the "broken" window handle in one of the bedrooms was actually not really broken.  The windowsill had simply rotted. Nice. Since there was a tax credit on energy efficient windows installed before the end of the year, we upped this repair to top of our maintenance "to do" list.  And while taking down all the curtains so the workers could get to the windows, I decided it was time to wash the curtains and sheers. Past time, actually.
before washing

So I read the instruction labels.  Wash gently, warm or cold water. So I did. I used the almost never used delicate cycle on my washing machine, for the least amount of time possible.

after washing....ummm....hmmmm
Perhaps the translator forgot say Hand wash as opposed to machine wash? There is a difference, you know.  So those were my "expensive" drapes. (They came from either Linens-N-Things or Target.) And my not-so-expensive drapes that came from Family Dollar that are slightly irregular?  Below is their after photos.

the design

the yellow/white flowers up close
The flowers didn't even lose their color! Well, not from the washing machine or dryer, anyway. The one sheer near the end of the house (and the curtain) have all faded in spots from the sun. But that's okay, because nobody (I hope!) is going to be looking at them from the outside window.

So as I finish setting up/cleaning my workroom, I'm pondering what type of curtains or drapes to put up. For now, it's an open window, which will have to change the more I'm in there. But for now, it's nice thinking about options.

Friday, December 24, 2010

on the 12th day of Christmas...

um, yes, I've now realized that I added incorrectly and you're getting the 12th day of Christmas on Christmas Eve, but it's too late to do anything about it now!

On the twelfth day of Christmas my True Love gave to me, twelve blades of grass, eleven sparkly lights, ten recycled bows, nine ranks of scholars, eight modes of worship, seven crazy feelings, six proclamations, five broken dreams, four upset parents, three gifts from wisemen, two speaking prophets, and a great big herd of bleating, dumb sheep.

There's nothing more disconcerting than to reach your teen years/early adulthood and discover things about your beliefs, that you were so steadfast on, are simply drop-dead wrong. My junior year of high school, after two years of desperately praying for a Christian friend in my grade, a girl transferred into my school. She was a devout Church of Christ. Her family didn't put up a Christmas tree, for trees were pagan.  HUH? Her church (not sure if it was all Church of Christ or just her particular one) held to the view that Christianity started celebrating the birth of Christ to escape persecution for not celebrating the winter festival and its gods during the Roman Empire. They think Christ was born during the spring. So many of them refuse to celebrate all, or any, of Christmas.
So I asked my Dad, my Sunday school teacher, my older sister, and later a few professors at Bible College about it. Most of them agreed that Christ probably was born during the spring.  Some of them came to that conclusion because the sheep were out in the field, others because of the Jewish calendar, and others thought it was the craziest thing they'd ever heard. 
I finally came to the conclusion that it really didn't matter WHEN it happened or WHEN we choose to celebrate it, but what really matters is that I hold it to be TRUE, that I understand all the ramifications for Christ's birth. And I've thought about those ramifications quite a bit the last few days.

After seven years of fighting breast cancer, my cousin's wife is now in her last days.  This last week Charlotte has reported seeing the same two angels at various times in her days. It's only that "peace that passes understanding" that is seeing them through this holiday season.  And they wouldn't have that peace had Jesus not been born in a miraculous manner, enabling him to be fully man without sin.

Yesterday I received an e-mail update (posted on the 21st), about a young pastor, in bondage for his faith, who suddenly has an unexpected review of his case.  One of the requests of his wife, who is now responsible for providing for two boys?  That God would be glorified.  Such emotional strength would not be possible if the miraculous birth had not occurred.

Christians in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire are sending out pleas for prayer as their country is once again being tossed into Civil War. How do they get through each day not knowing whether or not this will be the day they or a loved one will die?  They know they'll meet again in eternity, because a Savior came, and now resides in their hearts. Emmanuel - God with us.

The Carson family, facing an uncertain and unexpected Christmas this year, never dreaming last year that this one would be such an emotional roller coaster, can "cry with hope" because of Immanuel.

The McLean's, facing uncertain tomorrows and parents in poor health, they still find things to laugh and rejoice over...because they have a Jehovah-jireh, The God who Provides, who came to earth in the flesh 2,000 years ago for the sole purpose of tearing that curtain in two so we can personally talk to him without a priest or mediator.

My Mom, Mary Booth, Candace Anderson, and so many others who physically struggle EVERY SINGLE DAY all smile with joy because of EMMANUEL...GOD WITH US!!!!

Those sheep had something to eat and whether those blades of grass were frozen or not, the Bible doesn't say. But I am just SO thankful that he came to this earth as my willing sacrifice, giving me a reason to rejoice and a hope for the days when things seem so dreary and hard.  
Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.
 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. ~ Matthew 1:20-25
 :)  What more can I say?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

the 11th day of Christmas

On the eleventh day of Christmas my True Love gave to me, eleven sparkly lights, ten recycled bows, nine ranks of scholars, eight modes of worship, seven crazy feelings, six proclamations, five broken dreams, four upset parents, three gifts from wisemen, two speaking prophets, and a great big herd of bleating, dumb sheep.

Is a star pointed, or is it just a blob of light?  If you think about the sun, which is a medium-sized star (so they say), it is a sphere of light.  So why do we think of stars as pointed objects, like snowflakes without the holes? The whole Star of Bethlehem has always fascinated me. Stars have always intrigued me.  How can a sailor look at them and know which direction is which?  I look at the sky, and I am in awe, but have never been able to get a sense or feel for time or direction from them.  I mean, if the earth is orbiting around the sun, does that mean stars are stationary, or do they orbit, too? And how did the magi know the star was from God?  Were they looking for a Messiah, a King, or just a promised leader?  This is the part of the story (okay, one of many parts of the story) that totally fascinates me.

Many Christians find Moorehead Planetarium's "Star of Bethlehem" offensive because it delves into all the scientific and historical possibilities for what the star could have been, before ending with the religious possibility of simply being a miraculous sign. I believe it was a miraculous sign, but we can't ignore the fact that the magi were studying the stars for signs and directions prior to its appearance. We know the magi weren't Israelis.  They weren't temple worshippers participating in the sacrificial system (at least not the Judaic version anyway). So where did their knowledge and awareness of the Christ child originate?  How did God orchestrate that information to them? When I focus on such things, I'm reminded of just how thorough God is. The news of Christ's birth went to both the lowest of society and the Gentiles. How awesome (and offensive to the powers that be at that time) is that?

I must admit I am ignorant of the stars and patterns, and their representations and meanings.  But the nativity story, specifically the star, reminds me that all of nature praises God and cries out to Him. May every area of my life do the same.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

the 10th day of Christmas

On the tenth day of Christmas my True Love gave to me, ten recycled bows, nine ranks of scholars, eight modes of worship, seven crazy feelings, six proclamations, five broken dreams, four upset parents, three gifts from wisemen, two speaking prophets, and a great big herd of bleating, dumb sheep.

Yeah,  you read that right.  Ten recycled bows.  I never realized that my family recycled things (before recycling was vogue, I mean).  Every year at Christmas, my Grandmother (known to us as Rea-Rea), would have two garbage bags.  One was for paper and trash; the other for bows.  I seldom remember anyone in our family buying bows.  They can be reused several years, you know.  And if they come apart?  Then they get taken apart and made into festive little loops.  And buying boxes?  Who ever heard of such a thing? Everyone in the Guyton clan knew that if you opened a box and it said "Ritz crackers" or "Jello" that it had different contents inside. I was shocked the first time I discovered others did not do such things.  

Recycling...I've thought a lot about recycling this week. Not things, per se, but love.  Over 2,000 years ago I was given the greatest gift that could ever be given.  "For God so LOVED the world, that he GAVE his one and only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."  ~ John 3:16.  Belief is the condition required for life, but that gift was given freely, with no strings attached. At all.  Yet so many times I want people to conform to my silly modes of church or worship or my minuscule ideas before I bother sharing with them God's love. I'm not recycling. How warped is that? 

I still struggle somewhat with seeing someone through the eyes of Christ.  He came to heal the broken, not the whole.  I want things to be totally intact and neatly packaged before I handle them.  God took the worst of society and had lunch with them.  Could you imagine how we would react if our pastor openly had lunch with a gothic prostitute?  Or a convicted criminal started hanging out with us?  But these are the very ones Christ came to reach. 

My prayer the rest of this Christmas season (and next year, as well) is that I'll do a much better job of recycling Christ's love.  Like  Christmas bows, it's an on-going, never-ending thing.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

this Christmas

This Christmas I pray for a Christian brother imprisoned for the crime of being a Christian, for his case which has unexpectedly come up for review to be handled in a fair and just manner, that he will be granted access to his lawyer and for his lawyer to be granted access to his records. I pray for his young wife, that she will be strengthened, and for his two young boys, that God will become very real to them during this time that they are grieving not having their Dad at home and are questioning why a just God would allow his servant to be taken and tortured. I pray this young pastor will find some sustenance and comfort in the days ahead, and that should it be God's will, he will be reunited with his family by Christmas.

the 9th day of Christmas

On the ninth day of Christmas my True Love gave to me, nine ranks of scholars, eight modes of worship, seven crazy feelings, six proclamations, five broken dreams, four upset parents, three gifts from wisemen, two speaking prophets, and a great big herd of bleating, dumb sheep.

God's ways are not always my ways. And the more I ponder that principle, the more appreciative I am of my parents, who were open and honest with me.  Granted, my mother is not one of those people who believe children should be taught or told everything - far, far from it.  But I do remember in high school being aghast as a classmate (who came from a church-attending family) laughingly told about his mother dropping a glass bowl, cutting herself in the process, and letting out a swear word. He called his mother on it, to which she responded "I guess I can't say anything if you say those words, can I?" and my brain was reeling with a resounding "WHAT?!?!" Had such a scenario played out in my household, my Mom would have ended that conversation with "Lord, please forgive me. I was wrong to say that, and I'm even sorrier that you heard it. But two wrongs never make a right.  Just because I failed God and you doesn't give you a right to sin. We'll both have to work harder and pray God puts that "watch before our mouths" (one of Mom's favorite quotes from the book of Psalms). My parents were never afraid to admit when they were wrong and ask for God's forgiveness.
I guess it goes back to the whole pride issue. Rather than admit we're wrong about something, we adopt a "well, it's just not possible to keep that commandment so why try?" attitude, mocking God's authority and strength in the process.  One of Lucado's narratives in the cantata really brought that home to me this year.  I know I've had a lot of favorites from the cantata, but this one struck a chord with me that really clanged in my soul.
"Blessed are the meek," Jesus explained. Blessed are the available. Blessed are the conduits, the tunnels, the tools... "That's why the announcement went first to the shepherds. They didn't ask God if he was sure he knew what he was doing. Had the angel gone to theologians, they would have first consulted their commentaries. Had he gone to the elite, they would have looked around to see if anyone was watching. Had he gone to the successful, they would have first looked at their calendars...So he went to the shepherds. Men who didn't have a reputation to protect or an ax to grind or a ladder to climb. Men who didn't know enough to tell God that angels don't sing to sheep and the messiahs aren't found wrapped in rags and sleeping in a feeding trough. So while the theologians were sleeping and the elite were dreaming and the successful were snoring, the meek were kneeling.  They were kneeling before the One only the meek will see.  They were kneeling in front of Jesus."
This Christmas season (and actually from here on out), may I recognize the wisdom of God's plans, even when they don't make sense to me. After all, he stuck a baby in a cow's feed bowl, and things turned our more than okay.  

Monday, December 20, 2010

the 8th day of Christmas

On the eighth day of Christmas my True Love gave to me, eight modes of worship, seven crazy feelings, six proclamations, five broken dreams, four upset parents, three gifts from wisemen, two speaking prophets, and a great big herd of bleating, dumb sheep.

Not everyone is going to like the same thing. I think that's why the "worship wars" are so hurtful and damaging to people.  We all have something that sparks our emotions and makes us feel in tune with God, but is that really what worship is all about? One of the songs we sang in our Christmas cantata this year took the words from Christina Rosetti's poem "What Can I Give Him?".  I have always loved the poem; the song, not quite so much. But what I did absolutely love was Lucado's narrative placed before the song. Here's an excerpt:
When the wise men did find the Christ child, they fell down and gave Him the gift of worship. In worship, we simply stand before God with a prepared and willing heart and let God do His work. And he does. He wipes away the tears. He mops away the perspiration. He softens our furrowed brows. He touches our cheeks. He changes our faces as we worship. The wise men sought and found the Child of God. They gave Him the "gifts of hope, time and worship. Three gifts the wise still give."
That passage is beautiful from an emotional stand point, but also on a deeper level as well. It's a reality checklist, if you will.
  1. Am I willing to humble myself and fall prostrate in worship of the one who made me?
  2. Do I prepare my heart before I come into God's presence?
  3. Am I willing to let God have HIS way?
  4. Do I truly desire for God to wipe away my tears, or do I willingly wallow in my own private pity party?
  5. Do I perceive his "tasks" as work and perspire, or am I so grateful to be a part of His plan that I only find gratitude?
  6. Am I trusting Him, or am I holding to the reigns of control in my life so tightly that my forehead is creasing?
  7. Has the joy in my heart reached my face?  So many times people tell me I look like I've lost my best friend, when inside I'm very content and happy.  I try to joke about it, but sometimes that really bothers me.  Am I truly rejoicing in Him?
  8. Am I placing my hopes for today and the future, which involves my times, and what I do (which in and of itself is worship) in the Christ?
So today, in the midst of everyone else's hustle and bustle, in a holiday season that rejoices in the delight and wonder of children, may I once again find my delight in the true reason for the season: the Christ child, and the birth of hope and salvation for mankind.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

the 7th day of Christmas

On the seventh day of Christmas my True Love gave to me, seven crazy feelings, six proclamations, five broken dreams, four upset parents, three gifts from wisemen, two speaking prophets, and a great big herd of bleating, dumb sheep.

What were things like for you when your children were infants and you had to be somewhere?  I imagine things were rushed, hectic, kind of crazy. And how did your husband respond?  Did he help change that last minute wet diaper?  Get exasperated because the baby woke up early for feeding right as it's time to go? Or did he help you get things ready and not complain when your schedule had to change at the last moment?

I've often wondered what things were like for Mary the day they headed to the temple for the purification rights and Jesus' dedication. Was it a crazy, rushed morning?  Was she still too tired and exhausted to desire to see anyone? Was she concerned about taking such a small thing to the busy, crowded temple?  And then to have a man come up and take her child, and say the following things:
  1. I can now die. The person holding my baby is talking about dying.  WHAT?
  2. I have seen God's salvation.  What does this mean? Has he seen Gabriel as well?  Will everyone believe me now?
  3. He will be the Light to the Gentiles.  Ummm....that can't be good. Gentiles are unclean. Not sure that's who I want my boy hanging out with.
  4. He will be glory to Israel. YES!!! 
  5. Your child has is the chosen one to make many fall and rise in our country. Are you saying he'll be in politics?  A political planner?  A rebel?  A soldier?
  6. He will be opposed. A rallying point for the oppressed. Oh my poor boy.
  7. A sword will pierce your soul (was he talking to Mary or Christ here? I've never been totally certain.) so that others THOUGHTS will be revealed.  The power to reveal thoughts is kind of cool, but the shivers at the word sword have not stopped, yet.  A sword in his SOUL? Will that kill him or just severely maim him? 
I can't help but wonder what on earth Joseph and Mary were thinking during Simeon's proclamation. You know how people make statements to you that make you gasp inside and you're not quite sure how to take it?  A part of me thinks they must have felt that way. Uncertain. Elated. Angry. Confused. Saddened. Scared. Amused.

As warped as this may be, I find it somewhat reassuring that God's statements and plans are still the same. They still create mixed emotions in our lives and are still often unclear to our blinded eyes. I find it comforting that God doesn't ask us to jump for joy and obey with eager anticipation.  He simply asks obedience and tolerates our questions and confusion. And I love and appreciate Him for that. I'm glad he doesn't simply squash this lump of clay, but keeps molding and forming me. He's such a cool Creator!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

the 6th Day of Christmas

On the sixth day of Christmas my True Love gave to me, six proclamations, five broken dreams, four upset parents, three gifts from wisemen, two speaking prophets, and a great big herd of bleating, dumb sheep.

It may be that there were numerous angel visits on earth during ancient days that we simply don't have records of. After all, the Old Testament is full of recordings about the "angel of the Lord" coming to earth and speaking with people, and the Apostle Paul warns us in the New Testament that we could be attending angels unaware.
But it does seem that in a short amount of time, there was a flurry of angel activity in the middle eastern part of the world. In no particular order, here's the known listing of angelic activity during a two year period:

1) Luke 1 - angel Gabriel to Zacharias
2) Luke 1 - angel Gabriel to Mary
3) Matthew 1 - the angel to Joseph
4) Luke 2 - angel  to the Shepherds
5) Luke 2 - a "host" or battalion of angels singing praises in front of the shepherds
6) Matthew 2 - the angel to Joseph

All my life I've heard stories of people seeing the death angel before they die.  Some of them see him (or them) several times, some a few weeks before, others a few minutes before. It always made me a little fearful and yet excited at the same time.  But can you imagine seeing an angel and it NOT being a premonition of death? I think that would scare me half to death. And yet, what better way to convince a person to attempt or think the impossible?  I mean, would you believe you were going to have a baby without have sex?  Would you believe it if you saw an angel and they told you the impossible about your old barren cousin and it turned out to be true?  God often uses circumstances to "make" things happen. And other times, I guess you could say he sticks his finger in the pot (like by sending an angel) to stir the water. 

How cool is it that we serve a God who not only uses the (by my definitions) impractical, unorthodox, and impossible methods of seeing His will accomplished.  One has to admit, God has a very unique way of doing things. I don't know whether or not the angelic flurry of that time period was unusual or just another routine work assignment for them, but from our point of view, it's both exciting and neat. If Pastor Mike or my Dad told me something bizarre like Mary heard, I'd think he was mental.  If an angel told me, I'd probably be more prone to believe it. May I be as faithful in proclaiming my message as the angels.

Friday, December 17, 2010

the 5th Day of Christmas

On the fifth day of Christmas my True Love gave to me, five broken dreams, four upset parents, three gifts from wisemen, two speaking prophets, and a great big herd of bleating, dumb sheep.

Our Light has Come!  One of the hardest songs to sing from the Incredible Moment cantata, but the words in this song gave me absolute chills!  
We have seen the Messiah (our deliverer & Savior!), Promised One (He is FAITHFUL!), Mighty God (He can't be shaken, overthrown, overpowered, blind-sided, nor overwhelmed!), Prince of Peace (He's not the ruler of chaos! That is so comforting!), Heaven's Son! Our Light has come!
 Do ever wonder the depths of God's disappointment with us?  Oh, we often think about our disappointments with Him when things don't go as we think they ought, but do we ever think about it in reverse? If I spent my time and energy on a quilt, and it turned around and cut up its stitches, allowing the batting (the stuffing) to fall out, I would be quite irate!  And yet so many times that's what I've done with God. I look at His plan, His creation, and then I ignore His rulebook and try to make things work my way. Is it any wonder that things fall apart?
I will never know on this side of heaven the depths of God's sadness, frustration, and anger at his creation (and I may not even grasp it on the other side, either!) We know he was unhappy enough in the Garden to stop Adam & Eve from obtaining eternal life in their present form. We know He regretted creating earth's humans at the time of the flood, and He was angry enough with His chosen people in the wilderness that had Moses not intervened He would have destroyed them as well. We know Christ wept at the death of Lazarus, and some people speculate that He didn't weep then until He saw the people wailing and the depravity of mankind.  We know when Christ looked upon Jerusalem that He was heartbroken for it. And yet, despite it all, God sacrificed a part of Himself to correct what we messed up.
Broken dreams, broken hearts, broken souls...that is what Christ came to fix.  (Matthew 9:11-13)  As I so often allow the cares of this world to pull me down, I also get excited when I'm reminded that I have a hope and a future...because my light has come!
p.s. and I recognize there are WAY more than 5 broken dreams in this world, but it seemed to fit!


Thursday, December 16, 2010

the 4th day of Christmas

On the fourth day of Christmas my True Love gave to me, four upset parents, three gifts from wisemen, two speaking prophets, and a great big herd of bleating, dumb sheep.

Okay, four upset parents is probably an understatement.  My guess it was more like two upset families, multiple upset extended family members and friends, and a horde of gossip-mongering neighbors. Pregnant before marriage?  That's a stoning offense buster! Can you imagine Joseph trying to explain that one to his parents and friends? His clients?  What upstanding person in the community wants to buy a kitchen table from someone guilty enough to be stoned? And Joseph wasn't the only one encountering all sorts of questioning and rude comments.
Mary goes to visit Elizabeth (sorry, but I didn't look up their familial connection) { Luke 1} and comes home about the time she'd start showing. I think we can all imagine what types of conversation that spawned.  I find it cool that after Mary's news, she immediately ran to the first person the angel mentioned to her.  Was she seeking proof or validation?  Understanding?  Or was she simply desiring to help out an older friend in her time of need?  Who in her family traveled with her?  Did the news of Elizabeth's pregnancy travel back with Mary and ease the gossip about her situation? And how did Joseph's parents react when he decided to give Mary another chance (or take a really big risk by marrying such an unscrupulous woman)?

The reality is, I'm sure the parents of these two were about the same any parents would have.  They probably had a roller coaster of emotions.  We know that both Joseph and Mary were concerned about honoring the law, which makes us unnecessarily assume their parents were as well. Either way, I like what Mary had to say to Elizabeth in Luke 1:

His mercy extends to those who fear him,
   from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
   he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
   but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
   but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
   remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
   just as he promised our ancestors

She recognized her pregnancy as the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham by God, the I AM! I've often wondered just how much Mary understood about what was to come with her little boy. The Bible says after his birth and all his visitors she "pondered these things in her heart". But regardless of how much she grasped about the situation, we have to surmise that both she and Joseph had great courage and obedience, as well as a recognition that all they had been taught about the law and its giver, the I AM, was TRUE!!, even if it didn't make their parents very happy.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

the 3rd day of Christmas

On the third day of Christmas my True Love gave to me, three gifts from wisemen, two speaking prophets, and a great big herd of bleating, dumb sheep.

One of my favorite songs from our church's cantata was "We Will Find Him" . Of course, I love most pieces done by an all men's group, but I was thrilled even more when I looked in the book today and saw this was written by Michael Card (one of my many favorite music authors).  Every time our men's group sang this song, I could close my eyes and envision a music video playing out the lyrics. The following video doesn't portray everything my imagination does when I hear the song, but it's very similar.

I was always taught that according to Matthew 2, the Christ child was no longer in the stable when the wisemen found him (it says he was found in a house).  Others say based on Herod's order to kill all the baby boys 2 and under, it's possible that Jesus was at least a year old before they found the child.

Can you imagine searching for someone you didn't know, all because of ancient writings and star formations? Can you imagine their frustration at their discussion with Herod and finding his ignorance and such an important event?  What kind of wise ruler would have to call all his scholars and counselors, to find out a prophecy that any scholar should know?  And not only was he ignorant, but unaware of the event!

How much money did they spend on their journey?  Was it a mere pittance or their life's savings?  Was this the journey of a lifetime, or just another academic research trip? And how did their life change after the journey?

We always assume it was only three men because of the three gifts, but I often picture this as a caravan of scholars and priests.  And we'll save the symbolism of their gifts for Easter, but I am always intrigued by this whole aspect of the Christmas story: the three wisemen, or three gifts brought by a group of wise men. Hence, our third day of Christmas.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

the 2nd Day of Christmas

On the second  day of Christmas my True Love gave to me, two speaking prophets, and a great big herd of bleating, dumb sheep.

Luke 2: 36-38 (NIV)
There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. 
I love this passage of Scripture.  In church we hear a lot about the men of the Bible, but seldom are we taught about the numerous women mentioned. I have always found it interesting that a widow, and not just a widow but a barren widow is mentioned in the Christmas Story. We always hear about the other prophet, Simeon, and how he blessed the Christ child, but did any of you even know Anna's name?

She wasn't a Levite.  Anna had no historically assigned role (by birthright) in the temple.  And yet after being married for only 7 years, that is where she chose to spend the rest of her life. A small part of me marvels at that.  The temple - not just the place of prayer and sacrifice, but also the place of rituals...such as purification rites (or in modern terms, baby dedications). I often hear widows discuss how difficult it is when a spouse dies. They no longer fit in with the married couples they & their spouse hung out with, feeling like a third wheel. Imagine what that would be like to a young woman with no children.  While all her friends are celebrating anniversaries, birthdays and weddings of their children, she's just there.  And other widows?  They're older. And most of them probably had children.  So they get together and discuss: financial concerns (which she could easily relate to), old age problems & children. I totally get why the temple was an appealing place.  It was a place of refuge from being the oddball, a place where she could interact with people and yet still not be "out of place".  It would be perfectly natural for her to be there.  And yet, I imagine the temple, like today's church, was also one of the most difficult places to be.  Purification rites (the baby dedications, the celebration of "cleanness" from monthly cycles or intimacy with spouses), I imagine those were emotionally difficult for her to witness.  Happy for her friends and fellow citizens?  Yes.  But with it a twinge of sorrow and aloneness.  How many times do you think she recognized the beginnings of a baby dedication and headed the other direction to conceal her tears?  How often was her fasting the outcome of begging God to remove the pain in her heart?
And yet, despite her own personal turmoil, she "came up at that very moment".  We're not told whether or not this was a morning she sighed when she got up, whether or not she debated rejoicing with others or having her own private pity party, whether or not this was a day when she prayed to God begging for strength to focus on others and their blessings and not herself.  We're just told she came. She came and was THANKFUL. And then she proceeded to tell everyone she knew was looking for the Messiah. She recognized this child as the "redemption of Israel"!  In all her years of serving/living in the temple, how many purification rites for babies had she witnessed? And yet, she recognized this routine she had seen enacted out hundreds, maybe thousands, of times was different.
I love the story of Anna.  Only three small verses out of the whole Bible, and yet they speak volumes.  She is such an inspiration and challenge to me, a role model. And her story is also a reminder to me of how the birth of Christ is truly incredible, how he came for everyone, and how his birth was truly awe-inspiring and the gift of hope.

Monday, December 13, 2010

on the 1st day of Christmas

For the next 12 Days Leading up to Christmas, I'm going to highlight things that have been on my ever crazy mind this holiday season.

On the first day of Christmas: sheep

Sheep are stupid.  Sheep stink. Sheep are dirty.  As a child, when I heard comparisons of people to sheep in the Bible, I thought it was a wonderful description.  After all, what could be better than to be a white or black fluffy animal, all soft and cuddly?
Then one day in China while biking with my students in the countryside, we encountered a herd of sheep. There was no shepherd; they roam freely. They saw us on our bicycles, and then decided to follow us. My students told me to ride uphill, quickly. Did I mention I don't bike very well, especially on a bike with skinny wheels? So I took the lower path, and the sheep overtook me.  Literally.  I came to a stop, and all these dirty, stinky, ugly animals that are as tall as my thigh are bleating and bumping me and then decided not to follow me and surrounded me.  I was starting to get a little scared.  One of my students yelled out "ride fast!" so I did, fearful of running over a sheep the whole time.  But it worked.  It spooked them, and they all ran off.

I thought about sheep again this week as our choir did the cantata from Max Lucado's writings and Tom Fettke's music. 
There is one night that describes the night He came - ordinary....The sheep were ordinary. Some fat. Some scrawny. Some with barrel bellies. Some with twig legs. Common animals. No fleece made of gold. No history makers. No blue-ribbon winners. They were simply sheep - lumpy, sleeping silhouettes on a hillside...
An ordinary lamb. Ordinary animals that provided warmth, material, food - sustenance.  And when a "perfect" animal from this ordinary group was found, it became salvation and forgiveness for one year.  I had never thought about the fact that the sheep, who were present with the shepherds to hear the angelic proclamation, were hearing that the ultimate sacrificial lamb had arrived. I doubt they realized or even understood (although the donkey did understand and see the "invisible" angel long before its master did!), but this fact stood out to me.  It's these little details that I love about Scripture. You read them, don't truly think about them, but when you start thinking about all the implications of a passage it is really neat and astounding.

On the first day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me, a great big herd of bleating, dumb sheep.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Dear Mr. Jake Coyle,

Dear Mr. Jake Coyle,
Do you even KNOW what the word imagination means?  Did you read the Narnia books as an early elementary child? Are you even aware that are many people who ENJOY books and find movies based on them that deeply delve away from the original plot line horrific? It must not have ever crossed your mind that many CSLewis fans were very concerned to discover Disney was making the first movie. After all, Disney is known for its political correctness, not its accuracy to original sources. And I actually complement you for noting that the news of Prince Caspian deviating from its original plot line actually decreased its following instead of enhancing it.
I'm looking forward to seeing the toadstool people, the dragon/Eustace, the magic book and Lucy's bitter lesson, not to mention the mermaid.  Are the creation of those characters not imaginative enough for you? Or is this yet another movie that has deviated from the plot line so much that it dims the action of the film?
Maybe I'm over-reacting to a critique of a movie I've yet to even see, but I get SO tired of reading disparaging reviews of clean, decent movies based on good books. Perhaps one of the reasons why it bothers me, is that Book One/Six "The Magician's Nephew" and "A Silver Chair" are two of my favorites from the series and could be most dramatically and imaginatively adapted to a movie.  With every movie release that fans love but critics trash, the odds of another one being made decrease significantly. And with all the director/studio changes this last movie has endured, I can't help but wonder if the problem doesn't exist with creativity, but the willingness of its creators to challenge their creative genius by staying within the frame of the text. And that would be a true test of creativity and genius.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

halfway there!

the outdoor nativity scene :)
After picking this thing up and repositioning it (and I STILL haven't found what I did with the flood light and holder!), I simply pulled the thing apart and placed it flat on the ground.  Maybe I'll figure out a way to make it stay upright. I really do like this set and its simplicity, but I would like it even more if it would remain face up!

And my indoor nativity set is up. I don't remember if it was the third or fourth year we were married, but this gift shop was going out of business and had everything 60-75% off.  I fell in love with the set, and Bobby surprised me by letting me purchase quite a few pieces.  We've added to it every year.  And since I have it in a different location (meaning a different size table), I can do the layout different almost every year. We've had a year when I didn't put up a tree (and I've half-way jokingly stated that once I become a widow I might not ever put up another tree), but my nativity set ALWAYS goes up.

the wisemen en route

shepherds & sheep
I thought I had more sheep than this, but I guess not. Guess that'll be on our list for the next year or two.

And I seem to remember having five angels (but you know how your memory works once you get old!) One day I might have a real host of angels! are small among the nations, but the promise of salvation is born in you tonight...
sorry that's the first line of one of my favorite songs in our Christmas cantata

the stable

the whole set
Maybe one day I'll put a small (as in 3' and under) Christmas tree up in every room. One will be decorated in red & gold & nativity stuff; one a white tree with Alabama ornaments; one will be pearl & purple; one will be wildlife decorations; one will be a farm tree (that's a different post); and a childhood tree. It's nice to dream, isn't it? The reality is, I do good to put our monster tree up every year.  I love it once it's up, but the thought of the going up process is horrid.  But I now have the stand in place and bottom row of branches (while waiting on these pics to load) so I MIGHT actually get this done before Bobby gets home from work! I mean, I may have to stop and do some ironing! (HA!)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

hurry up & wait

We hurried off to our 8:30am appointment this morning only to wait for things to be finalized.  We made it back to Garner around noon, stopped by the doctor's office for even MORE paperwork, then on to home...IN OUR NEW VAN!!! By the time we finished lunch it was around 1pm.
As crazy as it sounds, all this "newness" spawned a small cleaning session.  The extra driver's seat for me must be stored somewhere, which meant cleaning out a corner of the laundry room to make room for it. That actually took up most of my afternoon. (I mean, if you have to drag everything out of the room anyway, shouldn't you go ahead and scrub the baseboards while you're at it?).  And the little pile of things from the old van that has found refuge in the garage entryway has almost totally been dispersed to new locations. A few items are still pondering where their new address will be.
Like most changes, this van will take some adjusting to.  We've already discovered a few things we really like, a few we're just "hmmm" about, and quite a few things we're still trying to figure out how to work.
It's two months overdue, but we're thankful for the way God has provided yet again. And I'm thankful for Van Products and its staff who are always pleasant and helpful.  They might not move on our timetables, but they have never failed to do a good job. Maybe tomorrow there will be time for pictures. :)

Monday, December 6, 2010

christmas decorating gone awry

I had about an hour of "spare time" Saturday, where I was determined to put up the outdoor nativity scene.
It's out. It's "up" (as in upside down on the ground) thanks to the wind.  It's also lightless, seeing as I borrowed the ground fixture for a makeshift heat lamp when we had biddies this summer. So seeing as I set the thing upright Saturday, pulled it up again yesterday evening and by the time we left for church it was face-down AGAIN, I am now debating whether to just take the thing down or re-configure it's set-up.

Meanwhile, if you drive by the house and see a white triangle-shaped thing in the yard, just know it's the nativity scene.  You know, the fence is the point, Mary, Joseph & the babe are the mid-section, and the stable with the star on top...the base of course!!! Gotta love Christmas decorations!

Friday, December 3, 2010

December goals

Less than 30 days.
That's it.
And then my "to do" project list for the year will be refurbished. (but that's a different post)

So today as I start this marvelous December 3rd, realizing that all my calendars are still on the month of November, I get to focus on priorities.  Like changing my calendars. For real.
Otherwise, these next two weeks are devoted to housework and church.  For starters, the children's play is SUNDAY! And then I'll spend Monday morning putting costumes into bags and away for another year or two. And the rest of next week?  Well, it's safe to say I've been very negligent in focusing on cantata music, so I foresee a lot of time quilting with the CD player going or in front of the piano between now and December 12th. 
Oh, and sometime this weekend I hope to put up the nativity set, and maybe next week the Christmas tree.

After that, I have three sewing projects I'd like to finish, and some photos that are demanding space in some albums.
If those things happen this year, I'll have a clean space in my work room (note: I"ll have a clean "space" not a clean work room). 

And those are my objectives the next 20+ days. Along with ironing, cleaning windows, and possibly raking leaves, and...did someone say lunch?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

IronBowl 2010

For non-Alabama natives, the IronBowl is THE game of the year. It is the day which the other 364 days revolve around. It is one of the two days no one in their right mind would attempt to get married on (the other being first day of deer season), and the day everything somewhat stops, including Black Friday shopping.  If you thought the after 3pm sales were created for everyone, you're wrong.  It was to give people something to do to release pent up energy after the game that Friday. 
In the state of Alabama, you must choose one of two teams: Alabama or Auburn.  Anyone who doesn't shows they are either a poorly watered transplant or simply an alien. And a mixed marriage in Alabama has nothing to do with race; it means an Auburn fan married and Alabama fan.
My husband likes the t-shirt that says "Alabama - we don't play football.  We LIVE it!" And sadly, it's true.
And then there's me. Football is an interesting thing.  But I don't live it.
I helped feed the frenzy with cookie cutters in elephant and tiger paw shapes, along with football helmets and the state of Alabama.  My nephew and niece got creative by creating scoreboards, even going so far as to etch in their predicted scores.  And I enjoyed all the football food. :)
And then came gametime.  And I horrified certain family members (but not my Mom, who heartily approved) by QUILTING during the game. It's a wonder they didn't send me to the mental hospital! If that weren't bad enough, I then proceeded to be "rational" about a few things (such as questionable ref calls, etc), which prompted a few people to question my Alabama "fan" status.  And posting the following picture of my cousin's shirt (which I thought was cute) will probably forever seal my status as a counterfeit fan (and could even start false charges of "traitor"), but so be it.
I think the tiger looks like Hobbes from Watterson's Calvin & Hobbes comic strip, and I really like the polka dots. It actually gives a football shirt a fun look (fun meaning something other than football here, which yes, I realize is an absurd statement).
I would have loved for Bama to win, but quite honestly, they played like they spent the day before eating turkey all day long.  And now that Auburn won, I hope they keep their undefeated status and make it all the way to winners of the championship team.  Heresy, I know, but in my mind they're just as much from Alabama as I am, and I liked the way their coach gave God the credit for things. I'm even more thankful that Auburn's quarterback has been cleared of corruption charges, and think all the $Cam Newton Alabama shirts ought to be burned.  How tasteless can we be?
Meanwhile, there's always next year.
Roll Tide Roll.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


I grew up in a family of puzzle lovers. Some people think I'm crazy, but my favorite puzzles are the detailed ones.  I find them interesting and a little easier (there's more to match up) than just one single color of sky with a straight wisp of sky. Some of my family thinks I'm insane on this point. (But if you notice more people help out when I buy the puzzle! :)
I got my puzzle catalog in the mail yesterday.
 They have the coolest puzzles around (kind of like Hallmark's old puzzles).  The only problem is that they cost a little more. Sometimes I can find comparable puzzles at Michael's (and they have 40% off coupons!). This year we worked a 1,000 piece I Spy puzzle from Michael's.  Well, that was the first puzzle we worked.  We actually did two more and NONE on Thanksgiving Day! 
I'm seriously contemplating getting two for next year...and one of them without borders! :)  Now if I can just convince the in-laws to let me choose the puzzle!