Monday, December 27, 2010

Year-End [Thanks] Giving

"It's not too Late!" shouted the email subject line...

Snail mail and email messages show up in abundance in my mailboxes during December.

This time of year - the end of the year - organizations encourage financial giving as businesses and individuals generously open their hearts to respond.

In my household, we prayerful determine where to give dollars.  In my heart, I know I cannot live well without giving thanks.

Jack Hayford reminds us that "giving is a mind-set."

Let us come before Him with thanksgiving...Psalm 95:2  Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!  1 Corinthians 9:15
God modeled giving when He gave His Son, Immanuel, to be with us.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.  John 1:14
As I move through this year-end, I am grateful for more than can be typed out on this page.  Below you will find representatives of my Year-end [thanks] giving to the One who is Light and Life to me.

# 581-610

celebrating advent with my family

celebrating advent with 7th and 8th grade youth in my church family

eating Christmas breakfast with a newly divorced friend and her two young sons

singing Happy Birthday, Jesus at the breakfast table on Christmas morning

listening to songs of Christmas piped throughout the house

praying for and with friends who grieve the death of precious loved ones

keeping the home fires burning with a scaled back schedule

visiting family and friends - sharing laughter and love

nursing sick loved ones back to health

rediscovering Hannah Hurnard's Hind's Feet on High Places

receiving from caring and praying friends

giving care and friendship

seeking, really seeking, direction for the new year

discovering and attending BSF

connecting with new friends in the blogosphere

shedding clutter and baggage

writing for varied audiences

continuing to work in two fulfilling careers

loving and being loved in marriage for 31 years

seeing my adult children link careers with their gifts and talents

memorizing the promises of God for family

painting warm colors on walls

walking many miles for fitness and fellowship

understanding more by listening more

receiving showers of blessings throughout the years

enjoying extended family vacations

rekindling the joy of taking photos

learning and practicing additional technology skills

continuing to grow in grace with the help of the Grace-Giver

finding Ann Voskamp's Gratitude Community 

and so much more...!

Year-end blessings to you,

Saturday, December 25, 2010

In Wonder As I Wander

In wonder, I journeyed the season of Advent,
Seeking and finding God's glory and might.
Being still to know Him who sent
His Son, the Word, the Life, the Light.

In wonder, I resolve to journey still,
Aware of the gifts Love continues to give.
Love that willingly climbed the hill
where the great exchange enabled us to live.

In wonder as I daily wander this path
receiving and giving hope, grace, and love.
Infinite and eternal Lord, I can hardly do the math,
to number the endless blessings you send from above.

Joy to the world, the Lord has come!  Let heaven and nature sing!

Christmas blessings from

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Tidings of Comfort and Joy

This Advent season arrived in the midst of grieving the losses of friends and loved ones in my church family. 

I find myself thinking about my father who died 17 years ago this month.  I still miss him. 

I think of my nephew and my sister.  I still miss them.

I think of my friend who died last month; I think of his wife and what she feels this season.

As the songs of Christmas waft through shopping malls and ear buds, in cars and homes, the message of comfort and joy resounds.

In the midst of grief and loss, "How can this be?"

How do comfort and joy come when hearts hurt?

Christmas is a reminder that God cares for us.  Knowing what Jesus, His One and Only Son, would suffer, God sent Him so that we could live.
Since the children are made of flesh and blood, it's logical that the Savior took on flesh and blood in order to rescue them by his death. By embracing death, taking it into himself, he destroyed the Devil's hold on death and freed all who cower through life, scared to death of death.  Hebrews 2:14-15 The Message
We feel what we feel - being real in our emotions. 

Jesus knows what we feel and comforts us as we go through grief and loss.  And He sends those who know His joy and comfort to be present with those who need comfort.  

Send me, Lord; I'll go. 

I will bear witness to the feelings of grief and loss.  I will bear witness to the Love that bore our infirmities and carried our sorrows on the cross.  I received comfort from special friends along the way.  I am grateful.

How are you unwrapping the gift of Jesus this season?

Come, join me as I visit the Faith Barista and loads of others journeying this way.

You may consider reading and sharing the book (and song) When I Get Where I'm Going.  The book is filled with tidings of comfort and yes, even joy.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Love Endures All Things

Today, my colleague, Teresa, shared with me a book that her sister, Ginda Ayd Simpson, wrote as a tribute to their father who died from Alzheimer's. 

The book, Love Endures All Things: A Journey  with "AL"zheimers, poignantly and graciously tells the story of the "pilfering" that occurs with this disease. 

The words wrap  themselves around the heart and mind.  The paintings feed the eyes with glimpses of the fragmentation of a disease that steals from people cognitively and physically.

As I walk with my mother through episodes of forgetfulness, I am reminded by Ginda that thoughtfulness, a soothing voice, smiles, and "the familiar and healing warmth of human touch" are gifts we can give to our loved ones.

I plan to share the gift of these heart-felt words and descriptive images with families experiencing similar journeys.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Grateful for Provision

Teaching 12-13 year old young people on Sundays stretches this soul.

As we seek to learn about Jesus, our Lord, Advent provides step by step learning.

Last week's class began with sharing the Jesse Tree Advent Devotional reading for December 5.  We talked about the Branch that emerged from the root of Jesse.

We talked about Abraham's discovery of the lengths to which God goes to provide for us.  Their assignment for the week was to write 10 things the Lord has provided for them.

On December 12, the class had forgotten to write their lists of provision, but they remembered my promise of a sweet treat.

After teaching two classes, these bones wanted to rest, wondering if the seeds fell on fertile soil.

While gathering my belongings in the quiet, once filled with chatter room, she slowly walked up to me and asked: "What is Advent?  I don't remember."

I answered; we smiled; she left the room...only to return five minutes later.

She opened her rose-colored  Bible and pulled out a folded piece of paper.  "Did you want me to hand in my list of what God provided me?"

My heart broke: she had taken time during the week to write her gratitude list for all the Lord had provided, including:
"my mother and my father"
"sisters and brother"
"a home"

I read each written word - so precious her heart that remembered Him - Jehovah Jireh, the One Who Provides.  Her openness to write her gratitude list encouraged me.

As I remember today, I give thanks for:

#571 young hearts learning to be thankful to the Lord

#572 this older heart awakening anew to the blessing in gratitude

#573 warm homes

#574 curious minds

#575 the team at my workplace

#576 Mama's lilting voice this day

#577 sharing a knowing glance across the room

#578 removing old carpet in the room where youth gather

#579 submitting to the exchange of this old wineskin for a new one

#580 this year's Advent journey

I am thankful that Ann's book has been pre-ordered and will arrive next month!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Christmas Presence

The Faith Barista post on gift giving at Christmas struck a chord with me - especially the suggestion to consider an individual's love language when choosing a gift.  In  recent years, after "missing the gift mark" at times, I spend more time thinking about giving gifts that resonate with the receiver.

Last week was a busy week of Christmas gift-giving from me to others.  The gifts were as different as the person to whom they were given, but they had a common theme.  I gave the gift of presence - spending time with my mother; going out to dinner with my husband and a dear couple we have not spent much time with; meeting my friend for dinner to celebrate her birthday; praying with another friend...

I shopped for gifts from stores for other family and friends.  My children still receive from me an ornament that tells the story of an aspect of their lives in the current year. One friend enjoys gifts from World Vision or other life-giving gifts, so that is what I give to her.

I am not at all original in my desire to share my presence with friends, loved ones, and even strangers during the Christmas season.

God gave the gift of Immanuel - God with Us.  His presence continues to give...
"A Savior has just been born in David's town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master." Luke 2

Monday, December 6, 2010

Gifts from Around the World

It dawned on me somewhere between the jollof rice and the jerk chicken; the sweet potato casserole and the collard greens:

This annual international dinner planned by the church staff and numerous volunteers displays the gift among us - the church family from 22 nations, speaking many languages and dialects.

Flags of various countries adorned every wall in the room. 

Delectable native dishes stayed warm over sternos.

The people radiated comfort and joy.

Today, I am grateful for gifts from around the world within my church family, such as:

#561 - a multi-national church family

#562 - a group of youth who shares their mites to support two Compassion children each month

#563 - explaining the advent Jesse Tree journey to 12 and 13 year old students

#564 - praying with friends from half a dozen African nations

#565 - an Indian friend with whom to share child-rearing wisdom

#566 - acknowledging my need to continue to grow, to stretch

#567 - learning to sing songs of praise in a new (to me) language

#568 - wearing Lilian's gift and being transformed

#569 - being fearfully and wonderfully made

#570 - affirming God's image in us
And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.  Rev. 5: 9 ESV

I am grateful to join a community of thanksgivers at Ann's Gratitude Community.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

High Hopes

He stood at the corner holding a sign that told the story:
"Out of work.  Need Help.  God Bless."

She sighed as she gathered her boys close to her.  This is the first Christmas since the divorce she never wanted.

The strained voice on the telephone sought a promise not to be placed in a nursing home.

High hopes dashed by the weights we carry.
Every year I have every intention of keeping Christmas simple. 
I rarely succeed.

This year is different.  I began the process of simplifying my life earlier in the year.

I am hopeful that this year I will stop to see, hear, say what the Lord is communicating to me, through me and through others. 
This is my ADVENTure and my hope this Christmas.

For this Christmas season, I hope for many people to unwrap the gifts of salvation, peace, faith.

I hope to be a carrier of the message of Hope.

How can this be?  The Holy Spirit will give me power to share the good news, to give the practical help, and to quiet the busyness in my life and heart.

High hopes?  Very Present Help is here!
“Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” Isaiah 25:9

What are your hopes for Christmas?  Share with the folks at the Faith Barista Jam