Friday, December 31, 2010

My Peniel

Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak...(and) he said, "I will not let you go unless you bless me." And he blessed him there. So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, "I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved." ~Genesis 32:24-30 (Abridged)

This morning my Lord and I had a little talk. I have been talking often to my Lord, but I have not really been listening to Him even though I thought I wanted to be, because if I had really wanted to listen to Him, I do not think I would not have spent the last three months being so unhappy.

You see, I had this immense expectation...seems like things always get messed up when I have an big expectation on anyone else but myself. I had this expectation on my Lord. It started like this: if fast for You for forty days then... or when I delivered the messages You gave me then.... Yes, I wanted something in return. That in itself was not bad, because my Lord had made some promises to me, not in exchange for doing what He asked, perhaps not even in reward for it, but just because He loves me. Oh, but that was not enough for me, I wanted to be! I dared to wrestled with Him!

This morning, I woke up feeling defeated again. Where are You, my Lord? Why cannot I hear You? Why cannot I feel You? Why do I feel I am trying to survive on my own outside of Your Kingdom?

Then I simply asked my Lord to help me come to Him, to be in His presence, because I feel I have lost the way. As if all the world had changed in an instance, I was just there in His Kingdom. I felt His love, His acceptance, His waiting.... I realized that I became demanding, argumentative, complaining, and just flat out frustrated with my Lord. I struggled with trusting Him on the deliverance of His promises. I became the very things that I do not like to see in my own daughter. I had to honestly say I was just being bratty! And I apologized to Him for all of it.

Joy is bubbling up inside of me. Peace is all around me. All the time it had been there waiting for His Kingdom.

I felt compelled to write this. Perhaps someone will be stumbling in on my blog who needs to read this and have a little talk with God.

~ My Lord, I am a foolish woman to think I can wrestle with You. Please forgive me of my childishness and help me stay with You always child-like in faith. ~

Monday, December 27, 2010


Loneliness is the first thing which God's eye named, not good. ~John Milton

Last night my husband and I watched the movie "The Blind Side," which I enjoyed more than I thought I would. It is about a family taking in a gentle giant of a high-schooler without home or family. I had already been thinking about relationships with friends and families quite a bit of late. I am not good with some types of relationships....

Perhaps, I should say that it is casual relationships that I have to work at the hardest. I very much like people, but in general I find them draining much of the time. I do not do well with shallow conversations that always include talking about the weather unless the weather is doing something quite extraordinary or caused plans to be altered. Although I like to hear about what others are doing, I am not one to enjoy a this-is-what-I-did-today list all the time. It is difficult for me to feel comfort with anyone until I know how the person feels and the purposes for the things being done. That is when I feel connected.

Unfortunately, not everyone is wired the same way as I am. Some people feel far more comfortable just talking about the stuff they are doing or the weather or what their neighbors are doing. Even though I find such relationships unfulfilling, I remind myself that their needs are being fulfilled.

I had such with my mother for the last years of her life and it was difficult to maintain a surface relationship like that for me, but I was glad that it made her happy. We only talked about what she wanted to talk about; we had problems if I brought up any subjects of my own free will. She would only answer questions she wanted to answer; she expected me to answer all of hers, though. She expected me to be interested in her, but she would only allow me to share my life in answer to her questions. Basically, she controlled the conversations and there were times that I only said about five sentences during an hour phone conversation—she would then praise those as the best conversations we ever had to other family members! I worked hard at putting my desires aside to make her comfortable and happy with this. To me, it seemed to be an illusion, but that was exactly what she wanted: the illusion that we had a close relationship without her having to work at having a real one.

My problem is when I have these types of relationships overwhelming the ones that I need, because I end up burning out good friends, basically dumping on them because I have been holding back with others. I am usually not one to have many part, I guess I am rather particular and rather peculiar in my particulars, for lack of a better term. I like friends who challenge me in some way, who I look up to and respect, those who give me something without knowing they gave me anything just because they are who they are.

I was never the popular girl and often sat with the loneliest looking person I could find...I still do that. They are the ones who usually tell you how they feel. I find it incredibly sad that I can connect with a stranger more in a few minutes than I could with my own mother in years.

Which brings me back to the Princess, I want a good relationship with her. Not just for now, but a good one when she is grown up. I want to be included in her life, family to her husband, and involved with her children. I want us to have special days when we sit together having tea and I listen to her feelings and I know the purposes behind her choices. I do not want our relationship to be an illusion we try to maintain. I know that she will make choices that would differ from mine. I know her husband will be a greater influence on her life then. I know our relationship will change, but I want to be available to her and I am hoping she will be one of the best friends I ever had.

In my last post, I mentioned that I might make a new year's resolution and this is my purpose behind that decision. This is how I feel about it. Are you feeling just a little connection here?

~ My Lord, relationships are so complicated and yet could be so simple. Help me to keep mine simple in fulfilling my needs and yet make others feel comfortable. Thank you for good friends, who forgive me when I dump on them. ~

Sunday, December 26, 2010

She Dreamed of a White Christmas

I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. ~Charles Dickens

After gifts had been unwrapped and during a phone call to the Princess made to her grandmother, it began to snow very lightly. It would snow more heavily and all the rest of the day, something not that common in Georgia. The temperatures were above freezing, but cold enough to allow much of it to stick and the mercury would drop well below freezing line in the evening. We all are thankful for our new slippers from Santa Claus, although my daughter now says she knows he is not real, but she chooses to believe in him!

Christmas Eve, my husband woke our daughter very early and took her out on property we leased for hunting and camping. Later they also went together to deliver presents she had bought herself to her friends in the neighborhood. We prepared for services that evening and worshiped with three other families. Nearly everyone contributed something to the service itself as our pastor was away visiting his children and grandchildren. The poor Princess was not in bed until 11:00 PM. Now typically, she can still be awake at that time, but not when she wakes up so early and has such a full day.

We were already awake and just waiting for her, when the Princess joined us in bed on Christmas morning. She was eager to start the day with feeding rabbits, the daily cleaning of the hamster cage and cat box, and even eating breakfast. The night before my husband and I made our traditional cranberry breakfast cake, but this time I tried a different recipe and I used more cranberry sauce than it suggested. This one was not as sweet as the ones in the past. I usually like sweeter foods and my husband does not, but this one we both liked very much as there were plenty of sweeter sweets for later in the day. I have already considered how it might be improved upon.

It was a good Christmas. The Princess received things she actually would use and that part pleased me very much. These were not excessive additions that would add to the clogging collections of stuff in her room. She did get one game called Herd Your Horses from her grandmother (although we were given money to choose the gifts ourselves) that we played together today...after she began making thank you notes and after she played outside in the snow, which should last another day before the temperature rises high enough to melt it away completely.

The church board, what few members were not away, were called Christmas evening agreeing to cancel morning services for today because the roads might be slick and our guest pastor could not make it in, being from part of the state further north and icy. I was relieved as the two people who take turns leading in our praise time were away and I had been asked to do it. It is not my strongest gift to lead in singing, but my husband and I are known to fill in as the need arises, so I was willing...and knowing there would only be a few people there helped also.

The one thing that surprised me about Christmas this year was how perfect it seemed to be.

  • It was not just the snow, although that was a fine addition pleasing the Princess very much and she was out in it with her brand new pink leopard print rubber boots!
  • It certainly was not that our TV service was again on, although it was nice that my husband was able to watch his favorite Christmas movie "A Christmas Story" about Ralphie's desire for a Red Ryder BB Gun since we cannot find the DVD we know we had.
  • It was not that I had a brand new Charles Wysoki jigsaw puzzle that I spread out on the dining room table on a special felt so I could roll it up and move it when necessary to prepare a meal.
  • It was not that we planned a simple meal:
  • hickory smoked turkey out on our grill after the turkey had been soaking in a brine all night in the cold on our deck (and was the tenderest and juiciest my husband ever has done);
    my Baked Sweet 3-P's of sweet potatoes with pears and pecans that also is not very sweet;
    King Hawaiian rolls this time instead of my sourdough bread, mostly because I did not realized there were not any left in the freezer;
    a fresh, spring greens salad with sourdough croutons (instead of my more tradition holiday cole slaw this time);
    and my husband's homemade whole cranberry sauce.
  • It was not just that my concerns about my husband's mother being alone for the first time this Christmas or about my brother and sisters, who do not even send cards, I put aside to enjoy precious moments with the ones who are closest to me.

It simply was I chose to see the good in everything and not allow myself to build up internal pressures. That and the people dearest to me, my husband and my daughter, were also happy. The Princess never seems to be disappointed in any gift she receives nor focuses on the things she does not get. I have had some very good Christmases, but I have to say that this Christmas for me was the best one ever and I really would like to have that feeling every day so....

I am thinking that I might just make a New Year's Resolution...yes, I just might. It is something I rarely do! I might make one about finding at least one thing each day is enjoyable about life and to let go of those things that drag my attitude down, as I am seeing I may have been passing on some undesirable traits to my daughter unintentionally. I will pray about them and trust God with them and not allow myself to be concerned about that which what I have entrusted Him. I also might make a resolution to try to find one thing each day to do to make someone else have enjoyment, even if it—no, especially if it requires that I make a sacrifice of sorts from what I want. Maybe I will be a better person, a happier person. Maybe God has been trying to get me to see this. May be this was His special gift to me this Christmas. came along with the snow.

~ My Lord, in the last few months I have become keenly aware of how unhappy I am and how I seem to be waiting on something before I will be happy, but that something really comes from within myself. It is a gift You have already given, but that I have not really opened up and used. Let this not be something that I take out and put on a shelf to look upon and dust off once in awhile, but something I use daily. Thank you, my Lord, for the gift and thank you for making it obvious to me how much I need it. ~

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Day

This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. ~Luke 2:12

Have you found Him?

~ Thank you, my Lord, for this precious gift. For this precious gift to the world, a little innocent baby that would remain sinless all his life, and yet would bear all my sins, every sin of everyone everywhere, be tortured, ridiculed, and sacrificed. ~

Friday, December 24, 2010

Advent Day 24

He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree. ~Roy L. Smith

The Christmas Pickle

Reading: In the Victorian Christmas tradition, the pickle was always the last ornament placed on the tree and was put there after the children were in bed. Whoever found the pickle in the morning got a special surprise!!

I have to admit that I do not see the attraction for this one. I like pickles, but in my Christmas tree...?

Today is Christmas Eve. Today our camera will be charged in preparation. This day we take extra care in cleaning places where our animals are kept, a tradition from my aunt, who had stables for horses and goats and barn cats. Tonight, we shall go to church service. When return home, we will place a bottles with frankincense and myrrh essences and some gold jewelry before the baby Jesus in our nativity set under the Christmas tree while we talk about how these things were used and their significance. Both religious and whimsical stories shall be read. Handmade cross-stitched stockings shall be hung. Homemade cookies and cold milk shall be placed out for Santa with carrots for the reindeer. We shall open the last advent door and have our last reading. Then it will be off to bed. Prayers shall be said and we shall try to sleep.

It is a meager Christmas, but still one with enough presents and surprises to please the Princess...actually she is very easy to please and that part pleases me the most. She wrote several letters to Santa, but she only asked for slippers, not just for herself, but for her father and me also. She is very generous like that. I believe her wishes shall be granted. I told her she could also ask for a game or toy, but she did not have a particular one in mind. No matter, Santa seems to know what she would like best.

~ Thank you, my Lord, for Christmas. Even though my daughter is excited about the presents, we have tried to help her keep focused on the true meaning of the coming day. May she remember our traditions and desire to honor You. ~

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Advent Day 23

At Christmas I no more desire a rose - Than wish a snow in May's new-fangled mirth; But like of each thing that in season grows. ~William Shakespeare


Reading: On the night Jesus was born, a young girl watched as the Three Wise Men presented gifts to the Baby Jesus. She wanted to give flowers to the baby, but the winter had been harsh and there were no flowers to be found. An angel saw her tears and brushed the snow aside and to the little girl's surprise there appeared a burgundy rose. As she laid the rose beside the manager, the glorious bloom brought a smile to the Holy Child's face.

The Christmas Rose does not look like the type of rose most people think about, however it is still a thing of beauty in its season.

I have been thinking quite a bit about seasons of late. I watched the Princess play "What Child is This" on the piano and I am in awe of how easily her hands move upon the keyboard, so graceful without flare but with purpose. When she began at four years old, she played with only one hand and could not touch the floor while sitting on the bench. Now here she is nearing the age of ten...a decade! She is capable of so much and not yet ready for so much more, and I have aged a decade caring for her, teaching her, and at times just watching her slowly flower into the young woman she will become in the next decade.

~ My Lord, everything has its season, so help me to appreciate each one fully, because not one season lasts forever. ~

Mary's Dream

Christmas is the Disneyfication of Christianity. ~Don Cupitt

For our Christmas Eve service I was asked to read the following and I thought I might share with you. I (being me) decided that reading it was not enough. Remember that I like to make things complicated? As soon as I read it, I envisioned it memorized and acted out, so I am working on it. I guess I just cannot do anything the simple way.

I had a dream, Joseph, I don't understand it, not really, but I think it was about a birthday celebration for our Son. I think that was what it was all about. The people had been preparing for it for about six weeks. They had decorated the house and bought new clothes. They'd gone shopping many times and bought elaborate gifts. It was peculiar, though, because the presents weren't for our Son.

They wrapped them in beautiful paper and tied them with lovely bows and stacked them under a tree. Yes, a tree, Joseph, right in their house. They'd decorated the tree also. The branches were full of glowing balls and sparkling ornaments. There was a figure on the top of the tree. It looked like an angel might look. Oh, it was beautiful.

Everyone was laughing and happy. They were all excited about the gifts. They gave the gifts to each other, Joseph, not to our Son. I don't think they even knew Him. They never mentioned His name. Doesn't it seem odd for people to go to all that trouble to celebrate someone's birthday if they don't know Him?

I had the strangest feeling that if our Son had gone to this celebration He would have been intruding. Everything was so beautiful, Joseph, and everyone so full of cheer, but it made me want to cry. How sad for Jesus -not to be wanted at His own birthday celebration.

I'm glad it was only a dream. How terrible, Joseph, if it had been real.

~ It is terrible, my Lord, that it is real. ~

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Advent Day 22

That quest for something pretty. A cheat. A cliche. Flowers and Christmas lights, it's what we're programmed to love. ~Chuck Palahniuk


Reading: According to Mexican legend, many, many years ago, a poor child knelt before the baby Jesus in the manager in the center square. She didn't have any money or a gift, so she picked the weeds from below her and placed them at the foot of the manger. Suddenly, the weeds burst into blooms of brilliant red, and all who saw them were certain there witnessed a Christmas miracle.

Being originally from a northern state, I did not realize until I spent some time in Florida that poinsettias can become huge bushes. They are quite lovely, but their bright red coloring is not half appreciated surrounded by greenery in the bleaching sunshine as it is in stark snow-whiteness of winter.

~ My Lord, we were made to appreciate pretty things, things that You created. Thank you for it all. ~

Winter Solstice

If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome. ~Anne Bradstreet

The winter solstice, which was yesterday, is one of my favorite days of the year. On the same day was a total lunar eclipse at around 3:00 AM and, as much as I enjoy watching a lunar eclipse, I did not get up for this one. However, this was a rather special event because it happens so rarely. The last time was 372 years ago on Dec. 21, 1638. The next time will be in just 84 more years on Dec. 21, 2094. I probably will not be seeing that one either!

The winter solstice is a day to which I look forward simply because it is the shortest day of the year, which means each day forward will increase in daylight hours. Today is less than a second longer than yesterday, but by January 1st we will have gained two whole minutes. Yes, it starts off slowly, adding only a few seconds a day at first, but it increases momentum until the spring equinox. Winter will go on for months yet and it has plenty of dark and dreary days, but each day there is just a bit more sunlight than the day before. The earth is beginning to tilt in the opposite direction, stealing more daylight from the southern hemisphere and giving it to the northern half. It is a amazing thing when you think about it!

I don't know why exactly, but every year just knowing the days are now getting longer after the winter solace lifts my spirits!

~ My Lord, thank you for the longer days coming and the warmth following. ~

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Advent Day 21

The holly and the ivy, when they are both full grown,
Of all the trees that are in the wood, the holly bears the crown.
Oh, the rising of the sun and the running of the deer,
The playing of the merry organ, sweet singing in the choir.

The holly bears a blossom as white as lily flower,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ to be our sweet saviour
Oh, the rising of the sun and the running of the deer,
The playing of the merry organ, sweet singing in the choir.

The holly bears a berry as red as any blood,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ to do poor sinners good.
Oh, the rising of the sun and the running of the deer,
The playing of the merry organ, sweet singing in the choir.

The holly bears a prickle as sharp as any thorn,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ on Christmas Day in the morn.
Oh, the rising of the sun and the running of the deer,
The playing of the merry organ, sweet singing in the choir.

The holly bears a bark as bitter as any gall,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ for to redeem us all.
Oh, the rising of the sun and the running of the deer,
The playing of the merry organ, sweet singing in the choir.
~Cecil Sharp


Reading: According to tradition, holly was used to make the crown of thorns on Christ's head. At one time, the berries were white, but they were stained red by the blood of Christ. Today we display holly because of pointy leaves symbolizing Christ's crown and the red berries of the blood shed for our salvation.

This is one of my favorite Christmas carols and this choir does it so well!

~ My Lord, thank you for the beauty of this earth, the talent to write of it, and the voices to sing. ~

I Was Afraid to Hope...

Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God. ~Corrie Ten Boom

This is probably an odd post to have at Christmas time, but my life has not been typical for...well, I am not sure it ever has been, but there are times I at least feel we are sailing along with a good wind. Then there are the times when the sea is not exactly what was forecasted and like an over-optimistic weather man, every now and then someone tells me just what I want to hear, what I want to hope, what I fear to hope. I find my mind struggling, "No, that would be impossible, but then I have a God Who has done, can do, what seems to be impossible. Do I dare hope?"

Like most homeowners, we have a mortgage. Like most people who have a mortgage and were out of work and finally found a new job, we have a mortgage based on what my husband used to make and we are at nearly half of that now. Just before the recession chewed up the real estate market, we lived in one of the ten fastest growing counties in the nation. It seems the faster you climb to the top, the greater and faster the drop: statistics a few months ago were that one in 192 homes were in foreclosure.

Suddenly you hear terms that were never applied to real estate in your lifetime...things like "upside-down" and "negative equity." You are looking at that overbearing monthly payment thinking of how far you have paid your principle down in the last few years and maybe....just maybe...the bank will consider refinancing to make your monthly budget something that could withstand a surprise, like fixing your vehicle, or the oven not working, or your dishwasher needing a part for it to work properly again—basically all those things that have been happening to us.

So, even though it was a long shot, at best, my husband talked to our bank and asked if refinancing would be at all possible. To our surprise, we were told it looked possible. We were told that the foreclosures could be taken out of the equation. We were told what we hoped to hear. We did not know how they could or would do those things, but we started the process based on what we were told. Since that day I have been living in fear of hoping...just the hoping.

After weeks of waiting, our house has been appraised for less than half of what we paid for it in 1997. I cried for an entire evening. That was far less of what it needed to be to get the refinancing and confirmed that we had a negative equity situation. Our monthly payments have been too high for our income and even though we already owe the bank for the amount we wish to refinance, we cannot qualify for refinancing even though that would lower our monthly payments and make us less vulnerable for any payment problems. Apparently, they used foreclosure properties to appraise our home. No appraiser actually came to our home, it was all paperwork for the sum of $400, which they charged us. Of course, we could have an appraiser come to our house to properly appraise it for just another $400. (How does that saying go? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.) At this point I am thinking of disputing the first $400!

Now, the thing the paperwork is not showing is that those foreclosure homes around us had to have ten of thousands of dollars poured into them before they could be occupied. New appliances, doors, roofs, landscaping, light fixtures, repairs to walls, painting inside and out, and windows replaced. Many cannot be resold to cover the costs of fixing them up, because of the high number of foreclosures, so many are being rented, mostly by people who lost their homes or otherwise cannot qualify for a loan.

Here is an example of how the banks are doing business these days in my area. I have a friend who lost her home last year. Her husband had been out of work for a year and finally he was able to find a job in another state. They begged their bank to approve a short sale because they had a buyer offering less than what they owed on their mortgage. The bank turned them down. They decided to move to the job regardless. They left their house in excellent shape still on the market hoping something would change and it would sell. They tried to make mortgage payments and rent an apartment, but the house they left eventually went into foreclosure. So, in the end, the bank received about half of what it would have if they have taken the short sale deal.

It is this kind of paper logic that is beyond my understanding. I suppose we should wonder why more banks have not gone belly up.

My point is two fold. I should say that I usually am rather distrustful of banks, which is why I try to pay with cash for everything. I really would rather be debt free and never be seen in a bank except to withdraw my husband's paycheck. So, when the financial experts tell you that refinancing may be possible, right now, in this market...well, remember to consider the source. I am pretty sure in some way that banks will be the facilitator of the mark of the beast. I should be happy that we really are no worse off than we have been, except for the waste of $400 for a useless appraisal. That is the first part of my point.

The second is the tougher one for me: fearing to hope. Why did I fear it? Hope is just...hope. Well, the trouble with hope is that there is often an expectation tangle up in it and it is only our unfulfilled expectations that cause us disappointment and pain. I was afraid to hope because I knew I would put an expectation...on God. That is dangerous territory. How many people have turned their backs on God because He did not meet an expectation they had of the All Mighty.

Hope is the desire to have something happen in the way you would like against the likelihood that it will not and, for the Christian, there is the struggle with knowing God can do it...but the question is will He? Many things are racing though my mind right now: all those promises God makes in the Bible. No, I know God is not Santa Claus, and yet did James not say, you do not have because you do not ask? Did I not ask, pray, fast, beg? Was it not quite enough? The oddest thing is that I have not been struggling with having faith in God. I believe in Him and I believe He is truly all powerful, that His Will shall be done. But, there is the rub for me right all honesty, I am struggling with trusting Him. I am afraid to put my hope on Him. I am afraid He is going to disappoint me, even when I know I should be more concerned about how I am disappointing Him, how I am not meeting His hopes.

Then I wonder why should He give me anything as I am obviously unworthy. I mean, why would He give me anything when I fear trusting Him? Oh, how the mighty has fallen! Was it not just a few months ago He called me to fast and I tried to do all else I was called to do? I was certain of my purpose and I was trusting of my Lord and I had hope. What happened to all that?

One more twist: I tend to reserve my expectations for those I trust the most, so I must trust God and yet I fear to trust Him.

~ My Lord, help me to trust You without fear and to be worthy of Your trust. ~

Monday, December 20, 2010

Advent Day 20

I'll be home for Christmas;
You can count on me.
Please, have snow and mistletoe
And presents on the tree.
~ Buck Ram, Kim Gannon, and Walter Kent


Reading: The ancient Druids regarded the mistletoe as sacred and magical and made sure that it never touched the ground. They believed that the green leaves and white berries brought love and good luck into their homes. They also believed that because of its magical powers, anyone standing under the mistletoe must be kissed of the mistletoe would lose its powers, and the person would be unlucky in love during the coming year.

I could write more about the legends and ritual uses of mistletoe, about how the plant itself grows—interesting as it is a hemiparasite in nature often found growing in trees—and of its medicinal qualities, even as a cancer treatment! However, right now I am thinking of that kissing thing. I have been talking to my daughter over the years about how kissing should be something done with only her husband. She has seen so much kissing on TV and since our service is coming back on, I am thinking so these conversations will again commence. (Right now, we are considering turning the TV service off for good after the holidays and looking at Netflix as a thrifty and parent-controlled alternative.)

I remember we used to watch reruns of "Seventh Heaven" about a Christian based family, but I felt that the teenage girls making out with different boyfriends nearly in every episode was a rather harmful influence. My husband and I are of the mindset of courting, an old fashion idea perhaps that has been gaining in popularity among conservative Christians. I have heard people say to me "good luck with that" as if it is impossible in this day and age. Probably the same people who think it is impossible for a child not to want the wear the latest skimpy fashions that my Princess finds embarrassing, as she says it. Yes, some children reject and attempt to circumvent their parents rules, but there are some who see the wisdom of them and try to obey.

As to the excuse for embarrassing people to kiss that we call mistletoe, it's just not for my daughter. It is a tradition we can do without.

~ My Lord, some traditions seem innocent and yet undermine Your teachings on purity. Please help us desire traditions that honor and please You more than those that please our peers. ~

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Advent Day 19

And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest. ~Psalm 55:6


Reading: In ancient times, it was believed that when Christ comes down from the heavens, he takes the shape of a dove. To this day, the Dove symbolizes the Holy Spirit.

Most everyone sees the dove as a symbol of peace and Christians also see it as the symbol for the Holy Spirit. We have a dove ornament for our Christmas tree. It is one of the Princess' favorites that she wants to place on it herself, because it requires finding just the right grouping of branches for it to rest upon. Resting is one thing I look forward to at Christmas time and much of it is not that restful, but holidays are breaks from the ordinary routines and it is obvious to me that God thought such things were good for us, else He would not have commanded us to take one day out of the week to devote to resting and worshiping Him.

~ My Lord, thank you for each moment of peace and the invitation to rest in You. ~

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Advent Day 18

What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly. ~Richard Bach


Reading: Just like the butterfly comes out of its cocoon, Christ was resurrected from the tomb. We view Christ like the butterfly that goes into the cocoon as a caterpillar and comes out a beautiful butterfly.

I have wondered a time or two if changing from a caterpillar into a butterfly is a painful process. Basically, you are a hungry worm eating anything to which you can crawl, then you have this urgency to hide yourself away, and then one day you have colorful wings and you just know you can fly. It boggles my mind how all that is purely instinct.

~ His death must have seemed like the end of the world to the people who walked with Jesus, but my Lord, You had a much grander plan and purpose. Help me to keep the promise of Your plans and purpose always in my heart, so that hardships are seen only as a season of change. ~

Friday, December 17, 2010

Advent Day 17

Be like the bird that, pausing in her flight awhile on boughs too slight, feels them give way beneath her, and yet sings, knowing that she hath wings. ~Victor Hugo


Reading: On the eve of the birth of the baby Jesus, a plain brown bird was watching from her nest in the stable. During the night, the stable was very cold, and Mary and Joseph were worried for their newborn baby. Joseph lit a small fire, but it was not enough to keep the baby warm. The bird flew down to the fire and flapped his wings to fan the fire all night long. His feathers became very hot and turned a brilliant shade of red and have been red ever since to show his dedication and love.

I wrote this out just as it was on the card, so if you are wondering how the bird changed genders within this story, you are not the only one! My daughter is quite familiar with female cardinals not being as brightly colored as their male counterparts, so the bird had to be a male. Why they began the story with a female bird was probably because we would associate females as being on the nest and having motherly instincts. I read it as it is because this little error is remembered when from one Christmas to the next. It is one of our traditions to point it out.

~ My Lord, even our errors can become a tradition, if only to remind ourselves we are not perfect as You are. ~

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Advent Day 16

The greatest achievement was at first and for a time a dream. The oak sleeps in the acorn, the bird waits in the egg, and in the highest vision of the soul a waking angel stirs. Dreams are the seedlings of realities. ~James Allen


Reading: The egg is nature's perfect package and is the symbol of eternal life. The egg yolk reminded people of the sun, which was regarded as the most powerful natural element. In addition to this, the egg produced a rooster, who they believed had the power to summon every morning.

Some of you might be wondering why we chose this particular advent calendar which seems to have much in pagan symbolism. Well, the other advent calendar we saw at the time was more Christ centered, but it was a nativity set and we had three already—we now have four!—so we thought it would be nice to have something a bit different. Folklore is interesting and historical. Even if some things did not happen or did not happen as the tail goes, storytelling has always been essential part of mankind. Like I have chosen to do, my daughter must choose for herself to see God in all things that He has created and in each story. Christians over the years have adopted many of these symbols to point to God and the egg is one of them:

The egg is a wonderful symbol of birth and rebirth, an apparently lifeless object out of which comes life. Because of this, it is a symbol of Christ's Resurrection and is seen most often at Easter. In 2006, a necropolis under the Vatican revealed an infant who'd been buried holding an egg to symbolize his parents' hope in his resurrection, because of Christ's Resurrection.

Legend has it that St. Mary Magdalen went to Rome and met with the Emperor Tiberius to tell him about the Resurrection of Jesus. She held out an egg to him as a symbol of this, and he scoffed, saying that a man could no more rise from the dead than that egg that she held could turn scarlet. The egg turned deep red in her hands, and this is the origin of Easter eggs, and the reason why Mary Magdalen is often portrayed holding a scarlet egg.

Another level of symbolism is that the egg represents the Creation, the elements, and the world itself, with the shell representing the firmament, the vault of the sky where the fiery stars lie; the thin membrane symbolizing air; the white symbolizing the waters; and the yolk representing earth.

You can see that eggs seem to be symbolic of many things! I have also seen the egg used used often to help children understand the Holy Trinity, the egg having three parts, shell, yolk, and white, but being one egg.

I so enjoy a little eggnog during this time of year and we always have some with cookies and candy as we decorate our Christmas tree.

~ My Lord, each egg has the potential of not only hatching, but producing more of the same. This is the essence of life and of love. It is a wondrous thing You have created. ~

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Advent Day 15

I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. ~Charles Dickens


Reading: It is believed that the heart shape comes from the bodice of Mary. This is where Jesus was born. The color red represents the sacrifice that Jesus made for us, a sacrifice he made out of love. The heart has, for many centuries, been a symbol of love and affection. During the Christmas season, we are reminded of the love that Jesus has for each one of us.

Until I saw this picture, I do not think I had really thought it all out in quite this way before. I mean, we talk about God's love and we talk of giving our hearts to another or to God, but have you ever really considered that the Lord gives His Heart to you? How can one ever be worthy of such a precious gift!

~ Thank you, my Lord, for giving me Your Heart even as undeserving and untrustworthy I am. ~

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Advent Day 14

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Reading: On the night of Jesus' birth, a little blind boy sat along the side of the town's road. He asked travelers to lead him to the Christ child, but no one would take the time. Suddenly, the boy heard the faint sound of a cow's bell in the distance, so he followed the bell to the stable. There, the cow led the boy to the infant Jesus.

My daughter performed the song above at last year's Holiday Kick-Off Recital. It is not a popular song with children, as many others are. Among five or six of "Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer" songs by other children her age, it stood out well as a more complicated piece. The Princess thought it sounded like a very sweet song and she likes "sweet", so she was happy in choosing it and she played it well.

~ My Lord, I anticipate the music and singing we shall hear in heaven will be far beyond what we can imagine or will ever be able to hear with our earthly ears. I look forward to it. ~

Monday, December 13, 2010

Advent Day 13

A Christmas candle is a lovely thing;
It makes no noise at all,
But softly gives itself away.
~Eva Logue


Reading: The tradition of placing candles in your window comes from Ireland. Families hoped that a priest would come to their home to celebrate Christ's birth on Christmas Eve. Families left their doors unlocked and placed lit candles in the window to guide priests through the dark to their warmly lit homes. Today we look at the candlelight as symbols of welcome and hospitality.

Having candles in the windows was one of the things I always wanted to do when I finally had a house. Although we have opted for the electrical type, we have a candle all year around in each of our front windows. They just seem welcoming, even friendly, to me. They give a house a homey look that is full of life. Candles are also wonderful night lights inside and out. At Christmas time, we hang wreaths with red bows in front of every window and the candles shine out from the middle of them.

~ Thank you, my Lord, for such simple things as candlelight and for being the Light, such a welcoming sight that is leading me home to You. ~

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Advent Day 12

The perfect Christmas tree? All Christmas trees are perfect! ~Charles N. Barnard


Reading: Trees are one of the most widely recognized symbols of the holiday season. During the freezing dark time of the year, pine trees hold all their needles and produce a smell that brings a smile to people's faces. Trees symbolize nature's triumph over winter's darkness and deathly cold. Every year we set up a Christmas Tree as a reminder of everlasting life.

My husband and I are Christmas tree connoisseurs. We began a tradition of getting a real tree every year. My husband often had to be on call for Christmas and while most customers were closed, we could not leave to visit family living hours away because of the two-hour response time contracts and the few that were working. We often had quiet gift openings in the morning and then we would go to the movie theater to watch two movies, on right after the other, mostly so we would not feel so lonely. We saw a real Christmas tree as the one gift we would give to ourselves for Christmas regardless of how financially strapped we were.

I am not sure exactly when were saw our first Noble tree but we were hooked from that time on. They are truly beautiful. They are a slow growing tree with a thick trunk and a nearly spiral lacy growth of branches that usually need very little trimming. They have a unique smell, a bit citrus-y, and their needles stay on and on. They are also more costly and difficult to find. In fact, there was some kind of problem with Nobles and they could not be found hardly at all for some years while the growers recuperated waiting for the younger ones to grow.

This year, I saw the Nobles. I admired their nearly perfect shape. I touched their needles, which held on the branch. I smelled that distinct Noble smell. I held the price tag in my hand thinking it was a shame that after so many years of not seeing even one, here it was within my grasp and yet...I would pass on it this year. You see, this year we just cannot afford any extra expenses like that. In fact, we considered borrowing a fake tree, which would have been unthinkable to us at any other time. We even passed the Grade A Frasier Firs to look at the Grade B. We picked the fullest one we saw with its wild branches sorely in need of trimming and brought it home.

It was hands down the sorriest tree we have ever had. Thankfully, my husband and I are expert Christmas tree trimmers. We trimmed away the thick bushy areas and branches that went straight up and a few branches that went sideways and then we had a beautiful tree. God has been telling us to do with what we have and, of late, it has come down to not being a matter of choice, but necessity. I am working on being at peace with that. Through this tree, I was again reminded that we are resourceful, talented, and healthy enough to do what we can with what we have. We can even make a Grade B tree look quite classy as a Christmas tree and I know exactly what makes a tree look "Noble."

~ Thank you, my Lord, for these hard times--yes, I think I am finally truly thankful for it. I realize now how much we have further developed our ingenuity and talents instead of using as much in money and shopping and purchases to make this Christmas special. ~

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Advent Day 11

Aerodynamically, the bumble bee shouldn't be able to fly, but the bumble bee doesn't know it so it goes on flying anyway. ~Mary Kay Ash

Bumble Bee

Reading: The bumble bee is a symbol of industry, resourcefulness, and prosperity. Long ago farmer believed that bees hummed in honor of the baby Jesus on the first Christmas. These tiny creatures show us there is success and satisfaction in working together harmoniously while still enjoying the sweetness of life.

In Medieval times, it also has been said that that bees hum the 100th Psalm on Christmas Eve! Such interesting folklore, but there is enough fascinating facts about bees without any whimsy.

Did you know that those busy little honey bees take time to dance? However, even in that they have purpose. On May 12, 2005, a paper published in Nature reported how bees equipped with radar put an end to the "waggle dance" controversy. Nobel Prize winning zoologist Karl von Frisch, in the 1960s, proposed that honeybees use dance as a coded message to guide other bees to new food sources, many scientists did not accept this theory. However, more recent research using harmonic radar to track the flight of bees has proven that bees flew straight to the vicinity of the feeding site after attending a "waggle dance", just as von Frisch predicted.

~ My Lord, there are such simple things to examine and say it should not work and yet it does. Things that are wondrous and miraculous and unexplainable, but so easily understood as being possible simply because You created it. ~

Friday, December 10, 2010

Advent Day 10

Faith sees a beautiful blossom in a bulb, a lovely garden in a seed, and a giant oak in an acorn. ~William Arthur Ward

The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson


Reading: Acorns have long been thought to be good luck symbols in Germany where oak trees are considered sacred. The German saying "from little acorns come might oaks" shows the protective nature of a mother's belief that when one provides nurturing and care, one can anticipate great results. Acorns are also believed to represent the rebirth of life as witnessed through the coming of Jesus.

It is difficult to imagine the potential of a large strong oak tree is in something so small and simple as an acorn. This has a particular meaning for me today as I received news last night that is crushing a hope I had. Had? Have I abandoned it completely?

You know, not one oak tree looks like another. Each grows to be different. God has this plan in how He wants to shape me through experiences in my life even though some of them are not that pleasant. I have to remind myself today that the faith of a mustard seed can move mountains and it seems an insurmountable task to change the course of where this seems to be going. Even though I believe God can do it, the question is will He do it...? I am afraid to hope.

~ My Lord, lately I have been afraid to see the acorn as anything other than just an acorn, I have been afraid to hope, to see that which is yet unseen, to see life spring up from what seems dead. I thank you for this reminder today, that from one acorn can an entire forest grow. Please help me to hope in the things You have prepared for me and for which I am being prepared. ~

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Snowballs at You, Birbitt!

The aging process has you firmly in its grasp if you never get the urge to throw a snowball. ~Doug Larson

It seems that Birbitt and I share a favorite cookie (she called them by a fancier name), however she has yet to find a recipe that works for her.

I apologize, Birbitt, for taking so long to get this posted, I just have been Internet challenged lately. Here is the recipe for which you asked.


1 cup of butter (Use the real thing!)
½ cup of powdered sugar
1½ teaspoon of vanilla extract
½ teaspoon of almond extract
2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped pecans
up to 2 teaspoons of milk, if needed
powdered sugar to coat cookies

Preheat oven at 325°F. Beat butter, sugar, and flavorings together until fluffy. Add milk IF it is a dry day (as it tends to be in the winter). Stir in flour and then stir in pecans. Shape in 1-inch balls. Placed on an ungreased cookie sheet, parchment paper works even better. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the bottoms begin to turn a bit golden. Let them cool to just slightly warm before removing them from the pan. Then roll in powdered sugar. Allow them to cool completely and roll them in powdered sugar again.

Personally, I never have added the milk. I have found that softer butter tends to cause the cookie to flatten more and finish baking darker, but I was using granulated sugar then. Recently I have found that powdered sugar works more predictably in keeping the round shape and light color, but they may be a bit more on the dry side.

I have made these cookies every Christmas for years and they are always a favorite when I give them away. I like to make them because they fit all on one sheet! I hope this recipe works for you, Birbitt.

~ My Lord, thank you for my friends and that I was finally able to fulfill a request. Please let my computer problems be behind me. ~

Advent Day 9

Light of the world, You stepped down into darkness, opened my eyes, let me see;
beauty that made this heart adore you, hope of a life spent with You.
Here I am to worship, here I am to bow down, here I am to say that You're my God!
You're all together lovely, all together worthy, all together wonderful to me.
~Tim Hughes


Reading: On a cold and stormy Christmas Eve, a sailor was trying to return to his family. He had gone days without light in the rough coastal waters in the dark. On Christmas Eve, he suddenly saw a glimpse of light in the distance. He decided to follow it. Many hours later, the sailor made it to shore. When his family asked how how he made it home, he told them about the lighthouse. His wife and children turned white. His youngest daughter then said, "Father, the lighthouse hasn't worked in years." The family rejoiced for this Christmas miracle.

~ My Lord, You are the Light of the World. ~

Holiday Red Cabbage Coleslaw

We are living in a world today where lemonade is made from artificial flavors and furniture polish is made from real lemons. ~Alfred E. Newman

My husband’s family always has coleslaw for the holiday meals, actually at nearly every family get-together. I have always thought of coleslaw as an ordinary summer side dish and one of which was not common nor a favorite with my family. I always enjoy interweaving family traditions from both sides in the making of our own, however this tradition is particularly important to us this year, because of the passing of my husband’s father. Practicing traditions, even in just preparing a simple food dish, have a way of honoring our loved ones through our memories and there are so many good memories of our holiday family gatherings. A few years ago, I began playing around with some ingredients and came up with my very own coleslaw recipe that has, to my surprise, become frequently requested year around.

I originally chose red cabbage because it adds a rich, glistening, jeweled color at the holiday dinner table; however red cabbage has some wonderful health benefits. Cabbage is a unique source of several types of phytonutrients, including polyphenols. The polyphenols in red cabbage include antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds called anthocyanins. Cabbage is also unique for its rich supply of glucosinolates; by slicing, shredding, or chopping, the myrosinase enzymes in its cells can become active in converting the glucosinolates in cabbage into isothiocyanates, which have special detoxification and anti-cancer properties. Raw cabbage has some cholesterol-lowering ability as well.

Each of the ingredients in coleslaw have a number of benefits, but I am going to be focusing on the digestive processes, because even though we all know better and promise ourselves we will not do it this year, everyone tends to overeat at a holiday meal! For this reason alone, the offering of coleslaw is so beneficial.

Cabbage, itself, is high in fiber and a welcomed addition to meals consisting of mostly cooked and rich foods low in fiber. The acids in apple cider vinegar improve digestion and deter the growth of disease-causing bacteria in the digestive tract; malic acid, in particular, is the main digestive acid found in apple cider vinegar as well as in our own body cells, which stimulates the metabolism and increases energy production. Olive oil is easy to digest and aids in the digestion of other fatty substances because it encourages the secretions of the peptic system and stimulates the pancreatic enzyme lipace. Ginger cleanses the palette and aids in digestion by speeding up the movement of food from the stomach into the upper small intestine—this would help rid that discomfort that comes from overeating more quickly. The touch of mustard facilitates digestion by promoting the secretion of gastric juices also.

Coleslaw keeps for weeks and can be made well in advance, which I appreciate because my kitchen is a busy place with baking and meal preparation for the holidays.

Holiday Red Cabbage Coleslaw

1 large head of red cabbage, shredded
1 cup white sugar
1 cup apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon salt (optional)
1 tsp dry mustard
2 tsp dry ginger

1. Place shredded cabbage in a large bowl. Sprinkle with 1 cup sugar, and mix well.
2. In a small saucepan, combine vinegar, oil, salt, dry mustard, and ginger. Bring to a simmering boil.
3. Pour hot dressing over cabbage mixture and mix well.
4. Chill overnight or longer.

At times, just a bit more sugar makes it taste better depending on the sharpness of the apple cider vinegar and you can mix it in after it has chilled, according to your taste. This is best if made a day to two weeks ahead. You also can make it without warming the vinegar–oil mixture, but the olive oil will not emulsify to soak into the cabbage as well and tends to sit on top.

I hope you enjoy good digestion during your holiday feasting and give lots of hugs to your loved ones to let them know how special they are to you. (And, Ganeida, you only need a stove top for this one.)

~ My Lord, thank you for making so many wonderful foods and for ingenuity in all the differing ways of preparing them. ~

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Advent Day 8

I will put the cedar in the wilderness,
The acacia and the myrtle and the olive tree;
I will place the juniper in the desert
Together with the box tree and the cypress,
That they may see and recognize,
And consider and gain insight as well,
That the hand of the LORD has done this,
And the Holy One of Israel has created it.
~Isaiah 41:19


Reading: There once was a poor family with no food or wood for the fire. The mother went into the woods to gather pinecones to sell for food and wood. When she picked up one, an elf woman said, "Why are you taking my pinecones?" The woman told her the story and the elf told her to go to the next forest and that she would find much better pinecones. When she got there, pinecones began falling to the ground. She brought them home and when she looked at them every pinecone had turned into silver. So to this day always keep a pinecone on your hearth for the legend has it, that it will bring good fortune your way.

The pine cone, as with many Christian symbols particularly those used in Christmas decorations and traditions, is rooted in pagan symbolism also. It is a common symbol found in cemeteries and some say that the pine cone symbolizes everlasting life being the seed source of the evergreen. One of the most known pine cones in Christendom is the Court of the Pigna or Court of the Pine in the courtyard of the Vatican Museum and there is one also on one of the papal staffs!

Regardless of whether one tends to view the pine come symbol as pagan or Christian is not really as important as recognizing the Creator of it.

~ My Lord, may we always remember that all symbols copied from nature are simply coopies of your original works. Guide us so that we are careful to use them to remind us of You. ~

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Advent Day 7

Look, Daddy. Teacher says, every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings.
~Zuzu Bailey, It's a Wonderful Life


Reading: The role of the Guardian Angel is both to guide us to good thoughts and deeds and to protect us from evil. The angel symbolizes God's care for His people and it is believed that his presence is through angels. It is written in Psalm 91:11...."For He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways."

My very favorite Christmas movie is "It's a Wonderful Life." It is all about a talented, ambitious man, George Bailey, giving up his dreams to help others with their own. There is a breaking point—yes, we all have them—where George is thinking of jumping off a bridge...literally. However, when he does jump in, it is to save another man, who jumped in before him. Actually, is not a man but an angel, who is trying to win his wings. In the end, after George realizes that the small town he hates is actually made up of people he loves and people who love him. He sees in the end that he is not the only one who can help others, but he can receive help from those he has helped. Then his youngest daughter hears the ringing of a bell, an ornament on their Christmas tree. It seems that Clarence, his guardian angel, has earned his wings and George, in being helped, again helped someone else.

With the exception of movies made from stories in the Bible, there just has never been a movie yet made with a better message than this one. We watch it every year as we trim the tree while snacking on eggnog, cookies, and candy.

~ My Lord, thank you for Your angels bringing messages to us, protecting us, and guiding us according to your will. ~

Monday, December 6, 2010

Advent Day 6

Christmas is more than a time of music, merriment and mirth;
it is a season of meditation, mangers and miracles.
Christmas is more than a time of carols, cards and candy;
it is a season of dedication and decision.
~William Arthur Ward

Candy Cane

Reading: The legend of the candy cane begins with its color and shape. The white candy represents the miracle of the birth of Jesus. The red stripes are for the blood shed by Christ on the cross so that we may have eternal life. The candy cane is then formed into a "J" for Jesus and is also believed to be in the shape of a staff. Its hard consistency represents the Solid Rock, the foundation of the church, and the firmness of the promises of God.

Although this legend is disputed as being untrue, I like seeing God's purpose and symbolism honoring Him in everything, so it is true as to what I see in the candy cane and this is exactly how legends become legends!

The Candy Cane

A significant symbol of Christmas
Is the simple candy cane.
Its shape is the crook of the shepherd,
One of the first who came.
The lively peppermint flavor is
The regal gift of spice.
The white is Jesus' purity
The red is sacrifice
The narrow stripes are friendship
And the nearness of his love.
Eternal sweet compassion
A gift from God above
The candy cane reminds us all
Of how much God cared
And like His Christmas gift to use
It's meant to be broken and shared.

~ My Lord, I do not know if the original maker of the candy cane had You in mind as he created it, but I know You had him in mind. Thank you for this gift symbolic of Your Gift. ~

Trojan Defeated...Finally!

Home computers are being called upon to perform many new functions, including the consumption of homework formerly eaten by the dog. ~Doug Larson

I have not really been online. I created a few of the Advent Calendar posts ahead of time and scheduled them to post. Good thing, too, because I have been spending my computer time on learning how to identify my Trojan infection and remove all kinds of malware, the most difficult was a Google redirect so my searches for fixes and answers online were rather frustrating. If only these hackers would put their talent into creating helpful software!

I think I even fixed my old hard drive of its infections also, however I was so happy with the way I began setting up the new-to-me hard drive that I decided to continue with it. The thing was that one of the malware removal programs I used...well, it hung up my computer big time, took a great deal of space, and even messed with files, so that I felt it was better to go back to a restore point and start over from there. Even though the hard drive was already infected at that restore point, I believed I knew how to get it off quick and only took two or three days to figure out it could be done in 20 minutes!

So far, so good!

Now, I have programs to again load onto my computer today, including an email program. I have been using Firefox as my browser, which is usually not the main target for viruses, but apparently hackers are more equal opportunity types than they used to be. Still, I was trying out Thunderbird, a free email program, and I definitely like it much better that Outlook as well as the calendar, Sunbird; these all are Mozilla programs.

I have much to do in reloading and arranging my computer again...and feed a child, so I had better get to those things. I just wanted you to know if you have emailed me and I have not responded or if wondered why I am not visiting your blog, this is the reason.

~ My Lord, please let this be the end of it, so that I can focus on things like baking cookies, making candy, holiday decorating, wrapping gifts, and just enjoying my friends and family. ~

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Advent Day 5

How could one be in this world without feeling dismayed by it? Even if one paints flowers and gingerbread. ~Gerhard Richter, German Artist


Reading: Gingerbread houses and gingerbread men have been associated with Christmas for hundreds of years. In the middle ages, ladies gave gingerbread cakes to their favorite knights. A gingerbread cake in the shape of a heart would keep a knight safe from evil.

Here are some more tasty tidbits on gingerbread here.

Two years ago my husband bought a gingerbread house kit and it became a father-daughter project as Mama was quite done with baking and decorating at that point. I do want to make a gingerbread house one day, but I just have to do it from scratch, without a kit...basically the hard way. If you know me, you know that I just like everything to be challenging and really complicated and even overwhelming. Why? I guess it is like this, some get their "spice" from climbing mountains but I think I must get mine from making the ordinary everyday things extremely difficult.

~ My Lord, thank you for the spice and the sweet of life. ~

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Advent Day 4

Symbolizing eternal hope, the wreath goes 'round and 'round,
And where it starts or ends cannot be found.
Woven of things that grow - for life, and hung for holiday delight
The wreath must be left in place From Advent through Twelfth Night.


Reading: Christmas wreaths are the symbols of eternal life. A circle has no beginning and no end, which is the reason wreaths are circles. Also, the evergreen tree, of which most wreaths are made, stays green all winter and represents hope and strength.

My husband and I together made an artificial wreath the first year we moved to Georgia and every since it has been on our front door to greet visitors during the Christmas season. It is one of my favorite decorations because we both picked the elements to put on it and made it to our own taste.

~ My Lord, thank you for symbols of welcome, like the wreath, that reminds me also of the promise of eternity. ~

Friday, December 3, 2010

Advent Day 3

The bitter past, more welcome is the sweet. ~William Shakespeare


Reading: The colonists brought the image of the pineapple to the New World as a symbol of friendship and welcome. Sea captains would hang them on the front door of their homes or gatepost outside as an invitation for friends to visit, share a meal, and listen to tales of their voyages.

Did you know that since 1681 the pineapple has been recognized as a Christian symbol or that Williamsburg, one of the colonial settlements, was well-known for its pineapple decorations? I wonder if it was its sweetness that appealed so much to them or just its shape...?

~ My Lord, thank you for my sweet, welcoming friends. May I be as sweet and welcoming to others who need to know You. ~

My Christmas Gift

God's gifts put man's best dreams to shame. ~Elizabeth Barrett Browning

To explain how wonderful the gift will be, you need to know some history. About three and half years ago—I cannot believe it has been that long!—our income began spiraling downward with a series of events.

The Injury
It began with an injury while on vacation that put my husband on short term medical leave. We were paid 60 percent of his base pay, when we have always had overtime because of the nature of his work, so that meant more like 35 percent of his typically take home. That was doable for four months.

The Call to Downsize
My husband began working again with overtime and all, but I felt a call to downsize our life and expenses. I also had been feeling a push to get out of debt, but it was not until then that my husband felt it as well. However, the first week of December, about two months after coming back to work and right after selling our nice conversion van for what was to be beater minivan for around town, my husband lost his job and the company car. (He always had driven a company car even before we were married so this was a big change.)

God Provided Severance Pay
This story reminds me of HeeHaw's "Oh, that's bad. No, that's good because...." The company was downsizing also and they were looking for ways to fire people so they did not have to pay severance pay. They would have done the same with my husband, except that for nearly five months of the time covered in his mid year evaluation, he was on medical leave. We all knew that if they fired him on performance, we could have sued and won more than if the company paid the weeks of severance, so they called it a lay-off and paid the severance.

Our Downsizing Paid Off
All of a sudden we were living off of his base pay without overtime and no health insurance for a set number of weeks. My Lord, though, was in it all. We had made enough from the sale of the conversion van to not only pay in cash for the mini-van, but also repairs for the mini-van and the pay-off a 401K loan that was due within so many days of losing one's job. It is amazing how the Lord works things out like that!

A Promise Fulfilled
I spent much time in prayer and fasting during those days, begging my Lord for a job before the severance run out. My husband knew afterward that his former boss would be working for another company in a few months and that he would hire him, but it would be likely it would be weeks after the severance ran out. However, the Lord told me he would get a job with a that company before the severance ran out but he would not be hired by his former boss. As the last of the severance was being spent, my husband was offered a job by another manager in that company, a job for which he had not even applied!

A Smoother Ride?
You would think I would have more faith in God when things like that happen and I least, until the next thing rolls around. (Well, that is probably the most honest thing to which I have confessed!) Being a Christian is not always a smooth ride; sometimes it is like on a roller coaster with all the thrills and chills of the unknown, leveling off slowing down toward the end which is almost a let down so the very first thing one says is let's do that again! (Or let's never do that again.) Either way the ride is has now some familiarity and you know you can do it, but there is another roller coaster with its unknowns just waiting for you.

More Downsizing
The job made only about 60 percent of what he used to make but we could get by and still pay off our credit card debt slowly. However, two years ago the company cut salaries incrementally and at my husband's level that meant five percent (for the CEO that was 20 percent). I was thankful the company was being cautious and fair and that they were working at the best solution to keep employees, so I sucked in a breath and tightened our budget belt even more.

Last Year's Gift
Because the company did well last year, they gave back the five percent in a lump sum and small bonuses too, which was such a nice surprise! However, staying on the side of caution with the economy, they did not reinstate regular pay and there were no raises. My husband was even promoted in February nearly a year ago and he did not get a raise for that either.

The Double Tithe Commitment
As you know, right after the 40-day fast in July and August, we made a commitment to our church to double our regular tithe in giving 20 percent for six months, which started in September. Since all this began we have had more things break than we can afford to fix: Our front porch was about to fall down and still has no railings. Our refrigerator door handle broke off. Our van began leaking oil and obviously needed repairs. The trim on our house on the south side has big round holes in it (we have no idea why yet). Our oven stopped working. Our computers have been having all kinds of problems. We can now add one more as last night our dishwasher began to make a strange noise.

The Mortgage
I want you to understand that it is not that my husband does not make a good enough salary, it is that our mortgage is based on what he used to make, with all that overtime. So the mortgage and just our regular ten percent to the church is just shy of being half of his take home pay (with taxes and health insurance taken out). We could not qualify for a loan like that right now because of the change in income, but because of the falling house values, we could not refinance either. We were stuck with this out of proportion mortgage. Taking another ten percent to give to our church has not out of our excess, it has come out of our necessities.

My Financial Meltdown
Then, I had what will be historically remembered as My Financial Meltdown of 2010 some days ago. It was triggered by my husband when he asked what else we would be getting the Princess for Christmas...I, at first, just stared at him incredulously, then came the tears, and then I began to rage about how he may be too far removed from the actual managing of the money to realize that we have nothing more for Christmas gifts (we had already gotten a few things). In fact, I was not even sure we could afford a tree at that point. Not having a real Christmas tree...that was the worst of the worst. That was the one thing we did even when money was tight. It was our tradition. We were actually thinking of borrowing an artificial tree!

The Very Next Day...
Before 24 hours had passed, I was completely embarrassed for my lack of faith the day before. My husband received an email from his company with some very good news! Again my husband's company did well and this time they are going to reinstate regular pay levels, as well as raises (although we do not know what that means, if anything, with his promotion yet) and bonuses. It all sounds so good, so close we can almost touch it, so real we can almost spend it, but it looks like we have to get through December first and that is the really difficult part.

Refinancing the Mortgage
A few weeks ago, my husband looked into refinancing our mortgages...yes, we have two. Although house values are really down in our area, and when I say this you need to understand that our county was in the top ten in the nation for growth in housing and now is one of the top counties for foreclosures. However, we had a fifteen year mortgage, which mean we have been paying a substantial amount on the principle, while we have been waiting for the figures to work in our favor for refinancing and the good news is the house seems to be assessed and we have been conditionally approved for exactly what we need. This refinance means we will pay only $6,000 more in interest over the life of the loan (if we do not pay it off early) than we would pay on the two as they are now. However, this also frees up $6,000 a year for us and we could be out of debt in a year or so and working on saving for another vehicle.

It Costs Money to Save Money
While I was happy dancing just before Thanksgiving about all this news and I am very grateful, as roller-coasters go, there is a down after the up and our down is that we have to pay out money to get the refinancing. We got hit with the first part of that this week and so...

Waiting for the Promised Gifts
We have learned that very good things are coming, but we have to wait for them. The refinancing will take two or three more months. The salary adjustments and bonuses will mostly likely be after Christmas. In the meantime, we basically have no money. All that comes in, at this point, is already spent for the church, mortgage, bills, and a bit of perishable foods; thankfully, I do have a well stocked pantry right now.

My Struggle
The reason I am writing this out is not for you to feel sorry for me, but for you to understand how much I have struggled in trusting the Lord through all of this even though I know He does reward the faithful by providing for their needs. I felt the Lord has been telling me that we shall be fine. That next year will be a bit easier. However, I am also not seeing much on the finances easing up for our church. In fact, last month we met only about half of the budget. We have four months to go on our commitment to double tithe and I am wondering if the Lord is asking us to extend our commitment longer instead of paying off our debt. It is difficult to know what to do. Is it possible to do both?

~ My Lord, thank you for this Christmas gift. May we honor you with it and seek to do Your will with all You provide for us. ~