Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Different Christmas!

Christmas this year is a bit different for our family. 

Back in November my sister-in-law and I mentioned to each other several times that we just didn't have the "Christmas Spirit".  Many friends were saying the same thing.  Mr. Marvelous and I talked about it several times.  We wondered how much of it was the cultural climate and how much of it might be the media's choices of stories about hard times.  I spent a great deal of time trying to figure out how to put my thoughts into words and share them here on the blog, and I just couldn't quite get it. 

Was it because of the political situation and all the folks affected by the fiasco-of-the-week?

Perhaps a spiritual problem with me personally that kept me from "feeling" Christmas-y, or was I being overly dependent on my emotions?

Was it just because we are in that awkward season of life between empty-nest and grand-kids?

We never could quite figure it out, but Mr. Marvelous and I did decide that this year we would have a quieter Christmas with less of the trappings. 

Oddly enough for someone who delights in the celebration of Christmas, I was very happy with that decision.  As I was finishing studying II Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah, I was struck by the situation of God's people in the centuries before the coming of the Messiah.  I thought a lot about the four hundred Silent Years

I did not get carried away with list-making, blogging (sorry!), gift making, or decorating. 

Last week my sister-in-law and I discovered why not having our usual "Christmas Spirit" was God's good choice for us this year.  We discovered that she would be spending Christmas at the hospital, rather than at home or at her daughter's home.  I would be at home but going back and forth to the hospital to do what I might for her and for my brother.  Our gifts from God this year are different but they are good, as they always are.  This year we are thankful for the gifts of redemption, of God With Us, of appreciating the things we take for granted ~ like ice chips! ~ of God's people who surround us when we are in need, of surgeons who pray over and with their patients, of opportunities to speak God's Truth to many, many more people than we would have imagined, and of PEACE.  We are aware that there are so many of these good gifts that we don't even see all of them. 

I sent the following to some very dear and long-time family friends to let them know about my sister's illness.

Christmas looks a little different for us this year; a little quieter and a lot less filled with the trappings.  Our minds are turned a little more to thinking about the first Christmas: how it came after 400 years of silence.  How it came during a time of precarious political upheaval and capriciousness.  How it came during a time of dark evil to bring the light of atonement and redemption.  This year we are very conscious of Christmas being God with us.  As we wait for Christmas morning, we eagerly wait for His return.  Until then we take the opportunities to share the peace and comfort we have with those around us who so desperately need that peace and that comfort. 

Thank you for your prayers for our family over the past week.  We are asking that this week as you pray for us, you thank God for His goodness to us in getting my sister through the surgery.  Please continue to pray for us over the next several months as God brings us to your remembrance.

May His grace, mercy, comfort, and peace be with you and all those you love, both now and forever.

Most of all, 


Sunday, December 01, 2013

The Twenty-Four Days of Christmas: Day One

It doesn't always happen this way, but this year the first Sunday in Advent is December 1.  After a little research, I have discovered that this is the first time this has happened since 2002  (there's your bit of useless but slightly interesting trivia for the day).

Today is one of those "forced rest" days.  We all have them periodically; a day when we are dealing with an injury or illness and just can't quite get going.  I have learned that if I change my perspective just a little bit, I can see them for the gift that they are.  There is a choice to be made; sit and have a pity party, or take the time for quiet reflection and prayer. 

Today we will certainly be lighting our Advent Candles at dinner.  I will probably pull a few Christmas books from the basement to enjoy (Ruth Bell Graham's "Our Christmas Story" is a classic).  We will be reading in the Old Testament prophets.  And we will slow down and spend time thinking about Advent.  As we prepare for the coming of Christmas, we will have the usual struggle of not getting caught up in the distractions of the season; the battle to redirect our gaze ~ and hopefully point others ~ to Jesus.  He came as an infant.  He struggled through life.  He suffered and died for US.  He rose again.  The celebration of His birth is doubly exciting when you understand the WHY of His coming. 

Then we remember.  He's coming back!  Today we are closer to His return than we were yesterday!!  So we keep doing the work that He gives us to do each day.  We keep watching because we know that at some point, "The clouds will be rolled back as a scroll". 

May He find us engaged in doing what brings glory and honor to Him.  May He greet us with a "Well done!"

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Get Ready:

The Christmas that Mr. Marvelous and I were engaged, I was introduced to a family tradition in his mother's family.  All brides and brides-to-be were given Spode Christmas Tree china for Christmas. 


I was thrilled!  I have always loved that pattern and looked forward to one day having a set to use on my own table.  I remember how happy I was to unwrap that first dinner plate and have my future mother-in-law explain the tradition.  Several years later I inherited a full set from my mother-in-law. 

One of our traditions from my side of the family is the ceremonial "Getting Out The Christmas China" that occurs the weekend right after Thanksgiving.  I'll be getting mine out today or tomorrow.  I'll be giving thanks to God for my mother-in-law and Aunt Mimi and the many, many graces they extended to me as I blundered my way into their family. 

This is the first step I take to get ready for Advent.  The word "Advent" translates "Coming".  Advent is the time when we celebrate the coming of Christmas.  We are preparing to celebrate the birth of the Lord Jesus into our world.  We also look forward to His coming back.  Our traditions include things from the mundane to the serious; getting out the china, lighting candles each week, putting up the decorations, reading Christmas books, etc.  I will also continue my tradition of blogging The Twenty-Four Days of Christmas, starting December 1. 

Join our family as we celebrate.  Get ready to get ready: Christ is coming!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Proclamation

 Sing to the Lord, all the earth!
    Tell of his salvation from day to day. 

 Declare his glory among the nations,
    his marvelous works among all the peoples! 

 For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,
    and he is to be feared above all gods. 

 For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols,
    but the Lord made the heavens.

Splendor and majesty are before him;
    strength and joy are in his place.

Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
    ascribe to the Lord glory and strength! 
 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
    bring an offering and come before him!
Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness; 
    tremble before him, all the earth;
    yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved. 
 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice,
    and let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!” 
 Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
    let the field exult, and everything in it! 
 Then shall the trees of the forest sing for joy
    before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth. 
 Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    for his steadfast love endures forever!
I Chronicles 16:23-34                                                             



Wednesday, November 27, 2013


Thought I would share a few family traditions from both our nuclear family and our extended family.

  1. The big gathering of as many people as possible.  This year we will only have about 13 around the table.  There will be another 10 or so wandering in and out of town as the weekend goes on.  We are incredibly thankful that we will be 13 and not just 12 this year.  When a family member survives having a tree fall on him, we celebrate God's mercy!
  2. The menu?  Turkey, dressing (not stuffing) (unless Nana has her way) (she probably will), corn casserole, green beans, mincemeat pie (Nana makes her own mincemeat), some kind of pumpkin something or other (haven't decided yet whether that will be pie or cheesecake).  By special request of Nana, we will be adding a couple of smoked rabbits to the menu this year.  I just realized I did not list fruit jello.  That is such a tradition that I will be going to the store in a little while to get stuff to make it.
  3. All throughout the day, there will be a lot of giving thanks to God by various folks for both the big things and the little random things.
  4. Lots of family tales.
  5. Lots of eye-rolling.
  6. Lots of laughing.
  7. I'm hoping that the next generation might be big enough to want to watch parades.  I enjoy doing that; I'm a kid at heart!
  8. Tongue-biting?  Of course!  We're a family!
  9. Saying something out loud that should probably be kept in?  Probably.  
  10. Loving each other enough to overlook such things?  Definitely!
  11. Missing those who are too far away to make it.
  12. Hugs.  Kisses. I love yous.
  13. Fish fry the day after.  Dad and Robert had a good fishing trip last month.  They almost always do which is why this is a tradition.
  14. Spending Friday and Saturday getting the Christmas china out and putting up the every-day stuff.
  15. Cutting some greenery from the cedar trees.
  16. Lighting the first Advent Candle on Sunday.
What did I miss?  What are some of your traditions?

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

God's peace to your homes. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The View From My Kitchen Window: November 26, 2013

Early morning.  Cold drizzle. 
Tantalizing hints of snow.

Dogwood flaming

Sun rising

Oaks clinging

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Monday Morning Memories: Two Stories

1.  Granny's Toys

Many years ago before she had any children of her own, my sweet Granny Reed used to babysit for a family.  She came up with all kinds of clever ways to entertain these children.  This was pre-internet, pre-video games, pre-cable, pre-television and even pre-radio.  Therefore, entertaining children on rainy days took a bit more creativity and imagination.  In those days even coloring books and crayons were a luxury.  What would you do with a family of young children on a rainy day in those circumstances? 

My Granny was a very resourceful woman.  She would take clothespins and make little pilgrims.  The children would create scenes of the Pilgrim Feast and be happily entertained for hours.

A few years ago my Dad was preaching in Bakersville, NC.  A woman introduced herself as the daughter of one of the children my Granny used to baby-sit and shared her memories with my Dad.  The next night she came and had a gift in her hand for my Dad.  It seems that when they had cleaned out her mother's home, they had found these little treasures.  These had been made by my Granny!  Now every November they have a place of honor in my kitchen.

2.  Andrew's Giving Heart

My nephew Andrew is a remarkable young man.  He is almost as tall as his Dad.  He has one of the most infectious grins you will ever see.  And he is one of the most loving and giving young men I know.  Andrew is not afraid to hug his Mom, his sisters, his aunts, his cousins.  He is not bashful about telling us that he loves us.  Andrew loves to make people happy.  He once found out that I like B.J. Surhoff of Atlanta Braves fame.  I still have the picture with his stats that Andrew gave me!

Andrew's school would take the children on a field trip to Cherokee, NC when he was in late elementary or Jr. High school.  While he was there, he found this little teepee and spent some of his own spending money to buy it for me. 

To me, this is a picture of Andrew's loving and giving heart.  It reminds me of the sweet rascal who cares a lot about his Aunt Virginia.  It reminds me to pray for him as exam season approaches.  It reminds me how blessed I am!  And it has a place of honor in my kitchen as well.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 22, 2013


The past three weeks have been challenging. 

Mr. Marvelous hurt his back and is still not able to go back to work.  We are thankful that he did not blow a disc and does not need surgery.  We are concerned about the four areas of his spine that show some significant deterioration.  While we were waiting to have the MRI and then to get the results (it took a total of two weeks to go through that process), there were a LOT of other significant things going on in the family. 

My oldest nephew had a tree fall on him, breaking multiple ribs and cracking his sternum.  He is now home from the hospital, and we are hopeful that he will be strong enough to start PT soon....

Another nephew and his wife had their fifth child four weeks early.  While the baby had a great birth weight, his lungs were not ready for the world.  Our precious little Judah had to be life-flighted to another hospital and put in the NICU.  As of last night, he is off all oxygen, feeding tubes and IVs.  His brother and sisters are looking forward to getting him and his Mama home!

It has been a very busy time.  And always, in the back of my mind, was the temptation to start the "What if...?" game.  I'm big on "What if....?"  I used to be a nurse, and one thing our instructors taught us was to always be prepared for worst-case scenarios, thus encouraging playing that game.  "What if...?" is not a good game in my personal life.  It leads me down the road of frantic worry.  It robs me of my trust in God's grace, goodness, mercy and provision.  It makes me focus on MY ability to take care of situations and problems and directs me away from HIS faithfulness to take care of my needs.  God gave me a wonderful gift this month.  He gave me the gift of being able to say, "It's not time for that particular worry.  I'll deal with that one when the time comes.  In the meantime, I have things I have to take care of today, so Worry, you are just going to have to be folded up, put back in that drawer, and the drawer will stay shut until we get that information from the doctors.  Then I will deal with you!"  More than being able to say it, I was even able to do it. 

I have wondered why and how that has happened.  It certainly is not my nature.

Is it because the past couple of months have been a time of being more focused on spending time with God and listening to Him?  Is it because I have been more diligent about making sure I am reading and thinking about Scripture each day?  Is it because I have been studying about "taking every thought captive"?  Is it because I have been checking the boxes and doing things?  In other words, is it because I have done something to earn God's favor and help?

Diligence in exercising Christian disciplines is vital to Christian life and our growth.  When I am spending time reading and studying God's word, it does help my mind and heart to stay focused on HIM, rather than on me and my circumstances.  But earning God's favor and help?  No!  The purpose of Christian disciplines (prayer, Bible study, corporate worship, meditation, generous giving, etc.) is not to earn favor or be more special to God than the next person.  The purpose of Christian disciplines is to make me more like Christ, and therefore bring glory to God. 

Developing these disciplines has not been easy for me.  It has been very challenging!  It has had to start with me crying out to God and confessing that I don't even have a desire to develop these in my life.  I have been begging God to change my heart and give me the desire.  Did you catch that?  I'm so pathetic that I don't even have godly desires! 

Guess what?  My God not only hears my prayers, He answers them!  HE is working on my heart and is giving (that's a work in progress, not a completed work) me a desire to spend more time with Him.  He is captivating my heart and my mind so that it stays more focused on Him, rather than on me.  It's not a quick and easy journey, this Christian life. 

Life is still hard.  Evil is still rampant.  The news is still depressing.  Bad things still happen to good people. 

He is still my God.  He still loves me.  He still keeps His promises.  And while I can look around and be sad and get frustrated and even angry about the wickedness of the world, it's OK.  I read the end of the book.

“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” 14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. 15 Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.
16 “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”
17 The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.
18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.
20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all.  Amen.                       Revelation 22:12-21

Come, Lord Jesus!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Walkabout Wednesday: Arizona

I have waffled a lot about the Arizona portion of my walk.  The original (way back a couple of years ago) plan was to go to the Grand Canyon.  Things changed and I decided to walk more of a straight line to the coast.  Then I realized that a friend is pastoring a church in Mesa and thought it would be fun to visit.  After all, back in the day when I was really traveling, Phoenix was one of my favorite spots.  It has a unique and captivating beauty.  So I swung north to Mesa.  I planned to head due west from there, hit the Los Angeles area, and swing out to San Nicolas Island (I read The Island of the Blue Dolphin when I was growing up).  I had the route all planned out with stops that I thought would be interesting.  I put it all on the Google distance calculator map.  Then I made a mistake.  I trusted Google.  Silly me!  Between Firefox updates, Google maps updates, and general nefarious plots by the whole world wide web (Thanks, Mr. Gore!), my map data was lost. 

My map data was entirely wiped out.

It was time to go back and try to recapture all the data.  I did manage to find this time that I could update the Google maps distance calculator to a new version that supposedly lets me save my data.  I did that.  I think I'm also going to get a pen and paper out and WRITE DOWN each stop from now on.  

As I was redoing everything and looking at the map, I glanced north and noticed it.  Grand Canyon.  Lake Mead.  Hoover Dam.  Lake Mead?!  Hoover Dam??!!!  I was hooked.

Another book I read and re-read when I was a little girl was the little gem Ann Can Fly.  It's the story of a little girl whose father flies her to summer camp.  As they fly over Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam, Dad explains a little of their history to Ann.  As a result, I have always been a bit intrigued by them.

The plan has changed again.  I have left Mesa and turned north toward Flagstaff.  There I found the Lowell Observatory and the US Naval Observatory, Flagstaff Station.  Can you tell by now that I love star-gazing?  As of November 1, I have made it down the other side of Humphrey's Peak.  What?  You missed seeing me on that webcam?? 

I hope to be to the Grand Canyon by December and then I'll turn west to retrace Ann's route over Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam. 

Keep walking!

Humphreys Peak from Lockett Meadow.  Photo courtesy of Wikimedia

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The View From My Kitchen Window: November 19, 2013

Autumn in Alabama is a little later than in Northern Vermont.  The colors are just now reaching their peak.  The ground is filling up with last-year's tree fashions.  It seems that different years highlight different colors; sometimes red, sometimes orange, sometimes gold.  This has been a gold year.  As the light filters through in the early morning and late afternoon, I think about Isaiah 40:5

And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

I asked a wise person what kind of trees these yellow ones are.
He told me they are Beech Trees.


Beech Trees?  Are you kidding me?

No, I don't think so.   See how gold they are? 

And how everything else loses their leaves?

But these will keep their golden leaves until the new green ones come in the Spring.

Obviously these are not Beech trees.


They are Mallorn Trees!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Monday Memories: Wrap-Up

It was so much fun to be a part of the Boutique this past weekend.  It was a lot of work.  I was thankful that although Mr. Marvelous is "down in his back", Mr. Marvelous Jr. stepped up to help with the grunt work.

I had a "happy" goal and an "ecstatic" goal.  I cleared "happy" and got a good ways toward "ecstatic".

Before the Market started, my friend Beth told me about another market in two weeks at another church and asked me if I would be interested.  As hard as I have worked over the past several weeks, as much as the housework has gone undone, I told her I wasn't sure that I would.  After everything finished for the night she asked me again.  I looked at the inventory I had left and thought, "Oh, why not?  I've plenty of stuff ready to go!".  So if we can get our ducks in a row to reserve spots, you just might see us again in the near future.

Here's what my booth looked like:

The red awning gave things an interesting hue.  
And yes, that is my favorite rocker back there.

My friend Beth and her husband had the woodworking booth.  They keep a booth at the Leeds Antique Flea Mall, too.  GREAT stuff; she and her husband are very talented people!  Here's their facebook page.

I asked the lovely Natalia to stand in front of the swords so that you can see they are life-size.  It's fun watching little boys trotting around waving these swords!
 Need a bread-shaped cutting board?  How 'bout a pear?

Here's the cheese tray.

Beth's sister Marilyn and her husband share that booth in Leeds with Doug and Beth.  They make these bird houses.  We have laughed about people thinking they would go home and make their own.  You would not believe how hard it is to cut glass and ceramic without shattering it!  Mr. Marvelous went through about a dozen bottles or so (and several special cutting tools) before he gave up. 

I love the coffee urn in the back

I'm so impressed with their ability to look at an old cast-off piece of house-ware and see its potential!

I think this one is my favorite.  New use for old garden tools!

See you in a couple of weeks!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Count Down: Thursday

Thursday morning I had two days left til the Boutique (see?  I can do math when I think about it!).
I had originally decided to spend Friday working out how I was going to set up my area, but I went ahead and got it done Thursday.  I figured if there were last minute things I needed to purchase, or changes that needed to be made, that would give me Friday to get those things done.

Setting up for something like this is really, really fun!  I taped off an area in the basement equivalent to what I will have and just started playing with it.

It was a mess to start with but I got stuff moved out of the way and it started coming together.

This one?

No, I think this cloth works better.  I'll save the other one for the other (larger) table.

Don't you love the wreath holder?

I think it looks like something out of Star Wars!

Smocked bonnets and Octopus Dollies

This needs a little work (as do my picture-taking skills) but I have it figured out.  Finally.  I think.

I love it when a plan comes together!  

However thinking about how different the reality is probably going to be from the planning makes me giggle.

See you Saturday!           

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Countdown: Day ????

I think in with all that has been going on I have lost count of days.  This is Thursday.  The Boutique is Saturday.  Could someone else please do the math for me?

Here's what got done Wednesday:

A bunch of fabric got cut into strips.  Yes, that is some old 'Bama fabric down there.  
 Some coffee was made and kept me going

Some stars were finished.  
Don't you love the bells?  The hymn ~ in case you can't read it ~ is, I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day.  

Small and large sizes.
Some of the small ones found homes in grapevine wreaths.

Just to give you an idea of size.

At some point I've got to spend some time working out how I am going to set up my area.

I'm looking forward to seeing you!!!