Tuesday, November 29, 2011

My Christmas Tree Top Angel


I collect Christmas tree ornaments, or I should say they collect me!  I really hadn't thought about collecting them until my mother-in-law began giving me a tree ornament every year for Christmas.  This began early in my marriage, almost 31 years ago, and I now have a very sizable collection of ornaments.  My mom-in-law hasn't given me any new ornaments the past few years, but I have continued the tradition by buying myself one at the beginning of every Christmas season.  I thought I would share some photos of them with you during the following days. 

The first one is my Christmas Tree Top Angel.  I've had her for about 4 years now.  She is beautiful as she sits atop our tree, heralding the birth of the Christ Child so long ago in Bethlehem, but who is alive forevermore! 

I also would like to occasionally share a short history of some of our most beloved Christmas carols.  The first one I'd like to tell the story of is "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear."

The words for this American carol are based on a poem written by Unitarian minister Dr. Edmund Sears in 1849. The following year, inspired by the poem, Richard Storrs Willis, a composer as well as editor and critic for the New York Tribune, wrote a melody called "Carol" to which the words were adapted.

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold:
"Peace on the earth, goodwill to men
From heavens all gracious King!"
The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come,
With peaceful wings unfurled;
And still their heavenly music floats
O'er all the weary world:
Above its sad and lowly plains
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever o'er its Babel sounds
The blessed angels sing.

O ye beneath life's crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow;
Look now, for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.

For lo! the days are hastening on,
By prophets seen of old,
When with the ever-circling years
Shall come the time foretold,
When the new heaven and earth shall own
The Prince of Peace, their King,
And the whole world send back the song
Which now the angels sing.


Dreams and Promises


When God places a dream or promise in our hearts, it often feels as though we wait forever for it to come to pass.  Joseph waited 13 years in prison before God gave him his next promotion.  We know that Abraham and Sarah had to wait 25 years for the birth of Isaac!  And there are many other examples of those who had to wait while the Lord was preparing them to accept His assignment.  Why so long?  Because God knows exactly how long it takes for us to learn the lessons He has for us.  There are certain things we must go through before we are ready to receive those promises He has made to us. 

I don't think most of us like to wait.  I don't!  But while I'm waiting, the Lord is teaching me patience among other things.  He's teaching me to trust in Him, to keep fully focused on Him and not the dream itself; I am learning that when the time is right, He will bring it to pass.

In some cases, I have been waiting many years for loved ones' salvations.  Some were saved as children, but have wandered away from God.  But I have seen two of these answers to prayer manifested in recent months.  My sister Ellen, who had lived a life of independence away from God for most of her adult life, returned to Him some months before He called her home to be with Him in July of this year.  And about a year ago, one of my other sisters began attending church again after many years of being away.  She loves her church and more importantly, has rededicated her life to Jesus and is growing daily in Him.  Thank You, Lord!

There are promises I have yet to see fulfilled, such as my husband's salvation.  But I am encouraged as I see him taking baby steps on an almost daily basis.  They may not seem like much on their own, but as I look back, I can see God's leading in His life and I know that the promise He made to me many years ago in church on a Sunday night, will come to pass.  I have other unsaved loved ones who need Jesus.  I may see this happen in my lifetime or if I go first, I may not know about it until I meet them in glory.  But I've learned to trust God and His Word (Acts 16:31, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, you and your household.")  Amen!  I may not always understand why it takes so long, but I know that His thoughts are not our thoughts, and His ways are not our ways.  (Isaiah 55:8)  I encourage myself as I read the Bible and pray daily.  And I'm also uplifted by the prayers of friends.  Aren't you thankful for praying friends? 

There are personal dreams and promises we receive from God.  I have had a dream for many years that I would be able to share my writings with others.  This is slowly beginning to happen with the creation of this blogspot.  No, I may never reach thousands or even hundreds of people, but I know that our Lord will use what I share to bless those particular ones that He places in my pathway, just as I am blessed by others' whose writings I read and follow.  In the beginning I was easily discouraged as I thought of the great number of bloggers out there ~ such competition!  Who would ever see my postings?  But I now know that God has ways and means to promote us that we know nothing about and He will see His purposes fulfilled in us.  And for that I'm truly thankful!

Dear Lord, thank You for the many dreams and promises You have given me.  Help me to savor each day as I think about Your goodness and wait on the fulfillment of these wonderful promises.  I thank You for all the changes You bring about in my life as I learn the lessons you are teaching me.  Give me patience and and a grateful heart as I see these dreams come to pass.  In Your glorious name I pray, Amen. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Fine Tuning My Character


"...but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.  Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us."  Romans 5:3-5.

I came across these verses a couple of days ago in my daily Bible reading and have found myself returning to them several times since then.  It isn't that I'm unfamiliar with these Scriptures and have just now discovered them, but for the first time they seem to have really hit home with me.  Has this ever happened to you?  We can become so familiar with certain Bible passages and have committed many to memory, but during a particular time or season of our lives, we see them in an unexpected way that brings new meaning to us.  This is what happened to me. 

I've been going through some "stuff" lately; you know, those things that can become wearisome, that sap our energy and we just want to see an end to it.  Nothing life-threatening or earth shattering, but just the daily grind we sometimes go through or a problem that seems to reappear just when we thought it was resolved.  I remember asking the Lord one morning, "Lord, why do I have to keep dealing with these same issues?"  And then I came across this verse of Scripture and had my answer.  Because He wants to shape my character!  Someone wiser than me once said that we must keep going through certain trials until we have learned all that God wants to teach us.  If we don't learn it the first time, He'll bring it back into our lives again.  One of the things I have a hard time dealing with is patience.  I think I'm getting better at this, but I'm not quite there yet and I know there is still more the Lord wants to teach me; He is fine tuning my character while I learn. 

I've always been the kind of person who wants quick resolutions to problems.  I think it's safe to say most of us feel that way!  I want answers right away and everything to be resolved and wrapped up in a neat little package with a big red bow tied at the top of it.  Unfortunately, life just doesn't work that way!  Sometimes we have to wait on the Lord's timing.  And while we're waiting, we need to learn to lean on Him and let Him guide us through each day, teaching us to "stand" and to wait in hope.  I like that verse 5 in the 5th chapter of Romans says that "hope does not disappoint."  I'm encouraged by that and it comforts me.  There is always hope.  And character produces hope!  Wow, isn't it wonderful how God ties it all together - character produces hope and hope doesn't disappoint.  I'm resting in Jesus, learning to be patient and while doing so, I am hope-filled. And my character is changing and I'm becoming more like Him.  And that's what it's all about, isn't it? 

Dear Jesus, thank You that in everything You bring good out of it.  We don't like the trials and tribulations that we have to go through, but even in these, You produce good fruit in us if we'll only allow You to let Your will be done in our lives.  Help me to persevere during the hard times, letting "patience have its perfect work, that I may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing."  (James 1:4).  Mold and shape my character and make me more like You, precious Lord.  In Jesus' name I pray, Amen. 

A recipe for Friendship Tea ~ let's share a cup!

Ingredients

  • 1 (3 ounce) package lemon-flavored ice tea mix
  • 2 (1.8 ounce) packages orange-flavored drink mix (e.g. Tang)
  • 1 1/3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground cloves

Directions

            1. Combine iced tea mix, orange flavored drink mix, ground cinnamon, and ground cloves. Store in an airtight container.
            2. To serve, stir 1 1/2 teaspoon mix into 1 cup hot water.
Original Recipe Yield 32 1 1/2-teaspoon servings  

This is a delicious dry spiced tea mix which can be packed in jars and given as gifts. It can also be prepared sugar free by using sugar free orange flavored drink mix and sugar free iced tea mix.

Thursday, November 24, 2011



President Lincoln's Thanksgiving Day Proclamation

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore.

Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battlefield; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.

And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed. Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

The first Thanksgiving:



Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Gratitude, Day 21 (Spiritual Treasures)


“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."  Matt. 6:19-21.

Have you ever considered the riches of our spiritual treasures?  We love our earthly possessions, but Jesus reminds us where our real treasures are - in heaven.  Those things that we cling to here on earth, that are so important to us (or so we think) will eventually rust and decay.  I have a friend whose house was destroyed in a fire several years ago.  After having lost everything, she knows for certain where her real treasure lies.  This morning I awakened to consider what treasures I have in Christ and to thank Him for them. 

First of all, I have Jesus Himself who died for my sins and the sins of all mankind.  Without Him, I don't even want to consider where I would be today.  He is my life, my every breath.  "For in Him we live and move and have our being." Acts 17:28.  He is God's most precious treasure to us.

We have the Bible, God's Word.  I love reading, meditating on and searching the Scriptures each morning.  The Bible is alive and has the answers to all of life's questions and problems.  There are many rich treasures to be discovered in the pages of His Word.  I go to favorite passages to find comfort and new hope and I often make new discoveries that fill my heart with gladness and peace. 

Prayer is a treasure, newly discovered every day.  Spending daily time with our heavenly Father is a priceless treasure He has given us; just to think that we are having a one-on-one personal relationship with the Maker of the Universe ~ how incredibly awesome is this!  Even our quick "dart" prayers are treasures that we whisper to God when we can't pray in depth as we'd like to at a given moment.  God receives those urgent requests and begins to prepare the answers. 

Fellowship with other believers in our Lord Jesus Christ is a special treasure from above.  We need each other for encouragement and for times of refreshing.  We share our burdens and build each other up, reminding one another of God's goodness and that we are praying for them. 

Heaven is a future treasure we look forward to and will one day see.  I often think about the joy of seeing Jesus face to face - His dear face.  And I'm waiting for a hug from Him!  I get teary eyed when I imagine my first glimpse of Him and hearing Him say "Welcome Home!"  And we shall be like Him.  I John 3:2 says, "Beloved, now are we the children of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as he is."  What a glorious treasure that awaits us!

Perhaps you would like to make an expanded list of your own spiritual treasures.  This Thanksgiving season be sure to say a special prayer of thanks to God for His rich outpouring of treasures in your life.  I'm doing that too!

I'm waiting to have that very special cup of virtual tea with you ~ please stop by soon!  This morning I'll be having Berry Blend tea, a delicious blend of raspberry, cranberry and blackberry teas.  This is a small, handpainted Margaret teapot.  Isn't it beautiful? 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Gratitude, Day 20 (God's Gifts)

I am so thankful for God's gifts.  He gives us such a wide variety of gifts in various ways and through many people.  Today, I had a routine doctor's appt.  My gift from my heavenly Father today was my doctor.  I've had the same physician for over 10 years now and she is a godsend.  She takes the time to listen to me, offers sound medical advice and suggestions for maintaining my health and is thorough in all she does for me.  I am thankful for Martha, my doctor's nurse.  And what a small world it is, as Martha also attends my church!  I surely know that God brought us together.  This morning I was greeted with a hug and a God bless you as she checked me in and took my blood pressure.  It's the little things or the little "gifts" such as these that warm our hearts and give a good start to our days.

I'm thankful for God's gift of wonderful Christian literature to read in conjunction with my Bible.  I have a couple of outstanding devotionals that I read and I subscribe to several Christian magazines whose articles encourage me in my daily walk with the Lord.  I love reading good books about the lives of Christian heroes of the faith; men and women of the past who devoted their lives to the Lord, encountered struggles and hardships yet never wavered in their faith in God.  They have left us a rich heritage to follow and emulate.  And for shear enjoyment, I love reading Christian historical fiction/romance.  These characters come alive for me and it is a real treat to lose myself in a rich reading of their adventures, love and devotion to God. 

I'm thankful for the way my friends surprise me!  Just this past week through today, I've received gifts of love in the form of a CD, beautiful Thanksgiving cards and a box of delectable petit fours!  And my friend Karen called me today from the high sierras where she and her family are spending thanksgiving with other family members and enjoying the breathtaking scenery and snow.  Don't think this warm weather Southern California girl isn't envious!  (Forgive me Lord).  Every time I receive an email or phone call from a friend telling me that they're praying for me, I know God has given me a special gift.  I love all my friends and thank God for them daily.  Each one brings something unique and wonderful to my life that I would be missing without them. 

The list of God's Gifts would be endless were I to continue, but I will stop here and ask you to make a list of your own.  You may be surprised at how quickly it grows.  Or then again, maybe not!

And last but not least, I am very thankful for God's great grace.  What a marvelous gift!  When I think of the many times He has bestowed His grace upon me, I could weep.  God is so good.  He gives me unmerited favor, something I can't earn, but He gives it freely whenever I need it.  Thank You, Lord.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Gratitude, Day 19 (Beauty)


"You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you."  Nehemiah 9:6.

I am thankful for all the beauty God surrounds us with.  Every day the Lord displays His wonders, be it warm sunshine streaming through the window in the morning, the smell of new mown grass , the sound of rain falling,  or a wonderland of pristine white snow in the winter.  How glorious our Father God is to bestow His blessings of beauty on us!

I love the beautiful colors of the rainbow.  When I see a rainbow, I think of God's promise to Noah after the flood, "I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth."  Genesis 9:13. 

My favorite time of the day is early morning, so early that I can watch the sun rise on a new day.  I feel God's promise of new beginnings when I see a sunrise.  I am filled with hope and assurance that Jesus will be with me throughout my day, no matter what it may hold.  There's beauty in a sunset, too as the day is coming to a close and we can reflect on God's goodness to us. 

I love the beauty of trees.  I'm a tree person ~ no desert living for me!  I need trees and flowers to look out upon each day.  And for those who do love the desert, I know it has a beauty all its own. 

God made the four seasons so that we could enjoy a variety of weather.  We don't really have the four seasons where I live here in Southern California, but we do get a sample of each one.  I love Fall most of all with its vibrant and warm colors, followed by Spring when flowers and plants are blooming and there is new life everywhere.  Others enjoy the heat of summer or the coziness of snuggling in front of a crackling fire in the wintertime.

Nothing makes me think more of God's majesty than to look at His mountains.  I'm so thankful I'm surrounded by them.  I stood looking out my window the other day at the snow covered San Gabriel mountains and worshipped God.  If I could, I'd live in the mountains.  I love them!  I wonder if the Lord is building me a big log cabin in heaven as my mansion?  :)

There's beauty in God's creation and in everyday simple pleasures - a stranger's smile, a friend's hug, a mother's love, a husband's devotion, a child's laughter, and so much more.  I'm so thankful, dear Lord, that You have given us so much beauty here on earth.  You've given us a glimpse of heaven if we'll only take the time to look at what's around us and see the beauty of each day.  Help me never to take any of this for granted, but give me eyes to see and appreciate each new day.  Amen.

More Christmas cards!



Saturday, November 19, 2011

Gratitude, Day 18 (Giving)


Let each one [give] as he has made up his own mind and purposed in his heart, not reluctantly or sorrowfully or under compulsion, for God loves (He takes pleasure in, prizes above other things, and is unwilling to abandon or to do without) a cheerful (joyous, "prompt to do it") giver [whose heart is in his giving]. 2 Corinthians 9:7 (AMP).

I'm so thankful that God so generously gives to us: are we passing along those blessings to others?  There are so many ways we can give of ourselves.  Today I'll mention one of those - the giving of our time.

I know we all have busy days, but if we purpose to spend just a few hours per week in giving of our time, think of the changes we could effect in others lives and in our own!  One way I like to offer my time is to call or email someone who may be going through a difficult time and let them know I am thinking of them and keeping them in prayer.  There is nothing more uplifting to those who are feeling low than to get a phone call, letter or email from someone who cares.  I know, because I've been there.  If possible, taking them a small gift, a meal or a card will brighten their day and do so much to cheer them up.  They'll be blessed and you'll feel as though you've been the one who has received the greater blessing!

I enjoy giving my time in doing volunteer work at my church.  I love making visitors and members of our congregation feel welcome by greeting them as they come into church.  Years ago someone did the same for me on my first Sunday there and I know many times it can make the difference whether they return the next week or not.  I also enjoy hosting a table, greeting and signing the ladies in for our weekly women's Bible study.  I get to know each one a little better as the weeks go by and like to ask how they're doing and let them know they were missed if they weren't in class the previous week.  I've worked in other areas of the church, but talking face to face with others is my favorite thing to do.  I want to show them God's love and let them know I care about them, too. 

Dear Lord, thank You for giving so generously to us every day.  You give us Your love, Your mercy and great grace, Your favor, Your provision and protection, but the greatest gift of all is Your dear Son and our precious Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Help us to give back to You our love and devotion and to pass along Your blessings to those around us who are in need.  In Your mighty and glorious name I pray, Amen.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Gratitude, Day 17 (Thanksgiving)


Aah...how can we not be grateful for Thanksgiving?  A day to celebrate with food!  Of course, we know it's much more than the enjoyable edibles.  Here is a short history from History.com:

"In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. It wasn't until 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November." 

I love the idea of a day set aside to thank God for His goodness to us, His answers to prayer and the many blessings He has bestowed on us during the year.  I know we're grateful every day for all our Lord does for us, but how good it seems to me to celebrate on this special day, to be reminded of His favor and great grace in our lives and not only remember our blessings, but recount them to ourselves and others and to say a special prayer of gratitude to our heavenly Father. 

Every year I look forward to our Thanksgiving Day service at church.  It's a time to come together, to praise and worship our Lord, hear a message to inspire and encourage us and have a time to share some special testimonies of what God has done and is doing in our lives. 

I have wonderful memories of Thanksgiving as a child when our family would all pile into the car and travel from our home in Missouri to my grandmother's house, about 80 miles away in Fayetteville, AR.  There all the aunts, uncles and cousins would gather for a rich feast of food, fun and laughter, with the older relatives once again reliving Thanksgivings past and missing those who were no longer at our table, but were at a much more glorious feast in Heaven with the One who had called them home.  After dinner, there was more time for reminiscing and reflection as we gathered around the piano and sang old time hymns together.  Later, as twilight settled in, we would go back for just one more piece of pie.  I can still hear those dear voices echoing down through the years, the laughter and tears of gratitude that we were all together for another year and had been so blessed by the Lord.

Many Thanksgivings have come and gone since those days, and our family circle has been broken due to many of our dear loved ones having gone Home to glory, but today I continue to be thankful for my family, those who have gone on and those still here and the wonderful times we shared.  During my growing up years, I took these special holiday gatherings for granted.  How I wish I could go back and recapture those wonderful times again, but I have so much to be thankful for now and I don't want to look back with sadness; only joy and gratitude.

Thank You, Lord Jesus for Thanksgiving Day.  Thank You for our families and the special times we share.  Thank You most of all for the gift of Your precious Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.  I'm ever grateful.

"Over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother's house we go...."

I made this card yesterday:

Gratitude, Day 16 (Provision)


Today I am thankful for God's provision.  We most often think of provision in financial terms, and that is definitely true, but there is so much more included in God's plan of provision for us.  Among His many names and facets of His character, He is known as Jehovah-Jireh - The Lord Who Provides.  He provides for our emotional, spiritual and physical needs. 

Jesus died on the cross of Calvary to provide for our salvation.  This is the greatest gift of all!  It is free to all who will accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life."  John 3:16.

God provides for our emotional well being.  When we are anxious, troubled or afraid, we go to Him in prayer and ask Him to give us His peace and the assurance of His love.  "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."  Phil. 4:6-7.

God provides for our physical needs.  When we pray, we ask our heavenly Father to "give us this day our daily bread."  Matthew 6:11.  When we are tired and discouraged, He invites us to come to Him.  "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."  Matthew 11:28.

He provides for our spiritual needs by feeding us on His Word.  When we are hungry and thirsty for more of Him, Jesus invites us to come to Him.  "I am the bread of life.  He who comes to Me will never go hungry, and he who believes in Me will never be thirsty."  John 6:35. 

Dear Lord, thank You for daily providing for my every need.  How thankful I am that I can come to You for all that I lack, knowing You have all the answers and are my Jehovah-Jireh.  You're all I need. 

A recent BD card I made:

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Gratitude, Day 15 (God's Guidance)


"The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame..."  Isaiah 58:11  How grateful I am for God's guidance in my life.  I have need of it every hour of every day.  Each morning before getting out of bed, I ask the Lord to give me guidance that day, along with wisdom and discernment in all things. 

Sometimes we're in a valley in our lives and don't see any way out.  We see only road blocks ahead of us and the way looks bleak and uncertain.  We feel our strength leaving us and don't know which way to turn.  Then our heavenly Father reaches out to us and leads us forward.  We don't always see that we're making progress, but He is holding on to us and our steps become more certain as we follow Him.  Soon we begin to see objects taking shape and have our first glimpse of the landscape ahead. 

Other times we're on the mountaintop and can see clearly and far ahead.  We move along briskly and there is nothing to impede our way.  We have confidence that we're walking in God's footsteps and that all will be well.

Sometimes I have looked back and only then have I seen each step of the journey and how God led me from one place to another.  No matter what we may face each day, whether a valley or a mountaintop, we can be assured that God is always with us, leading and guiding us forward.  A long as we keep our hand in His, we have nothing to fear.  Our good Shepherd will never let us go, never leave us nor forsake us. 

Thank You, heavenly Father for taking my hand in Yours and for guiding me every step of the way through this life.  Thank You for going ahead of me to prepare the way.   I have nothing to fear with Your beside me.   You are my rock, my fortress and my strong tower.   Amen.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Gratitude, Day 14 (Forgiveness)


The theme of forgiveness seems to be a thread running through my week.  It's been paramount in our study of The Patriarchs, specifically Joseph, in our Beth Moore Bible Study class.  In our video session with Beth and as part of our homework, we've been studying about Joseph and his relationship with his brothers.  We all know the story, but I think we sometimes have a tendency to skim over the details.  When Joseph first recognized his brothers when they came to buy grain, he warred with his flesh in dealing with them.  His feelings ran the gamut of emotions as he struggled with the many years of pain he'd gone through due to his brothers having sold him into slavery many years previously.  His life would be characterized by integrity, but just like all of us, he had his moments of wanting revenge and carrying unforgiveness in his heart.  In the end, he told his brothers who he was and wept as he kissed each one.  He displayed true brotherly love and forgiveness.  I've always loved that verse from Genesis 50:20, "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today." 

Isn't it true that when we hold unforgiveness against another person, we are the ones who are in prison?  They have gone on with their lives, but we are holding on to the hurt and anger and the resolve to "get even".  We don't take the time to consider that Jesus forgave us and that His Word tells us we must forgive those who have wronged us in any way. 

I'm so thankful that the Lord has forgiven me - past, present and future and that He never counts the many times He's done so.  I have a fresh, clean slate every morning as I begin my day.   I know there have been times I have grieved the heart of God, yet He has forgiven me "seventy times seven."   He is the only one who truly loves us unconditionally.   

Forgiveness is a process.  It must be a conscious effort on our part.  It isn't necessary that we "feel" like forgiving someone; those feelings most likely will come later, but we must continue to pray and ask the Lord to help us forgive until we know in our hearts that it has happened.  This is hard and would be impossible without God, but if we ask Him, Jesus will help us do the right thing.  And oh, we'll be so glad we did!  Nothing lightens my heart like knowing I have let go of grudges, resentment and offenses. 

We also need to make sure we ask for forgiveness when we've harmed another person.  Even if it wasn't on purpose and/or we don't think we did anything wrong, I think it's important to let that person know we're sorry if we've done anything to hurt them.  We should do everything we can to bring about healing in the situation.

Dear Jesus, I thank You for forgiving my sins.  I thank You for Your patience, Your love and Your willing heart to forgive me when I stumble and fall.  Help me to have a humble and forgiving heart and not to take offense at something someone may say to me.  Help me to offer love and forgiveness to my fellow travelers on this journey we're on and may I have a sensitive spirit so that I may ask forgiveness of anyone I have hurt.  In Your precious and wonderful Name I pray, Amen.

A recent vintage BD card I made for a friend:


Monday, November 14, 2011

Gratitude, Day 13 (Music)


Today's Day of Gratitude came to me as I was sitting here listening to our young neighbor singing her heart out.  She hasn't lived in the adjoining apartment very long, just a few months but we've had a couple of short conversations as we've ridden up in the elevator together.  She's a very sweet, outgoing young woman who is in theater and we can hear her practicing most days in the early afternoon and sometimes at night when we go into the kitchen.  One of our neighbors down the hall thought it would be distracting to hear someone singing so often, but we enjoy listening to her.  I always feel I'm being given a private concert!  She's very gifted and has a beautiful voice. 

This led me into thinking how music is so much a part of our lives.  We use our voices to sing praises to Jesus.  There are so many wonderful old hymns and gospel songs that I've grown up with and still enjoy singing today.  Southern Gospel will always be my first choice in music, but I do like many contemporary Christian songs.  At times, I make up my own songs of praise to sing to Jesus.  I may not have the most perfect voice, but He thinks I sing beautifully! 

I like the wide variety of music we can choose to listen to.  I'm a big jazz fan myself and also enjoy swing and classical music.  I have friends and family who like other kinds of music such as country and rock.  What a blessing to have so many musical choices and venues to enjoy them. 

Some of the sweetest music I've heard has come from the little birds in the park across from our apartment building.  Sometimes when we go to the kiosk there to buy coffee or tea, we sit on a bench nearby to enjoy the fresh air and scenery and there's never a time we aren't serenaded by God's little creatures.  Of course, this is a wonderful reminder of the Lord's great love and care for us.  We all know the words of Jesus from Matthew 6:26, "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?" 

I haven't often given much thought to music as something to be thankful for; sadly, I think I've taken it too much for granted.  So I'm very glad the Lord put it in my heart today to think about how empty my life would be without the sweet sound of music.  Thank You, Jesus for this wonderful gift You've given us.  Someday my heart will soar as I hear the anthem of praises flowing before Your throne in heaven and I'll sing like I've never sung before.  Praise Your Name, Lord Jesus! 

Latest cards:


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Gratitude, Day 12 (Family)

I hope you know that this series on Gratitude isn't in any particular order.  I just post what the Lord lays on my heart each day.  Sometimes I'll know fairly early in the day what to add and other times, (like right now!) it doesn't come to me until early evening.  And occasionally the days' thankfulness will spill over into another topic I have already discussed.  But today I am thankful for my family. 

I grew up in a home where Christ was first and foremost in our lives.  We were poor, but God always provided and we had parents who loved us.  My mom was and is a very committed Christian who raised her children in church and taught us by word and example to live for Jesus.  My dad had been saved when they were fist married, but he didn't fully surrender all to the Lord until his later years.  But he was a good father and I have special memories of him; he passed away in 1972.  I can remember one time when I was in grade school, I wanted a particular style of purse that was popular among girls at the time.  This would have been around 1961 or 1962.  I can't remember at the moment what they were called, but they looked almost like a miniature suitcase.  Can anyone help me out here?  Anyway, my dad surprised me one Saturday and took me to Newman's Dept. Store in Joplin, MO and let me choose the size and color of the purse I wanted.  Was I thrilled and excited!  I had that purse for a long time and loved it.  This has always been a special memory to me.  My mom was the one who always took us shopping, but on this occasion my dad wanted to be the one who bought me the bag. 

Mom and Dad
September, 1950

Mom always enjoyed long walks and window shopping.  I'm convinced that in addition to God's wonderful grace, she has lived to be 90 because of all the walking she did when we were growing up.  It seems we went almost everywhere on foot!  I can remember her taking me to S.S. Kresge's one day after school and letting me buy a girl's series book.  After careful consideration, I chose "Donna Parker at Camp Cherrydale."  I had that book for a long time, but eventually it was lost or misplaced.  About 10 years ago I saw a used copy for sale on ebay and purchased it!  I re-read it and after all these years, it still held up well and was a fun read. 

I am the oldest of 6 children and was the only child for almost 6 years.  My sister Ellen was the next to be born, then Alice, later Nita, my brother Royce and lastly, Jackie.  Despite our age differences, Ellen, Alice and I had many happy hours of playing dolls together. I wasn't ready to give up my dolls until I was almost 12 years old!  Our family wasn't perfect, but I can always look back with fondness at my growing up years and today, I am warmed by the way our family stands together during times of loss such as when Ellen went home to be with the Lord this past July.  Like most families, we've had our share of trials and tribulations, but how I thank God for His great grace in sustaining us through the years.  I love my family and thank the Lord for placing me in this particular one.  Psalm 68:6 says, "God setteth the solitary in families."  Thank You for my loved ones, Lord Jesus.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Gratitude, Day 11 (Friendship)


I have been giving a lot of serious thought to friendships the past few days.  Because this blogspot has friendship as part of its name, that is a big clue about how important friends are to me.  Today I am  thanking God for all the friends He has given me.  I have always enjoyed making new friends and holding on to old and dear ones.  I am not going to name names here, as I would be bound to inadvertently leave someone out and I don't want to do that as each one of you hold a special place in my heart. 

Jesus was a wonderful model for friendship.  We know that He was close to His special friends, His disciples, especially Peter, James and John.  He cared deeply for the men God had given Him and prayed for them.  In John 15:13, He said, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."  He proved to be the ultimate friend by giving His life for us.  And how thankful I am that He's that friend who "sticks closer than a brother."  Proverbs 18:24. 

One of the things about my friends I'm most thankful for is their prayers for me.  Where would we be without the intercession of friends?  They help us through the hard times with unconditional love and support and our hearts are warmed by the good times we share with them.

Some of my closest friends I've met online!  At one time that would have sounded incredulous, but because of today's technological wonders, we can meet and establish good relationships via the Internet.  I have met one of my online friends and she was just as dear in person as I knew she'd be!  I have special friends from school days I am still close to, friends from my former job and friends from my church who are like family to me. 

I believe God gives us friends who meet different needs in our life.   There are friends I contact when I'm down and need a word of encouragement, others I call when I would like to get together for lunch and sometimes I call friends for just a long, enjoyable chat on the phone.  And I never want to forget that just as God has blessed me with friendships, I too, must be a good friend.  Friendships work both ways and I always want to be available for my friends too, offering encouragement, prayers and many times just a good listening ear.  Thank you, my friends for always being there for me.  I'm so grateful for YOU!

Here are two Christmas cards I made today:



Friday, November 11, 2011

Gratitude, Day 10 (Healing)


I am so thankful for all the many ways God brings healing to us.  At times, I have been in need of both physical and emotional healing.  Some of my favorite healing verses in the Bible are from Isaiah 53:5, "...and by His stripes we are healed",  Malachi 4:2: "But for you who revere My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in His wings" and Psalm 103:3, "Who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases."  These are just a few of the promises of healing from God's Word.  I also like Scripture that speaks of healing those who are bowed down due to the hardships of life.  Psalm 147:3 tells us that "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." 

God brings healing to us through His miraculous touch.  I have a friend who was diagnosed with a terminal illness, but was divinely healed through the grace of God.  This was years ago, and she is completely healed, doing well and still praising God for her miracle. 

God also brings us healing through medicine and medical personnel.  In 2002, I had a burst appendix and had to have an emergency appendectomy.  I was very pleased with the surgeon who operated on me and when I went back several weeks later for a follow up exam, I thanked him and told him that God had used him to save my life.  He look startled, as though he wasn't used to patients thanking him!  But I needed to let him know the role he played was very important to God and to me.  He was grateful and I felt blessed that God had chosen him as the best surgeon for me. 

Psalm 91 tells us that if we make God our dwelling place, we will find safety and rest in Him and we'll be given a promise of protection from inflicted disease (no plague shall come near your dwelling).  But this is conditional on making the Lord our refuge and maintaining our trust in Him.  When we stay close to our heavenly Father, walking daily with Him, reading His Word and spending time with Him in prayer, we enter into that sheltered place of promised health.  I am convinced that there have been  times I would have gotten sick had God not so graciously prevented this from happening.  I have no doubt you too have been in that same sheltered place yourself. 

Thank You, Lord for keeping us in the shadow of Your wings, where we safely dwell as we trust in You.  Amen.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Gratitude, Day 9 (Prayer)


Oh, how grateful I am for the privilege of prayer.  To think that the Creator of the universe would want to hear from me personally is so incredible to me; to know that He is eager to talk with me and to hear what's on my mind is beyond my comprehension.  I am amazed when I think that He is interested in everything about me and promises to answer my prayers.  At times, the answer may not be what I had hoped for or expected, but I am assured that it's the right answer for me because the One who provides the answer knows me best.

How often have you heard someone say (perhaps you, yourself) "all we can do is pray."  My friend, that is the BEST thing we can do!  Prayer is powerful.  James 5:16 says, "The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much."  Earlier this week the author of my devotional posed a question whose answer I think is so typical of us as believers. He said, "Do my prayers lack power if I am unable to do anything to help God answer them?"  No wonder we feel overwhelmed with the needs of others!  We are trying to take on responsibility that is God's.  We must ask the Lord to help us trust Him that our prayers are being heard and that lives are being changed and affected by our prayers.

I enjoy communing most with the Lord when I am just talking to Him as I would a friend.  I believe this is the intent of the verse of Scripture from I Thessalonians 5:17, "Pray Without Ceasing."  No, we can't continually be in prayer but we can be in the spirit of prayer which to me means having an attitude of prayerfulness throughout our day and talking to Jesus as we go about our daily activities. 

I am glad my heavenly Father is always there for me.  There have been times when I've awakened in the middle of the night with worrisome or troubling thoughts and fear about something I'm facing or going through and been comforted by the sweet presence of Jesus who has eased my anxieties and whispered words of encouragement, hope and healing to my heart.

So yes, I am thankful for prayer and for a Father who hears my prayers.  One of my favorite childhood memories is seeing a plaque on my grandmother's wall that said, "Prayer Changes Things."  I'm here to attest that it truly does!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Few More Of My Handmade Christmas Cards...





Gratitude, Day 8 (Storms)


Yes, you read the title correctly and I'm not crazy - I am thankful for storms!  Oh, I'm not thankful for the storms themselves, but thankful for what they produce in me.  If we never went through any difficulties, trials or tribulations, how could God grow us up in Him?  How would we have a testimony to share with others of all the many ways our heavenly Father saw us through?  I read a quote that said, "Sometimes God calms the storm but sometimes He lets the storm rage and calms His child."  Either way, we will see victory, friends. 

Going through storms builds character.  And it increases our faith to know that no matter what we face, God is with us and He will see us safely to the other side.  One of the first real storms I faced in my life happened some years ago.  There were a few questionable "spots" on my mammogram and I was scheduled for another one with more views and an ultrasound.  Never having faced any serious health issues previously, I hit the panic button and thought I must surely have the big "C".  Before going back for the additional tests, I prayed like never before and asked for family and friends prayers, also.  I remember how my faith wavered and the moments of doubt and fear I experienced, then how I would be encouraged as I thought of Jesus and knew that nothing would happen to me that hadn't first been filtered through His loving hands.  I prayed for greater faith and the strength to endure.  I reminded myself that we are all given a "measure of faith" and that I had to trust Jesus with my life.  I found out that the spots were calcium deposits, quite common in women as we age, and there was no cancer.  I was weak with relief and grateful to God that I was alright, and best of all, came out of this first major "storm" with a stronger faith and trust in the Lord. 

There would be othe crises through the years, some big ones and some small.  The most recent one was the illness and death of  my dear sister Ellen this past July.  I never questioned God's goodness but understand that He knows best and that our ultimate healing is to be taken home to be with Him.  This was the hardest trial I've had to face in my immediate family with the exception of my father's death in 1972.  I was heartbroken at her passing, but draw comfort in knowing where she is, Who she's with and that I'll see her again one day.  But having "passed through the waters" before, I can honestly say that, once again, the Lord has seen me and my family through this raging storm and filled us with His great peace .  We will always miss Ellen; no one will ever take her place in our hearts, but we have been strengthened by our faith in God and knowing that He and He alone holds our future in His hands.  We can trust Him because we've seen what He has done before.  Every day we experience His many blessings and see His mighty works.  We can trust Him because He's seen us through every storm and we've reached our safe port with Him by our side. 

Oh precious Lord, thank You for the outcome of every storm we go through, because without them we would never know the inner joy and fellowship of  having You guiding us and seeing us safely home. 

Here is an old and favorite hymn - "Keep Me Safe Till The Storm Passes By":

In the dark of the midnight
have I oft hid my face,
While the storm howls above me,
and there's no hiding place. '
Mid the crash of the thunder,
Precious Lord, hear my cry,
Keep me safe till the storm passes by.

Chorus:

Till the storm passes over,
till the thunder sounds no more,
Till the clouds roll forever from the sky;
Hold me fast, let me stand
in the hollow of Thy hand,
Keep me safe till the storm passes by.
(Mosie Lister) 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Gratitude, Day 7 (Jesus)

Today and every day, I am thankful for JESUS.  He is my life.  Acts 17:28 sums it up so well, "For in Him we live and move and have our being..."  He is my all in all. 

As I told in a previous posting, I was saved at the age of 11.  I can still remember my joy as I stepped away from the altar that Sunday morning, a new creation in Christ.  Though there were years that I wasn't living for Him, He so graciously continued to woo me through His Holy Spirit and since 1996 I have been walking closely by His side and having sweet communion with Him. 

Just as all of us can, I recall so many times Jesus came to my rescue through the years as well as the times I didn't need rescuing because of His great grace and mercy in keeping me safe from so many   unknowns.  Every day when I thank Him for His many blessings, I make it a point to especially thank Him for those blessings that I am unaware of.  How often has He kept me out of harm's way or prevented me from becoming sick, just because He is a loving Father who is always looking out for His beloved children?

I've had a few dark nights of the soul when I was going through great difficulties and didn't always feel His presence, yet I knew in faith that He was there; that He was going through the storm with me and would never leave me nor forsake me.  He never has failed me yet and I know He never will. 

I can't fully fathom His great love for me, but nonetheless, I know He loved me enought to die for me.  I am thankful that I can wake up each morning with the confidence that He'll go with me through each day.  I'm thankful that His mercies are new every morning and that because of this I can come to Him with a repentant heart, asking forgiveness and receive it every time.

As a child, we sang a song in our elementary school every year around Thanksgiving called "Great Is Thy Faithfulness." 

"Great is Thy faithfulness," O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.
Great is Thy faithfulness!" "Great is Thy faithfulness!"
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
Great is Thy faithfulness," Lord, unto me!"

Thank You, Jesus for Your faithfulness.  I'm thankful for You and I love You.