About Me

Van Walton

Fun Facts about Van Walton

My favorite smell: The way the earth smells after it rains.

My favorite sound: The first notes of a grand symphony.

My favorite way to relax: Sitting anywhere outside - on my front porch, on my deck, or by the lake, early in the morning with my first cup of coffee.

My favorite birthday dessert: a Peach cobbler baked by my husband. He’s my fave chef!

I will not eat: Avocado. They turn my stomach into a volcano that never erupts.

Technology I couldn't live without and why: My laptop - it takes me anywhere I want to go.

One thing that makes me smile: My sons' faces!

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My Resources



My book, From the Pound to the Palace, is available for $10
from Proverbs 31 Ministries.


Pound to Palace


My book, Little Halos, is available for $5.99 from Proverbs
31 Ministries.


Little Halos


Blog Archive

Proverbs 31 Ministries












Links




Sponsor a Child in Jesus Name with Compassion

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Sunday, December 30, 2007

PACKING UP CHRISTMAS

Yesterday we returned home from our Christmas journey. I walked into my home realizing that “Christmas is over. It is time to put it away.”

Every year I put off pulling out the red an green storage boxes. Something just isn’t right when, at the end of each Christmas season, we have to pack away the decorations – reminders that we have once again celebrated the birth of Christ.

This year I resolve to continue to display the decorations that celebrate Jesus’ birthday. Oh, I know how tacky that might appear. I don’t mean that shiny gold, green and red balls will remain as centerpieces on my dining room table. The Christmas lights will come down. Evergreens that are drying up are surely bound for the compost pile out back, and the candy canes… well I am not sure what I am going to do with them!

But, I resolve to allow the decorations that brought peace and light, beauty and wonder into my house to remain a part of my everyday life as I step into a new year.

While I store away the ornaments and candles, the wreaths and crèches, I promise to fan the flame that gave me such peace over the past several weeks. I promise to regularly peer into the Word that causes me to pause in wonder at the love my heavenly Father has for me. I promise to be a forever friend to those whose lives are threatened by life’s destructive forces. I promise to continue to look to God as I search for hope, peace, and my life’s purpose. I promise to trust Him to dignify me, not the world.

It’s time to store Christmas away…

Today I will begin the process of storing this very special Christmas, not into boxes in my attic nor into bins in my basement, but into precious memories deep in my heart.


Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me
Let there be peace on earth
The peace that was meant to be

With God as our Father
Brothers all are we
Let me walk with my brother
In perfect harmony

Let peace begin with me
Let this be the moment now
WIth every step I take
Let this be my solemn vow

To take each moment and live
each moment in peace eternally
Let there be peace on earth
and let it begin with me
Friday, December 21, 2007

THE CHRISTMAS JOURNEY

Today began at 4 A.M. when I woke up to the annoying buzz of the alarm clock. Normally that buzzing sound puts me in the worst of moods. Today the rude noise excited me. Let the journey begin!

My DH and I drove out of our garage at 5:09 and put Asheville behind us around 8 o’clock. The phone rang and my older son reported in from south of Chicago. The second group of travelers, driving south to rendezvous with us in Memphis, consisted of my son and his wife. All is well. Plans seemed to be on target.

At 11:30 the phone rang again. This time my younger son reported in. He and his buddies had left the ski slopes of West Virginia. We discussed his 3 days of skiing, the conditions of the slopes, the restaurants, and his plans to join us on Sunday at my mother’s on Table Rock Lake in Missouri.

Get the picture – a car travels west though TN and one travels south through IL. On Sunday a plane will wing its way through the sky and land in NW AR.

Right about now I feel like the Wise Men traveling, following the same star, searching for a place to lay down our TREASURE.

Each one of us has a different expectation, I am sure.

I know Aaron’s TREASURE will be the gift of listening. He has been anticipating his grandmother’s stories. Not only does he want to hear the tales once again, but he longs for his young bride to learn more about the family’s history.

Benjamin’s TREASURE will be the gift of his presence. The past 6 years of his life have been consumed with high school sports and now his college studies ( with a lot of play thrown in, I’m sure.) His schedule has not allowed him to venture far from home. His visit to his grandmother’s after not having seen her for many years will be a gift of great joy.

Campbell’s TREASURE will be the gift of provision. Without his generous contributions toward each of our voyages, our Christmas Journey would not be possible.

And my TREASURE? The gift of prayer. I ask the Good Shepherd to go before us to make the rough places smooth. I ask the Prince of Peace to fill each heart and the home where we congregate with His presence. I ask the King of Kings to reign over our celebration reminding us that our love for one another is the TREASURE He desires. I pray that the next several days will be filled with thoughts toward others’ wellbeing, not our own comfort. I pray that long after this week has come and gone, that we would remember the wonderful gift of family, Christian legacy, and unconditional love. I pray that the quiet moments we spend in each other’s company would strengthen us to move into the New Year with resolve to glorify God in our service to one another.

And I pray that all your Christmas expectations be met as you focus on Jesus' birth day.


Bearing Gifts We Travel so Far
Thursday, December 20, 2007
WHY WE CELEBRATE.

It’s all about Jesus. This is why I celebrate during this season. I have so much to consider when I focus on Jesus journey to earth. You know what is most awesome about this party? In His heart, His journey was all about me. If HE could get my attention, convince me that His way is the only Way, and then develop a friendship that would last forever, His trip to earth would have been worth it. Can you imagine – Jesus came for me. He came for you too!

Jesus Points to my heart
He Uncovers my sins and
Raises my status.
Jesus Provides my strength.
He also Offers sanctuary.
He Secures my soul.
Jesus Engraves my name in the palm of His hand.


Joy to the world!
Wednesday, December 19, 2007

SO, WHAT'S THE PURPOSE FOR THIS PARTY WE ARE CELEBRATING?

Blogging is fun. I like its randomness, but I get off track sometimes. For instance, early in December I began blogging about the "purose for the party." Every once in a while, though, life happens and I have to talk about what is going on in my daily routine. Tonight, I am going to continue with the purpose.

So far purpose is spelled:

Jesus Points to my heart
He Uncovers my sins
and Raises my status.
Jesus Provides my strength.
He also Offers sanctuary.

How appropriate! During this busy, hurried, and unfortunately stressful season, He calls us to Him - to a quiet stable a place of sanctuary. Want to run away from the crowds, the endless to-do list, the loud meaningless parties, traffic jams, tired children who have had it with sweet treats and lots of shopping, and ..... I have a solution. Step into the sanctuary.


The 'S' in purpose stands for:
Jesus Secures my soul.

What answer do you give your children when they ask, "Why did Jesus come to earth?" Many of us will answer, "Because He loves us." or "His Father sent Him."

My children were never satisfied with that answer. When they are happy and content, they have no desire to give up what they are doing. So they can't understand, "Why would Jesus leave heaven, where He was King, and come to earth, to be a pauper?"

I think it is a great question. I am glad they are thinking and asking.

My answer is, "Jesus came to earth to Secure your soul. He loves you so much, he wants you to spend eternity with Him. He came to earth to show you the way to get to heaven. Sort of like follow the leader."

Speaking of securing your soul. If you are looking for a great illustration to teach your children about following the Leader, my DVD, From the Pound to the Palace, produced in collaboration with Renee and her two sons, Andrew and Josh, is the perfect tool to share with your child.

Want to be sure you soul is secure, ask Jesus to step into your life. That is precisely what Christmas is all about.

Immanuel, God is with us!
Monday, December 17, 2007

GIVING THE GIFT OF SELF

After messing up my kitchen - my DH came in for a visit. He usually hangs out in the basement where he works most of the day, Every once in a while he surfaces. Am I ever glad he surfaced on Friday. I laughed about how cooking totally exhausts me. He knows. He has been married to me for 36 years! Send me to the yard. There I can dig, plant, weed, mow, mulch, trim... and NEVER tire. I am alergic to the kitchen.

Guess what my DH did? He offered to clean up the kitchen. He made my day! His love language is acts of service. I LOVE the gifts he gives me- little projects that make my life easy.

Yesterday - Sunday - I had a Merry Christmas day. Our little family of three went to church and then we went out to lunch with a friend whose husband is a pilot. He was flying. We treated her son, my son, and three other home-from-college friends to lunch. I felt so honored to sit at the same table with such fine young men.

As I looked at these guys - non of them perfect mind you, but each a child of God and a product of Christian homes, I thanked God for His wise words to me. I am thankful I believed Him early on that I needed to do my homework - "raise my sons in the fear and admonishion of the Lord."

It is so much easier to discipline little boys than it is to scold and punish young teen men.

If I don't get a gift at all this year - I am content with my husband's acts of service and my son's progress on the growth chart - not the physical one, but the emotional and spiritual chart.

As we sat around the table I saw how my investment of time and lessons in boundaries had paid off. I looked at my son and his friends and, although God has not finished with them, I could clearly see the good work blooming within each soon-to-be man.

Good Christian Men Rejoice
Friday, December 14, 2007

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED - - WELL ALMOST

I accomplished a lot already today, but I have a few questions:

Does anyone recall receiving an invitation to a commune? If so, can I be your invited guest?
(I would like to join one because I like sharing jobs and responsibilities. I don't like working and cleaning up alone! )

Does anyone know of an agency that comes into a kitchen after Van and her Thing 1 (mixer) and Thing 2 (boiling over pot) messes are finished?
(You see - I am exhausted!!!! My back aches, my feet are sore. I don't feel so good after licking the chocolate, eating a few too many nuts, helping myself to the Christmas pudding, and trying the PUPPY CHOW I have never before made. AND there is a huge mess in the kitchen to clean.)

I would like to take a nap but I feel like a wuss. I only went to the grocery store, came home and put up the groceries - just a few mind you, not a BIG shopping. Then I made my DH's sandwich. I whipped together the guacamole dip I promised my coming-home-from-college son. He'll be here in a couple of hours. I made Christmas pudding for my husband and our family favorite - TRASH, a snack made with wheat and corn chex, honeycomb cereal, nuts, fritos, pretzels... That is all I did and I am exhausted. I can't take a nap. I want to be awake when Benjamin walks through the door. Plus I have done nothing to warrant a nap. But - maybe after I clean the kitchen I will convince myself - oh yeah, I hear my pillows calling, "It's OK cuz you will be up 'til three in the AM waiting for the teenager turned nocturnal creature to come home."

OK - deep breath - I AM GOING TO CLEAN THE KITCHEN.

Oh Come All Ye Faithful
Thursday, December 13, 2007

GINGERBREAD HOUSES, CANDY LAND, & TREASURE HUNTS




Yesterday I blogged about my FLIP FLOP day. When all about me shoppers, planners, decorators, bakers, and gift wrappers were "preparing for the holidays," I took a little journey through my neighborhood to visit some little boys, their baby sister, and their mom. I thought abut waiting 'til after the holidays to visit this precious family whose daddy is on a mission trip in Africa (http://theswineharts.blogspot.com/) , but one morning Betty IM'ed me (is that proper spelling and grammar - if not please someone tell me how to write IM in the past tense) to comment on the Christmas P31 Woman magazine (. In the course of the conversation I offered to come over and play with the kids so she could have some time alone.

Now that is a FLIP FLOP activity for the month of December. I was supposed to be "preparing for the holidays" - right? What a blessing to follow through with my instinct to play with some little boys so their mom could have a quiet lunch alone. I think Betty had a FLIP FLOP day too. From the sound of her trip out into the land of holiday shoppers, I believe she chose peace and quiet over frenzy and rush.

By the way - the gift of SELF and TIME is a present all children long for.


When I arrived we made plans- build and decorate the gingerbread house, play games, and run around outside. We did all that. There was one glitch - we did not finish building the house. While the boys decorated - really ate spoons full of icing and little decorative candies, I carefully held together the four walls of the house. They kept asking me if they could put their decorated roofs on the house. Afraid the house would cave in, I left that task for their mom! Maybe she will post a picture of the finished project on her blog in the next couple of days.

Children love to play treasure hunt. It can be played in the house or outside. I gave the boys a list of three "treasures to find." Before I could tell them treasure number two, they shouted, "A lizard. We are good at finding lizards. Can a lizard be on the list."

"Sure, find me a lizard." They found a daddy-long-legs instead.

The treasure list consisted of an acorn, a red leaf, and a stick. Immediately they found lovely red leaves. They were all over the ground - no snow or sleet here - just a yard full of red leaves - very Christmassy. Tyler ran off to find acorns and Bryce tripped over a log. "Is this a stick?" We had a long conversation about the difference between logs and sticks. "Yes, Bryce, they ARE both part of a tree!"

As there were no acorns to be found, each boy brought me a tiny snail. We ooed and ahhed over the little animal that lived within and then - FLIP FLOP. They tired of the game and we went inside to play board games.

Life is full of FLIP FLOPS. We are never sure what the next day or moment will bring. By the way - I did paint my toenails, but I hear I will have them hidden away in socks and shoes by day after tomorrow - because the weather is about to FLIP FLOP again.

One thing is for sure. The REASON for this season, never FLIP FLOPS. When the weather changes - be it stormy blizzards and ice or emotional upheaval, confusing interruptions, or "walls" that threaten to fall in, Jesus remains the same. His love for us and desire that we love each other is constant.

Do you find your holiday spirit threatening to FLIP FLOP? Why not forget the CHRISTMAS RULES and take a moment or two - enjoy an out-of-the-ordinary activity. I am sure you will celebrate the treasure when you have experienced it.

After all when Jesus came - the world did a FLIP FLOP, to never be the same again.

Rejoice!
Wednesday, December 12, 2007

IT'S A FLIP FLOP DAY


No kidding - I am nowhere near a tropical beach, but this morning I put on my flip flops! It is December 12th and I had to pull out summer clothes. We are expecting record breaking temperatures again - not winter lows - but winter highs! Now in the Spring when we have several near 80 degree days it is a sign that the water temp in pools is almost bearable. What I would do to hop into a pool! Yesterday I actually sat on my deck in my favorite lounge chair and stuck my toes, feet, and legs into the sun! I'm wearing flip flops and sunbathing in December and I am NOT on vacation. Oh no! Definiatly NOT vacationing right now - nor is anyone. We are preparing for the holidays - aren't we?

This is on my to do list:

*Run to store to pick up the chicken I don't have because I underestimated earlier in the week when I did my shopping.

*Get back home and make the chicken enchiladas
(I'm making chicken enchiladas for my friend and neighbor whose soccer playing husband is in Africa on a mission trip. This is a way I can support the family. Betty's boys love Mexican food so I am making up this dish then taking it over to play with 3 little boys while she runs out with her baby girl.)
THIS IS MY IDEA OF CHRISTMAS SHOPPING - Don't have to go the the mall. Get to play with children. What an incredible trade off! I gift my friend with time and she gifts me with a gift of sheer pleasure.

*While I am out I have to pick up some fingernail polish remover (When I put on my flip flops I glanced at my toes. YIKES! I still have on a bit of left over summer nail polish residue. TACKY. Gotta get that OFF and put on some new fresh.)

*Finish stuffing the stocking that I will be giving away through Lysa's Great Christmas Giveaway - if you have not entered the drawing, I suggest you do so. I am giving away a stocking stuffed with fun Christmas ideas - activities my children and I used to do as we prepared for Christmas. I am also including my children's DVD FROM THE POUND TO THE PALACE.

*Think about, make a list, and return to the store - probably tomorrow- to pick up all of Benjamin's - he is my younger son who will be home from college on Friday!!!! CAN'T WAIT to see him- to pick up his fave foods and snacks.

*Get ready for him to come home!! Yipee. I know he too will want Chicken Enchiladas so I am making a double portion. He will want TRASH - that is what our family calls the home made chex party mix. He also told me that he has been introduced to - and then he proceeded to describe to me "corn and rice chex, covered with chocolate, diped in powdered sugar, mixed with M n M's.." I googled it and found out what he wanted was PUPPY CHOW. Anyone have a good recepie? Otherwise I am going to try one of the ones I found on line and hope it is as good as his roommate's mother's. I know - why don't I ask her. He doesn't know which roommate and he doesn't want me communicating with her. You know - moms - Nothing good comes from moms when they come together! Of course he'll want a a steak, white chile, and ziti. I think I will impress him by putting his favorite Guacamole dip on the family's big red YOU ARE SPECIAL plate. After all - he will have just completed finals and the first semester of his sophomore year.

*uh - anything else... oh yes -

*Order a ham and cheesecake and have it sent to my sister-in-law.
Don't forget to enter the Great Christmas Giveaway!

*oh yeah - paint my toe nails

Have a Merry Flip Flop Day
Thursday, December 6, 2007

Back to "The Purpose for the Party"


Several days ago I bunny hopped right off the trail. Not unusual for me. I just had to share my experience with the children at Lake Norman Christian Ministries Preschool (Dec.3) and then I had to let you know about Lysa's GREAT CHRISTMAS GIVE AWAY. Click the icon to sign up for a fun Christmas happy.

Now I want to get back on track and continue talking about the
purpose for the party
. Just to review:
Jesus Points to my heart
He Uncovers my sins
and Raises my status
Jesus Provides my strength
As I think about Christmas and what I would like to give my family I remember that I am a homemaker. Although I have worked outside my home as a teacher, a recreation director, a translator, a sound engineer... I am always a homemaker. I am responsible for making my home a haven for my family. Every year, as the days grow shorter I am reminded that the world is a dark place. I want my home to be a place of light, freedom, safety, comfort, and peace. I want my family and friends to walk through my door and experience heaven - just a little piece of heaven.

Jesus birth was a way of Offering sanctuary to those who choose to go to Him for shelter and protection. He is the Prince of Peace, a safe Refuge, and a mighty Fortress. I want to learn from Jesus so I can offer the same to my family.

One way my children feel peace in their home is to experience time-honored traditions they can depend upon. Traditions give a child stability. Children look to traditions to assure them that little has changed. The world may not always be fair and reliable, but at home my children know to count on certain things.

One tradition we have is that I buy a children's Christmas book every year. My older son is 27 so we now have somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 Christmas books. I use these books to decorated. I stack them on the coffee table and place a poinsettia on top of the stack. I open the picture books to nativity scenes and place a candle beside to cast a soft light on the reason for the season. My favorite Christmas book is the great big huge family Bible. I open it to pictures drawn by the great masters of art and place it on a table in the living room. It reminds me to gather my children around me and page through the massive book. To them it represents importance. It is heavy and impressive. I want them to respect God's Word. I believe a great big family Bible is a wonderful visual for a child.

What are your traditions? Why not share them with the readers of my blog.

Here are some ideas for traditions:

* Purchase a large family Bible. Make sure it has sections of pictures that depict a variety of events in the Old and New Testament. Close the Bible and then ask a child to find - Adam and Eve in the Garden, Moses and the Ten Commandments, Mary talking with the Angel. Then take some time to sit and talk about each picture.

* Using your computer and clip art create a series of pictures that depict the nativity story. Cut out each picture. Give the pictures to your children and ask them to arrange the pictures into the Christmas story. As you point to each picture ask questions about what is taking place. Find a Bible verse for each picture and begin to memorize the story of Jesus' birth.

* On slips of paper write questions about Christmas and put them in a jar. Here are some ideas:
Why do we decorate our house with lights?
What is so important about the star?
How did Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem?
Where did they stay when they were traveling?
During dinner ask each family member to choose one question. During dinner discuss the answers to the questions. You might want to record the answers or remember to write them down. Reading them in later years when your children are older is a great form of entertainment.

* Speaking of entertainment, be sure to teach Christmas songs and have your children perform for you. That is a great confidence builder.

Speaking of confidence. The greatest place to find confidence is in the sanctuary Jesus offers. He is our sanctuary.

Wishing you Tidings of Comfort and Joy!
Tuesday, December 4, 2007

MORE FUN THAN SHOPPING

If you read my blog -CHRISTMAS RULES, November 24, you know I have decided that I am not going to shop this year for Christmas presents. I have had several people ask how I am going to stick to my plan to keep worldly Christmas traditions from ruling me. (I do not like to shop. I especially do not like doing anything when someone else dictates that I should, especially when I am not sure - WHY? What is the purpose? Shopping brings out the worst in me. Don't get me wrong I LOVE to give, but I like my giving to be spontaneous, given with love, out of a desire to surprise and encourage - so I am not going to shop this year. I like to give the way my mother-in-law just gave: she sent me an e-mail inviting my 85 year-old widowed mother to join my in laws for Christmas. Now that is giving! ) Christmas still rules in my book. I love the magical and marvelous power Holy Nights have over me. Christmas music enchants me. Church choirs and little children angel voices lift me to the clouds and beyond.

That said - I am jumping into Lysa's giveaway. Click the Christmas Tree button. I am giving away a Christmas Stocking filled with ideas for Christmas activities and mother-child activities and my DVD- From the Pound to the Palace.

SO - I am not shopping BUT I AM joining in the fun fabulous cheer of giving, giving, giving.
Monday, December 3, 2007

STORY TIME UNDER THE TREE


Tonight I took my sweet dog, Air, to read his story to a group of children. When I arrived to the preschool, I quickly put on my pajamas, as it was Polar Bear and Pajama night. - Oh how I wish I could dress so comfortable when I speak to grown ups!

As the children arrived and gathered around my book table, they began to ask when they could see 'the dog.'

They had been told that they would hear a story and meet the main character - a dog, and that he would 'sign' their books.

When the children gathered around I knew we were in for a treet. Not one took his or her eyes off me or the book while I read it to them. They could relate with the fact that the dog had wandered away and had gotten lost. They could relate to the fact that sometimes they are obedient and submissive and some times they are not. By the time the story was over and they met Air, they realized that everyone loves a good dog. I reminded them that everyone enjoys the company of obedient children.

My book and DVD , FROM THE POUND TO THE PALACE would make a perfect Christmas gift. It can be purchased through the Proverbs 31 Ministy resource page:

http://proverbs31.gospelcom.net/newresources_poundToPalace.htm

Samantha from the Proverbs 31 office drove with me. What a treat to have a traveling companion! We had some wonderful conversation as we drove there and back. I do not believe anything gives me more joy than developing relationships with other women and seeing bright curious faces delight in a good story.

Speaking of stories - I am off to bed to continue reading my book. That too gives me great satisfaction - finishing a day on an up note, climbing into bed and reading myself to sleep.

Oh! And I already have on my p.j's!
Saturday, December 1, 2007

FELIZ NAVIDAD



My favorite Christmas activities with children:

*This activity needs a collection or two of magnetic letters and children who are reading and writing and spelling. I set apart the letters for Christmas words and place them in a baggie. Each child picks a bag and arranges the letters to spell out a word like manger, Jesus, star, gold, or lamb. Then I ask each child to write or say a sentence with their word. This is a great activity that lays the foundation for good writing skills.

My friend has asked that I teach her grandchildren Spanish. Her husband is Cuban and together they decided to give the grandchildren a gift of inheritance for Christmas – Spanish lessons. You may wonder why I would be teaching Spanish. In the days when I worked for pay, I taught high school Spanish because I I sort of stumbled upon a Spanish major due to my own heritage. I was born in Venezuela and grew up bilingual.

Anyway I agreed to begin the lessons – once a week for 30 minutes. Thursday my friend, her daughter-in-law, three little ones – all under four and I all sat on a mat in the middle of the family room. We played and learned Spanish words! I do not need to say that we had a wild and crazy fun time.

It had been so long since I had been around children of that age that I had forgotten, their little minds skip from one activity to another, rarely stopping for long. If we are surrounded by little ones we have to be willing to skip around also or they will leave us behind! Second, I remembered that all learning takes placer in a play environment.

I bring these two thoughts up because I think the greatest gift we can give our children is play, not presents, but play. Why not make Christmas a season of play rather than concentrating on one day of wild disarray? I really believe children would rather spend an hour or two playing with their parents every day than experiencing the thirty minute blur that describes Christmas morning. At the end of the self-absorbed, charge through the perfectly presented presents, most children suffer disappointment. “Is that all? Is there anything else for me?” They feel a void because, in reality, nothing fills us like time well spent in relational interaction.

Maybe, like so many parents, you are simply too exhausted to play with the children. That is alright. When we forge ahead building relationships, filled with praise and music the Spirit of Christmas which is Jesus joins us in our activities

Providing the strength we need.

There we have it, the secnd ‘P’ in ‘purpose’. What is the purpose for the party?
Jesus POINTS to my heart. He UNCOVERS my sins, RAISING my status, and PROVIDING the strength I need to give my children the attention they crave and deserve.

It’s time to turn on the music and fill our hearts and homes with Christmas music and join your children in play.

Here are a few other activities I remember sharing with my sons and children in the neighborhood:

* Give each family member a cozy throw and a pillow to be kept in the family room. These can be used for snuggling, camp outs in the family room, cuddling by the fireplace, or Christmas tree and nativity scene viewing.

*Get creative. Design a special activity each evening to encourage children's good behavior. Our favorite was the game of YONDER STAR. After baths and supper, before bedtime, to encourage quiet and calm in our house I lowered all the lights. My flashlight became YONDER STAR. The boys were the wise men. I traced the ‘star’ across walls and ceilings while little wise men followed the ‘star.’ Some nights the star stopped over the kitchen table where the family pitched a tent and crawled underneath with pillows and cozy blankets. There with our individual flashlights we gazed in amazement at the nativity or Christmas tree. On weekends, depending on my children's behavior during the day I would reward them by letting them "camp out." The next evening the game continued until the star stopped at the nativity scene where we listened to Christmas music and sang carols.

* FINISH THE STORY. One person begins: "The angel came to Mary." Another continues: "Mary was very afraid." Next someone says, "The angel told Mary, Do not fear." Each participant says one sentence until the story is over. This is a good game to play in the car. The game can be "dragged out" by adding interesting details like, "On a beautifully sunny day, Mary went to the river to wash her hair. " Next person adds. "Suddenly a bright light appeared." The object of the game can be to see who says the most sentences. Each person who says a sentence gets a red or green M & M. Once the story ends, the winner is the one with the most candies! Tape these family activities to develop memories and traditions.

J O Y!
Tuesday, November 27, 2007

AWAY IN THE MANGER

A highlight in our family during the holidays is the afternoon we drag out the box that contains the family crèche. We place far greater emphasis on the setting up of our nativity scene than we do on any other aspect of home decorating. First, I spread the boughs of greenery across the mantle. I combine artificial with live greens from my yard. Then I wind tiny lights into the greenery, setting the stage for a starry, starry night. Once the stable is securely positioned we take turns placing the many figurines on the mantle. Wise men and their camels go on the left. Shepherds and their sheep belong on the right. Angels stand tall behind and above the stable and then the three main characters - Mary, Joseph, and the babe move into place. Once our manger scene is in place - it is official Christmas has begun in our house.

Our Holy Night Christmas scene is now the center piece of our home. As it sits in its prominent place – high and lifted up above our fireplace I am reminded of the PURPOSE for the party:
Jesus POINTS to my heart and knocks. He asks to be a part of my life.
Jesus UNCOVERS my sin. He makes it easy for me to forget the past, giving me hope for the future.
Jesus RAISES my status. He invites me to live as if I were royalty. I am a child of God, so why not live as if I were a princess.

(We’ll finish the spelling of the purpose with each new entry.)

Now that my children are gone – my college sophomore just pulled out of the driveway returning to school - I am remembering the many memories we made when they were young. Let me share some of our favorites. You may want to try them out in your house.

*I have a large plastic nativity scene that the children are allowed to handle and play with. Throughout the season I hide the “baby Jesus” and the children play "find-the-babe-wrapped-in-swaddling-clothes-and-lying-in-a-manger.”

* Start a new tradition if you have not already. Dress early each evening in the new Christmas p.j's purchased especially for the season. During this time of year children tend to be very excitable. If planned correctly bed time can come early without lots of complaining and noise. Eliminate al noise in the house by turning off the television and radio. Maybe soft Christmas music is allowed. Ambiance goes a long way in settling children after a day of activity, so turn off most lights. Playing quiet games and prayers before bed are activities that help calm little ones before bed.

Consider this: Whatever a child’s last experience in his or her day is what they continue to think about as they fall asleep. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every boy and girl could fall asleep with a sweet and happy smile on their little face with the love of family, the security of caring adults, and the safety of a peaceful home swimming around inside their hearts and minds? After all isn’t that what “visions of sugar plums” is all about?
Saturday, November 24, 2007

CHRISTMAS RULES

Today my husband and I traveled to Pinehurst to visit friends. We got lost and arrived 45 minutes late. I had instructions from mapquest, but I had the wrong house number. I am not sure how many times we drove past our friends' house before we recognized where we were. Oh - we tried to call for directions, but the number they gave us was out on the golf course in the midst of a serious game. By the time we finally got around to calling information to get the house number we pulled into the driveway.

We chatted for a while and then went out to lunch. It had been a year since we had visited them in their new home. Now we were reminiscing the year and projecting into the future.

We discussed all sorts of topics including Christmas shopping. I announced that I would be breaking the rules this year. I don't want to do any shopping! It's not that I am a scrooge - I love Christmas. This year I don't want to cloud my Christmas by letting the rules dictate how I celebrate. I want my holiday to be holy and pure.

That reminds me I am focusing on the PURPOSE for Christmas. Christmas is a time when I can remember that Jesus POINTS to my heart and claims me.

He UNCOVERS my sin and sets me free. In both cases I have to be willing to submit to His work in my life. Before I go any further into the holiday I want to come clean. I want to look deep into my heart and rid myself of anything that binds me, anything that keeps me from totally celebrating the season. That is one reason I don't want to shop. I don't want to want something that convinces me that my life will be better if I have it. I don't want to look at what my neighbor has and want it so badly it consumes me. I want to open up my soul and dump out whatever has taken control and taken up residence in there. I know that once I come clean I will be ready to fill myself up with music, joy, wonder, compassion, and worship. After all isn't that what the shepherds who left their lambs did. Isn't that what the wise men who laid down their treasures did? Isn't that what Mary and Joseph did when they traded in their plans for God's plans and said 'yes' to Him?
Friday, November 23, 2007

THE PURPOSE FOR THE PARTY

On Tuesday I spoke to a wonderful group of mothers at Jamestown United Methodist Chruch MOPS group. My topic revolved around “The Purpose.”

I shared with the ladies how planning for the holidays can be a spent in constant chaos and perpetual planning that leads to exhaustion. We agreed that we suffer emotionally and spiritually when we take on too much. I asked the question. What is the purpose?

What is the purpose for slaving in the kitchen to create dozens upon dozens of delicately decorated cookies?
What is the purpose for a perfectly lit Christmas tree?
What is the purpose for long and exhausting shopping sprees that put us into debt?
What is the purpose for a mountain of toys?
What is the purpose for the party?

Over the next several days I am going to share with you what I learned was the purpose for the party.

Jesus POINTS to our hearts. “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and (s)he with me. Revelation 3:20
My first step in preparing for the holidays is an act of hospitality. I hang a wreath on my front door. Everything about that wreath points to Jesus.

The wreath is ROUND, with no beginning and no end. God has no beginning, no end. His love for me is everlasting.

The wreath is decorated with red berries symbolizing Christ’s shed blood for me. A white bow reminds all who enter into my home that Jesus offers the gift of salvation purifying all who would ask Him for a new life. Stars strategically placed around the wreath signify the Light that Jesus shines on the path leading us in paths of good choices.

Children enjoy participating in the Christmas decorating so why no allow them to make their own decorations. Children can make their own wreaths to hand on the doors to their bedrooms. From time to time you can remind them that Jesus stands at the door and knocks. Ask your children. “Have you invited Jesus to come into your life?”

Wreaths your children can make for themselves or as gifts for grandparents:
Color a wreath on a piece of paper. Cut it out and tape it to the bedroom door. (Clip art on the internet is a good resource for crafts with children.) Decorate that same wreath with a collection of photos, cut out hand prints, or glue and glitter.

Create a wreath from foam pieces purchased at a craft store.
Purchase a piece of green foam that is shaped in a circle. In the floral section of the craft store let your children choose small pieces they can ‘punch’ into the foam to create a wreath.

As you enter and exit their rooms remind them of the wreath and its significance. Especially encourage them to develop a relationship with Jesus who came to earth as a baby so He could have access to our hearts.

Plan a little gathering. Invite a few friends or immediate neighbors to your house. You do not have to be fancy. Serve popcorn decorated with Christmas M & M’s and hot chocolate.

Developing relationships with people is almost as important as developing your relationship with Jesus.
Thursday, November 22, 2007

SHOUT FOR JOY - ALL THE EARTH

I read this week that a key to longevity is gratitude, to practice being aware of those things for which you are thankful. The article went on to say that one way to practice this life giving activity is to say thanks before going to bed at night. " Remind yourself how thankful you are for at least one thing that happened during the day. Refuse to concentrate on negatives."

That was it! Thanks to whom?

"...whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father..."Coloassians 3:17

YIPEEEE My meal is prepared and waiting to hop into the oven! I have taken my walk and now I'm anticipating a wonderful afternoon ahead of me. Thanks to a generous family that hosts what they call their

ORPHAN'S THANKSGIVING

I didn't have to cook an entire meal by myself. Our little family of 3 (my older son and his wife are with her family's for the day) feel included in someone else's life. We feel wanted and that is huge during the holidays when families gather and your own family is far, far away.

My friend Sandy has the meaning to hospitality down perfectly. She is always including people in her life. I believe she will be wearing a glittering crown in heaven. I pray God give her a brilliant jewel for every time she has invited someone into her home. Today I am thankful for a friend who practices the art of hospitality. If we all participated in acts of hospitality there would be no loneliness, no feelings of rejection, no insecurities running rampant within people's souls. People would not experience sadness, hopelessness, fear, or depression alone. I know that when I am invited into a home, especially soon after having moved to a new community, I put behind me those lies that tell me I am a foreigner, outsider, or alien. Hospitality leads to overall wellbeing.

Because another family is practicing hospitality I can smile and enjoy my afternoon knowing my dear mother is eating her Thanksgiving feast with some of her favorite people - the Wonderful Whitleys.

Thank you Fulgi's! Thank you Whitley's! Thanks to all who reach out and invite the lonely, the widow, and the orpahn into their home today. May God bless you and add jewels to your crown!

Happy Thanksgiving
Wednesday, November 21, 2007

WHEN THE SON RISES IN THE JUNGLE, IT BECOMES HIS GARDEN

For days many moms and I have been reminding each other to pray for our college students who would be driving the highways, winding their ways home for Thanksgiving. The object of our prayers? Their safe trip home.

Yesterday I also found myself on the highways - driving to Jamestown, NC for a speaking engagement. So as I woke up long before sun up, I prayed for my son. Then I went on to get ready for my short trip up the road. The night skies were just turning gray when I pulled out of my driveway. At that time I realized that I might want to pray for my own safetly. I prayed,

"Father, I ask for your protection as I travel to Jamestown.
Just as I have prayed for college students and their safety,
I ask that you go along with me and bring me home. Would
You please watch over me. It would be horrible for Benjamin
to lose his mother.Please keep me safe."

I pulled out onto the interstate with a feeling of trepidation. I love to travel. So it certainly concerned me that I felt fearful. Oh well. Refusing to allow this dark mood to destroy my trip, I punched in my favorite-hymns CD and turned up the volume. In no time I was rolling down the highway belting out my praise along with the singer. OOO HOOO what a way to start the day and the sun had not even come up yet!

Two or three songs played and then I heard "Crown Him with many crowns." For one quick moment I was struck blind! The sun rose, peeked into my rear window and reflected on my rear view mirror.
Absolutely out of this world!
With all the fall leaves reflecting their brilliant red, orange, copper, and bronze colors, I couldn't help but be dazzled by the show the Creator had produced for me. In that moment nothing else existed but the Son and me. I thought, "How unusual. I am traveling north, yet the sun is behind me. It should be to my right." I continued belting out my praises. When the music finished, during the silence between songs, a quiet voice to rose within my heart.
"I've got your back."
As my car curved around Charlotte and then headed northwest, the SON managed to peek in every one of my windows and with each peek, I heard,
"I've got your right side covered, ...and your left. I go before you. I am all around you."
Just like that, God answered my prayer. "Fear, trepidation, dark mood - be gone!"

God still speaks.
Thursday, November 15, 2007

A GARDEN WITHOUT RAIN BECOMES A DESERT

Today I am looking toward the western sky and hoping. I am hoping and praying for rain.

Here in the southeast we NEED rain. I talk about our need for rain and I frett that, with each forcast, there is none on its way. This morning, though, our weather forcaster said we might get some rain. I feel like a child on Christmas morning.

I have decided that we need to pray for rain. Every time I turn on the tap, I feel stress to be careful of every drop of water. I know some would say that I carry my concerns to extremes. I can't take water for granted. I have lived and travleled where water is scarce.

Why oh God, don't you send rain? I cry out and remember the things I have learned about God. Maybe He is trying to get our attention. I know that when my child wants something, he has to do three things. He has to ask, which means communicating with me. If I am going to hear him, he needs to come close to me. IF the request is a serious one, I expect that he will sit with me a while as we discuss the ins and outs, pros and cons.

I wonder. Does God want me to talk with HIm. I know the answer to that question. "Yes." Does God want me to get close to Him. "Yes." Does God want me to sit with Him and spend time in His presence. "Yes."

Is it possible that God is waiting for his children step into a meaningful relationship with him?

We need rain. I know only one way to get the moisture we need. I am going to pray for rain.

Do you believe the prayers of a few people can bring on the rains?
"If you will indeed obey my commandments that I command you today, to love the Lord your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, he will give the rain for your land in its season,the early rain and the later rains."
Deuteronomy 11:13-14
Friday, November 9, 2007

IT IS A JUNGLE OUT THERE

I woke up this morning with my day all planned. Darkness filled the room until the light switched on. I read a few verses from my Bible, prayed, and checked on my girlfriends – online. Sure enough there were many prayers for the many requests we make of each other and our God. After an hour of writing, I fixed breakfast.

That’s when all my plans went out the window.

I could tell by my friend’s voice – the phone rang at 7:30 – that she was exhausted, maybe very ill, or possibly under stress. Of course she was stressed out – rather freaked out. Her nephew had been shot last night in an armed robbery and at this very moment was in intensive care. Did I mind going with her to talk to the doctors and keep her from fainting in case of the worst case scenario. What a request! She needed me because she doesn’t speak very good English and she certainly wanted to understand exactly what the doctors had found out. So I braced myself and met her at the hospital.

When we steeped into José’s room, he greeted us. In no time his nurse came in to tell us that the bullet had entered one side of his neck and exited the other side. The bullet had not so much as nicked anything in that neck of his. NOTHING! He would be released in a few hours to go home. Up to now, he had received no pain medication. The doctors had not stitched up the points of entry and exit! He would heal nicely. He could return to work on Monday.

He was shot last night through the neck! Here he sat in the hospital bed perfectly fine. I realized then that I was face to face with a miracle. God had saved José for a future day. He still had a duty to perform in his life.

I might plan my day, but God determines what will happen. Right now I am appreciating the moment, because I do not know what my future holds – only God knows.

It may be a jungle out there, but God still performs miracles!
Tuesday, November 6, 2007

MY GARDEN: A SAFE PLACE FOR FRIENDSHIPS GROW

I KNEW IT ! I KNEW IT! I KNEW IT!

I have always known that TALKING IT OUT is a productive form of therapy. This morning on GMA I heard Dr. Tim Johnson say that stress is a big factor in infertility. One way to reduce stress I to TALK IT OUT. Well – that came as no surprise to me.

The greatest gift I have given myself over the course of my lifetime has been to give myself, not only the gift of girlfriends, but the gift of quality time.

I regularly:
Check on my friends via e-mail and the phone.
Meet them to share meaningful conversation over coffee a meal, a brisk walk or workout.
Go on retreats to the mountains or the beach.
Take trips with a group of friends.

Conversations include:
The good, bad, and ugly experiences we are having.
Good listening.
Encouraging words.
Lots of laughter and tears.
Compassion.
Prayer.
Wise words based on Biblical principles.

Forbidden in conversations:
Shaming or blaming words.
Judgmental attitudes.
Gossip.

Got stress in your life? Call a friend, talk it out!

I would love to hear from you. What causes your stress? Do you take time to talk out the challenges you regularly face? If there were one thing about your life you could eliminate, what would it be?
Monday, November 5, 2007

NEEDING MY WALKING STICK FOR A NEW PATH



Tomorrow I arrive home after having been away for a little over two months. As my husband and I continue to make our new transition - into retirement, from full time parenting to empty nesters, from conforming to routine to being in total control of our daily lives, I wonder,
"What are we going to find around the next bend in the road?"
We have the luxury, after 35 years of submitting to corporate life, to make our own choices these days. Because we have never lived close to family, tops on our priority list has been to make up for years of lost time with parents, siblings, nieces, and nephews. So. for the past two months we have been realizing our dreams. We have eagerly rushed to spend quality time with our aging, yet very healthy parents. I am sure I will not regret the moments we have recently shared.

Together my mother-in-law and I cut flowers from the garden planted by my father-in-law's garden and created an arrangement for a fun family dinner.

My mother and I dressed up to cheer our home team to victory. Can you guess what our school colors are?


Now I am stepping back into my regular routine and I am wondering about the future. Every once in a while I realize that I am a bit unsettled about my future. My son is in college in North Carolina. Parents are in Arkansas and Missouri. Where do I belong? I'm not sure and I would like to know. I want clear direction so I can make the right choice! For now I have not gotten a firm answer as to what I am supposed to do so I am just going to pick up My Walking Stick and step into each new day with confidence that I am not alone.
Thursday, November 1, 2007

My Walking Stick

Yesterday I took a walk in the garden - God's garden, along the lake front, up the bluff, through the woods and fields. Surrounded by God's beauty - colorful fall leaves, a brisk breeze, a deep and wide lake, animal footprints, views of hilltops I pursued my daily exercise.

As I walked along the lake front I saw something strange in the water. Not about to step into the cold water, I grabbed a stick to poke and prod the funny colored and unique object. When I pulled it to the surface I realized that all I had spotted was a piece of drift wood. I kept the stick I'd picked up to poke and prod and began to use it as a walking stick. Over the course of a two hour hike I became more and more dependant on my walking stick.

When I wanted to step up on a rock or step down from high place, I leaned on my walking stick. At one time I came across a muddy stream bed. I knew if I crossed it I faced the possibility of sinking in mud and destroying my good walking shoes. I stuck my walking stick out and, once again, poked and prodded, making sure the ground was firm ahead of me. When my hike became a climb, my walking stick gave me the support I needed. Often I thrust my walking stick out to move brush, spider webs, or thick undergrowth. Once or twice briars threatened to slow my process, but my walking stick swept the thorns aside. At one time I stumbled over some tree trunks and found myself standing over the remains of a small animal. How did it die? Was it a young animal? Was it hurt? I found myself grieving. Then I began to dig a hole with my walking stick. When I had a deep enough hole, I respectfully moved the tiny carcass into its resting place. I used my walking stick to return the dirt to its hole. In a minute I coved the burial plot. Leaning on my walking stick I contemplated life and death. Before long I realized I had become totally dependant on my walking stick. Something I had picked up purposefully completely eased the course of my journey.

Toward the end of my walk I spotted a beautifully marked tortoise shell, reminding me that God is a marvelous creator - no two alike! Not sure whether the animal was dead or alive, I moved slowly. Unhappily the shell was empty, but the shell begged to be picked up - the markings too lovely to let it stay lost in the woods. I wanted to display it. So I stuck my walking stick into the empty shell and lifted it up. Now my walking stick carried my prize.

After my walk, it dawned on me that God is always waiting for me along the path, waiting to help me, support me, encourage me, go before me to clear the way, give me strength, to share my sorrows and my joys. I had a talk with God last night. Before I take any walks in the future, before I get out of bed in the morning, I am going to reach up and take hold of my God. Whether I walk in the garden or find myself in the jungle, I would be wise to always take God, my Walking Stick along with me.
Thursday, October 25, 2007

WHEN GOD CALLS, TAKE A WALK IN THE GARDEN




William and Jessica





are two children who live thousands of miles away from my home, yet they are part of my family. God gave them to me when I, once again, asked that He show me His purpose for my life and His persepctive on the human condition. He answered my prayer and gave me more - a peace that passes all understanding!

Although I have a busy schedule with deadlines and challenging opportunities just like everyone else, I find myself longing for more, struggling to find fulfillment, searching for something to fill that vast empty space - that God-sized and God- shaped place inside me. I become restless and lose focus. I increase my work load, thinking that will relieve me of my vain wanderings, searching for meaning in my life. Finally I hear God calling me to sit with Him in the garden. Amazing!

I've learned, when I slow down and submit to God, together we accomplish the most.
I learn from listening to God what really matters in life.

When the opportunity to travel to Ecuador was presented to me, I knew I had to step out of my comfort zone to satisfy my empTy space. I had been invited to experience first hand how the truly poor live. God was calling me to walk hand in hand with a child, share God's concern for poverty, and get involved.
ouch!
How would I react to a situation where I would literally step into a hut on a squatter's hill and be exposed to poverty's reality. Could I hold the hand of a child whose little fingers rarely felt the trickles of running water? Could I kiss the cheeks of a child whose eyes were infected, whose nose continually dripped due to various viruses? Could I smile at a child and offer hope when all around me the picture was grim.
YES! YES! and YES!

When God calls His capable child to touch the life of a needy child, He opens His heart and both step, hand in hand, into the inner chambers of the Almighty.

With trepidation I took my first step toward my journey to the heart of God. Now I wonder, "How could I have ever doubted God's Word?"

"When the Son of Man, Jesus, comes in his glory, and all the angels with him then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations… Then the King will say… 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we perform all these acts? The King will answer… I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.' “ (portions of Matthew 25: 31-39, italics mine)

When I held the hand of a child who had no hope, God used me to give hope.
When I kissed the cheek of a child who saw life dimly, God gave us both a new vision.
When I smiled in the midst of sorrow, God miraculously painted the landscape with
brilliant joy.

I just replied to my Jessica and William. I know when they receive my letter they will read of hope, begin to see God's vision for their lives, and experience brilliant joy simply because one ordinary person believes that God's Word is a promise to all who choose to walk with him in obedience.
Thursday, October 18, 2007

IF THE JUNGLE IS A CAGE, THEN THE GARDEN IS FREEDOM



Last Saturday I spoke to a group of ladies in Missouri. My topic was based on my doggie book From the Pound to the Palace. During my 45 minute presentation I compared the plight of our animal friends to the human condition. I described the details surrounding the day my son and I visited the animal shelter an chose a family pet. I began my presentation by stating that my broken heart drove me to consider the similarites between an animal taken capitive and placed in a cage and a woman falling prey to abandonment, abuse, loneliness, and poor self esteem. Clearly my audience could relate with my compassion for the little dog I freed from the dog pound and clearnly the ladies who listened, captivated to my stories and the tales of others, understood that we all long for escape from those proverbial cages that keep us captive to past issues.

Then this week the media broke lose with Ellen Degenres and her doggie woes. We long to resuce our furry friends because we ourseves have deep longings that need rescuing.
If we can save an animal, then there is hope for us. We can be saved.

Brining my puppy home gave me a great sense of dignity. I had saved a life.

But that was not the greatest benefit from having helped my puppy to escape from his pitiful life in the pound. Once he settled into his routine in his hew home I began to observed my little dog's devotion to me and those who clearly loved and adored him. My dog worsihps me! His devotion to me and those in my family who care for him is evident. As his master I provide everyting he needs. My dog is smart. He knows who is his provider. I have learned the most important lesson of my life from my precious pet - I too have a Master. His name is Jesus. I have learned that total contentment is devotion to Christ who saved me from a life of meaningless wandering and called me to His side. Now because I know that God resuced me and gave me a purpose in life, I no longer allow loneliess, poor self worth, and rejection to rule my thoughts. Instead I lift my head and walk with dignity because my Master is the King of the Universe and the Prince of Peace!
Friday, October 12, 2007

GRIEVING AS I LEAVE MY GARDEN

Recently, it seems, I have corresponded with several women whose lives have been turned upside down due to a move. Either these women are retiring and have moved to the place of their dreams or closer to children. A few women with whom I have spoken have moved due to corporate transfers. I recently heard from J... who has moved 11 times in her marriage and now her husband is retiring from the Air Force. Yesterday I spoke with a missionary who has returned to the U.S. Happy to be "home" with family, she mourns what she left behind - her "home and family" on the mission field. One thing is for sure - Although moving can be an adventure of the most exciting sort, it can also be a life changer - a challenge that threatens to destroy. After my last move, I wrote the following:

The Flood Gate Opens

Genesis 7:11 “… all the fountains of the great deep burst open
and the floodgates of the sky were opened.”

Yesterday I buried my best friends. Gone are my lunch buddies and community chums. My tennis partners, their children and husbands also disappeared from my life. My next door neighbor and my friend from across the street are gone also. I buried the ladies in my Bible Study and the children in my Sunday school class. I am grieving the loss of my pastor and his wife. I will never see the florist or the mailman again. The hairdresser had become a best friend. She is gone along with the teenagers who bagged and carried my groceries. It wasn’t a wreck on icy roads that took my friends nor an earthquake or a tornado. They were not even together when I lost them. This event that caused great sorrow in my life was a unique disaster. I was the only one in attendance at this desperate occasion. I grieved alone. I suffered in silence. There was no one to console me. This was an unusual event because the people I loved had not been typically buried, laid to rest in satin lined caskets or dropped into the cold frosty ground. They were not even dead. Yesterday morning I painfully wrapped each dear soul in wonderful warm memories and stuffed my friends one by one deep into the hidden chambers of my broken heart.

Father of all compassion,
You understand and know the heartache I feel. With tears flowing and a heavy heart I drove away, not from a graveyard, but from a home where my sons’ growth charts are etched into the utility room door. I drove away from a peaceful garden where I had dug up earth and planted flowers, shrubs, and trees. With dread and sorrow hanging over my future, I put behind a community that only last week was full of life and purpose and comfort. I drove away, not from a bad wreck or a natural disaster, but from a life that had now come to an end. Yesterday I moved. I turn to You for consolation. Do not abandon me in my grief.

Luke24:15 says “…Jesus himself approached and began traveling with them.”

What does this mean for you today? Be comforted, knowing Jesus is traveling with you.
Friday, October 5, 2007

FLOWERS FROM THE GARDEN




I absolutely love flowers. No two are alike! I spent today with buckets of fresh cut flowers - flowers grown in my friend's garden. Grown for a special occasion - a wedding. My good friend is getting married tomorrow - a second marriage for her. Let me tell you how God has blessed her in her obedience to Him.

I met S... years ago in church. Over time we became good friends. When the women's ministry asked me to present a seminar on personality types I happily agreed. Believing the women would enjoy helping me with my presentation, I wrote skits that would illustrate the personality types. I asked S... to play the role of the melacholy personality type. I gave her the script and asked her to learn her lines. I also gave her a brief description of the Personality Types so she would have a better understanding of her role in the weekend seminar. Saturday arrived and S... showed up at the church early offering to help me set up. As God would have it, for once in my life, I was finished with the set up and, taking a deep breath, sat down to ready myself for the day. Here came S... When I told her "thanks, but I am ready to go," she asked if we could talk. She proceeded to tell me that she wished she had been given the information on personalities earlier in her marriage. She wished she had had that information before she married! Why? Her husband had just dropped a bombshell. He was filing for a divorce. Oh how she wished she had understood him better. Now she knew exactly why he had not met her emotional needs. She knew she had not met his. Had she had the proper tools, she would have been able to "work" with him to improve the issues in their marriage. Now it was too late. He wanted out!

S... and her friends grieved, mourned, prayed, and cried together as she moved out of her home taking her 6 year old little boy with her. We moved her into a condo and talked long hours with her as she began to heal. She determined to devote her life to Christ and her son. She knew that she did not want to remain single all her life, but she would not look for a man. She told her little boy that he was the most important person in her life. Today that little boy is a young man with confidence. Tomorrow he will give his mother away to the man God brought into their lives. I admire my friend, S...

The church bells will ring tomorrow announcing a new union brought together by God. I know He blessed her for depending on Him to provide her with the man of her dreams.

... and the flowers I helped her arrange for her wedding will stand tall in all their glory to celebrate what God has brought together.
Monday, October 1, 2007

LIFE OUTSIDE THE GARDEN IS A WILDERNESS

LIFE OUTSIDE THE GARDEN IS A WILDERNESS

Are you a hermit, a Bedouin, or a pilgrim? * see definitions below

Have you ever found yourself wandering? I wander around lost most of the time. Either I am overwhelmed with too much to do or think about, I am frustrated that life is not taking the path I think it should, or I simply am weary – so I wander seeking peace, comfort, direction.

I know where I want to go. Sometimes I just can’t get there! I begin to think of the pilgrims of long ago who set out on journeys and found themselves overwhelmed, frustrated, and weary. How did they survive. They didn’t have half the amenities we have today, yet my spiritual forefathers – the children of Israel who followed Moses, made it to the promised land. My national forfathers made it to America, settled, and laid a foundation for future generations

I have spent many hours wrestling, searching for ways to survive my perceived hostile surroundings. As a sojourner on the way to a strange land I have sought to walk gracefully and be obedient to God's calling on my life. I have rarely succeeded in "doing it right." God, though, has heard my cries, murmurings, and grumblings. His steadfast faithfulness has taught me through His Word. His "cloud by day and pillar of fire by night" have led me to the secrets of the pilgrim. Let me share them with you!

The Promised Land was the land given by God to Abraham and the Hebrew nation. It would be a place free of bondage. It would be a place where they could freely worship the God of their forefathers. It would be a place for their children and their children's children to grow and become a great nation. Once there, they would prosper, provide for their families, and produce a bounteous harvest. Canaan would be their future. Upon arrival life would be wonderful. God, in His sovereignty knew this, but did His children understand?

Contemporary corporate pilgrims often move for the same reasons as our forefathers. The family provider seeks a place to raise children free from the social ills that plague our communities. Mothers long for parks free of fear, schools full of a fervor for learning, and communities which fan a spirit of unity and neighborly cooperation. We move for many other reasons also. We pack and sell our houses because there is no work in our particular field. Corporations restructure and move entire divisions across the nation. Parents grow old and children reorder their lives, returning home to offer assistance.

Preparing for the trip, organizing the details, anticipating the future all become the center of the move-her’s life. The day to vacate arrives without warning. Emotions rule. The relocating family is either ecstatic or grief stricken and, to top it off, out-of-control feelings pop up in the most unfortunate circumstances. A multitude of last minute details demand attention. Time continues to tick. Inevitably, the journey begins.

Regardless the motivation for the move, despite the meticulous organization, after the premises has been vacated, the process of change begins and unexpected situations challenge the movers. There will, no doubt, be detours along the way. A pilgrim wakes daily to new situations. Strange places have a way of trying foreigners. Discomfort often rules. Attitudes are tested. Too soon the journey dead ends in a wilderness. What happened to the place of dreams come true?

The pilgrims, during the exodus, ran out of water and they experienced hunger. Early into their flight they longed to go back. They forgot their cries for freedom. They no longer remembered the joy and anticipation that the promised land held for them. Unfortunately the circumstances of the journey allowed fear, anxiety, remorse, and anger to take control.

Wherever you might find yourself today, whether experiencing a cross country move, pondering your spiritual position in life, or facing emotional battles, think of yourself as a pilgrim. Jamie Buckingham in his book A WAY THROUGH THE WILDERNESS, addresses three types of desert citizens.

*"Hermits move in from the outside, settle in caves and stay in one place until they die. The Bedouin are nomads, on the move but always in a circle. However, God never intends for His children to settle in the wilderness as hermits or nomads. We are thus to be the third breed of wilderness person - the pilgrim. Each wilderness experience becomes a pilgrimage - an experience in which we meet, know and follow God to His land of promise."

In him we live, and move, and have our being. Acts 17:28

IN HIM we move,
Wednesday, September 26, 2007

MOVING FROM MY GARDEN




as I wander...spiritual and emotional wondering from a contemporary corporate pilgrim

Yesterday I sat all comfy and content in the home of a friend - doing what I love most, enjoying the company of women. As we became acquainted we all realized we all had one thing in common. Each of us had experienced the trials and adventures of moving.

Recently I wrote that my life in the garden I have tended for many years is changing. I am being called to tend many gardens and as I travel from plot to plot I find myself wandering into the jungle. Of course my journey is physical, but it is the spiritual and emotional wandering that threatens to undo me!

I don't know about you, but a move turns me upside down. The storm clouds gather and I brace myself for a flood. The flood of tears threatends to drown me even before another flood crashes donw on me. This flood will swoop up all my possessions and carry them along, dumping them and landing them onto foreign soil. I have stood helpless with no where to turn as the "waters" rise. My swirling emotions threaten to sweep me off my feet and carry me away, out of control. Neither pumps nor sand bags can save me. The damn has broken. In no time I know I will find myself overwhelmed, tattered, exhausted, and lost. I try not to be afraid. I know God is with me.

All I ever needed to know about moving I learned from Moses and the band of pilgrims he lead through the Sinai Desert. It may seem unusual that a modern-day corporate move would have any relationship to the grand exodus, but the second book in the Bible has many life applications for us today. It has been said that no one stands still. "You are either moving forward or backward." Every Christian is on the move. Whether planning a corporate relocation, a new mission assignment, or a military deployment. experiencing emotional stagnation or spiritual growth, each one of us is on the move. We are headed toward the "Promised Land." Many will arrive through a direct route. Some will get sidetracked and wander for a lifetime.

For now I am going to keep my eyes focused on the "Promised Land." I want to to take the most direct route. I want to travel through as many gardens as possible. I pray I don't end up lost in a jungle or wandering for 40 years in a desert of my own making!

in Him we live, and move, and have our being. Acts 17:28

Monday, September 17, 2007

MENTORED BY WISE WOMEN

As I mentioned a few days ago, my life has taken on a new turn. I am in the phase of life called "retired." I feel way too young to be retired, yet I should not be surprised. My husband set a goal when he began his career - retire while still young enough to enjoy life. So here we are spending time with our parents and siblings and enjoying every moment we have been given to make up the lost time while we were away from family fulfilling the duties owed to the corporate world.

I like retirement with my husband. We worked many years to arrive at this stage and now we are enjoying each other and life together. I cannot say this has always been the case. There was a time I thought our marriage was doomed. I even sought advice from older women, women I trusted who mentored me during some low points in my life. I asked them their opinions about my thoughts. I felt, since my husband and I were no longer compatible - what does that mean anyway? - that we should consider a divorce. That seemed to be the way every one else was resolving their marital issues. I didn't like what the women told me. They said I should not leave, that I should stay with my husband and work it out. We have been working it out for 36 years and now the hard toil has paid off.

I wish I could find those women and thank them. Maybe I can thank them by passing on my own words of encouragement to someone else who is struggling in their marriage. I say stay.
Start strong and finish strong. In between, it might be rough, but focus on the final outcome. I have a history with my man. We have shared things together that we have with no one else. Had I cut and run I would have never experienced this many years together.

No man is perfect. Changing partners only changes problems. You may get a new man; be assured you will get a new set of problems.


God has blessed us for keeping our promises. We understand and respect each other more today than ever before. We enjoy each other today more than ever before. We anticipate spending the rest of our life together.

Our children are secure and they have a positive role model for their marriages.

I do appreciate how difficult relationships can be. I also understand that some marriages, due abuse and abandonment have no where else to turn except toward separation. I would add one caution -
if finding a new, better man is the goal of divorce, think long and hard. There is no better man than the one you chose.
Learn to love the one you're with and with God's help, you will wake up an see that you are married to a prince. I know this to be true. It happened to me!
Wednesday, September 12, 2007

THE CRIPPLED CALF

While I visit my mother here on Tablerock Lake in Missiouri I find that I spend hours in complete solace marveling at the world God made and longing for peace: longing that every single human might enjoy life the way God meant us to - in the garden, walking with God, surrounded by His incredibly designed creation. No strife. No hatred. No anger. No need to get ahead.

I like visiting these hills to get away from it all. I do not like tribulation. Like an ostrich I prefer to stick my head in the sand so I don't have to face life's trials and hardships.

Every evening my husband and I, along with my faithful furry friend - Air (he's my dog) take a walk up the road. Once we leave the house by the lake we enter pasture land where 45 or 50 cows live with their brand new calves. As we walk, we see a new calf - all wet and brand new to this world, wobbling on its legs trying to stand for the first time. Imagine only hours ago, that little calf was safe inside its mother. Suddenly birth pangs hit and the little thing was thrust out into a pasture, full of flies, thorns, fences, and predators. How's a calf to survive?

This evening's sight caused me to reconsider my daily walks. When we approached the herd, the cows with their offspring ambled off, moving quickly away from us. The last two lagged far behind. Then, sadly I realized why. The poor baby had a bad limp. He was lame. With great patience the mother cow prodded her baby along, trying to keep up with the rest, but understanding she and her crippled one had to move slowly. I watched the pathetic sight. With tears in my eyes and deep heart ache I watched what was supposed to be a serene pastoral sight.

"God! Where can I go to get away from the pain and sorrow of life? I can't stand to watch this poor calf. Surely there will come a time when that cow will have to reject her baby."

In a minute that sweet cow turned to face her calf. She licked its forehead and its face. She licked his shoulders and nuzzled its leg and lame little foot. What was she telling her baby? "I love you. Don't cry. There - mommy will wipe your tears. I don't care about that weak little hoof. We can stop, if you are tired. I‘m here with you." Oh what a picture of total love and commitment. Can you imagine the peace and resolve felt by that baby. Then the mother made the ultimate sacrifice. Forgetting the herd, allowing it to leave her behind, she stopped. Coaxing her crippled calf as he hobbled and limped, she nudged it toward a place of reward and comfort. The little calf's tail wagged as he began to nurse. Suddenly he was no longer lame. I saw God's garden again.

We may live in a fallen world, but there is hope. If a mother cow can wait for her crippled calf at the expense of losing her place in the herd, all must still be well with the world. Yes there are those who can't keep up, but there are also those who can make a sacrifice to offer comfort, solace, refuge, encouragement. That cow would not abandon her calf.

Funny - for as long as I can remember I have passed the herds of cows in my daddy's pastures. I have always made a mental note. "I would hate to be a cow!"

Tonight I stand corrected. Cows are humble, caring, patient, protective, sacrificial...

Sorry, cows. Your lives have become a standard for which to strive.

Friday, September 7, 2007

GIVING

GIVING

Suddenly the topic of giving seems to surface everywhere I turn. I find it interesting that it has become vogue to give to others – as if this were a new idea, a new phenomenon. Americans are known for their generosity. We show up whenever there is a need or disaster. Be it a hurricane, a tsunami, an earthquake, or in the case of Iraq – a corrupt leader. Americans come to each other’s side to offer help. We travel around the world to do the same.

Former President Clinton has determined to help the children in Africa. He is on a campaign to convince Americans to reach out and give. To prove his point his book GIVING just hit the bookstores Good for him. Oprah had him on her show this week along with a young lady, Kendall Ciesemier, who started her own giving when she was 11 years old.

What I would like to say is that giving is not just a new fashion, the latest craze, a new thought. More than 2000 years ago, God‘s Son, Jesus came to earth with a message of love. “Do for others,” He said. I wonder – why is it that we listen to world leaders and readily pick up their books praising them for their good works, but we ignore Christ’s daily call to practice pure religion.

I have learned that deep and fulfilling satisfaction comes from giving. I didn’t need Bill Clinton or Oprah, to convince me. I learned in Sunday School as a child, “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress…” James 1:27.

Want to give? Consider sponsoring a child through Compassion International. Please visit: vithttp://www.compassion.com/Sponsor_a_child/default.htm?referer=68813
Tuesday, September 4, 2007

NOTES FROM THE LAKE

My life as a wife of a corporate manufacturing manager recently took a major change. My husband retired. That meant that our lives finally became our own! We could finally choose where to live and how long to stay in one place. For us it was a no brainer. We would return home (Arkansas and Missouri - where our families live) - a place we left 35 years ago.

Our return would not be immediate, though. You see, although we are empty nesters, we still have a child at home - he is in college and we do not want to pull the nest out from under him. Our plan became to spend time in two places over the next several years. Home is now Charlotte, NC and Eagle Rock, Missouri. We chose Eagle Rock because my 84 year old mother lives on the lake by herself. One day she is going to need our assistance. Right now she needs no help and is happy to tell anyone how she lives on 300 acres by herself and likes it - thank you very much! But one day she will need us, so we are beginning to put down roots by the lake.

So here I am - by the lake, beginning a new life. I will continue to work in the garden - woods and pastures and write and speak. So stay tuned while I organize my thoughts and begin to share with you some insights I have gained over my years of marriage, moving and being mentored by wise women whose involvement made all the difference in my live.
Thursday, August 30, 2007

POVERTY, ALTHOUGH NOT A GARDEN, IS THE PLACE WHERE GOD RESIDES

Before leaving for Ecuador I braced myself, knowing that I would experience extreme poverty, deep despair, and seemingly hopeless situations. And I was right. What I saw broke my heart. Overwhelming circumstances threatened to defeat my purpose for visiting the work Compassion International accomplishes with children and their families.

The Sunday while visiting Ecuador our team of traveling speakers had the privilege of going to church in the mountains with typical native Andeans. During that service my heart broke. It broke because it had weakened, become too dependent on the things of this earth. God needed to repair it and He used the pure words of a most unlikely man to mend and heal. I first felt God’s presence during the pastor’s prayers. What struck me was the intimate manner in which he spoke with his Lord. He addressed his Creator with deep reverence and committed love. I expected to hear prayers asking for needs to be met. I heard prayers of thanksgiving instead. I thought I would hear a pastor ask for today's daily bread, but I heard him ask for forgiveness. I expected to hear an anguished cry for help, but the humble pastor praised God. He lifted his face to the Almighty giving due honor. "God, You are Lord of lords. You are King." He poured out passionate words that spoke of trust in a Sovereign God and a loving heavenly Father. He verbally placed himself at the foot of the cross, submitting to his Provider listing all God’s blessings. God worked through Compassion International to provide the necessary funds for surgery that made it possible for his son to walk (Even though he struggled mightily with crutches. My thoughts, not his words.) God used Compassion International to provide sponsors for the children in his Community, giving them a future hope. God provided the church building so families could gather, finding shelter and release from their hard lives. The prayers of this small-in-stature yet tall-in-faith man continued to audibly usher me into God's sanctuary.

An overwhelming sense of joy and peace, flowed over my visions of hopelessness and despair, poverty and rejection, carrying me higher than my own human focus and earth-bound concerns could take me. I might be one person and yes, I could never have the resources to make a change in the midst of the severe squalor I encountered.

But God's power is unleashed when His armies unite to do His work. My trip to Ecuador was truthfully a journey into a Holy and Sacred Place that I can only describe as the inner chamber of God's heart. From that vantage point He illustrated for me in full living color, using my senses and deep feelings for others: The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

When we follow God into the places where the poor and needy live, those He considers to be worthy, the veil tears allowing, us access to His heart beat, pouring out indescribable and unimaginable blessings upon His obedient followers.

A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.

Interested in sponsoring a child with Compassion International? Please visit: vithttp://www.compassion.com/Sponsor_a_child/default.htm?referer=68813
Saturday, August 18, 2007

A JOURNEY TO GOD'S HEART

http://www.compassion.com/child-advocacy/find-your-voice/photo-essays/what-does-poverty-look-like-slideshow



Omar served not only as a language translator for our group, he translated the Word and Jesus' commands into real life by living every moment of his day just as Jesus would have, had he been walking in our little group of ambassadors. Omar and the Compassion International staff - a living example of Jesus walk while He lived on earth. "You don't have to walk alone. Please come walk with me."



Last week I left the comfort of my garden and traveled toward the jungle, literally. Along with several other pilgrims - my teammates, the Proverbs 31 Speaker Team, and the Compassion International staff, I made a journey into God's heart. Yes! That is right, into God's heart!

I felt the awesome and trembling experience of venturing to a place where I understood the overwhelming love God has for His children. I not only came to the realization that God longs for the little ones to know Him, I realized my own depravity. Oh, I thank God for my blessings every day - my warm, or cool, home depending on the season of the year, food, health, a car, clothes, precious sons, a strong family, a husband who provides for me, a lovely church where I worship, a free nation... My list is long. But, what if I had none of the above? What if I had no tangible things for which to thank God? Would He still be my God?

Returning to South America has been a dream for me ever since I left my childhood home in Colombia. When I was 14 years old my American family moved back to the United States. Ever since, I have harbored a longing to return. God opened the doors for me to make that return pilgrmage to Ecuador when Proverbs 31 Ministries partnered with Compassion International.
God needed to take me back to remind me of what truly counts. He needed to show me what impresses Him most.

My wide opened eyes, heart, and mind searched the surrounding environment the first day as our bus climbed out of Quito, taking us to a project where we could experience first hand how God takes common, ordinary men and women and transforms them into Christlike servant leaders.

On that first day God invited me to join Him and Omar up a dirt road, higher still over an embedded stone pathway, and into the humble home of a single mother. Our little group of pilgrims included several P31 speakers, two sponsored girls and their teacher to whom they lovingly clinged at all times, our translator, Omar, and the director of Compassion International Ecuador, Sixto.

Guiding us up the steep hill, conversing with the girls and their teacher, gently pointing out the reality of the poverty that surrounded us, Omar's style grabbed my heart. I could not ignore his Christ-like genuine concern for others. Like Jesus he touched the poor and needy in our circle. Like Jesus he treated us all equally. Like Jesus he listened. Like a gentle shepherd he often stepped out in front of us to guide us and protect us.

When his gentle spirit moved slowly and respectfully into the tiny 3-room home of our hostess, darkness immediately overwhelmed me. How could a family of 8 survive in a place with no windows, two light bulbs, no toilet facilities or running water? Something was wrong with this picture.

Slowly, God turned the dimmer switch in my mind allowing my skewed view of spiritual reality to truly comprehend that the wrong thing with this picture was my short sighted attitude!

The moment Omar entered and spoke, God's Holy Spirit moved into that humble place. Omar touched our hostess and thanked her for allowing us to visit her clean home. He complimented her children. He encouraged her to continue being the good mother she is. He pointed out to her that her willingness to allow her nephew and sister to live with her pleased God. Throughout his entire interaction with this sweet and hard working woman he treated her with respect and dignity.

He dignified her daughters also as he spoke words of life and hope into their souls. His interaction with these women is forever branded on my soul. As we returned to the church, the daughters and the teacher continued to walk with us. As I stated earlier, we were a group of American women speakers, a national director, a translator and three young ladies - poor and rejected by society. Omar chose to walk with the young women, "the least of these." As one of the girls drifted off from the group, Omar reached out his arm and drew her in. "You don't have to walk alone," he kindly told her in Spanish. "Please, come walk with us."

Omar served not only as a language translator for our group, he translated the Word and Jesus' commands into real life by living every moment of his day just as Jesus would have, had He been walking in our little group of ambassadors.

Omar and the Compassion International staff - a living example of Jesus walk while He lived on earth. "You don't have to walk alone. Please come walk with me."

Interested in knowing more about Compassion International? Visit www.compasion.com