Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year Dreams

Looking forward to this day:

"No longer will babies die when only a few days old.
No longer will adults die before they have lived a full life.
No longer will people be considered old at one hundred!
Only the cursed will die that young!

"In those days people will live in the houses they build
and eat the fruit of their own vineyards.
Unlike the past, invaders will not take their houses
and confiscate their vineyards.
For my people will live as long as trees,
and my chosen ones will have time to enjoy their hard-won gains.
They will not work in vain,
and their children will not be doomed to misfortune.
For they are people blessed by the Lord,
and their children, too, will be blessed.

"I will answer them before they even call to me.
While they are still talking about their needs,
I will go ahead and answer their prayers!
The wolf and the lamb will feed together.
The lion will eat hay like a cow.
But the snakes will eat dust.
In those days no one will be hurt or destroyed on my holy mountain.
I, the Lord, have spoken."

Isaiah 65:20-25

But here's something for the meantime:

Praying you have a blessed New Year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The One Year Plan

As I've mentioned in a couple of previous posts, Thursday morning will start another annual Bible reading plan. I'm not telling you this to make myself look all holy or something. It's just something I've found to be extremely beneficial to me, and, if hearing about how I do it encourages you to try it, then so much the better.

There are a lot of ways to do this. If you google "one year Bible reading plans" you'll find quite a few you can choose from. The online ones are nice because they let you plug in any start date, so if you don't start on January 1, you'll still be fine, you'll just go for a full year from your start date. If you attend FBC, there are little bookmark sized brochures down by the reception desk that you can have to keep with you that have a plan in them. I like to use those because then I don't have to use the computer (say, on vacation) to find out what I should read for the day. It's just stuck in my Bible.

Usually these break the readings up into chunks that take me about 15-20 minutes to read each day. I have a routine of reading them right after I come home from my crossing guard post in the morning, while I warm up with a cup of coffee. I'm alone in the house then, and not distracted. You can probably think of a time that's best for you. My husband does this in a building on campus. His bus gets him there about a half hour before he needs to be at work. He goes into a building that has a quiet, out 0f the way lounge area, and he reads there before he goes into the building where he works.

Each year that I do this I go out and buy a cheap Bible that I don't mind marking up with a pencil. Paperback is fine. I get a modern translation, what ever is on sale. I like to get one that is relatively small so I can stuff it in my purse or backpack when I need to. This year I was fortunate enough to find one deeply discounted that actually has a decent cover, and better yet, larger print! I get a new one each time because I want to be able to mark the passages that really pop out at me during this particular reading. If I use an old one, it can become a kind of walk down memory lane- "Oh, I remember this cool verse! That was meaningful last year when I was going through such and such." But this year I may need to learn something new, so it's best not to have those old notations getting in the way of that. I do save the old ones, though, to refer to sometimes for other things. No one else would want them once I have them all marked up.

And that's pretty much it. I don't get panicked if I forget to read for a day or two. When that happens (inevitably!) I just double up for a few days until I'm caught up. This is most likely to happen when we are out of our routine; company comes, or we travel, etc. As I say, I do stuff this Bible in my purse, with the reading plan in it, and that way I can keep up by reading while waiting somewhere, if necessary. But I really do best if I can do it at home where it's quiet. The goal, of course, is to actually absorb what I'm reading. Underlining passages that I find meaningful is the best way for me to know that I'm focusing. Think of it somewhat like studying a textbook, where you're looking for the important thing to remember each day.

This is my main New Year's resolution. Oh sure, I want to exercise more and lose weight; doesn't everybody? I'll work on that, too. But mostly, I want complete the one year Bible reading plan.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sunday Stroll-December 28, 2008

This past month we've had just about every kind of winter weather it's possible to have. Today was the first pleasant day we've had in weeks ( 40F and sunny), and I had to get out and see what was going on in the yard.

Yesterday's all-day downpour caused the sump pump to run so much that it scoured away the earth and exposed tree roots, and the pale yellow sprout of a tulip, that should still be resting peacefully below the ground.

In the back yard, I found the pile of limbs that Mike made when he cleared them from the front yard. We'll have to deal with them later. There are a lot of them. If only we had a fireplace!

I went in search of anything green. There definitely isn't much, but I did find a few surprises. The lamium must have been pretty well insulated under all the snow and ice, because it will usually turn a deep purple when it's dormant.

There were a few true geranium leaves still green beneath a mulch of leaves.

The purple wintercreeper also has not turned color. Last week it was pretty well encased in ice, so I assume it also was insulated to some degree. The weight of the ice pulled it away from the tree trunk it is usually climbing.

That's all the greenery I saw today, and I expect that's all I will see for a couple of months.

If you'd like to see who else is strolling today, visit The Quiet Country House.

P.S.- Blogger and I can't seem to agree on spacing today. I bow to it's omnipotence.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Reading List For 2009

I've changed my sidebar list that was titled "Recently Reading" to "Reading List for 2009". I want to return to a more disciplined routine of reading this year, and I hope having this list will prod me to be more accountable about actually finishing books I've started, as well as plowing through the little pile on my bed stand. I will keep a record of which ones I am in the process of reading, which I have finished, and which I have then reviewed on this blog.

I have pretty eclectic taste in reading, but in recent years it has tended to be non-fiction more often than not. I enjoy history and biography, as well as social history and commentary. When I see a title, or read a review, that intrigues me, I'll add it to the list for future reference. This should help me to remember to get to them eventually.

I also plan to read through the Bible this year using a reading plan that is designed for that. I've done this a number of times before, and, though it can be a challenge, I always benefit immensely.

I imagine this will mean less TV watching in the evening, and less bird-dogging around on the Web, though I feel that reading web articles and blogs is really no different than reading magazines. Though I've been wanting to make this shift for a while, I was given a little nudge by an article I read online about a contest President Bush has annually with Karl Rove to see who can read the most books in a year. It's amazing how much those men got read despite the busyness of their jobs, and it was not light reading either. Like them, I think it's important to read broadly. I also think it will benefit my writing ability.

Edit: Here's a link to the Peggy Noonan article that Susan T refers to in the comments.

Saturday Silliness-Something That May Inspire A New Year's Resolution Or Two

I saw this Craig Ferguson clip a couple of weeks ago. I liked the fact that he tackled a couple of very important social issues with some pretty disarming, self-deprecating humor. I'll warn you, there is a little mild swearing.

Friday, December 26, 2008

I Hope Yours Was As Wonderful As Mine

It's been a busy but joyful Christmas, with a house full of family; two church services on Christmas Eve; a day of visiting, gifts and dinner at my sister's home; and the fun of chasing a little 16-month-old whirlwind through the house. Four generations celebrated together. We even held a 21st birthday party for our niece, who was a Christmas Day gift all those years ago!

I'm exhausted, but I'll come out of hiding to wish you all a happy holiday season.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Have A Blessed Christmas

Tears are falling, hearts are breaking
How we need to hear from God
You've been promised, we've been waiting
Welcome Holy Child
Welcome Holy Child

Hope that you don't mind our manger
How I wish we would have known
But long-awaited Holy Stranger
Make Yourself at home
Please make Yourself at home

Bring Your peace into our violence
Bid our hungry souls be filled
Word now breaking Heaven's silence
Welcome to our world
Welcome to our world

Fragile finger sent to heal us
Tender brow prepared for thorn
Tiny heart whose blood will save us
Unto us is born
Unto us is born

So wrap our injured flesh around You
Breathe our air and walk our sod
Rob our sin and make us holy
Perfect Son of God
Perfect Son of God
Welcome to our world

lyrics by Chris Rice, from "Welcome To Our World"

Monday, December 22, 2008


I saw this meme over on Arduous' blog, and it looked more interesting than most. You bold the ones you've done, and, if you want, you italicize the five you haven't done yet but would most like to.

1. Started my own blog-um, yes
2. Slept under the stars-in the Grand Canyon, and at Girl Scout camp
3. Played in a band- the concert band type of band, not a rock band; I played French Horn
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than I can afford to charity- what does this mean? We have given "sacrificially", so to speak.
7. Been to Disneyland/world
8. Climbed a mountain- Mt. Washburn in Yellowstone
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sung a solo- I was a voice major, so yeah
11. Bungee jumped-this will never be on my list of things I've done!
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched lightning at sea- only from the beach, not from a ship
14. Taught myself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child-no, but we were foster parents for a while
16. Had food poisoning-and that's all you'll want to know about that
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty- it was closed to the public when I was in NY in 2006
18. Grown my own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train-from Luxembourg to Venice
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitchhiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill-thought about it, but couldn't bring myself to actually do it
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb-no, just petted one
26. Gone skinny dipping-does the bath tub count? I thought not.
27. Run a Marathon-wanted to, but had a baby instead, which, come to think of it, is comparable
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse-we had a full eclipse of the sun about fifteen years ago
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run- Ha! I'd just like to make contact with the ball!!
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of my ancestors-which ones? The ones from Illinois? Or the one's from way back in Europe? I've definitely visited the birthplaces of the Illinois ones. We go back 8 generations in this state.
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language-just enough Spanish to find the bathroom in Honduras-does that count? I had five years of German, and a semester each of French and Italian diction, but I had teachers for those.
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing-no, as this would involve possibly falling off a cliff
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke-surprisingly, no.
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance-sigh...yes, after shattering my arm at the ice arena
47. Had my portrait painted-yep, by my husband
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris-saw it but didn't go up
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud-a favorite childhood occupation; just ask my mom!
54. Gone to a drive-in theater-this is how my parents got to see movies without hiring a sitter.
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business-does giving voice lessons count? Or providing daycare in my home?
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen-yes, in Honduras
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies-I was a good little Girl Scout
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason-oh, there was always a reason!
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving-People! No. Just no.
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check-yes, in college (oh, the shame)
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy-my teddy bear, Johnny
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten caviar-and once was definitely enough! What's the attraction?
72. Pieced a quilt-a small doll-bed sized one
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone-several, I'm sorry to say
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person-seen it, hiked in it, rafted through it for 10 days
80. Published a book-I need to write one first
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had my picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life-twice, once from drowning, once from a potentially explosive car accident/gas station disaster-it's a long story
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous-Count Basie, IL Gov. Jim Edgar (A good guy!! There are good guys in Illinois!)
92. Joined a book club-no, I don't want to have to read books I don't choose for myself
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby-four!
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Ridden an elephant

There you have it. My life's an open book. Let me know if you give this a try on your own blog.

Book Review- "The More-With-Less Cookbook" by Doris Janzen Longacre

As our economic crisis deepens, and frugality has become the mode, I've thought more and more that I should post a review of "The More-With-Less Cookbook", by Doris Janzen Longacre.

As a young mom, living on a shoestring budget, and trying to learn how to cook from the large vegetable garden I grew to help feed my family, I came to rely on this remarkable little volume, with it's garden-to-table recipes, and instructions that emphasized cooking "from scratch". As a Christian, trying to align my lifestyle with the doctrine of justice for the poor, I loved it's emphasis on consuming only our fair share of the planet's resources, so that we could not only control our own budget, but have enough to give and share with others.

Amazingly, it's still in print, and available through, though Doris Janzen Longacre died of cancer in 1979, shortly after the publication of her second book, "Living More With Less". Both of these books were very influential for me, and have continued to color the way I look at homemaking over the years.

Longacre was commissioned by the Mennonite Central Committee to use her background as a dietitian to collect recipes and ideas from the world-wide Mennonite community and adjust those recipes to reflect contemporary nutritional research and food justice issues. Many of the recipes submitted by the mostly agrarian Mennonites were heavy on sugar and fat. Longacre experimented to readjust them so that the well-loved family dishes could be enjoyed just as much, but with healthier ingredients. She collected many meatless dishes, reflecting our growing understanding of the impact of raising livestock on our environment. She gave good, clear teaching regarding moving away from a meat-heavy diet while maintaining good nutrition. At the same time, she managed to celebrate the Swiss-German and Russian culture at the heart of the Mennonite denomination, and elevate the custom of unpretentious hospitality.

I practically wore this book out! It was my essential guide for learning to cook for my growing family for years. In pulling it out to reread the other day, I was flooded with memories of days in our kitchen, surrounded by small children who always wanted to stand on a chair next to me and "watch" as I worked with produce from the garden, or bulk items from a foster parent's food co-op we were part of, or the bags and bags of apples from a second cousin's orchard. Many a dollar was stretched, many a tummy was filled, based on the information and recipes found in this wonderful cookbook.

I hope that you will find a copy of "The More-With-Less Cookbook" and read it, really read it, and absorb the wonderful spirit of Longacre and the Mennonite cooks who submitted recipes to this collection. It has a place in every kitchen where the cook(s) are focused on meals made with love.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sunday Stroll-December 21

Okay, I know I'm a Ninny, with a capital "N", but the windchill is -25 F, and we still have a glaze of ice over everything, so this normally hardy prairie gal is staying inside. I kind of doubt that I would have seen any living creatures or green plants out there anyway. Even our adventuresome little winter birds have given up trying to cling to the bird feeder in this gale, and are huddled deep in the yew.

I hope you are all enjoying the holiday season. Just remember, the days are getting longer now!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Musings For A Day In The House

If you are snowbound and bored, here are a few things I've been reading in the past few days that were very interesting:

Dean Ohlman's beautiful blog, Wonder of Creation. He strikes a wonderful balance between science and faith.

Stephen Nichol's article on "apostasy lit", and what believers can learn from the angry authors who write this genre.

A powerful story of forgiveness.

A great article on musical taste, and how to express it graciously.

A discussion by an atheist of how he feels about proselytizing, in this video clip:

Did it get you thinking?

I Guess You Could Call It Beautiful...

I woke up in the wee hours to the sound of limbs breaking and falling. It had begun to ice up mid evening last night, but we were hoping it wouldn't be thick enough to do any real damage. No such luck. We fortunately still have power, but there will definitely be some clean up to do this weekend.
After it got lighter, I went out to inspect. There's no question that an ice storm is beautiful.

But there's no question that we experienced some "natural" pruning as well. My night time prayers the the house and car would be spared were answered, though. Everything fell the other way.

School was canceled. I feel bad for all the children who were looking forward to their holiday parties. Some of the schools were going to have winter concerts today, as well. As a former elementary school music teacher, I was commiserating with them all.
It's starting to melt off now, so we won't really be housebound. That's good; I still have one more present to get!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Anne Rice, On Her Return To Faith

"Well, what happened to me on that Sunday that I returned to faith was this: I received a glimpse into what I can only call the Infinite Mercy of God. It worked something like this. I realized that none of my theological or social questions really made any difference. I didn't have to know the answers to these questions precisely because God did. He was the God who made the universe in which I existed. That meant He had made the Big Bang, He had made DNA, He had made the Black Holes in space, and the wind and the rain and the individual snowflakes that fall from the sky. He had done all that. So surely He could do virtually anything and He could solve virtually everything. And how could I possibly know what He knew? And why should I remain apart from Him because I could not grasp all that He could grasp? What came over me then was an infinite trust, trust in His power and His love."

Anne Rice, in the author's notes to her novel, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt (HT-Ray Ortlund)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

"Tis The Season

Today at staff meeting I proofed the worship order for the Christmas Eve Service. Oh, what a sense of accomplishment that was! Although there is still one more choir rehearsal before our special Sunday of music this weekend, it is finalizing the Christmas Eve service that allows me to feel that all the pieces are in place for our church's celebrations.

Sunday morning we will have lots of beautiful Christmas hymns, extra instrumentalists, and, as has become our custom, a sermon given as a first person dramatization by Pastor Randy. This year he is portraying the Innkeeper. He does this in costume, with all of his message memorized. The job of the choir is to sing two anthems that will support the theme of this sermon. People love this special service, and every year folks invite their friends and family members to come especially to experience it.

Then, Christmas Eve, we will have our traditional evening candle-light service. Scripture will be read. Again, there will be Christmas hymns and carols, soloists and instrumentalists, and the children acting out the Christmas story under Ellen's supervision. At the end, with all the the lights out, we will all sing "Silent Night" as we light each other's candles. The room grows gently brighter as we sing each verse. We all remember the Light of the World, whose birth we celebrate.

I still have some presents to get together. I still need to clean (and baby-proof!!) the house for the arrival of our far away children. Haven't done any baking yet. But all is well. We're ready to worship.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

Nice Andrew Peterson instrumental version, wherein Gregorian chant meets contemporary bluegrass. Love it.

Monday, December 15, 2008

On Prideful Politicians and Their Downfall

Isaiah 32:6a:
"For the fool speaks folly,
his mind is busy with evil...:

Isaiah 32:7
"The scoundrel's methods are wicked,
he makes up evil schemes
to destroy the poor with lies,
even when the plea of the needy is just."

From Chuck Colson:

"If Blagojevich is guilty, the best thing that could happen to him is to be tried and convicted. He's going to have to reach rock bottom -- just as I did -- before he will be able to escape his own prison of pride, self-delusion and self-righteousness. But that's a transformation we can never accomplish on our own. I can vouch for the fact that human pride is simply too strong.

"Lewis was right: Pride is a spiritual cancer. And the only cure, for any of us, is to stop looking down and to look up. The cure can only be brought about in someone who has come to realize that the will and power to do good and not evil comes from God alone."

Colson's essay, written, of course, by a man who was sent to prison for his role in the Watergate scandal, is very worthwhile reading.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Abbie over at Farmer's Daughter has a meme going with Christmas cookie recipes. I don't usually do a lot of extra baking at this time of year, because my work schedule is so crazy, but we usually do get the Buckeyes made. We make a big project of it, and then take some to neighbors and friends, keeping plenty for treats around the holiday time when we have a houseful of family visiting. They disappear pretty quickly!

Here's our recipe:

3 lbs. powdered sugar
1/2 bar of paraffin
2 lbs. chunky style peanut butter
3 T. vanilla
1 lb. butter or margarine
2 12 oz. packages of semi-sweet chocolate chips

Mix peanut butter and room-temperature butter together well
Add the vanilla, and cream together
Gradually mix in the powdered sugar
Roll into balls. ( I try to keep them about 1 inch in diameter)

Melt chocolate chips and paraffin together in a double boiler.
Using toothpicks, dip the peanut butter balls 2/3 of the way into the chocolate.
Place on wax paper to harden.

In the end, these should look just like the buckeyes you find in the woods. I think that's one reason we like them so well.


Saturday Silliness-Cooking Up Your Dream Omelet

Chef Cooks 'Dream Omelet' From Recipe That Came To Him In A Dream

Monday, December 8, 2008

Another Thankful Post

I meant to write a post about how thankful I am for my husband back during November, and somehow got distracted and didn't do it. And yes, that's a classic case of taking someone for granted if I ever heard one!

This is shaping up to be a busy day, and I can't spend much time writing, but I didn't want to go any longer with out expressing my thankfulness for my husband, to whom I've been married 31 years. Lots of years, lots of kids, lots of pow-wows about money, disciplining children, where to go on vacation, whether to stop and ask directions, what color to paint the kitchen. We haven't lived an eventful life by some people's standards, but there are a million "uneventful" events that come along in 31 years, and it takes a lot of commitment to get through all of them. We have that commitment.

I'll just give you a couple of examples from the last two days.

First: Although he really of prefers contemporary style worship, which he could attend at the same time my traditional service is going on, he comes to the service I am in as a show of support. We can't sit together; I'm up on the platform and he's down in the pews, but he knows how the service went, what was sung, what was said in prayer- in other words, we worshipped together, and we experienced life together. So, I'm thankful that he will sacrifice his own preference to do that with me.

Second: When, yesterday, I had one of those typical run-ins with someone who thought I should be doing things differently, he gave me a big hug and said, "I still love you!". Which, of course, was exactly what I needed!

Third: This morning he left for work before I did, as usual. Pretty soon I got a call from him. He wanted me to be aware that we had had some freezing rain, and it was a glaze of ice out there. I should be careful walking to the crossing, and give the cars plenty of time to stop. (He often jokes that he has a wife that stops traffic!) It was really nice of him to do that. I could easily have gone down just stepping out onto our front stoop.

It's the little things like that that are more meaningful than grand gestures, in my opinion. I'm thankful for 31 years with someone who knows that.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Sunday Stroll- December 7, 2008

Today is busy with extra seasonal obligations (all fun!!), so I took my stroll pictures yesterday. We were having a "snow globe" sort of snow, with giant flakes whirling down, sometimes with great intensity, other times gently.

I like to leave the sedum and chrysanthemum plants for "winter interest".

I did NOT mean to leave the asters and hollyhocks, but, because of a foot injury I didn't get the gardens cleared out the way I would have liked before the cold set in. I'm sure those reckless self-seeders will have planted their progeny everywhere by next spring, and I'll be weeding them out as fast as I can. Still, even my neglect was made attractive by the snow.
It's been unusually bitterly cold for early December, with wind chills down around zero most days this week. I look at it as a positive- fewer insect pests next summer!
To see where others were strolling this week, visit Aisling at The Quiet Country House.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Filling In Potholes

As I mentioned a few days ago, I'm reading through the Old Testament book of Isaiah as preparation for Christmas. If you have heard Handel's "Messiah", it can be fun to come across the many scripture verses referenced from this book in the oratorio. There are also so many beautiful passages about how God forgives his wayward people and provides them with their Messiah. But those come later in the book, and first you have to read through some hard-to-hear passages where Isaiah predicts the political and military fall of Jerusalem, and the horrors of war and forced exile to Babylon. It's tempting to sort of skim over all that. When I first started reading the Bible years ago, I would do that. Who wants to read the depressing stuff?

Nowadays, I recognize how important it is to process the whole story. Isaiah was writing before the bad times, which if course is what makes him a prophet. He was living in Jerusalem, and most of his ministry occurred during the reign of good King Hezekiah. It was a time of prosperity (for most people), and the king was a follower of God and tried to serve his people well.

But, what Isaiah, and his contemporaries Micah, Amos, and Hosea, were sensing was that the country was teetering on the brink. The wealthy were making their money at the expense of the poor. There was a pretense of religiosity, but it was practiced as a mish-mash of Judaism and other local religions. The king was naively aligning the country with enemies who were poised to take advantage of them. The judicial system was corrupt. There was a culture of profligate spending, feasting, and partying.

Hmmm. Some of this sounds familiar, doesn't it? Isaiah sums it up this way: "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter." (v. 5:20)

So, one thing I've been thinking about this past week is, what might I be thinking is true, but is in reality false? What do we think nowadays is good, that might really be bad? How much are we like those people in Isaiah's day, living like there's no tomorrow, ignoring the few voices that are saying, "Hey! Listen up! If you don't get back to right living, things are going to come crashing down on you!" It's definitely worth thinking about carefully.

Fortunately, as I progress through Isaiah, I know I will get to read once again about the restoration of those people (eventually, after a generation has passed), when they come to their senses and return to their love for, and obedience to, God. I will get to read about the promise of the coming of Jesus. All that will mean more, if I take time to read the hard part.

Prophesy of Isaiah- Marc Chagall

Thursday, December 4, 2008

On Faith Informing Art-Marilynne Robinson

"You have to have a certain detachment in order to see beauty for yourself rather than something that has been put in quotation marks to be understood as “beauty.” Think about Dutch painting, where sunlight is falling on a basin of water and a woman is standing there in the clothes that she would wear when she wakes up in the morning—that beauty is a casual glimpse of something very ordinary. Or a painting like Rembrandt’s Carcass of Beef, where a simple piece of meat caught his eye because there was something mysterious about it. You also get that in Edward Hopper: Look at the sunlight! or Look at the human being! These are instances of genius. Cultures cherish artists because they are people who can say, Look at that. And it’s not Versailles. It’s a brick wall with a ray of sunlight falling on it...

"Ordinary things have always seemed numinous to me. One Calvinist notion deeply implanted in me is that there are two sides to your encounter with the world. You don’t simply perceive something that is statically present, but in fact there is a visionary quality to all experience. It means something because it is addressed to you. This is the individualism that you find in Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson. You can draw from perception the same way a mystic would draw from a vision. "

Marilynne Robinson. An excellent interview of a contemporary literary genius. I recommend the whole thing.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Lemonade Award

I opened my laptop to a very pleasant surprise this morning. I have received the Lemonade Award from the superheroes over at the Green Phone Booth. Thank you, ladies!

Apparently this award is to be given to those who are positive, or show gratitude; in other words, they know how to make lemonade out of lemons. This cracks me up, because I don't think of myself as terribly positive (though I am grateful), so I think it's more a reflection of the old adage "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all". Thus the occasional silence.

The rules for this award are that you post the graphic for it, write a post that links back to the giver, and then pass it on to up to ten others. Leave a comment on the blogs that get the award, so they know what's happened. I will award it to:

Jena, at Married To The Farm, one of the Great Lakes APLS. She and her husband are farming a heritage farm in Michigan, and they just had their barn burn down Nov. 23. So far, no self-pity on her blog, just the acknowledgement that their neighbors were very helpful, their livestock survived, and she is busy trying to research what sort of barn they should have when they rebuild.
Mel, at The Good Life, also a Great Lakes APLS. Blogging about thankfulness while dealing with two preschool aged boys and a family passing the flu around couldn't have been easy. She is an interesting read as she and her husband have recently become foster parents.

Abbie, at Farmer's Daughter, a New England APLS blogger. Abbie knows her stuff about the environment, since she teaches AP Environmental Science courses at a high school. What I like is that she doesn't run around yelling "The sky is falling!", but instead gives very factual background for her decisions to live the way she does. She surely knows about some very scary stuff, but her approach is to teach the next generation of citizen leaders how to tackle the problems. It's also interesting to read about her family's heritage farm and farm stand selling their produce.

These three bloggers all have great, positive attitudes. I'm pleased to have a chance to pass the award on to them!

On Generosity

C. S. Lewis: “I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusement, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our giving does not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say it is too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot because our commitment to giving excludes them.”

Monday, December 1, 2008

Road Work Ahead

One of my favorite Advent verses is Isaiah 40:3-5:

A voice of one calling:
"In the desert prepare
the way for the Lord;
make straight in the wilderness
a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain."

It's a picture from real life, when every ancient Middle Eastern king would send his royal road crew ahead of him to fix a smooth road for his royal retinue in that rocky, hilly, rugged landscape. I think that's what this reading plan below will help me do with the rough spots in my spiritual landscape, as I prepare to celebrate the coming of the King of Kings.

"And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all mankind together will see it.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken."

I'm planning to start a year long reading plan on January 1 that will take me through the whole Bible, but I was looking for a "warm-up" plan for the Advent season, and I found the one below. I'm excited about it; Isaiah is my favorite Old Testament book, with some of the most uplifting and poetic literature found anywhere. The plan is only 22 days long (to suit the shortest possible Advent season), so it's good for the hectic holiday times, when you might have a couple of days where it's hard to squeeze it in. Although, as I always remind myself, if you have time to read the front page of a newspaper, you have time to do a daily Bible reading.

Anyway, if anyone would like to join me, here it is:

December 1- Isaiah 1-5
December 2- Isaiah 6-8
December 3- Isaiah 9-12
December 4- Isaiah 13-17
December 5- Isaiah 18-21
December 6- Isaiah 22-23
December 7- Isaiah 24-25
December 8- Isaiah 26-27
December 9- Isaiah 28-29
December 10- Isaiah 30-33
December 11- Isaiah 34-35
December 12- Isaiah 36-39
December 13- Isaiah 40-42
December 14- Isaiah 43-45
December 15- Isaiah 46-48
December 16- Isaiah 49-51
December 17- Isaiah 52-53
December 18- Isaiah 54-55
December 19- Isaiah 56-57
December 20- Isaiah 58-60
December 21- Isaiah 61-64
December 22- Isaiah 65-66

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sunday Stroll-November 30, 2008

First snow! It was so beautiful to see, when I got up a little before dawn this morning. I love the way it hushes everything.

The last red leaves clinging to the burning bush became tree ornaments.

It was the type of still, quiet snowfall that leaves a cake-frosting layer on each branch.

The seed heads of the black-eyed susans became cotton balls.

I drove to the church, and chose a parking spot overlooking the park.

The bald cypress was flocked with white.

The holly by the door provided a foretaste of the Advent decor inside.

Both worship spaces reflected the hard work of the Visual Inspiration Committee's labors the day before.

The first snow, and the first Sunday of Advent!

To see where others strolled today, visit The Quiet Country House.
This post has also been entered in Nancy Bond's First Snowfall meme. There are many other beautiful entries there from all over North America and Britain.

Thankful To Have Made It Through A Month Of Thankfulness

It's always interesting, when I set a goal for myself, to see how I do. I'm a bit of an all-or-nothing type (not necessarily a good thing), and once I latch on to a discipline challenge I can get very bull-headed about finishing what I vowed to do, so I need to choose carefully among the array of challenges that are available. With The November 30 Day Thanksgiving Challenge, as I have admitted before, I plunged in on a whim. What kept me going?

1. I know myself well enough to realize that if I missed a day I would give it up completely (because, as I say, I am an all-or-nothing kind of gal), and then I would have publicly embarrassed myself, since I was doing this on my blog, in front of God and everyone else.

2. I truly benefited from being thankful. I began to really focus all the ways I was blessed, and I began to catch myself becoming a kind of Pollyanna-ish positive thinker, finding silver linings to every single cloud that floated across my little piece of the sky. It was weird! Example: we were driving back from spending Thanksgiving Day at my sister's, barrelling down the Tri-State, and we hit one of those sections of pavement that for some reason have a rhythmic wave in them. My daughter and I were feeling like the back seat of the Honda was not unlike a mechanical bull ride. We both made a comment of complaint to each other. And then, I actually found myself saying "But this certainly isn't as bad as it was for the pioneers when they had to ride in wagons over rough ground!" All because I saw that comedy clip about how we should appreciate the benefits of modern life!

When I challenged myself to the month of daily posts, I had no idea there was such a thing as NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month). Shannon mentioned that she was participating in that over on her blog, so I decided to throw my hat in the ring for that.

Then, in various places, I saw that there were other bloggers trying to make their November more thankful. That's pretty exciting, don't you think? It's as though a strange but wonderful cultural phenomenon is underway, perhaps a reaction to the economic crisis, perhaps a reaction to the exhausting ugliness we had to witness in the media during the election run-up, or maybe just something else nudging us to return to a pleasanter, more civilized, more spiritual approach to life. Whatever it is, bring it on! Keep it going! If I can think of a way to encourage it in myself, my family, or beyond, I certainly will do it.

I'd like to thank the fellow bloggers who signed on to share in the challenge. I know that for some of you life intervened, and you weren't able to keep up with it quite like you may have wanted. Nevertheless, I enjoyed going to your blogs and seeing what you were thankful for, and your presence kept me accountable as well. Maybe I'll do this again next November.

Keep on being thankful, everybody!!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thankful For Battle Scars That Tell Of A Battle Won

Thursday, as we drove to my sister's house, we used the time in the car to make some holiday phone calls. My husband talked to his mother, who lives in Florida. One son was with his in-laws across the state. Another lives too far away to make it back very often. It was good to check in with everyone, catch up on each other, and wish them a happy Thanksgiving. So, one thing I'm thankful for is cell phones! Between that and e-mail, we have been able to stay connected so much more easily than families could years ago.

When I called Paul, who lives pretty far away, I joked, "I'm calling to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and see if you're thankful for anything." Without a moment's hesitation, he started listing things off: his wife, his baby, the baby on the way, his job, his church, that his car was running well currently. "I have a lot to be thankful for," he said. " I'm thankful that I can pray, and I know God hears me!" As we talked, I asked him if I could write a little about him on this blog. He assured me that would be fine.

Paul is such a kind, easy going person. His bosses have told him that they think he will eventually make a good foreman, because he handles people so well. He was like that as a little boy, too.

Then, for a few years, he wasn't like that at all. For what ever reason, whether it was to individuate from family members, or to self-medicate the school stress he felt as a person with ADD, or just the rebellion against authority that some children carry so much further than others, Paul made some pretty bad choices for a while as a teen. What others dabbled with, he made his full time job. When I say that we are glad he lived to be grown, it's not a joke. We really didn't know for a while if he would live to be grown. No amount of treatment, counseling, discipline, whatever, seemed to make a difference with him. Finally, on the New Year's Eve when others were celebrating the turn of the millennium, I found myself standing by a gurney in the emergency room, watching him being treated for an overdose. He was sixteen.

I know what it's like to battle a teen who can't listen to you. I know what it's like to go toe-to-toe with the Devil as you wrestle in prayer for your child's life. I know what it's like to look Evil in the eye and say "YOU CAN'T HAVE HIM!" I knew that, in the end, it was between Paul and God as to whether he would come out on the other side. I just wanted him to live long enough to get to that point.

When Paul told me the thing he is most thankful for is that he has the Holy Spirit living inside of him, changing him into a new man day by day, I knew I couldn't write a month of posts about thankfulness without saying that, looking back over my life, that is one of the things I am absolutely the most thankful for.

I'm also thankful that, when I get a hunch that there is a parent who is struggling with their child the way we did with our child, I can listen to them, and, not really advise them, so much as offer understanding. And, I can offer them hope. Paul's story is proof of the power of God to change a person from the inside out.

It's all in the past now, and gradually the ripples from that rock that was thrown into the waters of our lives are dissipating. It's nearly ten years since Paul decided to quit running from God, and turned to run just as hard toward Him. His teen aged behavior is not at all what defines him any more. Those who meet him now would never have an inkling of what he suffered through in his youth. He is a mature man, a great husband and dad, a hard working, responsible contributor to society. As far as Christian life witness goes, he's the real deal.

And me? I'm just thankful.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thankful That I'm Puritanical

Today, I am thankful for the much-maligned Puritans, from whom I am partly descended:

"There's little less fashionable today than thanking the Puritans, especially for our egalitarian political idealism, our love of genuinely humane and liberating learning, and our human enjoyment and happiness. Praising the Puritans is especially difficult, of course, because even our Protestants — even our Calvinists — have abandoned them. When some European calls us Puritanical, we don't say "Yes, thanks a lot, you're right." We either deny it, saying we've progressed far beyond those dark days. Or we admit it, saying, "Yes, we should be less capitalistic, less repressed, and more free thinking, just like you."

"Still, we can remember that the best book ever written on America and the best book ever written on democracy — Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America — almost begins by showing us how much our democracy owes our pilgrim Puritans. They, Tocqueville tells us, established colonies without lords — without, in fact, even economic classes. Those founders differed from those of Virginia by not being solitary, mercenary adventurers. They weren't out to get rich or even improve their economic condition. Their lives were structured by morality; they came to our continent as family men — bringing their wives and children. They were also extremely educated men — on the cutting edge, in many ways, of European enlightenment. They were, Tocqueville observes, animated by a "purely intellectual need." Their goal was "to make an idea triumph" in this world."

Great essay! Read the whole thing:
Thanking the Puritans by Peter Lawler

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thankful For Family Traditions

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today as my family gathers, we will share a story that I have related once before on this blog. As a reminder of how we can build values into the lives of our families, I will publish it here again:

One Swiss-German branch of my family settled near Springfield, IL in the 18oos, and there is a story about them that has been told in my dad's family for generations around the Thanksgiving table. In the story, the father (who was also a minister in their little church) and the boys were out working about the farm place, and the mother, daughters (among them my great-great grandmother), and smaller children were in and around the house. There had been rumors floating about for several days that there were Indians in the area, and every one was nervous about safety. It was early spring and the father was doing early field work, when his son ran to him and said that there was an Indian standing at the edge of the woods, watching them. The father told his son to run back to the house and have the family gather in the house and shut the door. The son asked the father if he should load the gun they had in the house. The father said no. He was going to talk to the Indian, if he could, and God would protect him.

The family shut themselves in the house and were very worried. The father was gone a long time. When he finally returned, his first words on entering the house were, "Children, go down in the cellar and bring up everything that's left of the food." Then he turned to his wife and said, "They don't want to hurt anyone. They're starving, and we are going to feed them." With his family's help, he loaded their wagon with everything they had left in the cellar, and drove it down to where the Indians were camped by the river, and gave it all to them.

As best I can tell, this is a Trail of Tears story. At least my ancestors were able to mitigate that evil to some degree.

My great-great grandmother was just a little girl when she witnessed this, but it was one of her strongest memories. She would recount it at Thanksgiving dinner, and always ended by saying something like, "You never know who might need your help, so keep watch. Never be selfish. You should always share with anyone who is in need. Even though we gave all the food away, we some how had enough to eat until the garden came in. That's how we learned to be thankful for what we had."

Isn't that a great story? I've never been asked to give everything I have for sustenance away to some one in need, and then rely on God to fill in the gaps. But at least I have that story as an example to me that it can, and should, be done.

The 30 Day Thanksgiving Challenge

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thankful For An (Almost!) Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving

I'm looking forward to tomorrow! We are driving for a couple of hours to the home of one of my sisters, where she is hosting Thanksgiving. Her two young adult children will be there, as will another sister and her husband and daughter, my parents, and my husband and I with two of our children. There will be lots of great food, good catching-up conversation, probably some game-playing, and a joint kitchen clean-up after dinner. Though the location rotates around, the routine and traditions remain pretty much the same from year to year. I've been asked to bring my famous Philly Corn again. Yes, even the menu stays consistent.

Nan had a post up earlier this week that reminded me that not everyone looks forward to family gatherings and overeating. Some of her commenters agreed; they preferred finding congenial friends to visit with over family that was critical or dysfunctional. Others use this time to travel, or find a restaurant meal more inviting than marathon cooking sessions. Even those of us who choose a more Norman Rockwell-style Thanksgiving will often be spending time with folks we see only a couple of times a year, which can lead to potential relational stress.

How to approach that? I'm choosing engagement over avoidance. In our family, we do have a few topics we steer clear of (politics and religion!- though we've broken that rule a few times).
We try to adjust to the home that is hosting. We all offer to bring food. Nobody drinks too much.
We help with clean-up. We don't stay too long! It's been rare that we didn't leave feeling that we had a good time.

I saw a good piece of advice today, that was reminder that family is where we learn to deal with people:

"Envision your family situation as an inspiring growth challenge. If one of your spiritual goals in life is to learn patience, compassion, forgiveness, or serenity, your difficult family members can give you some wonderful “feel the burn” workouts! It’s no sweat to be patient, compassionate, forgiving, or serene with people who aren't in your family, but if you can learn to do it with your most irritating blood relatives, then in looking back at your life you will definitely be able to say you’ve done some crucial inner work on your spiritual journey."
Make Peace With Your Family

Fortunately, this is the approach my family has always taken (not that anyone is too terribly hard to deal with). So, today I'm thankful for the chance to engage with, and enjoy, our family at holiday time!

The November 30 Day Thanksgiving Challenge

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thankful For My Favorite Book

Today on The Blogging Bookworm, Shannon, who is a librarian by profession, expressed her thanks for books and all they have meant in her life, and invited us to list books we are thankful for. Oh, goodness. Where to begin?

I'm currently re-reading "The Great Divorce" by C.S. Lewis. I thought about putting that on her list, because every time I read it it just blows my mind. But that blog is mostly for people who are encouraging each other to read books that are influenced by the green movement, so "The Great Divorce" didn't strike me as what they were looking for.

I could have listed anything by Jane Austen, too. I'll admit it; I'm a Jane Austen nut! So much so, my husband got me this for a gift:
That's right, folks, it's an official Jane Austen Action Figure, complete with book, quill pen, and writing desk. I want to take her out and play with her! Please???

But I have to be completely honest, because that's what I try to do here on this silly little blog of mine. My favorite book, without any ifs, ands, or buts, is the Bible. I'm not just saying that because I work in a church. It really, really is my favorite book.

I grew up in an environment in which the Bible was a book of wise sayings written by wise people, about a very wise teacher, but it was not considered to be anything more than that. You could put it on the shelf with Aristotle and Ghandi, and it just fit right in. But when I was in my early teens, I for some reason wanted to know what all the fuss was about, so I tried to read it. Got a little bogged down in Leviticus. Skipped over to the Psalms; they were pretty cool. Skipped over some more that seemed rather confusing, and started reading the Gospels in the New Testament. Now, finally, there were things about Jesus, who, of course, fascinated me. Some of the adults around me pooh-poohed the miracles- all explainable scientifically. His death, faked. The resurrection? He woke up from a coma, or the body was stolen.

For some reason, I just kept reading it. And, eventually, I decided everything in it was actually true, whether I understood it or not. Not because someone brainwashed me into thinking it was true, but because I tested it in my daily life, and it always passed the test.

I'm not going to tell you that I understand everything in there. Are you kidding? There are seminaries full of highly educated and brilliant theologians who spend their whole lives trying to nail down every nuance; they've been doing that for close to two thousand years, and they're not done. I will tell you that I get most of it now, at least enough to mine the wisdom, try to apply the guidance to my life, and be continually humbled by what the Bible reveals to me about God and humankind, and the rest of the Creation.

At one point in my life I had reason to fast and pray for forty days, and, I know, I know this sounds strange, but the Bible, the Word of God, became my food during that time. Enough so that I wasn't hungry for physical food. I have a lot of books on my bookshelf, but none of the others have ever had that effect.

I've been in many Bible studies with other people, but nothing can replace just plain reading it, over and over and over. For six straight years I followed a reading plan the took me through the whole thing each year. I've had two years off from that, now, and that's too long. So starting in January I'm back on that plan. I'm actually very excited about that.

So today, and every day, since I first picked it up and thumbed through it when I was twelve, I am thankful that God speaks to me through the Bible.

The November 30 Day Thanksgiving Challenge

Monday, November 24, 2008

Mike's Paintings

Some of you expressed interest in seeing more of Mike's work. He has only recently started oil painting. For many years he worked in colored pencil, and, of course, most of what he did was commercial. He's painted both of these in the last year or so.
If you'd like to see more of his work, or order note cards or prints, go to

Thankful For Wise Perspective

I'm a little bit of a news junkie, and right now there is more news about the economy than an average person like me can synthesize. In article after article I read that we are headed in to a possible depression comparable to the Great Depression, that the U.S. will never again be the leading world economy, etc. Not too hopeful.

In general, I've taken all this with a grain of salt. First of all, the economy when my husband I and I first got married was, in my opinion, worse. Inflation was ridiculous. Unemployment was much higher, even here, where we have some insulating factors. Mortgage interest rates were much higher- our first little house had a 9.5% mortgage, and that was with an FHA loan. My husband was unemployed for a while, and wound up free-lancing from our home for six years, which was less than ideal.

That's not to say there aren't people who are struggling. I just try not to let the media, who feed on exaggeration, pull me into their drama.

Sunday, my husband and I got a chance to get some very sensible perspective.

After church we decided to eat at Culver's, which is a bit of a First Baptist hang-out at lunch time. As we were looking for a table, we were invited by a church friend, H.E., to sit with him, as he was eating by himself. I had never had the pleasure of a long conversation with this man, though Mike has gotten to know him pretty well. Was I in for a treat! He was one of the most interesting people I've talked to in a long time. He is retired from a management position in the oil business, and he told us about that. He grew up on a farm, and he told us about that. He remembers the Great Depression well, and he told us about that (but not at all in that "young people don't know how good they have it" way). He has followed the current political scene with relish, and offered great perspectives on that. Yet all of this was very conversational, and we never felt like we were being "talked at", but that we could express ourselves and explore ideas freely.

Here are some of the things I came home with:

On oil- we need to drill, to give ourselves time to change over to natural gas or hydrogen. We will always need oil to some degree. Right now, we don't have fueling stations for those new technologies for cars. There is a recent discovery of a huge oil deposit in the Gulf of Mexico that we would be crazy not to pursue.

On the president elect- "I wish him the very best!", but inexperience is a problem, and that's why we are seeing so many Clinton era appointees. That would be fine if this were still the 90s, but time has marched on.

On the economy- this is nothing like the Great Depression when 40% of the community he grew up in were out of work, and the Dust Bowl was going on out west. No one had a cent then, every bank in town was dissolved, and everyone bartered for everything. His family farmed, and had a five acre vegetable plot that they used to barter for other things. They most likely grew all the produce that was being traded in that little town. However, we are in for at least a couple of pretty rough years.

On the bailout- probably needed to do something about the banks, but the automakers need to be allowed to declare bankruptcy, because it will allow the courts to renegotiate the labor contracts, along with other necessary changes that will make them viable after awhile. They won't quit making cars all together, they'll just be forced to make management changes that will be for the best in the long run.

Of course, these are just one person's opinions, but they are based on a long life of successful business management, practical experience, and the perspective of ninety years of life, which have made him moderate and humane, while understanding the need to take a "tough love" approach in some circumstances. It was so interesting, and comforting, to hear what he had to say.

So, today I'm thankful for the chance to hear the wisdom that age provides.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sunday Stroll-November 23, 2008

It is a brisk, breezy November afternoon here. We haven't had any snow that has actually accumulated yet, but it's been plenty cold. There isn't much color left in the gardens. The chairs under Ye Olde Yew are not occupied any more. It's not the right season to sit out there to read.
The Lamb's Ears are still soft and pretty, because the warmth of the ground has kept them green.
The last few leaves remain on the burning bush.

Inside, it's very quiet. Robin has gone out to Washington, D.C. to take an audition. I keep expecting to hear the trumpet start playing upstairs, but all is still. Mike is immersed in his painting down in the studio. He has an art show in a couple of weeks that he's preparing for.

Cinnamon has found her favorite sunbeam to warm her old bones.

It's all very peaceful.
If you'd like to see what others are finding this Sunday, go to The Quiet Country House.

Thankful To Witness A New Beginning

Yesterday I had the privilege of singing in a wedding. I used to do this a lot, but in recent years less so, so it was fun to have this opportunity again.

I've known this couple for a year or so. They are delightful people, and I found it encouraging that they came to our congregation specifically to find a church they could share, since they are coming from two different ones. That showed a commitment to forging a new path as a couple, and being willing to give up old associations, if necessary, to do that.

The rehearsal was the usual confusion of who stands where, but everyone was good naturedly laughing. The wedding party was a largish one, with a wide span of ages, including two little flower girls who were adorably excited. The ceremony itself was simple and traditional, including the couple jumping over a broom before they headed back up the aisle, in a nod to the groom's African-American heritage. They arranged to leave the church in an open carriage, which I thought was brave of them, considering it is November. It was FUN!

So, today I'm thankful that I got to witness the official beginning for a new family, and the joining of two really nice family groups. Best wishes to them!

The November 30 Day Thanksgiving Challenge

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Thanks For Warmth

Today I'm thankful for the great new fabrics and technology that are available for outdoor clothing. I'm writing this after coming back from the crossing. It was the first day of the season when the windchill was below zero ( which means my husband issued his first "frozen booger alert" of the winter!). When I first started the job sixteen years ago, I really didn't have any special clothing other than the usual cloth winter coat, hat, scarf and gloves. It's amazing I didn't get frostbite!

Now I have a nice Columbia 3-in-1 coat, thermal fleece gloves, wind mittens, snowboard pants, insulated boots, thermal fleece helmet, and Smartwool socks. I didn't wear all of this today, by any means, but I certainly will for a few weeks this winter. I acquired all of this gradually over the years. The best places to get these things are stores that cater to runners or skiers. The new fabrics repel water and wind, wick moisture away from the body, and are light weight. I'm never really cold out there now, provided I chose to dress appropriately. Sometimes I guess wrong, and come home pretty cold or wet, but nothing that a hot shower and a cup of coffee won't cure.

So, thanks to all those fabric technologists for their genius.

The 30 Day Thanksgiving Challenge

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thankful For Humor

I'm thankful for humor. I saw this humorous clip the other day, and thought it actually fit with the subject of thankfulness because it is commentary on how not to be thankful.

Now, there are a couple of little (non-swearing) phrases this comedian uses that I wouldn't use myself, so I'll just warn you ahead of time, but my husband and I both found it very funny, and the underlying message is right on.

The 30 Day Thanksgiving Challenge

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thankful For, Well, Thankfulness!

Back on November 1, when I somewhat rashly concieved of the November 30 Day Thanksgiving Challenge, here's what I was thinking:

1. I was sick of the election news. I could tell my guy wasn't going to win, and my one little vote wasn't going to do any good.

2. I was sick of the economic news. There wasn't a thing I could do about it as we watched our retirement funds shrinking.

3. I was sick of everyone I knew talking about the above mentioned topics ad nauseum when there wasn't anything any of us could do about it.

4. I was sick of being sick about it!!

Then it dawned on me. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 say we are to give thanks in all circumstances, because that is God's will.

It's easy to give thanks when everything is hunky-dory. Why is it God's will that we do so in all circumstances, even the rotten ones we can't control, even the dangerous ones, even the scary ones?

The reason it's God's will is that He knows it will not only change our attitude, it will actually change our circumstances. It's for our own good, not because He's so needy that He needs His people to make Him feel good about Himself.

So, I plunged in. And believe me, it does work. I was given perspective on historical events. I was given reminders that God was in control and I didn't have to be. I began to see little details I had been glossing over. I began to stop and enjoy those pleasant moments that come to all of us in the course of the day- the beautiful weather; the funny thing a small child said; the good snacks someone brought the staff at church; the " 'at-a-girl" pats on the back from congregants; the memory of an issue that used to be a problem, but now is resolved; the phone call from one of my kids. Every single day there is a lot of this small, common, routine stuff, and it's easy to forget what a blessing it all is.

Last Sunday Shannon, who is also writing for a month on thankfulness, posted an article that reinforced the idea that just being thankful can actually change circumstances. I'd encourage you to pop over there and read it. Erin has also described how she is hanging on to thankfulness and her faith as she and her husband try to sell a house in a bad market. Ruth wrote about a health scare that made her appreciate a birthday, and vow to make the most of the time she has ahead of her. Abbie was able to give thanks for a fun surprise. Jena was thankful for a peaceful afternoon on her farm. Melissa expresses her thanks constantly in her posts for the little son she has, that she wouldn't not have if it were not for the experience of healing. Ruchi describes the way her father modelled the importance of thankfulness.

It's fun to go read these posts and realize everyone's story is different, but there are quite a few folks who realize the value of being thankful. Reading them opens my eyes even further to what I could be thankful for.

The November 30 Day Thanksgiving Challenge