Category Archive: Blessings

Christmas Wonder

Quite the week! Monday Don and I drove back to our former residence to take  items for an estate sale this weekend, which would be set up on Tuesday.  Wednesday we saw and heard the Foto Sisters sing and play piano, violin, viola and cello here at The Villages. Wonderful harmonies and lilting melodies, voices that moved seamlessly from high to low and back again, helped us focus on the joy and good news of the Christmas season.

Friday evening we enjoyed singing Christmas carols with my mother and her church. Last night we attended a client appreciation dinner with our realtor’s company. And new neighbors are coming over for dessert on Monday. (Actually, we’re the new neighbors.)

Meanwhile, I drove to Palo Alto four times to give sputum samples and see my pulmonologist about whether a non-contagious lung infection I’ve had for several years is abating. Looking pretty good, but the challenge continues. I miss being able to sing as I used to. Instead of soprano, I’m usually singing alto or tenor now, and raspily (I know that’s not a real word) at that.

 This season tells the story of hope for all mankind. Of suffering, of sacrifice, of joy and of pain. It tells the story, not only of Jesus’ birth, but leads to His death and resurrection. He sacrificed, that we might be saved. He went through agonizing pain of body and spirit, that we might be redeemed, brought into relationship with God through Jesus’ payment for our sins. There is a cosmic war going on between light and darkness, but God in Christ won the battle at the Cross, and Jesus is Lord!



We are richly blessed in the things that really matter–family, friends,  Immanuel, God with us. Beautiful, centering music. Hearing the name of our God lifted up in the memorial service for President George H.W. Bush.  

Yet in the middle of all the festivities and celebration and joy, there is lots of pain.

  • Families have lost loved ones, homes, towns in California wildfires. Many don’t know where their next housing will come from.
  • Friends have lost loved ones…husband, mother, others…and are facing their first Christmas without that precious one at their side, at their table.
  • Families are stressed because of conflict, finances, illness, and other challenges.
  • Loneliness is heightened during a season focused on love, when many are surrounded by loved ones and others feel like everyone else has it together.
  • Political conflict abounds. Riots in France, questions about integrity and leadership at home, persecution of Christians abroad.

This is a time of challenge, but with challenge, people often look for more, for answers, for something or someOne who can give peace despite circumstances. Life is hard. Jesus said:

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NLT) 

While we still face difficulties, we have a God who has promised to be with us in all, who cares for our pain, and who promises His people a future when justice will reign, illness will be forever gone, and we will live in peace, love and joy in His presence for all eternity.

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and His rule.” (Matthew 5:3, MSG)

Will you join me in focusing on moments of joy and gratitude this Christmas season, rather than in the “to do lists” we all have for the holidays? Let’s make more of presence than of presents; of the beauty in our loved ones than in our homes; of God’s good gifts than in our wish lists.

Blessings to you this Christmas!

Kicking and Screaming!

“I don’t want to miss this wedding and time with family; but all I really want to do is stay home and unpack more boxes.”

Don and I had committed to a family wedding months ago. But as I surveyed our new home, I felt overwhelmed with the need to get the boxes emptied and their contents put away. We’d moved just two weeks earlier and the house was still a bit chaotic, as was the state of my mind.

For the past few months I’ve had trouble sleeping every 2nd, 3rd or 4th night. When that happens I get up and work. I’ve unpacked up to 10 boxes during the night before finally falling asleep sometime between 2:30 and 4 am. My awake times are usually quite productive but of course, the following day(s) I’m not worth much.

Fatigued as I get, I still have a choice to make. Will I grumble and grouse, or will I choose to remain positive (perhaps quietly so!), knowing those around love me dearly (and I them); and that the next night offers another opportunity for rest.

So with all that was on my mind I was concerned about attending a wedding with dark-rimmed eyes after a sleepless night or two.

At the rehearsal dinner, I mentioned my need for prayer for insomnia. Several offered to pray for me. That night I slept eight good hours. After the wedding Saturday, I slept eleven hours! I am so grateful for the prayers of others, and for the weekend away. Although I left home kicking and screaming (figuratively speaking), Don and I both needed this total break from packing and moving and unpacking to get some much needed rest. The wedding was beautiful, and we loved the time we spent with family members all weekend–precious time not to be missed!

Moving is stressful. I was interested in the responses of others to my question about the hardest part of their last move. Some were funny, like “getting out of the recliner”. But others talked about the physical and mental exhaustion, the lack of storage, the boxes everywhere and no floor space, and thinking they were finished only to find more boxes to unpack. One mentioned moving an upright piano, and still another, losing their community of friends and prayer partners. Leaving a home you loved, friends and a church community, as well as doctors and other service providers, is a challenge.

We’ve been home from the wedding a week now and I’ve continued to sleep well. I imagine that’s partly because we’re feeling more relaxed. Critical items are unpacked, the house is taking shape, and we can now work at a less pressured rate. My insomnia seems to have been related to having too much on my mind, and having a hard time letting go of those thoughts. And God’s grace, through the prayers of family and friends, helped me let go and sleep. What a blessing!

It’s useless to rise early and go to bed late,
    and work your worried fingers to the bone.
Don’t you know he enjoys
    giving rest to those he loves? Psalm 127:2

 

 

A Little of This and a Little of That

A week and a half ago our dining room was stacked about seven feet high throughout with packed boxes. More were in various rooms in our new home, and in the garage. 

After a long week of unpacking, putting things away, and repacking items we no longer have room for, one of our nephews flew in from Texas for business and we had the privilege of dining and visiting with him. Their town had about 10 inches of rain in the past four days–overwhelming, but not to the extent North Carolina has suffered recently.

Grandnieces and nephews at tonight’s Family Dinner. Love these littles.

Tonight Bob and Sheila hosted their wonderful bi-weekly family dinner. Don and I picked Mom up and enjoyed the time with our brother and sister-in-law, two of their sons and their families. With three candles on a delicious brownie, they serenaded me with “Happy Birthday” Three candles–thirty years! I like that!

And our realtor told us some of the people visiting our Soquel home Open House asked if we planted a heart or if it (the heart) grew on its own. Neither Don nor I could figure out what she meant. Marie sent a photograph of a section of our wisteria–which grew into the shape of a heart all by itself. We hadn’t noticed! But others did!

Kind of like our relationship with the Father … as we spend time with him, allowing him to prune us, absorbing his character, others begin to see in us a heart of love, when we did nothing consciously to plant it. God’s likeness simply grows as we bask in his presence and take in the sunlight and watering of his great love for us.

May you and I enjoy relaxing in the Father’s love this week as he embeds his character into our lives.

“He sets the Lonely in Families…”

As we hosted our grandniece Savannah last weekend, she, Don and I talked a great deal about missions. Savannah felt God’s call five years ago. Since then she has gone on several interim mission trips and continued her nursing in preparation to go overseas, her commitment remaining strong. Together we delighted over a mouth-watering Thai dinner of Fresh Spring Rolls, Tom Kha (coconut soup), Panang Curry, Broccoli Beef, and brown rice. The next morning we breakfasted at home with bacon and eggs, rolls and fruit. We laughed a lot and enjoyed worshiping together. Don and I shared our love story, and Savannah told us how she is preparing for her ministry assignment. It didn’t seem we would ever run out of things to talk about.

Later Sunday evening we met members of my family, including my New York niece, Nicholee and her son Calum, who is entering his senior year of high school. They were in California exploring film schools, Calum’s interest. What a delight to catch up on the lives and future plans of these two, whom we last saw four years ago.

And yesterday Mom and I attended a baby shower for my niece Janae, who is expecting her and Leon’s first child in November. Our family continues to grow and diversify. Between both sides of our families we have members from New York to South Carolina to Virginia to Texas, Idaho, Colorado, Kansas, here in California, and in Canada – and in future, in other parts of the globe. I’m grateful God has put us in families. He created us to be in community, understands our need for companionship, and provides that in more than one way.

I’m thankful that God’s children, those who are Christ-followers, are another kind of family, one of faith in the blood and redemption of Jesus! Even those without traditional “family” members can still be a part of a family, a community of faith. And within that community we can hopefully find the kind of support, affirmation and love we hope to find in our natural families. No, God’s family members aren’t perfect – far from it, matter of fact. But we’re forgiven and so are also learning to forgive and love each other along a common path. Psalm 68:6 says “God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.”

Family Reunion in 2012

My family has loved and supported me through all the seasons of my life: childhood, schooling, college, ten years of ghetto ministry, marriage at the age of 36 and widowhood at 57; and remarriage at 62. They traveled across the country to support my late husband and me while he was trying to recover from a transplant. And while two brothers helped me carry Jerry’s ashes back home after he passed into the waiting arms of Jesus, two walked me toward my new husband, Don, and a new life five years later.

We’ve had our disagreements, some significant. But we’ve loved each other enough to work through those and to value relationship over “same thinking”. I love both my natural and my faith-families.

So what’s the best part about the family(ies) you’re in?

May God be with you in whatever relationships you are experiencing; and with those of you sending your children off to another year of school. Hold them close, and teach them to fly!

P.S. I told you I’d let you know what color we chose for the living and dining rooms of our new home (move to come in two and a half weeks). It’s a beautiful aqua grey–and as our realtor pointed out to me, almost exactly the same color I’ve been wearing on my fingernails recently. I guess I’m consistent!

The Lost is Found

“Look at what’s in front of you,” our friend Dave challenged me.

I looked at my husband’s hand, holding a glass of water. Was the water clearer than before? Don and Dave had worked in the yard most of the day.

“Your hand is shaking,” I said to my tired man.

“She’s not looking at the right thing,” Dave grinned.

I looked again. And there it was, right in front of me, on the third finger of Don’s right hand … the gold, sapphire and diamond ring Don lost in the yard about four months ago. He had missed it, having worn that particular ring from a former company for many years. But we had given up on ever finding it. The ring was significant, given to him by a company he enjoyed working with; and when the initials wore away and an insert fell off and was lost, we replaced them with a sapphire I had, and several small diamonds. Don wore it daily, including pruning and gardening in the dirt, and woodworking.

Today, as Dave raked leaves out by the well in preparation to put in a wooden walkway, he saw a shiny, perfect round something.

“Could there be a ring out here?” he asked Don.

“No, there’s no ring.” Don had looked long and hard for it at the time of its loss.

Dave raked over the leaves again, his mind holding onto what he’d seen.

“Did anyone ever lose a ring here?”

“Well yes, matter of fact, I did a few months back.”

Oh no, thought Dave. Now I’ve covered it again in the leaves and dirt and won’t find it … but there it was, on top of the leaves. Picking it up, he handed Don’s sentimental, handsome ring back to him. And we all rejoiced like the woman in scripture who searched for her lost coin and rejoiced and told her neighbors when she found it.

I thought how we had to give that ring up for lost before the Lord revealed it to us again. We had done that, let it go. And now, months later, God’s grace and Dave’s eagle eye spotted its shine in the dirt. Sometimes God challenges us to give up things that are important to us before he returns them, or something better, to us.  Not because he doesn’t want us to enjoy good gifts, but because our holiness – our focus on Him – is more important to him than our little pleasures.  And He so often develops our character through the challenges life brings our way. He wants the best for us, and the best is our relationship with and trust in Him.

And it is also precious that He cares even about the little things. And in the light of eternity, of world and personal tragedies, a lost ring is a little thing. But we are invited to “Cast all your cares on Him, for He cares for you.” I Peter 5:7.

To what are you and I holding on?

We’re preparing to move this Fall. Much as we love our home in Soquel, the care for three acres is getting to be too wearing. We’re in that process of determining what to keep and what to let go of. Not always easy decisions when much of what we have comes from our travels, from people we love, from our own interests. But we are downsizing and will have to make some tough decisions. I pray that I will hold material things loosely, being wise in what to keep and what to release, for the good of others and our own benefit; and that I will trust God to lead in the process.