Friday, December 30, 2011

Books I've Read in 2011

"You can't get a cup of tea coffee big enough or a book long enough to suit me."  C. S. Lewis

     I must confess that I am an avid reader.   When I was younger, it was not unusual for me to be so involved in a book that I was oblivious to what was happening.  My burning toast has set off the smoke alarm far too many times to count.  I am fortunate to have a Kindle and so there is always a book waiting for me to read at any moment of the day.  Here is a list of books that I read in 2011 that I thought about long after I turned the last page. 


     My (not so) Story Book Life, by Elizabeth Owen
     Grace for the Good Girl, by Emily Freeman
     The Hunger Games Trilogy, by Suzanne Collins
     The School of Essential Ingredients, by Erica Bauermeister
     Poke the Box, by Seth Godin
     Dwelling Place, by Elizabeth Musser
     The Mill River Recluse, by Darcie Chan
     Loving Frank, A Novel, by Nancy Horan
     The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted: A Novel by Bridget Asher
     Winter Sea, by Susanna Kearsley
     One Thousand Gifts:  A Dare to Live Fully Right    Where You Are, by Ann Voskamp
     Little Bee, by Chris Cleave
     Room: A Novel, by Emma Donoghue
     The Story of Beautiful Girl, by Rachel Simon
     Ellis Island, by Kate Kerrigan

Linking with Nesting Place.
What books do you suggest for 2012?


      Parenthood is an amazing miraculous adventure.  It is a road riddled with twists, turns, and unexpected bumps.  It is also a journey filled with wonder, grace, and joy. 
     Pat and I never intended to have six children.  It just sort of happened, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.  Our first three sons arrived the conventional way.  Our next three children arrived through the miracle of adoption.  
     My boys were in their early teens when Pat and I became foster parents.  One beautiful June evening, a social worker called us to ask if we would open our home to a three year old girl and an eight month old boy, both of whom had chicken pox.  A few hours later, Patty arrived clutching a much loved doll.  She had big brown eyes and a fearful, beautiful smile.  Anthony was placed in my arms.  He snuggled right into my heart.  A few years later a judge made official the adoption that took place in our hearts that night.  We had four sons and one daughter.
     Shortly after Patty and Anthony’s adoption, we learned that their birth mother was expecting.  We agreed to that baby, too.  My boys wondered who would have to share their room.  Patty and I wondered if it would be another boy or if Patty would have to share her princess status.  My husband wondered if we were nuts.  When we received the phone call that a baby boy had arrived; I laughed and said, “We needed another one of those.”  We picked Connor up from the hospital when he was three days old.  He is now a boisterous ten year old.
    Adoptive parents never really know for sure exactly what we are getting into, but birth parents don’t either.  There are days in the lives of any parent when you want to tear your hair out and cry, “This is not what I signed up for!”  At one time we had three children in college and one in day care.  Consider that I have been picking up Lego’s for 28 years.  I have slept in hospital beds with my arms wrapped around a sick child.  I’ve worried when they’ve come home late.  I’ve attended countless parent teacher conferences and holiday performances.  I’ve overseen enough homework assignments to fill a library.  I have refused to get a tatoo.  I’ve lent my son an earring.  I’ve been blessed with tadpoles and dandelions crushed in chubby fists.  Our children, all of them, have enriched our lives far beyond what anyone could have told us.
     Our lives have been changed by adoption, but they are not only about adoption.  Our lives are about family.  
Psalm 68:4-6
 Sing to God, sing in praise of his name,
   extol him who rides on the clouds
   rejoice before him—his name is the LORD.
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
   is God in his holy dwelling.
God sets the lonely in families,
Has your life been changed by the miracle of adoption?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Innkeeper's Son - A Christmas Story

     “Welcome.  Come in, come in.” boomed the wizened little innkeeper as he opened the door.  “We don’t get many visitors in Bethlehem this time of year.”  In an aside, he sent his grandson out to care for the visitors animals, “Just put them in the old stable.  Don’t forget the feed and water.”  The old man walked with a limp as he pointed the couple to the guest room.  The room was dark and the ceiling stained with soot, but the blankets were clean and soft.  The light from the oil lamp flickered on the wall giving the room a soft glow.  The husband nodded with approval.  “We’ve traveled far.  Some nights we were able to sleep in an inn, others out on the cold ground and once we slept in a stable with the animals.”
     “Well,” responded the innkeeper,  “there was a time we had a couple stay in our stable, too.  It is quite a story.  Pull up a chair and I’ll tell you about it.”   He waited for the pair to settle and poured them a drink to ease their thirst.  The old man began, “At that time Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the Roman world and everyone  had to register in the town of their ancestors in order to pay their taxes.  Our quiet little town of Bethlehem was not quiet then.  It exploded with people almost  overnight.   I remember that I was about twelve.  Old enough to do chores and young enough to think I did them all.” He paused to rumple the hair on his grandson’s head affectionately.   “I had thought that it would be fun seeing all the strangers and family come to town, but instead it was a whole lot more work then I had bargained for.  I had been hauling water and hay for the animals and carrying things from here to there.  My parents had been turning people away from the Inn for hours.  Our house was full.  The whole town was full.  There were people sleeping on mats and blankets on every floor in Bethlehem.”
    “It was early evening when there was yet another knock on the door.  Father had answered declaring, “There is no room.” even as he opened our door.  But then he had come back in and had a quiet word with mother.
     I remember mother saying in shock, “You want to put them in our stable?”  Our stable is a hollowed out cave in the hillside with rock walls to keep the animals penned.  On that winter night the stable was cold, damp, and chock full of smelly beasts.  I was sent out to move the animals around to make a place for the couple who would be staying there.  When I saw them, I understood why my father had not turned them completely away.   The man, a descendent of David, looked weary and even a bit desperate.  He had clearly traveled some distance.  Then I glimpsed his wife, not much older than me really, but so heavy with child that even I knew her time was near. I wondered when they had last rested. There among the camels, donkeys, cattle and horses I hurriedly made room.  They told me their names were Joseph and Mary from the town of Nazareth in Galilee. Mother sent me back with a bucket of fresh water and some thin rags.  I heard the man breathe a prayer and question, “Here? Lord, in this place?”  His wife sighed as she eased her bulky frame down onto the scratchy straw.   I left them to their rest.
     Around the fire that night there was a lot of discussion about the meaning of the strange star that had appeared in the east and now seemed almost directly overhead.  Everyone spent time looking up in awe and wonder.
     I had scarcely laid my head down for the night when I heard the thin wails of a newborn drift from the stable. Mary had had her baby.  Now there were three travelers in our stable.  I fell back asleep only to be woken again by the bleating of sheep.  The local shepherds usually kept watch over their sheep on a nearby hill top.  Curious, I staggered out of bed to see what was going on.  
     There were sheep in the courtyard.  Ewes and lambs clustered together.  Their breath steaming in the crisp night air.  The strange star was now directly over our little stable casting a warm golden glow over each fuzzy sheep.  My parents were speaking with a tall shepherd carrying a tiny lamb over his shoulders.  I hurried to the stable to see what was happening.  There more shepherds stood or knelt.  Some were talking excitedly about the birth of a King.  They told me of a great vision of angels that had appeared to them.  Angels who told them,  “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”  The shepherds had immediately set off to find the child that the angels had spoken of.  And there He was, a tiny baby with outstretched arms lying in a manger.  The very manger I used daily to feed our animals.  Mary’s dark eyes gazed adoringly at her newborn son.  She brushed his soft cheeks with kisses. Mary appeared to be tucking the memory of this wondrous night deep into her heart.  Joseph knelt beside her.  The lines of tension on his face had eased.  He looked shocked and scared, grateful and happy, like most new fathers.   Together they marveled at their tiny son.  They named him Emmanuel, which means “God With Us.”  And all around the shepherds glorified and praised God for what he had shown us that night.  Our humble stable was where God reached down from His holy heaven and touched the earth.
     “Don’t you wonder what became of him.  That baby born so long ago,”  interrupted the visitor.
     “No, I don’t wonder.  I know, and I suspect that you do too.  The child grew in stature full of wisdom and grace, and in favor with God and man.  He became a carpenter and started a ministry when He was about thirty years old.  The whole country side near Jerusalem would come out to hear him.  He proclaimed good news to all men.  He healed the sick, raised the dead, touched lepers, and restored sight to the blind. He satisfied the hunger of souls and comforted those who wept.  He calmed a storm, walked on water, and stirred up the religious leaders. He ate with sinners and drank with tax collectors.  This man who knew no sin was crucified on a hill between two thieves.  Mary was there at the foot of His cross.  How her heart must have broke to see her son so.  He died and was buried in a borrowed tomb, but on the third day He rose a victor from the grave.  He was our Messiah, the man known as Jesus.
     The innkeepers son continued, the Psalms tell us “Be still and know that I am God.”   You’ll remember God showed Elijah that He is often not in the wind, the fire or the rain—but rather He is in the still small voice.  The King of Kings was not born in a mighty palace. Jesus Christ came here as a small voice, a tiny babe in a manger.   
     “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8). He takes what little we have to offer him, the hollowed caves, the very stables of our lives, filled with waste and despair and gives us beauty for ashes.
This is an incredible mystery, and an incredible story of redeeming love. 

     Have a blessed and Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

How May I Help You?

     Like many of you, I ordered some things from catalogs as Christmas gifts.  But one company I called to place an order really impressed me.  I had selected my items and punched in the number.  The phone hadn’t even rung on my end when a delightful young lady answered.  “Good morning, L.L. Bean.  This is Cathy speaking.  How may I help you today, Mrs. M...?”  The phone hadn’t rung, she had answered and knew it was ME!  Now I know what you are thinking - and, no I do not buy so many things from them that they gave me a direct line.
     I hesitantly murmured, “Good morning.” and said that I would like to place an order.
     “Sure, and would you like it sent to your home at _____________?”
     “Yes, please.”
     “That’s great.  Mrs. M.... is your phone number still __________?
     “And Mrs. M.... would you like to use your credit card today?”
     “Great.  What is your first item?”
     “Do you mean that YOU DON'T KNOW?”
     Well that confused poor Cathy.  She maintained her cool, probably thinking that this would be the call that got recorded and checked by her managers for quality assurance.
     I continued, “You answered the phone before it rang, you knew my name, address, phone number and my credit card number.    I thought that you might know what I wanted.”
     Cathy laughed and assured me that the phone had actually rung on her end.  She explained that the company had caller ID so that when a person called, they knew exactly who it was.
     1 Peter 5:7 says,  “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”
     God knows and cares for us as individuals.  He doesn’t need a cosmic form of caller ID and computer programs to back up the information.  He knows each of us by name.  He knows the number of hairs on our head.  He knows the cares we have.  
John 10:3  He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out.
     Jesus knew Zacchaeus when He saw him in the tree.  He knew the woman who washed His feet with her tears.  He knew the lepers and the blind men.  He knew the woman at the well.  He knew the fishermen He called to be disciples.  He knows you.
     He knows every little thing about you.  He cares for you as an individual.  The One who loved you enough to come from heaven, to be born in a stable, to die on a lonely cross, will care for all of your cares.
“To whom will you compare me? 
Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One. 

Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: 
Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one 

and calls forth each of them by name. 

Because of his great power and mighty strength, 
not one of them is missing.  

Do you not know? 
   Have you not heard? 

The LORD is the everlasting God, 

the Creator of the ends of the earth. 

He will not grow tired or weary, 

and his understanding no one can fathom. 

He gives strength to the weary 
and increases the power of the weak. 
Even youths grow tired and weary, 

and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. 

They will soar on wings like eagles; 
They will run and not grow weary, 
They will walk and not be faint. 
 Isaiah 40:25-31

Saturday, December 10, 2011


     Do you remember gym class when you were in elementary school?  Some of you are fondly remembering proud moments.   Others of you are wincing.  If you are still in school, I hope you are better at physical education than I was.
     When I was young, I was really little.  To make matters worse, I was not particularly athletic or even very coordinated.  I was a disaster on any team.  In kickball I couldn’t kick.  In softball I couldn’t hit the ball.  I wasn’t big enough to block goals in soccer.  I was afraid to get hit by the ball in dodge ball.  And I couldn’t run for beans.  You can imagine how popular I was when it came time to choose up sides for a game.
     When we all  arrived in gym the first thing we did was pick teams.  Two people, usually the two best players in the class, would be named by the coach as captains.  They would then take turns choosing their players.  Friends would call out, “Pick me, pick me!”  The good players were the obvious first choices.  You can imagine how the rest of us felt, standing around, shuffling our feet, trying not to look too eager or too desperate; inwardly yearning to be chosen.  Eventually there were fewer and fewer of us.  Hearts would rise with expectation, and plummet with despair after each choice.  Then there would be just me and Beth.  It was a bit of a toss up as to which of us was the bigger liability.  The captains would nervously lick their lips and try to decide which of us could possibly be worse.  That was when the teacher would say, “Now children, we can’t start until everyone has been picked.”  Finally, my name would be called, or not.  I always cheered, “Yes!” as if I were on the team that I had really wanted to be on had I been given a choice.  But I wasn’t really kidding anyone.
     I was something of a late bloomer.  Eventually, I became better at sports and better able to laugh at the mistakes I frequently make.
     Do you like to be chosen?  Sure, you do.  When you are picked, it’s special.
      Ephesians  says that God chose us.  He picked us.  He even picked me.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.  For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. Ephesians 1:3-6
     God didn’t need to choose us.  He certainly didn’t need to choose me.  There are many people far more eloquent, far more compassionate, and far more holy, that He could have chosen.  God looks out over all people.  He knows every skill and every weakness.  He knows every sin and kindness.  It’s not like He said, “I pick that one because I need what he has.”  We have nothing worthy to offer.  God didn’t choose the best.  He is not like the gym captains who looked for skill or talent.  He decided to choose me and to choose you while we were yet sinners.  He did that before the creation of the world.  God looked all the way through time and saw our pain and possibility. He loved us enough to create us, to choose us, and to send His Son as a ransom for us.
     This is a picture of me dressed as "Tug Boat Annie" for a parade.  My humiliation is now complete.
     Has God chosen YOU?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Have You Any Room For Jesus?

     It was a cold rainy day in early December.  I was rushing home after some quick Christmas shopping at the local mall thinking of the things I needed to do.  My mind was on the coming holiday, the presents yet to be bought, the house to be cleaned, the planning for a quick trip to Virginia, and projects at school that needed to be completed before vacation.  It was cold, wet, and  I was in a hurry when I passed Jesus on the road.
     Really,  Jesus was there on the side of the road.  He was laying there with the rest of his family, a few shepherds, some animals and possibly a wise man or two.  There they were in a pile at the end of a long driveway that leads to a church high on a hill.  They were plastic light up figures that eventually would become part of the church's Christmas display.  But on this gray and rainy day the holy family, and friends, were abandoned in a heap by the side of the road.  The person who had been on the job probably thought that it was too cold, too wet, and somehow too inconvenient to set plastic Jesus up in his meager stable.
     I considered the very first Christmas and how the innkeeper didn't have room.  I thought if I had been the innkeeper, I wouldn't have been so inconsiderate as to show expectant Mary and Joseph to a stable no matter how busy.  No, I would have given them the best room.  I would have given them my room to use for the birthplace of my king.  But, I see myself reflected in the face of that innkeeper.   I am rushed, harried, distracted by gadgets and obligations, and thinking of my own needs.  To be honest, I am not sure there would have been room at my inn either.  And even worse, I know who He is.
     The world has changed considerably since that first Christmas, but Jesus still needs us to make room for Him.  After all, He had room in His heart for us.  He laid aside all of Heaven to come and love us beyond anything that we could imagine.  Jesus came to shed light on our jumbled days and into our darkest places.  He makes room in our hearts, by cleansing us of sin, guilt, and shame.  He gives us peace in life's storms and joy each morning.
     Here is a poem which says this so beautifully.

Have You Any Room For Jesus?

Have you any room for Jesus,
He who bore your load of sin?
As He knocks and asks admission,
Sinner, will you let Him in?
Room for Jesus,King of glory!
Hasten now His word obey;
Swing the heart's door widely open,
Bid Him enter while you may.
Room for pleasure, room for business,
But for Christ the crucified,
Not a place that He can enter,
In the heart for which He died?
Have you any room for Jesus?
                     C. C. Williams

     Let's not leave Jesus sitting at the curb.

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