Monday, December 31, 2012

My Word for 2012: Dwell

     I am a list maker.  I make a list for groceries, for camping, for menu’s, and to do’s for the day and week.  Because of this, many people were surprised when I told them that I do not make a list of resolutions for the new year, instead, I chose a word.  One little word to invite into my life for the year.
     For the year 2012 my word was “Dwell.”  To dwell means to reside, to abide, to rest, to shelter.  It implies permanence.
How lovely is your dwelling place,
   LORD Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints,
   for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and my flesh cry out
   for the living God.
Even the sparrow has found a home,
   and the swallow a nest for herself,
   where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,
   LORD Almighty, my King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
   they are ever praising you.  ~ Psalm 84:1-4
     Last January, I joked that I was hoping for a different word.  Like Praise, Love, Joy, or even Eat!  I wanted a word that I could find in Hobby Lobby on a box or a sign.  Dwell is an old word, certainly not a word that is commonly used.  And yet it became clear that it was exactly the word for me.
     In Jeremiah the citizens of Dedan were told to “dwell deep.”  To dwell deep meant that they would be safe and secure.  They would be protected.
     In 2012 I wanted to:
     Dwell in Christ.
     Dwell in love.
     Dwell in hope.
     Dwell in grace.
     Dwell in health.
     Dwell richly.
     Dwell in possibility.
     Dwell deeply.
               And I did.

     Dwell was present with me throughout the year.  In September, God even gave me a sign from Hobby Lobby!  Sure it said “Abide” instead of “dwell,” but I knew what God meant.  In 2012, He allowed me to dwell deep in the safety, shelter, and security of His blessed providence.
     Tomorrow I will share my word for the year 2013.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Best of 2012: September - December

     It is fun to look back at some of my favorite memories from the past year.  I am looking forward to what God has in store for me in the new year.
     The Grace Building in New York City has long been a favorite of mine.  Read this post about Mayor Laguardia and his example of grace to a desperate woman.
     During the month of September Compassion International asked that bloggers unite to reach out for sponsors for children in poverty.  Letters to God was written in response to one of their prompts to encourage us to give from our abundance.
blog month praying
     For the month of October I blogged about my journey through breast cancer.  In January 2009 my New Year’s resolution was fairly simple.  It was “Make room.”  Make room for Jesus in my heart, my marriage, with my family and friends, in my home and in my job.  I had vague thoughts about cleaning up the house and organizing myself better.  Instead God answered my prayers with a diagnosis of breast cancer on February 18.  I discovered as I sat in doctor’s offices, went for treatments, and even took naps that some things weren’t as important as I had previously thought they were.  I was also reminded that the really important things, aren’t things - they are the people God has given us to love.  Shipwrecked was the most read post of the month.  The series was called "I Wear Pink."  The entire series can be found as a page at the top.  
     Storms tells us that Jesus meets us where we are.  It relates how Jesus walked on water to the storm tossed disciples.
     Welcome to Hogwarts!  Connor received a letter welcoming him to Hogwarts for his eleventh birthday.  Connor has been a huge fan of the Harry Potter series since second grade.  It made his day to receive the letter by owl post.
     Have You Any Room For Jesus?   I saw Jesus sitting on the side of the road one afternoon on my way to do some errands.  
     What was you favorite post on your blog?  List it in the comments.

Redeeming the Time

The clock at Grand Central Station.

     As we move toward the New Year of 2013 many of us wonder at how quickly the time flies.  It feels like just last week we were celebrating 2010, 2011, 2012.  My parents have always said that the older you are, the faster the years go.  When I was younger, I didn’t understand that, but I have lived enough years to realize that they are right.
     I few years ago, I bought Pat and our son, Brian, a digital clock/ipod charger for Christmas.  I may have given the clock to Pat, but the truth is, that as long as we have had it, it has been on my side of the bed.  The alarm beeps loudly and irritatingly at 5:15 each morning and after hitting the snooze, I drag myself out of bed.  At night the clock had glowing numbers which meant that I could wake up, glance at the clock and know how much time I had left to sleep.  The clock worked pretty well until we got back from camping last August.  That was when I noticed that the night time display no longer worked.  But it was summer and not really necessary. I found it easier to sleep without the glow from the clock. When September rolled around with earlier wake-up times the alarm still beeped so we didn’t replace it.  Then in the fall, we realized that the clock no longer charged the ipod.
     Pat thoughtfully bought a new alarm clock for me for Christmas.  Our son Brian, the electronics whiz, was home.  He noticed the new clock under the tree and asked what had happened to the previous one.  We explained about the light and the inability to charge the ipod.  Brian laughed, “It sounds like your clock isn’t plugged in.”
     “Oh, no.” I argued,  “That isn’t possible.  The time was always right and the alarm went off.”            
     Brian explained that our clock has a backup battery which would keep time, but go into a mode which saved electricity when there was a power failure.  The night light wouldn’t work, nor would it charge the ipod.  I dismissed his idea because I could not imagine that a small battery could last for months.
     Pat went upstairs to plug my gift in.  That was when he discovered that Brian was correct.  The first clock had not been plugged in.  It had continued to faithfully wake us each morning and loyally keep the time without the benefit of being plugged into a source of electricity since August.
     Paul tells us in Ephesians to walk circumspectly, redeeming the time.  As we look ahead to a new year I ask you to consider the time.  Consider the moment and season you are in.  Consider who you are and who you belong to.  Immanuel, God with us, and within us.  The Great I Am, in our past, our present, and our future, meeting us exactly where we are.  He knows our every need.
Today is the day that the Lord has made.  
Lord, you have been our dwelling place

    throughout all generations. 
Before the mountains were born
  or you brought forth the whole world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
A thousand years in your sight
  are like a day that has just gone by,
  or like a watch in the night.
Teach us to number our days,
  that we may gain a heart of wisdom. ~ Psalm 90:1-2, 4,12
     A back up battery of faith will only work for so long.  Now is the time to plug into the power of the Holy Spirit.  Reset your clock.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Best of 2012: May - August

     Thanks for being such wonderful bloggy friends.  It has been fun meeting so many people over the past year.

     Souvenir:  I Remember:  Pat and I were sent by our family on a cruise for our twenty-fifth anniversary.  In this post, I share the shadow box I created to house the memories of that special time.

     The Refinished Dresser is painted a happy sunshine yellow.  The dresser once belonged to my Grandmother.  I think she would be pleased to know that I use it as a night stand by my bed.  Our bed is high and the usual night tables are much too low.  This is perfect and gives me some extra storage.
     Walking on Water is not such an easy thing to do, but my children were willing to try!  They had so much fun falling and running.
     God, George Washington & Me:  How did you picture God when you were a child?  Was He a gentle Father leading you with compassion or was He a stern disciplinarian?
     Patty and I watched a sunrise over the Chesapeake Bay.  It was wonderful.  Where have you watched the sunrise?
     I was enchanted by a set of milk glass snack plates at a local Good Will store.  Milk glass is so pretty.  These plates were trimmed with gold.  So lovely.
     It's fun looking back at reader's favorite posts.  We are expecting more snow today.  It's going to be a hot cocoa kind of day around here.
     Leave a link to your favorite post on your blog in the comments.  I'll be sure to visit.

Free Photo Wall Calendar

     Hello HoliMess friends.  I stumbled across a free photo calendar from Vistaprint earlier today.  Just pay for shipping and processing.  Shipping and Processing starts at $5.32.  Who doesn't need a new calendar?  Even better, you use pictures of the ones you love!
     You can choose from their design templates.  I decided to go with the desk calendar.  I picked a solid blue background so that the pictures would be the focus.  I selected twelve photographs from the past year and an additional one for the cover.  After that I was able to add important birthdays and anniversaries.  When I was finished it looked so cute that I ordered two.  One for me and one for my husband.  For $14.38 I had two custom calendars.
     Vistaprint - has no idea who I am.  I just wanted to pass the deal on to my friends.  Happy New Year!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Best of 2012: January - April

     Hello.  I hope that your Christmas was warm and wonderful.  I've been enjoying my family this week, but wanted to share with my Holimess family, too.  So please enjoy this list of my best loved posts from 2012.
     Each year I choose a word to focus on.  My word for 2012 was "Dwell."  The original post was Dwell Deep.  I learned a lot from this word.
     Our Anniversary post is very precious to me for the love that it represents.
     My brother's have always been my Super Hero's.  I enjoy sharing stories about growing up with the pair of them.
       Drink up!  was the prompt for a photography link I posted to.  My children loved this prompt.  I promise that Cheers the Goldfish was not harmed.
     True Love  was a Valentine post dedicated to my special Valentine.
     A Great Leap is part of our adoption story.
     The Great Auto Heist is a humiliating, for me, story about a suspected car theft.  The pictures that accompany it, also humiliatingly, have nothing to do with the story.  I was just playing with my kit lens trying to take macro's.
     In April, I shared about my father and his difficulty when his sailboat left the dock without him in Return to Me.
     The Yoke's on Me is a favorite post about an ABC Bible Scrapbook that I made for my mom for her birthday.  She loved it!
     Come back tomorrow for more favorite posts!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Innkeeper's Son: An Original 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 families 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. 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. I understood why my father had not turned them completely away.   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 wooly 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 countryside 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 innkeeper's 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.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Christmas Surprise!

     Our kitten, Luna, loves the Christmas tree.  She pulls down the ribbons and knocks the ornaments off the branches.  She drapes herself right across the boughs.  Laughter and love, purrs and kitten scratches,  our kids adore her.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

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 right there on the side of the road. He was laying with the rest of his family, a few shepherds, some animals and possibly a wise man or two.  They lay 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.

This post was originally published on 12/4/2011.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Warrior Children

     Are you looking for a fabulous gift idea that helps others?  Check this out!   Warrior Children is a 2013 calendar .  Kids can be heroes, too.  The entire purchase price of $14.95 goes to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  Ava is the December Child.  She is the five year old daughter of a colleague of mine who is fighting leukemia. Isn't she just beautiful?

     The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) is the largest voluntary cancer research agency specifically focused on finding cures and better treatments for blood cancer patients.
     Do you know a child hero?

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