Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009 Memorable Moments - A Year in Pictures!

Oh my...only two more days of this 40-day blogging madness (including this one)! I think I can...I think I can...I think I can..., I'm stealing this blog post idea from my dearest friend over at Prints2Prince. I have to give her all the credit for the idea, because my creativity is running a bit short these days. But, I do think it's great to take a few moments to reflect on those memorable moments of this past year. So, here we go...

A month of birthdays - my own and my daughter's and LOTS and LOTS of family members! We also saw our first taste of snow for the year!

Giving thanks for both of my sweethearts on Valentine's Day! We also had the privilege of celebrating my sweet mother-in-law's birthday in Virginia. The end of February also brought Scrap Camp - a weekend full of scrapbooking with a bunch of fun gals!

mom-in-law, hubby, me

We were blessed by another big snow (on March 1 to be exact)! I love snow - as long as the power stays on and it's not too inconvenient! How's that for pickiness? :-) The other big March event was getting to meet Paul Young - author of The Shack!

One of the highlights of April was getting to attend the Easter morning sunrise service at Chimney Rock Park - a first for us! The last day of April brought my foot surgery (still healing from it unfortunately).

Our extended family was blessed by the addition of Jonah Gage Slack. He was born May 6 and "officially" adopted by my brother and his wife on December 21!

We took a family trip to Grandfather Mountain! Leah was in full swing at work on camp, so it was a bit of a rarity to be able to get away as a family for a day trip.

With camp in full session, we had to make another quick getaway for a family day trip. This time - to the Carl Sandburg Home in Flat Rock, NC. I also had a wonderful weekend getaway in Pigeon Forge, TN with some sweet Jesus-loving women from church!

Big month! Vacationed in Myrtle Beach. Our sweet friends - The Propsts - gave us the use of their beach house again for a week. This was also the month that we moved - two streets down! Chris celebrated his birthday on moving day. Not too fun for him unfortunately, but he was a trooper about it - as is his nature ALWAYS!

Had a fun Labor Day Weekend with our dear friends in Hillsborough, NC. The "boys" went fishing and brought home some yummy blue gill for our fish fry to go along with the catfish that Christ scuba dived/spear hunted for (back in June actually). Leah learned to shoot a gun for the first time. Anna had a blast with her baby cousin, Ryan.

September also brought a fun Sunday afternoon picnic and time of apple picking with our Connect Group friends from church.

I also had the privilege of winning some free tickets to Christian Music Day at Carowinds and got to see my favorite artist - Chris Tomlin - in concert. It rained so much that I had to put my camera back in the car before the concert, but I got a few pics while at the park.

I honestly can't believe it, but I can't find any pictures from October! What was I thinking? It must have been a rather dull month - or so busy that I forgot to snap pics. But, I put up enough in September to count for both months.

Actually, we had the privilege of attending the Michael W. Smith concert on October 23 at the Bilo Center in Greenville, SC. Wish I had pictures, but I have wonderful memories of that evening that will last a lifetime!

November brought lots: Anna's first 7th grade band concert, another weekend pre-Thanksgiving gathering with our Virginia family, Christmas lights at the Bristol Motor Speedway, Thanksgiving with our peeps in Hillsborough, Christmas tree hunting, and CMCS (Carolina Mountain Christmas Spectacular) at church. Whew! Busy month! And...that's just the highlights.

My favorite month of the year! In December, we were so blessed to be a part of our church's annual production of Carolina Mountain Christmas Spectacular. We also had the biggest snowfall of the decade on December 18, and of course...the highlight of the month: CHRISTMAS!!!!

Thanks for stopping by (or enduring) my year of memories in pictures! It really has been a great year. I didn't mention all the struggles that also came during 2009, but I choose not to dwell on those. Overall, I realize that I am most blessed, and the blessings are what I choose to focus on!

Stop back tomorrow for the final day of the blogging challenge! Until then...

Be blessed my friends!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas May Be Over but...the Manger is Still Visible!

It's time to start taking down the Christmas decorations. For us, it's a pretty lengthy process, because I don't just throw them into a box. I take time to wrap each fragile ornament back in its paper to ensure it stays safe for another year. We also have Christmas decorations in every room of the house, so it simply takes awhile to get it all packed back up. But, there are two nativity sets that I keep out all year long.

I actually started that years ago, because I wanted my daughter to grow up knowing that Jesus is not a one-time-of-year Messiah. He's Emmanuel, God with us, ALL the time - everyday of the year! So, it seemed crazy to me then and still does today to only have Nativity sets out one time a year. I actually collect Nativity sets, so I do reserve some of them to come out only at Christmas time, but my other two stay out for all twelve months of the year.

The busyness of the season - especially the secular part of the season - is coming to an end soon, but Jesus lives on. I want the profound birth of that baby over 2000 years ago to be reflective in our home ALL year long - not just in the form of a nativity set but also in the mirrors of our faces.

Monday, December 28, 2009

40 Day Challenge Almost Over...

I can't believe it. I've almost completed this 40-day blog writing challenge that I committed myself to a few short weeks ago. At first, I thought it would be easy - if I just stay focused. However, as the days went by, I knew it was definitely going to be a challenge.

If you recall (or have been keeping up with my blogs throughout this challenge), I initially decided to do this, because I felt God was directing me to do so for some reason or another. I know that the number 40 in the Bible is significant and generally involves a period of 40 something (days, weeks, years, etc.) that almost always ends with a blessing or promise.

I am also a person that has trouble completing "stuff", because the perfectionist tendencies that I struggle with always find a way to make that "stuff" better, thereby causing things to never get finished. So, this challenge was also a way for me to show (to myself if nobody else) that I could FINISH something! I realize that I still have 3 more blog posts to write after this one in order to reach my goal, but I'm convinced that I can do it!

So, have I learned anything? Gotten any life altering revelations? Made any new commitments or life changes? Been blessed by God or been given a promise? What has happened as a result of this challenge? Well, I'm actually still figuring some of those things out, but for starters:

1. God has revealed to me that if I can do this for 40 days then NOTHING should get in the way of me spending quality time with Him each day.
2. He's revealed to me the gifts I need to be using and part of the way these gifts need to be used (I'm still waiting for more of this to become a little clearer).
3. He's given me an opportunity of a lifetime involving a place I hold near and dear to my heart: AFRICA. More on this at a later time too.

Friends, I think I've just scratched the surface of the work that He's doing in my life, but I'm convinced that this challenge was a place for me to obey. Obey Him! God BLESSES obedience friends (read Deuteronomy 28)!

I don't know what the blogging days bring yet in 2010, but I'm continuing on. Thanks for continuing the journey with me!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

2009 Scripture Memorization Complete!

The year-long journey I began almost 365 days ago is complete. Last January 1, I embarked upon a scripture memorization challenge with Beth Moore and her "Siestas" to memorize 2 scripture verses a month. I've actually blogged about this twice before, so if you missed either one, you can click here to see the first blog post and click here for the second.

In my second posting, I listed the first 10 scriptures that I memorized to simply give you a taste of what I've been doing and what God has been showing me through this challenge. I'll repeat those 10 scriptures again here but will also give you the remaining 14. It's been such a great challenge to do this. Some sciptures were easier than others to remember, but I've been able to use ALL of them after I started memorizing them. That has been the amazing part! God has placed me in a situation in which each of these verses has come to mind, and I've been able to share them with others as encouragement or even repeat them to myself for assurance. He is so cool! What an awesome God we serve!

I can't wait to begin this again in 2010 and already have my spiral of index cards ready to go. I use this to record my verses, and it keeps them all contained in one place for easier storage and portability. With January 1 still a few days away, I encourage you to think about and plan to do this along with me. If you need further help about how to get started or how to pick verses, etc...just email me (see Profile page) or post a comment, and I'll be happy to help get you started! It's been a huge blessing friends. I can't stress that enough!

"I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you." Psalm 119:11 (NIV)

Now - for the 24 verses I memorized in 2009 (with the Bible translation in parenthese):

1. 2 Samuel 22:31 (NIV)
2. Habakkuk 3:17-18 (NIV)
3. 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV)
4. Isaiah 26:3-4 (NLT)
5. Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)
6. 1 Peter 3:9 (NIV)
7. Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV)
8. Isaiah 61:1-4 (NIV)
9. James 1:27 (NIV)
10. Psalm 34:18 (NIV)
11. Acts 20:24 (NIV)
12. Romans 6:17-18 (NIV)
13. 1 John 2:5-6 (NASB)
14. Proverbs 19:21 (NIV)
15. Psalm 57:2 (NIV)
16. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV)
17. 2 Corinthians 7:1 (NASB)
18. Psalm 62:5 (NIV)
19. Colossians 3:23 (NIV)
20. Psalm 119:175 (The Msg)
21. Romans 1:16 (NIV)
22. John 14:13-14 (NIV)
23. Job 19:25 (NIV)
24. Romans 8:11 (NIV)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Wrap Up!

Good Day After Christmas folks!

I pray this finds you having been blessed in some way yesterday as we celebrated the birth of our Lord and Savior. I certainly was - in many ways! My biggest blessing of the day, however, was nothing tangible. Keep reading...I'll share it with you later in the post!

Our Christmas Day festivities actually began at 12:01 am! We tried things a bit differently this year, because our day was going to be very full on account of this being my mother's first year in a nursing home. So, we stayed awake until Christmas Day first began, and we started the day with my daughter reading THE Christmas story as told in the book of Luke. We followed that with opening our stockings and gifts. I think we ended up getting to bed around 2:30-ish.

We awoke around 7:00 to pop our breakfast casserole in the oven and make a crockpot of chili to have later in the evening. We had breakfast, got ourselves ready, loaded the car and headed out for a 2.5 hour trip to Virginia to have Christmas with my husband's family. The weather was a bit iffy, as we were in an "ice storm warning" area, however it stayed east of us, and all we got was rain. Praise God! Along the trip to VA, the sun started to peek out of the clouds a bit, and we had the privilege of seeing a double rainbow! WOW - what a gift the Lord gave us on His birthday!

We shared a wonderful meal with our Virginia family, exchanged gifts and then headed home to go pick up my mother to bring over to our house for more Christmas celebrations. We filled our bellies with the chili that smelled divine by that point and ate yummy sweet treats followed by our third gift exchange of the day. We took mom back to the nursing home and then came back home for a quick game of Apples to Apples. That game is so much fun! I won by the way!! :-)

The biggest blessing of my day came through an answered prayer. I have a friend in the middle of a marital separation right now. She was dreading some things concerning Christmas Day, and I prayed very specifically that God would end up making it a very blessed day for her in spite of the circumstances. He did it!!!! I received that news later Christmas Day evening, it was simply the "icing on the cake" of an already very blessed day!

Now, the festivities of Christmas are over, but the Gift of Christmas lives on forever. Thank you God for the gift of your Son!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry CHRISTmas!!!

Merry CHRISTmas blog family and friends!!!

Luke 2:1-20 (NIV)
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ[a] the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas Eve!

It's Christmas Eve! Already. How did it get here so quickly? I LOVE this day...almost as much as tomorrow. I have so many wonderful memories of Christmas Eve!

(1) As a child, we always attended Christmas Eve services at church every year. It was always so festive and really prepared our hearts for the coming Child. That tradition continues today. As a matter of fact, we're attending two services today - one at our home church, and we're also taking my mother and grandmother to a service at my mother's church later this evening.

(2) One of the funniest stories that gets told about me as a child happened on Christmas Eve - many years ago. When I was still a wee thing (but wanted to be older than I was), I was allowed to hold the candle during the Christmas Eve candlelight service. All of sudden, my mother smelled something burning. She looked around trying to determine where the smell was coming from and then shockingly looked at me and noticed my burning hair was creating that smell! No harm done - just a little fried hair. :-)

(3) When I was in the 6-8 year range, we used to go to a neighborhood open house after the candlelight service. There were always so many people there, and to this day - I'm not sure I've ever seen so much food in one place in my whole life. Yummy!

(4) In our family growing up, we would open stockings on Christmas Eve and our gifts on Christmas Day. Yes - Santa would come twice to our house - once on Christmas Eve while we were at church (I still haven't figured that one out) and then again on Christmas morning.

(5) In more recent years, we began a tradition of allowing everyone to open one gift on Christmas Eve - pajamas! We wear them to bed and then wake up picture ready on Christmas Day!

I pray this finds you feeling very blessed in spite of any difficult circumstances you may be facing this year. Please take time to reflect on the greatest blessing that we've ever received - the One whose birthday we celebrate tomorrow!

Be blessed this Christmas dear friends!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

An Almost Meltdown

I have a small confession to make...I have not been very joyful today. 'Tis the season to be jolly, but I was anything but. Sadly, I have waited until the last minute to finish my Christmas shopping this year. Life simply got in the way, and I never seemed to find the time to get it all done.

So, here I am on December 23 - scavenging the stores for those last minute gifts and stocking stuffers. The day began rather well, and I was actually feeling pretty good about my attitude. But, as the day went on - the crowd grew, and my attitude quickly changed. You see - shopping is always a chore for me. I'm not a shopper. Yes - I'm a woman, but shopping is just not my thing. If I could buy everything online, I would, but it's just not that easy sometimes. Secondly, I'm very claustrophobic - especially in crowds. So, what does NON SHOPPER + CROWD CLAUSTROPHOBIA + DECEMBER 23 SHOPPING equal? An almost MELTDOWN!!! Keep in mind, I said almost. Whenever I felt I was on the verge, I created a series of mental images of my family on Christmas morning opening their stockings and gifts in a warm home with plenty of food to eat. On the other side of that image was a starving and thirsting child in Africa that I could easily picture from my years of following the African hunger plight. This child will more than likely never experience anything remotely close to a Christmas morning experienced all over the developed world. Then, I was ashamed that I allowed myself to get all bent out of shape over having to shop on December 23 when I should feel privileged to even have the resources to begin with. With the meltdown quickly averted, I went about the little "chore" a bit longer. It wouldn't take long before those anxious feelings would creep back up, and then I would force those contrasting mental images to reappear. This went on all day long. But, you know what? It worked! I made it successfully through the day. I finished my shopping (minus one little item that I will go after early tomorrow morning). And besides...the shopping is certainly not what CHRISTmas is about anyway.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Be Blessed as You Bless

Some people aren't so cheerful this season. And...I'm not just talking about those that choose to carry a Bah Humbug personality in general. I'm talking about people in which circumstances have caused Christmas to possibly be less than joyful. Believe me, I know from personal experience that the holidays can actually be very circumstantially depressing. For some, this may be the first season without a loved one - by death or by divorce or even through some other manner. For others, this may be a first Christmas season with a terminal illness or the last holiday to share with loved ones unless a miracle occurs. Others are saddened with the truth of not having an income with which to bless others with gifts. Whatever the circumstances, whatever the cause, and regardless of the reasons - for some, this Christmas is painful.

For our family, we're experiencing the first Christmas with my mother in a nursing home. This has been a difficult adjustment not only for us but also for my mother. She's afflicted with Parkinson's Disease, and it has unfortunately debilitated her to the point that she needs assistance with the most basic of day-to-day needs. Sadly, however, her physical state and her mental state are in two different places. She's only in her early sixties but has the body of one in his/her late eighties/early nineties. While visiting with her a couple times this week, I observed how many individuals and churches stop and do things for nursing home residents. She's received poinsetties, gifts, baskets of goodies, cards, etc. It brings me joy to see others bringing her joy.

Several years ago, I was a single mom. Christmas was especially difficult. Decorating the tree only brought back memories of the ornaments I no longer had. Shopping was extremely stressful, because I always worried how far I could stretch a dollar and still give my daughter a decent Christmas. Some years, I had to simply leave home to be able to spend Christmas with friends to keep my mind off the reality of my situation. However, there was always someone that stood in the gap for me in those years. Maybe they prayed on my behalf or provided food to help with our Christmas dinner. I anonymously received gift cards several times that helped with my Christmas shopping. All in all, as difficult as the holiday was at times, it was the help of friends and even strangers that made it so much more bearable and even joyful.

I encourage you to seek out someone to bless this Christmas. Do you know a single parent family that you could invite over for Christmas dinner? How about someone recently widowed that you could take to church with you? Is there someone that you could provide reprieve for that has been sitting with a family member in the hospital that could benefit from a few hours away for rest? Will you be the hands and feet of Jesus as we celebrate His birth? Watch how much you will be blessed as you bless others.

Monday, December 21, 2009

I Want Deer Feet!

We have plenty of deer talk around our house this time of year. My deer-hunting husband stays giddy from the start of deer season until it sadly comes to an end for him. Shockingly, I find I'm rather interested in the subject matter myself. Not only do I enjoy eating venison, but I love pretending I'm a pioneer woman. I know - I need to get out of my dreamland and come back to reality. But, honestly, I've always thought it would be so "cool" to have lived back in the days of the wild frontier - where families spent time traipsing across the country in search of homeland. Houses would be built from the ground up with everyone chipping in time, labor, and materials. Women would labor all day over the stove preparing whatever their men would bring home from that day's hunting efforts. Life was hard work back then - really hard work - but so much simpler. Okay...I'm done daydreaming - back to reality and back to deer. After watching so many Versus Country episodes with my hubby on the tube, I've found that I've learned quite a few interesting facts about deer. But, one thing I've known all along is that deer can run - FAST! Their feet are hoofed, which gives them this ability to be swift.

In my personal quiet time this morning, I read a verse in the Biblical book of Habakkuk that I've read many times before, but it really caught my eye this morning.

Habakkuk 3:19 (NIV)
"The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights."

I especially love the Amplified Version of this same verse:

"The Lord God is my Strength, my personal bravery, and my invincible army; He makes my feet like hinds' feet and will make me to walk (not to stand still in terror, but to walk) and make (spiritual) progress upon my high places (of trouble, suffering, or responsibility)!"

I think it was the line "he makes my feet like the feet of a deer" that got my attention, because I knew that deer had swift feet. So, I went to my commentary next to see what was said about this one verse. Bear with me just a minute to share some of that with you:

"He that is the God of our salvation in another world will be our strength in this world, to carry us on in our journey thither, and help us over the difficulties and oppositions we meet with in our way. Even when provisions are cut off, to make it appear that man lives not by bread alone, we may have the want of bread supplied by the graces and comforts of God's Spirit and with the supplies of them. (1) We shall be strong for our spiritual warfare and work: The Lord God is my strength, the strength of my heart. (2) We shall be swift for our spiritual race: He will make my feet like hinds' feet, that with enlargement of heart I may run the way of his commands and outrun my troubles. (3) We shall be successful in our spiritual enterprises: He will make me to walk upon my high places; that is, I shall gain my point, shall be restored unto my own land, and tread upon the high places of the enemy."

Friends...I don't know about you, but that verse encouraged me today! Recently, I have felt so burdened over the not-so-fun news that I keep hearing from family, friends, and even strangers that have kept rug burns on my knees from constant prayer. Within the last year, I have had a personal connection in some way, shape, or form with people that have experienced miscarriage, death of a marriage, death of a child, cancer, child abuse, job loss, infertility, flooded home, extreme illness, Swine Flu, and family betrayal. I am so weary at this point, and just when I think I can't possible learn of more - someone else calls or emails their story and asks for prayer.
So, when I came upon this verse in the small book of Habakkuk this morning, I took the time to study it further. Granted, the deer feet part got my attention, but God had to use something to lure me in further. It worked! I felt such sweet assurance at the end of time with him this morning, because I know that He is...

(1) making me Spiritually strong,
(2) making me Spiritually swift (thanks to those deer feet), and
(3) making me Spiritually successful.

So, faint not, run swift, and give God glory for your successes. And...don't stop praying!!!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Twas the Night Before Christmas with a Twist

I first heard about and read this poem at a Proverbs 31 Ministries event I attended before Christmas several years ago. I just love it and wanted to share it with you. I even included it one year in my Christmas cards and received so many notes of thanks for sharing. Unfortunately, the author is unknown...

Twas the Night Before Jesus Came

Twas the night before Jesus came
And all through the house,
Not a creature was praying,
Not one in the house.

Their Bibles were lying on the shelf without care,
In hopes that Jesus would not come there.
The children were dressing to crawl into bed,
Not once ever kneeling or bowing a head.

And Mom in her rocker with baby on her lap,
Was watching the late show, while I took a nap.
When out of the east there arose such a clatter,
I sprang to my feet to see what was the matter.

Away to the window, I flew like a flash.
I tore back the shutters and threw back the sash.
And what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But angels proclaiming that Jesus was here.

With a light like the sun, sending forth a bright ray,
I knew in a moment, this must be the day.
The light of His face made me cover my head.
It was Jesus returning, just like He said.

And though I possessed worldly wisdom and wealth,
I cried when I saw Him, in spite of myself.
In the Boof of Life, which He held in His hand,
Was written the name of every saved man.

He spoke not a word as
He searched for my name.
And when He said, "It's not here,"
I hung my head in shame.

The people whose names had been written with love,
He gathered to take to His Father above.
With all those who were ready, He rose without a sound,
While all the rest were left standing around.

I fell to my knees, but it was too late.
I'd waited too long, thus sealed my fate.
I stood and I cried as they rode out of sight.
If only I'd been ready tonight.

In the words of this poem, the meaning is clear,
The coming of Jesus is drawing near.
There's only one life and when comes the last call,
We'll find that the Bible was right after all.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Best laid plans...

I had it all planned out. We would leave Friday after my husband got home from work and daughter finished her last day of school before Christmas break. I would have the bags packed, the presents wrapped, the goodies ready to take, and the vehicle gassed with the oil changed. We knew snow was coming, but we would make it out of town headed down the mountain to visit some friends for an early Christmas. My husband would get up Saturday morning and enjoy one last hunting trip in search of Bambi's mother or father. We'd exchange gifts and laughs with friends and enjoy the fellowship and then head home Saturday evening. Sunday would allow an opportunity to participate in worship at church followed by an afternoon of football, football, and more football (and a few naps in between). But you know what? My plans were squashed.

"Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails." (Proverbs 19:21 NIV)

So, what did the Lord purpose? He allowed us to experience a beautiful 10-inch snowfall that arrived much earlier than we originally anticipated. My husband did make it home from work, but he had to walk the last half mile when the snow was too thick to maneuver with his vehicle. Growing up in the mountains of NC, I saw several of these snows in my childhood, but they've been pretty puny in recent years. So, I was very excited to see the snow pile up until I realized that we wouldn't be going on our much anticipated trip. Then, I started to fear that we may lose power, because the lights flickered a LOT, and I kept seeing reports from friends of their power outtages. I did the only thing I knew to do - ask my husband to load up the firewood and PRAY!!!

So what did the Lord purpose? We would wake up Saturday morning to a house still warm and lights still operating (even though 60,000 others in the area are without), and I quietly sung the Doxology in my mind giving praise to God for His goodness. My husband began shoveling out the driveway, and my uncle (our neighbor) arrived to help in no time. Then...the two of them proceeded to shovel pathways for some of the neighbors in need of help. Next on their agenda? Successfully bringing my husband's vehicle home and pulling a neighbor's car out of a ditch...a neighbor we did not know prior to this snow.

So what did the Lord purpose? That rather than traveling, we'd spend the day sleeping late and catching up on much needed rest, helping neighbors and meeting some for the first time, watching my husband and daughter build the biggest snowman that either had ever made, making a big pot of chili to warm our bellies with after all the snow activities, gathering snow to make snow cream and then experiencing brain freezes as we ate it, making more Christmas goodies to munch on, and relaxing by the fire in the evening.

No - this wasn't our plan, but it was the Lord's purpose, and it was good!

Our trip will still happen, but God had different plans today. His ways are always better and always serve His purpose.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Update to earlier post...

OK - I only planned to write 1 blog a day for 40 days, but I just had to update some pictures from my earlier posting. Here's the snow as it was over an hour ago. I'm sure we've gained at least an inch since then, and the ruler measured 7 inches last hour. WOW!

List #18

Well isn't this cool? List #18 is coming out on December 18. I just noticed that...neat! Anyway...moving right along...

In honor of the beautiful snow that continues to fall in my little neck of the woods, I thought that today's "Friday List" could be about that flaky white stuff. Growing up in the mountains of Western NC and living there again today, I have many fond snow memories. My memories of winter wonderlands extend beyond the borders of NC, as well. You can fairly say that I've seen quite a bit of the stuff in my lifetime. I have so many snowy memories, so today I'm sharing a list of ten of them. How about you? Have you had the privilege of making snow memories? I'd love to hear them!

As of this morning, this is what we've been blessed with. Lots more is on the way!

Now for the list!

Ten memories of snow:

1. When I was a child, school wasn't cancelled for snow very often. It had to be a big snowfall for that to happen. (I guess people weren't as law suit happy back then.) I remember my mother driving us to school one morning, and the car slid all over the place. As children, we thought it was fun to slip and slide along the snowy roads. I know better now.
2. I actually experienced my biggest snowfall in recent years while living in Charlotte, NC (not the snowy NC mountains). It was in the winter of 2003-2004, and we received around 18 inches of snow in our part of the city. Very rare for that part of the state. I was at work that morning, and they let us go home early on account of the weather. It took me 3 hours to drive a mile and a half!
3. I remember my parents making us snow cream for yummy sweet treats!
4. We were visiting relatives in Nebraska one Christmas season right after they had a huge blizzard. To date, this was the most snow I had seen in any one place at one time.
5. During the same Nebraska trip, I walked with my parents to the lake behind our relatives house. People were ice skating on it! I thought that was so cool, because in NC, the lakes rarely froze solid enough to be safe to skate on.
6. Another Nebraska memory...because the land was so flat, sleds were not as popular as they are in the NC mountains. However, snowmobiles were everywhere - such fun!
7. One last Nebraska story (I promise) mother was walking around in the snow in the back of the house and fell into a 4+ foot snow drift. First, let me say - she wasn't hurt - just embarrassed. Anyway, when we saw her - we laughed so hard we cried (including my dad). All you could see of my mother was her from the neck up. She just looked so funny, and she was not very happy that we were standing there laughing. But...we did help her get out!
8. My daughter has a January birthday. Needless to say, it snows sometimes in January where we live. We were celebrating her 3rd birthday with family that had driven in from out of town. It started snowing blankets, and everybody got snowed in with us in our little house. The snow was pretty...but guests got cranky being all squished up after awhile. We can laugh about it now.
9. I have many, many sledding memories during childhood. Thankfully - no bones were ever broken.
10. This snow memory requires a little explanation first, so bear with me. Our closest friends tragically lost their 8-yr-old son in 1993. For years, they would always stay home on Christmas, because they needed to just be together on that day especially and preferred to do so in the privacy of their home. However, they decided by the Christmas of 1998 that it would be okay for them to leave home for the first time. They came to spend Christmas with us, but they were still unsettled about leaving home. They prayed that God would send them a Christmas snow to assure them they were making the right decision and that everything would be okay. As we awoke that Christmas morning, snow flurries were falling from the sky. It wasn't a big snowfall by any stretch, but it was enough!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

My favorite movie of the year...

has to be The Blind Side!

How many of you have already seen this movie? We don't go to the movies often, as we usually try to wait until they come out on video to save a few pennies. However, everyone kept raving about this movie, and the reviews and trailers that I saw beforehand lured me in. Additionally, the NFL fan that I am always causes me to be a sucker for a football flick.

Well, this is not your typical football flick. It's oh so much more than that. I was very impressed...not just with the movie...but with the story. I really don't want to ruin it for those of you that haven't seen it yet, but I will just say briefly that it's a true story about the sad beginning of the life of Michael Oher that ends with a family literally being the hands and feet of Jesus to this young man. Oher was a homeless African American teenage boy with little future until a rich, white family (Tuohy) takes him in. That's all I'm going to share for now. Trust me. See the movie. Pay the ridiculous movie theater prices. It's worth it. I repeat...see the movie!

Can't wait to hear what you think about it!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Andrew lives with Jesus now...

Little did I realize yesterday when I introduced you to my 12-year-old little guest blogger that another 12-year-old was breathing his last breath on the same day. For months now, I've been running a little button to the right of my blog asking you to pray for Andrew. I invite you to follow this link to learn more about Andrew's family and his story and his last day yesterday. Andrew's mom has taught me so much about unwavering faith, and I'm so blessed to see how this family that has just lost so much be able to still give so much praise to God. WOW!

I'm sorry for the sad posting tonight, but I just felt compelled to share this news and to ask you now to redirect your prayers for Andrew's entire family in the days ahead. As you celebrate the festivities of the upcoming days, please remember a family that will have some harder times ahead. While I never had the opportunity to meet Andrew personally, I'm thrilled to know we'll get our introdutions in heaven one day.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Introducing a very special guest blogger...

It is with great pleasure that I'd like to introduce you to a very special young lady. I invited her to be a guest blogger today and asked that she write something related to Christmas. She is one of my most faithful blog readers. She is the reason that I continue to do the Friday Lists, because she says they her favorite posts, as she learns so much more about me. Why would that be important to her? The guest blogger today is my 12-year-old daughter! Now...please welcome...Anna!

Hi! My name is Anna and my mom said I could be a guest blogger on her blog.

To me the point of Christmas is Christ. The word Christ is in Christmas. The time when Jesus was born to Mary and Joseph. Christmas is not just about presents and getting new things. Most people including me like getting presents, but that is not the point of Christmas. I think that the reason we are able to get presents and enjoy our Christmas is because of Jesus. He is the one that provides money for gifts. I am very thankful for how Jesus was born and how he would die on the cross for you and me. This Christmas when you enjoy getting presents and the holiday festivities, do not forget that this holiday was made possible by Jesus Christ!

Luke 2:11 (King James Version):
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”

Monday, December 14, 2009

Time to Pause

It's been a very disappointing day. The disappointment is directed mostly at myself. It's really nothing to share and certainly wouldn't be very edifying to anyone else, but it is what it is - just a disappointing day. As I sat beating myself up, figuratively speaking, my pity party grew larger and larger. Then, the disappointment increased, because now I'm disappointed in being disappointed.

OK. Time for me to get a grip. Time to pause. What season is this we're celebrating? It certainly doesn't feel like Christmas is near, but whose fault is that?

I take the blame. I know the mistakes I've made. Time to move on. But, I don't feel like it. So, what do I do when I need a quick pick me up? I go to YouTube and find a feel good song or video. Music always calms me in ways nothing or nobody else can. the case of brought me back to remembering what season we're celebrating and the reason for the celebration. I thought maybe you'd appreciate it too, so I've included it at the bottom of the post.

If you're having a day like mine...or a week or a month like mine...take a few moments to pause. Do something that will make you feel better. Stop and pause to give praise for all that we have because of THE gift that was given over 2000 years ago.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

40 Day Challenge - Day 22!

Boy! This 40-day blog writing challenge is really challenging me. Go figure. It's been so much harder than I ever anticipated. I recently chatted with a friend over the fact that this was a really unwise, hair-brained idea that I came up with. What was I thinking? Christmas time to boot! But, my spirit was quickened almost as soon as I thought those thoughts. It's a CHALLENGE silly girl! It's not supposed to be easy. That's why it's called a CHALLENGE!

Ironically, I love challenges. I'm the type that does really well under pressure. I don't like the pressure, but I tend to perform well that way. Anytime someone challenges me to something - I go at it with full gusto as if an Olympic gold medal is awaiting me at the completion. When I began this challenge, I sensed that God would bless my obedience in some huge way - with another challenge actually! I've been praying about some really big things that I deeply desire God to do. They are actually going to be some pretty challenging things. And...and He's hinting to me that He may just very well answer those prayers, but He's watching...He's waiting...He's observing my obedience in this one little area of blog writing. As silly and as unimportant as it may seem - it's pretty huge for me to complete this challenge. It's just one small stepping stone among several stones along a pretty rocky pathway. But, I have to be able to maneuver the small steps before stepping on the larger rocks.

Thanks for meeting with me along this path. The journey is much easier with friends!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Hang on for Chapter 41!

By comparison, these last two days are at complete ends of the spectrum.

Honestly...I felt like I was living in the middle of a soap opera yesterday considering the three calls I got. I received one from a friend asking me to pray for a family member of hers that she just learned has an advanced stage of AIDS. Whoa. Then, a family member called to let me know that he and his wife were separating after 20 years of marriage. Again...whoa. And...if that wasn't enough shocking news, I also learned of a desperate situation concerning two children that I dearly love that are living absolutely dysfunctional and torturous lives right now. I was completely emotionally whipped by the end of the day not sure how much more bad news I could handle. But, I prayed.

Today, by contrast, was a day full of blessing. I got to sleep late. Big praise! I had the pleasure of having lunch with a sweet friend at my favorite restaurant! Another big praise! I got to do a little Christmas shopping. Honestly, I really don't like to mall shop - which is where I was at the time - but, I found what I needed within 15 minutes and departed quickly! Huge praise! :-) I had a relaxing afternoon and then spent the evening at a Christmas party with great friends! The biggest praise of the day, however, came from a friend who was the recipient of a Christmas miracle! I'm still astounded as I think of the way that God provided a blessing for her! He never ceases to amaze me! I know I shouldn't be shocked, because I've witnessed it countless times in my own life, but I'm still in awe each time He shows off like that.

In thinking about the past 48 hours, I'm reminded of my biblical hero Joseph. In Genesis Chapter 40, he was still being unjustly confined in prison for circumstances out of his control. But...just one chapter later, he was blessed beyond belief as Pharoah allowed him charge over his palace simply because of his wisdom and discernment and obedience through his dream interpretation.

Just remember...when you think you're done - hang on for your own "Chapter 41".

Friday, December 11, 2009

List #17

I was reminiscing today over some memorable Christmas gifts I received as a child or teenager. Some presents I was given really stand out for some reason or another, and I remember them vividly. How about you? What gifts did you receive as a child that you still remember with fondness today? Here are 10 of mine:

1. An "adoptable doll" - precursor to the Cabbage Patch dolls - that my aunt made for me! It looked just like me!

2. A box of cheese. I was a big time cheese lover, and one year I asked for cheese for Christmas. I think I was around 12 years old. There was a wrapped gift waiting for me in the refrigerator. Lots and lots of cheese. I ate so much that I didn't crave cheese for quite awhile after that.

3. A burgundy outfit. I had a dream in which I was a wearing the cutest burgundy outfit, so I tried to describe it to my parents when asking for it for Christmas. I got a burgundy outfit, but it didn't look as pretty on me in real life as it did in my dream.

4. My first 10-speed bike.

5. My first pair of real Nike tennis shoes. We weren't the wealthiest family on the block growing up, so having Nike tennis shoes was a big deal! Funny thing now - I don't like Nike shoes at all. They don't fit my feet properly anymore.

6. A crocheted "Miss Piggy" that my aunt made for me (the same one that made the adoptable doll).

7. A wooden Georgia Bulldogs plaque that my brother made for me in his shop class in school. For some reason, I was a Bulldogs fan back then - have no clue why. I am a Tarheel through and through now.

8. My first "boombox".

9. A set of Nancy Drew books. I loved reading then and still do now!

10. A Madame Alexander doll of "Jo" from Little Women.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Then the Tears Came...

I guess I was due for a good cry, but I really felt rather silly for the reasons that caused it. Bottom line – my feelings were hurt. It was not something that was done or said to me or said about me but rather something that was not said or done. In the grand scheme of life and problems, this is so very minor – I realize that. But, it still hurt (and still does a little bit). As I was praying about the situation this morning, I kept praying that God would (in a sweet and subtle way) let my friend know that I was hurting, but then I immediately felt terrible for praying that, because I didn’t want this person hurt either. Such a catch 22. Then the tears came…and came…and came. So, what did I do next? I posted my feelings on Twitter. I guess I felt the rest of the world cared to know, but in all honesty I tend to use places like Twitter and Facebook as a psychological dumping ground, of sorts (my blog too – it appears). It’s a way for me to release my feelings in sometimes subtle, non-specific ways without having to face the situation head on, and I generally feel a little better afterwards. Well, much to my surprise – I received a reply from a Twitter follower and fellow sister in Christ that is actually a complete stranger to me. She so sweetly reminded me that as I tried to not take things personally in spite of the hurt – to look to Jesus as the best example of how to do that! He was rejected constantly and experienced hurt after hurt after hurt, but He kept things in perspective and continued to fulfill His purposes here. So, He lifted me up out of my temporary pit, dusted me off, and sent me back out there to fulfill the purpose assigned to me! No, the hurt isn’t completely gone just yet, but the more I talk to Him and serve Him – the more the pain lessens.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

ABCs of Christmas Gift Idea

I LOVE homemade gifts! I love to get them and especially love to give them. One of my favorite ideas came from a book my grandmother made for my daughter right before she was born. It was a scrapbook that she learned to make from her sister entitled The ABCs of Christmas. Now...this was made from one of the old-style scrapbooks without the acid free pages, etc., but it could most easily be adapted to products that we use today. I've made a couple of them for other children through the years, but the pictures I'm including here are of my daughter's book.

The cover is made from letters stenciled and cut from gold paper and glued on the book.

Inside the book, two pages are allotted for each letter. Every letter of the alphabet has a verse from a poem that was adapted for this book. That verse is typed onto shipping labels (or something else that suits your fancy) and pasted, glued, stuck into the book. I'm not sure where the poem originated, but it can certainly be changed to meet your needs. I'm including the poem at the end of the blog. Each letter represents something in the poem...example - I is for ice, L is for lantern, etc. Then, actual Christmas cards are used to represent each of the letters. Sometimes, you have to stretch your imagination a little to represent some of the letters. The letter V stands for VISIONS of wreaths. Well, the cards you might use for that letter would be wreaths - not necessarily visions. The letter U stands for Universe, so I generally try to find cards to use with lots of children (of different races if possible) or pictures that reflect the world in general. Z stands for Zenith representing the star, so the cards I choose for Z will have the Bethlehem star. Here are a few examples of the inside pages.

There are so many ways to make this ABC book idea your own. I'm just sharing my daughter's original book made by her great-grandmother. I love the fact that you can reuse those Christmas cards that you get every year. I continue to hang onto them and will also ask friends to save theirs for me as well! Maybe this will give some of you a unique homemade Christmas gift idea for a young one. As promised, here's the poem...

A is for Angels
With halos so bright
Whose carols were heard
On that first Christmas night

B is for Baby
The Christ child so dear
We celebrate Christmas
His birthday each year

C is for Candles
That so brightly shine
To give a warm welcome
To your friends and mine

D is for Doorways
With garlands of green
To make Christmas merry
As far as they are seen

E is for Earth's flowers
With colors so gay
That brighten our lives
With their beauty each day

F is for Firesides
Cheery and gay
To give a warm welcome
On each Christmas day

G is for Greetings
A merry hello
With a heart full of love
For people we know

H is for Holly
With berries so bright
To make into wreaths
To hang just right

I is for Ice
And snow covered hills
Where skating is fun
Along with the spills

J is for Jingle bells
Merrily ringing
To the whole world
Joy they are bringing

K is for Kris Kringle
As merrily he stands
That is what they call Santa
In some other lands

L is for Lanterns
I am sure that their light
Helped Mary and Joseph
That first Christmas night

M is for Manger
A crude little bed
The place baby Jesus
Laid down his sweet head

N is for Noel
That choirs now sing
Herald the birth
Of the newborn King

O is for Ornaments
So shiny and gay
To make our tree pretty
On each Christmas day

P is for Presents
Packages so gay
All around the tree
To open Christmas day

Q is for Quiet
That first Christmas night
When a big star in heaven
Glistened so bright

R is for Rudolph
With his big red nose
The favorite reindeer
Santa Claus chose

S is for Shepherds
And the big star
Seen over Bethlehem's manger
They followed it far

T is for Trees
We decorate gay
Then wait for old Santa
To come around our way

U is for Universe
The whole wide world
Where Christ brings joy
To every girl and boy

V is for Visions
Of wreaths so bright
That hang in doors and windows
They make a pretty sight

W is for the Wisemen
Who brought gifts so rare
And fell down and worshipped
The Christ child there

X is for Christmas
A short way to say
All good things
That mean Christmas day

Y is for Yule logs
Whose bright sparks fly high
And give a warm welcome
To all who come by

Z is for Zenith
Where the Christmas star stood
Guiding the wisemen
As God meant it should