Thanks for joining my fur baby and me as we wade through life’s puddles.
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Finding Gold in Life
This month marks the anniversary of my late brother, Daniel’s memorial service in 2011. If he had lived, he would be 69. I dedicate this prayer to all of you who’ve been forced to say “goodbye” to loved ones too soon.
“Alone. Hollow. Broken beyond repair. This is how my friend feels, Lord, since she said goodbye to her dear one. When strangers eased his body into the ground and covered it with earth, her heart sunk with him. She knew her life would never be the same.
“She wonders if she’ll have the strength to face another sunrise. Her soul is all winter, with no hope or desire for spring. How can birds build nests and tulips dance when her love lies buried? The enemy has convinced her that she’s forgotten how to sing.
“Yet You do not forget my friend, Your child. In the stillness of the night, when she reaches for phantom arms, You hold her. When morning reminds her that she must walk through another day without her loved one, You help her breathe. After the mailbox is empty of cards and the phone is silent, You sit with her, just being. Just loving.
“Now more than ever, she needs Your friendship. She’s known You as Lord, Master, and Savior. But today she craves companionship to sweeten her bitter cup. And You are the only One whose sweet water can fill her emptiness.
“God of all comfort, sing Your songs of mighty peace to my friend’s heart. Awaken her to the glory of Your embrace. Reveal to her new reasons to keep living,
and new seasons of fruitfulness.“Send her companions that You’ve chosen, not to take her loved one’s place, but to color in the grey spots with fresh hues of gladness. Soft shades at first, as she opens the prison door of pain, and allows herself a glimpse of light, then brighter and bolder colors as she dares to step outside the door and bask in Your affection.
“You alone can turn her sorrow into joy, in ways none of us can imagine. Do what You do best, dear Lord: redeem this death and from it birth abundant life.
In Jesus’ Name, so be it.
References to Scripture: Isaiah 38:14; II Corinthians 1:3-4; Ephesians 2:14; John 14:27; Job 35:10; John 16:20: I Thessalonians 4:13-14; Revelation 21:4-5
I love you, my friend, Jen
“Honey, come quick,” I shrieked to my husband, Kevin.” That couple in the car across the road is in trouble.”
Standing at our picture window of our living room, I clamped both hands over my mouth to keep from sobbing. My heart hammered in fear, a contrast to the serene blanket of snow on the lawn.
When we relocated from Los Angeles to Paris, Illinois three months earlier to pastor a rural church, we were surprised at the differences in culture. The stores displayed Udder Balm at the checkout counter in place of breath mints. Gas stations sold live bait and mulch right alongside the antifreeze. People waved as we passed their tractors on the highway and spoke to us at the farmers’ market, even though we were strangers.
But no kind greeting or wave could’ve prepared us for the harrowing scene taking place before us now. This was culture shock at its worst.
Careening out of control just fifty yards from our house, the car was a flash of red and silver atop the frosty ground. Our eyes stayed frozen to the window for several seconds, watching the horror unfold. But, what could we do? All of our urban savvy was worthless to this couple, spinning on the snow like a child’s top. I grabbed the only weapon I knew how to use, and bawled out a prayer:
“Lord, deliver those people,” I shouted. “They need Your help right now, before they die, or flip onto the highway and hurt some…”
Kevin placed a hand on my arm to interrupt my hysteria. “Wait, Jeanette. Look over there, opposite from the car. There’s another one spinning in circles, going the reverse direction. I wonder if they could be doing that on purpose. Do you think it’s some sort of winter game they play around here?”
Squinting to focus, I realized he was right. The cars faced each other, revolving in opposite directions, like two steel monsters dancing to the music of “Winter Wonderland.” For several minutes they whirled, grinding their tires into the gravel. Picking up speed, their chrome bumpers reflected light from the pristine ground cover. When they’d reduced the snow to a slushy rut, they stopped. Paused. The drivers appeared to sigh in contentment. And off they blazed, leaving us to stare at each other, befuddled.
The following morning, I worked for several hours before I gathered courage to ask my co-worker what we’d seen the day before. I certainly didn’t want her to discover how dumb we city transplants were. She made it easy for me by reading my thoughts.
“You live six miles south of town, don’t you? I bet you get a lot of teenagers coming out your way after it snows, doing donuts. It’s safer out there, away from the highway” she explained.
I shook my head and grinned. “That’s what you call it: donuts?”
“Yeah,” she chuckled, “young people do it for fun when there’s a good snow. It’s pretty harmless. Just our method of keeping the boredom away during a long winter. I should have warned you about it. If someone from the city saw that for the first time, it might scare the stuffin’ out of them!”
I tried to sound nonchalant as I said, “Yeah, it just might.”
Since that first winter’s excitement twenty years ago, I believe Kevin and I have adjusted well to rural living. We buy our mulch at the Speedy Fuel and say “hello” to people we’ve never met. But, I may never get used to donuts in the snow, rather than my coffee!
The above story is a chapter from my first book Two Scoops of Grace with Chuckles on Top
Did you ever have to move, and experience culture shock? What helped you adjust to your new life?
What was your favorite Christmas gift as a child?
I was eight the year Easy Bake Ovens hit the stores. My mom, a single parent, could not afford a gift of that size. When I spotted a huge gift under my aunt and uncle’s Christmas tree with my name on it, my heart thrilled with hope.
Do you think I got my wish? Could this be why, fifty-some years later, I still love to bake?
Your turn . . .
The main character is a mouse named Nonny. Her full name is A. Nonny Mouse. I love that!
Unfortunately, it’s only available on VHS. We keep looking, hoping to find it on DVD. We’ve played our copy over 20 times–it’s that delightful!
What about you? What’s your favorite Christmas Movie?
Do you have a favorite Christmas cookie recipe? Here’s mine. Easy to make, fun to decorate, and a surprise kiss or star in each!
3/4 cup shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 dozen chocolate kisses or chocolate stars
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
If using chocolate kisses, cut the tops off before starting. You will have to force yourself to eat the tops, or give them to a spouse or child.
Mix shortening, sugars until fluffy. Add the egg, extracts and beat well. Add flour, baking powder and salt and mix well. Form dough into 1-inch balls. Press each ball around a chocolate star or kiss until it is completely enclosed. (If dough is soft and sticky, add an additional 1/4 cup flour.)
Bake for 10-12 minutes on ungreased cookie sheets. Decorate with icing and/or sprinkles and jimmies in Christmas colors.
Recipe will make 3 1/2 dozen.
What is your favorite Christmas cookie recipe? Have you started baking yet?
If holidays bring you more stress and worry than peace, you might enjoy the following 7 Time Management Tips for the Holidays listed below. Knowing how creative you are, I believe you’ll find at least one tip you can use.
What time-saving tips do you use during the holiday rush?
The Woolly Worm Report
Did you know there is a surefire way to predict winter weather? According to early American folklore, you can forecast the harshness of an upcoming winter by examining the brown band around a woolly worm’s middle. The thinner the brownish red band, the harsher winter will be.
But I have my own methods. As we go on a walk up the country lane near our home at Nevins and I spot a woolly worm scooting across the pavement, I’ll note its coloration. If it’s dark brown or black, representing the bare earth, I predict a mild winter with no snow. If it’s orange—a happy, warm color—I maintain the upcoming winter will be warmer than usual. And if the woolly worm is white or tan, I report that winter will be fast and fun, with snowfall only on Christmas Eve.
Scientific? Hardly. Accurate? Rarely. But my overly biased woolly worm reports make us laugh every time. And giggles help us get through the long, freezing months better than gripes. I imagine even the woolly worms laugh. At me.
I may not be able to predict the weather, but I’m convinced that the Apostle John predicted accurately when he told us Jesus is coming soon. I hope you and I will spend eternity together with Him, in that lovely city where every day is bright, and every woolly worm gives a sunny report.
The above is an excerpt from my book The Heart of Humor: Sixty Helpings of Hilarity to Nourish Your Soul, a combination of funny stories and articles on how humor helps.
Do you like Winter? If not, which is your favorite season?
When You Need Emotional Healing
My friend is tired to her gut, Lord. She’s tired of pretending she’s okay when she wants to scream and weep and sink into the earth and never hurt again. You know how she feels, for you felt that same screaming ball of nothingness in your belly as they draped You onto two wooden beams, then nailed you fast, so You wouldn’t escape the pain. A pain not only physical; but the vilest soul pain that You were separate from Your Father’s heart and His gaze that kept You close, and His voice that wrapped You.
The Father turned His back on You, and You bore it so we wouldn’t need to. Yet, she bears it anyway; broken and not knowing she can be whole. Or empty of hope for even a scrap of a put-together life.
Jesus, Shepherd who never leaves a sheep alone, hold her until the hurt leaves. Tell her she’s not a disappointment to You. Sing her songs You composed only for her and no other, so she’ll feel Your custom-made love and know You had a reason for her. Show her that reason in a thousand ways, dear Mender of Broken Lives.
She knows she’s broken, but she doesn’t know why, or she doesn’t want to know for fear the pain is all her fault. Set her free with the truth that the thief has stolen her joy and ripped her value away. Shine the light of Your admiration for her into the deep places she’s not aware of, so she’ll believe and not argue when You say, “I love you, daughter.”
Grace her to release offenses she’s held tightly in her fists and locked in the oldest diaries of her memory. Cause her to walk upright, gazing into Your broad smile of forgiveness and strength. Guide her steps to sweetest life. Make her believe that she can be whole, as she rests in the crook of Your arm and listens to Your lullabies.
In Jesus’ Name, so be it.
References to Scripture: Matthew 27:46; John 10:11-17; Psalm 139; John 10:10; I John 4:18
Digging, pulling weeds, and tugging baby carrots and onions from the soil–even the smell of tomato plants--soothes and relaxes me.
In the autumn, I bake. Kneading dough, mixing pumpkin bread and Christmas cookies, then inhaling the warm, spicy smells that dance across the kitchen make me feel safe and cozy.
As to winter, well. . . never mind. We won’t talk about that today.