Friday, December 29, 2017

Things We've Learned in 2017

Google Images: search for "forest sunlight"

The following is a collaborative effort with Beloved of some of the things we have learned in 2017. 

God can move very fast or very slow - His choice can be amazing either way.

People in the South are much more likely to say “Merry Christmas” or say “have a blessed day” than people in the West.

Hot and cold are subjective terms depending on where you live and when you say it.

I wish that people would understand that “I disagree with you” does not mean “I hate you.”

and perhaps Beloved's favorite, which he reaffirms often:

While I learned this long ago, it continues to be proven: common sense . . . isn’t.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Laying 2017 Aside

This year is ending for me with some ragged edges and much to ponder. Watching a big shiny ball drop in Times Square doesn't change anything, but it does beckon toward new beginnings, a change in habits, and putting away methods that have proved unsuccessful or have accomplished their purpose. 

I wish for all of of us a strong new beginning in 2018 with our efforts pointed in the right directions and our hearts humble before the Lord our God.

May we give people the benefit of the doubt, forgive even when we lack understanding or desire, and choose our battles carefully. Give people the space they need to sift through their thoughts so they can  come up with the right solutions. 

Heavy thoughts, yes. But much is at stake. One day in eternity we will understand so much better, realizing we spent a lot of energy on the wrong things and not enough on the needful things. 

Let's make 2018 a year of more thoughtful choices, gentle words, and letting God deal with those circumstances we cannot improve with our own efforts.

Comments are closed.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Happy Birthday Jesus

Today I am posting a link to a youtube video of 4-year old Avery Winter when she sang "Happy Birthday Jesus" in 2006. 

When I first heard a young child sing this with The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, my heart just melted. The song was written by Carol Cymbala, wife of pastor Jim Cymbala.

I hope you will enjoy this version with me today. Click here:

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Real St. Nicholas

Beloved tells me that during one of our recent visits with our grandchildren, one of them very pointedly said of Santa Claus, "He's not real."

Although the current stories about Santa Claus are a debatable topic in Christian homes, the origins of this cultural figure are based on a real man in history. Today my guest blogger explains that ancient man's story. 

You can learn more about Jacqueline at her blog,  Deep Roots at Home.

πŸŽ„   πŸŽ„   πŸŽ„   

You’d hardly expect to find old St. Nicholas in a prison. But St. Nicholas is more than a children’s Christmas legend. Indeed, he was real flesh and blood, a persecuted prisoner for Christ, the bishop of the Mediterranean city of Myra.


Ancient biographers tell us he was born to wealthy parents in the city of Patara, Lycia in Asia Minor (now Turkey) about 270 A.D. He was still young when his parents died and left him a fortune.

Nicholas was perhaps in his 20s when the story occurs that made him a legend. He had heard about a family destitute and starving. The father had no money for food, much less the dowry needed to marry off his three daughters. He was just about ready to send his oldest girl into the streets to earn a living as a prostitute.

The poor maiden who has been given a golden ball from young Nicholas for her dowry, wakes her sleeping father. Stained glass early 14th Century, Church of KΓΆnigsfelden, Switzerland
Under the cover of night, Nicholas threw a bag of gold coins through the window of their humble dwelling. In the morning the father discovered the gold. How he rejoiced: his family was saved, his daughter’s honor preserved, and a dowry for her marriage secured. Some time after, Nicholas secretly provided a dowry for the second daughter. Still later for the third.

But on the third occasion, the girls’ father stood watching. As soon as the bag of gold thudded on the floor, he chased after the lad till he caught him. Nicholas was mortified to be discovered in this act of charity. He made the father promise not to tell anyone who had helped his family.

Soon after, Nicholas turned his back on his wealth to answer a call to the ministry. (source)

At the nearby city of Myra a bishop supervised all the churches of the region. When the bishop died, the bishops and ministers from other cities and villages — Nicholas among them — gathered to choose a successor.

Nicholas was in the habit of rising very early and going to the church to pray. This morning an aged minister awaited him in the sanctuary. “Who are you, my son?” he asked.
“Nicholas the sinner,” the young minister replied. “And I am your servant.”
“Come with me,” the old priest directed. Nicholas followed him to a room where the bishops had assembled. The elderly minister addressed the gathering. “I had a vision that the first one to enter the church in the morning should be the new bishop of Myra. Here is that man: Nicholas.”

Indeed they did choose him as bishop. He was destined to lead his congregation through one of the worst tribulations in history at that time.

“A vast multitude was imprisoned in every place,” wrote an eyewitness. “The prisons which had been prepared for murderers and robbers, were filled with bishops, priests, and deacons so there was no longer room for those condemned of crimes.”[1]

In A.D. 303, the Roman Emperor Diocletian ordered a savage persecution of all Christians. Those suspected of following the Lord were ordered to sacrifice to pagan gods. Nicholas and thousands of others refused.

Brutal tortures were unleashed on Christians all over the empire. Lay people, ministers, bishops, and bishops were dragged to prison. Some were forced to fight gladiators for their lives while bloodthirsty crowds screamed for their death. Women suffered dehumanizing torment. Believers were fed to wild animals. Saints were set aflame still alive, while others were beaten senseless.

The vicious persecution of the faithful believers couldn’t stamp out Christianity. Rather it spread wildly. Third Century leader Tertullian observed, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”

Those who survived Diocletian’s torture chambers were called “saints” or “confessors” by the people, because they didn’t forsake their confession that Jesus Christ is Lord. Nicholas was one of these.

Finally, after years of imprisonment, freed by decree of the new Emperor Constantine, the iron gates of the prison swung open and he walked out. As he entered his city once more, his people flocked about him. “Confessor! Nicholas!” they shouted. “Saint Nicholas has come home.”

The bishop was persecuted, but he was not broken. He served Christ’s people in Myra for another thirty years. Through the prayers of this tried and tested soldier of faith, many found salvation and healing. Nicholas participated in the famous Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. He died on December 6, about 343, a living legend, beloved by his whole city.

A fascinating article in National Geographic agrees: Archaeological investigation of his bodily remains show that he suffered beatings and had a badly broken nose under the Emperor Diocletian. (source)

The St. Nick we think of at Christmas still carries reminders reminiscent of this ancient man of God. His red suit recollects the red of bishops’ robes. Gifts secretly brought on Christmas eve bring to mind his humble generosity to the three daughters.

Surely, if he were alive today, this saintly Christian would humbly deflect attention from himself. No reindeer or sleigh, no fur-trimmed coat or hat or North Pole elves working overtime. As he did in life centuries ago, Bishop Nicholas would point people to his Lord and Master.

“I am Nicholas, a sinner,” the old saint would say. “Nicholas, servant of Christ Jesus.”

[1] Eusebius, Church History, VIII, 6, 9.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Hodgepodge for December 21

Today I am linking up with Joyce and friends at her weekly Hodgepodge (yes, a day late; this is usually done on Wednesdays). We answer the questions provided by our hostess and then link up to see how others have replied.

1. Where have you found unexpected magic or delight this holiday season?

My neighborhood!  Is it my imagination, or do southerners decorate the outside of their homes for Christmas more than colder parts of the country? Of course, when you don’t have to contend with ice and snow, the project is a lot more appealing. The neighborhood light shows here in northeast Florida are abundant, beautiful and clever.

2. What’s  your favorite type of holiday gathering? Will you/have you gathered in your favorite way this month?

I love the church services at Christmastime. This year, in particular, the performance of The Little Drummer Boy at a church we visited was outstanding.

3. Time has named “The Silence Breakers” (women who came forward with stories of harassment) ‘person of the year’ for 2017. Would you agree? If not, who do you think deserves the title?

Oh boy. What a loaded question this one is!  I will be very interested to see how other bloggers respond to this question.

4.  How did you spend your time this year? Are you happy about that? Elaborate.

Much of my time was spent with moving from Colorado to Florida. Yes, I am happy about it but let me just say, a change like that is HUGE and not for the faint of heart. Beloved and I have crisscrossed the USA with corporate moves more times than I want to count, but the older we get, the harder it is. (and this one was on our own dime)

5. Bid farewell to 2017 in ten words or less.

I wish I could have some “do overs.”

6. Insert your’ own random though here.

May your Christmas be merry, no matter where you are, who you are with, or what day you choose to celebrate.


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Wedding Anniversary Celebration

new pillow for our master bedroom
(on sale @ Burlington Coat Factory)
Today marks 47 years since Beloved and I said, "I do." We have had so many wonderful celebrations of this day over the years. 

us in 2015 on a Colorado snowy evening 
By far, most of our anniversaries have been on days with ice glazing the roads, sometimes a snowstorm, and worries about safe travel to our dinner reservation.

rare snow on palm leaves

This year, of course, that is not a worry. Well, probably not. We saw nearly an inch of snow on Florida palm trees a week ago. They say it was the first snowfall in about 25 years.

printed program
Beloved surprised me a few days before this anniversary with tickets to a local dinner theater production of Bruce Allen Scudder's  version of Dickens' Christmas Carol. 

As we drove to the Alhambra in the heavy rush hour traffic, we made conversation about the lack of inclement weather on this special night. We have always loved snow and the cozy things that go with it; but we don't miss driving in it and dodging crazy drivers. A few years ago we were on our way to a theater production of White Christmas when a pick-up truck slid into us. Thankfully, the damage was very minor, there were no injuries, and we made it to our show in plenty of time.

Chocolate Mousse topped with whipped cream and chocolate sticks at Alhambra

Marriage, for me, has been life spent with the one man I love. It is not a perfect state. Just like the weather, there have been many happy days as well as slippery times where circumstances and emotions threatened what we've built together. 

At times, love is more of a choice than an emotion. But when I make the decision to honor the commitment I've made to this man, blessings follow -- always. And our relationship is strengthened.

Us at the theater in 2017

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Sewing the Days Together

Holly tree outside our window

For young children, the wait for Christmas day is long; but at my age,  the days rush by. I am grateful for opportunities to sit quietly in my recliner to write and post pictures before they are forgotten. 

an overnight babysitting gig
We have had two weekends in a row where we were blessed with opportunities to spend time with the families of our children -- and we didn't have to buy a plane ticket to see them! This cross country move to be closer to them is working out!

"muggy rugby" (a coaster for a mug of hot beverage)
In another area, Beloved has encouraged me to spend some time at the wonderful quilt store close to our home and to pull out my sewing machine. After an eight-month hiatus from sewing (quilting, in particular), it feels good to play around with fabric again. I had forgot how pleasant it is to escape to my sewing room. Quiet music, a heated iron, and solitude with a threaded needle...

white felt table runner
It helps, too, that with a new house, some of the old standbys don't work with the decor. That inspires me to create new things!

homespun black check appliance cover
I also needed to make a dust cover for the new stand mixer Beloved gave to me recently. I had to design it myself because store-bought patterns don't aways fit right. This is not my favorite kind of sewing, but I was happy to get it done and behind me.

staring at ocean waves
Another blessing that has come with this year's busy Christmas season is the ability to drive out to the beach on short notice to watch ocean waves roll in, inhale the salty air, and just let the sea sounds sink in. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Music in a White Christmas

Christmas has taken on new dynamics for us since our move to Florida from Colorado. One of the reasons we wanted to make this change was to be able to spend more of the holidays with our grandchildren without having to buy a plane ticket.

Beloved and me with some of our grandchildren

That desire is being met in a big way and we are thrilled! This past weekend we drove to the home town of one family of our grands to see them in their church Christmas program.

Granddaughter #1 plays the grand piano between
show performances

I can hardly get my mind wrapped around the fact that babies born not that long ago are now being asked to participate in such helpful and awesome ways to put on professional-quality programs. I am grateful we have been able to move closer and get in on some of this before they are full-fledged adults.

It is also thrilling to see how the larger churches in the 'Bible Belt' do things at any time of year, but perhaps most especially at Christmas.

I'll just admit it, pageantry and great showmanship really impress me. 

It could be that the influence of Disney World affects the quality of special effects put into these programs, but then again, maybe it's due to the increasing ingenuity of our computer age.

In this particular Christmas display of music, my family had seven members on stage at one time. I can say I know a couple of these angels really well.

We had grandchildren in the adult and children's choirs...

And a couple who watched (or slept) from the comfort of our arms in the audience (and don't you know Beloved and I enjoyed that!!).

Over the course of the weekend, we were privileged to see the program three times (one rehearsal and two performances on Sunday).

our church in Jax

Then, because one can't get too much of Christmas music, when our weekend with the grandchildren was over, we hurried back to our own church to see a performance of its annual Christmas celebration.

There is one more very notable aspect of the weekend I must not leave out in this story: real snow fell on Friday night. When we woke up with the grandchildren on Saturday morning, snow was on the palm trees! 

snow on the palm tree
Admittedly, it was not much. (humor me and see the white stuff on the palm branches)

The children scraped up all the snow they possibly could from hard surfaces in the back yard and had a snowball fight. 

This was the area's first snowfall in 25 years. The kids were excited beyond belief.  Beloved and I thought we had left all the snow in Colorado . . . 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Progressing Through December

Christmas tree in Founders Hall during the Annual Ladies' Candle Exchange at church

Even with green grass outside and only a few leaves falling from the trees, we are loving the Christmas season in Florida. People do many of the same things here that they do in colder climes with the notable exception of shoveling snow. We won't miss driving in the white stuff, lovely as it is.

However I do need to say here in northeast Florida (also referred to as "south Georgia" by some of the locals), they look forward to a hard frost to kill off the bugs! Apparently that doesn't happen every winter, but it's most welcome. Duly noted. With that in mind, I won't complain when it gets colder here than I originally thought when we relished the thought of moving here.

Lil' Blue Bug came for an overnight visit
One of the primary reasons we moved earlier this year was to be closer to our grandchildren (and the grand puppies, to be perfectly honest). This past weekend some of them paid us a visit.

Surfer Boy took Grandson #4 to a Boy Scout camp out, so Surfer Girl and Granddaughter #5 brought the pups in the Lil' Blue Bug to spend a night with us. Granddaughter #5 enjoyed playing with the felt elves made by The Cook on Fifth Street many years ago.

shopping with the girls (and a thumb and a blankie with stroller)
Surfer Boy's company Christmas party is in a couple of weeks, so we went shopping at the mall for the perfect dress for Surfer Girl.

the worship center in our church

Since this past weekend was the beginning of Advent, we were delighted to see decorations were up on Sunday morning.

tools of the carpentry trade
Our pastor announced he will be talking about the perspective from Joseph the carpenter, the husband of Mary the mother of Jesus.

our senior pastor speaks at "The Hanging of the Green" service 
We enjoyed a beautiful service on Sunday night with the young children singing, followed by the decoration of the Crismon tree just outside of the worship center. 

I have one more thing of recent note that hasn't anything to do with Christmas. After spending the better part of two years growing my hair out, I decided my long-time goal had been achieved but I really look more like "me" with short hair. 

"before" and "after"
Out of respect for myself, I did not make this decision easily or with rash haste. A couple of times I intended to get my hair cut but then gave in to misgivings. But today was the day and I'm glad it's done. Now when I look in the mirror, I recognize who is looking back at me!

The next change will be giving in to silvery gray, like The Cook on Fifth Street. Brown-out-of-a-bottle is too much bother for me. 

Yes, the ordinary aspects of life continue in December amidst all the tinsel and lights.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Holiday Home Tour of Pretties and Things

China cabinet decor
After we got all of the outside Christmas ornamentations done, we began working on the inside of the house. 

pie safe

Since this is our first Christmas in this house, it took longer to decide where to put everything.

entry hall niche

This house does not have a fireplace, so there's no mantel to decorate.

hall table with nativity and teeny tiny battery-powered lights
You need to see this one  up close because it's one of my favorite places this season:

Figurines from Lifeway Christian Bookstore (in 1996), trees and some of the animals
have been collected over the years from Walmart

You can't see the camels in these pictures. We now have three, which is just right for the three wise men. I like the camels. My son tells me they really aren't very nice animals (they spit). But I like the expressions on their faces. I think they're funny.

what is this the door to?

The wreath on our front door in Colorado was perfect for there, but we needed something different here, so this one ended up on ... (wait for it ...) the door to the cleaning closet. Yes! We have a gorgeous Christmas wreath on the door to the vacuum cleaner!


Last year, after I had wrapped all the gifts, I began working on this quilt top. Then the holiday season ended and one thing led to another, including the move to Florida, so this project is not done. But when folded just right, it still adds seasonal color to the back of a chair.  

family room tree

Most years we have a tree dedicated to angels with a nativity at the base, telling the story of Christmas. Those were the years when we had 5 or so trees (of varying sizes) scattered throughout the house. This year we've downsized to only three trees, which means we had too many ornaments.  

I decided to add my collection of Barbie doll ornaments to the angel tree and everybody seems to be satisfied with that. 

table topper

Back to the subject of quilting, this is a table topper I made some 5 years ago that is a favorite with Beloved. It landed on my lamp table this year. 


Mistletoe hangs on the grill above our master bed. Yes, I know mistletoe is poisonous, but this is plastic, so don't worry about us.

custom made for our last house but it works in this one, too

The kitchen nook quilt is one of my favorites. That gold cheesecloth stuff dresses up anything it's paired with. And those are our stockings with cross stitched names. We don't use these any more except for decorating.

"Porch Puppy"

Porch Puppy is our only dog these days, but don't worry. We have three granddogs, two of whom come to see us at our house from time to time. So we're good.  Anyway, Porch Puppy came indoors for Christmas so he can hide some unsightly electrical cords in the dining room. 

dining room wall quilt
This is a quilt that I pull out just for Christmas. It really livens things up. As you can see, when this picture was taken, my table scape was 'in process.' I'm hoping to get a table runner made in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, my collection of electric candles are awaiting their location assignments.

Art to Heart door knob decor
I made this little basket-thing years ago because it reminded me of May Day baskets. You can pack it with candies or other goodies.

one of the guest beds
There hasn't been time to do a lot in the guest rooms this year, so I'm hoping our guests are satisfied with a big red bow on the lamp shade and a cheery pillow.

Jim Shore Santa
Jim Shore pieces are a delight to me since he incorporates quilt designs. This one is sitting on top of the DVD cabinet in the den.

an acquisition from Michaels in 2016
"Get Your Jingle On" just brightens my mood.

the half wall above the foyer
I've said before that we have a number of rounded walls in this house. This half wall is above the foyer and don't you know that our grandchildren are fascinated with this feature!

When we have young guests, some things are tucked away to avoid unhappy mishaps.

tree in the den overlooking neighborhood light show
This is our big tree with all the cutesy, memorable ornaments that are tied to memories over the years. Beloved has his toy Santa from his childhood that he always places at the base of this tree.

I needed a new tree topper this year and couldn't find a star that was to my liking, so I opted for a giant red bow. I like it but it looks like a cartoon tree now.

sign from Michaels this year, 2017
When I came across this sign on sale at Michaels, I knew it would be perfect for our back porch with all the forest trees behind us.

another new thing this year
I don't remember where I found this guy, probably Hobby Lobby. His eyes met with mine and we both knew he needed to come home with me.

an elf-sighting 
This guy took a dive behind a living room chair just as I came into the room. 

So this is what we've done to decorate our new home this year. I look forward to seeing what my readers have done in their houses!