Christmas Rest Is Possible – Plus My Blogging Break

*I’ll be taking my annual holiday blogging break until the first of the year. Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as Christmas rest.

Some of you may feel like Christmas rest is the oxymoron to top all oxymorons, but I promise you, dear readers, Christmas rest is possible. It may not come easily or happen without intentional effort, but it can indeed be experienced.

If you’ve read my blog during the holiday season before, you know I draw great inspiration, joy, and peace through the music of Christmas.  And it’s the music of Christmas—a beloved Christmas carol—that can shine a light on one important way to enjoy some rest during any busy holiday season.

Look closely at the words penned by Edmund Sears in the third verse of “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear.” Its words provide the perfect instructions:

“And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing:
O rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing!”

So how can we experience rest during the Christmas season? We need to stop and pull off that hectic holiday road that may be wearing us out. We need to sit back and quiet ourselves. We need to listen. As we do, we just might hear the angels sing. As we do, our hearts will fill with peace and joy.

Yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as Christmas rest.

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Luke 2:13-14 KJV

*How do you experience Christmas rest?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, comes out in early February. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.) Temporary problem with Life Notes sign-up. To sign up, just contact me.

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride and also my Wedding Inspiration cards, check out my Books/My Work page.

*Flickr photo by John-Morgan, Creative Commons License

Thanksgiving in Simpler Times

As I watched my kids’ eyes glaze over from too many video games one Thanksgiving years ago, I recalled my childhood Thanksgivings and realized how lucky I was. We celebrated the holiday at my grandparents’ farm in the days before video games, satellite dishes, streaming devices, computers, and iPhones. As a result, I now have priceless memories of Thanksgiving in simpler times.

Our celebration bordered on a full-blown family reunion for my dad’s side of the family. Grandma especially treasured Thanksgiving because it was her holiday. She always had the dinner at her house, and everyone knew it. It was tradition.

The excitement of Thanksgiving Day started on the drive over to Grandpa and Grandma’s. When we turned off the highway onto the country road, I knew we were almost there. The familiar words “Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go” had special meaning to me because they echoed my own experience.

Each year as we reached the farmhouse lane, I wondered which cousins would be there to play with that day. We would have adventures for sure because there were always adventures to be had on the farm. With a little imagination, the lane became a dangerous road filled with wild creatures, rushing rivers, or deep gullies to cross. And cousins made it all the more exiting.

Sometimes we arrived early so my dad could go hunting with the men. He kept his bird dog Cindy on the farm, and she always went wild with excitement when she saw us. The men must have had great times on those hunts together because each time they came back talking, laughing, and poking each other with their elbows like they knew something the rest of us didn’t.

Meanwhile, we all feasted on the heavenly aromas that drifted out of Grandma’s kitchen. The smell of roast turkey, noodles cooking on the stove, and homemade rolls baking in the oven tantalized our taste buds.

When dinner was finally ready, Grandma called us to the kitchen where we gathered for the Thanksgiving blessing. Grandpa called on one of the men to pray, and what a prayer it would be. Our family had a deep Christian heritage and much to be thankful for, especially our Savior Jesus. On other days when Grandpa didn’t pass the privilege on to someone else, I loved to hear him pray. His heart was so full he almost always shed a tear or two when he gave thanks to his Lord.

Not only did our family know how to pray, we knew how to eat! Confident that all of our favorite foods would be there, we filled our plates from the vast array of delectable dishes covering the kitchen counter and stove.

Everything was made from scratch. Packaged noodles, rolls, and ready-made pie crusts were unheard of in our family. Just about every kind of pie known to man tempted us that day—and they were divine. Pumpkin pie was a certainty along with the mincemeat pie Grandma made especially for my dad, but we also got to choose from apple, cherry, lemon meringue, chocolate, coconut cream, and sometimes blackberry or peach. What a difficult decision! The adults usually tried slivers of several different kinds, but I had to have a whole piece. I didn’t like skinny pieces, and neither did the other kids.

The adults ate dinner in the dining room while we kids sat in the kitchen, but that was fine with us. We didn’t want to stick around for the boring conversation after dinner anyway. And we definitely wanted to be busy by clean-up time. We really didn’t have to worry about that, though, because the women seemed to fight for the chance to wash and dry the dishes. I didn’t understand that until I got older.

Since my grandparents didn’t have a television at that time, football didn’t dominate the afternoon. The grown-ups did lots of talking, and the kids did lots of playing and acting silly in general.

If the weather was bad, we played in the basement, which was home to a scary looking coal-eating furnace, Grandma’s washer, a bed, and shelves filled with jars of food from Grandma’s summer canning. We also had room for roughhousing and riding the little John Deere tractor Grandpa kept for us. The basement reverberated with our noise, and before long one of our parents would materialize out of nowhere and try to quiet us. Since that only seemed to work for a few minutes, everyone always hoped for good weather.

When the weather was good, we knew we could count on Grandpa to go outdoors with us. Tramping around the farm with him and listening to all his tall tales was pure heaven. Sometimes we played hide and seek in the barn or got real daring and walked the rafters. I was scared to death to do the things my country cousins dared me to do. I grew up in town and felt as if I was risking my life most of the time.

Grandpa also let us feed the chickens, help milk the cows, and chase the wild kittens that lived in abundance around the barn. He loved us and always made our visits fun.

Thanksgiving was a great day in the life of our family. I’ll be forever grateful, not only for my loved ones, but also for treasured memories of Thanksgiving in simpler times. And now? As I share these memories with my kids and grandkids, their simple country heritage will live on. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Lord!

“I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.” Psalm 9:1 NIV

*What aspects of your Thanksgiving celebrations are you especially thankful for?

*The new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, came out early this month. It’s not too late to receive it. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.) Temporary problem with Life Notes sign-up. To sign up, just contact me.

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride and also my Wedding Inspiration cards, check out my Books/My Work page.

Photo by Ali Gooya on Unsplash

Ring Out, Ring On!

“The Lord’s message rang out from you . . .” 1 Thessalonians 1:8 NIV

If you’ve read my writings for any length of time, you know that I want my words—whether here or in other venues—to be a source of refreshment, encouragement, and nourishment for all who read them. I hope you’ve been blessed and have heard the Lord speak to your heart when you’ve read my blog posts or other things I’ve written over the years.

But you know what? That works both ways. Many of you have blessed me at different times by telling me that my words have touched you in some way or that God has given you—through my writing—just the word you needed to hear on that particular day. I can’t tell you what an encouragement that is to me. Those are the kinds of things that keep a writer writing.

In fact, your words—whether through blog comments, notes, messages on Facebook, emails, words spoken face to face, or your own writings if you’re a writer—have many times been just the words I needed to hear.

Sometimes it’s been a message of encouragement from the Lord to help me stay committed to the calling he’s given me, but many other times he’s spoken through you to give me strength, wisdom, or direction for any number of personal issues I’ve faced.

What it boils down to is this: You don’t have to be a writer or a teacher or a preacher for the Lord’s message to ring out from you. You can simply be you. All you need is a willingness to speak words of kindness, truth, inspiration, thanks, wisdom, comfort, or encouragement. So ring on, my friends, ring on!

“But my mouth would encourage you; comfort from my lips would bring you relief.” Job 16:5 NIV

*How have someone’s words been a message from God ringing out to you recently?

*The new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, comes out today. It’s not too late to receive it. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.) Temporary problem with Life Notes sign-up. To sign up, just contact me.

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride and also my Wedding Inspiration cards, check out my Books/My Work page.

*Flickr photo by alykat, Creative Commons License

Enduring Secret Pain

We’ve all done it—masked our pain with a smile. We force a lilt to our voices or answer a “how are you doing” with a fake “fine”. We suffer a private, secret pain that we’re unable or unwilling to share with anyone outside our closest circle of family or friends—and sometimes not even them— for any number of reasons.

Our hearts are breaking, but we have to carry on a life-as-usual façade to keep questions at bay and protect our own or someone else’s privacy. The time may come to share the struggle, but that time is not now. For now, we wipe our eyes and steel our hearts as we venture outside our homes and face the world beyond. We can only hope that we’re met with kindness instead of more difficulty.

Does it dawn on us that others may be doing the same? Especially during periods when heartache is not our companion, do we remember that someone we meet during the day may be struggling to keep her composure while walking on shaky emotional legs?

When we take a moment to remember that, a moment to look beyond the automatic smile for the public, we’ll want to be a little kinder in our interactions with one another. We’ll want to add an extra measure of warmth to our smiles or a soothing touch to our voices. We’ll want to make sure the people who cross our paths are met with kindness.

Let’s never forget the secret pains we’ve endured. Let’s remember and extend a loving touch—even if just for a moment—to those who may be in the midst of such heartache today.

And if you’re among those bearing a secret pain right now, know that God sees you. He cares. May this post be his loving touch to your hurting heart today.

“When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, ‘Don’t cry.’” Luke 7:13 NIV

*Has anyone unwittingly touched you with kindness during a time of secret pain? How did he or she do it?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early November. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive a $15 gift card to Starbucks and a signed copy of my book to use personally, give as a gift, or donate to a library. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.) Temporary problem with Life Notes sign-up. To sign up, just contact me.

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride check out my Books/My Work page.

*Flickr photo by seyed mostafa zamani, Creative Commons License

A Whisper from God: Love Anyway

Every now and then I share some of my poetry with you, and the theme of my latest looks at loving when it’s difficult. It’s not always easy to love, is it? I hope this poem encourages you to go ahead and love even when it’s hard. May God strengthen us all for such times for they will surely come. Let’s keep looking to him, friends. He will enable us. He will help.

Love Anyway

Once again I find myself
Coming to God in confession,
Sorry for words I shouldn’t have said,
Thoughts that shouldn’t be mine,
And attitudes that need adjustment.
How grateful I am
I don’t have to wonder
If my God will love me anyway,
For he meets me each time with mercy
And freely grants forgiveness,
Then he gently reminds me
At just the right time
To do the same for others.
When someone wrongs or hurts me—
Even when the offense is great
Or happens time after time,
What God has done for me
Comes whispered back to me—
Love anyway.
Only by your power, Lord,
Only with your help.
Yes, help me, Lord,
To be like you,
Help me to freely forgive,
Help me to love anyway.

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” John 15:12 NIV

*Who do you need to love anyway today?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early November. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive a $15 gift card to Starbucks and a signed copy of my book to use personally, give as a gift, or donate to a library. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.) Temporary problem with Life Notes sign-up. To sign up, just contact me.

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride check out my Books/My Work page.

Photo by Emmanuel Phaeton on Unsplash