Archives for 2012

"Warm Me Up" Holiday Giveaway!

I love to play Santa. And there’s no better place to start playing the jolly old elf than right here on my blog, right? :)

December not only ushers in the holidays, but it ushers in some mighty cold weather as well. With that in mind, I give you the “Warm Me Up” Holiday Giveaway!

Leave a comment on this blog post by noon (CST) Dec. 16, and you’ll be entered for a chance to win a $15 gift card to Starbucks. If I don’t know you personally or can’t contact you via your own blog, be sure to leave your email address in your comment or you won’t be included in the drawing.

To make the comments more fun, tell me about your favorite time and favorite place to enjoy a hot beverage. I love to have a cup of hot chocolate in the evenings. For me, it’s almost more about the relaxation than the drink—though hot chocolate is indeed yummy :) I just love to sit on the sofa with my feet up and relax while watching one of our favorite shows. Drinking hot chocolate gives me the perfect reason not to multitask. I look forward to my own little soothing interlude.

In the spirit of warming up, let’s think about a little warm-me-up for our souls as well. A drink from God’s Word can provide just what we need. May these words spoken by Jesus wrap you in his love and comfort:

“‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me . . . Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.’” John 14:1, 27

*So go ahead, tell me your favorite time and place to enjoy a hot drink. Maybe your soothing interlude includes some time in God’s Word as well!

*Flickr photo by Glenn Waters ぐれんin Japan, Creative Commons License

*Did you read the guest post by artist and writer Jeneal Rogers? Don’t miss it. You will be blessed!

Guest Post by Jeneal Rogers: The Perfect Tree

To start your December right this year, I have a special treat for you—a guest post by artist and writer Jeneal Rogers. You may remember that I featured her art and photography this summer in one of my Summer Photo Fun posts, and now it’s my pleasure to share some of her writing with you.

As we head into the holiday season, may Jeneal’s piece set the tone for a perfect holiday season for us all. Enjoy!

The Perfect Tree

by Jeneal Rogers

Thunk! “What was that?” The look of confusion on my husband’s face turned to alarm, as it dawned on him what had made the noise.“The tree!” He gunned the car out of the wash and pulled over to check the load fastened to the top.

The whole thing had been John’s idea. A few days before we left for my mother’s house, he confessed to me that it seemed wasteful to him to buy a live tree each year only to throw it out with the trash before Christmas even arrived. I took pity on my frugal husband, but I wouldn’t accept just any old pile of plastic. If we were going artificial, the tree must be perfect. We developed a plan.

The day after our arrival at my mother’s house, we went into action. We elbowed our way through the crowd of last minute Wal-Mart shoppers to the display. Part A of Mission Christmas Tree was under way. I carefully scrutinized all they had to offer. Finally, I saw it. Just the right height for my living room, it was a natural pine color with branches lush enough to hide it’s metal trunk. “This is, by far, the nicest one of the whole bunch,” I pointed out to John. “This is the one.”

John had been doing his own research. “This is, by far, the highest priced one of the whole bunch,” he said.

I smiled at the tree adoringly. “Perfect,” I whispered.

Defeated, he duly noted my selection and we left the store.

On December 26, John put Part B of the plan into motion. He made many trips to the store, patiently stalking his prey until the price dropped to over 50% off. Then he pounced! He returned from the hunt with his prize strapped to the top of the car.

A few days later we loaded up the kids and our Christmas loot and headed for home stopping, as was John’s custom, to wash the car at the first opportunity.

That’s when we heard the “thunk.” Oh no! Not my perfect tree!

After looking it over John assured me only the box had been damaged.

But the next year, when I started to put the tree up, I saw some of the branches had been bent, permanently reshaped by the washing. I held them for a moment, pondering the situation. A giggle escaped as I remembered the look on John’s face when he realized what he had done. Other Christmas memories quickly followed. The bent branches hadn’t decreased the tree’s worth. Rather, they made it more valuable. They made it uniquely ours.

Every year, I pull the branches from their patched up box and smile adoringly. “Perfect,” I whisper, as Christmas memories infuse all my senses.

I see my children’s eyes shining brighter than the lights adorning houses and shrubbery as we take our annual drive. I hear their little off-key voices mix with mine as we belt out every Christmas carol we know. I taste the sticky sweetness of the sugar cookies we bake together every year, frosting piled on thick with sprinkles, not sprinkled but shoveled on by little hands. I smell the distinct Christmas fragrance of fudge, pine, popcorn, and peppermint. And I feel children snuggling up next to me, their warm, pajama-clad bodies still damp from their bath, ready for our Christmas Eve tradition. I read the same stories to them my mother read to me when I was a child, “A Visit From St. Nick,” and “How The Grinch Stole Christmas.”All of these memories and many more wash over me every year, as soon as I lay my hands upon those special reshaped branches.

__ __

John is gone now. The children are grown, living their own lives. They have not yet provided me with grandchildren.

But I’m confident I’ll be a grandmother someday. The grandchildren will come to my house for Christmas. We’ll make sugar cookies and they’ll put as many sprinkles on them as they want. And we’ll eat the cookies together under my perfect Christmas tree, not worrying about the crumbs.

I’ll read to them about a special visit from Santa and about the grumpy old Grinch. We’ll laugh as I tell them about the year their grandfather washed the Christmas tree. And then I’ll tell them about the Savior whose birth we celebrate. I’ll tell them how He came to wash us clean from our sins. And about how He looks at us, permanently reshaped by the washing, and smiles adoringly.

Perfect,” He whispers.

*The artwork above is also by Jeneal. To see more of her work, be sure to visit her website – .

*What’s one of your favorite Christmas memories?

Time for Wonder

We’ll miss them if we’re not careful. Wonder. Beauty. We won’t see them if we don’t take the time to look.

This summer I invited extra beauty into my life by putting a birdbath and birdfeeder in our backyard. Since my office window provides a perfect view of that portion of our yard, I’ve enjoyed moments of wonder I would never have spotted otherwise.

I took the above photo of a cardinal in November and was very pleased to capture the shot. In my experience with photographing birds so far, I’ve found that the male cardinals don’t sit still for long—at least not long enough for me to get a shot centered and focused.

I’ve also spotted a few new-to me birds, saw a huge bird land in our yard (must have been a hawk of some sort), and enjoyed watching not only birds in the birdbath but also  caught squirrels and a cat drinking there as well. I even captured a shot of squirrel trying to get in on the action at the birdfeeder and also managed to thwart a neighborhood cat’s attack on one of the unusual birds that visited our yard this summer.

But I wouldn’t have seen any of these wonders or enjoyed their beauty if I hadn’t taken the time to look.I make a point of glancing out my office window several times a day just to see what special treats God might have waiting for me right under my nose.

I’ve got to admit, though, sometimes I’m so busy I’m tempted to ignore anything going on outside of my current task. I’ve stayed at my keyboard or dashed in and out of my office, not taking the time to slow down and savor beauty, not taking the time to try to capture some great photos. I wonder what I’ve missed during those times.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to miss the beauty. I don’t want to miss God’s blessing. Join me, won’t you? Let’s take time for wonder.

“Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.” Psalm 40:5

*What wonders have you seen lately?

The Gift of Silence

Do you have your own name written down on your Christmas list? If not, put it at the top right now.

I’ll make it simple for you and even tell you what to give yourself. Gift yourself with silence. That’s right—the glorious life-giving gift of soothing silence.

The gift of silence took me by surprise a couple of weeks ago. Not long after the early morning hubbub of going-to-school-and-work traffic had ceased, I went out to fill the birdbath with fresh water. As the sun shone brightly, the night’s heavy frost still glittered all around.

Happy to be out enjoying a few minutes in God’s beautiful world, I sang as I worked—until I realized my voice was the only sound I heard. I then stopped and listened.

I couldn’t believe it. Pure silence. No wind, no birdsong, no car humming down the street. Not even the rustle of leaves. It was as if the earth was holding its breath.

I looked around and drank in the frosty beauty of the cold fall morning. First one leaf and then another drifted to the ground without a sound, almost like following the cues of a conductor. A silent symphony in a soundless sanctuary. If it hadn’t been so cold, I would have lingered a little longer. I would have partaken more deeply of the solace of silence.

Yes, silence can heal. Silence refreshes and restores. It gives us a chance to take a deep breath and commune with the Father. We need silence but many times we don’t recognize it or take time for it.

At a writers conference I attended recently, Betsey Newenhuyse, editorial director of Moody Publishers and one of our workshop instructors, spoke about nurturing the Christian writer’s soul.

Betsey told us that mental stimulation is critically important for creative people, but she pointed out that we have a deep need for silence and peace as well. She reminded us how our lives are overstuffed and then cautioned us to think deeply about what we don’t need to do and to focus on what we need to know, not on things we don’t need to know. I’d say that’s good advice for anyone, writer or not.

Are we allowing time for silence in our lives? If not, what changes do we need to make to gift ourselves with its life-giving benefits?

Let’s not wait for the moments of silence that surprise us—though those are wonderful. Let’s seek out silence as well, especially during the holiday season. Let’s enter into a soundless sanctuary and wait for the silent symphony to begin. The Conductor stands ready to give the cues. Let’s accept his gift of peace.

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters” Psalm 23:2

*Flickr photo by Zadok the Priest

For Thanksgiving: An Unchanging Blessing

“Your word, O LORD is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.” Psalm 119:89

Our lives can change in a flash. Ask those who’ve lived through storms like Sandy or mass shootings like at the Aurora, CO theater. Ask those who’ve lost their jobs in the latest round of lay-offs or who’ve been told they’re no longer loved or wanted in their marriages. Yes, this world is full of shifting sand.

So what can we count on today? The verse above from Psalm 119 holds the answer.

When we can’t bank on anything else, when sure things even crumble and fall away, we can be confident that God’s word will endure. More than that, it will not only endure but will stand firm as well. And of course, if God’s word endures and stands firm, it follows that God himself will be the unchanging rock and sure foundation that we all so desperately need.

I’d say that kind of unchanging blessing is all the reason we need to give thanks during Thanksgiving week—and beyond as well. Some of us may have many things working against us right now, but we all have our eternal and steadfast God loving us and working for us each day of our lives. Let’s never forget that God is for us.

May God give you a Thanksgiving holiday filled with the knowledge of his unchanging love and goodness, and may your hearts overflow with the peace that comes from trusting in the One who never leaves us or forsakes us. Our God—an unchanging blessing indeed.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving week with your family and friends!

“God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; neverwill I forsake you.’” Hebrews 13:5b

*What are you especially thankful for this Thanksgiving week?

*Flickr photo by felipe_gabaldon, Creative Commons License

*I’ll be skipping my midweek post. Fun times ahead with family! See you next Sunday!