(Our entry table nativity glows each evening. I love it.)
(Our entry table nativity glows each evening. I love it.)
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
This week, I have had the priviledge to pray for some people I may never meet. They are broken. The darkness of the world came and took someone they love from them. And their stories have touched my heart deeply. These are the people who have to find a way to keep going amist terrible pain. They need prayer.
Lenny and Veronique Pozner (Noah's parents)
Robbie and Alissa Parker (Emilie's parents)
Chris and Lynn McDonnell (Grace's parents)
Jennifer and Matthew Hubbard (Catherine's parents)
Brian and Shannon Engel (Olivia's parents)
Rich and Krista Rekos (Jessica's parents)
Joann and Joel Bacon (Charlotte's parents)
Jacqueline and Mark Barden (Daniel's parents)
Bob and Michele Gay (Josephine's dad)
Steve and Rebecca Kowalski (Chase's parents)
Mark, Cindy and Anna Mattioli (James' parents)
David and Francine Wheeler (Ben's parents)
Ben and Cheyenne Wyatt (Allison's parents)
Jennifer Hensel and Jeremy Richman (Avielle's parents)
Jeff and Sandy Previdi (Caroline's parents)
Hsu Family (Madeleine's family)
Ian Thomas and Nicole Moretti (Dylan Hockley's parents)
Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin (Jesse's parents)
Jimmy Greene and Nelba Marquez-Greene, (Ana’s parents)
Dean and Tricia Pinto (Jack's parents)
Roussau family (Lauren's family)
Davino family (Rachel’s family)
Hochsprung family (Dawn’s family)
Murphy Family (Anne Marie’s family)
Sherlach family, (Mary’s family)
Soto family (Victoria’s family)
The entire Lanza family
Christmas has been a season of guilt for me for years. A few days ago I spent some time praying and trying to reason out why. And it came to me.
I have been a "Christian" for a long time. But my heart has not always been turned towards Jesus at Christmas. I have a list a mile long of things I want. I love to shop for my children. I focus on decorating my home. I get busy. I get stressed. Someone gets sick. The rest of us get sick. We go to church on Christmas Eve and my heart is restless. Christmas morning is all about gifts. The Christmas story easily gets lost. And when it is all over, I wonder what went wrong. What is wrong is that I have checked Jesus at the curb and gone ahead in my own plan for the month.
So a few days ago I decided to put a stop to the madness. I was desperate for a change of focus.
I talked to my husband and we decided that we would not purchase gifts for each other outside of our stockings. We pooled the money we normally spend on each other and gave it to a family who continually serves needy children.
I felt free.
Then we talked about our children. We put a limit on the gifts. They will get a large gift from us. That is it. They will receive a couple of things from Santa (yes, we love Santa in our home - the story behind St. Nick is lovely). But gone are the days of too many gifts, too much stuff.
I felt free.
Then we talked about serving others and the kids immediatly jumped at the idea of buying toys for children in need and praying for those children.
I felt free
I looked at my home. The decor reminded me that Jesus is the light of the world and celebrating His birthday to the full brings peace to my heart. In Him there is no darkness.
I felt free.
I am not sure why it has taken me 35 years to get to this point but I am glad I have arrived. I look forward, God willing, to next year, when I can get myself right before the season begins.
1. Allowing me to have a relationship with Him
2. My amazing husband who knows everything about me from the good to the ugly and loves me continually
3. Elizabeth Rose - God's gift to break me into parenting gently. She is beautiful, obediant, loving, kind and genuine. I am so blessed to be her Mama
4. Pete - my little rambunctious love. He brings me so much joy, makes me laugh and makes me mad as a hornet some days. But the relationship I have with my son is special
5. My Mom - For so many reasons but the most important is that Mom taught me about Jesus. I am forever grateful
6. My Grandfather - Grandpa is hands-down, my favorite person in the world, outside of my immediate family. I love this man deeply. He teaches me so much about living life with integrity
7. Rosemary and Ken - I hear all sorts of negative stories about "inlaws" but not in my family. R and K are second parents to me. They are the most generous, loving, wonderful people. I can not say anything bad about my relationship with them. I pray my children will be as blessed as I am when they marry
8. Stan and all of our extended family. I could not have a better family. We may have moments of dysfunction but we love each other like crazy. I love them so much. I am so thankful for them
9. Harry - in my humble opinion, dogs are like people except dogs don't judge. Harry is our 3rd baby and we love his sweet, calm demeanor. And I love how he wants follows me around 24-7
10. Our home - a dream come true. It is such a gift, that we don't deserve. We are so excited to raise our children here and we hope our place will bless many others
11. Friends - God has given me the most amazing group of friends who call me out when needed, love me and challenge me
12.The new fridge in my garage - Rosemary, you know my love language. This fridge holds so many more groceries than my little, tiny, side-by-side in the kitchen. I LOVE IT
13. My bed with clean white sheets - I love white bedding
14. The sunrise this morning - it was absolutely goregous and perfect
15. Flowers - I am a flower girl. I love landscaping and I love cut flowers. Peonies, hydrangea, geraniums, poinsettias. I could go on and on
16. The color red
17. Our church - it is a place devoted to God, a home away from home
18. Wisconsin - an amazing place that holds so many dear memories
20. Clinique All About Eyes - it keeps me looking human
21. Mariage Freres Tea - the best in the world
22. Paris - it is magical
23. Bible Study - like brushing my teeth, it is a must each day. I don't know who I would be without it
24. Health - one of the easiest things for me to take for granted, until I am sick
25. Warm weather - the cold and I do not get along
26. Jo Malone Orange Blossom Perfume - a lovely scent
27. Decorating - another hobby I enjoy
28. The blessing of being a stay at home mom. It is such a gift
29. The honor of being American. I love my country
30. The tough times in life - I have been through tough times and I know there will be tough times ahead, God promises that. But without those times, I would not know how wonderful the good times are. And I would not know how to trust in the Lord.
31. Lipstick - Bobbi Brown Slopes
32. Cooking and canning - fresh and organic
33. Silver - the way light dances off of it is beautiful
34. Online shopping - crowds are not my thing
35. Living close to family - we have lived all over but there is no place like home
When I started thinking about Christmas cards, I decided to call photographer Jen Madigan to book a session. She does a great job. All I wanted was a "Christmas card worthy" photo. So, this past Saturday she worked with the kids for about 2 hours. The session began at 7:45am and the location was 30 minutes from our home. Needless to say, my chidlren were not very happy with me. They had to get up EARLY. And to make matters worse, it was freezing cold and wet. Poor kids. But she got some good shots. The only member of our family not cold and wet by the end was Harry, our dog. He had a wonderful time playing in the leaves and chasing the kids.
Here is a preview of some outtakes. I am saving the favorites for card possibilities.
There is a chill in the morning air around here. Some trees are starting to turn yellow, my annuals are looking a bit leggy and I am not watering nearly as much. I'd say fall is nearly here. Summer is my favorite of the seasons because cold weather and my body do not get along but I have to admit I am excited for:
1. The start of Bible Study Fellowship this Thursday. We are studying Genesis this year. I am so excited.
2. Warm boots - I love these. They match everything and they are super warm.
3. College Football
4. Warm Fall Drinks from Starbucks
5. Cute outfits
6. Beautiful outdoor surrondings
7. Reconnecting with good friends over coffee while the kids are in school.
8. Savory food like chili and cornbread
9. Evenings on the screen porch with a good book and a warm blanket.
10. The smell of fireplaces/firepits in use around the neighborhood.
A few of you have asked about how I study my Bible. I thought I should share with everyone how I do it. I do not believe my way is "right." It is what works for me. If it gives you encouragement or you think it will work for you, try it.
I began reading the Bible by doing studies at church. This was good and fine but I found I was always relying on what someone else thought about the Bible. I remember being totally focused on when Beth Moore was coming out with a new study because I respected her knowledge so much and felt I needed it to study. This was a mistake (and I am sure Beth would agree). Those first few studies got me hooked on reading the Bible and I am forever grateful but most of my spiritual grown has come when I am alone with God.
Our time 1 on 1 with God is more important than anything. He has things to show you and I, as individuals, because He has created unique life circumstances for each of us. What he has for Beth Moore is not what He has for me or for you. We can learn a ton from hearing Beth speak but we must not rely on her, or any other human, for that matter. We must rely on God. And our deep study with Him alone should be of utmost priority.
Where you begin reading is up to you. Personally, I tried to start in the New Testament but ran into so many Old Testament references, I became annoyed flipping back and forth and not understanding what I was reading. I wanted to read it from beginning to end. So I began in Genesis.
There are 17 historical books at the beginning of the Bible (Genesis thru Esther). Then there are 5 poetry books (Job - Song of Solomon). Finally there are 17 prophetical books (Isaiah - Malachi). Some people get a little lost in the history after a while and need a break. If that happens to you, go read one of the poetry books. They are written in a totally different style. Then you can come back and get into history again. The prophetical books are wonderful and diverse. The only thing I can say is, if you get stuck and you are not understanding what you are reading, take a break, go somewhere else and study and come back to the hard to understand parts when you have more study time under your belt. This happened to me with Daniel. The first time I studied it, I was LOST.
1. I start each morning by opening up two Word Documents on my computer. One is for "study notes," the other is for my "prayer journal."
2. Before I begin studying, I pray, asking God to help me understand His Word so that I can apply it to my life.
3. I read ONE CHAPTER all the way through.
4. I go back and re-read the chapter focusing on what pops out at me. I type these things in my "study notes" document each day. I also type questions I have for further study.
5. I then type out a prayer to God about what I've just read.
When I was new to studying, I wanted to read a lot fast. But I soon realized God wants me to understand and use His Word as a manual for my life. There is no prize given for reading the Bible quickly. Slow and steady is much more effective. It gives you time to digest what you read and apply it to your life.
Here is an example:
Study Notes for the first part of Genesis 4 - Cain and Abel (brothers) bring offerings to God. God prefers Abel's offering (without an explanation of why). Cain gets jealous. Cain becomes angry. Cain kills Abel. This story is so relevant to today. Sometimes we are passed over or "not chosen" for things we want or think we deserve. How we deal with disappointment is vital. Jealousy and unrestrained anger lead to death.
Journal Prayer Example from Genesis 4- Lord, I do not understand why you pass some over and choose others. I know someday I will understand. But for now, You've shown me that jealousy is dangerous. Please show me areas in my life where I am envious or jealous and please help me get rid of it. Help me with any anger I have. Forgive me for not showing your love to others. Help me realize the path I am on has been set up by You and I can not compare my life to anyone else. (I would type more personal things in too, naming things I am struggling with. I will spare you those details. lol)
The benefit of keeping a prayer journal is wonderful. I find, looking back over the years, so many of my prayers have been answered and I have grown. This is a great way to have a record.
After my study is complete, I spend my day thinking about what I've read. In the Genesis example, I might be looking for areas where I am angry or jealous and then praying about them as I identify them.
Each day, I start fresh, with a new chapter. Some mornings are full of deep study. Other times I feel like I am limping through. But God is faithful and I have grown so much spiritually from studying. I hope this helps and answers questions. I do not have all of the answers but I would be happy to correspond with any of you about any of this.