Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Blessings of Christmastime

This Christmas season has been a blessed one for me. Although it was fairly quiet, I was still able to talk with my loved ones far away and take time to ...be still!

My two week break from work started with me getting sick. But it was short lived and actually a way to force me to rest. I caught up on much reading. I read many of my favorite Christmas devotionals, including A Christmas Longing by Joni Eareckson Tada.

Thankfully, I was well enough to accept an invitation from a good friend to go to The Phoenician for their amazing Christmas tea. Terri has graciously invited me for at least 16 years. We began the tradition when her dear mom Eileen was still alive. So many memories of seeing her mom walk up to the piano player and sit singing familiar songs.
The food at this tea is absolutely amazing! I was definitely  not watching my calories as I accepted seconds. :)

I love my church! And I especially love my church at Christmastime. We have a wonderful choir with many talented singers. I love singing many of the familiar Christmas carols.

Greg and I had a quiet evening on Christmas Eve and then awakened to have our traditional bagels and lox for breakfast. I'm not sure how we got started with this tradition but we always look forward to it.

Of course, I always keep Norwegian waffles on hand though. There's something about the taste of cardamom that reminds me of home.

Although our condo is small, I do believe we've created a very warm and inviting place to live. Sometimes I think back on previous Christmases in our beautiful large home and feel a bit nostalgic. But then I quickly remember how far we've come these last few years.

I realize it's not so important as to where you live. It's really what's in our hearts that we bring to any home.

I love this photo provided by Edie Melson of The Write Conversation.
I came home from work loaded with so many gift bags and goodies from students, parents and co-workers. I felt blessed!

One special moment for me was when I was called out of our preschool classroom to see the faces of five preschool teachers. They welcomed me to their team and handed me a gift. It was an Origami lanyard locket to hold my work keys and photo ID card. Each teacher gave me a charm to place inside. One was a camera charm. Another was an apple, books and a cross. They knew me well! How special and touching this gift was to me and I will be able to wear it around my neck each day at work.

I am so glad that I was able to keep the focus on Jesus this Christmas season. After all, He is the reason we celebrate Christmas.

I have less than a week before returning to work full time in a new classroom filled with little mini-mustangs. I want to spend this time reflecting on the lessons of 2014. I always look forward to a new year and this one is no different. I want to learn from the past; both good and bad. I want to make wise choices.

Last Sunday, Pastor Scott Savage preached a wonderful sermon on John 15. The bottom line to his message about the new year was this ...Be With God.

How was your Christmas this year? Did you take the time to be still and focus on the reason for the season?

Blessings and love,

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Gifts of Christmas

The gift of Christmas. I love this time of year. I love to go to church and sing Christmas songs. I love to be reminded of what Christmas really is; the birth of Jesus. It can be so easy to get caught up in the busyness of this season. But my heart feels right when I'm worshiping with other believers.

This Sunday was no different. But what was so special about this church service was ...the stories.

I love to hear people's stories.

My pastor asked people from our congregation to share their stories. It was filmed so we could all watch and listen to their voices. 

One young woman shared how she had a plan for her life and was intent on working her plan. But then she listened to the soft whispers in her heart as she realized that wasn't really God's plan for her. 

A father and son shared how they both got caught up in addiction to alcohol. It wasn't until the son was in jail in Phoenix's tent city that he prayed and asked God for help.

A couple were hopeless as they wanted to have a child. Their story involved a family boy who was taken into child protective services. Would they adopt this one who needed a home?

Another couple lost their jobs with the overturn in the economy. With two little children they traveled with the name of a friend of a friend as the only one they knew in Phoenix. 

Another young man shared how he was homeless living in his car. He attempted to hide this secret each day as he went to work. 


Towards the end of the service, the people who shared their stories in the video came forward and stood behind huge gifts that were labeled: Alcoholic, Homeless, Hopeless, Fearful, Stubborn. Then they opened up the gifts and held up the signs: Addiction-free, Belonging, Joyful, Secure, and Surrendered.

It was a beautiful sight! I was so thankful that these people were willing to be transparent and share their stories. I believe it helps each one of us when we realize we're not alone. We each have our own story. I may not struggle with alcohol but I may be fearful and stubborn at times. 

Are you still holding on to something or someone that you know isn't right? You may think it's too hard to change or that's just the way I am.

"For nothing is impossible with God." Luke 1:37 (NIV)

There isn't any problem that is too hard for God. I encourage you to begin praying and asking God for help. 

Christmas is a time for giving and receiving gifts. But the true gift of Christmas is ...JESUS.

Will you give him your heart?

Blessings and love,

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Friday, December 12, 2014

The True Gift of Christmas

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. No matter where you live or what your background you can't help but feel the festive change that happens in the month of December. The sound of holiday music fills the air. Children are excited as they anticipate what Santa will bring. The newly popular Elf on the Shelf reminds children to be good. Baking cookies and preparing family recipes provides familiar smells in kitchens around the world. Malls become crowded with people shopping for gifts. 

The dictionary defines gift as "something given voluntarily without payment in return, as to show favor toward someone, honor an occasion, or  make a gesture of assistance, present."

Gifts are something we give to people we care about. I used to love to buy gifts throughout the year to set aside for Christmas. Searching for that special gift became an adventure. Wrapping the gifts and including a special note of love was a task that gave me so much pleasure. I longed to see my loved one's reaction as they opened the gift I'd especially chosen for them.

To continue reading, please link to Lisa Shaw Cares for Women Walking with Jesus.

Blessings and love,

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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Do You Struggle with Change?

I have a confession to make. I don't like change! I tend to stick with the same because it's comfortable. As I look back over my life, there are times when I knew I needed to do something different but ...I stuck with the same.

You'd think I would have become more accustomed to change with the ups and downs of the last four years of my life.  I transitioned from a very comfortable retirement living in my dream home to returning to full time work in a different profession. Oh and along the way we moved into a much smaller living space; a condo. How's that for change? 

I even changed my profession. Instead of working as a nurse, I switched to education. For the last four and a half school years, I've worked in a preschool classroom with another teacher. 

 

Heidi and I worked so well as a team.  We laughed, we cried and encouraged one another. She helped me get through those transition years as I adjusted to a different way of life. Besides being co-workers, we became friends. When she decided to leave the job to work with her husband, I was happy for her but sad for me. It had been a great run! 


But then I was teamed up with Mandie. It was a change but I have to say that we've had a great school year and we get along very well. She is so much fun!

But now ...another change. I was asked to be the lead teacher for the Mini-Mustangs beginning in January. Same school but different classroom, different students. Another change!

I am very excited. I know this is a good change. I look forward to teaching these very little ones about school. I realize there will be adjustments like separation anxiety for mommy and child. But I hope to provide a stable loving environment so they will have a great first experience with our school. 

However, I will miss the students in our Pre-K 3 classroom. I will miss the students in my after school class. Of course, I will still get to see them but it won't be the same. 

I think back to years ago when I dreamed about what my life would be like. I used to line my dolls up in the window seat of my bedroom with my little sister Christine wedged right in the middle. I' d pretend I was a teacher. I also dreamed of being married and having several children. Fast forward to today.   I'm married to my honey but we weren't able to have children. 

So beginning in January, I will be teaching little ones in my own classroom. I'll have the opportunity to teach them and spend  the week days with them.  But I then I get to return them to their own mommies and daddies at the end of the school day. It's funny how life turns out. I think God answered my prayers in ways I never imagined.

Maybe change isn't such a bad thing after all. 

So how about you? Do you struggle with change or do you embrace it?

Blessings and love,

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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

My 5 Favorite Christmas Books

It's the season of Christmas. I love this time of year when I get to decorate my Christmas tree, light the candles and listen to holiday music. Nestled underneath my tree are some of my favorite Christmas books. During the next few weeks, I will pick up each one and read.


Here are my 5 favorite Christmas books:

1. Let's Keep Christmas by Peter Marshall. Peter served as Chaplain of the United States Senate and pastor of New York Presbyterian Church until his death in 1948. This short book can be read in 5-10 minutes but it's loaded with wisdom. He writes about Christmas traditions and the 'spirit' of Christmas as he writes about its true meaning -- "the beginning of Christianity, the Second Chance for the world, the hope for peace, and the only way." It is a book I read and reread every year.

2. A Christmas Longing by Joni Eareckson Tada. Joni was paralyzed from the neck down in a diving accident many years ago. Despite her physical limitations, she has lived her life giving glory to God. This book addresses the longing within each one of us for something more. Only Jesus can truly fill that longing. Each short chapter offers encouragement as she shares the true Christmas story. Included are stories of family celebrations and reflections on the Christmas season. But she invites us to consider Jesus, who is the answer to our Christmas longing.

3. The ADVENTure of Christmas by Lisa Whelchel. You may recognize Lisa's name from the long running television show 'The Facts of Life'. I enjoyed watching her more recently on the TV show 'Survivor'. She is a Christian and a mom. In this book, she writes a fun guide for families that focuses beyond the family traditions of Christmas. You will be able to teach your children and yourself about the history of decorating and lighting the Christmas tree, the wrapping and giving of gifts, angels and candles. It is packed with simple recipes you can make with your children. There are teachable moments that include questions like "Why do you think we decorate with red and green at Christmas?" This is a great reference book for me each year.

4. Keeping Christ as Christmas by Jennifer Walker is an eBook I have on my Kindle. My blogging friend Jennifer of Smelling Coffee has been such an inspiration to me over the years.  It is jam packed with practical advice, ideas, worksheets and helpful resources. Jennifer writes in a beautiful conversational style. Everything focuses on the gift of Jesus, including the motivation behind gift giving. She outlined how to spend 10 minutes with Jesus in the morning. She writes, "10 minutes with Jesus will make a world of difference in the next 23:50 hours of your day." Jennifer offers this book in a variety of formats and you can find it here.

5. Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voscamp. This is a new book for me but one that I will be placing under my Christmas tree each year. I enjoy reading Ann's blog A Holy Experience as she is the one who inspired me to begin counting my every day blessings. This is the perfect book to explain the Advent season to your children. Each day leading up to December 25th, Christmas Day you will be able to read true Bible stories. At the end of each day, she includes thoughts to discuss and family activities. She provides instructions for making a Jesse Tree with your children or grandchildren. Creating a 'family tree' traces the family line and heritage of the family of God.

Each one of these books are a treasure to me. I'm sure you may have favorites of your own.

I'd love to hear some of your favorite Christmas books. Would you share in the comments?

Blessings and love,

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Am I a kid or what?

Am I a kid or what?

I love this place...Carmel, CA

I love this place...Carmel, CA