Thursday, December 13, 2012

Have You Considered This at Christmas?

     Whenever I get my Christmas ornaments out, I don’t just see a pretty decoration. I see something with a special story behind it. On my tree you may see a white Styrofoam ball with a green glitter tree and the name Ruth in red glitter with a pipe cleaner to hold the hook. However, when I see that, I see a little 7 year old girl, sitting at her desk in an old fashioned schoolroom, trying to make the Elmer’s glue come out just right. When I see the ornaments that look like badly crafted stained glass, I see the first year we had all 3 girls and no money and not enough ornaments for the tree. I still see their faces as we put lots of colorful, though not that pretty, ornaments on the tree.

     So come with me to see something more behind the manger scene that we take out at Christmas…..

     To start with, I want to give you all a few reminders. Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem . John the Baptist proclaimed in John 1:29, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” Peter talked about our redemption in 1 Peter 1:19 as the “Precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”

     In the Old Testament, the lamb was sacrificed for the forgiveness of sin. It had to be a lamb without blemish or spot – it couldn’t be scarred or cut or bruised. Jesus died in Jerusalem , where the temple was and where the lambs were sacrificed.
The story of Christmas has Christ born in a manger as the Lamb of God, to be the Saviour of the world and to take away the sins of the world. This would involve sacrifice. Bethlehem cannot be understood without Calvary . The manger must be seen in the light of the Cross. Birth would also involve death.

     We all know the Christmas story from Luke:

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lordcame upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign to you; You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 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. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told to them. (Luke 2:8-20)

     Have you ever wondered who these shepherds were? Has anyone ever wondered why the angels didn’t give them any more details of where to look? No street sign, no neon light, no flag…

     The Christmas story takes on added meaning when we consider that, according to multiple writings of rabbis, the shepherds who were abiding by their flocks in the fields were perhaps watching over temple sheep, sheep that were being bred and protected to be sacrificed at the temple in Jerusalem. These shepherds may have been men who were accustomed to preparing lambs which symbolically represented the Messiah in their cleanliness, perfection, and their sacrifice on the altar of the temple. This gives added depth of meaning to these scriptures which tell of the angels who came to these shepherds to proclaim the birth of the Lamb of God, the Savior of mankind, who would offer the last and ultimate sacrifice.

     With the establishment of Temple worship in Jerusalem , the fields outside of Bethlehem became the place where this special group of shepherds raised the lambs that were sacrificed in the Temple . The place where the angels appeared to the shepherds is traditionally known as the “Tower of the Flock,” or Migdal Edar, which is very near Bethlehem . This watch tower from ancient times was used by the shepherds for protection from their enemies and wild beasts. It was the place ewes were brought to give birth to the lambs. In this sheltered building/cave the priests would bring in the ewes which were about to lamb for protection. The shepherds who kept them were men who were specifically trained for this royal task. Being themselves under special Rabbinical care, they would strictly maintain a ceremonially clean stable for a birthing place.   It could have been to this place that Joseph took Mary. It could have been in this special stable at “Migdal Eder” that Christ was born!

     These shepherds were educated in what an animal that was to be sacrificed had to be and it was their job to make sure that none of the animals were hurt, damaged, or blemished. The shepherds would wrap the newborn lambs in swaddling clothes to protect the body of the lambs, keeping the new lambs without spot or bruise, they would then be laid in a manger until they had calmed down.

    These lambs would be offered as sacrifice at the Temple just four miles away in Jerusalem.

     There was no need for the angels to give these shepherds directions to the birth place because they already knew. These were the men who raised sacrificial lambs that were sacrificed in the Temple . When the angelic announcement came, they knew exactly where to go, for the sign of a manger and swaddling coths could only mean THEIR manger at the tower of the flock!

     The Lamb born at Migdal Eder was the Lamb to be sacrificed to take away the sin of the world.

     You see our Lord Jesus was born in Bethlehem where all sacrificial lambs were born, and our Lord Jesus died in Jerusalem where all sacrificial lambs were killed.

    So when you look at a nativity set this year, and you see the shepherds and Mary and Joseph and then you see the baby wrapped in swaddling cothes lying in a manger, I hope you’ll think of the story behind it. And I hope Christmas will touch you a little deeper this year.

(This is a compliation of the following sites:,

Thursday, September 20, 2012

We Gain Some, We lose Some and life goes on.

I've been pondering some wise words from a friend.  I think I will ponder them better here.

Here are her wise words:  Growing older is a series of losses.

Let's back up a little here.  When we start out in life, we're like a blank chalkboard.  We have everything to gain in front of us.  We gain language, mobility, we gain people who love us, we gain laughter and joy.  We gain friends, experiences that will begin to shape who we are becoming.  We begin to gain interaction, and education.  We being to gain friends and relationships.

At the first part of our life, everything is new and fresh and exciting.  Each stage brings something new and exciting.  As we get older the next stages bring the excitement of adulthood.  We experience college, future spouses, marriages, careers, children, homes, etc, etc as we enter real adulthood.

The next stage are our peak years.  We have the most energy to accomplish the most things and we can juggle more things in our lives that we ever thought possible.   It's exhilarating for a long time.  It's like making to the top of the mountain after a long, hard climb.  It feels good.  We feel proud, fulfilled, content.

The kids are out on their own and we feel like we can finally breathe.  And then, after a half a lifetime of gains, we begin to see some losses.  It feels as though our bodies' warranties ran out when we hit 50.  

You know those body organs you can life without?  Mine lost their warranties and had to be discarded.. So I lost my...appendix...tonsils....gall bladder....female parts.... I don't feel as strong as I used to feel. 

I'm losing my quick memory.  Words and names don't come as quickly as they used to.  It frustrates me because I never had to struggle before with those things.  I have to ask for help to remember something.  It's humbling because I had been competently independent for many years.

I can't remember our conversation last night, but I can pull stories out of my brain from my childhood so easily.  The grandkids are asking for stories and I can do that with so much clarity that it's a little disconcerting.

I'm having to learn to adapt to some losses.  My eyesight has taken a bad turn and I am having to relearn a new normal in my vision.  For the first time in over 30 years, I am scared driving at night because of the loss of vision.  I'm not in control and can't fix it and losing feelings of confidence is another loss.

I think I can handle some of these losses when they feel within my control.  But I am learning that these losses are now involving losing friends.   In the last couple years, I have lost more family and friends than ever before in my life.  When I was younger, it was almost always someone older who died.  Now those 'someone older' deaths are my friends, my peers (I'm a someone older now too)  I think I'd always hoped we'd just grow up, enjoy life and start dying off later, much later.  And it would be
 nice if it was pretty much close together, like at the same time. (just an idea)  I desperately miss my friends who have died.  I don't think I will ever get used to this.

However, losses don't follow a schedule.  We lose a loved one and at our age, it's inevitable that we'll lose another loved one....repeat way too often from now on.

Losses come in other forms.  Job layoff is a big loss when it changes your whole lifestyle.  When this happened to us, we realized that we'd also lost that sense of adventure that would've had us moving at the drop of a hat and starting a new life over.  But we've lost that.  Our roots are here and we choose instead to readjust our lives here.  

We've lost dreams that we always thought would happen one day.  Trips to visit people who have now died have had to be set aside and given some time to grieve that loss.

It's difficult to shift thinking from embracing all life has to offer and then realizing that things are changing and you're not in control of those changes.

I know that I have the choice how to respond.  I wasn't expecting the losses and changes throw me into emotional chaos so that I don't know how to repsond.

On this 'losing' side of the journey, I am in the midst of learning how to respond.  How to keep peace and hope at the forefront.  I'm learning to look for things to make me happy regardless what is consuming me emotionally.

I'm trying to accept my new normal instead of wishing I was somewhere else from 20 years ago.  I don't know how I will do or what's going to happen.

I'm clinging to God every step of the way.  And I'm looking for the person in charge of putting out signs along the way....."Changes ahead!"....."Bladder control does not work on this side of the journey"...."Yield to aches and pains"...

I think the ageless Cat In The Hat has a poem that says it well:

Saturday, September 01, 2012

What are the odds.....putting a new face on fear

I am tired of being swayed by fear. I hesitate to do things because of fear.  It's as though fear has become a habit that happens first when life is played out.  I want to put a new face on my fears.

Before I can do that, I have to put my fears in perspective.

For example, the odds of having my identity stolen are 200 to 1.  That means that I have 1 chance in 200 of someone stealing my identity.  Somehow, I have come to see most statistics from the perspective of the biggest fear.  I tend to think, 'oh no, I have a 200 to 1 chance of this, how horrible' instead of realizing that 1 out of 200 really isn't that big a risk.

Did you know that the odds of striking it rich on Antiques Roadshow are 60,000 to 1?  I actually have a better chance at bowling a 300 game because those odds are only 11,500 to 1.

My chances of getting the flu this year are 1 in 10.  But that also means my chances of NOT getting the flu are 9 in 10.

My chances of finding out my child is a genius are 1 out of 250.  (oops, wait, I beat those odds 3 times....nevermind..)  ;^)

My chance of dying from a shark attack is 1 out of 300,000,000!  However, if you've ever seen Jaws, chances are good that you wonder if it's really safe to swim in the ocean.

I understand that I need to be careful even if the odds are in my favor.  It's not caution that I struggle with, it's fear.  I let the fear of what could happen strangle the joy of the moment.

I'd like to find something to blame that mindset on, like advertising or the media.  But I think it's actually more simple than that.  I think it's human nature.  I think we naturally tend to fear because we can't control.  I think human nature makes us think that we will be that 1 out of 10 or that 1 out of 300,000,000.

So, am I doomed to let fear be my driving force?  Thankfully, no.

I don't think it's a coincidence that the Bible uses the phrase "do not fear" a lot!  If I truly believe there is a God (and I do) and I truly believe He loves me (and I do), then it's up to me to make the choice to not let fear be a driving force.

I can't control the circumstances but I can control how I respond.  I can't control the chances, but I can control my perspective.

So, instead of being afraid of my nightgown catching fire and burning me to death, I will instead be glad that I have a greater risk of being eaten by a California mountain lion.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

And then God showed up...

It's been a long couple of years for Kevin and me.  We're still grieving over big losses from last year.  One of the adjustments we're having to make is regarding insurance.  Kevin's new job offers insurance to him but the cost of adding me is pretty astronomical.  

We sat down and looked at the whole picture and came to the conclusion that we will go without insurance and pay as we go.  I figured I've had most nonessential stuff already removed so we'll be good to go for a while.  yeah, right...  Last week, I realized that I have developed a blind spot in my center of vision.   When I look at someone's face with my right eye, the person has no nose and a unibrow!  It's scary to have your vision change so drastically like that.

My regular optometrist referred me to an opthamologist here in town.

I called......and then God showed up.....

The woman who answered the phone was so kind and gracious.  She put me at ease and set me up for an appointment that very day.   

...and then God showed up....

I got to the office and found that the kind woman who scheduled me also knew me!  She went that extra mile to make me feel comfortable.  The staff was kind and peaceful and so reassuring.

...and then God showed up....

The doctor introduced himself and I realized that his daughter was in our youth group last year!  I think a lot of her and enjoyed her and it was a nice connection to make.  The appointment showed that there was something there that a specialist needs to look at.

...and then God showed up....

The staff was so gracious.  Because we don't have insurance, we pay up front, in full.  I was given a discount for that and then another designated discount.  Then they called the specialist for me and got me in a day later.

The specialist was very nice also.  He checked and did another test and then spent some time talking with me.  The short version is that I have a hole forming at the back of my eye that creates a blind spot.  There is a chance it could go away, there is a chance it could get worse, there's a chance it will simply stay the same for a long time.  I will have to give up close work, like cross stitching and I will need to make my fonts larger, but we'll wait to see if things change before making any decision.

....and then God showed up....

I went to check out and I was told that there was no charge!  No charge for the testing, no charge for the eye dilation, no charge for the office visit with the doctor!  They gave me no reason, just sweet smiles.

....God knew how scared I was.  God knew how emotionally tired I was.  God knew I was so afraid of the costs.  God knew Kevin was worried about it all too.  And so God showed up to remind me that He already knows, He's gone before me, nothing surprises Him and He will encourage me when I look for him.

Today was a sweet day when God showed up.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Your name is engraved....

I have this really cool bracelet that I wear all the time.  And I mean all the time, 24/7.  I never take it off because I love it so much.  I had this bracelet made for me.  It's a simple silver link bracelet.  Each bar has the name of one of my grandchildren.  Added to the bracelet is a little gold square with a diamond inside.  That diamond is my original engagement diamond that Kevin gave me 37 years ago.  My original wedding set broke about 25 years ago but I cherish that diamond.  Each link is soldered together so that it's almost impossible to remove.

Whenever I feel the bracelet on my wrist, I think of my grandchildren.  Whenever I glance at my wrist, I am reminded of my grandchildren.  Whenever the light catches my diamond, I think of Kevin and our family.  It is my way of keeping my family close to my heart.

Grandson Ben is almost 3.  He loves my bracelet.  He loves to pretend to read the names. He knows where his name is located on the bracelet and he is always thrilled to see that his name is there whenever he looks for it.  He knows that his name is there because I love him and he never tires of hearing that.

I try to remember this on the days I wonder where God is.  Or the times that I think He's forgotten me.  Or when I am walking through a rough season in my life.  Or when a friend is hurting and I can't do anything to alleviate their pain.

Isaiah 49:16 says, "See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands"

I need to take a lesson from Ben.  He looks for his name on my bracelet and knows that I love him.  And each time he sees his name, he is thrilled.

I need to remember that God has engraved me on the palms of His hands.  I need to take the time to look when I wonder where God is and remember that He loves me.  My name isn't going anywhere.  It's there and I never tire of hearing that.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Guilt Givers/Guilt Takers

I think we can narrow down all people to 'guilt givers' and 'guilt takers'. Our perspective of life in general is skewed by whether we are prone to give or take guilt.

I confess that I am a Guilt Taker. I've spent most of my life feeling something is my fault. It doesn't matter whether it's true or not, I will feel guilty. And from there, I can be manipulated by a Guilt Giver.

Guilt Givers have a difficult time apologizing but Guilt Takers apologize so much that it can drive people crazy. Somehow we manage to attract each other. I married a Guilt Giver. If the two become one, then we've done a good job of balancing each other. I can remind Kevin when he needs to apologize for something and he can remind me when I don't need to apologize for something.

We guilt takers know who we are. We're the ones those ads are geared toward. You know the ones, starving children, hurting animals, adopt a penguin.... anything with stirring music and someone who tells you that you could make a difference. Who thinks these up? The guilt givers! They know that we guilt takers are out there, just ready for one well aimed guilt attack to make us whip out our checkbooks to assuage our guilt. A guilt taker and a checkbook means that someone won and it wasn't the guilt taker.

Guilt givers don't see the problem. They simply tell us guilt takers not to take the guilt. It's so simple to a guilt giver. But to guilt takers, it's almost impossible.

Some days I feel as thought everywhere I turn, I am hit by guilt. I am so sorry for the animals at the humane society. I am so sorry that there are so many animals that need to be adopted. I feel guilty that I don't want anymore pets. I take good care of my pets and I have had them spayed and neutered and yet I still feel guilty. Because I have anything to feel guilty about? No, because I am a guilt taker!

I don't think I know how to feel badly about something without mixing it with guilt. A guilt giver would tell me that I'm being narcissistic. A guilt taker will understand.

Maybe we need to hit people harder these days with guilt because we've become de-sensitized to pain around us. Or maybe general selfishness keeps us from seeing needs and then trying to help. Some people need to be jolted into action and guilt can be that jolt.

I totally understand freedom in Christ and no longer carrying the guilt of sin. This is separate from that. This is just me recognizing how I can be manipulated and trying to keep a healthy distance from unhealthy guilt.

Anyone else a Guilt Giver or a Guilt Taker? Maybe I should just feel guilty for bringing the subject up.....

Monday, February 27, 2012

I'm not making this up!

I love work weekends with junior high kids because they always promise to be full of great stories to tell later. I also love Pine Cove Camp because it gives us the opportunity to get away with our teens, give them a chance to serve and a chance for all of us to enjoy being together for the weekend.

I've been taking jr hi kids to their Towers camp for many, many years. I can find my way there in the dark. However, I only know how to get there, I don't know what roads I take to do that. That probably explains why there were no cars following me by the time I turned onto that dark county road. Towers is in the woods that are really, really dark at night.

I had a van full of girls and we went straight to the staff cabin. Our stuff was in the other cars who were finding their way to the camp after getting real directions. So the girls and I went into the cabin to check out where we'd be staying. While we were waiting for the other cars, it started to rain. No, that's not right. It started to pour. No, that's not right. It started to come down in buckets! Because of the drought here in Texas, the water soaks quickly into the ground.

I got a call from, Jake, the guy in charge of the weekend. Jake said we needed to meet him at the kitchen and the other cars were driving straight there. Because of the deluge, I told the girls that I would drive us over to the kitchen so we wouldn't get soaked going to the kitchen. We all ran to the van and piled in.

The van was parked in the opposite direction of the kitchen. No problem. I just had to make a wider turn on the road. No problem. I've been on these road for years. There was just sand and pine needles alongside the pavement.

Well, except for the rain that made the sand really soft and the fact that there was a stump alongside the pavement. The stump was covered by the pine needles and I never saw it. I would have never even noticed it, except for that thump followed by the spinning of wheels.

No problem. I would just put the van in reverse. No problem. Except that the van wasn't going anywhere. I pressed the gas and a notice starting flashing on the dashboard, "Tires Spinning"! Even the van realized it was stuck. So all the junior high girls piled out of the van in the rain and started pushing. First they pushed from the front while I put the van in reverse. Then they pushed from the back while I put the car in drive. No doubt about it, the van was stuck and we were wet. So we all walked over the the kitchen and were very thankful that the rain had slowed to a simple downpour. I told Jake about my stuck van and he told me the maintenance guys could rescue me the next day.

The weekend was a great weekend, as usual. The kids worked hard and played hard as the weather permitted. The next afternoon Jake and the maintenance guy showed up in the really big pickup to pull the van off the stump. It was nerve racking for me as they attached the chain to the van. (Did I mention that I was borrowing this van from Jaime and Slade?) In my mind, I was imagining how to nicely explain that the fender fell off while pulling the van off a stump. I didn't have to worry about that scenario because the van didn't go anywhere. This really big pickup just spun its wheels while trying to pull the van off that stump. It turned out that the van's frame was on the stump and the soft, wet sand had given way enough that it was hung up on the stump and wasn't going anywhere.

The next day the rain eased to a wet drizzle. The maintenance guy and Jake returned to the van to try to finally free it. They came well equipped with jacks and a secret weapon. You will know that I live deep in Redneck territory when you read this. I love Redneck ingenuity!

First, they guys used the jacks on each side of the van and raised the van out of all that soft sand. Then, and I'm not making this up, they got out their secret weapson. They brought out a chainsaw and in true Texas fashion, they went to work sawing that stump! Redneck ingenuity at its finest - lower the stump so the wheels and frame can clear it! And it worked!

Great weekend, great people, great stories. This will always be remembered as the time the chainsaw rescued the van.

Monday, January 16, 2012

You have no idea.....

As I look back on my life, I realize more and more that I had no idea what was going to happen whenever I made a major decision in my life. My first real major decision was where I was going to college. I had no idea when I choose Central College in Pella, IA, that I would make lifelong friends who would become chosen family.

Kevin and I decided to get married and I had no idea how we were going to manage, a very young couple, no experience in living on our own, managing a budget. I had no idea how to shop, plan menus, even use a checkbook.

When Kevin and I decided to have a baby, I had no idea what labor would be like. Then I had no idea what birth would be like. Then I had no idea how to take care of a baby.

It all sounded so easy and it all seemed like it was something we could do without much trouble.

It was a theme of our life. We had no idea how to raise 3 daughters, no idea how we'd pay for braces, clothes, car insurance, lessons, etc, etc, etc.

I think if I'd been able to see ahead, it may have scared me too much to even attempt those things. If I'd seen ahead, I don't think I would have been brave enough to have 3 children so close in age. I would have been terrified to try to provide for them, it would have seen too daunting.

There is a lot of comfort that God is outside of time. He knows what's coming and even knows the end of the story. Knowing that helps me keep putting one foot in front of the other, even when I can't see around the next bend.

As I look back on last year, I'm glad that I had no idea what was ahead. Even though that year is now behind me, I'm still feeling as though I can only take one step at a time without becoming afraid.

There's a reason that we have no idea what lies ahead for each of us. It would scare us off and keep us from becoming who we're supposed to be. The best growth comes during the hardest times. That sounds so good but the truth is that I doubt I'd be willing to volunteer for the hardest times. I can only get through those times when I only see far enough along the path for the next step. Not for the next mile, or yards, just enough for the next step.

Taking the journey step by step keeps me close to the source of my light. And the things I don't see keep me from being too scared to keep walking.

Many times I've heard the comments, "You have no idea what it's like to raise kids....You have no idea how much your kids will break your heart.....You have no idea how difficult it is to truly let go of your kids.....You have no idea how hard it is to face that empty nest....." etc, etc. At the time, they were right, I truly had no idea what the journey would be like.

I will face these fears of the unknown until my death. However, my Father will be a 'lamp to guide my feet and a light to my path'. He will give me as much light as I need to see what is coming. Not too much to scare and overwhelm me and not too little so that I become proud.

Tomorrow, I have no idea what's coming. But God is just ahead of me. And that's enough. With that in mind, I can enjoy the journey and savor all the good stuff instead of worrying about things I haven't even gotten to yet.

I'm so glad I have Someone who loves me, who knows what's coming so I don't have to dread and fret. Instead, I can enjoy the journey, one step at a time.

About Me

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Longview, Texas
In the autumn of my life, I am very content.