Friday, July 25, 2014

Love...

This photo and scripture doesn't need a further sermon from me. 

It's at the very core of the gospel. It's what makes ALL the difference. 

God... loved me enough to create me... then to give his life for me. 

The knowledge of this truth is what sets us free... At my darkest, my greatest need was to know that he loved me. It still is. If he loved me then, he will love me always.

He did... and he does!

How about THAT truth to begin this new day?


Friday, July 18, 2014

Christmas in July... in Norway!

Please join my friend Anita, here... as her viewers share their European adventures, in person... or in their dreams. Mine have included both. 

Take a little break from the summer heat and enjoy... Christmas in Norway. I am sharing a blog from a few years ago...


Tromso, Norway...

Way up in the cold frozen northern part of Norway, beyond the arctic circle, is where my Christmas traditions began, in the childhood home of my mother.

In her words, as she shared this story with women's conferences and church groups all through her life, and as I read them tonight on these now fragile sheets from her journal...

"Let me invite you to take a trip with me to the land of the midnight sun, to my country, Norway. We will fly over the top of the north pole, but you won't see much there, only snow and frozen land, and finally, after landing in the capitol city of Oslo, we board a small plane and fly much farther north to Tromso. Now I invite you into our large old home to share Christmas with us...

My father was the mayor of the town, and there were 7 of us children, and a constant flow of guests coming and going. Christmas came like a bright light every December, and we children were filled with expectation and excitement and we all pitched in to help shine the copper pieces that hung on the walls, and bake the never ending sheets of cookies that went in and out of the oven. All month the cookie baking continued and they began to fill the jars and tins, which were stored up in the attic.

For days, leading up to Christmas Eve, friends and neighbors would drop in and visit each other in their homes, bringing their cookies and baked goodies, and their children. They would sing Christmas carols together and no one seemed to be in a hurry.

We celebrated each day as 'tiny Christmas', until Christmas Eve finally arrived and all the planning and baking and cooking was almost finished. All the children were scrubbed in a hot steam bath in town, and our braids froze on the way home. The shoes were lined up to be polished, the goose was filled with apples and prunes and ready to bake, and the last excited secrets were whispered between us as we wondered with expectation what would be in the boxes. The gifts and the Christmas tree were decorated and kept in the large parlour where NO ONE was allowed to go until Christmas!

I remember as a child hiding up in the attic about 3 or 4 in the afternoon and listenting to the church bells ringing in Christmas. I hadn't yet come to know Him, whose birth I was about to celebrate, but I stood by the window, looking out at the blinking lights and boats in the harbor, and I knew that God had sent Jesus to be born at Christmas, and I worshipped in a child's way, Him who I didn't yet know.

And then suddenly, the bells started from one church, then from another, and soon together they joyously chimed all over the city as they rang in the news 'Unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord"...

Now me...



When I visited Norway more than a year ago, we had to fly that same route from Oslo far to the north, into Tromso... There, on the main street of this most picturesque and beautiful city, was my mother's family dry goods store. When we were there, we saw the building, it has been modernized, and like many things that have changed, the new isn't nearly as wonderful as the original! (This photo isn't the store, but looks like it...)

In northern Norway, during the winter months, it was not only cold and piled high with snow everywhere, it was also dark. One of the most cherished memories she shared were the lights, all around Tromso, in homes, in the windows, in the stores and on street lanterns, tiny dots of light made the whole scene like a dream. Candles and lights were always part of our growing up Christmases in California, and I still love them.

Side note on the attic in her home... During the winter, they hung their washed sheets in the attic to dry and they were as stiff as boards from the cold frozen temperatures. My mother did confess to playing among those sheets and if I know her... there was probably some peeking and snooping along the way as Christmas came closer!

At her dad's store in town, each window was decorated with a different Christmas scene. She said they covered all the windows with brown paper while they got busy and created a picture for the people of the town. When the windows were unveiled, people came from all around excited to see what this year would bring. Each family had candles which they lit as they viewed the now gleaming window scenes. One window depicted a cozy warm home with a fireplace with a Christmas tree and candles glowing everywhere, one might be a candy store scene or a church choir... it was magical to the children to be part of such a tradition.

Then Christmas Eve finally arrived...

The whole family bundled up and headed out into the snow to their large 'state church', for the Christmas Eve service where by candlelight they joined together singing Silent Night and heard the familiar scriptures read. Finally they all headed back home for the feast ahead and 'the gifts'...

As the final preparations were put together and the goose was browning for the last few minutes, my mother would take a quick walk through the empty snow piled streets with her father, and pass by the lovely homes where they could often watch through the windows at the people singing and walking around their Christmas trees, hands joined, in a circle, babies to grandparents.

After the feast had been devoured, her father read the Christmas story one more time from Luke, and prayed with the family. Then they all shook hands, wishing each other a Merry Christmas, she said their was a lot of handshaking with 7 kids and all the relatives. Then they each sat in one place until every gift tag was read by her father and distributed, before anyone could open a gift. And then, the papers and ribbons flew!

I can't sing or hear Silent Night, without thinking of Norway. It's a funny thing, but I have tears in my eyes, good tears, as I write this and remember Christmas in Norway, even though I was never there in December. The memories and stories and the twinkle in my mother's eyes as she shared her December dreams of long ago, are as real to me as if I had been there myself. When she met and married my dad, and followed him to America to begin life as a preacher's wife, all that was familiar and dear to her was left behind in her beloved country, but she instilled it in each of her 3 children with great joy. She kept her traditions going in our home as I grew up.

I am keeping that love for Norway alive in my heart and in our home...

 

Monday, June 30, 2014

I'm not a contest winner...

I have filled out forms, dropped them in boxes, submitted them online, tried all of it except for the lottery, and I never win anything!

Do you??

I have to admit that my attempts to win anything are both sporadic and half hearted. I don't usually waste the time to enter contests or pursue it very hard. I do sometimes enter Pioneer Woman's giveaways... she has such special things to give away... cowboy boots, good kitchen knives, and pots and pans... :)

I also entered HGTV's dream home in Lake Tahoe, California. I had this strong feeling that I might actually win that house. So much for strong feelings...

The odds of ever winning one of those contests are staggering, against it. Picture 10 warehouses filled with huge carts, full of tiny strips of names and addresses, and only one will be picked. The odds are very good that it will never be me.

Isn't it an amazing miracle that we are not dependent on a random drawing out of millions of entries for the very best gift of all, our salvation. 

It's the only free gift that we must have, and it's ours.

My mother had a dream when she was a little girl. God's arm scooped down from heaven to earth with a giant dust pan. She stood and held her breath each time that pan came close, hoping she would be scooped up.

We don't have to wait in fear, cross our fingers, or hope with all our hearts that we will be scooped up. The great news is that because I have believed on Jesus and He is my saviour... I WILL be on that dustpan.

There has never been a contest with a prize like that. If there were, the whole world would be falling over each other to enter and re-enter, hoping to win.

God's gift... the real prize... is free, and it includes everyone who will accept. His prize was bought and paid for with the blood of his only son.

No wonder the world's contests don't have a deep pull on my heart... I've already won the only one that matters, and it was offered to me, free, on a solid gold platter that held only one thing, the cross.


Monday, June 23, 2014

Little churches...

I have a real love for little churches.

My childhood years were filled with visiting little churches, all around the country, as my dad preached and we went along for the ride. I've written many chapters about those years. 

In my 'grown up' years, we haven't gone to a lot of little churches. Most of them have bordered on mega. I love all that is available in our big churches, the music, special events, classes available, etc., but in all that is gained, I sometimes feel the loss of the small and familiar.

Those little churches had a unique and sweet fellowship. We all knew each other, (sometimes too well!) and it was like our own family, in a very personal way.

I also have a heart for those who pastor little churches. Their work, ministry and preparation are every bit as life consuming as the pastors of the big churches, but I wonder how often they are prone to discouragement... so few new people coming, so little money in the budget, and so little seems to change through the years that go by.

Being little doesn't count for any more or less in God's eyes. Being big doesn't either.

Being faithful and obedient does.

It's the same for us. Our lives may be stuffed full of good things, highly productive and rewarding on the surface, but maybe not growing very deep on the inside. Or... we may feel that we are not accomplishing much, and very little is happening, but we are obeying God and being faithful in our daily walk.

Either way... God will honor the little or the much, when it is done as unto him.

Some little churches, as well as some little lives... bear much fruit. Some mega big churches, and mega big lives... look glittery and exciting, but their fruit isn't always as deep and real as it should be.

In our churches and in our lives, it's about what we do with the truth we already know. 

Are we living in obedience to what God has already shown us, or just 'looking good' on the outside.

God sees straight to the heart. He knows every motive and intent... in our churches, and in our lives.

I watched my dad's life all through the years. By today's standards, his work was small. His ministry usually didn't draw thousands of people, and the offering plate was not full and running over. But his faithfulness to God was disciplined and consistent, and God saw all of it.

He and my mother are in heaven now, but the work God gave my dad is multiplying and growing, all over the world. He has always reminded me of Abraham. Dad is now in the promised land, but his work, God's work, has taken root and grown, long after he lived to see it. 

Here's the real truth...

Dad wouldn't have done anything differently. His daily desire was to live his life and do his work, as unto God.

It's my forever challenge and goal to do the same. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

A lesson in love...

This is Gracie and Faith on a recent visit. 

I was sitting at my desk as they played together. When I looked down, I had to grab my camera and capture this unplanned little lesson in love in a photo.

These 2 little girls are only about a year apart in age, and already... they have each other's backs!

Every time we say something about Gracie, she quickly adds... 'and Faithie too'...

I pray that the years will only solidify and strengthen their precious bond. It is so special to have a sister in the first place, and to share a relationship where each affirms the other and stands up for the other is going to be a gift for both of them, all through their lives. 

These little sisters have already won all of our hearts!


Saturday, June 7, 2014

Graduation...










This is Courtney, our first grandchild. I am having trouble believing that she is about to graduate from high school and head to college. It was  only a few years ago that she was born... or so it seems.

She is so special to us. I remember getting one of her very first smiles. She has always been active in drama, music and the arts. How many plays, musicals and choir performances there have been through these years. 

When she was barely old enough to talk, she was performing, with her eyes, and her voice. She's a natural on stage.

Courtney... we are so proud of who you are. Your character shines in your life. We are enjoying these graduation days with you, and you know we will be praying as the next chapter begins, and don't ever forget... you were the first, and we love you dearly.

 


Even as Courtney begins a new chapter, I'm so glad
that we still have 7 others coming up the ranks, including this one, the baby of the family... Faith. 

Keep playing in that kitchen for a long time!


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Those letters!...

One of the things that happens after you turn 50, not a recent thing for me... :)

Those letters and ads for the following begin to arrive in the mailbox. The older you get, the more they send...



... pre-paid burial plots

... hearing aids


...  final funeral expenses


... investment counseling for all that money that surely has been saved in 50 years


... bifocals


... dentures

... Last Will and Testament guidance counseling


... glossy booklets on retirement living homes


... senior citizen coupons out the gazoo


... selecting a permanent urn for your ashes (this one was just plain insulting!)


Honestly, it doesn't give me that warm fuzzy feeling, the prospect of getting old...

Have they started coming to your house yet? If not, trust me, it won't be long!

Did you ever have a clue that these days would come so quickly, these days that put us in the middle age and then old age category. In case you want to forget about how old you are, the USPS will not allow it.

Is there a point here? 

Not sure I have a good lesson for myself or anyone else, I have a hard time even admitting middle age, and forget about saying I am old!  I read Genesis not long ago, and I prefer to think of how long all of the 'begats' lived. It makes me feel like a kid by comparison!

God knows the days, the length of them, and the exact time we will go to heaven, to the minute. Knowing that is everything.

Still... I do wish they would quit sending me all that stuff!


Monday, May 19, 2014

My wedding dress...

I heard it on our local news one night. A doctor's wife had started a special program at their local hospital.

When a newborn baby didn't live to come home, the parents were so grief stricken, and she wanted to do something special for that baby and the mom and dad.

She took her wedding dress, and created a one of a kind beautiful gown for the baby. 

The idea hit a chord. Ladies began to call and donate their wedding gowns and she found others who could sew and create this beautiful little garment.

My wedding dress has been in the Bullock's box all these years, high up in the closet. It served it's beautiful purpose many years ago, and it's for sure I won't be needing it. 

I am sending my dress to this very special caring group, and I am praying for the one who will wear it, and for the family of this precious little one.

Before I send my wedding dress to them, I am repeating a blog a did awhile back, one that has each of our grandaughters(except the 2 newest) wearing my dress, and the poem I wrote to reflect on that day...




I pulled the big Bullocks box down from the shelf

memories held of a long ago self...

4 young girls giggling with glee

trying on dress, from a bride that was me...




one by one they came down the curved stairs

holding the dress, sticking clips in their hair...

the rest of us stood at the bottom and sang

'here comes the bride' ... the descent began...

flip flops and shorts under satin and lace


but what captured my heart was the look on each face...


a hint of 'shy' and a smile of joy

thinking more of the dress and less of 'the boy'...


but that will all change in the coming years

and the hopes for these 'brides' is what caused my tears...





a little fun on an ordinary day


snapshots of life in a special way...





http://www.nicuhelpinghands.org/lend-a-helping-hand/angel-gowns/

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Sunday morning saints... not!

I've now lived through my own generation of growing up, the generation of raising our own kids, and we are into the years of 'their kids'...

Here's something I know for sure.

Sunday mornings are not always filled with the sounds of saints, even in a christian home, maybe especially in a christian home!

We did not always look like this family...

I remember lots of bickering, snickering and downright ugly behaviour, and it wasn't always just the kids...

Satan hates Sunday mornings, I'm sure of it. 

He is out to defeat the mom and dad and family who head faithfully to God's house. Have you noticed it?? There we were, obeying what God's word teaches, raising our family to do the same, and rather than righteous and victorious living, chaos was often the scene.

We didn't always look like the storybook family headed to church. Sometimes when I was growing up, we were in churches where we were the guests, and my dad was the speaker for their service. It's bad enough to already have your nose out of joint, but worse when you are introduced as the preacher's family!

Really, it's the same today. When we obey God, satan gets his dukes up and starts to punch holes into the 'righteousness of the saints'... 

Even so... we keep at it, and the final victory, on Sunday mornings and every day belongs to God. When we do our part, he works it together for good. As to the storybook... we are not perfect people, neither are our children. All through the journey, God is teaching each one of us. 

What we learn is to 'get our dukes up' more quickly, and stand toe to toe with the Sunday morning or any morning temptations that satan will continue to bring our way.

Just like David with his slingshot...  as we put up our dukes, these battles begin to change, and so do we.