Christmas is over. Now what?

I don’t think I read any blogs over the Christmas season. But with good reason. I had my parents here with us for 2 weeks, and we had a wonderful time with them. Lots of laughs, food, fun, Christmas markets, etc. But Christmas is over. I sat for the first time in weeks to read a few blogs. Two of the blogs I follow that I read this morning I think are wonderful for a ‘re-set’ or ‘re-focus’ after the time off for Christmas. So I recommend you check out:

http://devotedlife.net/2015/12/28/trusting-an-engineer-dec-28/ as he reminds us of the place that God should take in our intellect and faith.

and http://gracemusing.com/2015/12/27/17-lessons-i-learned-from-christian-books-in-2015/  to apply what that means to our lives, and practically live more mature, God-led lives.

And from me? I’m just thanking God for His un-ending goodness, as Psalm 143 spoke to me about on December 19th (here’s my thoughts from that day):

Psalm 143: “Hear my prayer, O Lord, Give ear to my supplication! In Your faithfulness, answer me, And in Your righteousness. Do not enter into judgement with Your servant, For in Your sight, no one living is righteous. For the enemy has persecuted my soul. He has crushed my life to the ground; He has made me dwell in darkness Like those who have long been dead. Therefore, my spirit is overwhelmed within me; my heart within me is distressed.”

Lord, before my parents got here, I had been feeling a bit of distress – a bit of darkness. I know You speak to me, but sometimes I feel nothing from You – and I know it’s the enemy blinding me. Please keep me close to You in a way I feel You – so I don’t become overwhelmed, no matter what is going on.

(v5) I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Your works; I muse on the works of Your hands.”

The days of old – I have my notebook here where I’ve been writing my married life story. It has it’s points in it, coming up, and not yet written, that are saddening to think on. But there are so many other moments, days, journal entries, miraculous events, that remind me of how God is in my life: my Lord, Creator, and Savior loves me and cares for me.

Then I look up and out the window at God’s majestic works of His hands. The silhouetted trees with the carefully detailed grey hills behind – as it slowly climbs out of shadow to a purple/grey hue, fog beginning to lift, and the outline of trees layered behind trees beginning to be visible. And as the sun is slowly climbing, the place where the blackened tree line on top of the hill is now accented by the warmest golden lines that blend into an ever-changing band above of pink, beige, faded purple, and then the light cloud-line that leads to a crisp morning blue. Some of the colors I can’t even describe – or they last just a few moments before the Great Painter has set in motion the next part of the scene of a single day’s sunrise. And this is just one minute masterpiece in an abundance of beauty that the Master is orchestrating in a single moment.

Yes, I meditate on all Your works. I muse on the work of Your hands.

I don’t know what kind of year you had. I don’t know what is in your future, or mine. But I know Who holds the future, and I know He wants to be a part of your life. If after reading the blogs I read, and my own thoughts, you feel drawn to know Him, start your new year with new life: talk to Jesus – it’s simple. Ask Him to come and be the Leader of your life and make you new.

 

The Christmas Tree and Memories

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I really don’t know why it’s such a special part of our Christmas celebrating. Maybe because it’s the largest visible item to mark the season? I’m not sure if that’s the reason, but I can say a part of the significance of it comes from all the good memories that surround the Christmas Tree. They come back to me as I sit and look at the lovely decorations collected over the years, my now-5 year old popcorn string (yes, it does keep! I don’t have to string it every year, and my son even stopped snacking on it at least 3 years ago, haha!) So here is my walk down memory lane, if you care to snoop, after we decorated the tree last night:

December 4, around midnight….I’m sitting here watching my sleeping children whom I allowed to drift off as they looked at our job well done on the Christmas tree this year. I’ll carry them to bed later. But now, I’m thinking about our Christmases past, at least the memories that the Tree reminds me of. I laugh about the one year we went and cut trees together with my husband’s family – my mom in law ended up picking the most sparce Charlie Brown Tree you’d ever seen. It was funny. But looked comically great once sprinkled with tinsel and covered in her various decorations. I also remember before that the year my husband was in Afghanistan for Christmas: the kids and I went with his family to cut a tree – with our boxer, Betsy, too. I fell asleep on the way home on my brother-in-law’s shoulder – a bit embarrassed about that when we got home and I’d left a little drool on his shirt.

I remember another year that my husband was home and we’d (well, I had, I guess) picked a ridiculously huge tree – it took up 1/4 of our living room. And my husband even had to cut the branches down in the back so it would sit near the wall enough. And when it came time to take that one down, he opted to saw it up inside the house to make removal easier. Then I also remember the tiny tree we put up in Florida at the vacation home that special Christmas with my mom and dad – and on Christmas day, we all went over to the assisted living for my last year to celebrate the season with my grandparents. Mom and I made lasagna to bake there at the home for a special dinner with them. Grandma talked about that day even up until she passed away in July this past year. She’d still say the same thing whenever it came to her mind: “you remember, Melissa, when you and your mom cooked that wonderful lasagna dinner for Christmas for us in Florida? Those people would pass through the hallway there and smell that good food and just get so jealous of us.” And then she’d smile and laugh. It’s still not come to my heart the full realization that I won’t see them again on this earth. But these memories certainly help.

I remember another year, I think it was last year or the year before, when we had just finished decorating the tree, and it made me think about Jesus’ proclamation that He is the light of the world. The beauty of the tree all glowing and inviting reminded me that Jesus called people to come to His light. So when the decorating was over, we sat together and read that account from the Bible.

I hope this Christmas tradition will continue to draw my children and myself closer together, and closer to the Lord. As I watch them sleeping (I feel I could watch them all night) I also feel the weight and responsibility to raise children who understand the meaning of Christmas and the love of Jesus. And my prayer is that God can use many of these tangible traditions they love to bring life to God’s truths.

So – if you took the time to read this and it reminded you of great Christmas Tree memories, share them with me please!

The Day I Went Out in My ‘Nightgown’

So my grandma, Carolyn Gazzano, went home to heaven yesterday. She will be missed until I see her again. It’s good to know she’s in a better place; she meant a lot to me. Here’s one sweet memory from my last visit with her. I’ll share more over the next few months.

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So I’ve been home from Germany for a few days now to help take care of my grandma. It has been rewarding, contemplative, bittersweet, nostalgic, and fun. Yup, I think that describes it well. But I will definitely emphasize the fun. My 95 year old grandmother still knows how to laugh, how to have a good time, and how to give her grand-daughter a hard time. Which is great, because then it gives me material to write about, hee hee.

Yesterday, my mom and I took my grandma out for Chinese food. She loves Chinese – and since she was having a good day, it was a day to celebrate. My kids were spending the day with my in-laws, so it was just us ‘girls.’ We got all dressed up to have a nice lunch together. But when I came out in my version of all dressed up, my grandma…

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A Little Reflection

So I’ve been needing to start on my vacation tidbits, but honestly, I was allowing the political tone of the world to get me down. So this morning with my coffee, I read this post by my fellow blogger, Don, and was listening to this song I wrote at the same time. Here are both for you. I pray that if you’re down, it reminds you to look up.

The Life Project

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It’s Sunday again; what better day for a little reflection?

Has God been filling your life with blessings?  Has he given you peace in a tough situation?

Well, you see what I mean by reflection…

We spend so much time and energy running ourselves ragged these days, and so much of our lives just rushes by in a sort of blur; we need a moment, so it’s time to seize the moment.  Let’s give thanks to God for all He is doing in our lives, let’s thank Him for all of the ways He’s blessed us.  Let’s recall the great things He has done, like sending His Son to die for our sins.  Let’s take a minute to give Him the praise that is His due for all He is doing in His Body, the Church.  Let’s praise Him for all of those who have come to know Him recently…

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Perseverance can be broken down in First Steps

STEP 1: Identify the first obstacle.

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STEP 2: Face the fears that the obstacle brings up. How do you face fears? Well, the best way is biblically. For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind. The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Ps. 27:1)

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STEP 3: Keep climbing over the obstacle, despite the difficulties.

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STEP 4: Do that again.

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See, Perseverance is all about ‘keeping on.’ I get knocked down, but I get up again, you know? Pressing on doesn’t mean victory every time. It means going through the wins and losses and moving ahead. By the way, you can’t keep going if you don’t know where you’re headed. Maybe I’ll write about that one day.

all photos were taken one day we spent up on White Wash in ABQ NM. great day with the family 🙂

Pressing On

This will be two-part, as I want to dive into the tie-in that this can have with my last post, Admitting Defeat. If you didn’t read that one, please do so either before or after you peruse these thoughts.

DSCN0303So the thoughts I’m going to share today might at first seem to be a retraction of what I wrote previously. They are not. This is simply the other side of the coin. But let me first define some words to help us be sure that what I wrote before still holds true in my thinking in light of what I have to say now…

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE WORDS QUIT AND DEFEAT:

Quit mean to depart from, leave; to have done with, to forsake. This word is something we choose to do, it’s our reaction to situations.

to [be] Defeated: to [be] beat; victory won over [you]; to [be] prevented success. This word is something that happens to you. But notice with me something interesting: in order to experience defeat, it implies that a person would have to have been trying, fighting, and going for success. And trying against some kind of opposition. You usually aren’t defeated by nothing (that should be defined as quitting). And admitting defeat does not have to follow with quitting. The two can be separated.

So what do we do then after we’ve had to admit an area we’ve been defeated? We try again. We press on. And we do so in better ways: learning from the past lost victory, and moving forward.

Let me go back to that tiny incident that prompted me to write about defeat in the first place: my sprained ankle that is still not better (as I’ve heard is quite normal). What did I do the next day? Did I give up and sit on the couch all day long? No, I learned from it. I learned my limitations, and I tried again inside those limitations. I attempted a very small workout the next day, and it went well. When I had some swelling, I stopped and put my foot up for a few minutes with ice.

When we’ve been physically defeated, we need to admit it, evaluate it, and try again with gained knowledge how not to lose. When we’ve been mentally defeated, we need to take time to reflect, pray, and go at it again with a different mind-set. When we’ve been spiritually defeated – ah, that’s the tricky one! – we need to admit it to God, and try again, in HIS strength, not our own.

Press on, my friend, but not in a stubborn way that doesn’t change from the first time. Let the little defeats be admitted (that’s called humility) and learn how to try again (that’s called pressing on, or perseverance).

Admitting Defeat

I am not good at that at all. I will fight to the bitter end before I admit I am done. Nothing gets me down! I will not stop and say ‘okay, you’ve got me, I’m done in!’

Which can often be my un-doing. It’s probably better just to admit when I’ve been beat. Which is what I fought doing today…

I write tonight as I sit with my foot propped up and throbbing still from a five-week old sprain. I almost admitted the need to sit back and rest. At least, I told the dance teacher at Irish step dancing that I’d have to put my account on hold for a while. But then I came home, still not ready to throw in the towel and mowed the lawn. Yes, now it is throbbing.

Jacob was also a man who didn’t want to admit defeat (read more about that in Genesis 32). He had his fears, he had his moments of admitting many other things. But when he wrestled with the Angel of God, he just wouldn’t give up. “NOT UNTIL…” he said, as he clung to His feet.

What will it take for me to give up? Not until I’m dog-tired, broken, and incapacitated? Not until the argument is won even though the friendship is lost? Not until I break down and cry it out and realize I can’t do it all? Not until I’ve burned every bridge in an attempt to prove that I can do it myself?

It takes more than courage to come to the place where you say, okay I cannot. I’ve given it my best, and I am not adequate. Then, a door opens, and there is room for Someone to step in who is: is what? Is adequate, sufficient, capable, and kind. That moment that we ‘give up’ and let God, that’s a much better moment than any victory won at all costs.

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(took this photo at the Pumpkin festival in Ludwigsburg October 2014)

Ruined.

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Darn this blogging! And finding out there is quite a bit of great stuff to read online. And not feeling the least inclination to watch mindless Youtube funny videos, tune out to a Netflix show, or play stupid Facebook games.

Now of course there’s also a lot of things I can waste my time reading. But content aside for a second (technically this post has no true content, so bear with me) I am becoming so strong of an advocate to READ! You can listen to your favorite music and read; you can sip your favorite relaxing beverage and read, you can even read with others! It doesn’t have to be a solitary thing. Although my favorite times to take in a book are late and by myself. Or out in the sun on a blanket with my kids enjoying their own latest story of choice.

But what does the blogging have to do with a strengthened desire to read? Well, because even when i think I’m in the mood to kick back and not engross my mind in the thinking processes necessary to take in Dostoevsky, I am discovering I still don’t want to tune out on making little marbles line up with colors. I want to hear what someone had to type. Light enough to not tax my thinking powers, but just enough thought-provoking to keep relaxed and engaged at the same time. And usually short enough to get through a few before I shut down the screen and hit the pillow.

So cheers to you bloggers, thanks for sharing thoughts, ideas, and experiences. You’ve grown me a little.

(okay, 2 last things to say: this picture I’ve been dying to use ever since my friend forwarded it to me a couple of months ago. yes, that was ours to enjoy together over fajitas, but it’s okay, all was fine in the end… nothing ruined. And second, a little challenge: are you looking for mindless entertainment? Instead of couch-potato posture over something that not just wastes time but possibly braincells, try reading about a subject you find interesting. Start light, and see where it leads)

Sitting on the Edge: By Cheryl

I asked, and you’ve started sharing! Thank you! So here’s the first, ‘Sitting on the Edge’ By Cheryl:

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“Right now in my life we are facing several unknowns….

The edge of a new adventure in business for my husband.
The edge of a new job working for an established entity with its rules, regulations, and protocol; for my husband. He has for most of his life run his own company.
The edge of Life itself ending for my aging Mother , who is 96.
The edge of discovering how I can juggle  time for art, caring for my Mom, helping at the office, being there for my grandchildren, and now perhaps the addition of some temporary house guests.
Life does that. Deals out surprises both good and not so good. We are forever on the edge of self-discovery as we rise to the challenges that God allows in our life. Living on the Edge causes me to look up, not down. To take note of where I am going, not where I have been. There is no place my foot can go but God knows it already and has prepared a foothold for me to continue my upward climb. What heights I can soar to! What vision and clarity there is on the top of the precipice!
Facing life’s challenges is only successful if I face them with the Lord. He is my rock, my fortress, my ever present help in time of need. And I need Him more than ever when I find myself on the Edge. “