Christmas Cookies

“My sugar cookie tastes like peanut butter!” my hubs proclaimed as he chomped on the first tastes of the new year.

We had compiled a tin of all of our favorites Christmas cookies to enjoy on our return trip from spending the holiday in Colorado. Mom made all our favorites: sugar cookies, peanut butter marble whorls, peanut bars, lemon bars…

Christmas Cookies

Christmas Cookies

Yet, once thrown all into the same container and left to sit for a day or two, all of them tasted like peanut butter!

I tested for myself 8)

I’m always amazed at how God speaks to us; through His creation, His church, the magnificence of a sunset, the brilliance of poetry, and…Christmas cookies.

I’m amazed at how my resolution to quit cussing is quickly washed away when I spend an hour or two in a traffic jam.

I’m appalled at my nightmares and thoughts after I watch a few horror movies and listen to some “angry music.”

When I watch enough late night tv, I simply want to eat burgers and go shopping for the latest …whatever!—This world has its temptations and can permeate into us so easily…

Yet,when we throw ourselves in with the love of family, time with friends, more enjoyment, laughter, memory making, joy, kindness, hope and– peanut butter; we tend to be more hopeful, enjoyable, and filled with the fragrance of love and laughter—it permeates and emanates.

“O be careful little eyes what you see…

O be careful little ears what you hear…

O be careful little hands what you do…

O be careful little feet where you go…

O be careful little mouth what you say…”

Recently, a good friend of mine stated, “I’m done wasting my time on people who aren’t okay with who they are. I want to spend more time with people who are at ease and know who they are!”

I get it. Those people can permeate into us and make us feel … well, we can feel less, feel guilt, and not feel okay.

Yet, sometimes these people are our co-workers, our friends, our family. So…what then?

I think God asks us to be the fragrance of change. Be the fragrance of forgiveness. Be the hope of things being okay.

He asks us to be the peanut butter.

May your 2016 be filled with the fragrances of gentleness, gratitude, hope, kindness and Christmas cookies.

Are you ready?

 

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Here we are: December 16th. Nine days away from Christmas!

“Are you ready?”

I’ve been hearing this question asked at the bank, at my work potluck, in line at the stores…It CRACKS me up!

Christmas comes the same time and date each year. Not like Easter, that one can mess you up. Christmas has been December 25th for about 2000 years. So, it’s not like we weren’t told about it in advance. How come people aren’t ready?

ANTICIPATION

One of the most tantalizing feelings this time of year is the anticipation leading up to this special day. I remember it well as a child.–The inability to get to sleep on December 24th. My heart beating so rapidly as the agonizing wait for 6 am (this was the absolute earliest my parents would allow for us to awake them!) and we had to bring them with us when we went downstairs to find out if all that “being good” in the weeks prior had put us on Santa’s NICE list —

SURPRISE-What did Santa bring you?

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Unfortunately, one of the biggest surprises this time of year is the VOID.

Some face the VOID of celebrating their first (or second, or third…) Christmas without their loved one.

For others there’s the VOID felt in the bank account, leaving nothing for gifts.

Amidst all the beautiful lights, wreath adorned doors, the hustle and bustle and gatherings, there are those for whom this is NOT the most wonderful time of the year. 

I’ll never forget the surprise of my very first out of state Christmas working at Phoenix Police Department. I swallowed the lump in my throat after wishing “Merry Christmas” to family and friends far away as I clocked in for my overnight shift working the holiday. I fully expected the night to be filled with bookings from partying: DUI’s and noise violations from all the celebrating…

Surprise!

The most common arrests I saw that night were the domestic violence and family assaults.

Not everyone has a family they enjoy celebrating the holiday with. That Christmas felt like a “Reverse Grinch” moment happened to me as my heart cinched up and threatened to break.

My heart has these moments when I hear a parent threaten their overly rambunctious child, “Christmas is canceled this year!”

My heart breaks every Black Friday when I watch humanity crawl and punch their way to the front line for the door-busting deals.

My heart breaks when I see the VOID left in this world.

The only cure for this heart break and void is the VERY reason why I love this season and this time of the year.

No matter how dysfunctional your family may be, no matter how misbehaved your children are, no matter how empty your bank account is, you have available a reason to celebrate–the same reason the shepherds, three wise men and a young couple with nothing celebrated in a manger  2000 years ago.

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Every year, I picture Linus in the Charlie Brown Christmas Special telling Charlie the TRUE meaning of Christmas:

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 Lord came 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 unto you; Ye 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.”
Luke 2:8-14 (KJV)

He came to heal the brokenhearted.  He fills the void. He is the very reason for the season. So, the real question is:

Are you ready for Him?

 

 

Which Way are You Going?

Which Way Are You Going?

I-10 tip line

I-10 tip line

These I-10 shootings in Phoenix have everyone talking. There’ve been fourteen recent shootings so far attributed to the possible “sniper.”

They’ve been saying to be vigilant, be aware, be cautious; these shootings are notIMG_20150912_181400268_HDR only an act of domestic terrorism, but they are just inches away from tragedy.

I’ve heard the fear in voices and seen the fright in the eyes of those who continue to talk of it.

I listened to stories of people taking alternate routes to avoid the frightening freeways where the shooter has struck. I’ve heard of those wearing helmets and seeking bulletproof windshields.

And I’ve heard the opposite—people continuing down 1-10 and refusing to live in fear or be a victim.

I’ve heard of people doing nothing.

And I’ve heard, “What shooter?”

To me, it’s yet another reminder that, at any given moment, you may “get that call” or find yourself caught in someone’s cross-hairs and be GONE.

Truth is we never know when we will breathe our last breath.

But there is ONE who does know.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Psalm 139:13
And there’s an enemy out there even more deadly than the shooter.

He seeks to kill and destroy every soul that travels on every freeway in fright.

On each rough and rocky road he sits in wait.

Even those unsuspecting, he has in his cross-hairs.

And he is really, really skilled.IMG_20150912_150626437

Each of us reacts differently to this news. Each of us must choose a way—

And it is a Life or death choice.

“Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ –Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life.’”—John 4:5-6

Some fear death, uncertain of their futures and their “ever after.” You see it in their eyes and in their voices-They’re avoiding I-10.

Some ignore warnings and do nothing. They continue down their rough roads never knowing what might lie in wait around the next corner.

Some will take vitamins, exercise, live a good life and embrace their present, putting their trust in things of this w
orld. They spent a lot on the bulletproof windshield.

Yet, there is One way through this.IMG_20150912_144753187

This way was “paved” over 2000 years ago.

“Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth.” Luke 3:5

Those of us who choose this Way will be prepared. Yet, we will rest assured, travel fearlessly, walk in love and know where our Help comes from—it’s better than bullet proof glass.

And It lasts for eternity.

“The LORD keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.” Psalm 128:1

We know the Way is Jesus who protects His children from any enemies’ crosshairs.

He paved the Way for each of us.

 “All of creation

All of the earth

Make straight a highway

A path for the Lord

Jesus is coming soon”

Kristian Stanfill

I know the Way I am traveling.

Highway to Heaven

Which way will you choose?

he prayed…He answered

“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” –Matthew 7:11

he prayed

About his dreams, his prosperity, his family

he prayed

he prayed and asked,

“Why? Why? Why?”

Why no answers to his prayers and why take her so soon?

he kept asking

And he quit praying

Until IT happened

On his knees, bewildered, scared, confused, in pain

he cried for the  future being taken from him, for the pain in his body and for the overwhelming fear

he cried out to God…

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He went away to be by Himself

He prayed

“Father can I save him?”

You know not what you ask of me, my one and only Son

“Your will, not my own…”

He answered Him with–a future being taken from Him, with pain in His body and an overwhelming fear

He cried out to God,

“Why have you forsaken me?”

And then the Peace came

he knew not what to ask for anymore

he prayed and cried out to God again

He answered with His Peace

And saved all who came to Him.

He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed.”

1 Peter 2:24

De-Light-Full

Heidi Rosner's "Pick me!"

Heidi Rosner’s “Pick me!”

“Life is full of light and shadow.

Oh the joy and oh the sorrow…

Oh the sorrow…”-David Crowder Band

I have a friend who is a very talented artist. A relative of mine had just met her and was exposed to her artwork at the Celebration of Fine Art.

She said to me, “Your neighbor is just delightful!”

I love that.

Delightful.

Don’t we need more of that in life?

And my artist friend is delightful. She says of her own art, “I paint happy.”

I love knowing the “heart behind the art.”

One of my favorite works of her art is a fabulous watercolor with these joyous sunflowers. I believe she titled it– “Pick me, Pick me!” It was her description of the process that has stuck with me.

It’s been years since she described it, but this is my recollection:

“It is one of my goals to capture the process. I paint to capture the movement of a flower lifting its head toward the light of the sun.”–Heidi Rosner

Nature reflecting life. Truly.

If you’ve ever received a bouquet of sunflowers or been in a field where they grow, you’ve felt the mass that makes up the flower—it is quite heavy! Then, when that bouquet is a few days old, and the neck of the flower grows weary, you’ve seen the head drop, as though it bears the weight of a thousand pounds.

Isn’t this how we feel at time? Burdened, carrying the weight of the world, downright exhausted, anything but happy.

Oh the sorrow…

Yet life is full of both, light and shadow.

Some are great at painting “happy” while others reflect more of the “shadows.”

What would you “paint?”

There are times in life where it’s difficult to look to the light; to find joy when your heart is sorrowful, to find the ease when everything in life feels toilsome. It’s just NOT a “Joel Osteen”-day.

We are all going to have stormy days. Dark times will come our way; some self-inflicted and some not.

“We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows. Like the blind we grope along the wall, felling our way like men without eyes.” Isaiah 59:9

We live in a broken, fallen world. Keep in mind, we’ve been warned, “In this world you will have trouble”—John 16:33

But there is hope.

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5

“He reveals the deep things of darkness and brings deep shadows into the light,” said Job. And he knew some pretty dark times. Job 12:22

I have this friend whose husband arrives to work before the dawn rises. Yet, every day, as she awakens from her empty bed at home and rises to get her coffee, she is greeted by his text message– he sends her a picture of the sunrise.  Every morning.

Sunrise from Bruce

Sunrise from Bruce

Not all of those texts are full of light. But he is faithful each day in doing this.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” Lamentations 3:23

There is something so mysteriously fabulous, so hope-filled in the dawn of a new day.

“Your glory, God, is what our hearts long for, to be overcome by your presence, Lord.”-Francesca Batistelli

“Your love, O Lord, is like the mighty mountains. Your faithfulness stretches to the sky.”-Third Day

Another sunrise from Bruce

Another sunrise from Bruce

Like each new dawn, God is faithful to us. When we stumble around in the dark, He is merciful. When life pitches us into some dark depths, He holds our heads in His hands.

As I have brought to the light the many areas that I stumble in, God is faithful to forgive, to love and to assist in healing those areas.

Jesus said, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” John 12:46

My hope and prayer is that, regardless of what this broken and shadowy filled world can throw at you, in spite of circumstances filled with darkness that each moment you choose to look to the light, exposing your sorrows and places of darkness to the healing light of the Lord, that your weary heart finds new strength to persevere for another day.

And, as life imitates nature, that your heart and head are uplifted with the light of every new day.

Tomorrow, or the next day, or the next… May you take the time to witness God’s faithfulness stretch across the sky and may you have a moment to bask in the dawning palate of hope that lights a new day of de-light.

ANOTHER sunrise from Bruce

ANOTHER sunrise from Bruce

Magic Wrinkle Remover!

It is 82 degrees outside in sunny Scottsdale, Arizona. Bet you can’t guess what I am doing?
Ironing. (Okay, AND writing about it!) 😉

If you know me at all, put down the phone and stop dialing 9-1-1. I have not been abducted by aliens. Yet, I am ironing. I’ve not ironed in three years. And three years ago, I picked up an iron in a gesture of utter sacrifice and ironed my husband’s shirt because he was running late.

(Note: he hasn’t asked me to iron anything again?!)

Before that, it was easily ten years since I held an iron in my hands!
I don’t buy stuff that needs ironing, even if it is on SUPER DUPER SALE. I dislike spending any of my time on this household chore. –I’d rather be at a weeklong convention about taxes! And, again, if you know me (or see me out!)-it shows that I don’t iron. I’m just not any good at it.

But this weekend I cleaned out my closet. The rules were:

DONATE THE ITEM IF IT MEETS THESE THREE FACTORS:
1) It’s not been worn in over a year
2) It’s too small (my darn dryer keeps shrinking all my clothes!) 😉
3) It’s too old and outdated

So I dug in.

Buried in the way back of the closet by the old cowboy boots, yoga bag and warm fuzzy robe, I found not only an iron but also the ironing board I bought at Good Will for $4.98 fifteen years ago! And as I went through every clothing item, subjecting them to the above Three Factors, I came across three things that put me in a quandary: a pair of Columbia khakis, a periwinkle blue pixie skirt and a cap sleeved silver blouse. All three items didn’t meet the above criteria—they were all things I truly wear, are nearly new, and that still actually fit me. I was tempted to donate them solely because they needed ironing.  But I haven’t used the iron and ironing board…Maybe those two things should go?? 😉

iron stuff

Yet, since I’ve inherited issues with discarding things of value (just read my Blog post “Are YOU a boxaholic!”)– I am spending my “sunshine time” IRONING my three salvaged items.

Do they even know how very close they came to being tossed out along with the old wool sweater and acid wash blue jeans?

I know these items don’t appreciate the magnitude of the sacrifice I am making on this glorious spring day. But, I do know the value of having freshly ironed clothes (even if I didn’t appreciate it “way back when!”) My mother sacrificed many a day for my sister and me in this household task that she is extremely skilled in. She spent days, MONTHS realistically, in the room actually designated the “Ironing Room.” She had a process she followed (still does!), all the tools at hand, and support items to transform the wrinkled, worn items. When she was done with her magic, she transformed clothes into beautiful, creases-only-in-all-the-right-places, almost BRAND NEW looking outfits. Growing up, teachers even commented on my freshly pressed clothing! (That NEVER happened in college when I was doing my own laundry–or any time after that!) Yet that truth doesn’t make me change my anti-ironing ways.

Until today.

Two weeks ago when it rained through the weekend, I could’ve done this, but I delayed it until today.

So it is.
I try to somehow channel my mother’s abilities into my hands, this iron and this squirt bottle. I say a little prayer; I breathe deep and press on. 😉

I begin with the most difficult item—the pants. They haven’t been ironed in at least four washes and have lots of pleats and pockets. The spritz, spritz, spritz of the water bottle and the hiss of the iron make me smile as the wrinkles dissipate from the fabric. What powers I yield holding this hot iron!
While I try to focus at not making more creases than I began with, I think this might be how God looks at us. Does He begin His work on us in the hardest parts of our lives?
Hasn’t it been the difficult things of life where I’ve discovered God working on me? And it’s in these very same areas that I’ve felt intense intimacy with a God who loves me just as I am, but also loves me too much to leave me that way. As He skillfully works at the creases and valleys of my life (and each of our lives), He is merciful enough to spritz us with a balm of His cooling grace and forgiveness to protect us as we adapt. Each wrinkle that is lifted away brings us closer to looking the way God already sees us.

Because, as we’re told, in the end, we will all look different.

“That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” –Ephesians 5:27

As I iron over the fabric, a few stains appear that the wash didn’t quite get out of the pants. –I think this is also like us—the world tends to leave its mark on us from time to time: the scars of our past choices, the sins that so easily entangle, the wounds suffered from living in this fallen, broken world…But as my iron eases over these places, I believe that God knows there will be events in our lives leaving their marks on us.

iron

As I have adapted on this journey, I am equipped my own set of tools to utilize against these blemishes. I will try to remember to try to work on these stains with the aid of some “magic items” before the next wash. Again, in the end of all of these efforts, we will all look different.

Psalm 51:7 “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.”

As I move onto the delicate fabric of the blouse, I change the temperature of the iron and I ensure a few extra squirts of the bottle to protect it. I think on the times where God’s work in me has been slow and steady, not burning and resulting in immediate change. To have gone from the cursing, partying, wild college girl, to where I am today…These changes took years. And there are still times I fall back into old behavior patterns.– I think again on how God’s work in us is not to harm us, but to make us look different in the end.

I finish my three pieces of ironing and examine them. In my eyes, they hardly look different than when I began. I chuckle a bit at this truth realized in my own journey. Bottom line, this isn’t the end. The efforts made at ironing will have to be made again and again. After the next wash, I will try again with these items, hoping for better results and a few less stains.
And God is faithful in his transformation of us.

The only thing constant in life is change.

God is continually refining each and every one of us along the way. I don’t have it all figured it out, and I probably never will. Yet, as each of us advances in our journey, may you find encouragement in God’s refreshing mercies (which are new every day!) And as He works on your “wrinkles, creases” and difficult areas,  may His grace guide you along, protecting the fabric of who you are, with the goal that, in the end, we will all look brand new!

“Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, 4and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Revelation 21:4-5

Are You a Box-aholic?

BOXES!!

BOXES!!

I am a box-aholic. I admit it, so now the healing can begin. Right?

I discovered the depth of my problem last weekend as we cleaned out closets. More than 26 boxes were broken down and sent to the recycle bin (as I breathed deeply into a paper sack!) And that number, 26, didn’t include the boxes my husband allowed me to keep (lots of them—Just in case one is needed to ship something, or to protect a gift, or…)

I hate wasting a good box. I define a “good box” as one that has little damage, is not marked up or overly labeled (and will fit nicely inside the other boxes my husband allowed me to keep!) 😉 😉

As my disorder was unfolding before me (breathing in my paper bag, watching my husband break down the boxes for the recycle bin) my husband asked, “Do you have enough other boxes for your needs?”

I heaved in a breath, “Yes. I think so.”

“Okay, then this is okay. This clears up space…” He looks at me with his patient and understanding eyes. Yet, a little question was hiding behind them.

I guess I just love the order of a box. It’s nice shape, its ability to wrap and protect things. I also love having them when I need them and I always have the perfect size available to me! (Or at least I used to!) 😉

And let’s get deeper and more honest, I love receiving boxes. Care packages, Amazon.com orders, birthday presents all bundled up, even the cat-foot order or shipments for my husband’s business…

Opening them up with the wonderment and (sometimes) surprise usually reserved for Christmas morning.

All these things add to my unhealthy attachment to this lightweight, mauve-colored item of little worth.

So what is it with the boxes?

ORDERING –This goes to a deeper issue that I will tackle after I get through this one. But the ordering of items on-line is so great! Just the press of a few buttons, a little plastic card entered, and a few days later…gratification! AND A BOX!2011-03-23_20-39-12_841

My cats understand this—they love the boxes also! Rubbing on them, jumping in and out of them, playing hide and seek, lazing the day away in them. They totally get me.

And isn’t recycling a good thing? I always try to re-use them for good purpose (and hold onto the good ones for a special occasion!)  <–And that right there is called “Justification!”

As I write through this problem (and realize I have it deeply as evidenced by my joy and wonderment as the cyber-Monday packages arrive daily), I discovered the root.

ORDER

Not so much the ordering (on-line) but the ORDER. There is symmetry to boxes; the shape alone. There is the challenge of fitting the maximum amount of boxes inside one another, so my husband will allow me to keep more! There is control in placing an order and receiving a box. I find it magical!

But life is not like this; all packaged up perfectly, with symmetry, control, and ORDER.

Life is born out of chaos and this broken world rarely hand-delivers exactly what we asked for.

How often have I prayed for one thing, and received something entirely different?

When my father’s cancer arrived, packaged up with a 6 month sentence on his life, I tried to return it.

As I mourned and then watch several friends suffer through heartbreaking losses of loved ones, one after the other, I know they didn’t order that—ABSOLUTELY NO RETURNS.

What kind of customer service is that?

Yet, as I look back on all these “un-ordered” things that I have been through; the messiness of life, the reality of life, — I can honestly say that it has been during these times– the intense helplessness and in the darkest of moments that the free-fall of faith has been the sustaining and strengthening of my soul.

“DECEMBER 10

MAKE ME THE FOCAL POINT of your search for security. In your private thoughts, you are still trying to order your world so that it is predictable and feels safe. Not only is this an impossible goal, but it is also counterproductive to spiritual growth. When your private world feels unsteady and you grip My hand for support, you are living in conscious dependence on Me.

Instead of yearning for a problem-free life, rejoice that trouble can highlight your awareness of My Presence…”  Sarah Young in “JESUS CALLING”

Did God somehow know that I would need to hear that answer today, as I am delving into my box-aholism?

Now that’s customer service!

And it’s not that I rejoice in this world’s troubles; there are simply things that are so awful, like Alzheimer’s, cancer, Ebola, child abuse, riots, etc., but I rejoice that there is One at work in all of it. He’s working through each of us to make a difference, to bring a courageous face, to bring hope to shine His light through these circumstances.

I rejoice that I know the One who gave his life up so that I could live without the shackles and bondage that sin and death are wreaking in our broken world.

As I give up on trying to make order out of things that show up on my door-step and just figure out what to keep and what to let go, I grow in grace and maturity and dependence.

As I prepare another bin of recycling and let go of the desire to wrap things up nicely in one of my “good boxes,” and instead I grip the hand of the One who put order into the universe, I find peace.

1 Corinthians 14:33 “For God is not a god of disorder, but of peace…”