Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Year in Words

Last week, when I was cleaning out one of the three junk drawers in our kitchen, I found my Christmas letter from 2003. Yes, from ten years ago! I know, do I ever clean my cupboards or drawers! To make this find even better, the darn letter was three pages long! Single-spaced, standard margins, font size 12. Whoa! Has a consecutive series of 365 days in my life ever been that worthy of mention? No, and it wasn’t so ten years ago either. But it was fun to read it over and see what was going on then. Of course, I tucked the letter back into the folder and into the drawer.

This year’s Christmas letter barely made a single page. I don’t know that my life has become less exciting, but maybe I just find less excitement in it.

I won’t reiterate the entire letter here, just the highlights.

My son, my daughter, my husband and myself all continue to be gainfully employed. Nick has a puppy, Val has a live-in boyfriend, Himey has ME.

Val and I returned to Kenya this spring. Me for two weeks and Val for three months. When she came home she started a nonprofit organization, Tumaini Volunteers, Inc. I am supposed to be spending my spare time working on the IRS forms to get tax exempt status but I just haven’t done it.

My second book, “The Christmas Story in 40 Days”, was published in the fall. I admit that I have been disappointed in sales, but the bigger disappointment is how much of a slacker I have been in marketing it. I don’t know how other authors do it; I just am not a salesperson more than an hour or two a week.

The hubby and I went to Lifest in July and to Milwaukee on vacation in September. I ran in a 5K in July. That’s about all that I can think of that happened this year that is worth mentioning. I also have no resolutions for the New Year, in case you were wondering.

Somewhere or other, I saw a thing about having a word for the year. An uplifting or inspiring word, like “Hope” or “Achieve” or “Diet”. (I don’t know if “diet” was one of the examples, but it could be someone’s word.)

I thought about choosing such a word, something to put on my bulletin board, to keep in my head to keep me motivated. I have yet to select a word. Maybe you can suggest one, or at least pick a word for yourself. Let me know.

Have a safe and happy New Year. 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Surrounded with Blessings

For the last six weeks, I have shared with you passages from my book “The Christmas Story in 40 Days”. For the past one week, I have been wondering what to write about today. Should I post a passage about the wise men visiting the Christ child? Should I post about the real meaning of Christmas? Should I reflect on the past year?

Still, this morning, nothing concrete had come to me. And so, instead of throwing together a meaningless article because I have to post something on my blog (and considering I didn’t write one for Thursday), I wasn’t going to write a blog post again today. Yet here I am.

Yesterday I took a short walk through my woods (my woods isn’t very big, so I had little choice in making it a short walk). I am so blessed to live where I do, have the family and friends that I have, be able to share my life with Dino the Wonder Dog. What it all boils down to, as great as of all this is, it would still just be “stuff” had God’s Son not come to Earth and lived among us. He is there in the people I love, in the pets I am allowed to raise, in the trees and in the snow. He is everywhere, surrounding me with His love.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:1-3 NIV

(I am such a slacker today. This is the Bible passage that came up on Bible Gateway, the website where I look up verses. I thought it would work.)

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Remember What We Are Celebrating

Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself
Luke 2:19 The Message Bible

Every mother has high hopes for her baby from the minute he or she is born. What will he grow up to be? Who will she look like? Will he be smart? Will she be popular? A million questions run through every mother’s head when she sees her newborn baby. Mary had the same questions, and one more that we wouldn’t ask. What will happen to the Son of God?

If you have read the entire Bible or have never opened one, if you’re in church every weekend or just for funerals and weddings, you probably know the story well. You know how this baby’s life on this earth ends. Most people have heard that the baby Jesus grew up and shared the truth about His Father, only to die an unimaginably painful death on a cross.

Imagine that you are Mary or Joseph, and you could see your baby’s future and know that horrible end? How could you have any joy in your life? Believe it or not, God knew the horrible end His Son would face, and He sent His Son to us anyway, so we would not have to face that pain ourselves. That is how much God loves us. He sent Jesus as a sacrifice, a perfect Lamb, to die in our place.

(From "The Christmas Story in 40 Days".)

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Countdown to Christmas - Week 6

The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.” 
Luke 2:10-12 The Message Bible

The shepherds had been told about a baby born in Bethlehem and the angel was there to convince these men to go visit the infant. The angel told them several of the names that the baby would one day be called. In Isaiah 9:6, there is an even longer list of names: Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Throughout Scripture, Jesus has even more titles – the Anointed One, Redeemer, Emmanuel.

Why so many names for one person? Well, why not? There are not enough superlatives to describe Jesus. There is not just one name that expresses who He is. He is the One.

Do you have a nickname? Does your spouse call you "sweetheart,” or "honey,” or some other affectionate name? Did your mom call you by your full name when you were in trouble? The name we were given at birth is important, but sometimes the names that we go by matter just as much.

(Every Sunday for the last six weeks, I shared an excerpt from “The Christmas Story in 40 Days”. A friend of mine gave me a rubber duckie Nativity set to add to my rubber duckie collection. I went a little crazy taking pictures of these ducks, but hopefully, if you find my words boring, at least the pictures have kept you coming back for more. Hopefully you have already ordered your copy of “The Christmas Story in 40 Days”. If not, we should keep Christmas in our hearts year-round, so it's really never to late to order. ) 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Snow Poem

The snow had been falling lightly that afternoon
Now though, as darkness settled
The temperature dropped        
The snow stopped
Not the usual route on my way home
The road no longer white with snow
But dirt brown and winter grey
Out of the corner of my eye
An older white Chevrolet
A split second to react
Do I swerve?
Do I brake?
Do I curse myself for not taking five minutes more
In the store?
Or less?
I am ok
The car is not
Some calls
Some paperwork
The temperature continues to drop
Underfoot on the side of the road
The fresh snow
Marked now only by my tracks. 

This month's poetry challenge was to write a poem which included snow in some way. You all know from past experience that I am not a poet, but still I try. As you may have guessed, I did not win this month's poetry challenge. My next poem about snow will have to include this beauty, which, if you follow me on Facebook, you know I never would have seen had my husband not taken me to work all week because my car is in the shop. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Minor Inconvenience

Last Thursday night at 6:30 was the retirement party for a co-worker. She had been working at our clinic almost as long as I have and I miss her already. I wanted to go her party, but it had been a crazy day at work, and even on a good day, I just want to go home and be anti-social after dealing with people for eight or nine hours.

I had one quick errand to run, so figured that if I could get out of work by ten to six, I could make that stop and arrive at the party fashionably early for a change. All went as planned. By 6:05 I was heading back through town on my way to the restaurant. As I drove through a busy intersection, movement caught my left eye. I turned to see another car barreling towards me. For a split second a hundred thoughts ran through my head. Should I swerve? Should I brake? What can I do to avoid this? And then there was impact.

Nothing I could have done. It just happened. In the wrong place at the wrong time. Oh, if I hadn’t ran up to the store, if I had stayed at work longer, if, if, if. It doesn’t matter how many scenarios a person runs through their head. Look up the definition of “accident”. It is something that just happens that you have no control over.

So I have been inconvenienced for the week. And I didn’t make it to the party.

How crazy is it that I can think of more good things to say than bad. No one got hurt. I have full coverage on my car, but it wasn’t my fault so the other guy’s insurance should pick up the bill, including the deductible. The body shop guy in town is a family friend. Honestly, I know he’s not going to give us a deal or finish my car before all the other vehicles in his garage, but I trust him and to me that is worth more than gold.

I was going to go Christmas shopping the next day, but I decided I would just have to stay home and clean house instead. Until a friend, who also had the day off, heard of my plight. She wanted to go shopping too, but didn’t want to go by herself. Not only did she do the driving, I melted into the heated seats of her truck. The ride there and back relaxed me so much that I didn’t care about much of anything after a while.

I bought everything on my list and had coupons and got good deals. At every checkout, I wanted to ask the clerk if they rang everything up because I couldn’t believe how low the bill was.

I wasn’t able to get a loaner car from the garage and my insurance policy doesn’t cover a rental car. Yes, since the other guy was at fault (in my opinion, though I have yet to receive a copy of the police report), his insurance should pay for a rental car, but how long is that going to take to go through, while in the meantime, I have to pay for the rental up front?

I feel like George Bailey from “It’s a Wonderful Life”. You don’t realize who your friends are until you need a ride back and forth to work for a week. One of our neighbors took me to church Saturday night, another one brought me home from work tonight. A co-worker brought me home last night. I’ve had lots of other offers. I feel so blessed and so loved. Who knew? 
 Think my cute little car will look this good again? 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Countdown to Christmas - Week 5

While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the inn. 
Luke 2:6-7 The Message Bible

Whenever I get to this part of the story, it puzzles me that Mary and Joseph traveled to the city of their ancestors, and no one in the village received them. Bethlehem was a little village; did they really have inns? It was not just off the interstate, and there was no Motel 6 to cater to the camel drivers. The word inn would be better translated inner room.

Joseph and Mary possibly found some relatives who would have given them lodging, but they already had house guests sleeping in their inner room or guest room. The only space left for company was the stable, which wasn’t a cave out back as usually depicted. Homes at the time often had an area for the animals in the same building. It made more sense that way; the animals would be kept safe, and they would throw off body heat to warm the house in the cold of night.

Yes, Jesus was probably placed in the manger – what a perfect crib that would make, don’t you think? But I picture that Mary was surrounded by female relatives along with the cattle and donkeys.

Why do we always see Mary and Joseph in this cave by themselves with the baby Jesus and the farm animals? Because Jesus was born in the most humble of places as foretold in Scripture. From these humble beginnings, He became King. At that time, you had to be born in a palace to ever become a king. So whether He was born in a cave or in the stable within the home of a common, working class family, He would never be able to rise to a position of ruling a kingdom. Of course, they did not realize at the time what it really meant to rule the kingdom – to rule the world.

If you have children, they were most likely born in a clean, bright hospital. Can you imagine giving birth any place else? Your bathroom floor? The back seat of a car? A barn? The women of the Bible never gave birth in a sterile environment. There were no such places back then. Why do you suppose God chose a stable for the birthplace of His Son when He could have chosen any other place? 

(Every Sunday from now until Christmas, I will be sharing an excerpt from “The Christmas Story in 40 Days”. A friend of mine gave me a rubber duckie Nativity set to add to my rubber duckie collection. I went a little crazy taking pictures of these ducks, but hopefully, if you find my words boring, at least the pictures over the next six weeks will keep you coming back for more. And if you don’t find my words boring, don’t forget to get your copy of “The Christmas Story in 40 Days”. If you order today, you will still get it in time for Christmas.)

Friday, December 13, 2013

"let there be light"

This month's photo challenge was the use of light. The assignment is to post two or three pictures where "light takes center stage and commands your attention". That leaves the door wide open for me, and also does not mean there is a chance that I can post only a few pictures. So sorry to continue to be non-compliant on the Personal Photo Challenge. 

The first two pictures were taken in my yard one evening a few years ago. Honestly, the pictures were not retouched. This is the way the eerie sky actually appeared following a late afternoon shower.

This next two pictures show how different the sky can look when the sun is behind the clouds. 

And finally these last two shots were taken out of two different windows at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, at different times of the day. They certainly show what a difference the outside light or lights can make.

All of these photos were taken with my Nikon Coolpix digital camera. If I remember correctly, all of the automatic settings were on for all six pix.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

This Week in Hatchet Creek

Sometimes I am so self-centered. For the past three and a half years, I have written about myself on this blog, a total of 702 posts! Sure, I’ve written about kids in Peru and Kenya and other places around the world, I’ve shared some sad stories and some uplifting stories about others. But generally it has been about me, my family, my travels, my dog.

I paged through my weekly hometown paper tonight and remembered that even when the world is so big and I want to journal about it all, there still is this little place in Wisconsin that I come home to.

So, in the spirit of Garrison Keillor, here is the news this week from Hatchet Creek.

Notification went out on Friday December 6 that Shopko had bought out the Stoxens Pharmacy. Earlier in the spring Shopko had bought out the locally owned and run Northbay Pharmacy. That alone caused quite a stir around town. Shortly after that first buyout, Shopko began construction of a building north of town, which opened just last month. Touted as Your Hometown Shopko, there isn’t a lot of feeling towards the store being about any hometown of ours. With the demise of the latest (and last) locally run pharmacy, sentiment is that our town is being sold out to big business.

Yet our hometown roots run deep. On Saturday, the 7th, there was a memorial service for our town’s biggest claim to fame. Jay Leggett, Hollywood actor, writer and director had died of a heart attack the opening day of deer hunting season. The irony is that just a few years ago he had produced a movie about the sacredness of the deer hunt in northern Wisconsin. What better way to go than by doing what you love.

One thing few of us love here in the Northwoods is the unseasonably cold weather we have been having this month. We know where we live, and we accept that the morning temperatures will be below zero come January. But the first week in December the thermometer shouldn’t register that low. The fear is what will January bring? Besides a plethora of ice shacks on the lakes.

Or what will next week bring for that matter? We’ll see if anything exciting happens in my hometown in the next week. Until then, that’s all that’s new in Hatchet Creek where all the women are stunning, all the men are burly, and all the children are addicted to their smart phones. 
Just one of the sorrows in our town in the winter.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Countdown to Christmas - Week 4

The birth of Jesus took place like this. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. Before they came to the marriage bed, Joseph discovered she was pregnant. (It was by the Holy Spirit, but he didn’t know that.) Joseph, chagrined but noble, determined to take care of things quietly so Mary would not be disgraced. Matthew 1:18-19 The Message Bible

To be engaged to someone at this time was as legally binding as being married. The only difference was that the couple was not yet living together, and thus, unlike many couples today, not sleeping together. Joseph’s only option when he found out that Mary was pregnant was to cancel the marriage contract and divorce her. He could have done this publicly and given the masses the right to stone her. Or he could do it quietly in front of two witnesses, which would save Mary’s honor and her life.

Joseph had a lot to think about. When we are faced with difficulties, do we look at all possible solutions? Do we submit to God's authority? Or do we plunge in and do the first thing we think of? Next time you have a challenge to face, look at all your options before taking action. And most importantly, take time to pray.

(Every Sunday from now until Christmas, I will be sharing an excerpt from “The Christmas Story in 40 Days”. A friend of mine gave me a rubber duckie Nativity set to add to my rubber duckie collection. I went a little crazy taking pictures of these ducks, but hopefully, if you find my words boring, at least the pictures over the next six weeks will keep you coming back for more. And if you don’t find my words boring, don’t forget to order your copy of “The Christmas Story in 40 Days” before the forty days is up.)

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Winter Words

What’s your favorite “winter” word? You know, what word conjures up snow and hot cocoa, a cold wind blowing outside while you are curled up in front of the fire, the wood crackling and popping as it burns. Ice skating. Snowmen and snow forts. A warm bed after a cold day outside. Cuddles. Friends.


 Ok, here is my word. I love this word. It always makes me feel cozy as toast. I picture someone being strong and invincible wearing black and red plaid. But I also see someone who is small and vulnerable wearing a purple and pink nightgown when I hear this word.  Flannel. That’s all I can say about that.   

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Late for the November Photo Challenge

The Personal Photo Challenge for November was "Layering Textures". Which means the assignment was to "expand and test your creativity skills. With digital editing, you will apply textured layers to photographic images to enhance them and provide a “painterly” effect."

I had one picture in mind, which I had taken in the late 1970's, which I thought would be perfect for this challenge. But I spent several hours looking for the picture without success. Then I looked at every picture I had scanned into my laptop, because I knew that a while back I had indeed scanned it. Again, no luck. 

This weekend, I was perusing some files on the desk top computer when lo and behold, there were three version of the picture, all already tweeked with different themes. 

I took the picture when I was in my teens, using my cheap old Kodak Instamatic camera. It is of my dad digging up potatoes on my mom's uncle's farm. I love this picture. 

 Better late than never, right?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Week 3 - Countdown to Christmas

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to the Galilean village of Nazareth to a virgin engaged to be married to a man descended from David. His name was Joseph, and the virgin’s name, Mary.

… the angel assured her, “Mary, you have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus.” 
Luke 1:26-27, 29-31 The Message Bible

Notice the choice of words, “the angel assured her . . . You will become pregnant.” How assuring would that news be!

How often do we get news that we are less than thrilled with – that little clunking noise in the car will require major repairs, our employer is cutting back and we are going to lose our job, or the biopsy came back cancer. No matter how we try, we cannot see any good coming out of this news.

But God can make good out of anything. That clunk in the car would eventually cause the car to become dangerous to drive and could force the car into oncoming traffic if not repaired now. Maybe money will be tight, but if we aren’t working, we can spend time with our families. Every day, God is providing the medical field with new treatments for cancer. Even if our outcome is not a good one, the doctors may help someone else by what they learned from our illness.

No matter what news you receive today, let God show you the good in it. Thank Him even if the news is bad. In His own time and in His own way, He will see to it that everything will turn out according to His gracious will.

(Every Sunday from now until Christmas, I will be sharing an excerpt from “The Christmas Story in 40 Days”. A friend of mine gave me a rubber duckie Nativity set to add to my rubber duckie collection. I went a little crazy taking pictures of these ducks, but hopefully, if you find my words boring, at least the pictures from now until Christmas will keep you coming back for more. And if you don’t find my words boring, don’t forget to order your copy of “The Christmas Story in 40 Days” before the forty days is up.)