With the first day of March coming on Wednesday, it’s time for a new daily devotional calendar. Lifeway Women is a wonderful resource for inspiration, especially for women, and free art like this month’s family time calendar here.
March 1 — Exodus 14:14 “Sometimes, we wear ourselves out fighting battles that are not ours to fight.” Pin it to your fridge and share it with your family.
February is my favorite month! It’s Miss Bee’s birthday month, along with most of the other women in my family. Three is our family’s lucky number. Most all of our birthdays are divisible by three, important events in our lives have occurred around the number three, and starting on Feb. 12 with Miss Bee’s birthday, every girl was born three days apart (the first birthday this month is my niece and she was born on the 3rd!). Pink and red are two of my favorite colors. I love chocolate and I love, LOVE!
To jump start your February, I am sharing Lifeway Women’s devotional calendar. Be sure to print a copy and put on your fridge tomorrow and share the scriptures with your loved ones.
Today was my first day back at work having been afforded the last two and a half weeks off for vacation. It was so nice to spend time at home with my family in my cocoon of serenity. Miss Bee returns to school tomorrow. So, it will be back to early mornings, making breakfast and hurrying out the door. Christmas decor is, for the most part, put away but a pile of “other” stuff sits mocking me to make a decision as to its final resting place.
I am always conflicted the first part of January. A part of me is glad to put Christmas away for the next year and simplify. But, it’s also bittersweet because it’s time to stop listening to Christmas music (since it’s been on Pandora since November 1), the fun parties are over and the “spirit” of friendliness and cheer subsides. The unstructured vacation and relaxation is over, back to the routine.
But, there are a lot of things I look forward to…. like organizing, re-grouping, cleaning and getting back into a routine. See how that can be a positive, too?
One thing that never changes, is the love God has for me. His calming nature is all around me if I will just stop long enough to recognize and acknowledge it. I can choose to get worked up that my calendar is filling up again after a self imposed vacation, or I can take one day at a time and just roll with it. When I saw the quote from Ann Voskamp in my inbox this morning — “Today, I am going to be a prayer warrior, not a panicked worrier” it was a reminder that I can make many choices today. I can choose to remember the quiet I experienced during the last few weeks and keep it for the days and weeks to come. I can remember to be more gentle with my teen when she is cranky and moody. The quiet did her good this past few weeks. I saw her funny, relaxed, inclusive, childlike side return — which made me realize that her stressful demeanor is coming from how hard she works at school trying to make great grades and please her parents.
This week I will be sharing things I always do every January to jump start my new year and a few things I would like to try this year. And, of course, we will hear from Haute Holley later this week, along with a few good recipes I have tried out recently.
Have a blessed day my friends. I really do appreciate each and every one of you taking the time to visit my blog and share it with others.
After all the holiday over indulgence — buying the extra gifts the kids didn’t really need but we wanted to watch them open — more gifts — eating, eating and eating, and exhaustion of wanting everything to be perfect, it’s nice to be able to start anew every January.
This Ann Voskamp printable is the perfect way to re-center and put the focus on being a giver. No, not more gifts to give, rather the gift of our compassion, grace and forgiveness.
Look at Wednesday’s to-do: Pray three times today for a person that feels really overwhelmed. Maybe that person happens to be you. That’s okay. God delights in hearing your prayers. Give it forward today.
Well, I am completely worn out. I am sure you can relate. For the past three weeks, I have either hosted or attended every Christmas party I possibly could, shopped for or made the perfect gifts, baked cookies, decorated the house, cleaned and re-cleaned the house, designed and sent Christmas cards, and so on. And fitting this all in with regular life. Raise your hand if this is you, too! I enjoyed it all while doing it, but I reached my limit and for the last few days it’s been hard to find energy. I was glad we planned a low-key Christmas day with just the three of us. And, I am coming down with a cold.
I wanted to share one thing that I did this holiday season that I am most happy about. If you have been reading along with me for the last six months since I launched Home with a Twist, you’re familiar with the story behind the loss of my parents and the challenges I have had, in particular, with grieving the loss of my mother (read here). One thing I haven’t been able to do in the three years since she died was visit the cemetery.
This past Wednesday, I was in the area of the cemetery picking up a Christmas gift. As I got closer, I had this feeling that it would be okay to go by and say hello. I wondered if the florist at the funeral home had wreaths or poinsettias I could place at their graves. As I made it to the corner, there in front of their building were rows and rows of beautiful tokens of Christmas. I pulled in and decided on a bunch of poinsettias to add a pop of color to Mother and Daddy’s plot they share with my grandparents and Daddy’s baby sister who died when she was two.
I parked and walked over. It wasn’t as hard as I thought. It did make me cry a little to see Mother’s name carved into the marble. We visited and talked about Christmas. I looked over and saw that my Daddy’s little sister, Pauline, died on December 21, the next day. I can only imagine what that must have been like for him and my grandparents to lose a child four days before Christmas.
As I drove around to leave, I could see the mound of red poinsettias — the only spot of color to be found in that older section of the cemetery. I could just imagine Mother’s smiling face at how pretty she thought the flowers looked. She loved color! It gave me great comfort, not sadness, as I drove away. And hope, that many more visits are to come. Perhaps next time I shall take daffodils.
I’m sharing Ann Voskamp’s December calendar printable. You can find this and other beautiful art, memory verses and stories at her webpage. Pin this to your refrigerator and make it a family activity to unwrap the season.
Start with today: Tape a $1.00 or extra change to a vending machine and bring a smile.
When my daddy passed away five years ago, we gave our family the gift of Hospice care. We chose inpatient care because I wanted my mother to be a wife and partner to my dad, rather than a caregiver. This meant they could spend time together holding hands and loving each other, rather than her needing to attend to his physical needs. I am so glad we decided to afford them the sweet, precious moments to say goodbye.
A few days before Daddy became unresponsive, he began having conversations with people we could not see. He’d fidget with his clothing, or pull at his hospital gown. He would even stare off into space as if he was looking at something. He was at the point of sleeping most of the day with very little awake time and couldn’t respond with words. One night, I sent Mother home and stayed with Daddy. As I sat by his bedside, I could see his lips moving very slowly, but with no sound or distress. I leaned in and said, “I wish I could see what you see. Is there someone here with you. Do you see Jesus?” He didn’t reply, but I feel in my heart that his week had been full of visits with important people, perhaps those waiting for his earthly body to catch up with his heavenly one. We encouraged his conversations and the belief that he could see things we didn’t.
About a year ago, a dear friend from church, Dana, was experiencing the decline of her mother’s health, specifically to dementia. While my dad didn’t have dementia, I felt like there had to be a similarity in the things our parents were seeing. I shared with her my conversation I had with Daddy, and encouraged Dana to take the time to do the same with her mother.
A beautiful thing happened. Her mother responded with a clarity she hadn’t been able to show Dana in some time. This past June, Dana’s mother passed away. Dana emailed me the most beautiful poem she had written for her mother and with her permission I am sharing it with you. Thank you Dana for blessing us with your words.
Glimpses of Heaven
Dementia got its grip on Mother
Conversation exchanges were now rare.
Memories and thoughts seemed stolen from
the one I held so dear.
Ask your Mother what she sees when off into space she stares
A wise suggestion from a friend with experience
You might be surprised what you learn when
visiting with your mom again.
Praying to God for the opportunity to see the one who gave
birth to me just one more time
“Permission granted,” was His answer
“Go seek and see what you find.”
Once the noon meal was over I noticed her staring off at the wall.
The chance to ask the question arose.
So, even somewhat frightened I asked, “Mom, are you looking
“Oh, I see a beautiful place” with a look of astonishment on her face.
“And there are lots of people there
and they ALL seem to be okay!”
Realizing that this illness had robbed her of nothing
But only given Jesus His space to show Mom glimpses of Heaven
Preparing her for His grace.
Dana Cook – 6/19/16
Dana is working on developing a webpage to publish this and many other poems she has been called by God to write.
Mr. Bee and I are in a small group at our church. We gather twice a month on Monday nights for fellowship and Bible study. It’s been a great way to meet new people and make new friends outside of our regular Sunday school class. We may have different beliefs, but our commonality is that we love God and want to seek ways we can be closer to Him.
Every Thursday Broadway Baptist Church hosts an Agape Meal for the homeless and people needing a hot meal and a place to be feel God’s love and a since of belonging. Agape means love. So, it’s a love banquet for God’s people. The church has offered this ministry for over 20 years serving 175 guests, 51 weeks of the year only taking the day off on Thanksgiving when many churches and organizations offer a meal.
Tonight, our small group worked as volunteers to help serve as table hosts and servers. As we drove into the parking lot, there were already guests waiting in line to receive a ticket. I suddenly felt overwhelmed thinking about our election and the very people that have been the topic of conversation — the poor and homeless — were right before me. Many people were carrying duffel bags and suitcases with all of their belongings. The streets or a shelter were their next stop after dinner.
When we walked into the fellowship hall, each table was covered in cloth linens set with china, glass and silverware, a centerpiece of real flowers and bowls of home cooked, hot food. Tonight’s menu was King Ranch casserole, corn, green beans, bread, salad and spice cake. The mission each week is to treat each guest with dignity, kindness and respect.
Before the meal, the pastor gave a welcome and a prayer. As we recited the Lord’s Prayer, everyone knew it! The entire room, not just the volunteers and staff, recited the simplest of prayers we learned when we were children. These guests may not have brought much with them of monetary value, but their worth was their faith. They loved God enough to say His prayer out loud and with meaning. It was beautiful.
Then, we got to work serving food, replenishing drinks, bringing out second helpings, and serving dessert and coffee. As you can imagine, the guests were thirsty and wanted seconds of everything. After the meal, worship was offered. About half of the guests stayed for a few hymns, a scripture lesson and communion. The pastor asked that the guests at each table share one thing that God provided for that week, and one thing we needed prayer for. The couple at our table said they were thankful that God provided gas for their car all week. But, they needed cell phone service in order for him to secure employment. Suddenly, my Starbucks pumpkin spice latte didn’t seem that important.
We finished the night with prayer. A simple prayer of asking God for us to be faithful and to have faith. There are some days when faith is all you have to hold onto. And then we sent the guests off into the night.
“If you remain in me and my words remain in you,
ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” John 15:7
My small group at church is studying Max Lucado’s Traveling Light. It breaks down the promise from the twenty-third Psalm, the popular scripture in the Bible mostly associated with funerals that starts with “The Lord is my shepherd.” This past week it was our turn to host and lead the study. Chapter five covered the second verse — “He makes me to lie down in green pastures.” I am learning that this story God unfolds is not associated with sadness, but in the joy God promises and the burdens He wants to bear for us.
Here’s a little backstory…
When you think of a shepherd, you think of sheep, right? Can’t sleep, count sheep. Sheep shall safely graze. But, here’s something interesting Max discusses in the book, “for sheep to sleep, everything must be just right. No predators. No tension in the flock. No bugs in the air. No hunger in the belly. Everything has to be just so. Unfortunately, sheep cannot find safe pasture, nor can they spray insecticide, deal with the frictions, or find food. They need help. They need a shepherd to lead them and help them ‘lie down in green pastures.’ Without a shepherd they can’t rest. Without a shepherd, neither can we.”
Max further points to the Ten Commandments. First, did you know what commandment in which God tells us to rest? It’s the fourth commandment. Did you also know it’s the longest commandment? “God needed only five English words to condemn adultery and four to denounce thievery and murder. But, when it comes to the topic of rest, one sentence would not suffice.” Six days you will labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord. You shall do no work. Rest comes on the seventh day.
Okay, so I bring all this to you because this is the time of year when we ramp up for the Frazzle Rock of school starting: Sports, band, homework, projects, lunchboxes, backpacks, make your bed, the bus is here, hurry up we’re going to be late, what’s for dinner, I’m hungry, what can I have for a snack, I need a different color binder, you signed up to bring snacks for soccer tonight, the teacher needs you to call her, did you sign that form, and so on…
Take a moment. Maybe it’s not actually on Sunday. Times have changed and Sunday may have to be a day of work for some. We go shopping on Sunday (remember Blue Laws where nothing was open on Sunday). But, imagine the shepherd and how delighted he would be to see his flock resting in an open field without a care just one day, or a few half days, or maybe just an hour.
On Sunday, I was sitting on the patio enjoying this 80 degree Texas cool front. I am always moved to be thankful when I am outside. I looked over at my latest issue of Life:Beautiful magazine and the front cover stared back at me:
“In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. God’s message is plain: If creation didn’t crash when I rested, it won’t crash when you do.”
Rest doesn’t have to be in the literal sense — it could be taking the time to read, watch your favorite television program, play a round of golf, sipping coffee at Starbucks or maybe it is a literal two hour honest to goodness nap. But, during whatever time you can set aside for just you, God would delight in your acknowledgement that He moved you to just be. “His pasture is His gift to us.” How can you repay Him?
Today, August 15, would have been my mother’s 89th birthday. She loved Jesus, strawberry cake, birds of all kinds, but especially cardinals. She faithfully fed Mockingbirds, the Texas state bird, every morning. They like mealy worms…and she kept a nice big tub of them in my refrigerator. My family came to learn this was normal.
Mother loved to read. She usually had three or four books going at the same time. And she always made time to read her Bible at least once a day, if not more. She never liked sweets, but in her older years developed a fondness for chocolate. She kept stashes of candy in her room. For the longest time, after she died, I would open drawers or little trinket boxes and chocolate would be hiding inside. She loved to garden. She was a great cook, hostess and home keeper. She loved the color purple and wore “volcanic” lipstick. She had her hair done once a week, and always had a pretty manicure. She was kind and thoughtful and loved to send cards. She had beautiful penmanship. After her stroke, her fine motor skills were affected making it harder for her to write. I think that was one of the things that bothered her the most, but she still enjoyed finding just the right card for each of her friends.
She shared so many important life lessons with me over the years. One lesson early on was to be tolerant of people’s behavior. If they weren’t nice to me, they probably had something going on in their lives making them sad. That mine might be the only smile they receive that day. To look people in the eye when you talk to them and that people love it when you call them by name, it makes them feel important. She taught me to say please and thank you and to be grateful for everyday. She aged with grace and died with a smile.
She was the perfect Mother for me.
“I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.” Abraham Lincoln