December 31, 2011

new year dreaming...

Baby blue sky, winter wind and sunlight through large window panes frame my morning today. It is the cusp of a new year, the old already having brought much newness into our lives. New realities, new jobs, new and ever-changing living arrangements, new perspectives, new hearts.

Some of the newness beautiful, some difficult, yet by faith we believe that it is all working together for our good.

As a new year beckons (and in celebration of my 100th post!!) I want to record a few little dreams for the upcoming year, in hopes that I can look back in a year's time and say 'yes and amen' and it will be good.

New Year Dreams:

1. a settled place to call our own
2. jobs which use our giftings and serve others
3. God's wisdom for Big Decisions we will have to make
4. constant pursual of God in all we do
5. a little furball to grace our home again
6. and oh, I know it's a crazy time to add children to this list, but in hope (and probably moments of insanity...), I do.

2011 taught us many things. It taught us that home is where your heart is, and for us that was with each other, in many different places. I learned aspects of grace, thankfulness and radical trust that I have not known before. As we look ahead, out into the unknown, I will hold these words in my heart,

'For I know the plans I have for you' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future'.
Jeremiah 29:11 1984 NIV

and this little gem,

May your new year be filled with hope, gratitude and all things good.
Happy 2012!

December 28, 2011

twinkle twinkle

One of my favourite Christmas traditions is attending a Christmas Eve candlelight service and then spending the evening looking at Christmas lights. In years past we visited the Legislature, this year we visited one spectacular home, decked to the nines in lights and Christmas decorations.

Everywhere you looked there was something Christmas-y to see.

Not only is the entire yard a twinkly masterpiece, some inside windows were decorated as well, with gorgeous Nativity scenes and adorable Christmas towns, complete with running train sets.

It was quite the feast for the senses!

Yet, the best twinkle in our holiday was the twinkle in the eyes of loved ones,

Merry Christmas!

December 21, 2011

Rock Your World

Her story rocks my world again and again. It breaks something deep in my heart and tears flow like rivers.

This is beautiful servanthood,
this is a beautiful work of God in so many hearts,
I want to know Him like this,
to serve Him like this.

Praying and praying for opportunity to knock,
to recognize it when it does,
and in the meantime do all I can
where I am today.

If this tugs at your heart too, please visit Amazima Ministries.

December 19, 2011

love & thanks

Love came down at Christmas
Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Stars and angels gave the sign.
Christina Rossetti 

Thankful for the love of a Father's heart, one who sent His only Son.

Thankful for the love & encouragement of a good, strong man in my life.

Thankful today for a heartwarming visit with this dear girl and her hubby.

Thankful for testimony of God's faithfulness and guidance when we so desperately need it.

Thankful for this blog, (found through this dear lady's photo spot) and how #8 on this list literally jumped off the page and filled my heart with peace (and my eyes with happy, longing tears...)

Amazed at how God can use this community of women to encourage and shine a light. So thankful for  how we can express the work He is up to in our hearts, our trials, hopes, wrestlings, and dreams. Words are not enough to share how deeply I am blessed by all of you.

Praying for each of you stopping by this spot, right now. Praying for God's presence to fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him.

December 15, 2011

Whew! Now for something light and fluffy...

Salted Caramel Popcorn that is!

This special recipe happens to be my personal favourite as a popcorn addict, and it adds a sweet crunch to our holiday celebrations :)

*ahem*... this is not my picture... I almost singlehandedly ate our whole first batch...

1. pop 1 C of popcorn kernels in a large bowl and set aside
2. Combine 1C butter, 2 C brown sugar, 1/2C corn syrup and 3/4tsp salt in a large pot on medium heat.
3. Bring caramel mixture to a boil over medium heat and let bubble for 5 minutes without stirring, pre-heat oven to 250 degrees farenheit
4. Stir caramel mixture and add 2tsp vanilla and 1/2 tsp baking soda, stirring as you add (this is the fun part! it really froths up...)
5. Stir on medium heat for a couple mins, then remove from heat and pour over popcorn, stirring with a spatula to coat
6. Turn mixture into a roaster and place in warmed oven
7. Set kitchen timer for 15 min intervals, stir popcorn every 15 min for 45 min
8. Remove from oven and let cool, stirring every minute or so to loosen the mixture
9. Store in an airtight container (I rarely get to this step as it is promptly eaten by thankful family!)

You may also add nuts etc, just throw them in before you pour the caramel mix onto the popcorn.
Voila! A sweet, easy holiday treat.

p.s. thank you all for your comments on my last post, I appreciate you all so much - xo 

December 14, 2011

Wrecked by Grace

I have tip-toed through chapter 1 of One Thousand Gifts, yearned for more after chapters 2-4, been thoroughly wrecked by chapter 5 and found healing balm in chapter 6. I realize these posts have become a play-by-play of my reaction and interaction with this book, these ideas, and God’s word, His very heart. I respond. Can’t help it. Lying on the basement couch, with clock ticking and Christmas lights glinting, I am aware of grace. More, I am choking on grace.

When Ann describes her two gratitude entries after her son seriously injures his hand in a barn accident, she lists;

Levi’s index finger
Bandages and pain relief

“I hang up the phone and stand for a while, just watching Levi breathe. Watching Levi live. He had an extra serving of ice cream on his plate last night and licked the mint right off the plate. He may not have. He slept in a bed last night, on clean sheets, and beside his brother. What if he hadn’t?” (pg 92,93)

Days are counted as grace, “why are we allowed two?” (pg 93). “When I realize that it is not God who is in my debt but I who am in His great debt, then doesn’t all become gift? For He might not have.” (pg 94)

Yes, He might not have.

Oh, Lord.

Mind flashes back to a heavy, hot, smoke-black, choking haze day.

He might not have.

Memories reel and details of events I could not yet put into words flood…

Smoke fills my mother-in-law’s house, I race through from garage to front door, choking. Flinging open the front door, I run on legs wobbly with fear. The front bushes of our home are on fire. I whisper in shock,

“NO, no, no”

Power is out. Phones are down. Neighbors have already fled, assuming we had left.

He might not have.

I fly past burning bush, fighting to free car from locked down garage. SNAP! Cord breaks in hand and I tumble back onto cold cement. Numb. One thought remains,

“Get. Out.”

Running out into burning street, I meet her, my mother-in-law. Together we stand, together we look. All is hazy red and black soot air. Fire. Fire rolling and snarling from the sky. Where do we run? Is this the end?

He might not have.

But He did.

And tonight I choke on grace.

Grace that sent a dear lady in her car down our street. Grace that led her car, headlights glowing through haze. Her car, our way out. Out of the black, glowing monster. Out to live another day.

I count each day before the fire, and every one since, a grace day. For what have I done to deserve this life?

God’s heart calls,

"Fill these grace days with Me. Seek me in beauty. Beauty and Joy. Joy and Thanksgiving."

For seeking His beauty, giving thanks, and living in joy is a balm to my sensitive, freshly expanded heart. All I have is His. All those I love are in His hand. My life, praise God – life eternal, is found in Him. While I am here, this earthly life is His to give, and His to take.

And this testimony of grace, of saving love, I want it to ring out God’s truth. Here, in these months, a riddle of joy continues to unfold. Live in thanks. All is grace. All is Him.

"Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them? For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever!”
Romans 10:35,36

Tonight, on my own list of gifts,

32. saving grace

December 11, 2011

gifts on a December morning

I am taking up the challenge, keeping a running list of God’s gifts.  In these last few days, One Thousand Gifts has opened up a new awareness in my heart; an awareness of just how integral thanksgiving is in my relationship with God. 

How many verses contain the words ‘thanksgiving, thankfulness, thanks’! How many times have my eyes glazed past the very word, which holds the key to so much in the kingdom?

In my own life I have found drawing near to God, and yes, even being thankful, easier in hard times.  I draw near to Him and He pulls me close. The challenge becomes maintaining that closeness. 

It is a challenge for me to live thankfully, with joy, each day. To remain thankful through the daily grind, meal preparations, errands, work. Reading through chapters 3 and 4 of One Thousand Gifts, I am ever so aware of ingratitude in my life. Ingratitude which has wasted months, even years of time as I rush through life always looking ahead to the ‘next thing’. 

So Thursday morning I began my list. Friday morning the sun rose sparkling and I drifted outside, camera in hand, to capture His gifts. Here is what I found,

9. sunlight-tipped evergreens

 10. feathered grouse tracks in the snow

 11. squirrel munchings

14. golden leaves in a winter garden

15. red door and Christmas bow in morning sun

 16. shining whiskers

17. the gates of home

 and breath in my lungs to take it all in,

thank you Lord.

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." Jeremiah 29:13

So I leave you with this encouragement,

Seek Him today. Look for the gifts He is giving in each moment, and you will see Him. Thankfulness unlocks our hearts to receive.

Seek him through dishes, diaper changes, rush hour traffic, bustling stores, and household chores. He is there, and you will find Him, He guarantees it.

December 8, 2011

One Thousand Gifts

Picked up ‘One Thousand Gifts’ by Ann Voskamp today (another treasure from Chelle!) and began to read. It is not what I expected. To be completely honest, I almost put it down after the first page, stunned at the rawness of it.

The beginning is nothing like the middle, or the end. I know, since I’ve been caught flipping through the book a few times in our local bookstore.

(I have this bad habit of reading the last chapter of books that intrigue me…).

Curiously I continue on and tip toe through Chapters 1 and 2, dancing around her own heart-wrenching questions, remembering my own heart-wrenching questions (yes, Nikki, you were so right!).

A quest to find grace and joy when nothing makes sense. To be thankful.

Words from her brother in law, speaking through the grief of losing two infant sons, echo my own thoughts;

Just that maybe… maybe you don’t want to change the story, because you don’t know what a different ending holds.” (pg 21)

I read on as words resound in my soul;

I think of buried babies and broken, weeping fathers over graves, and a world pocked with pain, and all the mysteries I have refused refused, to let nourish me. If it were my daughter, my son? Would I really choose the manna? I only tremble, wonder. With memories of gravestones, of combing fingers through tangled hair, I wonder too… if the rent in the canvas of our life backdrop, the losses that puncture our world, our own emptiness, might actually become places to see.

To see through to God.

That that which tears open our souls, those holes that splatter our sight, may actually become the thin, open places to see through the mess of this place to the heart-aching beauty beyond. To Him. To the God whom we endlessly crave.” (pg 22)

At this point, I want to take her by the shoulders, look deep into her eyes and shout, “YES! Yes they are!”

It does not end here, her story, it is just the beginning. The beginning of sharing secrets to joy through pain and difficulty, and the holy secret, giving thanks in all circumstances.

Perhaps this is life. The beginning is nothing like the middle, or the end. Yet all is grace.

I eagerly await the coming chapters, the unfolding. Circumstances different, yet heart experience so akin to my own.

Thank you Ann, I have a feeling you and I will become kindred spirits.

December 7, 2011

Cross stitch craziness, a little list, and a little offer..

Came across these super-cute little family projects while flipping through the November edition of good 'ol Martha Stewart Living and had to whip some up for family and friends;

this one is for my brother and his bride, including their pets of course.

This one is for our dear friends from Slave Lake (notice the littlest one in the snuggly on daddy!) They were so fun to make, and although it took some time, cross stitch is really quite an easy craft to pick up.

I was thoroughly entertained designing details to personalize each gift, right down to the hairlines...

For Martha's version and some additional (printable) pattern ideas see here.

- seriously, seriosly inspired by this blog lately, thanks to Chelsea. Katie has crazy spiritual maturity for a girl in her very early 20's! God is working amazing things through her, and she is amazing in return giving all glory to Him and carrying out his work in Africa

- thinking about being used by God, and the humility and self-less-ness it requires

- so excited to receive a package in the mail from dear Chelle, filled with her favorite things after winning one of her birthday give-aways! Those of you that are so lucky to know Chelle in person know that she has a huge heart, and is just truly a beautiful person. If you have not visited The Value of Cheerfulness, stop on by - I guarantee your heart will be blessed!

- thinking about my little reader-ship, praying for blessed moments for you and your families in this season

- on that note, if any of you are interested in capturing your family in cross stitch but do not want to attempt it yourself (or have limited time), leave a comment and I would be so very happy to bless you and your family with a little portrait of your own. seriously. no strings attached! (well, just the ones in the picture).  

Have a great week,

December 4, 2011

Advent Sunday 2 : Peace

“He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”
~Isaiah 9:6~

When I consider the Christmas story, to be honest, peace is not at the forefront of my mind. Angels suddenly appear and announce impossible birth stories. Zechariah is ‘startled and gripped with fear’, Mary is ‘greatly troubled’. It is an unsettling time of upheaval in the lives of those involved. Yet, through awe and obedience, the Prince of Peace comes.

In my mind’s eye, I imagine serene surroundings. A place which is quiet and clean. There is joy in my heart and everything around me is in order. The manger, a quiet night, clean straw, a shining star, joy without pain. Quiet, well-groomed shepherds watch a clean, tiny and perfectly asleep babe.

Did Jesus come peacefully?

Was it a season without war, strife and heartache?

Was there really no cry to be heard in the manger on that Holy night?

Was there no perspiration on Mary’s brow?

No dirty, noisy animals mucking around?

Was it peaceful to birth a baby in a cold cave after travelling many miles on a donkey?

Or is it possible, that my idyllic idea of peace is completely contrary to the peace Jesus would bring?

I do not believe that night was so silent (though the idea made a beautiful carol...). It was not clean or fresh-smelling. It was turbulent, yet beautiful, when Heaven collided with earth.

Jesus. The Prince of Peace. He has come.

When John the Baptist is born, Zechiariah sings in prophecy that John will, “shine on those living in darkness, and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace” (Luke 1:79).

The path of peace.

Is peace more of a way than a feeling? Does it have more to do with our inward attitude, and less with our outward circumstances?

Jesus would later say, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

When I focus on my circumstances I quickly lose peace. I can fear delays with insurance and unpredictable employment. I can easily conjure up a lack of security, and fear that we will not be provided for. I can fear for loved ones and for circumstances in their lives. The peace of this world is rooted in favourable circumstances and in the security of your bank account (the bigger it is, the happier you are!). Peace can mean the absence of war. But this peace does not last. Only God gives peace which lasts, as it is rooted in Him. When I focus on who God is, my fears melt away in the glow of His presence.

I came across a beautiful quote this week;

If our hope is only in our circumstances, as we define them to be good or as we want them to be to make us happy, we will always be disappointed. That is why we hope, not in circumstances, but in God. He has continually, over the span of four thousand years, revealed himself to be a God of newness, of possibility, of redemption, the recovery or transformation of possibility from endings that goes beyond what we can think or even imagine (Eph 3:20). The best example of that is the crucifixion itself, followed by the resurrection. That shadow of the cross falls even over the manger.

Newness. Possibility. Redemption. Recovery. These are the things of God. He is the pathway of peace.

Will your Christmas be calm, quiet, full of softly glowing lights, perfectly baked cookies, and perfectly brewed hot chocolate? Will all the circumstances of your life be just as you want them to be?

Or will your home be filled with excited, (noisy) children, perhaps a batch of slightly over-baked cookies and hot chocolate spilled on the carpet? Will you choose His peace despite circumstances which are less than ideal?

He does not give as the world gives, He gives much more, so much deeper.

May you be blessed with peace from Jesus this week. Seek His presence and choose His peace in times of turmoil or uncertainty. He is faithful. He is Peace. He truly is.