Sunday, November 30, 2008

Christmastime Was Meant To Bring Us Love

Christmas, tender and dear time;
Splendor, best-of-the-year time;
Precious, come-and-draw near time;
For Christmastime was meant to bring us love.

Christmas, go-buy-a-tree time;
Bright lights, let's-go-and-see time;
Laughter, wonderful-glee time;
For Christmastime was meant to bring us love.

The gifts we give are but a small reflection
of affection
we feel.

The tenderness which fills our heart is given
from Heaven
to heal.

Listen, silver bells ringing;
Look up, angels are singing;
Reach out, Christmas is bring to you
A priceless gift of peace sent from above.
For Christmastime was meant to bring us love.
- Jack Hayford -

Friday, November 28, 2008

Reflections on Thanksgiving Day

'A beautiful Thanksgiving table is a must.'
That's what one Thanksgiving tablesetting inspiration website proclaimed. But that's not what happened here at my home yesterday. It was the goal but it didn't happen. Nor did several other things happen smoothly. We are all laughing - although I'm not sure I laughed in the middle of the faux pas. A comedy of errors, perhaps. Let me tell you about our day. In my planning it should have been calm, quiet and without incident; however, there were several things different going into the day. Different from any other year. This year there were no men - just the ladies and children. A few days ago I learned that our son-in-law would not be joining us. Then on Monday our son was asked to join a missions team going to Cambodia. He was told that someone on the team had to drop out at the last minute and he was asked to join the group. With about thirty six hours to prepare before they left the country on Wednesday night he called to tell me he would not be here for Thanksgiving dinner with the family. My sweetheart has been elk hunting all week on the opposite corner of our state. He planned to come home on Wednesday to be with the family for Thanksgiving but he called me Tuesday evening to say that he had decided to stay until the rest of his family hunting team headed home on Saturday!

Wednesday morning I woke with the realization that opening our dining room table to add the two leaves is not a one-person job. It requires two people. What to do? By Wednesday evening I decided to try to open it myself so I could set the table. How nice that would have been if it had worked out that way. I was able to open the table about three inches before it balked. Then, little by little, a quarter inch at a time I could open it from one end, run around to the other end, pull and it would open another quarter inch. I knew I would wear myself out if I continued until our very big table was all together and ready to set. So I did a very wise thing. I took a break from that project, worked in the kitchen a bit and then went back to the table dilemna. I was feeling rather proud of myself for the progress I was making. That may have been my problem. Pride! Suddenly, with an opening between the two halves of the table at about twelve inches, the table refused to budge. Not even a bit. It was stuck! No amount of figuring or prompting on my part would convince the table to continue its outward trek. I knew that I had reached the end of what I could do by myself and I wished - oh how I wished my sweetheart would surprise me and walk in the door. Or that my son-in-law would stop by for some reason. But that didn't happen. When my dear little mother arrived yesterday she tried to help me get the stubborn table going again. I sprayed the gears and the track with a lubricant but that didn't help. When that plan didn't succeed my dear mother devised a plan. Plan B! She quickly set the table with three placemats at each end - my daughter and her two children (one granddaughter was out of town) would sit at one end of the table, my daugther-in-law and her two oldest sons would sit at the other end with the baby in the high chair beside her. My dear mother and I would set up two of my wooden TV trays and eat nearby in the living room. The plan for us to all sit around the table and pass the food around suddenly wouldn't work. We decided, given the circumstances, that it would be easier to set up a casual buffet-type serving area on my kitchen counter and let us serve ourselves. Now remember - there was this big gaping hole in the middle of the table. Except for the one leaf that is stored under the table opening. The opening was not big enough to get that leaf out nor to add the second leaf that stood nearby. But the leaf under the opening did provide a place for my dear mother to creatively set up the centerpiece! I was about to add a touch of lace runner through the opening, thinking it would add something, but my dear mother cautioned me that the spray lubicant would ruin my pretty runner. Yes, indeed, it would! So, now new plans were in place. The table was set and the serving arrangements had been changed. Until my daughter arrived and surveyed the situation. She said, 'Mom I think I might be able to help you get this table open.' We explained what had already transpired and that there seemed to be no hope to get the table to budge until her father arrived home on Saturday to find the problem. Suggesting that we try it, she began to 'unset' the table. She pulled on one end and I on the other. One big tug and - Viola! - it worked. The table was opened and leaves added. Now we had to reset the table. That was accomplished. We were back on track and could move on. My daughter-in-law arrived and things began to move quickly in the kitchen. It was soon time for the turkey to come out of the oven. My sweetheart always lifts it out for me because of my back problems. As I leaned over the steaming bird, determined to lift it and carry it to the nearby counter where it would rest until time to cut it, my daughter stopped me and told me not to try to lift it. She moved the turkey to its destination and all of a sudden I realized my sweetheart is the expert 'turkey carver'. A quick survey determined that any of the three of us ladies could carve the bird but it wouldn't be a thing of beauty. As we began to remove the stuffing and inserted the knife into the meat it was evident that while the area tested with my meat thermometer told us the turkey was done to perfection and safety - and while the top of the breast area was definitely completely cooked - the rest of the bird really needed more time in the oven. We decided that there was enough meat to serve and get us started while the big bird went back into the oven for awhile. I drained the juices and made gravy but I must have been distracted in some way because as I poured gravy from the pan into the serving bowl I didn't stop when the bowl was full. I just kept pouring! All over the counter.
A few minutes later I gathered my family in a circle in the kitchen where we joined hands as I gave thanks to God for our family, for the day together (inspite of the problems) and as I prayed for safe-keeping for our three men. The plates were served up and we sat together around the now-put-together table. Thankful. That's what we were. Thankful to be together. As I looked around with joy and pride at each one gathered in my home I couldn't help but realize how truly blessed I have been. Then a hostess-type thought popped into my head - no centerpiece. There's no centerpiece! And we were eating on a plastic tablecloth purchased on sale. A 'cloth' with autumn leaves all over it. In the middle of the crises a decision was made to use this one instead of a real cloth. Suddenly I realized that, while it looked nice in the package, I didn't like it at all. I had envisioned something quite different for my table. Something like. . .

Or simple like this.Now, here I sat at my table - minus the men and the centerpiece - with a plastic tablecloth I suddenly knew I abhored! I think that was when I said, 'Well, it's certainly not a Norman Rockwell moment.'Two things were decided in my mind at that moment. Either my sweetheart would not be allowed to go hunting and extend his stay through Thanksgiving next year. . .or, we would follow my suggestion. In the middle of all the mess I told the girls that I thought next year we should just go out somewhere, sit down and let someone else serve us!Later in the afternoon, after the dishes were done and we ladies were seated in my living room as the children played nearby, I asked my grandchildren to tell me one thing they were thankful for. Mr. R. said he was thankful for good food. Mr. G. said he was thankful for God and for Jesus dying on the cross for us. When asked, Mr. C. said he didn't know - he's the shy one. Miss E. told me she was thankful for her mother. Mr. H. was too little to understand or answer. He just knew that his little tummy was full and that he is loved. A lot. And what was I thankful for? Each of the beautiful children who gathered in my home yesterday. And for the privilege of having my dear little mother in my life. . .and my daughter who is the sweetest lady a mother could hope to also call friend. . .and my precious daughter-in-law who is truly a gift from God to our family. As we reflected and laughed about the craziness of the day my heart was full of gratitude and praise to God because I know that I am blessed. Very blessed. And I give Him thanks. . .with a grateful heart.

(The plastic tablecloth? It has been cleaned thoroughly and added to a box of things headed to the thrift store where, hopefully, someone will think it's beautiful and will grace their table with it sometime!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

We Are So Blessed

We are so blessed
By the gifts from Your hand.
We just can't understand
Why You love us so much.
We are so blessed,
We just can't find a way
Or the words that can say
Thank You, Lord, for Your touch.

When we're empty You fill us
'Til we overflow.
When we're hungry You feed us,
And cause us to know
We are so blessed -
Take what we have to bring;
Take it all, everything.

Lord, we love you so much.
We are so blessed
By the things You have done,
The vict'ries we've won
And what You've brought us through.
We are so blessed,
Take what we have to bring;
Take it all, everything.
Lord, we bring it to You.

When we're empty You fill us
'Til we overflow.
When we're hungry You feed us
And cause us to know
We are so blessed -
Take what we have to bring;
Take it all, everything.
Lord we love You so much.

We are truly blessed! Happy Thanksgiving to you, my dear friends. You are some of the most precious blessings God has given me. May you and yours have a 'blessed' day today.

Song: 'We Are So Blessed'
Written by Bill and Gloria Gaither

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Birthday - Of Sorts

Sometime very early in my life my dear parents realized there was music in my soul just waiting to get out. They observed as I 'played the piano' on the back of the car seat, the arm of a chair, a table - anywhere my imagination could create a piano. Then came the day we moved with my minister father to a sweet little bungalow parsonage where a piano was waiting in the living room. The piano belonged to the church and had been placed in our living room because a Sunday School class met there each Sunday morning and the piano was needed during that time. Ah-h-h, sweet delight! A piano. A real piano. In my home - all the time. And oh, what fun I had at that piano. I attended kindergarten each morning and soon after returning home I was at the piano where I hummed the first note of a song learned in class. While holding the first note of the song with my voice I hunted for the corresponding note on the keyboard. Once found I began to figure out how to play the melody and soon I was beginning to play little songs 'by ear'.
Our church had the most gifted pianist who just happened to also teach piano lessons in her home. I was enchanted with her skills during each church service and soon I began to pray (secretly, of course) each night in my bed, 'Lord, when I wake up tomorrow morning could I please play the piano just like Miss B?' Now I know what you're thinking - it doesn't come that easy. But my little girl mind didn't know better. I was sure if I prayed and believed it would happen. It would! Time moved on - and so did the big piano in the living room. I was moved next door into the church where it was needed for another group. Now my only chance to play a 'real' piano was to walk next door to the church and play my little heart out in the quiet of the big building. And I did exactly that. Often. Stepping out the back door of the parsonage I only had to walk a few steps to the back door of the church, into my father's study and out through another door onto the platform in the sanctuary. And believe me, I did that often.
My parents longed to give me piano lessons and soon it was discussed with Miss B who told them I could not begin lessons until I had completed first grade and started second grade. Her reasoning? I needed to learn to sit still and focus - and I needed to understand basic counting and arithmetic skills in order to capture the idea of counting out rhythm. My little heart was crushed. I had to wait! I was a bright child and I knew how to count and add a few numbers. And I was convinced if I tried very hard I could sit still. Honest I could!
Soon the day came that I had waited for so long. My first lesson with Miss B. I was absolutely thrilled as I began to learn to read the notes and play them on the piano. I still have my very first piano book and it always brings back the joy those early lessons added to my happy heart. Along with lessons comes practice. Daily practice. Remember, at this point there was no piano in my home. No problem - there was one right next door. A piano sitting unused much of the week. There was the answer. So each day after school I walked across the driveway into the big church building and sat at the piano on the platform to practice my lesson - every little song six times through. My father was usually in his study when I went next door to practice or, if he needed to be away, my mother went with me. What a good arrangement - until winter chill arrived and filled the big building. You see, there was no central heating in this church building. It was heated for services by a huge wood furnace in the basement. Someone had to start the fire long before service time in order to heat the large, old, uninsulated building. During the week when the building was not in use there was no heat! None. Except for the little pot-bellied wood stove in my father's study just off the platform. Oh, I forgot to tell you that we lived in a little town high in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon. Snow country. All winter! Now put together snow and freezing temperatures, an unheated building and a little girl's need to practice her piano lessons each afternoon and what do you get? Br-r-r!!! No problem. I wanted this so badly I was willing to sacrifice and do what I needed to do. So, through the winter months I would put on warm gloves just before I walked over to the church to practice. The gloves came off my little hands and I played until my hands were so cold I couldn't continue. Then I made a quick dash into my father's study where a warm fire awaited in the little stove. As I stood there warming I hands I had a few moments with my father. An added bonus! Then when my hands were warmed I ran back into the sanctuary to do more practice. This continued until I was finished each day. Practice for a bit, run to the wood stove to warm my hands, practice, warm hands and on and on it went.
My dear parents were dismayed and they were praying that somehow God would provide a piano at home for me. Now what I haven't told you yet is that God was already setting things in order. A wonderful little widow lady in our church was a piano dealer. She had continued the business after her husband died and she offered my parents a wonderful discount on a piano for me. Out of her love and respect for my father's ministry - plus the fact that I delighted her heart because she was raising four sons and she loved me much. She made an offer not to be refused. One day my dear mother went to the piano store and selected the perfect piano for me - and perfect for my mother's living room. The process wasn't that simple. The piano was chosen, the order was placed and I had to wait several weeks for the it to be shipped to our home. Oh, that was a long time to wait.
As long as I live I'll never forget the day my piano arrived! It arrived in a big wooden crate. A crate that wouldn't fit through the front door of our home. So the delivery men uncrated it and set it on the sidewalk while they, along with my father, removed the front door from it's hinges in order to get the piano into the living room. Now what would an eager seven-year-old do when the piano she has been waiting for is just sitting on the sidewalk? And the piano bench is sitting nearby? Play the piano on the sidewalk, of course! I put the bench in place, sat myself down and began to play what I had just learned and memorized in my lessons. I played the hymn 'Let The Lower Lights Be Burning'. Over and over again. My heart was delighted - my piano had arrived. It didn't matter that it needed to be tuned. It didn't matter that it was on the sidewalk and the whole world could hear me play. Nothing matter at that moment. It was just me - and my piano.
The years moved along rather quickly and suddenly, it seemed, I was planning my wedding. During that time my parents asked what I wanted for a wedding gift. Was there something special they could give me? Yes, I wanted my piano. Why should I need to ask? Neither of them played. All of my years growing up with my piano my father had lovingly told me that when a young man asked me to marry him someday I needed to ask him if he would buy me a piano. If his answer was yes, I could marry him; if not, I should say no and keep waiting for someone else who would include a piano in 'the deal'! But now I was going to marry a young man who could not provide a piano in the foreseeable future. We would be living several hours from my parents' home and it nearly broke my heart to think of not taking my piano with me. There was much discussion about the piano being my wedding gift but in the end the piano moved with me when I moved to my first home with my sweetheart. My piano and I have travelled many miles together through the years. We have lived together in several homes in different parts of Oregon. But we have been together. Always together. In the early years of our marriage I told my sweetheart, 'If the house catches fire, you get the piano out - I'll get the children!'
Did I forget to tell you that the day my piano arrived on the sidewalk outside my home so many years ago was the day before Thanksgiving? So that's why today I celebrate the 'birthday' of my piano. Every year I quietly say happy birthday to this dear friend and I spend just a little quiet time alone with my piano. What do I play each year? A number of songs but always among them you will hear the melody of that old hymn played so long ago on the sidewalk of my youth. If you wander by my house sometime today you just might hear 'Let The Lower Lights Be Burning'. And if you listen very carefully you may hear me humming, too.

(Would you pray for my dear son today as he and eight other members of a team from his church fly to Cambodia where they will build a church? They will be gone for ten days.)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Dancing With The Angels

Thank you to each of you for your messages of condolance and comfort. They mean more than words can express. Today we will say our final goodbyes to my sweetheart's dear stepmother. Even though we say goodbye here on earth we will hold her close in our hearts forever. She touched our lives in ways we never dreamed possible and we will never be the same again. A day or two ago I called her dear daughter just to chat and see how she was doing. Her first words were 'Mom is dancing with the angels'! These words came to mind.

Memories surround me
But sadness has found me
I’d do anything for more time
Never before has someone meant more
And I can’t get you out of my mind
There is so much that I don’t understand
But I know…

You’re dancing with the angels
Walking in new life
You’re dancing with the angels
Heaven fills your eyes
Now that you’re dancing with the angels

You had love for your family
Love for all people
Love for the Father, and Son
Your heart will be heard
In your unspoken words
Through generations to come
There is so much that I don’t understand
But I know. . .

You're dancing with the angels
Walking in new life
You're dancing with the angels
Heaven fills your eyes
Now that you're dancing with the angels

We’re only here for such a short time
So I’m gonna’ stand up, shout out,
And sing Hallelujah

One day I’ll see you again
And we'll be dancing with the angels
Walking in new life
We'll be dancing with the angels
Heaven fills our eyes
When we're dancing with the angels

Song 'Dancing With The Angels'
Recorded by Monk and Neagle

Monday, November 24, 2008

In A Fog

We woke to fog and cold temperatures this morning. Mid-morning and not much change. Since a picture is supposed to be worth a thousand words here are a few thousand 'words' to give you an idea why I've chosen to work inside today.

(That's ice on the web!)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Over The Sunset Mountains

Over the sunset mountains,
Someday I'll gladly go;
Into the arms of Jesus,
He who has loved me so.

Over the Sunset Mountains,
Heaven awaits for me,
Over the Sunset mountains,
Jesus my Savior I'll see.

Toiling will all be ended,
Shadows will flee away;
Sorrow will be forgotten-
Oh, what a wonderful day!

Over the Sunset Mountains,
Heaven awaits for me,
Over the Sunset mountains,
Jesus my Savior I'll see.

Song: "Over The Sunset Mountains"
Words & Music by John W. Peterson

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Home On The Range

I enjoy home tours that some of you feature on your blogs from time to time. There was a time in my life - during my college days - when one of my favorite free weekend activities was tours of model homes that were open to the public. I'm sure one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much was that my friends and I were never given a sales pitch, never pressured to buy, had no problems with the realtors trying to talk us into giving them our business. It was obvious that we were poor college students who just wanted to see the beautiful homes and dream a bit of days at a different time of life. I seldom go on actual home tours anymore but I do enjoy a good virtual tour!

Twice a week as I drive toward a care center where I serve as chaplain I pass an interesting entrance to a property that is now for sale. I've always wondered what was down the lane and behind the trees but never had the courage to drive there to see.The other day as I was heading home I noticed something new - a huge banner with the website for this property. Not to be one to miss an opportunity like that I came home and checked it out. I was NOT prepared for what I saw! I sat here saying, 'Oh, my goodness! I can't believe this!' Let me share what is down that lane and behind those trees. Just a tiny, little home on the range. If I forced myself, I could probably be happy to live there!
Through the front doors you step into an open entry.To your right you see the formal dining room - just a small place to entertain a few friends.Can you imagine what fun you could have here?And ahead is the Great Room.

And what a great room it is!

Stepping into the room gives you a better idea. . .

Of the spacious beauty here. It's gorgeous!

And we'll peek into the main floor hall bathroom. . .Before we go to the kitchen. . .
Where there's lots of space. . .And a nice eating area.And don't forget the laundry room. Somebody had the right idea when they planned this room.
Let's go into the Master Bedroom.Where there's plenty of room to relax.Wait till you see the Master Bathroom.Oh, can you imagine lounging in this tub. . . with this view?That's only the first two floors. You haven't seen the third floor Bonus Room yet. My grandkids would think they'd climbed the stairway to Heaven!
Let's go outside and see what's out there. There's the guest house.The shop. . .And the horse barn and covered riding arena. Of course there is the big fountain area not far from the house.

One more look at this 'home on the range' before we go.If you would like to see more pictures of this ranch or know more about it you can check it out here. Don't miss the wonderful video tour. It's one of the best I've seen.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Heaven Is A Little Closer

Yesterday afternoon my sweetheart's dear stepmother quietly slipped away from the boundaries of life. Her journey here on earth was over - she had lived well and loved much. We really didn't want her to go but we couldn't ask her to stay. She loved us as her own; we loved her the same. Her heart and arms were always open to us and we never felt anything but her incredible joy to have us in her life.

The story of our dear one's coming into our lives is precious to our hearts. My sweetheart's mother went to be with Jesus several years ago and his father's heart was broken. Many changes happened within a short time and he moved from a community in another state to a town about an hour away from us to live near my dear sister-in-law. He really didn't want to make the move and he longed for his former home but he knew it was the best choice. He moved into an apartment in a retirement community where good people opened their arms and hearts to him. While he missed my dear mother-in-law intensely he enjoyed the friendship of his new friends. It wasn't long and we began to hear about a group of people - especially ladies - who rode the bus to church with him, walked to the nearby grocery store together and included him in activities of all kinds. And then one precious day about two years later he married one of the ladies in the group. He was ninety. She was eighty-eight. My sweetheart was their best man. I played the organ and I cried so hard with joy that I could hardly see the keys. Our dear son performed the ceremony together with the retirement center chaplain. Our son was a young youth pastor at the time and he told us he never dreamed that the first wedding he would perform would be for his grandpa! It was a day filled with joy. Two families came together and have loved each other ever since. My father-in-law and his bride were happier than we could have imagined. They were so in love and everyone around them knew it. They called themselves 'recycled teenagers'. They loved each other deeply and they loved each other's families as their own. It was something we never could have dreamed possible. And they had fun, such fun together. For three years their lives were entwined together. Last year he passed away and her world was turned upside down. Since that time we have continued to visit and call and send a few letters and pictures on a regular basis. She always thanked us for our love. And we felt so blessed to have hers. She saw things in my sweetheart that were so like his father and she knew that she and I had loved and married men who were so alike in many special ways. Because of that, my sweetheart was very special to her - like a son. And she loved it when he called her 'Mom'.

Our lives will never be the same because of this sweet lady whose love stole my father-in-law's heart. And ours! She brought a beauty and a sweetness that can't be described. That's what she did for everyone whose life she touched. She will be missed much but she will always hold a special place in our hearts. A place no one else can have. Because of her, Heaven seems just a little closer now.

Artwork: 'Heaven's Light'
Artist: James Lee