cold day, warm heart

freezing outside... below freezing actually. Brrrr.

I step inside for to warm my fingers a bit and place my icy mittens on the wood-stove. Venturing back out to help with the work, I have a new appreciation for "warm woolen mittens"!  Wonderful, toasty-warm woolen mittens.

These are a few of my other favorite things from yesterday:

- hot fresh bread with melting butter and honey

- a bit of steamy hazelnut cream coffee with my milk
- the memory of my grandma taking her coffee the same way.  (I like mine, with LOTS of CREAM!)

- holding my hot water-bottle puppy in my coat to keep him warm (He cried missing us whenever we took him inside.)
- my kids coming over to hug me, holding their cold fingers to my neck to warm them
 - hugging my mom and dad often, because hugging is contagious once you start
- watching my husband teach my son how to use the heaviest nail gun
- three generations of men working side by side
- Carhartts, coats, scarves, gloves, mittens, boots ... my boots, a gift from my husband on our first Christmas so a northern boy could take this southern girl ice-fishing
- smiles everywhere, and no one complaining about the cold... all just happy to be outside together
- laughing all day over silly things, like measuring a board and then turning it around to cut it rather than measuring it from the other end... again.

- mama putting on chap-stick, and my dad putting on chap-stick by kissing my mom; high school sweethearts still in love

- flirting with my own sweetheart
- my rugged man... warm hands always, even in bellow freezing temperatures with his old cut-off work gloves
... his wanting me to be there, asking me to come and watch him work, thanking me several times for coming and staying out in the cold air

Simple joys.

Date Night

My husband is out on a date tonight...
with a six year old.

She was so excited getting dressed for her "date".
A little girl and her daddy...

I remember when I was that little girl.

My own daddy took me out on many dates, but a few stand out in my mind, never to be forgotten.

Most memorable date of my life:

A hurried Sunday morning, mama dresses and feeds all her wee ones, and one 5 year old in particular is being difficult. "Grumpy" turns to "naughty". The station wagon pulls away from our tiny home near the seminary and crosses Fort Worth. The drive to church is just long enough for "naughty" to turn to "disrespectful".

My daddy parks the car. We all get out. I don't remember what the final straw was. I probably hit my sister or talked back to my mother, but I do remember my dad stopping in his tracks and saying, "Julie, take the kids on inside. Deborah and I will join you later."

I went too far, and my heart sinks just recalling that moment. I knew what was coming, and I deserved it.

Mom walks across the parking lot with all my siblings. My dad turns to me, takes my hand, and we walk back to the car. He opens the door, buckles me into my seat, drives to a restaurant, and never mentions my horrible behavior. Instead, he orders breakfast and tells me a silly story about tigers chasing a boy and turning to butter.

I didn't get what I deserved. I got my first lesson in grace.

Not a bad first date.

Another daddy-date I treasure came about 15 years later:

I was in college, and my daddy drove all the way from Fort Bragg to Lynchburg to fix a printer and cheer up his discouraged daughter with a paper due the next day. I don't remember where we went to dinner, but I will never forget the hug he gave me before he got back in the Suburban to drive the 4 hours home.

I married a man very much like my dad. My precious daughter is so blessed to have my husband as the first significant man in her life.

So, I am home with boys, my little men.
I could not be happier to be left at home tonight;
because there is something special about a daddy's love.
Seeing her joy fills me with a double portion of my own.

The love of a father...
When a Daddy loves his little girl, he shows the heart of God.

I am loved.

My daughter gave me all the princess stickers.

This evening as I was rocking with my baby girl, she said, "Mama, wouldn't it be fun to swing on a rainbow?" I turned our chair to face the rainbow painted on the wall.

"What happened to all the beautiful princesses that were on your rainbow?"

"They slid down over to your dress. I wanted to give them all to you."

We spun around to face the other wall, and there was my dress covered with her favorite stickers. My sweet girl didn't choose to put them on her own dress; she gave them ALL to me.

We have to MAKE TIME to spend UNHURRIED TIME for the important things...
And, the important things are PEOPLE.

My little girl is my biggest fan, and all she really wants in my attention and love.

For the longest time, bedtime was one of my most begrudged duties. By the evening hours, I'm spent and exhausted. The last thing I've wanted to do is re-read stories, listen to long prayers, and have even longer discussions rehashing the days events and rehearsing jokes I've already heard.

Giving her and my boys time in the evening hours has gone from duty to delight, and the only change has been my heart.

Children say things in precious ways. Tonight my little one told me she loves me, and I would have missed it if I had been in a hurry.

A Beautiful Day for a Walk

The kids and I had a flat tire on the way to church this morning in a stretch on a back road with no cell coverage. So, we buttoned our coats and started the hike back home.

After a few minutes of walking, my mind wandered back to my childhood and the first weeks living in Germany without a car. My parents bundled us up for those January hikes to church from our home near the main base in Darmstadt to the chapel where my father was to preach on Ernest Ludwig Kaserne.

Like a line of ducks... Mama, Papa, and 5 little ones.

Now, I'm the Mama asking, "What shall we sing to shorten this mile?"

"Dashing through the snow, in a one horse open sleigh..." Boy, I wish I had a sleigh. There will be no short cut over a snowy field in Sunday Shoes.

Skirt and heels, dress coat and gloves. I feel I've stepped out of time. For centuries families have traipsed through the snow to meet to worship...

My husband should be here any minute to pick us up... Oh, the blessings of modern conveniences! Two cars, three services. But, there is something beautiful about walking the miles in the crisp air over frozen ground with my children, cheering each other on, "We're half way there! You guys are doing great! Isn't it fun to have an adventure?"

A Moment of Peace

I step outside to plug in the lights just as the sun is setting.

a silent moment
not a person in sight. not a sound.
I alone stand high on this hill taking in the view...
a pink sky. clear and bright.
a few bright stars shining.
white snow glowing soft blue in the evening light.

Jesus, I'm so glad you came, and I'm so glad you left your Spirit. Moments like these wouldn't be half so nice if I didn't have You to share them with.

No one but You knows the thoughts that go through my mind.
I stand in the cold, and You clear my head.
Thank You for the air that brings sense and order to overcrowded space; I didn't even realize how distracted I was.

My home feels different as I go back into the warm. Nothing has changed except my awareness of Your presence.

You are here. Christmas lights, music, family... all nice, but You add the wonder and the peace.

Seeking Christmas

Christmas (Christ's Mass ... an assembly, a celebration of Christ)
I can be objective and historical about the holiday until Advent begins.

Advent - "coming"

Four Sundays before the marked day of celebration of His first coming, we begin to slow down, quiet our hearts, as we end each day remembering what it was like to walk in darkness before the Light of the world came into the world bringing hope.

We have all known darkness, and now we know hope.

Like Israel, and all those since the fall in the garden, we are filled with anticipation of the fulfillment of a promise.

"O Come Thou Day Spring
Come and cheer our spirits by Thine Advent here..."

Cheer our spirits by Thy coming.

How my heart quiets once the first candle is lit...

(the Light of the Hope of the Prophets)

and the words of Isaiah are read...

"on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned... For unto us a child is born... Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace... The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this..."

"O Come O Come Emmanuel"
Come, 'God With Us'!

Come be with us.

My eldest knew to sing this song at two, and a decade later we still sing.

I sit back and listen to the informal catechism between my husband and my children, the same questions I was asked as a child by my father.
"Why do we light the first candle?"
"We light this candle as a symbol of expectation... of hope."


We seek Him. And, in Him, we find HOPE.

Pack Away Thanksgiving?

"Let's pack up Thanksgiving; so we can get on with Christmas!"


Kids can be so honest, and the deeper truth behind what they say is telling.

It's time for lights and Christmas trees.

That means it is time for the fall decorations to be stored away. I think that something else might have been packed away, buried under bright colored leaves in those rubbermaid tubs.

Did we really pack away Thanksgiving?

Already I feel a hint of Christmas greed knocking at our door. Commercials for toys, diamonds, clothing, cars, appliances... over-hearing conversations of "what do you want for Christmas this year?"... and a few minutes ago I sat down here at the computer to order an item on-line only to find it is already sold-out at Amazon... and it isn't even December yet!

The shock and disappointment sent me on a hunt all over the internet for "the best deal", and in the pursuit of "finding", I could feel I was loosing something... a quiet and contented heart.

Our family has a fall and spring tradition of counting down the days until Thanksgiving and Easter.

30 attributes of God for 30 days

We made up a tune to sing our way through the list, and every day we discuss a quality of God’s character and why we are thankful for that aspect of our Lord.


It is so easy to rattle these off.
And, It is so easy to become distracted and forget.

I am content when I’m listing my blessings and remembering the Giver. It is natural to be thankful when I’m thinking about God and the privilege of knowing Him. It is not hard to be still and filled with peace when I remember who He is.

"He knows everything.
He is everywhere...
He's completely in control."

I didn't go shopping this weekend. I saw the ads and thought, "We don't NEED anything."
What has changed?

We really do have everything we really want.
... peace with God
... a home filled with laughter
... family
... friends

I have a husband that loves me
and children that honor and obey their parents.

I have all these things, and none of them can be bought in a store.

Giving gifts is more about a generous spirit and expressing love than the actual contents of a package or its price-tag.

So why the sense of urgency this morning?
I didn't feel the Christmas rush all weekend.
Is it because Thanksgiving was packed away and I've moved on to Christmas?

This morning I am unpacking THANKSGIVING... not the decorations, the THANKFUL HEART.

"A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones." Proverbs 14:30

Maybe in addition to advent this year, I need to countdown to Christmas... hmmm.

Our Countdown Calendar of Attributes:

Our Attributes Song:

I wish you Happiness and Thankfulness in your GIVING!
Merry Christmas!

Longing for Heaven and Home

It is wonderful to sit around the table together as a family.
I am so blessed...

The day after Thanksgiving.

So many people are busy today, and I am quite.
My heart has not moved on from the theme of yesterday.

(my dad's dad)

So much to be thankful for...

So many memories...

Such a rich heritage.

For countless years, the patriarchs of my family have gathered their families together to thank God for His blessings...

(my mom's dad)

Generations have enjoyed the precious gift of family and home.

Yet, my heart aches a little when I think back to yesterday.

I miss my grandparents.

(my dad's mom)

I have been loved and prayed for all my life... before I was even born.

Too many in this century have never known the blessing of a family legacy like mine.

What has been passed down to me is priceless!

(my mom's mom)

I have a history of character.

I come from a line of mothers with hearts at home and men who loved and provided for their wives and children.

I have a heritage of faith.

I stand on a foundation that was established long before I was conceived and has proven to be sure and steadfast. The ground I walk is solid. It steadies me.

(great grandparents)

I know where I come from.

I have a name.

I know who I am.

And, I am more than just this lifetime. My life is about more than just me. I am part of something bigger than myself. I am part of a family.

I am passing something on to my children and grandchildren that is much bigger than me.

(great-great grandparents)

I woke-up in the middle of the night last night from a dream I can't remember except for one sentence, "I miss my daddy."

It wasn't my voice that spoke the words. A godly patriarch longing for a father who had already arrived in heaven said what my heart was crying.

From a sound sleep, I was suddenly awake and missing those who have gone ahead:
the ones I've known, who held me here on earth...
those that I vaguely remember...
and I even miss the one's I've only heard about...

my mom's Aunt May,
my grandma's Uncle Al,
my daddy's Uncle Paul...
my own Uncle Dennis.

I want to sit down around a table with them and hear them tell old stories.

I want to return to my great-grandma's porch, hear the plucking of a guitar, sing old hymns, laugh and play with cousins with no thought of time. I want what only heaven can offer.

(my dad)

When I think of heaven, I miss my dad. He's still here, but I see how he longs for heaven and home in the same way I do, only more keenly.

Who's to say that I won't arrive there first? But, I don't ever want to be without him. As long as I have him, I will be "daddy's little girl". Even at my age, I'm not ready to be all grown up.

(my mom)

And, my dear, beautiful mother...

What girl can get by without the help and love of her mother?

She knows everything,
and more importantly,
she understands me.

I need her.
I need her encouragement.
I want her company.

...I need my parents' prayers.
No, I will never be ready to say "goodbye" to them.

(my husband's grandparents)

I am part of a family, even larger than my own direct lineage. Which of these dear people will I meet some day? What stories do they have to tell?

(my in-laws)

My own sweet mother-in-law is sure to be there now.

We used her roaster to cook the turkey yesterday. All those early years of marriage, I saw it in her house, felt the warmth of her kitchen, anticipated a feast as delicious aromas built throughout the day. Yesterday it sat on my counter and heated my own home, and she is gone.

I want to know her as she really is. I have heard about her faith, and I feel like I missed out. I married her son too late and never really had the chance to hear her stories.

My turn will come.

Someday I will be the grandma,
the great-grandma,
the distant relative that is vaguely remembered,
that stories are told about.

Will my children and grandchildren feel the way I do today?

"...why should my heart feel lonely
and long for heaven and home?"

Eternity is set in my heart.

"He has made everything beautiful in its time.
He has also set eternity in the hearts of men;
yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end."
Ecclesiastes 3:11

I Have Time

There is plenty of time...
24 hours a day is enough.

I have time to sing to you,
time to answer your questions,
time to play with you,
time to let you help stir and sweep.

I have time to brush your hair.
and time for you to brush mine.
I have time to read you a story... again,
to "tickle tuck" you twice,
to kiss you, your kitten, and your doll.

I have time for you.

I read today that the average child laughs once every four minutes. I wonder if the average adult laughs four times in a day? --- I was curious if it was true, and I discovered that I have above average children, especially my daughter. For the time that I listened in from the other room, she giggled every minute, and often several times a minute. How much happiness I would miss if I were too busy!

When I first brought my little girl home, she did not want to be rocked to sleep or held when she was tired. She seemed to struggle and fight in my arms. But, the other day while I was praying, I heard the Lord telling me to rock her now.

I moved a chair into her room, and I am now able to do what I wanted to do for my sweet girl when she was tiny.

He gives back the years the locust have eaten in so many unexpected ways when we seek Him.

"When Jesus sent you to us
We loved you from the start
You were just a bit of sunshine
From heaven to our heart
Not just another baby
For since the world began
There's been something very special
For you in His plan..."
- Bill and Gloria Gaither

As I hold her and sing, I pause to tell her again about the special dresses in the room:
the dress she wore when I first saw her, the dress she wore on our first mother's day, and the dress she wore to court to finalize her adoption.
How many precious moment I would miss if I were too tired, too stressed, too busy!

Our little girl can be a handful and she needs me to be rested and ready, and with the Lord's help, I will be. Like everyone else, I have 24 hours a day. I am going to be intentional with how I spend my time; because some things are too important to be too busy to miss.

Window to Contentment

If you’ve ever scared yourself silly in a dark hallway or basement with a run-away-imagination, then you can imagine how quickly I escaped the make-shift bamboo out-house built over a snake infested pit.

Well, I never saw a snake, but in the dark of night in a remote Filipino village, all it took was a hint of a rumor of a snake for me to imagine movement in the hole beneath me.

Oh, the wonder of our marvelous minds!

We see what we look for...

We leisurely peruse the cut and paste sampling of Americana on the internet and begin to covet "the rich".

Comparison is the killer of contentment.

How is it that we, the top 1% of the world's wealthy, imagine ourselves "middle class"? If we zoom in on conveniently cropped lives, read their blogs and begin to feel like "have nots", maybe we should snag that card-board toilet-paper view-finder from the waste-basket and take a look around.


toilet paper

cotton balls, Q-tips

even extra flosser-thing-a-ma-jigs

open a cabinet; I don't even have to dig around to find wealth...

extra toothpaste
glasses, contacts

We can Pinterest our if-only-I-was-rich-shopping-wish-list or view the same images and come away inspired with ideas to rearrange and creatively make the most of the things we already have to bless our family (or even come up with clever home-made gifts to give away... aaaah, gratitude with generosity).

We see what we want to see


Up until the 50's most American homes did not have complete plumbing with hot and cold water, a shower or tub, and a flush toilet, but I'm sure all those homes had curtains and a towel rack! I am deprived!

How ridiculous are the complaints of the discontent!

There was a time when my unfinished bathroom felt like a pit; yet when compared to the literal pits I used in the Philippines, my private-master-bath is anything but!

When discontentment was creeping up on me, I prayed. "Lord, I so want to hang a curtain in this bathroom. Would you help me? And, while You're at it, could You give me a towel rack?"

"Godliness with contentment is great gain."
(and, inspiration for creativity!)

I love this window. If we ever finish this bathroom, I want to leave this "ladder / curtain-rod / towel-rack" as a symbol of divine help and creative inspiration at a moment of weakness when I was tempted to complain and nag my husband.


Comparison kills contentment,
but it also can kill complaining...
it all depends on what you choose to compare.

According to the United Nations, in 2006 it was estimated that 2.6 billion people lack basic sanitation. -- I am rich; all I lack nothing is a grateful heart!

So, tonight when I wash my face and brush my teeth over the tub, I will walk over to this window, dry my face, smile, and thank the Lord for these comforts and the many luxuries He has provided!

as things are
right here, right now
with or without the curtain, with or without a sink,
with or without a job,
a husband, children, car, furniture, or whatever else we think we need/want...

wanting, enjoying, and being thankful for what already we have; yet not clutching and clinging on to anything with possessive and fearful greed

I want a mind that is preoccupied with gratitude for this moment and a heart that is so full of thankfulness that there is no room for jealousy or envy.

One Million Gifts?

I am thankful, and it isn't even Thanksgiving yet!

#1 - music & how thankfulness slows me down to hear & listen – lingering in a store just a little longer after checking out to finish listening to the song that’s playing

#26 - my boys both curled up with pillow, blanket, & book… this warm wintry moment --- one in Narnia, one in the Shire, and me… all here!

#135 - a phone call … and a realization that a burden has become a blessing – who would guess that what I dreaded would become a delight… not wanting to go back (or have back) the thing I “gave up” – wondering, why all the struggle & hesitation to let go? – finding freedom & blessing in the loss… discovering that holding on was yoking me to a burden from which God was freeing me … and all this revelation from one phone call.

This morning I logged #615

Who but God can truly count the gifts of God?

Some entries started as one thought and ending with mini-lists filling 2 and 3 journal pages

With 20+ lines on a page, and multiple “gifts” on a line, how many “gifts” are wrapped up in a number?

Someone’s name
I’m thankful for the blessing of their friendship,
and so many wonderful memories associated with the thought of them.

One moment
and the details that make that moment special.

a season,
a holiday,
a weekend,
a date,
a day dream,
a meal,
a surprise,
a place
… and a chain of presents tied to each gift.

Even the abstract blessings of

inspire line upon line of concrete blessings.

I ponder the math.
What number should I multiply to give an estimate count of His good gifts?

When I started this gratitude journal in January I thought I’d reach 1,000 within a few months, but with Thanksgiving only a few weeks away, I doubt I’ll have numbered 1,000 gifts by then.

“1,000” … what is a number?
Since this is a habit I intend to keep all my life,
how many volumes of journals will I have?

And what number will I reach when I write my last entry?

And how many gifts will have gone unwritten?

Only God knows…

Every heartbeat, every breath, every sunrise and sunset, …

If the average heart beat is 72 beats per minute…
72 x 60 mins x 24hrs x 365.25 days = 37,869,120 blessings every year

Gifts I’ve Been Given = ?

I have been most blessed by a most generous God.
I’ve earned none of it. I deserve none of it.

I am rich.

Welcome Back!

Stepping outside this morning
barefoot on the deck
to let out the pup,

I can’t help but say aloud,

”Hello, Fall. Welcome back!”

We've had the strangest weather.

Crisp autumn air and warm sunshine has returned after a teasing taste of the winter to come.

It's so nice to see the ground and what is left of the leaves on the trees!

Check this out:
"Blue Snow" - My favorite color!
I took this one early in the morning (October 30th).