Get a Bucket

I'm not sure we'll have any of this in 2016. 
The rain is pouring, drenching the ground and creating standing pools of water in our backyard.
Years ago we learned to be grateful to live on top of a tall Kentucky ridge-- 
so we don't worry about flash floods, at least not in our immediate area.
But there is a flood of another sort slowly building in our basement. 

* I got a call this evening, the kind that chills the blood and makes a heart flop in place for at least a single minute. "Mom, I had an accident..." 
One of my guys had an accident in a busy intersection, at high traffic time, in heavy rain. Even strong young men can get sobby when they've been spun into a ditch or knocked into the wrong lane of traffic. 
And my third son is just beginning his driving experiences - YEESH.

** Today an old friend responded this way when asked, "What are you doing?" 
"I'm sitting here in the dark." 
She's in an assisted living facility now and is mostly blind. 
Light of the World, shine on my friend, your daughter, and illuminate her darkness. Fill it with 
Yourself and show her more beautiful sights in her inner man than she's ever seen with her 
outer man, as it decays day-by-day. Give her an understanding of why she's still here 
and not there with You, and give her the strength to fan the flames of Your gifts.


Christmas Eve

"Oh, holy night!
The stars are brightly shining.
It is the night of our dear Savior's birth.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
'til He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
Fall on your knees! Oh hear the angel voices!
Oh night divine, 
Oh night when Christ was born."
-Adolphe Adam

Was your Christmas Eve was all you hoped for? 
I got to enjoy the unmistakable aroma of an old church, 
hear a handbell choir
(it would be very hard to stay humble as a bell choir member), 
and pass the candlelight from hand to hand. 

Why is it almost impossible to keep weeping at bay during 
this simple Silent Night ceremony?
The symbolism of receiving the tiny flame and sharing it with strangers, 
as well as the ones I love, 
plinks something deep inside. 
If only we shared the True Light as eagerly, 
without the slightest hesitation.

This is a New Year resolution to consider...


Best-Ever Christmas Gift

When my boys were little, I asked them for one gift - a Christmas song.
Not just any old, raggedy holiday song, but a real Christmas carol - a hymn.
No shopping or cash required; no wrapping paper, scissors, or tape to worry about.

My request generated hushed practices behind closed bedroom doors, and stray 
sheets of music threatened to ruin the surprise. Occasionally a musical instrument 
made it into the mix, and my favorite song ever, "We Three Kings", included props. 

I love that they were committing sacred, and sometimes ancient, phrases to memory:
"Come, desire of nations, come; Fix in us thy humble home."
"... to save us all from satan's power when we have gone astray ..."
"Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:'God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;'"

Many years later, I'm still asking for my Christmas hymn. 
Every year, it's the last gift given, sometimes almost forgotten in all the December 25th excitement. 
My men and almost-men line up amid discarded paper wrapping and empty boxes to sing. 
It's my favorite gift, by far the best three minutes of Christmas Day.

And just imagine how this might work out in the years to come. Lord willing, 
daughters-in-law will join in giving me this cheap and easy-to-wrap gift, and maybe ... 
even the grandkids will sing along someday.

What a gift that would be!


What About the Innkeeper?

Here's a re-made version of an old photo of our "play creche"
with words from one of my favorite Christmas carols.
Click on over to Jeanne Doyon's blog, Pausing to See God Clearly, to see the 
back story behind the photo.  
and find out why the innkeeper never got out to play.
Here's a link to her blog. Make sure to check back in the new year - 
Jeanne always has great content on her blog. 


Love In Action

So how is it going with your Christmas Good Deed? 
It's one of our traditions, carried over from  the little boy days
During the Christmas season, we encouraged them look for some task, 
a good deed, they could perform -- Little Drummer Boy style
I know, I know - the Little Drummer Boy is not in the Bible, 
purely an invention of Arthur Rankin and Jules Bass. 
But the value of the story made it a vehicle for real-life
growth and learning for my sons during the Christmas season.

The search for a Christmas Good Deed was taken pretty seriously by my guys, 
poor boys that they were, and they still remember a few:
taking a last-minute part in the children's holiday play (with lines),
packing bags of treats for county jail inmates,
offering to help a woman with car troubles in a superstore parking lot,
delivering food to needy families and including a spontaneous song

Now that they're mostly grown, I can't help them find their good deed; 
there's no opportunity to hold hands along the way and share courage.
So I watch for my own Christmas Good Deed and talk about my search 
during mealtimes, or between plays during Sunday afternoon football.

How great would it be to find them carrying on the tradition of 
Christmas Good Deed with their own someday families?


Favorite Drummer Boy Quote: 
"Your gift ... given out of the simple desperation of a pure love, is the one favored above all." 
That's worth pondering. 
So are these verses that support the concept of a Christmas Good Deed. 


The Christmas Cloth

A Christmas story ...

Elda sorted through the top drawer of her bureau with both hands. Finally feeling the distinctive stitched edges of the linen, she drew out a small folded square of painted fabric. In this sacred time of year, her heart swelled with anticipation at what her Savior might do in the next few weeks.
She moved with brittle, short steps through the sitting room of her small apartment in the senior community where she had recently settled, clutching the Christmas cloth as she went. Elda recalled the cloth as it had been when she'd purchased it as a twenty-year-old girl in the dime store one block from her seminary quarters. Once stiff and proper, and now so threadbare! Just like me, she mused, as she held the cloth up to the afternoon light that pressed itself through the block window over the tiny second-hand couch. Elda smiled and shook her head, I was stiff and proper too, but now I'm thin and soft with all my dignity worn away. She yielded praise for the uncanny wisdom of her Lord and removed the framed photos from her coffee table. 
Her knobby hands spread the festive fabric over the wooden surface and stroked the creases smooth. This foldable Christmas token had traveled the mission fields of the world with her over the last sixty years. Always tucked securely in the bottom of her leather satchel, together they slipped down jungle rivers by canoe, crossed mountain borders by train, and trekked miles of remote pathways. 
Every December, countless tiny, brown fingers caressed it with curiosity while she waited patiently for the questions which always followed. 
What is this cloth? What does it mean?
It was her chance to share the Gospel through the story of Christmas. Elda remembered the joyful faces of those who had knelt with her in grass huts or curtained alcoves, and on so many dirt floors, to be born anew into the Kingdom of God. Wherever she had been, in whatever discomfort was necessary, those moments were her favorite gifts every December. 
Peace on Earth had come to many whose hands she grasped over this very cloth. Now, as she spread it again, she wondered who might join her this year, her ninety-first, to celebrate the newborn King. Father, if You will, let this old missionary woman share the Good News one more time this Christmas. 
Elda's doorbell buzzed and the door swung open to admit the nurse on duty for her corridor of apartments. She smiled a welcome to a thin young woman who wheeled a metal cart piled high with pills and syringes. The nurse made small talk with Elda, telling her about the weather and reciting the dinner menu. Her tasks completed, she packed her gear for a quick exit, but stopped short when her gaze fell upon Elda's Christmas cloth. 
“What a pretty old cloth! Where did you get it?” 

- Susan Holt Simpson


Link to Lint

I'm guest posting at Jeanne Doyon's blog today!

Come read my post about how Christmas memories are a lot like ...

This link will take you there. Enjoy!



Almost everyone is familiar with Charles Dicken's iconic character, Ebenezer Scrooge.
Talk about a character arc! Old Scrooge went from bad to good in just one night. 
The first ghost lead him on a path of regret, 
the second ghost took him on a journey of misgivings, 
but the third specter brought him to his knees. 
The reluctant witness of his own demise, Scrooge begs for mercy
Overcome with repentance, Ebenezer grovels at his own gravesite.
The transformation is amazing, and I never get tired of 
witnessing the birth of the NEW Scrooge.
Here's a few versions for your Christmas ponderings.


Christmas Conversations

As parents, we spend LOTS of time telling our kids what to do and when; we go on and on
 about how things should be, or at least, how we think they should be.

Christmas is a chance to change that a little bit. Instead of telling, do some asking. 
ASK THEM what they think.
 Draw out their opinions, then pose the question WHY? Their answers will surprise you.

First, find a Christmas cup or bowl, grab a holiday box or bag to hold 
the conversation starters.

Write questions on paper slips, fold each, and tuck them in the Christmas Conversations container. 
Or you could call it the  the Christmas Hmmmm Cup, who knows what 
clever name you'll invent.

Every day at a meal time, pull one out, and let the conversation flow. 
You might want to set up rules if you parent some siblings who love to argue: No put-downs. Everyone is allowed to say what they think. This is just for fun.

Here's a list of question ideas to get you started.
Why do you think God led wise men to Jesus with a star?
What do you think the star looked like? Could everyone see it?
What do you think the gifts of the wise men really meant?
Was the innkeeper a hero or a villain? Under the same circumstances, what would you have done?
What do you think the shepherds thought when the angels began to sing?
The shepherds made haste to Bethlehem. Do you think they left anyone behind with the sheep?
What do you think the sheep did when the angel proclaimed the Good News? Did they bleat? Lie down? Run around?
A Christmas hymn says about Baby Jesus, "... no crying he makes." Do you think this was true?
What are swaddling clothes? Do people use swaddling cloths today?
Why do you think Baby Jesus was laid in a manger?
What do you think the place where Jesus was born actually looked like?
What is a like to be in a barn /stable? What does it look like, smell like, feel like?
At Christmas time, why do people use lights to decorate?
Why do you think we use an evergreen tree at Christmas time instead of any other kind of tree?
What if there were no presents under the tree on Christmas morning - what would you do?
If you could give ANY Christmas gift, with unlimited budget, what would you give?
If you could get rid of any Christmas tradition, what would it be and why?


Draw Near

Yesterday in church we sang "O Come, All Ye Faithful", (1760)*. 
Without a doubt, Christmas hymns are part of drawing near to the manger, for me.
I'm amazed that meeting with the Lord is possible in a crowded room when much 
of my mind is swirling with to-do items. 

"It's all about the inclination of your heart,"
has been our constant refrain to our teenagers, 
always hoping they would incline their hearts to Him before any other.
If we incline our hearts, or draw near to Him, it's a done deal - 
He draws near to us.

*1760 - WHAT? I'm profoundly impacted by the thought that hundreds of years ago, Christians were singing this new song and celebrating the birth of the Christ Child. This song is a link that spans the centuries. Click the link to get perspective on just how different the world was then. 
**Photo - This cardinal posed in our burning bush, greatly slowed by the frigid temperatures, and I caught his best side. The December weather this year is almost balmy


It's More Than That

Christmas is not just a time for festivity and merry making.
 It is more than that.
 It is a time for the contemplation of eternal things. 
The Christmas spirit is a spirit of giving and forgiving.”

Some things to contemplate HERE and HERE

And this, too.


A Great Light

"Why do we have lights?" 
It's one of the questions we asked our kids every year. 
"Because Jesus is the Light of the world!" 
They always gave the answer we coached them to repeat. 

But it's so much richer than that. Look at these verses from Matthew:
The people who were sitting (living)in [spiritual] darkness have seen a great Light,
And for those who were sitting (living) in the land and shadow of [spiritual and moral] deathUpon them a Light has dawned.” Amplified Bible

Is someone you love sitting in spiritual darkness? 
Do you have a near-and-dear living in the land of shadow and death? 
Me too, friend. So when I see those beautiful light displays, I'm praying that 
 the Light will dawn in their lives this Christmas.

True Confession Side Note - 
I once ... bumped ... a pedestrian (dressed in black and on the wrong side of the road) because I was too involved in playing the Christmas Light Game.My side of the vehicle was down by quite a bit, accusations of cheating were rising from the ranks in the back seats, and we were late for a kid party which included a much anticipated / dreaded gift exchange. So I'm sure you can see how it happened. 

Don't worry - it all turned out fine. It happened right by the police station, so I pulled in there and ran back to talk to the woman and the bumped man, who was holding his (slightly dinged) elbow. 
I apologized like crazy.
I offered to call an ambulance.
I tried to call the police on myself!
They made a break for it at that point, but I managed to get them to hold hands and pray with me before they scurried into the night.  

By the time I returned to my vehicle, my older boys had convinced each other, and the baby, that I'd be going to jail - they would certainly miss the Christmas party, including the gift exchange. And the snacks. 

They were surprised to go free, and we didn't play the light game again, even a single time, that Christmas. 

* The Christmas Light Game - Two teams divided to match the two sides of the road. Each team gets a point for lit houses which face their side of the vehicle. Houses down side roads or in neighborhoods do not count. I suggest you agree on your version of the rules before you leave the house to avoid ... distractions.


Simple Thanks

Can you see it? Look closely ...
 Scary Santa crouching over an adorable little girl,
and she's holding a new doll.
Is she laughing with joy or screaming in horror?
The two are so close anyway.
Is that a little doll bed in the box?

I found this photo in a big bag of cast-off photos from Goodwill,
 one of my favorite birthday gifts, ever.

I scored the old GE Christmas light bulbs at a yardsale for $1. They make a colorful and easy vintage display. It's the only Christmas decoration I allowed to creep into my office area. 

What are you pondering today about the Lord and His incarnation? 
I found myself  thanking Him on my drive to and from school drop-off this morning.
Sometimes the very best I can do is to simply give thanks. 
"ThankYou ... ThankYou ... ThankYou ... ThankYou ..."
The for whats start to bubble up after that. 

Thank You for laying heaven aside and stepping down into our mess.
Thank you for humbling yourself to take on a human form.
Thank you for becoming the way of salvation for me. 
And for my family and friends.
And for my neighbors.
Thank you that your plan continues, rolling ever forward.

It's a great time of year to deliberately turn toward thankfulness.


Natural Sparkle

When I was a kid, my grandmother let my brothers and I throw 
great, globby handfuls of icicles on her tree. 
We thought that's how you should put icicles on a Christmas tree. 
How patient she was to let us take part in such an imperfect way!

Later I learned other methods, including the meticulous strand-by-strand approach
 to decorating a tree with icicle tinsel.

And then, there's the frozen fog way to trim a branch with sparkling shine. 

This weekend, my whole backyard was decorated in frost crystals, 
every edge gleaming with natural glitz.

Such beautiful holiday decor, and it all melted away, leaving nothing to sweep up.


Keeping a Countdown

Do you keep a countdown to Christmas Day?
When my boys were little, we made a paper chain and tore off a link every December morning. 
The days flew by!

Can you imagine Mary's countdown? 
The months, weeks and days leading to a baby's arrival are filled with 
joyful anticipation, especially when it's a firstborn child.
I can't begin to imagine the turmoil Mary had to endure when plans were made 
to travel to Bethlehem from Nazareth at the end of her time of waiting. 
Instead of counting down the last days of her pregnancy in a snug home, 
surrounded by light and safety, 
she found herself on crowded roads, searching for any sort of shelter. 

The details of the last days of her pregnancy and delivery were certainly 
not anything she could have imagined on 
that day when Gabriel made his announcement. 
But God's plan was divine, and the birth of His son was executed 
perfectly, although it may have seemed like a disaster to those involved.

You might find yourself in a similar situation this Christmas.
Maybe Christmas 2015 is NOTHING like what you hoped for. 
 I know I've felt like Mary might have, far from home, 
out of place, and nearly out of time. 

It is comforting to remember that the One who set the world in motion 
has a plan for us, just as He did for Mary.
 He sees each one of us, and is orchestrating events for the 
very greatest good; not a single pain is wasted in His grand design. 


Father God, thank you that my life is not a random series of events.
Help me to remember that you are in control of my circumstances 
because of my faith in Jesus Christ, your Son. I offer myself to you 
again, that I might be an agent of your grace and mercy in this world.
Shine the light of your love through me this Christmas.


Mystery and Surprise

Last December this card appeared in our mailbox. 
No envelope. 
It's completely handmade, right down to the liquid correction on line six.
I have to say, I was completely charmed!
Efforts to uncover the secret "MESSENGER" were in vain, 
and I'm so glad. 

Clearly, the MESSENGER gets it - 
mystery and surprise are indispensable Christmas ingredients. 

What about you - have you experienced a Christmas mystery? 
Is there a Christmas miracle in your past? 
Share the story along the way this month and make someone's holiday sweeter!

And speaking of Christmas stories ...
 More Christmas Moments: Yvonne Lehman: 9781604950175: Amazon.com: Books
... one of mine appears in this recently released collection of Christmas stories.
Check out the details here.  
All proceeds benefit Samaritan's Purse.  
Here's the first little bit of my story, "Gwen's Silent Night":
Gwen brushed the snow from her collar and entered the nave, eyes downcast. A warm wave of scent, evergreen and candlewax, rushed around her tardy family of four, their only greeting. Gwen slid into the back pew after her husband, slipped the baby from her hip and unzipped his snowsuit in one fluid motion. She settled him on her lap and ran a shaking hand over the hat-loosened braids of her daughter.



To Own Him

William Chatterton Dix (1837-1898) fell ill and on his sickbed, 
 he found faith. And isn't that the way it goes? 
There's lots of time to consider the condition of your soul when 
you're flat on your back and wondering how much time you have left.

After he recovered, his poetry reflected his new heart. 
"What Child Is This?" is one of his most famous works.

Find an article about this classic Christmas hymn here
including lyrics, background and creative application ideas.
Listen to it here.
Here's a photo to share.

What do you think of the line - 
"Come, peasant, king, to own him."

To own him!


Just Pick One

I've seen lots of buzz lately about cutting back and paring down.

 I watched 1.5 episodes of "Tiny House, Big Living." 
What the heck?
I HAVE a tiny house, but the show made me feel like I live in a castle. 

One of my writing mentors is excited about the book Essentialism
subtitled, "the disciplined pursuit of less". 
(There's a quiz at the link.)

And there was a whole THING about owning only nine (?) pieces of clothing, 
mixing and matching those hopefully coordinating pieces as an entire wardrobe.

The prevailing thought is that having less eliminates 
wasted thought, effort, and general life angst.

I may have more than nine pieces of clothing, but
this is something I've been able to apply to Christmas baking. 

In years past, I got out a stack of recipe cards and made a great variety of holiday essentials. 
Endless platters, boxes, and plastic containers of cookies, bars, and candies.

Now I pick one recipe for the season. 
No need for extensive lists of ingredients at the grocery. Limiting myself to 
one special recipe reduces cost, calorie consumption, and preparation time,
 leaving more space to focus on  Christmas truth

This year, I'm making Ree Drummond's dark and decadent Chocolate Cream Pie, with my own variations, of course.
You can find the recipe with her fabulous photo directions here.