Almost Ready

I'm almost ready for this. 

And this—the Christmas Eve Spoons game.
I know ... it can get a little bit violent. Great-Grandma's pedestal table 
rocks and sways when cookie-drunk players grab the closest spoon. 
If you've never played here are the directions.
And here's a video example, but these people remain seated almost all the time.
Not enough cookies.

If, in the hustle and bustle of the holidays, 
you find your heart unprepared for Christmas, 
here's a link to Advent messages from John Piper.
He applies the most unexpected Bible passages to the Advent season. 
They're short, and you can listen or read them.


Lord at Thy Birth

Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, love's pure light;
Radiant beams from thy holy face,
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.

Whether we acknowledge it or not, it's still true.
If we choose to bow before Him or not, He's still King.

So let's approach the Lord like the shepherds did back then
in the company of others,
making our way to Him in a hurry,
undistracted by the cares of career, 
eager to tell others the Christmas good news.


Who Knew?

Just a glimpse—that's what I long for at Christmas time. 
A flash of nativity glow, one whiff of sacred stable air. 
What would it have been like to witness the incarnation?

We often imagine Mary and Joseph going it alone in a cozy, well-lit barn 
scene, but it's possible that there were many who observed 
at least a few moments of the event—an unreported, unnoticed crowd of gawkers.

I think it's likely that Mary's plight drew the attention of other
female travelers. Maybe one of them was drawn into the 
scene to act as midwife to the untried young woman, mother to the Son of God

Lodgers from the over-crowded inn probably heard Mary's birthing 
groans and winced, then talked a little bit louder to drown out the sound.

Perhaps humble barn boys, busily tending pack animals and supplying livestock, 
were the very first to hear the cries of the newborn king. 


Closing Gardens and Verse Two

Have you already blazed past me in memorizing Psalm 100 for Thanksgiving?
I get it. 
But if not, here's verse two.

We closed the gardens this weekend. 
Meaning: my husband used the weedeater on everything that grew this spring and summer
 while I stood by cheering. Now the flower beds and container gardens are 
peacefully blank, resting until spring flings open the door to a new growing season.

One of the winter arrangements I made from the leftovers to keep things looking cheerful -

Some of the hydrangeas heads still had a little bit of color—so pretty!
Leaving the stems in wet dirt for the winter months sometimes results in 
a nicely rooted new hydrangea in the spring.
(fingers crossed)


Get Noisy

Our Japanese maple spread its leaves in a 
wide, red skirt—a perfectly brilliant circle under bare, upraised branches.
What a peaceful way to go.

I'm plugging away at memorizing Psalm 100. 
Have you made any progress? 

Here's a visual aid—a photo of the Japanese maple before it lost its leaves. *

Our noise doesn't have to be cultured or clever,
sophisticated or insightful.
But it must be JOYful
Right here in mid-November, let's seek to bear this fruit of the Spirit. 

* Photo enhanced with free tools at the BeFunky photo editing website.


November Treasures

2017 is almost over and nature is giving notice. 

It's time to plow deep into the soil of this mostly-passed year 
and hunt for nuggets of GRATITUDE that churn to the top.

Those are the true unfading November treasures.

Meditating on a Thanksgiving psalm helps me focus on this season 
and resist being drawn into the next holiday too early. 
I'm trying to memorize Psalm 100 by Thanksgiving Day. 
Would you join me? 
Three versions here.
Various teachings on this chapter here.


A Thankful Tribute

This photo of Bruce and I was taken at a writer's conference in May 2016. 
I'd just won an award for work that this gentleman, among others, encouraged me to produce. 
I was amazed and more than a little thrilled ... and Bruce was just as excited.
His unselfish character allowed him to genuinely rejoice over the success of his friends.

He passed away this weekend after a courageous battle with cancer.
During his last weeks, many friends and colleagues joined in a card and 
letter-writing campaign to send words of encouragement
But I procrastinated—a writer who couldn't come up with the right words when it 
mattered most—and my message didn't reach him in time.

I truly regret that mistake and pray it will leave an eternal mark that will 
press me to speak my heart words in a more timely manner. 
If you're reading this today and you've held important words inside for what 
might be too long ... don't.

Included below is the message I finally penned for Bruce in 
the hope that it will be an appropriate tribute. 

Dear Bruce,
    I know it’s almost Halloween, so if this Thanksgiving card makes you laugh—good! I don’t much like Halloween anyway. A Thanksgiving card is so much more appropriate because you, my friend, are one of the blessings its verse mentions.
  Before I joined Word Weavers, the idea of writing was wriggling around in my heart, often pushed aside by doubt and fear. One Sunday morning, our pastor invited us to ask God any question and wait for an answer. With everyone else, I transcribed a question on a tiny slip of paper. “Am I a writer?” I folded it six or seven times, put it in the basket, and wondered how God would answer; and yes, I wondered if He would answer.
  Not long after that, I contacted Word Weavers and met their tech specialist, Bruce Brady. Through you, He answered my questionYES. Since then, He’s spoken through you (over and over) as you’ve partnered with me in a laughter-laced writing friendship. “Keep writing, girl,” you say, and I hear echoes of His voice.
  Thank you, Bruce, for speaking life to my frail dream and throwing in a great friendship to boot. We have SO many reasons to give thanks. 


Napping Angel

A little nap is such a sweet luxury. 
My grandma used to indulge in a midmorning nap after making, serving, 
and clearing a huge farmhouse breakfast. She'd say, 
"Why don't you get me a cup of tea, Suzy?"
After receiving her tea and stirring it a while, she'd set it on a side table 
and nod off for just a few minutes. 
Steaming tea and a doze in the chair—precious passed-down traditions. 

* Napping angel birdbath found on an outing in Old Louisville.



An unsuspecting luna moth caterpillar made its slow and deliberate way across our front yard. 
The black suitcase he scaled happened to be one of the left-behind items in the yard sale we 
attempt every five years or so, and his bright green color was eye-grabbing.

 A glass vase topped with some leftover door screen made the perfect spontaneous terrarium.
Wrapping itself in maple leaves and sticky silk, it constructed a cocoon by 
nightfall the same day, and the watching and waiting began. In all honesty, 
I gave up seeing the miracle of metamorphosis; sure that my
fumbling attempt to capture  transformation  in a glass vase would fail.
But about two weeks later ...

The day it emerged, we celebrated like children—the ones we truly are on the inside— and 
made an event of setting it free.

The left-behind chrysalis contained the dried, discolored bits of the caterpillar's body. 
The moth emerged with everything it needed for success in its glorious new life.

And someday ... so shall we



An odd thing happens to me, pretty frequently—
people mistake me for someone else.
I know it's probably happening when I get that first "double-take" glance. 
 But when a perfect stranger sends a probing gaze directly into my face
and takes hesitant steps in my direction,
it's for sure—another false reunion is about to go down:

Excuse me, but did you deal cards in Vegas?
Have you ever lived in Tennessee?
Aunt Kay ... is that you?
And my favorite: 
Were you a judge, because you look exactly like the one who sent me to jail. 

I'd love to answer, "Well, yes!" just to see what would happen.
Instead, I've always tried to ease the flustered embarrassment that results from my no
"Don't worry, it happens all the time. I'm common looking." 

It happened again at a recent writer's conference, 
but this time, the words stuck in my throat.
 We truly are unique in the Father's eyes—
I may be one among many that look crazily similar, 

* Photos of my Black-Eyed Susans, which really do seem 
to look exactly the same.


Brick-Wall Window

"Hey, Suzy." 
"Yeah, Buddy?"
"What's this window for?"
"Well ... I guess it's sort of a ... decoration."
"Right, because you can't see anything through it."
"Right ..."

The conversation happened at a recent family gathering, but I wasn't bothered.
My capacity for imagination has been with me as long as I can remember. I'm drawn to:
closed doors, latched boxes,
keyholes, pathways, 
abandoned doors, misplaced ladders,
and yes, old windows with a view to nothing.
I've come to realize that my fondness for such things is a Creator-given trait, 
an invaluable gift which empowers me to write. 

And with a little bit of imagination, my friend just might realize that this
brick-wall window does indeed have a view, of sorts. 


Sunflower Lessons

This single bloom was enough to satisfy my sunflower hunger this year.
I found it as a seedling, accidentally sprouted between bricks on the greenhouse
floor—a birdseed spill only partly cleaned up during our spring chaos. 
Admiring its gumption, I transferred it to a pot and expected it to die. 
But it thrived.
It earned an honored spot in a raised bed with the zinnias, 
guaranteeing protection from the roly-poly rabbit mob

What started as accident—completely unplanned, unexpected, and unlikely—speaks its lessons 
to my backyard world daily: Determination. Strength. Perseverance. 
TRUST in the Master Gardener who notices the tiniest seedlings of grace in our lives 
and takes action to deliver an abundant yield.


Hosting Bluebirds

"The bluebird carries the sky on his back." -  Henry David Thoreau

We hosted a family of bluebirds this spring in an 
ancient box on the backyard fence. I was so excited at the 
first sight of them checking out the area.
"I have had more than half a century of such happiness. A great deal of worry and sorrow, too, 
but never a worry or a sorrow that was not offset by a purple iris, a lark, a bluebird, 
or a dewy morning glory."  
Mary McLeod Bethune

Watching the parents continually tending their twins was 
an every-night distraction. 
"What do you want to do tonight?"
"Hmmm ... should we check on the bluebirds?"
"The bluebird enjoys the pre-eminence of being the first bit of color that cheers our northern landscape. 
The other birds that arrive about the same time--the sparrow, the robin, the phoebe-bird--are clad in neutral tints, gray, brown, or russet; but the bluebird brings one of the primary hues and the divinest of them all."  
John Burroughs

Now the box is empty and we never see their beautiful blue 
on our small Kentucky acre. But we hope they'll return next year. 
We added another box in case they bring friends.
These cards, featuring the eastern bluebird, are tiny, signed lithographs 
which used to be found inside boxes of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda
In 1938, these beautifully detailed treasures were collected by bird lovers ... and quickly discarded 
by those who just wanted to "clean enamel surfaces," "boil rat traps," or "put out a fire." 
This collection is for sale in my Etsy vintage shop. Take a look at more photos here.
These suggestions, and others, on the back of every card.


Four-Layer Cereal Treats or Lake House Snacks

If you take your clan to a lake house, they're going to want these. 
This weekend I saw someone in a float, munching one of these
and paddling along with the other hand. Sunshine, water, and a good snack—bliss!
These layered cereal treats are easy to make ahead, look special, transport well, and ...
they're so easy!

Completely line two 9"x13" pans with parchment paper. Coat the parchment lining with cooking spray. 

Gather ingredients: 
1 stick butter, divided 
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
6 1/2 cups plain crispy rice cereal
6 1/2 cups cocoa-flavored crispy cereal
10-ounce packages of mini marshmallows

In a large non-stick pan, combine 4 T. butter, vanilla, and one package of marshmallows over low heat. Stir until the marshmallows are completely melted. Remove from heat and add the plain cereal. Stir until the cereal is coated. Divide the cereal mixture in half and spread each half evenly in the bottom of the pans using a buttered spoon back. Press it gently into flat layers. You should have two pans, each containing a flattened layer of vanilla cereal mixture.

In the same non-stick pan, combine remaining butter, cocoa, and one package of marshmallows over low heat. Stir until the marshmallows are completely melted. Remove from heat and add the cocoa cereal. Stir until the cereal is coated. Divide this mixture in half and spoon it over the first layers in each pan. Using the buttered spoon, spread and press it evenly over the first layers, making the second layers. You will have two pans, each with two layers—vanilla and chocolate.

While the layers are still warm, carefully lift one of the parchment linings with its two layers and place it lightly in the other 9x13 pan, on top of its two layers. Gently slide the parchment paper out, creating four layers. Press lightly to join the layers.  

Cool completely, then use a buttered knife to cut.
*Hint: Use a plastic knife to cut these or any kind of sticky dessert. The treat won't stick to a plastic knife and the pieces will be neat and tidy, with the layers intact.

Sprinkle mini-chocolate chips before you transfer the topping layers and create a yummy filling. Look for strawberry-flavored crispy rice cereal and create a Neopolitan-style layered treat with three layers of color and flavor. The plain cereal will accept any flavor or food coloring to match the theme of a party or event. 


Ready and Willing

A friend gave me this heavy, wooden door, taken from her grandparents' empty home.
Only a few days before bulldozers did their work of subdivision development, 
we walked through mostly-empty rooms searching for 
useful bits of an old life that could fit in the back of her truck.

Last summer, it made the perfect backdrop for my butterfly bush
This year it brings sunshiny-yellow charm to my shade garden.
And a bat lives behind it. 
Do you pray for open and closed doors? It's a recurring theme over here.
Every time I pass it, my friend's door reminds me of these powerful prayer verses. 
"A huge door of opportunity for good work has opened ..."
" ... a door was opened for me in the Lord ..."
"... opening doors no one can lock, locking doors no one can open ..."

I don't know about you, but I've tried to break down a few doors and walked 
away pretty bruised from the effort.
By the same token, I've tried to slam a few that keep creaking open again.
It's good news that a loving Father is in charge of opening and closing the 
right doors for me. So ... if He holds the keys, then what's my job?

I've got to be ready to walk through open doors 
willing to walk away from closed doors. 

I can't be obsessed with a locked door, peeking through the keyhole, 
testing an endless series of secret knocks and creative passwords
And walking away from a closed door is just as challenging as working up the nerve 
to cross the threshold of an open one. The cool breeze of the unknown in my face 
isn't always exhilarating—sometimes it's downright terrifying! 

Walking through and walking away both require one thing: 
Confidence that what's behind a locked door is really, really not good for me and 
certainty that whatever waits beyond an empty threshold is His very best.
What doors are you dealing with today? 

Lord, thank you for holding the keys to every door in my life. Help me recognize and walk away from the doors You close. Give me Your courage to walk  through the doors You open, into the future planned for me. My trust is always and only in You. 


Summertime Illumination

Summer Study happens in my backyard on Wednesday mornings ... early. 
Just in time to light these petunias with the first golden rays of the day.

As if Night Sky Petunias aren't lovely enough! 
I plan to grow them from seed next spring. 
You might want to as well—so here's where to buy the supplies.

Colossians 3 has been meaty enough to last us all summer long, especially 
with the massive commentary we're using. Do you use a commentary? 
This one illuminates the scriptures just like the sun enhances these petunias. 

Every sincere seeker is awed. 


The Heaps

I try to keep the heaps at bay.
Heaps of what? 
You know—heaps of STUFF.
Mail, socks, hairpins, 
books, pillows, paperclips, 
lists, receipts, more books,
laundry, bubble wrap, dishes.
It's what piles up around here, probably like it does at your house.

But I don't mind controlled heaps of stuff. 
This collection of  important stuff is contained an old fruit basket on my desk. 
The white china bird with the broken-and-glued-back tail feels like a friend, 
and the photos of me and my sweetie laughing helps me prioritize. 

How do you tame your heaps of stuff?

( Further study on controlling clutter here. )


Mile High

Mile-high summer sky.
Impossible blue too good to be true.
Swing-low cumulus glide over us.
Rush away before the day
fades to gray.

*Photo from Lake Cumberland vacation 2016.


Letter Treasures

I visited with a dear friend recently, chicken soup in hand. 
She had a health crisis behind her, if only a few days behind.
Miraculously—and I don't use the word lightly—her cancer was found at such an early stage 
that radical surgery was enough to take care of the entire problem. 
The cancer's progress wasn't determined until the operation was underway, so my friend 
went into the operating room not knowing what the news would be when she awoke.
In preparation, she organized her desk, stocked her pantry, and ...

... wrote letters.

She penned letters to her children who, though married adults, found themselves at loose ends 
to witness their healthy-as-a-horse mother in a state of emergency. I imagine those missives
 must have been line upon line of fierce mother-love and faith-filled 
confidence in the grownups her babies had become. 

And a letter for her husband—not one telling him what to do if she died, 
never that. Instead, I'm sure it was filled with fond recollections of a youthful romance, 
assurances of lasting love, and reminders of future dreams yet unrealized.

Ever since I read Letters from Dad, the urging to write a yearly letter to each of my own 
family has been ever-present. I even found the (above) retro envelopes for the letters.
Although writing is my work, these messages have stumped me for several 
years now. But my friend's brave actions have inspired me again. 

Do you have a treasured letter from someone important to you? 
I'd love to hear about that.