Advent and the Family

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son . . . John 3:16

As I think about Christmas and God’s great gift to us, I find it meaningful that Jesus came to a family. He came as an infant to Mary and Joseph, to the family unit. From the beginning, starting in Genesis, God planned the family unit.

We have fractures and brokenness in family life, but it is God’s design for nurture. Jesus came to heal the brokenness. The church family is called to be a place of healing.

My daughter and her husband are taking in two children for foster care, hoping to adopt. This is a stretching experience. We have limited insight into the heritage and health history of the children. We simply know that they need a loving home.

It gives me joy to see my daughter and son-in-law welcoming them into their home. I am blessed in being able to help. As I swaddle and feed the baby he cuddles up against me.

And so I have new insight. As part of a church family my willingness to extend love needs to be stretched. God’s desire is for us to bring healing to those in need.

Five Minute Friday is a community of inspirational writers. Every Friday Kate Motaung gives a word prompt. And then we write for five minutes. Today’s prompt is ONLY.

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Draw Near to the Savior

The Bluebird Café and Bookstore is a charming shop, located on Main Street in Hutchinson, Kansas. Whenever I visit my daughter we make a trip to this bookstore. As I walked through the aisles this time a colorful picture book caught my eye.

Christmas in the Barn  was  written by Margaret Wise Brown.   My daughter and I paged through the book, enjoying the rhythm of the words. The animals came near the birth of the babe in the ancient barn.

The pictures enhanced the story told in poetic form. After the shepherds came, the bright star shining above the barn guided the wise men to the barn. The words are a lyrical version of the story recorded in the book of Luke.

So many wonderful parts to the record of Jesus’ incarnation. I like to think about the shepherd’s response.

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us”. And they went with haste . . . Luke 2:15-16a

The shepherds saw God’s plan of salvation beginning to unfold. Now we have the Bible with the full story and the opportunity to draw near to the Savior.

This post is linked to Five Minute Friday. Every Friday Kate Motaung gives a word prompt. And then we write for five minutes. Today’s prompt is NEAR.  Visit this community and join the fun by clicking here.

Sharing this post with Faith on Fire , Booknificent Thursday and Literacy Musing Monday also.

Merry Christmas!

Here is a portion of the Christmas letter that I wrote on December 4th and sent out with our cards:

The homes in our neighborhood are decorated for Christmas, and today we had our first snowfall. The trees sparkle with white icing. At church we sang Christmas carols and wrote cards for Christians that are currently imprisoned for their faith.

Our hope for this beautiful world, created by God, but broken by sin, rests in God’s plan of salvation through Jesus. Job, a man of faith in the Old Testament, has words of hope. For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. Job 19:25

The apostle John wrote about about God’s plan of salvation in his gospel. John recorded the words of Jesus. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16   This is the gift of Christmas.

Many thanks to all my readers and my best wishes for joy in the New Year!

Christmas Pointsetta

The nativity image is courtesy of FreeVintageArt.com

Christmas Bells Still Ringing — from the Pen of a Poet

 

Christmas Bells

Over the past couple weeks I have encountered Henry Wadsworth Longfellow twice. I picked up a coffee table book at a home I was visiting. The book had beautiful photos, enticing recipes and quotes from famous writers. One of the quotes was from Longfellow and I wrote it down.  I was touched by his words about gardens.  (The quote  will  appear in a future post.)

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Jennifer Chiaverini’s novel,  Christmas Bells, gives vignettes of       Longfellow’s life. He encountered tragedy and lived through the pain and turmoil of the Civil War. Towards the end of the Civil War he wrote the poem, “Christmas Bells”. You may have heard it sung. The first line is “I heard the bells on Christmas Day . . .”

The scenes from Longfellow’s life are paired with the story of a modern day family. It was a little challenging for me to grasp the structure of the story at first. This modern story was composed of one scene viewed from the perspective of about six people. Each sees the events that take place a little differently during a children’s choir rehearsal. They are singing “Christmas Bells” of course.

I was really pleased to read the history behind the poem, “Christmas Bells” and I am inspired to read more of Longfellow’s poetry. Personal tragedy and the war almost drove the poet to despair, but he finished his poem with this stanza.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead: nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Note: The photo of the bells and the engraving of Longfellow are via Wikimedia Commons and are public domain.

Linking with Friendship Friday,  Literacy Musing MondayBooknificent ThursdayWholehearted Wednesday, A Little R & R, and Hope in Every Season.

Flowers and Wreaths at the Chicago Botanical Garden

We had a lovely afternoon at the Chicago Botanical Garden. The flowers were in bloom in the conservatories. Lovely wreaths adorned the walls. Poinsettias lined the displays and were hanging from the ceiling! A variety of trains were on display as a Christmas exhibit. The miniature trains travel on tracks through scenes of Chicago.

Blue Hydrangeas at Chicago Botanical Garden

Chicago Botanical Garden

Pointsettas

Chicago Botanical Garden

Christmas Train Exhibit

Linking with Whole Hearted Home, A Little R & RTuesdays with a Twist, Titus 2sdays and Sue’s Wordless Wednesday

Healthy Orange Spice Cookies

 

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My mother grew up on a small Finnish farm in Upper Michigan. At Christmas she would remind us that oranges are a special treat. When she was a girl her family had oranges only on Christmas. As a tradition we always received an orange in our Christmas stocking.

When I saw a recipe that included orange zest in a molasses cookie—in the newspaper—I had to try it.   Then I tweaked the recipe to  my   liking. Finnish spice cookies sometimes include rye flour, so I substituted rye flour for some of the flour.

Ingredients:

5 Tblsp. unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup honey
½ cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 Tblsp. grated orange zest*
1/3-cup dark unsulfured molasses
1 egg yolk
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking soda
1 + ½ tsp. cinnamon
1 + ½ tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. cloves
¼ tsp. allspice
¼ tsp. fresh ground black pepper
½ tsp. salt
1 + ½ cup quick oats
¾ cup rye four
1 + ¾ cup unbleached white flour

Coating:

1 egg white, beaten with a fork until frothy
1 Tblsp. grated orange zest*
½ cup turbinado sugar
Thoroughly combine the sugar and orange zest.

*For the orange zest I used one orange and grated the outer peel,      mincing it fine.

Preheat the oven to 375°. Lightly grease cookie sheet.

In a large bowl beat the butter and honey until creamy. Add the brown sugar and 2 Tablespoons orange zest and beat for a couple more minutes.

Add the molasses, applesauce, egg yolk  (reserve the egg white),      vanilla, baking soda, spices and salt. Beat mixture until well combined. With a wooden spoon stir in the oats, white flour and rye flour. The dough will be a little sticky. If you want you can put the dough in the refrigerator for a half hour and it will be easier to handle.

Use a teaspoon to scoop a round of dough and form into a ball. Dip it into the egg white and then the turbinado sugar with orange zest. Place it on the cookie sheet. The cookies should be spaced about one inch apart.

Bake the cookies until the edges are set, beginning to brown and the tops are cracked. Depending on the size of the cookie, the baking time will be 10 to 15 minutes. The center of the cookie will be soft. Enjoy! These are great with a cup of coffee.

Orange Spice Cookies

Linking with From the Farm,  WholeHearted Home, A Little R & R,  Tuesdays with a Twist, the Homemaking Party,  Titus 2sday,  Motivation Monday,  the Art of Homemaking and MYHSM

We went to see Star Wars

Star Wars

Who is your favorite character in Star Wars? When Han Solo and then R2– D2 made their appearance in the new movie the audience gave them a round of applause. The first Star Wars movie came out during the first year of my marriage. I saw it with my husband. The scenes were amazing and we were engrossed in the story. Later we watched episodes with our children.

When my husband suggested that we see episode VII on opening night I realized that the evening was open. The local theater had a continuum of times available. So we went. How would this movie compare with the others?

Leia and Han Solo have aged—as we have. Young people, a new generation, carried the action. They wondered at the old stories. Were they legend or true?

The narrative of Star Wars is based on the truth that  good  and  evil  exist. The quest for truth  and  rightness is tucked deep in our soul. Sometimes we have to fight for it.

The grief and pain of “the dark side” is also true.

While Star Wars refers to “the force”, the Bible teaches us about our God. The prophet Jeremiah lived through a tumultuous time on earth and clearly stated the source of truth and rightness.

This is what the Lord says:

Cursed is the one who trusts in man and who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord.

He will be like a bush in the wastelands;

He will not see prosperity when it comes.

He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives.

But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.

He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.

It does not fear when the heat comes; its leaves are always green.

It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?

“I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.”                 Jeremiah 17: 5-10

Jeremiah suffered physically.  He did not have material gain  but he   understood spiritual life. God is the source of our strength and joy.

We went to Christmas concerts and programs this December—and Star Wars. Our joy and strength comes from God’s great gift. Jesus came to redeem us! We have much to celebrate this Christmas season.

Linking with Words with WinterA Little R & R,  Titus 2sday, Tuesdays with a Twist,  Word of God SpeakWeekend Whispers, WholeHearted HomeGrace & TruthEssential Fridays, Friendship Friday , Faith Filled Friday and Faith & Friends.

faithnfriends

A Rose, Love and the Savior are in this Old Carol

Lo, how a rose e'er blooming

The violins, piano and voices of the choir gave a beautiful rendition of an old German carol. I was swept away from the news reports and troubles in our community. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.

Here are the lyrics to this carol, Lo How A Rose:

Low, how a rose e’er blooming
From tender stem hath sprung
Of Jesse’s lineage coming
As saints of old hath sung.

It came a flower bright,
Amid the cold of winter.
When half spent was the night.

Isaiah foretold it.
The rose I have in mind.
With Mary we behold it
The virgins mother kind.

To show God’s love aright
She bore to us a Savior
When half spent was the night,
When half spent was the night.

O Rose, whose fragrance tender
With sweetness fills the air,
Dispel in glorious splendor
The darkness everywhere.

True man, yet very God.
From sin and death now save us
And share our every load.

Alleluia, Alleluia
Alleluia, Alleluia
Sing alleluia

A Rose, Love and A Savior

The apostle Peter knew much about the troubles in this world. He had walked with Jesus and had seen the crucifixion. He saw the empty tomb and the risen Lord. He had shared a meal with Jesus after the resurrection. He was there when Jesus instructed the disciples to make disciples of all nations. Peter had been in prison for his faith and from his experiences he wrote:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxious cares on him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5: 6-7

We have so much to celebrate! Tomorrow night we will go to our grandchildren’s Christmas program. Each year adds new memories. I still remember the Christmas programs that I participated in as a child.  It is a blessing to see the grandchildren singing carols  and     reciting scripture verses.

Linking with Grace & Truth,  Essential Fridays,  Titus 2sday,  Hope in Every Season,  WholeHearted WednesdayA Little R & R,  Tuesdays with a TwistInspire Me Monday,  Soul Survival,  Reflect, the Art of Homemaking and Word of God Speak

A Flower that Survives the Snowstorms

It is December in Illinois, and throughout our neighborhood there are winter decorations.

December_4882

We have a wreath on our door.

Christmas

My display of angels celebrating the birth of Jesus is in our foyer.

Christmas

We have had two snowstorms and to my surprise the calendula flower has two buds. It may still bloom! I love this flower.

Calendula survies snowstorms
Calendula Buds

Linking with Friendship Friday,  A Little R & R,  Tuesdays with a Twist and Sue’s Wordless

image-in-ing

Christmas Cards for the Persecuted Church

 

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Do the images of refugees fleeing Syria tug at your heart? Have you seen news reports of churches destroyed in Nigeria, Syria, Iraq and other countries?

We are blessed in the United States although the tragedies taking place around the world touch us too. The shootings at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado and the horrible massacre in San Bernadino are a grievous loss of life.

But we don’t have the level of persecution that is taking place in Africa and the Middle East. Is there anything we can do?

On Sunday morning we had a speaker from the Voice of the Martyrs. This organization provides support to the persecuted Church. We can pray for believers that have been imprisoned for their faith by name. Click here to go to the site provided by VOM.

Next Sunday members of our church will devote an hour to writing Christmas cards that will be sent to prisoners.  The site mentioned above takes you through the process of writing a message in the      prisoner’s language and provides addresses.

credit: antiqueclipart.com
credit: antiqueclipart.com

I am pleased that Voice of the Martyrs also has a website with items that can be purchased as gifts. Buying items from the store or giving a donation supports the work of this organization. Click here.

It was a blessing to hear stories about the people that are turning to the Lord in the face of persecution. An article in the current VOM newsletter is titled, Great Evil, Great Revival.  The article describes the persecution AND the revival taking place in evangelical churches. Our speaker told us about an ISIS soldier that has become a Christian, about Moslems that are reading the Bible and seeking truth.

We can pray for many more to be saved, for God to be glorified and for the endurance of all believers!

Therefore since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12: 1-3

Linking with Essential FridaysThought Provoking Thursday,  A Little R & R,  Worshipful WednesdayWholeHearted WednesdaySoul Survival,  Reflect and the Art of Homemaking