Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas Eve peace and hope

We had a wonderful Christmas Eve this year.  It was actually the day that we gathered and celebrated as a family. We spent the day together at Gwen and Tim's house.  We had lunch of snack things that are extra good on holidays - Taco Tray, meatballs in the crock pot, little pizzas on french bread, veggies and dip - well you get the idea!   After "snacks" we opened presents.  Before we knew it, it was time for church!  The kids got all dressed up in their Christmas outfits!

We took a family picture, but sadly it was not on my camera.  So you will have to wait to see that group shot.  I did manage to snap this shot of the four kids.  Don't you just love those fur jackets?  I sure did!  And look at that handsome boy in his sweater!  We all went to church and we have to take two cars since we all don't fit in one! I guess that is the mark of a "big" family!  After the Christmas Eve service, we returned to Gwen and Tim's house for a wonderful (and traditional - for us) dinner of Lasagna!  The time just flew by and suddenly it was time to leave for home.  It was such a good day!
Doug and Susie get the award for the best presents this year.  They gave all the kids (and let's be honest here - Tim) a set of Laser Tag guns.  The game has come a long way since the vests and guns of the 1990's.  The kids had a blast playing with these - and so did Tim!  And then Doug and Susie managed to get an amazing gift for Tim, who is certainly one of the hardest people to ever buy for!  They gifted him tickets to an event that he just loves- a gamer convention!  So yes, this was the year for Tim, for sure!  

I got some very special presents this year.  First, I got this amazing purple heart that Ellie made in her home school co-op art class!
 Ken and I also got this amazing Christmas Tree ornament that has the kids thumb prints.  I actually got to help make these ornaments this year!
 Ellie also painted me this colorful picture that is now hanging on my scrapbook room wall.  I love the bright colors and she told me I needed an "L" for Lyn on my wall! I love that it looks a lot like a waterfall that is that wonderful flowing river!
 Each year Gwen and Tim and the kids gift Ken and I something wonderful that comes from Haiti.  Their church supports a ministry that creates works of art from old oil drums.  I love that this represents both Christmas and Easter - the manger and the cross!  It is already hanging in our foyer!

There were so many wonderful gifts exchanged this year, but best of all were all the hugs and laughter that we shared.  Susie and Lia played a game of Sorry and Zeke and Anna worked on puzzles.  All the kids had Lego sets opened on various tables.  Anna spent a lot of time with her favorite present (also from Doug and Susie) a Peppa Pig camper!  So there was plenty of "snorting" going on!  So much food eaten, so much love shared.  

The day ended much too quickly for me.  We saw some great light displays as we were driving home.  There is something so peaceful about driving along roads that are mostly empty (especially when there are usually many, many cars).  Because it was late on Christmas Eve, all of the stores along the route were closed, the parking lots were empty.  There was plenty of time to reflect on the day.  I love the story of Jesus' birth.  Thinking about the journey that Joseph and Mary had to make.  The crowds of people that must have been everywhere.  But then, there was the stillness of the night.  The newborn baby.  The shepherds, out in their fields watching over the sheep.  The angels!  The star.  
The message...... (Luke 2 -from the Passion Translation)
Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared in radiant splendor before them, lighting up the field with the blazing glory of God, and the shepherds were terrified!  But the angel reassured them, saying "don't be afraid. For I have come to bring you good news, the most joyous news the world has ever heard!  And it is for everyone everywhere!  For today in Bethlehem a rescuer was born for you.  He is the Lord Yahweh, The Messiah!" You will recognize him by this miracle sign; you will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a feeding trough!   Then all at once, a vast number of glorious angels appeared, the very armies of heaven! And they all praise God, singing: GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST REALMS OF HEAVEN! FOR THERE IS PEACE AND A GOOD HOPE GIVEN TO THE SONS OF MEN!

Yes, there is that word "PEACE" that I was feeling at the end of a day of celebration.  But I was also thinking of "HOPE".  Each day, whether we are together or not, we remember Lucas.  Lucas is always a part of our time together because he is a part of our family.  But at these times, we especially feel his absence.  Even this year as we expectantly await Doug and Susie's baby girl, the loss of Lucas is present with us.  HOPE is also there.  It is that good hope that is given to us, because of that baby born in a stable, under the shadow of the cross.  It is that hope that lets our hearts smile and sing, knowing that one day we will be reunited with Lucas.  

That is the message of Christmas.  The miracle sign of a baby lying in a feeding trough, under the shadow of the cross of Calvary bringing peace and a good hope for everyone everywhere!

Jesus, thank you for silent nights that allow us to hear your message more clearly.  Thank you for angels that proclaim your truth to the world.  Thank you for sharing this message with shepherds who were just busy with their daily tasks.  Remind us that you still speak to us, even when we are distracted and busy.  Holy Spirit, bring this message of hope to all who grieve and feel lonely in this season.  Thank you Jesus for your great love.   Amen

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Blending family traditions during Christmas...

Last night was one of my favorite events of the Christmas Season.  Gwen's church has a holiday concert that features the youth of their church performing carols and songs.  It was questionable if the event was going to happen since we were under a "Winter Weather Advisory" and also a "Wind Chill Advisory".  But, at the last minute, they decided to go ahead with the event.  Ken and I decided to brave the 40 mile drive, even with the anticipated snow and cold.  It was a wonderful time of enjoying the grandchildren and getting to hear Gwen sing!  There was a sing along, so I got to sing some of my favorite carols.   And there was amazing food to eat!  It was so worth the two and half hour drive home!  There was snow and blowing and lots of slow moving cars - and they hadn't plowed very much.  We got home and safely tucked in before the very cold arrived during the night. I would not have missed this concert for anything - it is a tradition!

I am so thankful that Gwen and Tim include us in these events.  Sadly some of my friends don't have close relationships with their adult children and miss out on these wonderful times of celebration.  I was thinking about this today as I made Ken's very favorite Christmas treat....Grandma's Filled Raisin Cookies.  This particular cookie was a staple of Ken's childhood, made by his Grandma Baker.  She knew just how much Ken liked these cookies and always made them for him.  As I was rolling out the dough today, I noticed my trusty wooden rolling pin.
This is a small, wooden rolling pin that I have had my entire life.  It actually belonged to my mom and my dad made this.  I was struck with the joining of our two families in this cookie baking event.  My dad's wooden rolling pin, rolling out the dough for Ken's Grandma's cookies.  I just love the symbolism of this.  Two families with very different traditions, yet somehow Ken and I have managed to meld them together into our own unique set of traditions.  And now Gwen and Doug are melding that set of traditions with another families and are establishing their own, new and wonderful traditions.  I love sitting back and watching which things Gwen and Doug find valuable enough to blend together in their new family units.  Gwen and Tim and the kids spent an entire day making candy to give away as Christmas presents.  Gwen mentioned that she remembers doing this activity for over 30 years!  Yes, I have many fond memories of our kitchen table piled high with candy as we divided it up for gifts for teachers, friends and co-workers.  And then yesterday Doug texted me with a question about the sugar cookies I always make.  So it seems that Doug and Susie are keeping that tradition alive in their own new set of traditions.  

Christmas is a time for blending and sharing and traditions and love.  Unfortunately, sometimes our expectations can get in the way of all of that.  It is awfully easy to expect to have events and/or activities at a certain time or in a certain place with certain people.  I learned a valuable lesson many years ago when Ken and I didn't have any family living close by.  We were forced to come up with a whole new set of traditions that didn't include being with our families.  We hung on to some things (like those wonderful raisin cookies), but we shifted our focus.  Instead of bemoaning the lack of family around us, we celebrated with our church family.  We always went to both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services.  We made an entire day out of driving around and looking at Christmas lights.  We had friends who also didn't have family close by.  So we celebrated Jesus' Birthday with our own party (held in the afternoon/evening of Christmas day).  There was always laughter, fun and food at these gatherings.   When our kids reached that age when there was a "significant other" in their life, we willingly let them go to spend time with that new family.  What fun it was to increase our family size this way!  And now we are blessed with grandchildren.  Recently, while talking with a friend, she was surprised to learn that Ken and I are alone on Christmas Day.  She seemed to think that this was a horrible, terrible thing.  But it is just all part of that blending!  We have so many times when our family is all together.  And those are important and wonderful times.  We will all be together this year, on Christmas Eve.  Some years it is on a totally different day.  What matters is that we are together.  I love having Christmas Day to reflect on the meaning of the holiday.  I love listening to the story, told each year, yet always so amazing.  After all the blending of our family traditions, I love that Gwen and Tim and Doug and Susie want to establish their own ways.  And for them, it means being at home, celebrating Christmas Day with their own family units

Something wonderful happens to ingredients when you blend them together.  They take on the flavors and consistency of each other.  The end result is usually an amazing brand new thing.  There is no question that each ingredient is very much a part of the creation. And one missing ingredient can ruin a finished product.  It is an exciting thing to blend together family traditions and watch what the finished products look like. 

 One thing is certain.   Family struggles at the holiday over who will be coming and where you will meet and even what you will eat and what day and time you will be together or ending up being alone on a day that is really just another day on the calendar, fill the hearts and minds of so many.  But if you just shift your focus and think about the mixing and blending ingredients, and then remember that the love and the sharing are what really matter.  All of those struggles don't matter much and can't change the message of Christmas.  Jesus came for all of us.  Whether we have family around us or not.  Whether we keep all of our traditions from the past, or come up with new ways and new ideas.  Jesus came to earth as a baby to share His great love with the world.  It is that amazing love that helps all of those ingredients blend together into a wonderful new thing.  Jesus is the reason for the season and keeping that as the most important ingredient in your family will bring peace and harmony and happiness.   Happy Blending!

Jesus, thank you for the reminder that all of the things that feel so important in our life are really small compared to your great sacrifice to come to earth for us!  Thank you that with your love and peace in our hearts we can adapt and change our traditions, blending them together into new and wonderful ways to celebrate your birth.  Holy Spirit, comfort those that are lonely or hurting this Christmas.  Help us all to look out for the person who might need a hug or a smile.   Thank you for Christmas.  Amen 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Christmas of long ago.....sometimes the best gift is the GIVING!

I was looking through some of my photos from my childhood and I came upon this one.  I believe it was the Christmas of 1957 (but my sister Julie would most likely be able to clarify the year for me - it could have been 1957 or 1958.)  I know it was one of those years, because of the house!  We only lived there for three years.  Just look at that tree!  Covered in Tinsel - the real stuff!   And notice that cabinet in the corner behind my sister.  That was our TV!  It had a very small kind of oval screen and we lived in the sticks in South Dakota.  I remember that occasionally we would be able to actually see some programs.  But we had a TV!

It has been interesting to me how much I have been thinking about past Christmas' this year.  I don't know if it is because I am getting older.  But I don't remember a recent holiday  when I have spent so much time thinking about my growing up years and missing my mom very much.  I haven't seen any of my siblings since May of 2015, so that may be playing a part in my nostalgia. I don't have any real memories of this Christmas in this picture - except I remember the rocking chair I am sitting in (actually in Gwen's basement right now!) and I also know the "Tiny Tears" doll I am holding.  Gwen also has that doll in a box in her basement.  But I don't really remember the holiday.  The first Christmas that I have really good memories of was in 1959.  My sister Karen's fiance Roy was at our house before the holiday that year.  And he and my mom decided to "flock" the Christmas Tree.  I remember that they used a tank vacuum cleaner and it was a really big mess!  I remember that most of my mom's ornaments had white "gunk" on them for many years after that.  But that year, we had a flocked Christmas tree.  The first Christmas that I really remember a gift that I received was actually in 1961.

My brother Jerry (who is NOT in the above picture) is twelve years older than me. Christmas - 1961 Jerry gave me two very special gifts (apparently I do not have a picture of that Christmas).  I think part of the reason I remember this so well, is that we did not exchange gifts between us siblings.   I got my first - very own to keep - hard cover book.  It was One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss.  I was just a beginning reader, but to actually own a book was amazing to me.  And I loved this book so much!  The second present was a game - Stadium Checkers.  I believe that I finally got rid of that very tattered and much played game when we moved to Chicago when I was 13.  These two gifts were incredibly important to me.  Not long after receiving these gifts, my brother Jerry went in the Army and was stationed in Okinawa.  He was gone for a very long time (I believe it was 3 or even 4 years - I'm not exactly sure) for a young girl.  Having those tangible gifts from him really made a difference to me.  I'm sure that he didn't realize how important these simple things were to me.  And I don't know that I have ever shared this with him.  I believe that my original copy of that book is currently on Gwen's book shelf!  Yes, it was a very memorable moment for me.

And that brings me to the "point" of this blog.  Sometimes we have no idea just how important a gift that we give is to the person who receives it.  Over the years I have given many gifts to friends, coworkers, family and neighbors.  It really doesn't matter if we ever hear a story like mine.  It really is a blessing to be able to give something to someone else.  And that is all that should matter.  Sadly, in our present culture, we often worry about pleasing and even impressing the person receiving our gift.  Thinking about this has given me another challenge.  I have decided to just be thankful that I can give gifts.  I will make every effort to not have any expectations for the results of that gifting.
Mostly, I will take a moment as I wrap these gifts, to pray that they would bless the person that will receive them.

Jesus is the Reason for the Season!  He is the very best gift that anyone could ever receive.  I am so grateful that there is time to stop and consider this amazing story.  We are in the midst of yet another snow storm and "winter weather warning", but a nice hot beverage, a warm cozy house and plenty of time to wrap presents is at hand.  Yes, I think that I can manage to be grateful for the snow today!
Jesus, thank you for bringing this memory to mind today.  Holy Spirit, help us all to shift our focus of our gift giving towards blessing others.  Remind us all to let go of expectations and help us to stir clear of giving gifts with strings attached.  Thank you for the Bible that allows us to read and learn the amazing story of your birth, Jesus.  Amen

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Well I am tucked in all snug as a bug in a rug in my nice warm house.  And, yes, it is snowing outside.  Again.  We are supposed to have a "major" snowstorm over the next 30 hours and expect 12" of snow.  Sigh.  This is our second rather large snow of this season.  Quite frankly, we have been somewhat spoiled over the last year.  We had a pretty much snow-less winter last season.  And then this fall has been really warm.  As a matter of fact our grass was still green and growing - LAST WEEK!  But here it is December 10th and we are having our second big snowstorm.  As I said in my last blog, you need to think like a kid and celebrate the snow.  Then you can have joy in the storm.

I have to admit that the snow does help it feel a bit more like Christmas.  I spent most of the day today making candy and treats for Ken to take into his workplace.  My goal for tomorrow is more cookie baking.  A snow day is a really good time to crank up the over and pull out the baking supplies.  I'm not sure what things will be like tomorrow morning, but when you plan to stay in all day, it really doesn't matter!

I was thinking about this sweet picture of Gwen that was taken the first time she ever "played" in the snow.
She was 18 months old at the time and her first winter was a bit like our last years winter.  There wasn't any snow.  So when it snowed in November of her second year, we had to let her experience a bit of snow.  You might notice, however, that she is wearing "Rain boots"!  We had not thought to buy her any winter boots.  I remember thinking how silly it was that I had not considered that she might need winter boots.  Clearly, I was a first time mom!  But she did have a nice warm coat and mittens.  You can also see that she is wearing a dress! To play in the snow.  This one is totally Gwen's fault!  As soon as she could make her wishes known (which was pretty early), that girl insisted on wearing dresses.  I remember one time when she was right around the age of this picture that she refused to leave the changing table until I let her wear her "dress shoes" (which were black leather t-strap).  She wrapped her arms around the rail of the changing table and screamed SHOES! at the top of her lungs until I changed her shoes.  She was a determined young lady.    Now, when I see Anna insisting on the pink pants and purple shirt, I have to laugh!  Gwen is sort of getting some pay back on this.  

I've been remembering a very favorite banner that was at a church I attended.  It was a "winter scene" with a house covered with snow.  There were pine trees and it was such a pretty scene.  But the words said "Wash me and I will be whiter than snow".  I remember thinking that this was an interesting phrase to put on this banner.  It just didn't seem to fit.   Many years later, I saw another banner with the same words.  However this banner had a scarred hand with blood drops falling onto a mountain of dark soil.  Yes, this was a much better visual for these words for me.  I love the picture of the red blood that Jesus shed on the cross for me - hitting all of those dark places in my heart.  And this amazing transformation happens - suddenly that sinful, dirty, shameful heart becomes white as snow.  What a miracle that is.  

As I look out at the quiet street, covered in layers of pure white snow, I am so thankful.  It is easy to say "Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!"  Advent is usually a time to contemplate the coming of the baby Jesus at Christmas.  But for me, seeing the snow, it is a stark reminder of the cross of Easter.  The truth is that every celebration of the Christmas stable should include the shadow of the cross.  The life of Jesus was destined to end at the cross.  Because we know the entire story, we can celebrate the beginning but also remember the ending.  I don't know about you, but this changes how I feel about so much of my holiday activities.  Suddenly, there is great joy and much thankfulness.
Thanks to a "winter storm warning"!

Jesus, thank you for your shed blood that covers over a multitude of sins.  Holy Spirit, help us all to remember that you see us whiter than snow - especially when we are tempted to be filled with shame and guilt.  Jesus, remind us to look over the stable and see the cross.  Jesus, I love you!  Amen

Thursday, December 8, 2016

What I've learned in this very busy week...

We had the first real snowfall of the season last Sunday.  Gwen's family was not able to spend anytime outside playing in the snow on Sunday so Monday's "job" was lots of snow time!  The kids were so anxious to get outside that they were ready to go by 9:15am.  I had to beg them to come in for lunch, two and a half hours later.  Gotta love home school!  This was a perfect day.  It was sunny and not very cold and the snow was good packing snow.
Here is Zeke with his snowman.  At one point, Zeke had rolled a ball of snow so big that he couldn't push it anymore.  It almost cleaned all the snow off of their front lawn!  Anna was loving the shovel.
She made a couple of paths around the house.  All of the kids were tired and hungry by the time they came in.  Such a fun day!  

On Tuesday I actually made another trip to Gwen's house since the older girls were in a Christmas Play at their home school Coop!  It was a wonderful adapted story of the birth of Jesus.  Ellie was a really cute sheep and Lia was a villager.  This was one of the most well done plays I have seen with these young kids.  And really, what is Christmas without a kid's Christmas program?

Then on Wednesday morning my small group celebrated Christmas together.  We have such a wonderful group that prays and listens and just is really there for each other.  I don't know what I would do without this great group of gals!

And then last night, Ken and I were invited to attend a wonderful Christmas Concert at the church of some good friends.  The artist was a guy that I had never heard of - Mark Smeby.  
You can click on the link to read more about him, and hear some of his music.  It was a really entertaining evening listening to some Christmas music and even singing along.  And it is always good to connect with some great friends.  

Today I managed to complete my Christmas Cards and actually get them mailed out. And additionally I made my first batch of Christmas cookies.  PHEW!  It has been a really busy few days.

So,, what have I learned in these busy, busy times?  Well, I don't like the snow very much.  But it is hard to hate the stuff when the kids have so much fun!  As I was sitting outside with them, I was thinking of fun times I had as a kid, playing in the snow.  My mom really didn't like the snow.  She especially didn't like driving on snowy roads.  But she knew the joy of outside winter fun and always encouraged us to play outside.  We ice skated and went sledding, even in very cold weather. I was grateful for that memory of my mom.  

And Christmas programs!  Well, there is really nothing better than seeing the familiar Christmas story enacted by a new group of little ones.  I actually have no memory of being in a Christmas program, I do remember learning "O Little Town of Bethlehem" which was the song my Sunday school class sang in the program.  I was only 4 years old and the program didn't stick in my memory.  But the song did.  And now it is one of my favorites.  By the time I was in grade school, our church had eliminated the Christmas program because there was no room!  Yes, I can see the irony of that.  My mom would always talk about the amazing children's programs held on Christmas Eve and in her memory they always included me.  When I would remind her that I never did one of those programs, she would be so sad.  All of my siblings had a chance to do those programs.  Sadly, we moved out of that town before I was old enough to participate.  I am so glad that my mom inspired me to expect my own kids to always be in these programs.  And now, it brings me great joy to watch my grandchildren making their own memories.  

At my small group we talked about joy!  And we each shared and laughed and prayed.  And of course, we ATE!  There is something so powerful about fellowship.  Just being together and being real together.  Everything is not perfect.  Many of us have some really hard things going on in our life.  But even in those times, there is joy.  There is joy together.  

Last night, sitting with our friends and hearing some inspirational stories, reminded me of just how important friends are.  These dear friends were there to support us during the horrible time when Lucas died.  They came.  They called.  They continued to reach out to us.  And I was especially grateful for them as we heard a stirring message to make a difference in the world.  How blessed we are to have such good friends who live their faith by their actions.  

I was really missing my mom today, as I baked those Spritz cookies.  I remember so many years, standing by her side as she pressed out those buttery wonders.  I would dust them with the green and red sugar and stand by the oven waiting for them to bake.  These are truly my favorite cookie.  I am so thankful for all of the memories of my mom and of Christmas' of the past.  Every cookie I eat today helps me celebrate with joy, the memories of the past.  

Yes, this week has been about family, friends and Christmas, joy and thankfulness.  I know that everyone has a full calendar this month.  But I encourage you to stop and think about the events that are really important.  Take some time and go outside and PLAY!  Even if you don't have children around - go outside!  Breathe in the air.  Look at the sky.  "Waste" some time!  You will be refreshed.
Call a couple of friends you haven't talked to in awhile.  Make plans to have coffee or a meal.  Connect to someone.  Check your local paper for events happening near you.  Go to a play or program.  Gather some friends or family and go caroling. Eat a cookie - or two - or three!  Find some joy!  Expect joy!

And there it is.  Expectation.  That is what Advent is all about.  Planning and expecting the arrival of the Messiah.  Let's put the expectation for joy back into our Christmas planning and onto our calendars.  There is still plenty of time to make some changes to your plans.  Mostly this is about a change of attitude.  I plan to make these next weeks more about Jesus and more about Joy!

Jesus, thank you for being a part of all of my busyness this week.  Thank you for the wonder of children playing in the snow.  Thank you for Christmas programs that remind us of the greatest gift we have ever received.  Thank you for friends and family and fun.  Thank you for joy.  Amen

Friday, December 2, 2016

A candy memory - when you just need something sweet!

While walking through the home improvement store, on one of our many, many visits there over the last week, I saw a bag of this candy.  I just had to have it.  Nothing says Christmas to me as much as this ribbon candy.  My mom always had some of this candy at Christmas time.  I know that it is pure sugar - but really!  Christmas is just once a year!  And you can't really eat a whole lot of this stuff since it takes a long time to eat one piece.  So now this candy is in a bowl on my coffee table.  Just where it belongs!   And yes, I really did need a bit of this sweetness!  Here's why.....

Just when you think you are done with the DIY stuff, something else happens.  So Tuesday evening, Ken and were admiring the new sink, faucet and water dispenser, at the same time I was microwaving a small snack.  I managed to get the snack INTO the microwave and heat it up, but then the door wouldn't open.  Now we have needed a new microwave for some time.   But, like so many things, we have been putting it off.  Last weekend during our search for a new sink, we actually bought a microwave on a great "black Friday" sale!  We had thought we would just store it in the garage until some point when we could get around to installing it.  I guess there was a bigger plan than we knew at the time, since just 4 days later, our microwave stops working.  Now the thing is, we didn't just purchase a regular microwave.  This is an "Over the Range" unit.  And we have not had this kind before.  So, sadly for Ken, it was another project  that really couldn't wait.  It didn't take me long to realize that more than 50% of what I cook is made in the microwave.  It was a bit of an issue for me!  
Ken watched some YouTube videos on the installation process and decided we should ask for some help from "the boys" (think Tim and Doug).  Doug is much closer and more available, so we called on him.  He was more than willing to come and help us over the weekend.  So Ken started to "prepare" to install the new unit.  First of all, the vent hood had to go.  This was really not that big of a deal, but boy was it dirty!  Then we realized that the ceramic tile backsplash that we had installed 38 years ago needed to come off where the microwave would be.  This was an interesting job that Ken managed to accomplish really quickly.  I wouldn't have had the least idea how to do it.   Of course we needed to make a trip to the hardware store to get supplies.  And I figured that there would be at least one more trip after that.  When all was said and done, Ken and I managed to get the unit installed - without any assistance.  It was another one of those "I can't believe I just did that" moments for me!  But here it is.... mostly installed!
One thing is certain, Ken is really ready to be done with these projects for awhile!  So lets pray that nothing else stops working around our least until after Christmas.

I think it is interesting that we have had had this run of projects around the house in the last month.  One of the things that I have been hearing for 2017 is that this is going to be a "reset" year.  Not only because of the change in our political arena, but everywhere!  I have been sensing that the months ahead will be a time to look at everything in our life and evaluate and sift through it all.  It just feels like a time to "clean house" and "update"!   And organize.  I have been wondering what that might look like for my own life, and haven't really had a good picture of what it might mean.  But in thinking about our recent DIY stuff, a good refresh around the house would be nice!  On a spiritual level it is always good to take time each year to consider if changes need to be made.  This might be changes to your devotional time, your relationships, your areas of service.  Well, you get the idea.  
It really feels like there will be some new and exciting opportunities in 2017.  

It is good to feel excited and optimistic about what is ahead.  Last year at this time, it felt very heavy and very scary.  There was so much darkness surrounding the entire year of 2016.  I am so thankful that it is ending on a positive note and everything seems brighter and lighter for the year ahead.
During a recent prayer time at my small group, one of the gals prayed a single word for me - CONTINUE!  Just continue. She had no idea what it might mean.   You might think that seems strange, but to me it was very significant.  I have a couple of projects right now (one of which is this blog) and I was considering whether or not I should press on with these things.  And then there was this very powerful word of encouragement.  Just when I needed it.  So, yes.  I will continue on.  One word is just enough!

Jesus, thank you for knowing exactly what we need, when we need it.  Even prompting us to buy a microwave BEFORE we needed it!  And then giving encouragement through a single word.  Holy Spirit, help us all to embrace what you have in store for us in 2017.  Bring hope and joy and peace to all of us in this Christmas Season.  Help us to follow your lead as we walk into the new year.  Thank you for tastes of sweetness, just when we need them.  Amen