What I Learned When Tradition Was Broken

By: Ms. O

For as long as I can remember, Christmas Eve meant burning bayberry candles. Growing up,  it was a given that after dinner, two bayberry tapers would be lit and would burn to the socket during the night. There were some years that we would mess around, running our finger through the flame, pretend to blow it out, but to my recollection, no one ever snuffed them out. It was meant to bring good luck….I was never sure why, so I had to google it and got this:

“Bayberry candles burned to the socket, bring health to the home and wealth to the pocket.”

I knew my grandparents burned them each Christmas Eve, as did my mom. When I married and moved away, I would do the same. My husband would have a fit…probably because he was in the safety division at work and could see eminent danger in leaving candles burning all night…but it HAD to be done….because it had always been done.

This year….on Christmas Eve….I opened my drawer that I kept my secret stash of bayberry tapers, only to find it empty. Panic set in…big time.

If you don’t know it, bayberry tapers are not an easy find…especially in the south. Christmas Eve is not the time to go looking. Throughout the day, I played the war of emotions….pondering how dire my circumstances will be if I don’t burn the “good luck” candles. I had never missed a year since 1980 when I moved out….

How could I have let this happen? What will happen to me now?

Would a bayberry Scentsy suffice? Glade makes a bayberry air freshener…I think. Maybe the mall would be worth fighting in the off chance that Yankee Candle would have some semblance of a bayberry candle that I could carve into a taper…ugh.

It was in my anguish that I reflected back over my life…the changes that came…not because of the “good luck” candles….but in spite of it.

My grandparents passed away…as did my aunt. Our family has had its share of heartache. We saw the oilfield in its heyday and then the bottom fall out of it. I lost a baby….said “goodbye to friends”…went through a divorce…the list goes on….even though I burned those candles each and every year…no matter what.

Constant Flame

What I have come to know is this: God was faithful through it all. In the wonderful mountain top events…God was there…as He was in the depth of my despair.  He is the constant flame.

“For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.” Malachi 3:6

That comes from the last book in the Old Testament…Malachi 3:6…before the silent years…those 400 years between the Old and the New Testament. Malachi finishes with the promise of the Day of the Lord…of His coming…but it would be a while. The passage in Malachi 3:6 is a reminder to all…that God does not change…therefore we are not consumed.

So Christmas Eve passed this year without my burning of the bayberry tapers. I am not saying I won’t ever burn them again.  If I come across the candles before next year, I will most likely buy them so I can relive an old tradition in my family…but I know it is not a do-or-die situation. The world did not end the next day. Quite the opposite in fact.  This year….we had  something new…a granddaughter that reminds me of God’s faithfulness each and every time I gaze in her eyes.

linda and E_for blog

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow….amen.

What divides us…

By: Ms. O

I am not a math whiz. Sure when I was in elementary school, I was all over addition tables. At that point in time, there was no magic five point way of doing a math problem. We memorized the tables. I knew what went with what number…pairs mind you…that made up the sum I was looking for. Subtraction…well, that was not as easy but I was still okay. When we moved on the multiplication I was back in my element….until division came and once again I was floundering…big time.
Maybe that is my problem with the word today…I am not big on division.

The older I get, the more I realize it is all part of life. My two children divided from me by the miles that stood between home and the college they attended. That did not sit well with me. It created sadness in the “in between”…and that never went away.

Marriage divided by divorce equals a great amount of sorrow…remorse…souls that need repair. The line is there…between married…and not…with the healing process that is anything but simple.

Living in the world today it seems all the focus is on division. Along party lines…there is a chasm that separates the two. What made this country what it is…living with the freedom to choose…only caused us to distain anyone who opposes our point of view.

Religion…ugh…the great divider that was never meant to be that. Four of the five siblings in my family all attend different houses of worship. Same God…different approaches…and the world will tell us that the differences are meant to do just that…divide us.

I know that there are clear differences with even something as simple as cuisine. Whether or not I like sushi or Indian food…neither of which I can stomach….divides me from a good part of the staff at work. There are vegetarians who if I took up their “way of eating”… I would starve…since there is a clear dividing line between me…and vegetables.

I grow weary with keeping up with who stands on which side or …even more so…that we have to take sides. That it not God’s original intent…not by a long shot.

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship from the Spirit, if any tenderness or compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.” Philippians 2:1-2

Perhaps we all need to read this each and every morning….just saying.

Five months into World War 1, on Christmas Eve in 1914…both sides knee deep in mud and muck…fighting and defending their own trenches….way too far from home…and family…when the sounds of a Christmas carol could be heard across enemy lines. The haunting words of “Silent Night” song in German lingered in the night air… between a space that separated the sides by a mere one hundred yards. After the German troops finished singing their version of that song, cheers rose up from the British side and they returned “fire” with the same tune…in their own language. Christmas morning, opposing sides came out of their trenches…and met in the middle…among a land littered with the ravages of war…to celebrate….Christ. They shared make shift gifts of chocolates, sausages, liquor, cigarettes and pudding…mixed in with stories of…home.

War resumed the following day…and peace would not come about until November 1918…but that Christmas Day four years before left its mark. A British soldier wrote of that day saying….

“I wouldn’t have missed the experience of yesterday for the most gorgeous of Christmas dinner in England.”

I sincerely doubt God takes pleasure in our differences…where we disagree…. in places we don’t see eye to eye. When we divide, we take away from God’s original intent….being likeminded…not in the way we think…but in the way we love….when we model after HIM. We lose focus…on what it means to be united.

The best way I learned to deal with division is to turn the problem into an adding on instead of a taking away. What multiplied by 9 makes 27?….3 of course. It takes both numbers multiplied to make up the sum…together.

As we enter into the season of Advent I pray we take a page from history…and call a cease-fire to all our fighting.

          
I believe that God takes great joy in the growing that came from my children growing up and into their own lives.

He celebrated my strength that came through during my post-divorce years.

I see nowhere in the Bible that God is a Democrat or a Republican…He is more about along the party line of love…His Love. 

Sure God created vegetables and I don’t fault Him for that …I simply happy that He created fruit too…which is much more appealing to my palate.

I don’t think He sees me and my siblings entering into different houses of worship…He takes delight in the fact that we enter.

I may not be absolutely certain of much in my life…time and circumstances cause change…and we have to adapt or stand firm…..depending on what is best. One thing I do know for sure…no doubt at all…God is love…He created me in His image…so His intent is that I live out that love I inherited. Our common ground between the trenches…is the birth of our Savior…what better reason than that to say…enough. Amen.

Who are you fooling?

By: Amy Dalke

Do you think you're fooling God by your do-gooding? Or doesn't he see your motive? Come find the freedom to just be you...

I walked in the front door of my friend’s house to find her angrily mopping her floor (an activity with which I’m vaguely familiar myself).

As she yanked the mop back and forth, she groaned about the audacity of boys who don’t remove their baseball cleats on the front porch. And of course I heartily affirmed her frustrations as I thanked God that my own son knows better than to drag his mud-laced shoes across my sparkly clean floors. (Yeah, IN MY DREAMS, people.)

She collected the last stray parcel of dirt, only to notice sugar cookie crumbs had suddenly formed a trail down the hallway. Her face turned red as her 6 year old son strolled down the corridor with a baseball glove in one hand and leftover cookie crumbs in the other.

(It was unfortunate timing for him, to say the least.)

His mother gave him the look that says she already knows the answer, but still she asked, “Who dropped cookie crumbs all over the place?

With cookie icing caked across his cheeks and one last bite that he quickly moved towards his pocket, he looked boldly up at his mother and affirmed, “Not me!

I worked hard to keep laughter tucked inside my mouth, because-oh-my-word he totally just said that. And the confident grin on his face said he was convinced his mom was fooled.

Now, you might think this story leads to some kind of instruction on What To Do When Your Kid Tells a Lie.

Instead, let’s put ourselves in the shoes of that 6 year old.

I don’t know about you, but I can be a sucker for my own lies. 

I can pretend that my sin isn’t that big of a deal; and since I’ve got it under control, it won’t negatively impact others. If I tell myself this long enough, I even start to believe it’s true. It’s like the sin becomes so intertwined with my everyday life that I assume this sinful habit is just part of who I am.

Or, for example, I chalk up the chronic dissatisfaction of my body as “something we all deal with.” After all, the magazines at the cash register prove my issue is normal. Prevalent, even. (But am I really okay with the world’s normal?)

Maybe you tell yourself that just because you have a glass or 3 of wine with dinner doesn’t mean you have a problem. But your shaking hands and mental angst say otherwise.

We tell ourselves that the cherished sin in our heart isn’t consequential because we’re obviously on good terms with God. We go to church almost every Sunday, drop money in the offering plate when we have leftover change in our pocket, and we even do that Angel Tree thing every Christmas.

That’s great and all…but God isn’t fooled by our do-gooding.

You and I are hardly different from that 6 year old who claims he didn’t eat the cookie.

We can try our best to shove the crumbs in our pocket so others don’t see the extent of our mess, but in the end – what good does that do? The life we crave, the joy we so desperately want, is only found when we get gut-deep honest with ourselves and God…and have the courage to face our sin.

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. – Ephesians 4:15-16

When we allow God to change us from the inside out, we are free from a lifestyle of crumb management. We’ll still get messy for sure, but we’ll look in the mirror and deal with our dirty face instead of pretending we can hide it.

And I’m praying today that we will both have the courage to face that thing we hold onto…because our family, our neighbors, and this community will be blessed when we live headlong into the TRUTH of who we were made to be.


Are you trying to fool God today?

How is that impacting everyone around you? 

What would it look like to just be yourself with him?

Ode To A Slice of Life

By: Ms. O

A very sad anniversary is happening this week…one that still makes my heart cry…if hearts did indeed shed tears. This week marks the tenth anniversary of the closing of Astroworld. Sniff…sniff.

When we moved to Houston I was thrilled at the proximity of the park. We were season tickets holders each and every summer…and more than got our money’s worth out of price.

wild and crazy ride

The Texas Cyclone was the Grand’Mere of all wooden roller coasters.  I remember waiting in line, hearing the cars climb and fall ….the wooden structure bending and shaking….the screams of riders making you more nervous the longer you stood there.  I know I can still feel the trembles in my stomach as we climbed that first hill…dangling over the hump waiting for the back of the car (because of course I rode in the front so I could see what was coming) to reach the crest before it free fell.  I know it was a mix of sheer terror and the feeling of conquering this fear of coasters that kept me riding it each season.

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It was always worth the wait in line for Greased Lightning… Viper….XLR-8. I was there when they opened Batman the Escape….Mayan Mindbender….Serial Thriller… Dungeon Drop ….the last I rode only once…urp…I like to keep what I ate IN my stomach.

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Spending the day at the park was brutal during the summer months…so Tidal Wave…and Bamboo Shoot….always came in handy to cool off. I knew where every “misting machine” was located around the park…along with the rides that had shade while you waited.

Astroworld was a big part of my children’s growing up years. When family came to visit, it was THE place to take them. It was a banner moment when my kids were old enough to walk the park by themselves. This park was prime for taking the youth group….not too expensive….a lot of bang for the buck…and close enough that you could stay till the park closed and make it home before it was too late.

If I close my eyes I can still remember the lay out of the park. The ticket gates….the gift shops…where to get funnel cake…lemon ices. I knew where the pictures were taken at the primo rides so we could pose with horrified looks on our faces….hands held high in the air. We knew where each “cut through” was….ideal places to meet if we got separated….the best strategy to map out how to get the most of out all the rides.

Maybe part of the mystique of Astroworld is because it’s now…gone. It is a vacant lot…grass growing up….no trace of what was there. It seemed to disappear overnight…and now it is just a “remember when” place in our minds. It does not exist anymore…but for many of us…it will always be a part of…us.

Casting Crowns put out a song years back that captures that feeling for me.

I am a flower quickly fading

Here today and gone tomorrow

A wave tossed in the ocean

A vapor in the wind

Still You hear me when I’m calling

Lord, You catch me when I’m falling

And You’ve told me who I am

I am…I am Yours.

David speaks of God’s great love for us…even as “insignificant” and temporary as we are…in Psalm 8:3-4

“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, when is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that  you care for him?”

In the grand scheme of creation, we are so very temporary…only here for a bit. It may seem at times that my life has stretched for eons….but in all reality…it is a blink of an eye for our Father…and yet He is ever mindful of me.  His desire is for me to live a FULL life here on Earth…spreading His gospel…His love….so that others will know Him also.  I am here to tell the “tale”…..

I think it is always important to “relive” my life with God….to be reminded of all that “we” have done together…how He set things in motion…and invited me in…to join and be a part of this…life. One day when I am in Heaven, I hope that memory stays with me…that I have the ability to look back…and be so very thankful of the adventure that I lived….because so far it has been a wild and crazy ride. There have been times in my life that I feel like I am waiting in one of those lines that zig zagged FOREVER…but in retrospect…I know it is well worth the wait…amen…and amen.

How To Embrace Your Inner Lovely

2 Life Coaching Tips Help You Embrace Christ’s Love…

Your Inner Lovely

Thanks for being lovely

I have to admit these coaching tips are inspired by Moo. Not the cow. The online printing company. If God can use a talking donkey…he can use something called Moo! (See Numbers 22:21-35.)

This company included the card shown above in the box of business cards I ordered.

I think it is meant to be handed to someone along with a business card. But I’ll have to pass it on to you here instead. I liked the sentiment so much the card is now stuck to my bathroom mirror!

Now, whenever I pass by the mirror, my thoughts are immediately directed to the truth: ‘I am lovely.’

Words of Encouragement

God loves encouraging words…

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.

Phil. 4:8

This is what I get from the words of encouragement on this card.

a. You are lovely.

b. We appreciate your loveliness and thank you for being lovely.

c. Please share your lovely – pass it on!

Moo preached the gospel in just 7 words! Thanks for being lovely. Pass me on!

It’s a perfect reminder of the love of Jesus living inside of us. Jesus has made us lovely. This truth lives deeper than our reflection in the mirror. It is born of God’s grace, and gifted to you and me by the Holy Spirit.

How do we embrace our lovely? Here are two life coaching tips that may help.

Life Coaching Tips

#1: Take Time To Be Lavished In Love

Take a moment and think about the times you’ve used some really great soap or lotion and it feels thick and luxurious going on. This is what comes to mind when I linger on the word ‘lavish’…being drenched in richness.

In those times when you may feel inadequate or insignificant, take a stand against such lies and make time to intentionally reflect on the extravagant, lavish, drenching love of Christ.

Consider the kind of extravagant love the Father has lavished on us—He calls us children of God! It’s true; we are His beloved children.

1John 3:1 (The Voice)

Schedule some luxury into your day. Stop and be lavished by God’s extravagant love.

#2: Ask As You Pray

Paul lifts a prayer on behalf of the Ephesians in the book of Ephesians 3:14-19. He asks God that they would:

  1. Gain inner strength
  2. Invite Christ to live in them
  3. Be firmly planted in love
  4. Reach out with Christ’s love
  5. Experience the length, depth, and heights of his love
  6. Live a full life in the fullness of God

What more could they – or we – possibly desire?

Why not make this beautiful prayer of Paul’s yours? It might go something like this.

My response is to get down on my knees before you Father, the magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask you to strengthen me by your Spirit – not brute strength but a glorious inner strength – that Christ will live in me as I open the door and invite him in.

And I ask you that with both feet planted firmly in love, I’ll be able to take in with all the followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love.

Reach out and experience the breadth!

Test it’s length!

Plumb the depths!

Rise to the heights!

Live a full life, full in the fullness of God.

If you find yourself feeling unlovely, intentionally ask and pray this scripture. It may seem a little selfish at first, but this is not a love rooted in pride. It is a love centered on Christ.

Go ahead. Embrace your inner lovely.

Then do as Moo suggests…pass it on!

Purpose Steps

  1. Make the above personalized scripture your prayer each day this week. Journal about any changes you experience in your feelings or attitude about yourself or situation.
  2. Put a word of encouragement or this Moo card on your mirror. What a great reminder to start your day!
  3. Pass your lovely on!

Purpose Prayer

Speak out loud the personalized scripture prayer above. (Ephesians 3:14-19)

Listen to Your HeartSong! (Click the link below)

Isn’t She Lovely/Stevie Wonder

Live the song written on your heart

* The heart on the card is not original to the Moo card.
** This is not an endorsement of Moo printing nor do I receive any payment for bragging on them. It’s simply my way of applauding the encouragement they desire to pass along.

It’s all in the PLANNING…(right?)

By: Ms. O

Plans

I am a planner…as in, I like to MAKE the plans. If I am not the maker of such plans, then at least I would like to have all the details so I know what I am doing….what to expect.

I am not a good “surprise” person. It catches me off guard….I am sure that has a lot to do with why we call it “surprise”….and I am off kilter. I end up wasting time, trying to get my bearings and then I am behind. Way behind. Not something I like…at all.

Maybe that is why having the first child is hard. You have no game plan…no play book to go to…at least one that you trust…that makes sense…that covers ALL the bases.  Each day is a new experience…make that each moment that first week or two…and I never seemed to get ahead of “it”….the plan. When I had my second it was simply modifying previous strategies. (mind you…some worked…others…maybe not)

If I try a new recipe, I am not one to serve it. I want to make it first so I have confidence if I plan to bring it to staff lunch, a pot luck, or get together with friends. Even after my first attempt, I still find a way to taste test it before I present it. After a while I am good at modifying, adding, or taking away to make it my own.

I love roller coasters….after I have ridden it a time or two. I need to know the dips…the drop offs…if it goes upside down…sideways…or backwards. If I know what to expect…the fear is lessened…to a point. I can brace myself…actually be prepared…for what is ahead.

The unknown is…plain and simply put…terrifying. I need to make sure I have packed the right things…practiced what I will act out…have the right ingredients….brace myself for the rough times that are ahead.

I am all about quotes…especially ones that make me laugh. Woody Allen has one about plans…and it truly made me lol.

“If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.”

But perhaps the better quote comes from scripture…..

“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

When God told Solomon He would give him anything, Solomon was pretty wise….he asked for wisdom. Not knowledge of what was to come…what will happen…but more the wisdom knowing that God has this covered. Our wisdom comes from knowing God…placing our future…whether that be tomorrow…or next year…in His hands…and know with all certainty…that He will do the groundwork for us.

Does that make it easy for me?…hmmmm…NO.

But it truly gives me a new perspective…offers me a sort of relief…that I don’t have to have it all figured out. What I need to do is lean in towards God…to sit in His presence…and simply wait for what He knows is best.

Sure it would be nice to know what is coming. At times I have a frank conversation with God, trying to convince Him how much more effective I could be if only He would let me in on His plans….because I can offer some great imput…in which I know I can hear Him laugh…out loud. Putting my trust in Him means getting on a new roller coaster each and every day…strapping myself in…and realizing He sits beside me…hands held high…encouraging me to trust in Him and do the same. I wonder if if counts if I close my eyes on that first big drop off….hmmmmm.

Amen.

Redefining Competition

By: Amy Dalke

So you know how we normally hang out here on Mondays, right?

Well, this Monday, I invite you to join me somewhere else. I was asked to contribute to a series called 30 Days of Raising Boys, and I don’t want you all to miss it.

Whether you’re raising boys, girls, or both, motherhood is messy and wonderful and miserable and awesome all in a great day’s work. So do yourself some good today and read words that prove you aren’t the only one.

You’ll find the series home page right here: 30 Days of Raising Boys. (Scroll to the bottom of the page for links to all the posts.)

You can find my post for the series here: Raising Boys Who Redefine Competition

Let me just tell you something about these words I wrote. Luke played in a baseball tournament over this past weekend. And these words came back to punch me in the gut. Not because I needed to whip them out in my parenting arsenal…but because I needed to preach them to myself.

Which is another one of those times I’m convinced Jesus is all like #burn. (In a loving way, of course. Because I promise I don’t think Jesus zaps me or anything like that.)

Raising Boys Who Redefine Competition

My most favorite thing is that if you sign up before the end of October, you get the Big Book of Scriptures to Pray Over Your Children for free. 

See you next week!

Amy