I resolve...

So, friends, it is that time of year, isn't it?  New Year's Eve... New Year's resolutions.... goals... ideals... a brand new year!

I did just a little research, and it seems that New Year's resolutions are not at all "new".
Janus Ponte Fabricio

"The idea of celebration and setting of goals or ideals dates back to the Babylonians that started the tradition in March, but the Romans changed the time to January 1.  January gets its name from Janus, the two-faced god who looks backwards into the old year and forwards into the new."

So have you made any resolutions yet?  I do love the idea of looking back over the past year pondering a bit... and then looking forward into the new year with hope and anticipation.  In 2004 Frank had a great idea for a resolution:  with great anticipation, he announced that this year would be our healthiest yet!  By March of that year, his brother, Mollie and I had all experienced appendectomies.  (Yes, all within 6 weeks!)   In June Frank began his journey with back pain with his first of a multitude of ongoing surgeries.  So, as you might imagine, we are a bit hesitant to utter grand proclamations.
As I have reflected around 2014, I am reminded so  clearly of God's faithfulness in our lives.  His love and patience with us is overwhelming, and I know we can never praise Him and thank Him enough!
So for 2015 I plan to join a dear friend of mine in living her favorite Bible verse:
Micah 6:8
 And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.

How will that look in my life?  I hope it reminds me to look for ways to serve others, to be patient and understanding, to offer time and encouragement to those God directs me to, and most importantly, I look forward to getting to know my sweet Savior, Jesus, better each day.  

So, what are you choosing?

Stop the car...

One of my favorite family memories came during the Christmas season 2006.  We were headed from Louisville to Perryville, Kentucky to visit my grandmother for the afternoon.  Our goal had always been to have something planned for our family to do together to encourage/bless someone else during the holidays.  Somehow this year had not brought any specific ideas to mind.  Katie was home from college and along for the ride was her new fiance, Chris; Kellie - a high school junior; Mollie - 7th grade, Clay - a 3rd grader; driver - Frank, and planner of all the family fun in the passenger seat - ME!  Our van was full to the brim with people.
Our journey to Perryville would normally last about an hour and a half, but on this day, our trip more than doubled.  You see, right before we left town, Frank and I had quite the brainstorm.  We ran by the bank for a little extra cash.  When we were all packed into the van.. giving me quite the captive audience, I handed each passenger $30 - 1 $10 and 1 $20 with only these instructions...
"At any point during this trip, you may yell
When anyone yells, we will stop.
  If you yell, you must use your money to bless someone else.  
The only stipulation is that, when you offer your money, you must use the word
 Jesus in your explanation.  Your money must be gone before we reach Perryville."
We offered a family prayer simply that God would bless our efforts and 
allow us to be sensitive to His leading.

And so it began...  as you might imagine, Clay was the first to yell.  So we stopped at a gas station with an old fashioned deli.  I followed Clay in at a distance that allowed him to make his own plan and decision..  He approached an older gentleman who had just ordered a sandwich asking if he could pay for his sandwich.  The man was gracious letting Clay know that he was good to pay.  Clay persisted a bit, and the man looked toward me and accepted his offer.  Clay paid the clerk, said his Jesus loves you, and was out the door.  The next to yell was Katie, just as we passed a Dollar General, so we whipped the car and around and stopped.  She picked out a lady and began following her through the store.  Katie's plan was to buy everything that was in her cart.  We think the lady may have started to get a bit concerned about this blonde stalker, so Katie backed off.  She quickly realized that the cart was filling to more than her $30, so she and Kellie pooled their money as the lady approached the checkout.  The lady was overwhelmed with gratitude.  Chris used his money at McDonald's to bless a family by buying their breakfast.  The stops and stories continued throughout the day, and what a sweet day we had.  

Our joy came in the funny moments we experienced, and the blessing we received as we shared with people just a simple gift and that Jesus loved them.  The idea came literally as we were headed out of town, often I would had just dismissed the thought as silly.  So thankful we followed through and just DID it!  I encourage each of you to find some way this week to bless someone year, we visited a nursing home taking our nativity scene to set up for an older friend.  It doesn't have to cost money at all!

From Acts 20:35b 
"remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”

From our family to yours:  A very Merry Christmas and may God's richest blessing lead you into 2015!

Marshmallow War...tradition!

Traditions are interesting in our family.  Some we tried to plan for and protect, some just happened, some weren't intended to be "forever" traditions, but our children insisted on their continuance.
The holiday season offers a great opportunity to build new traditions and celebrate old ones.
As our family grows, we know the reality of flexibility in scheduling - the only constant is that things will change.

When our kids were all at home, one fun tradition for us was that we allowed them to open one gift on Christmas Eve.  Keep in mind, Frank and I always chose which present they could open.  For years we watched as the girls "got it"... knowing the chosen gift was Christmas pajamas.  Somehow... Clay just didn't get it - every year we giggled as he ripped open the package and with a look of disappointment, uttered, "Ugh!  Pajamas, AGAIN!!??"

One of my favorite "tradition" memories is the Marshmallow War Christmas morning.  At the encouragement of a friend, I bought and wrapped marshmallow guns for everyone in the family.  Our Christmas morning still starts early, so at 6:00 am everyone unwrapped their gun which included a bag of marshmallows.  The war began, marshmallows flew everywhere, giggles exploded.  Within 20 minutes, the bags of marshmallows covered our entire house.  Every step taken landed on a pile of marshmallows!!!  It was the best time!!
A few of the warriors

I encourage you to remember traditions that you had a child and share those memories with your own children.  Start a new tradition - as a family, bless another family with a batch of cookies or just a visit to an older friend.
Give this one a try... on Christmas Eve, make some yummy hot chocolate, some Christmas cookies, then gather your family together around your tree and read the story from Luke 2.  If your children are young, read it from a Children's version of the Bible. 

 Celebrate HIS birth!!

Mary, Did you know?

One of my favorite Christmas songs...

Mary, Did you know?   Questions are rendered to Mary..

 "Did you know your baby boy would one day walk on water; did you know your baby boy would save our sons and daughters?  Did you know your baby boy has come to make you new?  Do you know He has walked where angel trod..."

As I read again this week the story from Luke 1:26-38 of Gabriel coming to Mary to let her know that SHE was to be the mother of Jesus, the Messiah, I was overwhelmed!  Overwhelmed at the thought of this ordinary girl being chosen for such a special task.  Katie and I were talking about that very fact today... Wouldn't  it have been so much easier to mother a perfect child?  We agreed that the problem for us is that we are so far from perfect parents...  we can't imagine raising a perfect child.:)

So, what did Mary really know?  She knew the Old Testament; she knew of the coming Messiah; she knew He would be the Savior of all mankind.

As she listened to the angel, she learned that she was THE chosen one - she was highly favored.  Gabriel quickly shared with Mary that she would give birth to a son, that she would name him Jesus,  that HE would be great, that HE would reign over the house of Jacob forever, and that His kingdom would never end!
Now that was an angelic message!

So  I have decided that what Mary knew wasn't the important take away for us... the most valuable lesson from Mary is how she responded to the call.  When she was told that she would have a baby, her response was not to question the call, only the practicality of the "how".  Not only was she immediately satisfied with the answer, but she didn't even ask any others.  She simply listened and uttered her reply...
I am the Lord's servant, May it be to me as you have said.

For today as I ponder the call of the Father on my life, May I just simply respond...
I am the Lord's servant...

Below is a link for a beautiful rendition of Mary, Did You Know...

Mary, did you know.. by Pentatonix