I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

My Favorite Things

By Jennie Atkins

When asked what my favorite movie is I can instantly reply, The Sound of Music.  Its imagery, music and plot make it appealing to me on a multitude of levels.  My favorite being the music. I don’t know too many people when its title is mentioned that don’t automatically picture Julie Andrews standing on the top of a hill belting out the words “The hills are alive with the sound of music.” 

Having seen this movie at a young age, I can honestly say it cemented a love of music, song, and lyrical messaging into my life. Music plays an important role in my life.  I associate events of my past with certain songs. I can recognize a movie by their opening music without looking at the television. And like the chorus from the Sound of Music says, “My heart wants to sing every song it hears.”

So as we enjoy this season of faith, love and renewed hope. I go back to one of the songs from that movie called My Favorite Things.

The writer of the song may have delighted in bright copper kettles.  I can’t say that, but I do love to cook for my family.  I take so much join in having them gather around the dining room table to enjoy the food I prepared, laugh at the antics of the grandkids, and catch up on the years events.

I may not think brown paper packages are pretty, but I am thankful for what God has given me so that I can delight in giving gifts to others.

I don’t necessarily get excited about doorbells, but I do get excited when they herald family and friends into my home.

I may have never been bitten by a dog, but there have been times when life has taken a chunk out of me.  I’ve been tired, overwhelmed, and discouraged.  But if this song reminds me of anything--it was to count my blessings.

By thanking God for what he had done and praising him for what he will do in my life in the upcoming year, I can easily push aside any gloom or dismay that tries to hang over me like a dark cloud and count my blessings.

I thank God for my life-long friend and husband, my children and grandchildren, and for the many friends that have entered my life, if only briefly. I am thankful for all God has provided, including my health. But most of all, I am thankful for God who loves me in spite of myself.

So as 2015 comes to a close, I pray all the best for you and your families.  May your joys be doubled, may your sorrows be few, and may you rest in the abundance of God’s eternal blessings in the upcoming year.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

What the gift says about the giver

                        Delores E. Topliff

As we prepare for Christmas, you, like me, probably choose gifts hoping to bring maximum delight to the faces of those you are shopping for--whether its kids, grandkids, friends, neighbors, students, co-workers, or shut-ins. And we’re careful to give what we believe our recipients will enjoy most whether it’s movie tickets, a restaurant meal, or a Starbucks card. Choosing the right gift shows how well we know the person.

This season the Lord turned my thoughts to His joy in preparing gifts just right for us, especially His Most Amazing Gift. He pictures our delight as we discover the priceless, everlasting, fulfilling, limitless riches tucked inside the ongoing gift of His Son. That thought enriches how I see Him and gives new glimpses of Him eagerly waiting for us to untie the strings and unwrap the package to get full benefit of everything packed inside.

Parents, grandparents, and friends often make even the outside of the package special with individually-chosen tissue papers or glittery fun cut-outs to tuck inside. God does that for us, too. He handcrafts sunrises or sunsets using our favorite colors. Has a bird land on a branch to warble an uplifting song just when we need it. He provides the funds we need OR leads us to amazing sales that stretch the money we have.

When I was 13, my Sunday School teacher married her pastor sweetheart before they went to Kenya as missionaries. Since my bank account was zero, for a goodbye gift I created an African cookbook with recipes for roasted elephant leg with instructions for how to saw off the leg, roasted termite cakes, ostrich egg omelets, etc. She called it priceless and laughed until she cried, saying its humor would keep her from getting homesick. Her laughter was the thanks I needed.

Consider the best gift-giver of all, all-knowing, all-powerful God, and His joy this season and always as He chooses gifts exactly right for each one of us.

Describe a personalized gift God has given you that means a lot.

What unique gift have you really enjoyed preparing for someone else? 


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

In the Dark

Since July, I’ve shared a lot about my family’s crazy season of waiting and change. Although we are still waiting on God to show us our next adventure, we’ve been consistently amazed at all the ways God has shown us His love and provision while we wait. Despite this, it is sometimes easy to become overwhelmed by what you lack.

Two weeks ago today, near hurricane-force winds ripped through the Inland Northwest. Autumn windstorms are common in our area, but this one was like nothing I’ve ever seen. When it was all said and done, hundreds of trees were down across the area and power was out to more than 200,000 people.

We lost our power around 4pm on Tuesday. We’ve lost power before, but it’s usually back on within a few hours. When my husband got home from work, he told me that based on the damage he’d seen, he couldn’t imagine our power would be back on right away, so we went out into the storm for ice. We were shocked at how much of our area was dark. It turned out that nearly 70% of the Spokane area was without power.

That first night, we got our flameless candles and tap lights, and enjoyed a little electronics-free family bonding time. It was kind of fun. But twenty-four hours later, we were still without power. A sweet couple from our church who had power invited us for dinner and we welcomed the opportunity to warm up and charge our phones. When we got home, we bundled up like the Pioneers for bed. Seriously, I had on long johns, heavy socks, a hat, and mittens when I climbed under a pile of blankets. It was kind of fun to pretend I was Laura Ingalls Wilder out on the Prairie.

By day three (Thursday) we were all getting a little restless. It was frustrating because temperatures were falling, which meant our house was getting colder, but not cold enough to save the food in our freezer. And since our cell phones were our only access to news and updates, we were blowing through our 2G data plan. We spent our evening with our best friends who’d had their power restored earlier in the day, and although we were optimistic that when we got home our power would be back on, it was not. 

On day four (Friday) we started to get frustrated. A neighbor told us that she'd called our power company for an update; the rep told her they thought we'd already had our power restored and it might be three or four days before they could get "back" to us. We decided it was time to check on our freezer and make some decisions regarding our food. We were amazed to find that most of it was still frozen pretty solid, except a few things in the doors. We were encouraged that we could go probably go another day.

Day five (Saturday) we all hit a point where we didn't think we could do another day. If you've ever been without power for more than a few days, then you know what I mean. If you've not ever experienced this, then I probably sound whiny and lame. But there's this point where the darkness begins to feel oppressive and the lack of light, heat, and electricity begins to drain your energy and hope. We were done. And then, a family in our church offered us the use of their little generator.We got it home and running, and got our freezer plugged in. We turned on a few lights, charged our phones, and even brewed some good coffee in our Keurig. Despite these small wins, we finally had to concede that our house was too cold for sleeping so we packed up to go and stay with a family from our church who lives nearby.

It's amazing what a warm bed and a good night's sleep can do for your outlook. On day six (Sunday) we got a second wind, especially when we saw power trucks working in our neighborhood. We were sure we'd have power by the end of the day. And then the power company issued an update explaining that the damage was worse than they'd originally assessed, and it might be Thanksgiving before everyone had their power back. On Sunday night, we drove past the trucks and were disappointed to find it had taken them several hours to repair one block of downed wires...because they still had ten more blocks to go.

Day seven (Monday) we awoke to another storm warning; this storm would bring gusty winds and snow. My internal dialogue? We are going to die here, in the cold and dark of our powerless house. Oh, and a snowy windstorm is forecasted for tonight? Perfect.

Our power was finally restored just before 4pm on day nine (Wednesday). We went into Thanksgiving truly thankful for something we'd taken for granted just over a week earlier.

At some point during that week, a good friend of mine posted a thought on his Facebook page:

Don't forget in the darkness what God showed you in the light.

It occurred to me that our nine days without power is much like our wait on God for the next step in Craig's employment. We are on month seven of that wait. The first month felt much like an adventure. Months two and three we were able to wait patiently because we just "knew" it wouldn't be long. Month four was when we actually had to trust God for provisions. Month five we were done, but month six we got a second wind. Then month seven. November. Dark and cold and powerless.

But here's the thing: during the power outage, when we hit that place where the darkness threatened to overwhelm our hope...on our day seven...what we didn't know then was that within two days, our power would be back on and we'd have a  whole new appreciation for it.

So, as we embark on month eight, I am choosing not to forget in the darkness what God showed me in the light, but also what He showed me in the dark. He has always provided for us, even in the darkest, coldest days in November when friends and family and people we'd never met offered their homes, their electricity, their food, their laundry facilities, their generators, and most importantly, their support and encouragement. And just like my new appreciation for electricity, I know I will emerge on the other side of our current season with a new appreciation for everything.

~Heidi Larson Geis

*Photo Credit: www.krem.com