Come, Bow, Worship, even if . . .

Pray | Lord, in my hustle and bustle, joy or anxiousness, may I not be too busy or distant to pause and consider the wonder of who you are.

December is full of such good stuff! Families gather from near and far, friends are meeting up for celebration, lights go up with frozen fingers, trees and streetlights are twinkling, and there’s the buying, wrapping and giving one to another. But that’s not everyone’s story, it can also be a season of dread, loneliness and anxiety. There’s the reality that finances and time are limited, maybe a heart is grieving, conflict is in the air, or one we love so very dearly is not ‘round the tree but in a hospital. 

The Magi must have had their share of challenges that first Christmas. Before their long journey there were travel plans to make, camels to pack and such, and then miles and miles of searching. But even so, it is written that as they traversed, they saw “the star” and were overjoyed! This Advent, as the days tick off the calendar, will there be a point in which we are overjoyed at something so simple but significant?

When these Magi finally arrived at  the house of Mary and Joseph, they saw the child with his mother and bowed down and worshiped. (Can you just imagine the awe and relief of Mary and Joseph?! Maybe saying, “We have indeed understood these messages from the Lord!”)

Oh, that in this season of Advent, of arrival, that we would come to really see the manger, that we consider the baby, toddler, man, Messiah who came to be with us for such a loving purpose. If the calendar is crowded, and “s t r e t c h e d” is the feeling of the day, how much more valuable to pause, bow and worship (Exodus 20:3.) If burdened and heavy laden, now is the hour to make time for Jesus, for he says he’s gentle and humble in heart, that you’ll find rest for your soul (Matthew 11:28-30). If you find yourself confused, anxious, or with a grieving heart over something or someone, then come close, because it is written that Jesus is near the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18). And if you are in a place of abundance and joy, the bid is still to come close (Deuteronomy 8:10-18). One thing is clear, there’s room for all of us at the manger.

Read | Matthew 2:9-12

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

Reflect | Spend some time reflecting on the following:

We come often to the Lord with our needs and desires, which is so, so good, but what I love about the wise men, is that before Jesus did anything in his time on earth, they bowed, worshiped and gave gifts simply because of who he was, God with us.

May we each spend some time in reflection, asking God to help us come and bow this Christmas, no matter what, and even if . . .

Everyone is Upset

Pray | Lord, may I consider the posture of my heart this Advent season

King Herod was disturbed when he heard the Magi showed up asking about the one born King of the Jews. It is well documented that he was a paranoid, ruthless man. He killed many including his own sons and a few wives to name just a few of those who suffered death due to his fear of losing the throne.

 But also . . . the people of Jerusalem were disturbed.

Read | Matthew 2:3-8 
When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;for out of you will come a ruler    who will shepherd my people Israel.’

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”


King Herod is easily identified as the one least accepting of the idea that the Messiah had arrived within his jurisdiction. But what caught my eye is that the people of Jerusalem were also disturbed. Herod’s reaction seems unrelatable, but the people of Jerusalem being disturbed has the potential to hit a little closer to home.

There are many reasons this news could be bothersome to all of Jerusalem, one being the fear of a violent response from this deranged king who sensed a challenge. But it’s also thought that this arrival could upset the status quo of their own daily lives.

The arrival of a new ruler — shepherd — king, though expected at some point, possibly left them wondering, “What does this mean to me?” The truth is, Jesus’ arrival whether in Bethlehem, the Jordan River, at dinner, the temple . . . or our hearts is a game changer. He just turns so many things upside down. There’s a new conviction in our spirit, while also leaving us peace (John 14:27). Though called to repent, he leads us not to punishment but refreshing and restoration (Acts 3:19-21). It means the old has gone and the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17), and among so many other things, it means there is always a path to forgiveness and freedom.

In this season of preparation, as we string the lights, attend the gatherings, and find our Christmas socks, may we also look for the star, journey to the manger, bow in awe at who has come, and is to come.

This Advent, what are you doing to create space to consider the majesty and wonder found in the manger? 

Its that time of year once more

Last night I ran so quickly to the grocery store for one little thing but was paused immediately by the sight of the Red Kettle. Oh, the Red Kettle at Christmas. Each and every year it brings gratitude for a lesson learned on giving, but also a heaviness as I feel again the loss of a great man who influenced our lives.

Here’s the story from 2012…

An uncomfortable but true tale: The red kettles used to annoy me. For years I felt guilty if I didn’t have anything to put in them, so sometimes I would just go in a different door. Classy, right? I also felt annoyed because it felt like they were everywhere.  Then when I did have a dollar to give, I used to kind of wish I had a hand stamp that I could wave at the next kettle ringer indicating I already gave.

Oh, how I was filled with the giving spirit of Christmas.

Then one Sunday morning in December of 2008, I heard Stan Buck, (our pastor who passed away November 18, 2012) give us a challenge about the red kettles. He challenged us to give generously; to be prepared to give each and every time we passed a red kettle.

He suggested that if we put a dollar in the kettle each time we passed one it is likely to not total more than $50. He suggested most of us can afford to be that generous. If that’s not your situation consider dropping fifty cents or even a quarter – each and every time. It feels good. Which is usually how giving goes ~ in blessing others we tend to feel the blessing in our own hearts.

Perhaps the truth was I wasn’t actually annoyed at the red kettles, it’s more likely I was annoyed at myself for not being prepared to give. Or possibly I was stingy. I’m not sure, but what I do know is that since that message, each Christmas season I have gone to the bank for my $1 bills and I put one in the kettle each and every time I see one.

And this year, since Stan isn’t here to give his dollar bills, I will put one in for him too.

2009 – The first Red Kettle post (The $1 Difference) can be read here
2010 – The second Red Kettle post (Be Not afraid of the Red Kettles) is here


I could not send her

“I love Ava so much, mom. I just couldn’t do it…”

Ava's bornMelissa, our very close friend (really more family member than friend) had her first baby in August and we have all been over the moon in love since. We’ve loved Melissa for many years, my kids consider her more of a sister/aunt/friend. When she and I try to describe our relationship its like friend/sister/daughter. When she met her husband we felt like we all had to approve (and we did!) and when Melissa became pregnant we all knew something special was going to take our relationship to a new place. And she did – Ava arrived and we all flocked to the hospital to meet her, with Kevin even driving 90 minutes to come meet the little bundle of love within hours of her arrival.

Erin & AvaWe’ve had the joy of seeing Ava a lot since she was born and we have all fallen so in love with her. A few weeks ago Erin was rocking Ava and talking about loving her so much. She went on to talk about God loving Jesus even more. She looked at Ava and said “I love her too much, I couldn’t send her to earth to live, suffer and die that way. Even to save all mankind. I just couldn’t do it.”

So we talked about how much God must love us to have sent His son, the One He loves, to earth ~ knowing that many would reject him, that for some this suffering and death would be meaningless. Which took us back to looking at Ava…if you knew EVERYONE would come to the saving grace of Jesus, then could you do it? She still wasn’t sure. What about knowing for many her suffering and violent death would be meaningless. No, we were confident we couldn’t send her. It’s a love we cannot comprehend.

Nativity AvaA few weeks ago our church put on Breakfast in Bethlehem – it was beautiful, stirring, joyful and brought Christmas close. And guess who was baby Jesus? Yep…Ava. When Mary, holding Ava baby Jesus, and Joseph walked in the room and down the isle with their donkey, tears quickly dropped from my eyes…”This is a taste of it.” I thought. So innocent. Just a baby, here to save mankind. Then Erin, who was a tall shepherd tending to a little shepherd walked down the isle. When she stopped to bow and worship baby Jesus I was again overcome with a tiny morsel of the real story ~ just that week Erin had changed “baby Jesus” diaper, now she was bowing to “him” as her Lord.Shepherds Are these some of the things Mary pondered in her heart?

The Christmas story got real close and personal to us this year. Our hearts literally not comprehending this amazing love that cost so much. I’ve found myself seeking more the real meaning of Christmas and resting more in the peace of it all instead of the lists that I tend to create. None of that will make it Christmas ~ it’s a pure and simple scene I am gravitating toward. The story that makes Christmas real and has the potential to bring us all up real close and real personal to our Savior. Merry Christmas to you all.

Some of these photos were taken by myself, Melissa and Keepsake Portraits & Design

The Wisest Christmas Gift

With kids who truly lack for nothing,  we decided to do Christmas in a completely different way two years ago. Instead of shopping for presenTs we chose presenCe. We purchased plane tickets and signed a rental agreement for a house in Arizona. Courtney, Zach and Erin were 20, 18 and 15 years old when we told them time together was the best gift we could bestow on them for Christmas. We stayed home to attend Christmas Eve service, enjoyed our traditional late night feast of hors d’ourves, slept for a few hours and then early Christmas morning we left on a jet plane for warm weather, sunshine, a pool and seven glorious days together.

It felt a little risky, but it also felt a lot right.

To be transparent we did give a few small gifts, mostly stocking stuffers, but their biggest and most important gift was in the form of a simple but significant envelope ~ a letter letting them know they had each been gifted 5 Wisemen for 1 year. “Back in the day” families lived so much closer to each other making a way for natural influence and more opportunity for grandparents, aunts and uncles, even neighbors and friends to be very involved in the life of a family. With that missing today we came up with the idea of “wisemen” traveling with our kids for a year ~ keeping with our theme of presenCe instead of presenTs!

We wanted to give our kids voices that didn’t belong to us; voices that could be trusted and perspectives that were different. So we created a list of people we wanted to speak into our kids ~ specific voices for specific reasons. We wanted them to have wise friends and family who would spend a year talking to them about life and work experience, integrity, faith, character, struggles, triumphs and more. We know there is much to be discussed about relationships, friendships, social media, pressures, college, marriage, humility and strength. With our transient culture, the proliferation of social media (which promotes many good things but also some a significant amount of superficial sharing), with feeling like Christian faith is being attacked and mocked in the media, and inappropriate language and conversations being overheard on a daily basis at school and at college, we believed this was one way we could speak goodness, value, belief, faith, character, integrity and more into Courtney, Zach and Erin. We also thought this was an intentional way of bringing adults directly into their lives for real relationships.

Here’s the thing we also knew ~ people are busy, which is why we spread it out. We approached five people for Courtney, five for Zach and five for Erin. We asked them if they would consider entering the life of one of our kids in a very intentional manner over the course of the new year. We asked them if they would email, call, or meet for lunch or coffee 2 to 3 times during that year. With 5 people reaching out to each of them 2-3 times a year, that would be at least 10 to 15 conversations with other adults who cared about them. That my friends, is quite a gift.

Each of our kids received a specific person who could talk to them about their future careers, someone who would meet them where they were on their faith journey and walk with them.  They each received one extended family member, as well as one person who I felt was put on our hearts for each particular child. Lastly they each received the gift of a dear friend of mine who has been in our lives for many, many years, I chose her because as our kids were turning the corner of adulthood I wanted her voice to go with them, linked more directly to them instead of just through me. It was quite a year – there were lunches, very early morning coffee dates, Skype times, notes and cards in the mail, texts, conversations, mentoring, walks and more. As a parent it was incredible to watch other really good adults pour into our kids.

I told our kids I was writing this article and asked each of them what they took away from, or appreciated about, the year of the Wisemen. Zach, now 20, said he liked that it put mentors in his life, he said he got a lot out of things that he was taught, but his big takeaway was the importance of a mentor in his life. Courtney, now 22 appreciated knowing that people of influence in her life, people she thought highly of and looked up to, were thinking of her and had committed to guiding her. Erin, now 17, says “Having other adults cheer me on in life was meaningful. Also as a kid it can be hard to create relationships with adults, even though we want to, so it was beneficial to have a catalyst for these relationships that we could develop.”

The wisest Christmas gifts we ever gave was the gift of wise men and women to walk a little more intentionally alongside our kids. It seemed a good time to write this – as we scurry busily around during this season it’s good to be reminded that what we truly need most isn’t all the presenTs under the tree, it is the presenCe of others in our lives.

The Red Kettle

An embarrassing but true tale: The red kettles used to annoy me. For years I felt guilty if I didn’t have anything to put in them – and who likes to feel guilty, right? (So sometimes I would just go in a different door….classy.) I also felt annoyed because it felt like they were everywhere. Then, when I did give my $1, I wished I had a hand stamp that I could wave at the next kettle ringer indicating I already gave. Oh, how I was filled with the giving spirit of Christmas!

Then one Sunday morning in December of 2008, I heard Stan Buck, (my pastor who passed away on November 18th) give us a challenge about the red kettles. He challenged us to give generously; to be prepared to give each and every time we passed a red kettle.

He suggested then that if we put a dollar in the kettle each time we passed one it is likely to not total more than $50. Most of us can afford to be that generous. If you can’t, consider dropping $0.50, or even $0.25 – each and every time. It feels good. Which is usually how this giving thing goes – in blessing others we usually feel blessed ourselves.

Perhaps I wasn’t really annoyed at the red kettles, it’s more likely that I was annoyed at myself for not being prepared to give. Or maybe I was just stingy. I’m not sure, but what I do know is that since that message, each Christmas season I have gone to the bank for my $1 bills and I put one in the kettle each and every time I see one.

And this year, since Stan isn’t here to give his dollar bills, I put one in for him too.

(I’ve read several Facebook postings in the last few weeks about people from our church thinking of Stan when they see a red kettle – and giving. This good and faithful man inspired so many to do the good and faithful things in life. His legacy will be far reaching.)

Be Not Afraid of the Red Kettles; The $1 Difference; Stan Buck

On Break

Christmas break is over. I know that because I have planned, prepared and served really great and well balanced meals the last few evenings.

Over the Christmas break, I don’t cook…much. I’ve heard a few gasps and had a few questions lately about what I do for meals if I’m not cooking, so I thought I’d share about that here. Let me begin by framing my view of being “on break”..

I’ll begin with my kids, their lives immediately shift gears when that last school bell rings before break. They exhale, smile, relax and are instantly free of homework, alarm clocks and schedules. They are on break.

Our oldest returns from college and trust me….she is on break.

Then there is my husband, each year he is on vacation between Christmas and the new year, sometimes he even adds days on the front end of that. So he also shifts gears. He quits setting an alarm and his day moves at a completely different pace and…in an entirely different environment. He is on break.

Then there is me ~ the stay work-at-home mom. My work environment stays the same, except now there are more people on my lunch break. (And I love this.) In addition, the Mom Taxi is no longer running just after school hours, it’s on call all. day. long. (Which is fine.) Plus, now I’m the head baker of all things Christmas. Oh yeah…and during this season I move to professional shopper status. (Which I enjoy.)

If you’re a mom, you might be saying, AMEN! I mean, how many extra duties do we moms take on during this season? And I haven’t even touched on scheduling holiday travel or family get togethers, work parties, friend gatherings, Christmas cards and more. Which brings me back to why I don’t really cook over Christmas break….I want to be on break too.

I manage this by heading to Sam’s Club and buying a ham, a variety of crackers, chicken salad, lots of hor dourves, and other similar wonderful cuisine. On Christmas morning I make an egg casserole and homemade caramel rolls (technically I prepare all of this the night before), and this year Kevin cooked a turkey so we could have turkey sandwiches – for many days. It was awesome. We also eat out more than usual, and I’m good for a homemade pizza or two. (Well, actually three so we can have leftovers!)

I love having a break from planning, preparing and serving dinner. It allows me to have time off as well to refresh. But now everyone is back to school and work, (except for my college girl who will be here for a few more days) and I am back to providing healthy meals for my family. The first night we sat down to eat, my seventeen year old son made a comment about how nice it was to sit around the table and eat a great meal. The second night I heard several compliments on the fish and homemade bread, and tonight the pecan chicken and I got rave reviews.

I’m good with not cooking much during the Christmas break. I appreciated the time off and now my family is once again appreciating my efforts to provide a daily dinner.  We’re back into our routines and we’re all happy in the new year.