Celebrating 12 Days of Christmas Day 3

 

Doll

Continuing the celebration of day three of the twelve days of Christmas, I spent a lovely lunch at Brothers Provisions with a college friend and her family.  Seeing her daughter hold her present really highlighted the day’s focus on celebrating the innocents.  As Christianity Today states, “On December 28, we celebrate the feast of the Holy Innocents, the children murdered by Herod…They died unjustly before they had a chance to know or to will—but they died for Christ nonetheless. In them we see the long agony of those who suffer and die through human injustice, never knowing that they have been redeemed. If Christ did not come for them too, then surely Christ came in vain. In celebrating the Holy Innocents, we remember the victims of abortion, of war, of abuse. We renew our faith that the coming of Christ brings hope to the most hopeless. And, in the most radical way possible, we confess that like the murdered children we are saved by the sheer mercy of Christ, not by our own doing or knowing.”

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Celebrating 12 Days of Christmas Day 2

According to Christianitytoday.com, “St. John the Evangelist, commemorated on December 27, is traditionally the only one of the twelve disciples who did not die a martyr. Rather, John witnessed to the Incarnation through his words, turning Greek philosophy on its head with his affirmation, “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14, KJV).

Yesterday was day two of celebrating the twelve days of Christmas. For me, it was a day to think about what it means to live a life focused on love. One of the most often quoted gospel verses is John 3:16, “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

I thought about how it’s really difficult to love those who hurt us, whether intentionally or not.  I also considered the idea that to be able to fully love others, we must embrace our own love and beauty for ourselves.  That statement could sound self-centered but I don’t believe it is. If we haven’t learned to really appreciate who we are, I don’t think it’s easy to appreciate or love others.

So, day two for me was a celebration of sending out New Years cards and gifts to my treasured business clients and then spending the rest of the day enjoying the town I live in and seeing it in a new perspective.

Letter photo

With a brand new loaner car while mine was in the shop, my first destination was to the Inn at Rancho Santa Fe where they had set up an ice skating rink on their front lawn for the holiday season. Since it was midday, no one was skating at the time I visited. I stepped into their reception area and found this massive Christmas tree in the center.  Inn at RSF tree

From there, I headed toward Del Mar and made a decision to stop at the Candle Shop. For all the years I’ve lived near there, I had never gone in. They make beeswax candles on the property and said they had been there for 85 years.  My purchase, a Jane Austen inspired candle with scents of gardenia, tuberose and jasmine-some of my favorite smells.

Candle shop

I had brought a manuscript I have been working on with me on the journey and decided to head to one of my favorite destinations to write–The Grand Del Mar.  The Grand is a five star hotel and could very well be Cinderella’s castle. I’m lucky to live nearby. There’s a coffee shop that overlooks their beautiful saline pool. They had an almost to the ceiling tree in the entryway and many people sat around tables in the dining area enjoying afternoon tea.

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My final destination was to view Candy Cane Lane in Rancho Penasquitos. And lo and behold what should appear, not St. Nick but Cinderella, her prince and fairy Godmothers there.

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Overall, a love-ly day.

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Celebrating 12 Days of Christmas-Day 1

I’m finding that one of the beautiful things about the Christmas season is continuing the celebration after Christmas Day.  I’ve never formally celebrated twelve Days of Christmas but I think this year I’m going to try. To get started, I need to understand what the 12 Days of Christmas actually mean.

So, a Bing search came up with some interesting results.  One “Best Answer” on Yahoo answers came up with this response from Susan, (partial quote here) …”Contrary to much popular belief, these are not the twelve days before Christmas, but in most of the Western Church are the twelve days from Christmas until the beginning of Epiphany (January 6th; the 12 days count from December 25th until January 5th). In some traditions, the first day of Christmas begins on the evening of December 25th but the following day is considered the First Day of Christmas (December 26th)…Perhaps more important is that Christians can celebrate their rich heritage, and God’s grace, through one more avenue this Christmas. Now, when they hear what they once thought was a secular “nonsense song,” they will be reminded in one more way of the grace of God working in transforming ways in their lives and in our world. After all, is that not the meaning of Christmas anyway?”

Over at achievebalance.com, an article describes the 12 Days of Christmas song this way, “The singer of the carol is the ordinary person who believes in Christ, and his ‘true love’ is God the Father. The accumulative pattern of going back each time through all the verses teaches the ongoing and abundant blessings of a loving God. We repeat to help us not forget what we have received. The whole song is a joyful celebration of what God has done for us.”

An article about the 12 Days of Christmas on Christianitytoday.com suggests that the traditional Christian celebration of Christmas is exactly the opposite of how the world generally celebrates Christmas, starting after November in getting ready for it and then culminating in the celebration on the 25th.

The article goes on to say, “The “real” twelve days of Christmas are important not just as a way of thumbing our noses at secular ideas of the “Christmas season.” They are important because they give us a way of reflecting on what the Incarnation means in our lives. Christmas commemorates the most momentous event in human history—the entry of God into the world He made, in the form of a baby. The Logos through whom the worlds were made took up His dwelling among us in a tabernacle of flesh.”

It goes on to say that December 26 “is the feast of St. Stephen—a traditional day for giving leftovers to the poor (as described in the carol “Good King Wenceslas”). As one of the first deacons, Stephen was the forerunner of all those who show forth the love of Christ by their generosity to the needy. But more than this, he was the first martyr of the New Covenant, witnessing to Christ by the ultimate gift of his own life.”

photoOK, so my plan for today was initially to bring these Capezzanna Olive Oil tea cakes I made yesterday to my volleyball group I’m playing with this afternoon, but I’m adding one more task: Find a homeless person to give one to.  Wish me luck.

 

 

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Celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles

This year my church has decided to celebrate all the Jewish Festivals and today is the Feast of Tabernacles.  Our pastor has studied the different signs of the times and found the recent red moons (two in 2014 and two in 2015) fall on significant Jewish festivals like today’s Feast of Tabernacles. This morning you could see a red moon at 3:30 a.m. on the Pacific Coast.  There is so much significance to these signs that pastor Ray has written a whole book about it called the Holy Land Keys. 

Feast

The Hebrew name for the Feast of Tabernacles is Sukkot.  According to the website hebrew4christians.com, the event is to celebrate the time Israel lived in huts while living in the desert for 40 years after leaving Egypt.  It goes on to say that after Israel moved into the promised land Sukkot was like a Fall Festival.  It is a time to celebrate and rejoice in God’s blessings and provisions for our lives.

It is also a time for restoration, according to ucg.org. The site maintains that  “The Feast of Tabernacles symbolizes the restoration process, which will start with the return of Jesus Christ, pictured by the Feast of Trumpets, and the banishment of Satan, depicted by the Day of Atonement. Once these events have taken place, as represented by the previous Holy Days, the foundation is in place for the restoration of the creation to peace and harmony with God.”

I have found it interesting that as our church body celebrates these events my own walk has aligned with them. Last Saturday on Yom Kippur I naturally rested all day only realizing later that it was meant to be a day of rest.  Then, today I changed my internet service provider and had them install a wireless device someone had given me which was aptly named Paradise.  I kept the name. It seems like just the right fit to start celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles.  Now, whenever I choose my wireless service I can remember that God does promise us Paradise.

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Five Ways to Live Beautifully on a Limited Budget

I’ve always loved surrounding myself with beautiful things but there have been many instances throughout life where resources were  limited so I needed to be creative.  So, how do you surround yourself with beauty on a limited budget?  Here are five suggestions I’ve come up with in my search to live beautifully.

 

Collage Journal

Collage Journal

1.  Imagine It-In times of scarcity it can be difficult to imagine what it would be like if resources were more abundant.  What I have in multitude are images from magazines.  Even if you don’t have a bunch of periodicals lying around you can find them at used bookstores for cents.  Flip through the images in the magazines and find ones you like that are pretty or attractive to you. Rip the pages out and create a collage. Make the masterpiece into a journal or poster to hang on your wall for inspiration. Take the notebook around with you on your travels to record more ideas about ways of living beautifully.

Reupholstery in progress

Reupholstery in progress

2.  Reupholster It- I had a chair from Salvation Army for years before I took the time to reupholster it. I could see the beauty of the bones and figured some nice new fabric would turn it into a gem.  I think I paid about $25 for the chair and spent another $20 for fabric and trim. One long weekend I finally figured out how to do it by reading through Simple Upholstery & Slipcovers by Carol Parks.  It still needs the trim because I ran out of staples, but once it’s redone it’s probably worth a little over $100.

3.  Can It-When I was studying wine I wanted to know what vintners went through in growing their grapes so I planted a cabernet sauvignon grape vine in the backyard.  It took three years to produce fruit and then a one year learning curve to figure out what to do with the grapes, but this year I was able to make homemade grape jelly out of the harvest. Yum and what a great chance to spread the beauty around to friends.

Cabernet sauvignon grape jelly

Cabernet sauvignon grape jelly

4.  Drink It-If you can’t afford a nice dinner out, how about traveling to try a different coffee house?  The new Zumbar Coffee & Tea in Cardiff by the Sea, California is  an inexpensive excursion.  Beauty in a cup. Ahhh.

Zumbar Coffee

Zumbar Coffee

 

5.  Meditate on It-Certainly not least, but if it boils down to just you and God, meditate on the word for a beautiful mindset.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”  Ecclesiastes 3:11

 

 

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Laughing in the Rain

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Sometimes I’ve heard people say we’re not supposed to look for signs from God to prove His reality or presence, but then if you think about all the stories in the bible about how He made Himself known in such miraculous ways and through nature, I wonder if we often miss out on how He speaks to us by trying to temper this idea down.

Last weekend while at church and waving my bulletin in front of my face because it was hot, the air conditioning finally kicked in and the pastor made a comment about the thankfulness of cool air.  A little while into his sermon it appeared the air conditioning was on full blast as the noise was becoming rather loud.

He stopped speaking and asked the crowd, “Is that rain?”

Someone in the back of the room shouted “yes.”

The pastor started laughing while the congregation quietly clapped.  Just so you know the place and time, it was early September in San Diego where things like loud rain storms don’t happen in the middle of the summer and in a very long drought season.

I felt something good bubbling up and kicking in the middle of my stomach. It was a mix of thanksgiving, gratitude, the wonders of what God can do to show His love for His people, and really an amazing sense of well being that is hard to put in words.

When the service was over we walked out to a bright and sunny day with the only reminder of that rain storm in dried up droplets of blotchy patterns on my car.  I drove away laughing and found myself chuckling internally for the rest of the day. As I sat and pondered His love for us, I had thought about what the pastor had said the weekend before. If I remember correctly he was talking about how God had controlled the timing of things when he had opened Rachel’s womb in the Genesis story, and he had made it a point that there were three ways that God did this, one of the ways was opening the womb of a barren woman, another of the ways was controlling rain.

Some may reason that there has been tropical rain storms in Mexico and so it was just a natural situation.  But I say God at just the right time, likes to make Himself known to the people who love him doing things like showering down a rain cloud at just the right time. I bet He was laughing while He was doing this too.

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Achieving Dreams

Cinderella DreamsDreams are often achieved in fairy tale children’s stories and kids are encouraged to believe in them but as adults we are often told to “get real” or to “stop living in fantasy land” if we try to bring up our dreams.  Why the disconnect? I’d like to suggest that not only can dreams come true in adult’s real lives but they can be even better than those iconic stories if we really do believe in what God’s plan is for us and don’t give up when the stuff that tries to get us off track gets in the way.

I was really encouraged last night while reading bible-knowledge.com after posing a hard question to God.

Long Life?

“Do you really promise long life to your people?”

My google search along those lines brought up bible-knowledge.com’s article “Does God Promise Long Life?”

One of the verses that I rely on in this instance is in Psalm 91:16  ‘With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”

But, it seemed like there might be more to the story than that verse so I wanted to be sure I was hearing things correctly.  The bible knowledge article referenced a handful of verses, all from the old testament, that support this promise but said there were requirements to be met in order to realize this promise.  Mainly, it stated the requirements are:

1. The blessing is only for Jews and Christians

2.  You must be fully surrendered

3.  You must walk and obey all God’s ways and commandments

Read the rest of the story’s ideas here: Click here

A Shoe-Fits Mate?

So what about that dream marriage that so many people think up at a young age?  Is it possible? Well, in Matthew 19:4-6 it states “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’  and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’ ?  So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”  A mate that God brings to you sounds like a good fit to me.  No cramming feet into shoes that are the wrong size.

Happiness?

So, what about that thing that so many strive for but have a hard time achieving, true happiness?  What’s amazing is that beyond happiness, God promises joy.  We are promised in Nehemiah 8:10 that ….the joy of the Lord is your strength.”  Happiness is fleeting but joy remains despite what is going on in life.

So, dreams like a long life, a right fit mate and joy can come true in real life too. We just have to believe and not give up when things get tough just like in those fairy tales.

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Learning to Take Off Our Masks

Masks copy

Finishing What Was Started

A few weeks ago I decided to finish this painting that I had started about ten years previously but had left unfinished in the garage. I was off doing other things and every time I thought about getting out the paints, it just seemed like it would take too much time. When I finally sat down it was the long 4th of July weekend and my social calendar wasn’t very full. I decided to not put off the task any longer. The funny thing was, it hadn’t taken too much time to finish. There was really only a refining of the details. The completion date was on a Saturday and I forced myself not to go into an overly critical mode when working on the painting or even try to make it perfect.

Revelation

The next Sunday at church the sermon was about how we often put on masks and don’t really show our true selves. My mind went directly to the painting I had just finished. It was about the same thing. I had started the painting from a sketch I did while in a meditation group. I hadn’t been following Jesus at the time but I was getting very vivid pictures in my head and this was an image I held while in the group. After the meeting I went directly to my sketch pad to recreate the scene. Somehow I knew it was important.

At one point while in the process of sanctification I had asked God what the painting was about. He had given me the verse,

Night and day we pray earnestly for you, asking God to let us see you again to fill the gaps in your faith. 1 thessalonians 3:10

Other People

That verse reminded me of all the people who had said after I turned to Christ that they had been praying for me.  All that time I was running away from Him and He had still been seeking out other people to help get me back on the right path. I was wearing a false mask.  That’s what the painting was about.

Now, sometimes when I see other people wearing their fake masks I do my best to remember where I had once been and how they too have the opportunity to take off their false identity and become who they were meant to be. For me, I’m hearing that I am an artist. In the past I’ve been afraid to express that but God gives us so many gifts like courage and strength. I wonder if you were to take off your mask, what you might discover underneath. It’s never too late to reach your destiny.

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Nature Gives Hope

Sometimes gardens are good examples of spiritual truths and cycles.

I haven’t spent much time lately in the garden that I used to tend to so delicately.  It wasn’t until a few weeks ago after waking up at 4:30 a.m.and finding nothing more to do than pray, that I saw the true state of it.

The night before I had been to a growth group meeting with some other women of God. One lady had just come back from a mission trip to Paraguay and had shared her experience and pictures. They had spent time at a women’s prison where children were born and being raised. She told stories of life and loss.

While in prayer the next morning I felt I learned truths I hadn’t seen before and was thanking Him.  It seemed like one of those powerful, now I know why I woke up to pray this early, kind of mornings.  When I was done I heard little patterings.  Surely, I thought, that can’t be rain in the middle of the summer. But then the noise got louder so I opened the window to a downpour of rain.  I went outside to stand in the rain and felt joy building up inside me.

Then, I traveled to the backyard. I hadn’t realized what damage years of neglect could do–dead plants, dried leaves, and bugs eating up foliage. But there, dripping around all the dead branches were ready-to-pick dark purple grapes, dangling among the half eaten vines.  The damage looked salvageable.

Grape

Nature and prayer gave me hope that morning, but  I still had to harvest the grapes and more spiritual truths would be uncovered while in the process of coming against the worm that was eating the leaves.

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Kindness and Generosity

Admiration

Admiration. What do you admire? The kind word. The unspoken glance. The correction you didn’t want to hear but someone was brave enough to say. It seems the things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, are often the things that go unnoticed. Instead of paying attention to the loud voices, the bad news, or the angry words how much more generous would a man be if he opened his thoughts to the good? Would the world change? Would there be a butterfly effect? Would peace ensue? Would a kind word a day keep the doctor away?

©Jack Schiffer/Dreamstime Stock Photo

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Watching Our Thoughts

Thoughts in our minds flow in and out of our heads so rapidly we often don’t even notice the ones that are the gold. Junk often bubbles up to the surface first. Like, how we forgot to take out the trash or being upset that the cat peed on the carpet again. Maybe you were late for that appointment and now you’re badgering yourself about it. In an environment flooded with negativity we stand fixed on the pitfalls. We often forget to look up to see the glass half full.

Having a Different Point of View

Perhaps the world is a kinder place than we imagine. Maybe even though those things happened this morning, you’re doing the best you can. Can you believe that you are really loved?  I bet you are doing good. Maybe, just maybe, that smile at that man on the bus was the only good thing that happened to him today.

Distractions

But, there are distractions that can get in the way of those encouraging ideas. A client calls. Perhaps he’s upset and so now you’re mad with yourself. Before you start that downward spiral, take a minute to pause. Possibly, his troubles are his own.

Finding Kindness and Generosity

Have you opened your eyes to really see? Have you pitched your ears to really hear? Listen. Listen. What do you perceive? What’s beyond the noise? Past the racket. Calm. Calm. Peace. Breathe. In the silence there is beauty. In the silence there is trust. In the silence the kindness and generosity of men becomes quite clear.

Inspired by John Steinbeck’s quote: “It has always seemed strange to me…The things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling, are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest, are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second.”

― John Steinbeck, Cannery Row

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