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FICTITIOUS FRIDAY: The Clown

I have decided to try something different. On Fridays, I will have a “Fictitious Friday”. Each post will be a 100 word piece based on a photograph. I believe this will help stir my creativity. Maybe it will lead to a story idea? We shall see.

You are welcome to join me in this new adventure. I would love to read your work! If you would like to join in, please leave a link to your story in the comments so others can read your work and feel free to link back to this story. (Use any picture you would like. It doesn’t have to be this one. )

Here we go . . .

Stuck in time, forgotten and unwanted, the sad porcelain clown sits waiting to be chosen. He patiently waits, living in a land of nostalgia and memories.

She stares into his hand painted, sad eyes and wonders where he came from. 

“Who loved you?” she whispers as she gently picks him up. He awkwardly goes limp in her arms.

She adjusts the straps on his dark, plaid overalls,  straightens his collar and silky shirt. His shoes are freshly polished though the soles are nearly worn through. 

How odd, she thinks.  

His white fragile face stares up at her.

He says nothing.

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THROWBACK THURSDAY: Perspective (2016)

            Perspective can be defined as “the faculty of seeing all the relevant data in a meaningful relationship.”  As Christians, we don’t have to look at our symbolic chains or circumstances.  Paul was a great example about perspective.

Shackled and in chains, Paul doesn’t wallow in sorrow for his circumstances.  He sees what is happening to him as a chance to advance the gospel. He chooses a new perspective.  Instead of seeing himself kept in chains by the guards, he sees himself in chains for Christ.  His perspective is an example to the others and teaches them to have confidence when preaching the gospel and not to have fear.  

          King Herod’s perspective was one of fear. Fear is a powerful emotion.  Fear is what drove King Herod to search for the baby Jesus.  However, the wise men’s perspective was different.  They searched for the baby Jesus out of love.  Different perspectives lead to different paths. 

“For I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.  For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.  If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know!”  Phil. 1:19-22

REFLECTION

We have a new perspective founded on our relationship with Christ where we see all relevant data working together for the plan that God has for you will. Spend time praying for your ability to trust in His perspective.

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69 Word Writing Prompt: Temerity

Below is a piece for a Weekend Writing Prompt. It had to be 69 words and use the word “Temerity”. Thanks to Sammi Cox for posting this challenge. See challenge https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/63199771/posts/5800

Enjoy!

She turned the brass knob with her shaking hand, pulling the front door open with a fierce temerity, letting in the icy midnight air. The fears and challenges of the previous year were forced out the front door. New opportunities for the new year were welcomed in a tradition in her culture. Her grandfather clock chimed twelve o’clock hour from the makeshift dining room, ringing in 365 new chances.

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FRIDAY FIRST’S: First Paragraph of “The Bicycle Basket”

Visiting the charming, quaint tea house in her small town was Claire’s favorite Saturday morning routine. She rode her cruiser bicycle, the basket filled with fresh flowers she picked along the way, slightly uphill to the shortbread-colored house with the sage trim on the corner of 1st and Main.

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Epiphany: The Perfect Light

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

These three kings followed the star that shined with royal brightness, guiding them to the Perfect Light: Baby Jesus. They were guided by a star; we are guided by the Word of God. It guides us to who Jesus is and how and why we are called to imitate Him and His ways.

We can be the light in this world for so many people. We can shine our living light and outshine the darkness which consumes this world. 

How do we walk in the light? The first thing we have to do is stay faithful in the time we spend with the Perfect Light. This means, through our faith, maturing with His help, so we can lead others to Him.

Focus on the reminder from John in 1 John 1:7, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”

We need to be guided so we can lead others. Ask for wisdom and guidance. Ask HIs light to shine through so you can light the way through the darkness, leading others to the Perfect Light. It’s a procession which will never end on this side of Heaven.

“For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.” Psalm 56:13

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WEDNESDAY IN THE WORD

Our lives, guided by faith; our trust in what we believe. Comes not by what we see, but rather through the faith we walk in.

(A synomatic version of 2 Cor. 5:7)

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BEAUTIFUL SOUL

Beautiful soul,

you were always a dreamer.

Now, you are a dancer among the stars –

a freed spirit from the torment which surrounded you.

Beautiful soul,

life unfairly stole your breath.

But God holds you in His loving arms,

enveloping you in all that should have been.

Written in loving memory of someone gone too soon.

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A Lesson in Friendship from the Book of Job

One of my goals for this year is to grow in my relationships. 

This morning as I studied my next section of the Book of Job, I read this:

11 Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him. 12 And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. 13 And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great. (Job 2:11-13 ESV)

THIS is a great example of what a true friend would do. It inspires me. So often I am quick to want to solve their problems, giving unsolicited advice and trying to fix whatever it is that is bothering them. Really, most of the time what people need is a listening ear or someone just to be by their side – to walk through a difficult time with them, to comfort them with a simple “presence”.

What a beautiful (and timely) example and reminder!

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Throwback Thursday: INTREPID (a 100 word writing prompt)

Her intrepid personality was something Beth envied. A polar opposite of herself, though Victoria was her identical twin, led to a fantastic comedy designed by nature. Beth’s life was quiet, unassuming, and led with no risk ever being taken. It was a sharp contrast to Victoria’s, full of wandering, risk-taking, and carefreeness. In the darkest corners of her mind, the voices in Beth’s head would convince her that the life Victoria was leading was meant to be hers. Somewhere the life she meant to lead was taken from her. Now, they convinced her, it was time to take it back.

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BACK TO MY JOURNALS

I can’t tell you how many journals I have. They started off as places to take sermon notes, then I kept track of quotes I heard, interesting names, really anything that I may want to reference later. That’s how my journaling started.

Then, at the suggestion of a therapist, I began using them to write out my thoughts. It helped to keep obsessive thoughts at bay, to help process thoughts that needed to be process, but also to let go of the ones which were only noise.

Somewhere along the way, though, I stopped using my journals for it. I can’t explain why. I still used them for the quotes and sermon notes, but I stopped writing out my thoughts. I have been trying to figure out the when and the why this happened and can’t put my finger on it.

So, my first entry into diving back into journaling, will be about that. As I look back, I know that not doing it took a tool on my mental health. Clearly, for me at least, journaling is a way to stop thoughts from swirling around constantly and never dissolving.

I could, I suppose, call this piece you are reading my first entry.

Writing has the power to help us process and heal. It can also help us discover our true selves and dive into a world of gratefulness and understanding.

So, back to journaling it is.

In the New Year, I am going to do a Gratitude Journal. Would anyone like to join me? If you have done that, I would love to hear about how you did yours. Let me know in the comments.

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HEAVENLY PEACE

“You will keep in perfect peace, those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”  Isaiah 26:3

The Oxford English Dictionary defines peace as “freedom from disturbance, anxiety or stress; emotional calm.”  When I think about peace during this season, I can’t help but think of the song “Silent Night”. I imagine there being a peace over Bethlehem through the night which was unexplainable in human terms – a stillness and tranquility which could only be provided by God.  The stress and anxiousness of waiting for the Messiah was removed and the peace that surpasses all understanding was given unto the people.  

Now, we wait for Him in our lives. Among the busyness of the season and the pace and chaos found in this world, we can’t help but search for this same peace. We know this peace can only be found in Christ. We wait to hear His voice, to have our prayers answered. We wait for Him to return.  We don’t have to be anxious or fearful while we wait.  We can wait with the assurance that His peace will sustain us. We can rest our heads at night and sleep in the “heavenly peace” which comes from trusting and remaining steadfast in Him. 

“Cast your cares on the Lord   and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” Psalm 55:22

PRAYER

Lord, thank You for the peace You have blessed us with. When I am anxious or fearful, please help me receive the peace only You can offer and to have the assurance that it will sustain me. Amen.

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JOY TO THE WORLD

And the angel said to them, Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For unto you, is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11

Joy to the World, the Lord is come…

What joy and what gladness the birth of Jesus brought to this world.  He came into a world of oppressed and hopeless people.  He came to bring them, bring us over 2000 years later, this same promise.

Let every heart prepare him  room…

To experience the full joy of Jesus we must prepare a place for him.  We must open our hearts to him, but what exactly does that mean?  It means humbling yourself, letting yourself let go of the mundane and menial things of this world, and giving yourself totally to the control of God.  It’s preparing your heart to meet Him each day by spending time in His word and in prayer.

And heaven and nature sing…

This joy, this unspeakable joy, is expressed throughout the heavens and earth.  Open your heart and listen.  The angels that sang that night are the same angels that sing over us today.

Open your ears…open you hearts and feel the great Joy! The Lord has come!

REFLECTION

Have you been struggling with experiencing joy?  Pray for God to show you what in your heart or life may be a stumbling block to it.  We need open, clear hearts and ears.  Sometimes prayer is the only way to figure out what is getting in our way of it.

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REJOICING IN REPLY

 Clouds and thick darkness are all around him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.Fire goes before him and burns up his adversaries all around.His lightnings light up the world; the earth sees and trembles.The mountains melt like wax before the Lord, before the Lord of all the earth.” Psalm 18:1-5

The hymn “Angels we have Heard on High” was written mainly to focus on the story of the shepherds meeting the heavenly hosts in field who are singing in full chorus, “Gloria, In Excelsis Deo. However, I think there is another beautiful part to this hymn. The part where the mountains echo the angels’ joyous strains. Throughout scripture, we see mountains tremble and shake. Here is a moment when the beauty of God’s creation echoes back with delight the lyrics and joy of the angels. 

As a kid, echoes fascinated me. I remember standing above the Grand Canyon and yelling “hello” just to hear my own voice echo back to me. I remember what that felt like, the awe and mystery of it. When I think about the mountains echoing back the chorus of the angels, it makes me tremble. I can’t even imagine what those country shepherds felt like!

Just as the mountain replied, “Glory to God in the Highest” while rejoicing at the news of the Savior being born, the shepherds echoed the call by being sent to find the Newborn King. With echoes of rejoicing in delight, we can follow the example of the mountains and the shepherds.

 “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”  Luke 2:20 

What was probably just another night to them was transformed into a Holy night. A night that transformed the world. A Holy night that transformed us.

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” 2 Corinthians 3:18

REFLECTION

What burdens are you carrying? Maybe you feel hopeless, as the weights you hold bring you down. Hope came down that night. Hope came for you. Look up at the stars reflecting the light of hope brought by love down to earth. Hope. Freedom. All found in Christ. Lay your burdens down at the feet of hope.

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THE CHRIST THORN

“The holly bears a prickle, as sharp as any thorn, And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ on Christmas Day in the morn. The holly bears a bark, as bitter as any gall, And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ for to redeem us all.” – The Holly and the Ivy 

“And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe.” John 19:2 

Holly and Ivy have been decorations for the Christmas season for decades. The Holly’s green leaves with red berries makes beautiful accents. There is a powerful symbolism written in each leaf and berry. The Ivy, in its own right, displays strength in what its vine is rooted in. This Christmas carol displays the power of what we may consider as simple accents in its lyrics. 

The edges of Holly are prickly and as “sharp as any thorn”. These represent the crown of thorns placed upon Christ’s head by the soldiers. In fact, in Scandinavia and Germany, Holly is known as The Christ Thorn. The red berries symbolize the blood of Jesus Christ shed for our sins upon the cross. 

Ivy is a vine. Vines need something to cling to if they are going to grow. Ivy can be a reminder for us to cling to God’s Word, to His promises, to the hope which is found in Christ and Christ alone. We must “let our roots grow up in him” (Colossians 2:7). 

It is my prayer for all of us to look at these decorations differently this Christmas and for every Christmas to come. They are more than just Holly and Ivy. When you look at them, stop and rejoice in celebrating His birth. Rejoice in Him who came to take away the sins of the world. 

He bore the crown of thorns for us. He shed his blood for us. He came to redeem us all. 

Rejoice! 

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace” Ephesians 1:7 

PRAYER 

Great and merciful Lord, thank You for sending Your only Son to us. Thank You for undeserving redemption You have given us through the cross. Amen.

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TAKE COMFORT

When we surrender our lives to Jesus, we are not guaranteed a life without heartache, pain, or suffering.  In fact, the Bible states that in this world we will have trouble.  We may suffer. We may be persecuted. We will have trials.  Jesus was born into persecution. He suffered and lived through trials and temptations. We can take heart, though, because we know that He overcame them.  He overcame the world.

 “For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.  If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer.”   2 Cor. 1:4-6

When we accept Jesus into our hearts, we aren’t just accepting Him for salvation. We are inviting Him into every aspect of our lives. He shares our joyous moments. He faces fears beside us. He holds every tear in His hand. When we suffer, He shares our suffering with us. He will never leave us or forsake us. He alone is our comforter.

REFLECTION

Jesus suffered for our sins.  We will suffer for the sake of Him.  We can take comfort in knowing that we are never alone.  He walks beside us down every path we take- the dark and frightening ones, the joyous ones, and the difficult, rocky ones.  He is there to comfort us every moment of every day.  Turn to Jesus.  In Him, you will find your comfort.

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THE NATIVITY

One of the first Christmas gifts my husband and I received as a married couple was a nativity set. At first, I would put it out every Christmas because it was beautiful and made a nice decoration. However, as my relationship with Christ grew, so did my understanding of the miraculous and incredible story behind this ceramic display.

“And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.  And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child.”  Luke 2:16-17

Now when I put out this nativity set, I carefully place each figure where it belongs.  As I do it, I find myself wondering what they must have been thinking at that time.  I wonder if Jesus, being full human and fully God, cried and fussed like most newborns do?  Were the shepherds truly aware of the miracle that were witnessing? Were Mary and Joseph worried about being new parents. Let alone the parents of our Lord and Savior?  

The Nativity gives us a chance to explore the main characters of the story, but also even look beyond them. Who were the supporting characters?  Are all the characters even people?  How do all of these combine to bring us the most incredible and beautiful story ever told?  The reality is that even if we look at the parts people play as individuals, we must remember to always look at how all the characters are a greater part of the whole.

REFLECTION

Take some time to ponder the characters in the Nativity. If you are able, experience a live Nativity and think about how each of the characters complete the whole story.

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A MAN OF FAITH

“But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 1:20

Besides Jesus, there is a lot of attention paid to Mary during the Christmas season.  This is rightly so.  However, I found myself more intrigued by Joseph this year – in particular, by his trust and faith in the Lord and in His plan. (Because, let’s be honest, I seriously doubt that Joseph’s plan was to marry a virgin who was pregnant with the Son of God.)

Joseph was a man of God and He remembered the words of the prophets, taking to heart the words of Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you”. Joseph’s trusting in God’s plan and having complete faith did not just affect him, but would affect all of us over 2000 years later.

God’s plan for Joseph involved finding out that his virgin wife is pregnant. Scripture doesn’t say Joseph was angry when Mary told him about the pregnancy. In fact, it alludes to more of his love for her.  He wanted to protect her and to keep her from being stoned by divorcing her quietly. He doesn’t walk out, he takes time to pray over these things.  It is while he is doing this that the angel comes to speak to him. He didn’t question the angel. His faith was strong, along with his trust in the Lord’s plan. Talk about faith!  The angel reminds him of  the words of the prophets: 

 “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,

    and they shall call his name Immanuel” (Matthew 1:22-23)

Joseph’s story is one of faith and trust, not in himself, not in Mary, but in God’s plan for his life. Walking in faith as Joseph did is something we can all aspire to do. This Advent season, I pray that we will also remember this incredible part of the most miraculous story.

REFLECTION

It is said that “faith comes by hearing and hearing through the word of Christ.” We have to stay in the Word to stay strong in the faith.  With all the busyness of this season, it is easy to let this important time in the Word get away from us. My prayer is that we continue to be diligent in our “hearing.”

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THAT’S WHAT CHRISTMAS IS ALL ABOUT, CHARLIE BROWN

“Lights please”… Linus says, setting the stage for his recitation of the words of the heavenly hosts to the shepherds:

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this [shall be] a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Luke 2:8-14

Linus repeats these words in his response to Charlie Brown’s frustration about the commercialism of Christmas and his wondering if anyone even knows the true reason for Christmas anymore. At the end of Linus’ speech, he says those unforgettable words:  “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown”. 

I watch this Charlie Brown Christmas Special every year. Even though I practically have it memorized, this speech given by Linus makes me tear up every time. I think about the generations of people who have seen this special and heard God’s Word through it. I wonder how many lives were led to learn more about the true meaning of Christmas from this one part of a tv special? Such a simple message shared in this beloved classic since1965.

Retelling this miraculous love story is what Christmas is all about.

REFLECTION

As you enjoy the wonderful movies and specials this year, remember the reason for the season.

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MARY PONDERED

And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” Luke 2:18-19

I love this part of the Christmas story.  I imagine the shepherds, having just seen the Newborn King, left in awe and amazement, proclaiming to everyone what had happened. 

Then there’s Mary.

Luke says in verse 19, “But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” The conjunction “BUT” is a powerful word here. It separates the woman Mary was from other women and, I believe, shows one of the reasons she found favor with God. Mary was a contemplative woman. She took time to consider, meditate, and quietly ponder things. The first words she says in her song are “My Soul Magnifies the Lord” (Luke 1:46).

It’s more than just the words of her mouth, though. Her faith goes to the deepest part of her soul – a quiet, constant place of discernment   We see the way she faithfully discerns in even the question she asks – ‘How can this be?’ I believe it was more of a rhetorical question, done in faith, but shows an overwhelmness within her.

Mary had nine months to get ready for the birth. Nine months to dwell on the angel telling her You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David,and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” Luke 1:31-33.

I bet she spent a lot of her time contemplating and replaying those words the angel spoke to her.

Mary teaches us a lot about pondering and being contemplative. She shows us the importance of learning to treasure things in your heart and share them in quiet prayer.  Many times we think of prayer as us talking, but there is so much about prayer that is done while listening and mediating on His Word.

REFLECTION

Choose your favorite Bible verse or passage to contemplate on. Do this in quiet, taking time to treasure the words in your heart. Spend this intentional time in the Word and with God – silently praying and openly listening.

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MERRY MEXICAN HOT CHOCOLATE COOKIES

INGREDIENTS

Dry:

1 ½ cups All Purpose Flour

½ cup Unsweetened Cocoa

¼ tsp Baking Soda

2 tsp Cinnamon

¼ tsp salt

½ cup White Sugar

¼ cup Light Brown Sugar

½ tsp Cayenne Pepper (adjust to your spice level)

Sprinkle of Chili Powder (adjust to your spice level)

1 tsp Espresso Grounds

Wet:

2 Eggs

1 tbsp Molasses

½ cup Salted Butter, cooled melted butter

1 tsp Vanilla Extract

Other:

½ cup Semisweet Chocolate Mini Morsels

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Mix all DRY ingredients with a fork in a bowl until well blended
  2. Using a mixer, blend the eggs and butter. Add the molasses and vanilla and blend again.
  3. Add DRY ingredients to the egg/butter mixture and mix until well blended
  4. Stir in the mini morsels
  5. Cover and chill until they are easy to roll into balls. (I chilled them over night just because of my schedule)
  6. Preheat oven to 350
  7. Roll the cool mixture into small balls and place on parchment covered baking sheets
  8. Bake for 15-17 minutes
  9. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes
  10. Cool on wire racks

Notes:

  • I could not figure out how to make a marshmallow frosting drizzle for them that would not harden, but maybe you can
  • Another option is to roll the balls into a cinnamon sugar mixture before baking
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WAITING FOR ARRIVAL

Christmas season for me as a child was an incredible lesson in learning to wait.  First, I had to wait for the Sears catalog to come to the house so I could circle everything I wanted.  Then, I had to wait for Christmas break to begin while I simultaneously waited and hoped for that first snow to fall.  Next, I had to wait for Christmas morning to come.  I would be so excited that I could hardly sleep!

However, the worst thing – the absolutely hardest thing I had to wait for was for my parents to get their cups of coffee before we could start opening the presents.  That was excruciating for a child!  We would sit trying to guess what was in each gift while the coffee pot brewed the coffee slower than molasses.  Finally, the moment would come.  With their cups of fresh coffee in their hands, Christmas would begin.

As an adult, I still get just as excited for Christmas to come. Only now it’s for different reasons.  I look forward to the church services, the waiting and anticipating of Christmas music to come on the radio, and for Christmas morning so I can celebrate the greatest gift of all – the one not wrapped in wrapping paper but wrapped in swaddling cloths. 

The celebration of the gift of Jesus Christ is always worth the wait.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.” Romans 8:18-19

Reflection

How has the Christmas season changed for you since Christ has been in your life?

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SIGNS

How often do we just want a sign from God?  A sign that He heard our prayer or that He is with us?  The truth is that we are surrounded by these signs, but they are not as obvious as we want them to be, so often times we miss them.  

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:8-12

Sure, we probably haven’t received a sign as recognizable as the one Mary received when the angel appeared to her and said, “Do not be afraid,Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.” (Luke 1:30-31).  

However, I believe that it is when we stop “searching” for the signs and trust in our faith when God provides. He provided a sign when Mary wasn’t looking and He definitely provided a sign to the shepherds in the field that night. The shepherds were tending to their flock, not searching for a sign from God, but God provided it anyway – through another angel.

God isn’t always transparent. In fact, He can be quite mysterious.  However, if He was obvious would we really need faith?  Hebrews says that “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”  Faith doesn’t need signs, but Love provides them anyway.

REFLECTION

Think about a time when you really wanted a sign from God.  Did you receive it?  Now think of a time when He provided one without you asking.  Meditate on that memory.

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An Invitation

Jesus was the greatest sign we could ever receive to show us God’s love.  His birth represents an invitation to all of us to become children of God and heirs to the kingdom.  It is one of the many promises of God to us.  We are His children.  The kingdom belongs to us through Him.  We are invited to be part of it in every way. 

We can share in the joy of His birth and share in His glory.  Jesus Christ, our brother, was given to us as a gift for our salvation.  He is a sign of God’s perfect love for us, His children.

We invite Jesus into our hearts, and He invites us to be with Him eternally. 

In John 14:2, He tells us that His “Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?”  We are invited to live with Him there. 

That invitation was manifested that glorious night in the manger.  Extend the invitation to those around you.

Reflection

If you have already accepted the invitation, then I encourage you to invite others.  Start small if you wish.  A simple invitation to come to worship with you can go a long way.

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FINDING PEACE

I heard a survey on the radio the other day which said that more people do not like listening to Christmas music than those who do.  The majority of people who do not like to listen to Christmas music said it is because it stresses them out. It is a reminder of all the things they must get done.

Let’s face it.  Christmas can be a very stressful time if we let it.  We stress about trying to find the perfect gifts, traveling, parties, finances, things we have to bake, cards we have to get out and so on.  It is very easy to get overwhelmed by the large to-do list that we create for ourselves.  We forget about the true meaning and beauty the season.

Celebrating the birth of Jesus was never intended to be done amidst chaos.  Remember what the angels said:

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,

    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Even in the midst of standing in long lines, baking cookies, trying to find the perfect sale and everything else we do during this season, we can have peace.  Sometimes we just need to remember to pause and ask for it.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,  he refreshes my soul.” Psalm 23:1-3

Reflection

What causes you the most stress during the Christmas season?  Is there something you can change about it to make it more enjoyable?  In your prayers, remember to pray to God for peace and rest this season.

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ANTICIPATION

Advent is a season filled with eager anticipation, hope and glorious expectation.  It’s a time to celebrate the arrival of our Lord.   We live on the other side of His birth, knowing the story of Joseph, Mary, how there was no room for them at the inn. We know that Jesus was born into this world as a lowly and weak infant.  Now, we live in the excitement of this season, ready to celebrate the birth of our King.

“I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.”  Psalm 130:5

The people then were living in a time before they truly knew the story.  They were waiting for the true Messiah to save them.  They didn’t know when God would send Him. Yet they had hope and anticipation.  

Often times we are so quick to jump to next thing….this is evident in our stores. Before Halloween is over, Christmas items are out.  Before Thanksgiving is over, we get caught up in the hustle of getting prepared for Christmas.  We forget this very important season – Advent. Our hope, our expectation, and anticipation should come from using this season to prepare our hearts for Christ.

REFLECTION

It’s important to take time during this busy season to really prepare your hearts for Christ.  What traditions can you and your family start that will help you do this?

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PUMPKIN SPICE LATTE COOKIES

1 ½ cups all purpose flour

1 ½ tbsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

½ tsp cloves

2 tbsp instant coffee

½ cup salted butter, browned

To the browned butter you will add:

2 tbsp 1 tbsp Torani Pumpkin Pie syrup

1 tbsp Cinnamon Whiskey (optional)

2 tsp instant coffee

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup white sugar

¼ cup light brown sugar

¼ cup  pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)

To make the cookies:

In a small mixing bowl whisk together flour, spices, and instant coffee granules. Set aside.

Brown the butter with its ingredients. Let it cool slightly.

In a separate bowl, cream together the browned butter mix, white sugar and brown sugar.  Add pumpkin puree and mix again. 

Slowly add the spiced flour mix until just combined. (Make sure to scrape the sides)

Cover and place in refrigerator for 30 minutes

Preheat oven to 350

In a small bowl, mix white sugar, cinnamon, and some brown sugar. I didn’t measure this. I mixed amounts until I got the desire I wanted.

Roll 1 tbsp of the dough into a ball and roll into sugar, cinnamon, light brown sugar mixture

Put on baking sheets lined with parchment paper

Bake for 18 minutes

Cool on the baking sheets for 2 minutes then place on cooling racks.

While they cool, make the frosting.

For Frosting:

2 tbsp hot water

1 tsp instant coffee

2 cups powdered sugar

1 tbsp Torani Pumpkin PIe Syrup

*adjust to taste

*Had I not been making these for work, I would have added the cinnamon whiskey to the frosting, but since it doesn’t cook out when you do that, I decided against it.

After cookies are completely cool, dip each cookie into the frosting mixture, covering the top.

I found it helpful to put a piece of parchment paper under the cooling rack. Then, after I dipped a cookie, I put it back on the cooling rack and let the extra small drips go onto the paper.

When you are ready, enjoy!!!

If you try anything different, let me know! I made up this recipe and would love to know what you tried.

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The Gift of Knowing You: Friendship

The Apostle Paul says in Philippians 1:3:Whenever you cross my mind, I thank my God for you and for the gift of knowing you. (The Voice)

My sophomore year of high school we moved to Virginia. I knew that in order to make friends and enjoy my high school days, I needed to overcome my shyness and make some friends.

And that’s exactly what I did. 

I made some friends whose friendship is going to last a lifetime (thanks to social media and cell phones which make staying in touch a lot easier). I think of these women often and pray for them frequently. 

These friends I met when I was 16 years old. 

We have all since gone to college, started careers, gotten married, had kids, and we all live all over the country. 

Again, I met them when I was 16 years old.

It would take me about 30 more years to make more friends. 

Sure, I have had acquaintances and people I have liked during that thirty year gap, but didn’t have anyone I could really call a friend – someone who accepts me for who I am, but isn’t afraid to show tough love and call me out in a loving way, someone I can share all of myself with, people who encourage me, but are not afraid to be honest with me. People I can completely be myself with – without judgement, but love and grace. 

It was worth waiting all these years to find godly women who make me a better person.

And I thank God for the gift of knowing them.

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A Real Life Lesson in Prayer on this Thanksgiving Day

On this Thanksgiving Day, my husband and daughter experienced first hand the beauty and power of prayer. 

Both were working, prepping breakfast for the hotel guests. My daughter, Abigail, went to take out the trash and noticed a woman fall suddenly on the floor in the lobby. Immediately, a guest surrounded the woman and the front desk clerk called an ambulance. Abigail ran back into the kitchen and told my husband, Michael, what happened. She took over the kitchen duties while Michael ran out to help.

Michael kneeled beside the woman who lay unconscious on the floor. The hotel guest grabbed the woman’s hand and began to pray out loud.  Michael, bowing his head in agreement, held the woman’s other hand between his two palms. 

Before the word “Amen” was uttered, the woman came to and told them her name was Sandy. 

With both her hands being held by these total strangers, the prayer continued until EMS arrived.

About 15 minutes after EMS departed, a man came into the kitchen and asked Michael if he was okay, then he prayed over him.

Michael asked the man if he was a pastor.  The man replied with a smile, “I am not, but I have a pastor’s heart.” 

We should all have a pastor’s heart. 

When Michael told me what happened, he could barely keep the tears from falling. Seeing first hand the power of prayer affected him deeply and for someone who struggles with faith, this experience was eye opening for him. 

And for that, I am truly grateful.

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A Lesson in Perseverance

Is it wisdom that allows you to realize you are in the middle of learning and growing in a certain area?  If so, God has granted me this gift. And, yes, I would call learning about perseverance being a gift. 

Although I didn’t realize this right away, it certainly became clear as I sat in the doctor’s office yesterday talking about testing me for Rheumatoid Arthritis. For three weeks, both hands, both arms and every finger has hurt with no relief despite my efforts.

My first thought was to overreact and think in “woe is me” terms – “I can’t write. It hurts to type.”  

A lie. Not that it hurts to type, mind you, it does. 

The lie is that “I can’t.”   

The lesson is perseverance. 

As I wait for the results, I will persevere. This will be of no strength of my own. Clearly, I have been incapable of that. No. My perseverance will come from God – from His promises, His strength. 

My strength comes from God’s grace and His grace is sufficient for me.

I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Phil. 4:13

Even if I am attacked, I will remain confident. Psalm 27:3b

I will be your God throughout your lifetime— until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you.  I will carry you along and save you. Is. 46:4

I encourage you to persevere in whatever you may be going through. Let’s do it together, holding onto the above truths.

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A Dollhouse Halloween (350 Words)

The uncarved pumpkin sits innocently on the front steps. The orange gourd welcomes autumn to the home. You do not notice the skeletal figure draped in black standing in the corner until you approach the steps. Its pedestal forces the welcome mat to lay askew at its presence. You notice and try to adjust the mat, but it doesn’t move.

The wooden red door stays closed until the first guest arrives offering mystery as to what lies behind it. Who, or what, will open the door from inside?  You wonder nervously as you await. The door opens, welcoming you inside.

Standing at the foot of the stairs is a rosy-cheeked, cherub face child. She is in a nightgown, presumably up past her bedtime. Her excitement for the night keeps her witch’s hat on as her nightcap. A plastic jack o’lantern is held  tightly in one hand. The black cat she holds in her other hand guards her treats in the plastic bucket closely. You smile at the sweet ‘treater. She doesn’t return the gesture. She merely cocks her head at you as if trying to view you at a different angle. 

Passing through the door which separates the two rooms, you enter the formal dining room. To your surprise you find sitting on the floor a little girl dressed like a mummy. You know it’s a girl based on the yellow ribbon she most likely insisted on wearing atop her wrapped head. She sits with two jack o’ lanterns of differing sizes, but both with broad smiles, in her lap. The crinkles beside her large eyes peeking beneath the straps of white fabric show she’s smiling though her mouth is well-hidden.

A small pumpkin sits on the dining room table behind her. It’s placed perfectly between two candelabras which seem to be obnoxiously large for the size of the mahogany table. You find it curious that only two chairs are placed at the table. You want to ask, but hold your tongue behind your own mask.

The doorbell rings. You turn and see it open by itself, welcoming something in. 

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An Excerpt from “Autumn” by Longfellow

I just love this section of his poem. It speaks of the season brilliantly!

There is a beautiful spirit breathing now
Its mellow richness on the clustered trees,
And, from a beaker full of richest dyes,
Pouring new glory on the autumn woods,
And dipping in warm light the pillared clouds.

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TBT 2020- Halloween Writing Prompt: Bats in the Belfry (50 Words)

Bats in the Belfry,

Hanging and waiting for the bells to chime the midnight hour.

On their peal, they will fly out into the darkness,

disrupting the October night sky.

Silhouettes against the full moon,

Embracing their calling, they loom.

They own the time until the bells call them home.

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Throwback Thursday: BEYOND THE CLOUDS (June 2021)

Driving down the highway yesterday, a sudden surge of brake lights caught my

attention. It wasn’t an accident or traffic which caused the sea of bright red

to appear. It was hard rain, which seemed to come out of nowhere, catching all

of us by surprise.

The sky had a few clouds scattered throughout it, but none seemed large

enough or dark enough to provide the rainstorm that came down. It was as if the

storm cloud was hovering just above my car at one point because I couldn’t actually see it.

What I could see, though, briefly through the cleared space from the

windshield wipers, was the blue sky ahead.

Isn’t that how life is? Full of storms which are unexpected. Sometimes we can

see the blue sky just beyond the storm and other times, well, all we see is a

sky overwhelmed with clouds waiting to burst open with no evidence of an end.

That’s what faith is. It is knowing the blue is going to show up. It is

the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews

11:1) It is knowing that even though the entire sky is consumed with storm

clouds, that beyond it, where our earthly eyes cannot see, there is blue. There

is hope. There is clear, calm sky filled with heavenly brightness waiting on

the other side of the storm.

In Mark 4, we read the story of Jesus calming the sudden storm which shows

up on the sea. His disciples are scared and call on Him. He calms the sea and

says to His disciples in Mark 4:40,

“Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

When I feel the fear from one of lives’ storms present itself, when I can’t

see the blue sky beyond the clouds, I hear Jesus asking me this very question. “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

It always reminds me that Faith is greater than fear and even the smallest amount of faith can calm the largest of storms.

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Throwback Thursday: FALLING LEAVES, WARM MEMORIES (A Snippet from a piece written in 2020)

By the time Patricia stepped outside into the brisk Virginia air, the leaves were already on fire. She smiled sheepishly at the memories swirling inside her mind and heart. She pulled the crocheted shawl, irregularly shaped from her first attempt at the craft, tighter around her shoulders. 

Stepping off the wrap-around porch and following the natural path down to where her husband of nine years stood. Wearing more flannel layers than needed, Jim stood in front of the old drum. The remnants of hours spent raking filled the drum quickly and surrendered to the heat of the controlled fire. 

“What?”, Jim asked with a childish smile on his face. “You’re smiling like it’s Christmas morning.”  

“Am I?”  Angela knew she was. 

This was one of her favorite parts of the fall season – the near ritualistic burning of the leaves.

The smell, one of musky, sweet smoke, brushed with a hint of dampness, always offered moments of nostalgia in its embers.

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Monday Morning Motivation

A little Monday morning motivation for all the writers out there:

“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.”
–Madeleine L’Engle

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Throwback Thursday: RESTLESS (19 Word Story – April 2021)

Restless souls dance beneath the weight of the earth, 

which smothers them until their last breath dances to Heaven.

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First Paragraph – INCOGNITO

He stood motionless, hiding in the shadows where the light of the flickering street lamp failed to reach. Leaning against one of the many trees lining the street, his figure blended into the darkness. She didn’t notice him. He noticed her. He had always noticed her. 

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Throwback Thursday: THE CHAIR (untitled story start circa 2018)

She passed the few houses between hers and the end of the street. Turning the corner, she looked up, noticing the beauty of the early morning sky and how the clouds sat in such a way to remind her of the coast. A slight breeze brushed her skin and left a scent of salt water and sunscreen lingering around her. Of course, she was hundreds of miles from the beach. It was a memory of another time grazing upon her senses.

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Throwback Thursday: Upheld- A Poem on Psalm 51:12-15 (2019)

Upheld with a willing spirit,

not with defense or fight.

Upheld with a hopeful outlook,

one of trust and faith.

Upheld above the clouds of darkness,

far from my sins and transgressions.

Upheld so I may be restored

and focus my eyes on the joy of salvation.

Upheld that I may sing songs of praise

to You and You alone.

Upheld and delivered.

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A Piece From a Work in Progress – “Charlotte”

After crossing over the tracks on a cooler than average September morning, Charlotte thought she heard the faint sound of a train horn in the distance. She hoped she had heard it. But after looking down the path there was no sign of a train. If there had been, Charlotte was almost convinced she would have jumped into a boxcar.

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Throwback Thursday: Story Start- “Adelaide” (October 2020)

She swung on the weathered tire swing, letting her stringy long, golden blond hair graze the dirt below. Her jeans she had cut off into makeshift shorts to try to beat the Texas heat, sat perfectly centered on the seat as she straightened out her legs. Pointing her mismatched socked feet and old, too-tight high tops at the blazing sun, she floated through the air.  

She was bored. This time of day always bored her especially, during the summer. She called this time between 3 pm and dinner, “time in the land of nothing”. It was too hot to really do anything too active outside unless you could stand to walk the path to Willington Pond for a swim. 

She didn’t care for that. Her time at the pond was either early in the morning to go catch minnows and tadpoles, and take a dip if it fancied her, or in the dark of night when she and her older brother Jimmy would go fishing. 

Fishing with Jimmy happened a couple nights a week. Those nights were her favorites. They would sit on the bank of the pond, a cooler of drinks, soda for her and beer for him. She was content to sit in silence with him as the lines sat untouched in the water. Most of the time that’s what they did. He never had much to say, but they didn’t need to speak. She learned to love the sound the night brought. It was a symphony of nature that only God could be the conductor of.

She was listening intently to the sound of a bullfrog when he interrupted her.

“Adelaide, did you hear me?”

She had but pretended she didn’t. 

“I’m going to ask Ellie to marry me.”

She turned towards him with tear-filled eyes. She couldn’t speak. Her world was just devastated. She dropped her pole and ran home.   

© 2020 Raelyn Pracht

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TBT- Halloween Writing Prompt: Bats in the Belfry (50 Words)

Bats in the Belfry,

Hanging and waiting for the bells to chime the midnight hour.

On their peal, they will fly out into the darkness,

disrupting the October night sky.

Silhouettes against the full moon,

Embracing their calling, they loom.

They own the time until the bells call them home.

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Throwback Thursday: Lost Soul (2019)

Trapped under heavy thoughts and mindless ramblings, he is submerged.

He navigates unsuccessfully through the intricacies of the subconscious.

Every corner of his mind holds a clue to the mystery he cannot solve.

He is floating, a lost soul on the brainwaves, waiting to be rescued.

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