Monday, December 31, 2012


It's just a few hours before the end of another year and the start of yet one more. I'm not here to pause and reflect because there's a lot I'd rather forget from this past year of ups and downs.

I'm recognizing a theme in everyone's new years posts: New beginnings. Fresh starts. Do-overs. It seems at the start of a new year we're all hopeful it will bring the hope of bigger, better, brighter. For some it's health. For others it's wealth. It's love, hope, healing, happiness or any number of things that cause us to have belief in the start of something new representing a turning point in life. Some may resolve to start out with commitments and promises in an attempt to better themselves.

There was no single turning point for me January 1, 2012. But as I recall the events, people, and happenings of the year that Is drawing to a close, there's a lot that's happened in the past that is now woven into the new year that is to come. It's not a new start, exactly. It becomes a part of my history. A part of me, my past, my story. What's happened, good and bad, has become wound into the fabric of my life. Some years look a lot more matted up than others. And sometimes the knots from behind don't appear to make any kind of resemblance of sense. But on the flip side is what is to be a masterpiece that makes up me.

So I can't quite say goodbye because there are threads that will forever be a part of my life. But I do look forward to the turning point that is 2013 and the assurance I have that God has promised me a hope and a future for my good and not for my harm. I reflect on the past and the lessons that have come and the growing pains that have ensued. I get excited about the future and what's to come. I can't know what to expect but with each new day I'm given the assurance of new mercies available to me, no matter what may come.

I pray 2013 will bring you continued hope of the things to come as you reflect on what has already been.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Way It Was

There were 50 years between us. I sat scrolling through my iPad browsing pins and she sat amazed at the technology of the screen responding to my touch. I was showing her recipes she might like for her New Year's Eve gathering. We found one that seemed simple enough, yet appetizing for guests. I was explaining my love for the app called Pinterest and how it has helped me in the kitchen. And then I got schooled.

There were no packages of crescent rolls, she explained. There wasn't a bag of already shredded cheese or frozen bags of microwavable vegetables to steam. There wasn't even a microwave. I heard tales of when bread was started early in the morning and took all day to rise and bake. The vegetables were cleaned and cooked only after they were hand picked from the garden. Chicken certainly didn't come in a can. No, this was another case of being responsible for first catching the chicken then ... Well, you get the picture.

Back then they worked hard for everything. But they didn't know any different because it was just "the way it was." The winters were hard and cold with feet of snow and the warmth only meant it was time for harvest. Farmland in New England meant big families who were all expected to play their part in helping on the land and in the home. The way it was made her who she is. And at 83 years of age the stories she tells are the lessons that have shaped her. And I wonder...

I wonder what I'd do without recipes from Pinterest?
I wonder what I'd do without packages of crescent rolls?
I wonder what I'd do without meals made simple for my hectic busy life?
I wonder what I'd do if I couldn't google every question I have about life, health, sickness, recipes, remedies...and so much more.

I teased my own mother for revealing to me her secret of googling answers when I ask her advice or questions. The way it now is is all I know, but it's a far cry from how it was. And the value in what I'm learning is there's always something to learn. No matter how hard or how simple life is.

I'm basking in the stories and realizing my own present experiences will one day be just faint memories of the way it was.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Especially For You

A thousand times I've failed
Still Your mercy remains
And should I stumble again
I'm caught in Your grace

It's a chorus ringing through my ears. It's a reminder I've needed today. Hope. It's a gift I have to remember to receive.

"No matter what is happening in your life now, your story has an amazingly happy ending. Though the way ahead may look dark to you, there is brilliant, everlasting Light at the end of your earth-journey. My finished work on the cross secured this heavenly hope for you, and it is absolutely assured. Moreover, knowing that your story finishes well can fill your present journey with Joy. The more you put your hope in Me, the more My Love-Light shines upon you - brightening your day." ~ Jesus Calling

Oh yes, that is what I desire! His Love-Light shining upon me to brighten my day.

"Are you sure, Lord? A thousand times I've failed..."

"My mercy remains."

"But what if I stumble again?"

"You are caught in My unending grace."

Joy. It's deep down in my soul...sometimes so deep, I have to wait for the bucket to come back up from the well so I can quench my parched soul. I'm dipping in deep today. Pulling up a storehouse full of it takes patience - a fruit that's usually spoiled by the time I get around to harvesting it.

There is heavenly hope. Even if what is happening in front of the present situation seems dark and bleak, there is Light at the end - the Light of the world giving my dark soul the hope of eternal life.

As a result of the fall, our hearts became deceitful and desperately sick. We are influenced by the nature of the fallen world rather than by God. But He sent His Son into the world, not to condemn us, but to save us. It's not the end of the world - it's not even the end of your life! It is just the beginning of your eternal life with Christ and your heavenly Father once you accept this gift.

The initial gift secures your eternal life. But thereafter come the gifts that perservere through your earthly existence. Hope. Peace. Joy. Love. Forgiveness. Grace. Mercy.

"Lord, even for me? I am the worst of sinners..."

"Especially for you."

The greatest gift the world would ever know. It doesn't just brighten your day, it saves your life!

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Tragic Christmas

I couldn't peel my eyes from the rearview mirror as I watched E walk into school this morning. It helped that he was followed in by a deputy from the Sheriff's department... but I couldn't shake the thought that parents just like me had dropped off their children on Friday never knowing it would be the last time they'd see them.

I sat in church yesterday with tears streaming as the Pastor offered words of solace and a prayer for the grieving families. A senseless act. An unexplainable tragedy.

It hits close to home, knowing I have presents already wrapped waiting to be ripped open on Christmas day. New clothes yet to wear. New toys waiting to be played with. Wish lists fulfilled that have yet to be discovered. Just days before Christmas, it seems even harder to comprehend.

There's a part of the Christmas story that isn't shared a lot yet it's fitting for such a time as this.

"When Herod had realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi." Matthew 2:16

It was tragic. A bloody, brutal massacre. A horrific scene that rocked a people beyond what anyone could have fathomed. Grief-stricken, angry, and confused parents wondering why their child had to be the one sacrificed. Who knows how many lives lost. Children with their entire lives ahead of them. Innocent victims - their only "crime" being a young boy at the wrong time when a selfish man let his cold heart make a decision that altered families.

I know I've read it before, recognizing even more miracles in the life of Jesus. An angel of the Lord appearing to Joseph and warning him to escape to safety (vs. 13). Prophecies fulfilled and a Savior who had not yet fulfilled His purpose on earth (vs. 14, 19-23). But amidst all the good tidings of great joy and the praises to Emmanuel, I missed the tragedy that other families were experiencing at the loss of their little ones.

When Mary pondered all these things in her heart, I'm sure she was tender-hearted enough to rejoice over her son's birth and his safe-keeping, yet mourn with the other mothers who were grieving the loss of their little ones. I imagine she too was hugging her son even tighter. I'm sure she was smothering his face with kisses of gratitude. I'm sure, like me, she was holding onto every second with him and not letting him out of her sight.

It's a weird feeling to be mixed with joy and grief at the same time. Wanting to celebrate the life you've been given, yet mourning with those who have lost.

Verse 18 shares what many hearts are feeling, I'm sure:
"A voice is heard in Ramah (Newton), weeping and great mourning, Rachel (mothers) weeping for her (their) children and refusing to be comforted because they are no more." (parenthesis mine)

It was yet another prophecy fulfilled straight from Jeremiah and when you flip back to that passage the Lord responds to her weeping:

"Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for your work will be rewarded," declares the Lord. "They will return from the land of the enemy. So there is hope for your future," declares the Lord. "Your children will return to their own land." Jeremiah 31:16-17

There are children celebrating Christmas at the feet of Jesus. Much too young, I believe, yet their faith has become sight. The birth of the Savior is no longer just a tale of old but now a bible story come to life before their very eyes. It still seems insignificant to the mounting emotions their families are trying to cope with. But there is hope for the future.

In the face of adversity and grief, there is the hope of a Savior who is Christ the Lord. He came to seek and to save that which was lost. His birth was only the beginning because He died to save you and me that we might have eternal life with Him. We may not understand "why" or "how" or "how do you ever move on" from something like this. At least not in the fallen state of our human flesh. But we do have the assurance of eternal life when we believe and receive His gift of salvation.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Elf on a Shelf

I've been asked to keep a running post of Jokey's antics for our Elf on a Shelf game. My original post has had more hits than most of my other blogs combined. I am sure this is the result of google searches, but regardless, this will be the post that now keeps up with Jokey. I've posted a few other blogs about our Elf and how he fits into our Christmas Celebration.
Here and Here.
If you know me you know I am not going to just be a copy cat. I have to put my own Carrie-spin on it, along with the fact that I changed the rules of the game to fit more appropriately with our own celebration of Christmas and Christ's birth.
This is the letter Jokey came with:

Dear Elijah,
First off, I have to tell you how special you are. I know how much you are loved by your family. God created you in Sarah’s tummy but He perfectly placed you in family when you were adopted. There are so many people who love you and prayed for you and you need to know that you are an answer to prayer.
Just like your family adopted you, I’m giving you a very special assignment to adopt “Jokey” the Elf. He’ll be staying with you until Christmas Day. He is a dear friend of mine, but he tends to be a bit naughty. He gets into mischief and does all kinds of things to play jokes on people. So watch out because you never know where you’ll find him or what mess he will have made each morning when you wake up.
Elves are not the same as humans. Jokey will stay still all day but comes alive at night. You can talk to him, play with him, and he can be a part of your imagination. But he will be quiet all day and then play at night once everyone is sleeping. That’s usually when he gets into trouble, so you’ll have to keep an eye on him!
Sometimes you make bad choices and sometimes you disobey. But Jesus loves you all the time and so does your family. To help you remember we are given love even when we don’t deserve it, I want to ask you to help me while Jokey stays with you. I have a very important responsibility for you to help teach him to make good choices. But the most important job is to help him understand the real reason we celebrate Christmas is because it’s Jesus’ Birthday.
Jokey is really enjoying staying with you so make sure you take care of him and teach him how to make good choices! I’ll be back on Christmas to pick up Jokey and take him back to the North Pole to be with me until next Christmas…and I’ll be bringing you a SPECIAL Christmas present! Until then…be a good boy!



Hanging upside from the ceiling with a note
Milk & Cookies with friends
He's holding Baby Jesus in the Nativity and wants to know more about the Christmas story

A craft/learning project teaching Elijah how to spell his name with marshmallows and Cheez-its

Jokey packed his lunch with Reindeer Food (Chex Mix), Gingerbread House decorations (gummies), Cookies (for Santa, of course) and Elf Food (mini sandwiches)

Jokey had E's clothes on for school

He added snoflakes to a craft project Elijah had already completed

A roll of toilet paper from Elijah's room all the way downstairs

End Of The World

The End of the World
I'm not sure what planet I've been living on, but it wasn't until today I heard the news the world will end on December 21, 2012. Oh really? I thought. Why's that?

A simple google search of "End of the world" filled in the blank for me and added 2012. Oh, this isn't good. Now Google even knows...

Sure enough. Link after link. "End of the World in 2012" "2012 Phenomenon" "End of the World: Official Website".

I realized this was no joke (or maybe it was) but the numerous websites were there to confirm the theory.

Thankfully, Google isn't my bible and theories aren't my truth.

But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
Mark 13:12

Well, that's certainly reassuring, right?! Heaven itself doesn't know. The truth is (biblical, that is) "that day" isn't talking about the end of the world, but rather about Christ's return. In some of the posts I skimmed, these two seemed to be equated together. Interesting...

...Especially when you consider this pagan world doesn't always claim Christ as Lord. We're celebrating Christmas alright, that is if we're still around on December 25th, but we're not necessarily celebrating the birth of a Savior. (I just can't bring myself to believe these well-knowing people would have bought any Christmas presents if they truly believe know the world is coming to an end just 4 days before giving gifts, but that's beside the point.)

But, just like the angels in the age-old Christmas story, I come to bring you good news of great joy...

For God so loved the world, he sent his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16

In case you're wondering, there was one link to a "Party like there's no tomorrow" invitation. I myself won't be attending...but it did get me thinking even further...

Am I living like it's the end of the world? Am I making decisions today as if I won't be given the promise of tomorrow? Am I doing anything today - in the present - to invest in eternity?

Today is monumental simply because it's 12-12-12. Not in  my lifetime will I ever see that date. But I'll never see this day again either. I pray I make it count!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Good morning

"Good morning!" One of my coworkers greeted me as I walked in the door. I wasn't even able to muster up a grin.

"Or not so good..."she added.

I felt bad. I couldn't hide that, in fact, it had not been a good morning. But as I turned the corner to my office, I realized I had a choice to make.

It's not always easy. Doggoneit, I know it's hard. Some days are easier than others. And some days are so darn tough you can't even fake it. I get it. I've been there, too, and I'm not exempt from returning there without a moment's notice. 

It is so easy for me to be consumed by the moment and wrapped up in my emotions that I can't even think straight, let alone realize there are others struggling and worse off than my own situation. And all over again I'm reminded I have a choice to make.

There are some who are too sick to get out of bed and enjoy Christmas. There are some too broke to have to be faced with buying gifts. There are some too alone to enjoy a party. There are some too broken-hearted to find joy in the season. There are some so deep and so dark in the pit of despair that no amount of Christmas lights could brighten their world.

Joy? Gone. Peace? Missing. Hope? Certainly not. Noel? More like no way. Glad tidings? Ha. Much like my greeting this morning.

Do you have reason to celebrate? Maybe, maybe not. But I cannot discount the fact that you, me, and all of us have a reason to have hope. It's not the same as celebrating. Just because you don't feel like putting up the tree, or can't afford to buy presents, or are too sick to care...doesn't mean you can't have hope. Hope is what gives you something to look forward to no matter how bad things are right in front of you.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
John 10:10

He came to give us life. And not just a troublesome, worrisome, empty, lonely, desperate life. No. He came for us to have abundant life - life to the fullest. The fallen world and its sin-sick offerings are what take away the joy and destroy life. But none of us are beyond the reach of a Sovereign, loving, all knowing God and the perfect plan He made for us to have abundant life. Does it change our current situation? Not always, and certainly not always immediately. Does it replace our sadness with joy? Sometimes, other times not. Does it fill the void, stand in the gap of the loneliness, pull us from the pit, pay our bills, make us well? You know the answer as well as I do...

Things don't always make sense...and when that happens it can only be the result of that which seeks to steal your joy and rob you of any of the blessings God has planned for your life. And so you, too, have a choice. Fake it all you want, but that's not doing anyone any good. It's okay to be honest about how you feel and what you're facing. It's acceptable to admit the state you're in and the help you may need. Whatever you're facing or dealing with, I pray it won't take away your hope. The hope we've been given that yes, in this life we will have troubles, but we also have hope in the assurance that He came and overcame the world. (John 16:33)

And that is enough for me to say,it is a good morning!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Just Feel

I was frustrated. Angry, even. I was upset and downright grouchy. The fuse on my temper was lit and I could feel the explosion inching its way ever closer with each new frustration. The thing is, I'm an adult. And I know how to calm myself down, step away from the situation and regain my composure, manage emotions so they don't cause regrettable reactions. But any ounce of maturity had seemingly escaped. I was saying things I didn't mean. Losing my cool. Reacting without thinking. And all of it was compounding to add layer upon layer of growing frustration. 

The only thing I did right was call it day. I had reached the point of no return and there was nothing more to be done than lay my head in my pillow and cry. The wise words of the late Dr. Jerry Falwell offered solace, "Go home in your pillow and cry. There is no shame or sin in that. But one day wake up and realize there is life to be lived, and go and live it to the fullest."

Yes sir. That's exactly what I had to do. Cry it out. Work it out. Feel every single emotion that had been welling up and compounding within me. It was evident these emotions were not going to allow me to just push past them. No, it was certain I would have to feel my way through this.

Insecurity. It's straight from the devil, I'm sure of it! It can be the devastation of anything good, causing every fear and doubt to make their way into my faith, destroying any resemblance of my identity in Christ. 
Let the beloved of the LORD rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the LORD loves rests between his shoulders. Deuteronomy 33:12

Weakness. It's deceiving, to say the least. But it drains me of all strength and removes my desire to press on. 
The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song. Psalm 28:7 

Failure. It brings feelings of defeat and ushers in the perfect environment for insecurity to have its way. 
But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. I Corinthians 15:57

Loneliness. It settles in to make its home with me and causes me to feel completely abandoned and alone. 
The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? Psalm 118:6

The emotions were there, real and present, and they were having their way with my mind and my heart. But there is nothing I face - or FEEL - that I cannot claim victory over through the Word of God and His promises to me. 

And so I laid on my tear-soaked pillow ready to call it a day. I had wrestled with a host of emotions and I was ready to lay them to rest too. Tomorrow would be a new day. Tomorrow would bring new challenges, new feelings, and new opportunities. 

"Tomorrow will be fresh with no mistakes." Anne of Green Gables

I'm so glad tomorrow is here. There is life to be lived today.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Child's Christmas

There's a certain wonder about experiencing the Christmas season through the eyes of a 4 year old. Everything has truly come to life for him and it's brought new life to the story for me as well. Of course it's so much more than a story. 

I shared our Elf on a Shelf story last week. I caught some flack for entertaining this silly game and I understand why some people have an issue with this "magic" elf. You can read all about my perspective on magic vs. miracle. The thing is, as with any holiday or event, our human-ness can paganize anything sacred. (Yes, I do realize I just made up a whole bunch of words, but if you know me, then you know this is a common occurrence. Just imaginate with me...) You can read below how I put my own spin on the Elf.

A wide-eyed little boy is enjoying ALL things Christmas. He moves his candy cane each day to count  the days of Christmas (this is also teaching him about the calendar). He searches for his elf Jokey every morning (teaching responsibility as he cleans up his messes). Does he believe in Santa? Yes. And he's good friends with him at the mall. (At least in his mind.) He believes he's asking Santa for one very specific present and he also understands he'll get other presents from family. And then there's Jokey. He is allowed to play with him, unlike the rules of the book. (Keep reading.) He believes Jokey comes to life at night, but he also loves to incorporate him into his imaginative play during the day. And all of that is okay by me. 

He's also the first to tell you "Christmas is Jesus' Birthday." The items in my curio cabinet are an eclectic mix of collections that date back to my teenage years - strictly off limits for a 4 year old to play with. But that didn't stop him. As I began to pull out the pieces of the Nativity, I realized the sheep was missing. (You can read about another Lost Sheep here.) I asked if he knew where it was and he lead me straight to his playroom. Sure enough - there was my missing sheep, only now he was missing an ear. :( When I asked him what happened, he responded, "Maybe it happened in the fire." Considering I had just purchased this set last year, I knew this very mischievous little boy had used my own excuse on me. I had to laugh. 

When I caught him with a chair pulled up to the mantle where I placed the Nativity out of reach, he quickly turned to explain. "Mom, I'm giving Baby Jesus his birthday cake." He had taken part of the miniature tea set (also from the off-limits-do-not-touch cabinet) and placed it near baby Jesus. And then I had to smile. 

I felt he may have taken things a little too far when I explained how Jesus provides for our needs after a recent shopping trip. He was completely serious when he responded, "Mom, baby Jesus can't provide for us. He can't even have a job!" We might need to skip ahead to Easter...

Christmas through a child's eyes is bringing this de-sensitized, overly-paganized, somewhat callous adult to a new appreciation for the reason we celebrate. 

In case you're wondering, here's Jokey's accompanying letter and some of his mischief!

Christmas Parade
Dear Elijah,
First off, I have to tell you how special you are. I know how much you are loved by your family. God created you in Sarah’s tummy but He perfectly placed you in family when you were adopted. There are so many people who love you and prayed for you and you need to know that you are an answer to prayer.

Just like your family adopted you, I’m giving you a very special assignment to adopt “Jokey” the Elf. He’ll be staying with you until Christmas Day. He is a dear friend of mine, but he tends to be a bit naughty. He gets into mischief and does all kinds of things to play jokes on people. So watch out because you never know where you’ll find him or what mess he will have made each morning when you wake up.

Elves are not the same as humans. Jokey will stay still all day but comes alive at night. You can talk to him, play with him, and he can be a part of your imagination. But he will be quiet all day and then play at night once everyone is sleeping. That’s usually when he gets into trouble, so you’ll have to keep an eye on him!

Sometimes you make bad choices and sometimes you disobey. But Jesus loves you all the time and so does your family. To help you remember we are given love even when we don’t deserve it, I want to ask you to help me while Jokey stays with you. I have a very important responsibility for you to help teach him to make good choices. But the most important job is to help him understand the real reason we celebrate Christmas is because it’s Jesus’ Birthday.

Jokey is really enjoying staying with you so make sure you take care of him and teach him how to make good choices! I’ll be back on Christmas to pick up Jokey and take him back to the North Pole to be with me until next Christmas…and I’ll be bringing you a SPECIAL Christmas present! Until then…be a good boy!



Jokey put on E's clothes for school!

Elijah's Name Project for school - Jokey added some glitter snowflakes.

That silly elf made a toilet paper trail all the way down the stairs. 

He got all twisted in the toilet paper. E had to clean it up.

Jokey invited some friends for milk and cookies - but he didn't clean up after himself!

Sometimes Jokey just likes to "hang out" - or in this case, upside down from the ceiling. He left E a note.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Magic vs. Miracle

Magic ~
1. the art of producing illusions as entertainment
2. the art of producing a desired effect or result through the use of incantation or various other techniques that presumably assure human control of supernatural agencies or the forces of nature.

I heard an advertisement talk of sharing the "magic" of Christmas and it got me thinking. If we're trying to conjur up some manufactured event, or if we're sidetracked by the entertainment of the season, then we're going to miss it. The miracle, that is.

Miracle ~ effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause.
2. such an effect or event manifesting or considered as a work of God.
See the difference?
I admit. I've been playing Christmas music since November 1st and tree went up before Thanksgiving (I know, carnal sin for some). I am hiding, er, there's an Elf getting into mischief each night for a curious little boy. He's gotten his picture taken with Santa - twice. I'm fully embracing the Christmas season with as much joy and vigor as I can muster. But the reality is this is so much more than lights and gifts and carols.
There's a miracle here that we are presumably missing. I'm guilty of it myself. I try so hard to capture the spirit of the season - make sure to say Merry Christmas, telling and studying the story of Luke 1&2, singing carols of praise in honor of the birth of my Savior. But even so, I struggle to find the balance between the "magic" of Christmas and all its traditions and the "miracle" of Christ's birth.
There are people I know who are suffering. There are people in need. There are some in despair. There are others who cannot muster anything that resembles joy. There are those who hold the desire but have no means to make any part of Christmas happen. There are people who are praying for things - searching for their own miracle - and it's causing me to stop and put it all in perspective.
If we're expecting the magic of Christmas to transform our circumstance, then it will only be what we in the flesh can manufacture. It will be, at best, what we as humans can control of situations well beyond us.

But if instead we are cogniscent of the miracle of Christmas, we just might be privy to the work of God He truly intended. I don't know about you, but I know I certainly desire to be a part of something that surpasses all power known to man - something so far beyond me there is no explanation other than "He is..."
Remember He is the God who sent His son. (John 3:16)
He is the God who made Christ in the very image of Himself to be wrapped in the humanity of our flesh. (Philippians 2)
He is the Word made flesh, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
He became sin though He knew no sin. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
He conquered death and died for our sin. (1 Corinthians 15:55)
He is the God whose power raised Christ from the dead. (Ephesians 1:19-20)
And that same power is available to us as His children. The same children He came to save.

There is no magic in that. There is nothing in any part of the story that you or I or ANY human could cause to happen. But the miracles never cease in the works of God. And not just in the birth of our Savior, but in the continued work He chooses to do in each of us as His children.
You are His miracle.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Elf on a Shelf

As an avid pinner, I kept seeing pins for Elf on a Shelf ideas. They looked like a lot of fun, and I am all about celebrating, so I decided to start a new tradition. Last night we adopted "Jokey" the Elf, as E decided to name him. I read the book but he didn't seem interested - until I explained the Elf was somewhere in our house and he'd have to find him. And so the hunt began...

He was guessing aloud all the places Jokey might be until he finally spotted him atop the Christmas tree. "There he is! Hey, wait a minute...he's not a real Elf. He's a toy!"

I guess I should have started this tradition when he was 2 and not too smart for my own good. I explained that Jokey was a special Christmas Elf and while he looked like a toy, we had to obey the rules and not touch him and make sure we made good decisions since he was watching.

This morning the hunt began again to see where Jokey might have landed after his overnight trip to the North Pole. This time he was hanging from the ceiling fan and E began inspecting him intently.

"Hey mom, Jokey doesn't have a little ball on his hat. You know like Santa has?"

Sure enough, the little white fuzzy pom pom was missing from Jokey's hat. A quick google image search on my phone (what would I do without my smart phone?!) revealed this was how they came - sans white fuzzy ball. But before I could respond, my son was ready to offer up the explanation.

"Maybe that's how God made him, right mom? He IS a special elf."

And then it donned on me. While I love the idea of the little elf hiding in different places, what I don't want to happen is for me to remove the real reason we celebrate.

"You're right E. He is a special Elf because God made him, not Santa. And you are a special boy because God made you just the way you are. And you know what else? Finding the Elf is a fun game we can play at Christmas but did you know God is always with you and He's always watching you?"

He was quiet for a moment before he answered. "Yeah, God is watching Jokey too because he wants to make sure he makes good decisions."

Valid point. And with that I've decided to change the tradition - and the lesson - a bit. Instead of the Elf watching my son's every move and reporting back to Santa, I've decided we'll see what mischief & fun the Elf can have in this game of hide & seek. I think E was right to give him the name "Jokey" because this little Elf might be playing practical jokes all the way up until Christmas. At least until we make a birthday cake for Jesus...and I'm pretty sure Jokey will find a place near the manger where even he can worship Jesus!

More of our Elf

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

O Christmas Tree

I decided it was time. It's the week of Thanksgiving and it was a quiet night at home, so I announced, "It's time to put up the Christmas tree!" E jumped up and down as he squealed with delight, "Yayyyyyy!!!!!"

The tubs of ornaments and decor came down from the closet and the giant tub containing the 7.5' monstrous tree was hauled in from the garage. That tree was no match for all 5'4" 1?? pounds of me. Last year it was prominently displayed in the front room for all who passed by to catch a glimpse of the lit tree from the double windows. But I realized we are NEVER in that room, so this year I decided to put it in the family room, right beside the TV we rarely turn on, but in the center of where we spend the majority of our time. It's our tree after all, and I want to be able to enjoy the sight of it.

There it stood. A bare Christmas tree with only its white lights. I started to dig around in the tubs. "Where's my tree skirt? I know I had a tree skirt..." I couldn't remember what it looked like. I didn't recall its design or color at all. I didn't even know what I was looking for.

I glanced at the box of neatly packed away ornaments. They were organized, which had my name written all over it, but I didn't recognize a single one of them. "Those aren't my ornaments," I thought to myself.

And then it happened. "Seriously?! Is this happening again?" It was a conversation in my head and because my bright-eyed little boy was still enjoying all the Christmas splendor, I had to keep my emotions under wraps.

I have been anticipating the holiday season since October and I had already gone through grieving my Christmas decorations last year, so I wasn't prepared for it to hit again.

Memories of the high heeled shoe and the matching purse I got from a dear friend in our annual ornament exchange. The Mickey Mouse ornament boasting "Baby's First Christmas" hand delivered from Disney World. Thoughts of the candy collection I had acquired. Or the dozens of snowmen I had accumulated. One of my favorite collections, an ornament set that told the life of Christ. And not to mention an ornament for each year of my life that mom had contributed to my collection over the years.

The tree was up but the excitement of decorating quickly faded with the thought of putting up ornaments and decorations that had no meaning and carried no memories.

E was busy going through a small box of ornaments for his own 4' tree. He realized the big tree was bare and asked where all the ornaments were. In a moment of honesty, I shared with him that I was sad because I missed all the Christmas things I had lost in the fire.

"It's okay mom. You can have my ornaments. Christmas is for sharing," he said matter-of-factly.

I love his tender heart. And even though I was tender-hearted myself over the loss of "things" I realized that new beginnings aren't always bad. New memories are yet to be made. New ornaments are yet to be purchased. The "stuff" I have right now - it's just "stuff" - and that's part of the problem. I'm a sentimental person, so even though I've been able to replace that which was lost, it doesn't have meaning or carry a memory. At least not yet.

As I started to dig around in his box of ornaments, he pulled out the salt dough trains and planes we had made last year. "Look mom! These are what I made!" There was a paper hand with eyes and a nose to look like a reindeer. I put his hand up to cut out to see how much he had grown since last year. The coffee filter folded in half served as angel wings with a picture of him and a halo. I have to admit, those homemade ornaments are the most prized collection I have.

I'm typing this blog as I stare at an undecorated Christmas tree. I carry the memories with me even though they don't hang on my tree. It's a clean slate. A new beginning waiting to happen. New memories yet to be made. New meaning yet to come. New traditions to begin. 

Excuse me while I start decorating...

Friday, November 16, 2012

Black Friday

I don't think I need to remind you how much I love shopping. I've even been enlisted to Christmas shop for the lists of others who don't dare brave the stores. Challenge accepted! What could be more fun than shopping for other people spending someone else's money?!

I've been browsing the Black Friday ads for nearly a week now, scoping out all the deals and planning my strategy. Make no mistake people - if you've never dared to fight the crowds, grab for goods, and stand in an endless line, Black Friday is not the time to meander out for leisurely shopping. Oh no. This is serious business and those of us on a mission will get highly perturbed if you are clueless and in the way. Just sayin'...

Walmart boasts an 8 p.m. open time. Target will open their doors at 9 p.m. Wait a minute. That was P.M. not A.M. This is no longer a 3 a.m. wakeup call with a 4 a.m. start time. Black Friday has now infiltrated Thanksgiving Thursday.

In some ways, I admit, I'd much rather stay up and stay out late and get home at 3 a.m. instead of just getting started at that time. However, this has a very real and close-to-home impact for me this year.

You see, my dear sweet daddy now has to go to work on THANKSGIVING DAY. 3 p.m. to be exact. Why? Because McDonald's will be open for business and ready to serve hamburgers. Okay, wait just a minute. If you have no where to go to consume some morsel of turkey on Thanksgiving Day and you requre a Big Mac instead...well, we just need to talk. Don't get me wrong. Yes indeed, I posted the other day about sometimes needing a McDouble and Fry...But not on Thanksgiving.

Evenso, McDonald's will be open because all of us dedicated and devoted (crazy much?!) shoppers will be venturing out with our bellies still full. We won't be waking in the wee hours of the morning. We'll barely have time to get in a Thanksgiving Day nap before we head out to the stores.

I've been playing Christmas music for weeks...and I have every intention of putting up my tree THIS weekend (yes, BEFORE Thanksgiving). Thursday isn't celebrating a turkey (despite the just-for-fun cartoon above) or kicking off a shopping season. Thanksgiving, to me, is about ushering in a season of thankfulness and rejoicing as we count our many blessings - the main one being how thankful I am for the Savior who came to earth to make a way for me to go to His perfect Heaven. Now THAT is a reason to be thankful!

Here's what I've realized. Browsing those ads, there's not a single thing I need. Sure, there are things I'd like, even more things I think are nice. But there is not one unmet need in my life. And that is just one more reason to stop and give thanks.

So Black Friday will come early this year - just like Christmas seemed to have started in October. Whether or not you're out fighting the crowds and snatching up deals on Thursday, I pray you'll stop and give thanks. (And if you need a pick-me-up, stop and see my daddy for a Frappe!)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

No More Arguments

Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.”
Then the Lord’s anger burned against Moses...
Exodus 4:10-14

It's been a Moses-like argument for me. I'm ashamed to admit I have dared to approach the Creator of the univerrse with my doubts and insecurities. Make no mistakes - I am not bringing these issues to surrender. Oh no. In true Moses fashion, I have decided these are the very things that prevent me from what I've sensed God leading me to do. And so, the conversation has gone something like this:

"Certainly not, Lord. I can't."

"I am."
"But Lord, You above all should recall my flaws. You can recount each and every failure. I'm disqualified."

"I've cast it as far as the east is from the west."
"Okay, God. I don't want to argue, but I'm not worthy. There are so many others, so much better than me."

"Greater is He that is in You than He that is in the world."
"Lord, pardon me, but I'm scared."

"My perfect love casts out fear."
Silence. I'm plumb out of excuses. He must be forgetting how much I've screwed up. He surely has overlooked the fact that I can take His perfect plan and get my hands in the middle of it until I mess it up beyond recognition. Surely He has lost sight of my ability to wreak havoc on a perfectly good circumstance. Put me in the mix and it's a recipe for disaster.
"You know the tree, God? You told Adam & Even not to eat from it. If all the people in the world had refrained from consuming that fruit, I am sure I would have been the one...

"Or what about the ark? I would have probably been one of Noah's scoffers...begging to get in the boat once the rain started to fall...
"What about Noah's scoffers? I would have surely been laughing like a hyenna until the rains came and I would have begged to get on board...
"Pardon your servant, Lord, but I just don't think I can..."
"You can do all things through me."
How many times does my assessment of myself contradict God? Do I really believe what God says about me? Why do I try to argue that my own self-perception is more accurate than who He says I am?

When you became a Christian, you gave yourself back to God, acknowledging His right to have His will done in your life. Have you ever considered that along with all of the decisions and conveniences you defer to Him, you also are pleasantly obligated to give up your own self-perception? In other words, you don't really have the right to tell God how ill-fitted you are for the work He has called you to, as Moses did, or even how short you will continue to fall of His glory. If God says you are his beloved child, seated with Him in heavenly places, treasured as a specimen of His redemption and glory, cleanswed of all sin, and gifted for divine works, you have no business contradicting Him. - taken from "Indeed" Daily Devotional
Like Thomas I doubted. I needed proof. Like Eve I gave in. I took the bait. Like scoffers I laughed in the face of God's plan. I nearly drowned. But I'm not arguing anymore. I can't. Not with God. After all, if He can speak the stars and moon into existence, He's not going to let me interfere. Sure, He has a plan that includes and involves me. But far be it from me to think He needs me to help Him keep the earth on its axis. I can because He is and I am NOT arguing with that!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

His Song

I was driving down the road singing my heart out. It's a song I've belted out many times before, crying out the names of God and claiming Him as Wonderful, Glorious, Holy and Righteous, Victorious, Conqueror, Triumphant and Mighty...

There was no music, no choir, no accompaniment. Just my voice carrying the melody of the song God put in my heart. Just the sound of my own song to an audience of One. I completed my ballad - one hand still raised in the air (the other planted firmly and safely on the steering wheel) - and I exclaimed, "That is my song!" And then I caught myself and changed my tune. "No, God. That is YOUR song!"

If I'm honest, I'm sure there have been too many times I've taken the credit for something. My admirable talent. My flawless performance. My inspiring writing. My noteworthy accomplishment. My achieved success. My national award. My good deed. My well-delivered message. My ___________ (fill in the blank - surely there's more I did, right?!) The mere thought makes me cringe.

Dare I get ahead of myself and think that it's "me" or because of me or anything I've done, then I could be rendered useless. Dare I become paralyzed by feelings of inadequacy and insecurities that overtake my willingness to act and do and be and I rob myself of the opportunity to experience Him at work.

I squirm at the thought of all the times I've been noticed or recognized, unbeknownst to me, and didn't represent that which He trusted me with. These are the things that will be rolled out on the scroll before me as I stand (bow?) before the Lord. The more I think upon His character, the more I'm brought face to face with my own - and I don't like what I see.

I admit the conflict of trying to understand how He knew me before He spoke creation to be. I can't come to terms with how He loved me enough to plan a way for my salvation to spend eternity with me, and how He's seen fit to bless me with whatever gifts, talents, abilities He chose. Yet my very existence is but a speck on this earth. "Who am I that the Lord of the earth would care to know my name?" It's a crippling thought.

I can't make sense of it. When it comes to the supernatural battle over carnal flesh. It's not my might, strength, talent, ability, gift, accomplishment, success, or voice. It's HIS song. And all I can do is sing of who He is...

Holy and Righteous
Triumphant and Mighty
Shield and Defense
Strong Tower
My Best Friend
Soon coming King
Alpha, Omega
Lord of Everything

Holy, Holy, Holy are You, Lord!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Election Day

Tuesday, November 6, 2012, is Election Day.

It's the day you have the right to vote. It's the day, whatever else your schedule may include, that should also include making time to cast your ballot. Too busy, you might say? See below:  

I can assure you, this post will not sway you to vote a certain way. In fact, even if you are for the party I oppose, I still implore you to vote. (Albeit shameful of me to admit I'm semi-hoping there are more "lazies" in the opposing party!) I still echo the semtiment above - if you choose not to exercise your right to vote, then I wholeheartedly concur you forgeit any opportunity to complain. Period.  Why? Because...

You want your voice heard? Vote. You don't like something? Vote. You want to see things changed? Vote. 
 How on earth would one little vote impact such a monumental election?

During the 2000 Bush/Gore Campaign, I worked as a producer for the local NBC affiliate. I will never forget that fateful night in the newsroom, "Bush wins. No he doesn't. Yes he does. Wait. There are hanging chads..."

Well into the hours of the night, we had yet to know who would actually be the next President of the United States. The excitement in the newsroom was thrilling. The anticipation of the next president  was overwhelming as we waited for what would happen next.

Then it was announced: They will count the ballots. Every last vote. The hanging chads created a stir that we'll never forget, but also reminded us that:

I admit, have not thrust my undying support behind any particular candidate this year. I've not posted one message about which party or candidate I'm supporting. In campaigns past, I've donned the bumper stickers, penants, and other  paraphenalia to show my support of the one who would get my vote.

Yes, this year has felt different, but regardless, I still have a choice. The vote I cast is not about all the things I like or don't like. It's more about the opportunity I've been given to take part in a process that actually let's me play a role. My voice. My right. My responsiblity.

Election Day. November 6, 2012. VOTE!

Giving Thanks: 1

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, as promised, here are some verses and thoughts to ponder. I hope you're expressing gratitude today. Finding reasons to truly give thanks can sometimes be a challenge when we're faced with life circumstances that overwhelm. If you find yourself in that place, I hope these can help jumpstart your season of thanks.

Thanksgiving Day 2:
"But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the LORD." Jonah 2:9 // I've never thought about being so thankful to God that I want to sacrifice for Him! But the sacrifice made for me is certainly reason to give thanks, and inturn, reason to give of my own life.

Thanksgiving Day 3:
The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song. Psalm 28:7 // Can your heart truly leap for joy in thanks to the Lord? Oh, how I pray no matter what the circumstance, we would always sing a song of thanksgiving to Him!

Thanksgiving Day 4:
I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation. Psalm 118:21 // Even when we don't get the answer we seek, God is still there, still listening, and He always answers. Today I am thankful for answered prayers - even when the answer wasn't what I wanted.

Thanksgiving Day 5:
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. Psalm 100:4 // When we enter into the presence of God, we can't help but rejoice! Seeking His face, rather than His hand, will never let us down.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Tis the Season

It's beginning to look a lot like ...

It's November 1st and the official kick off of the Holiday season has begun. I was strolling through the stores last night (Halloween) and Christmas decor was on full display. Christmas music was even playing to enlighten the shopping experience despite the workers donning Halloween costumes. I admit I was dealing with a little bit of holiday confusion not sure which one to celebrate. But today I can say with full confidence: the most wonderful time of year is here!

Before I get ahead of myself and start trimming the tree, I don't want to miss the fullness of all this season entails. I am mindful that November is a time to remember, reflect and count the many blessings in life as we prepare for Thanksgiving. Make no mistake: I love that this holiday centers around a table-filled celebration. My mouth is watering at just the thought of turkey and all the trimmings. But before the turkey is carved and I stuff myself full, I am making a mindful choice to enter this season with a spirit of thankfulness.

Sure. There's a lot to complain about. There is much to be concerned over. There are certainly monumental things ahead that overwhelm. There's just cause for anxiety. There are even justifiable reasons to let fears overtake any thoughts of thanksgiving. Regardless of what seeks to steal my joy, I choose to enter into His gates with Thanksgiving.

When I draw near to Him, when I seek His presence, when I seek His face with a desire to know HIM, rather than seek His hand and what He can give or do for me, then I can be filled with rejoicing. I can experience joy. I can count my blessings because of who He is in my life - not because of what I have (or don't have) or what I seek or even what I worry about.

We shouldn't need a date on the calendar or the holiday adornment to cause us to remember and reflect, but I don't want this season to go by without making a conscious effort to give thanks. So, today, November 1st, I kick off the season with full anticipation of all it will bring. Over the next 30 days, I have 30 "thanks-inspired" verses and reminders to post. If we're Facebook friends, you'll see these daily. If you're a blog reader, they'll appear intermittently.

"They will celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness." Psalm 145:7

Even as I blog, the Christmas songs are playing on Pandora. Yes, I am celebrating and joyfully singing! I hope you will join me!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Lavish Love

The funny thing about feelings is you never know what to expect. You can't change how you feel. You can't predict how you'll feel from one minute to the next. You might be going along your merry way when an unexpected trigger alters your emotional course.

It's been an up and down week of unpredictable feelings, from people asking why I'm so bubbly to outbursts of tears.

Right now, in this moment, I am simply overcome by the love of my Heavenly Father who watches out for every detail. I am overwhelmed at how He takes care of me. I just reminded a friend of mine that yes, He has a plan for our lives (Jeremiah 29:11) but sometimes He wants us to just seek Him and not worry about the plan.

"You will seek me and you will find me when you seek me with all your heart." ~ Jeremiah 29:13

The thing is, even when I'm looking for the writing in the sky, I can sometimes miss HIM. What I'm feeling and experiencing today is the tangible expressions of His love, the visible reminders of His sovereignty in my life. But just a few days ago, I was feeling isolated and alone.

A faithful devotional text from a friend. An encouraging email from a kindred spirit. A friend's blog about her own life lessons and struggles. A reminder that I'm being prayed for. A note of thanks. A visit from a friend. He must have known that I needed the spiritual encouragement.

‎"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" ~ I John 3:1

Oh how my heart is rejoicing in this verse today - well, at least for this moment! The love He is pouring out through His people to reach me...I pray you feel it, too. His love is deep enough to reach to the depths of any wound you are feeling. His love is wide enough to travel any expanse that is distancing you from Him. His love is detailed enough to care about each and every concern you have. His love is great enough to bear the burden that you feel you carry alone.

Whether you feel it or not, He loves you. And whether it seems it or not, you are His child. Because you are His, He will not leave you. Even when it's hard. Even when it hurts. Even when He feels a thousand miles away. You are His. The Creator of the universe holds your heart and He wants to lavish His love on you.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Carrie's Closet

Today's blog is a bit "off topic" but inspired by a friend's recent post about her non-fashion, combined with an opportunity to go through another friend's closet and help her coordinate outfits. Today's post is all about fashion.

I don't call myself an expert when it comes to being a trend setter or fashion guru. I do have a love for shopping and I enjoy clothes and accessorizing. I'm a girly-girl through and through, so I love all things makeup and hair, too. These things don't define me. It' just fun. I think your style can say a lot about your personality, but I don't think it says everything. For those of you who ask where I shop or how I put outfits together, here are a few fun tips.

I dabble with trends. Never anything extreme, but just enough to enjoy it for the season before it comes and goes. I'm much too practical (and too cheap!) to redo my wardrobe with every new runway reveal.

Right now I'm loving color blocking. I haven't purchased any brightly colored skinny jeans (I'm having way too many flashbacks of the 80's) but I have matched up a few new outfits from already existing pieces I own. I'm not doing anything extreme here, either, but if you're not sure where to start, I like the advice from Style Prompt with the Color Wheel:

“The most popular theory for combining colors is called the rule of two-thirds. How you achieve the rule of two-thirds starts by making an equilateral triangle (a triangle with 3 equal sides) on the color wheel… From there, you pick two of the three colors that the triangle touches. These colors will almost always harmonize together beautifully.”

I love scarves. LOVE SCARVES! I don't think you can have too many, nor do I believe you can go wrong with adding a scarf to any outfit! They work with any outfit AND any body shape. You just have to find the "right" way to wear it to fit your style, shape and size. Here are a few examples.

Boots! I have way too many pair. These are my favorite (I have them in black & brown) with skinny jeans, layered on top with a solid print cardigan and a different color or print top underneath, maybe topped with a scarf to tie it all together. These are great for cool, casual fall days. I admit to keeping my shoes fairly neutral in fall (I do own a pair of leopard print wedge heels that are way too fun).

Another fun wardrobe piece are ankle boots. Still popular this season. I got mine on clearance for $8. See?! I told you I'm cheap. I admit these are bit harder to pair. But they look great with leggings and a sweater or long top, a dress (with or without leggings), skinny jeans, or skirts.

My best advice is closet organization. My closet is organized by color (much like the above color wheel) but it helps me be able to quickly find what I'm looking for and easily put outfits together.

It's fall and with the changing seasons you may also consider making subtle changes to your hair or makeup. I'm a big believer this starts with taking good care of your skin. (No Dove soap or Jergen's lotion on your face, please!) I'm not here to promote one brand over another, but I have been an avid Mary Kay skin care user for about 14 years now and I just can't say enough about the products and how my skin looks and feels. I do admit to dabbling with other makeup products that I love, like MAC eyeshadows and lip glosses or my fool-proof Volume Lash mascara by Maybelline.

I always switch out my foundation for a lighter shade with more coverage during the fall/winter months when I have no sun-kissed color. I add a bronzing powder and a darker blush. I also have fun with eyeshadows and typically add a lipstick base underneath my gloss.

Fall and winter are great months to give your locks some extra love. Make sure to use conditioner to keep your hair healthy. If you're ready to play with color, consider the ever-popular Ombre look. This has allowed me to incorporate some highlights and lowlights along with my "natural" color. It's relatively 'maintenance-free' because the darker color typically starts at the top so as your hair grows out, you may only need to touch up roots.

The bottom line: Your style is your own. It's not about changing who you are. Again, clothes and makeup and hair don't define who I am. I just have fun with these things. I enjoy dressing up and looking nice, but I also love my trusted stack of hoodies and comfy jeans, or my velour "mom-suits" as I call the zip up jackets and matching pant outfits that I admit to owning. Of course, I'm always ready & willing to accompany you on any shopping trip or help organize your closet as well! :)