Friday, December 28, 2012

What I Learned from the Hobbit : part 1

At the beginning of The Hobbit, the reader learns that Bilbo Baggins lives in a hobbit-hole; “not a nasty, dirty wet hole…nor a dry, bare sandy hole…it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.” Mr. Baggins loved his home, his garden, his books, and his armchair. In other words, he’s quite content to stay home in his comfortable environment. But, one evening as he sat down to feast on fish and vegetables, his life changed. A knock on the door and an invitation to adventure, turned his quiet, simple life upside down.

J.R.R. Tolkien created an amazing world in Middle-earth. While much of what he wrote was considered fantasy, he taught many lessons for the human world. As I think about Bilbo Baggins and the challenges he faced, I am reminded of my own life. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been content to be at home. I surround myself with treasures that I enjoy, most are gifts and art made by family and friends. Puttering never bores me, and I could read or write all day.

But, like the Hobbit, I received an invitation to live life outside of my comfort zone. When I made a commitment to follow Jesus, I accepted a lifetime of adventure. He called me to write, so I wrote. Devotions, essays, poetry, those are easy for me. Then he challenged me to write fiction, not so simple and every step a challenge. At work, my faith is tested every day. Even in the seat at church, I’m confronted by God’s truth compared to my sin. Yes, when I told Jesus I’d follow him, I accepted a life filled with lessons, challenges, and adventure. Like Bilbo Baggins, I stepped out and answered the charge. The best part, God walks with me and places others in my path and by my side.

My comfort zone remains a wonderful place for rest and reflection. But If I spend too much time in my secure, quiet space, I’ll miss out on the exciting life God has planned for me.

Has God asked you to step out of your comfort zone? 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Perfect Love

Friday evening, my granddaughter, Dylan, and I attended the Nutcracker ballet at the college where I work. As we sat on the front row and watched the ballerinas dip and twirl, I let myself drift into a relaxing mix of peace and joy. My granddaughter and I enjoyed the program and went home talking about the beautiful costumes and the talented dancers. Even as we shared the excitement of the evening, I couldn’t stop thinking about the tragedy that occurred earlier that day in Connecticut.

That night she stayed over and as she fell asleep I thanked God for the opportunity to spend time with her. As I watched her face fall into a restful sleep, my heart went out to the parents and grandparents who lost children at Sandy Hook.

The next morning, we planned to take Dylan to the mall. I have to admit, fear reverberated through me. As we walked with the bustling crowd, I found myself thinking how I’d protect my granddaughter if I needed to. Later, I read a post from a friend, who felt a bolt of fear because she knew she’d need to send her children back to school on Monday. Reality tells me that I can’t control what happens any more than my friend can. But I can rely on God and love my family daily. Perfect love casts out all fear and perfect love comes from God. I have to trust and pray.

As I watch my grandchildren perform in their Christmas play this evening, I will continue to pray for those who are hurting. I’ll also embrace the time with the little ones I hold so dear. 

A Year of Biblical Womanhood

A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband "Master"

by Rachel Held Evans

I thoroughly enjoyed Rachel's writing. With humor, sincerity, and determination, she parted the waters of what it means to be a woman and a believer. I did not agree with every interpretation, but I appreciated the wisdom she gleaned from her studies and attempts at living out the scriptural laws of the Old Testament. Supported by her husband, Rachel delved into Proverbs 31, the life of a woman in biblical times, women's lives that echoed the respect that Jesus gave them and the great responsibility they held for their families and the church. A good book for a women's book club.

Angels at the Table

Angels at the Table: A Shirley Goodness and Mercy Christmas Story
by Debbie Macomber

This latest Shirley, Goodness and Mercy installment is a delightful tale of angel mischief that includes the newest cherub, Will. As he trains under the three seasoned Prayer Ambassadors, he learns that direct interference never works for angels. Lucie and Aren are destined to meet, but Will gets a bit ahead of himself and unravels God's timing for the young couple. This leads to angel havoc as the heavenly quartet works to undo Will's mistake and create a happily ever after ending. This is a fun Christmas read that adds a sense of God's all knowing to this thing called love.

Sunday, December 9, 2012


A few months ago, when I was visiting my mom, I asked her about my great-great grandfather Abbott who made his way to the US from Scotland. Before the conversation ended, my mom pulled out a box of mementos that belonged to my Grammy, Grandpa Abbott’s granddaughter. Among the ephemera we discovered a few Christmas cards.  They dated from the 1920s and were just beautiful. I am a crafter, and I studied digital design so I appreciate the graphics and fonts on the old-fashioned cards. I also enjoyed seeing my great-grandmother’s signature and greeting.

Happy Christmas!
The old cards made me wonder when the tradition of greeting cards started. Henry Cole commissioned J.C. Horsley to paint the first printed Christmas card in 1843 in England. Then in the 1860s when color printing made the greetings more affordable, the Victorians shared cards with family and friends. In the United States, Louis Prang began printing cards in 1874 using eight to twenty colors. The heart-warming tradition caught on and now almost two and a half billion Christmas cards are printed in America. (Jock Elliot, Inventing Christmas, How our Holiday Came to Be)

Personally, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Christmas cards. I love to receive them, but I haven’t always enjoyed sending them. In lean years, they were an added expense. Some years the time just got away from me. But in recent years, I’ve made an effort to not only send, but to create the image on the front. By designing my own card, with the help of my talented daughter, I feel that I’m sending a small gift-from-the-heart to every recipient, and now I enjoy the whole process of sending cards. I’ve also gotten onto the habit of praying for the person or family who receives my greeting. What was once a chore has become a joy.

What is your take on Christmas cards?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Sparkle of Fun

Santa Claus was introduced to America in 1823 when Clement Moore put a fresh image of giving on the face of Christmas. In A Visit from St. Nicholas also known as, The Night before Christmas, Moore created a story for his children based on a man named Nicholas, born around A.D. 280 in the small town of Patara (Turkey). As a believer in the Bible, Nicholas showed great compassion for others. He gave so much to so many that legends spread about him. Eventually, Saint Nicholas became an icon of generosity.

Growing up, my family celebrated the birth of Jesus by reading the Christmas story and attending church services. The stereo played Perry Como’s rendition of the holiday hymns. Mom positioned a crèche on the mantel and one year we even had a live nativity on our porch. So I knew that Christmas honored Jesus birth. On the other hand, I remember my delight when I found packages that appeared on Christmas morning from “Santa”. The magic and wonder that surrounded the mystery gift giver added a sparkle of fun to the day.

When my children were old enough to understand the traditions of Christmas, I puzzled over whether to introduce Santa Claus into the gift giving. I wanted them to know that Christmas centered on the birth of Jesus, but I also wanted them to be acquainted with the kind, caring legend of Saint Nicholas.

So much of the modern version of this December holiday centers on retail sales. Rather than focus on receiving gifts from Santa, I taught my daughters about his giving spirit.  We read the story of how he gave gold to the daughters of a widower in the middle of the night and how he cared more about others than himself. We also shared the story of Jesus’ nativity and talked about why we set aside Christmas to observe his birth.

I wanted my daughters to recognize that giving was more important than receiving. St. Nick’s story offers hope in mankind, Jesus story offers hope for mankind. Joy fills my heart as I hear my children teaching their children about the spirit of giving and the wonder of the season.  What a blessing to share the joy of Jesus and the legend of Santa.