Thursday, November 29, 2018

Christmas Traditions Around the World: Iceland's Jólabókaflóð

We all create traditions in our families for the holidays. My daughters and I get together with my mom and roll out, cut out, and bake Christmas cookies. My husband and I cruise the area and marvel at Christmas lights. We gather together to open presents, share food, and celebrate Jesus' birth. I never miss the children's Christmas pageant.

I've always been curious about Christmas traditions in other countries; or even in different regions of America.

Have you heard about a cool custom in Iceland?

As a book lover, I adore this Jólabókaflóð"the Christmas book flood." Icelander's open their gifts on Christmas Eve and one of the wrapped gifts is always a book. Once the clutter is cleared, the receiver of the gift takes their new shiny book, wraps up in a cozy blanket and cracks it open to read the night away. What a glorious tradition. Meaningful because the giver took the time to choose the perfect book. Relaxing as they read well into the night.

We read about Jesus birth from the Bible each Christmas and Holiday stories from Mary Engelbreit's Believe: A Christmas Story.
How can you incorporate book giving into your Christmas?
  • Add a book to your gift list.
  • Share a favorite book with a loved one.
  • Celebrate the joy of the printed word.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

The Mystery of God

Lamentations 3:25-26
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
    to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord.

The city of Cincinnati sparkled outside my hospital window. I viewed the crown on top of Great American Tower and the reflection of lights twinkling on the Ohio River. At two o'clock in the morning, I listened to the tap, tap, tap of ice hitting the window; a beautiful chorus to kick off my recovery. In the quiet of the early morning, God's Spirit dwelled by my side. As did my wonderful husband who slept on the hard as a rock couch, under that scenic the window.

I'm not usually awake in the middle of the night. But this night I'm thankful I was, because I experienced a love I almost can't fathom. The mystery of God's love intrigues me. How can my creator continue to love me, even as I fail and fall? Yet he does. He not only loves me, he pours his grace over me. As I rested in the quiet and listened to the ice tapping the window, I thanked God for the many prayers given on my behalf. I praised him for the miracle of medicine and the wonderful team of people who took care of me.
God is faithful. He met me in the quiet time with his comfort and peace.

As we head into the holidays, find time for quiet reflection. Time to thank God for his many blessings. Time to find comfort in his arms. Time to connect to his love.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Respect and Appreciation

Colossians 3:15
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 

1 Peter 2:17
Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.

We love that our grandchildren attend schools where they are taught to respect and appreciate the people in the armed forces. On Monday, we visited Max's school for their Veteran's Day program. Students from elementary through high school participated. We listened as the children reminded us why we celebrate the heroes who have fought for our freedom. Boys and girls read thank you notes they wrote to the veterans. On the front row of the audience, several vets from the local veteran's home listened with intent. The band and chorus groups played and sang several songs honoring these men and women. One song in particular stirred my heart, "Let There be Peace on Earth." Two students filled the auditorium with their lovely voices as the words recounted how peace must start with each person.

For me this program tied together Veteran's Day and the appreciation I have for the folks who work and fight to provide my freedom with Thanksgiving Day, a day where I count my blessings. As I listened to Max's class sing the National Anthem, I couldn't help but feel joy for the respect and appreciation being instilled in these children. They are being taught to value each other, just as the apostle Peter noted. As you celebrate Thanksgiving Day, contemplate why we are free to gather and enjoy food and family. Think about the men and women who are away from their families, serving overseas. Pray for each one who has served and continues to, that they may be protected and blessed with peace.
With gratitude and respect, I thank each one who has served and is serving.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Be Kind

Colossians 3:12-14
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Tim took me to one of our favorite restaurants for breakfast this morning. At First Watch, I looked around at all the people sitting in community. I didn't know any of them, although I recognized a few of the wait staff, yet I felt comfortable. Tim mentioned too, that he felt relaxed among the group. We noticed the restaurant goers chatting and enjoying each other's company.

We're heading into a season of gathering. On Thanksgiving, family and friends will join together to eat delicious food, serve meals to the homeless, play football or watch the games, or just enjoy the day. Looking ahead, Christmas is around the corner when days will be spent with loved ones and folks out and about. Hectic shopping and busy preparations may equal anxiety and tension. Stress often peaks during the holidays. But as followers of Jesus, we have a job to do. Just.Be.Kind.

The fruit of God's Spirit includes kindness. With compassion and patience, treat people as Jesus did on the many occasions when he opened his heart and let the kindness flow. In the hustle and bustle, preparation and joining together, let your heart's kindness pour over the people God places in your path. "In a world where we can be anything, let's be kind."
"Have courage and be kind. When there is kindness, there is goodness." -Cinderella's mother

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

On Magnolia Lane (A Blue Ridge Romance) by Denise Hunter

Book Description:
From the bestselling author of The Convenient Groom (now a beloved Hallmark Original movie) comes the final book in Hunter’s Blue Ridge Romance series.

Pastor Jack McReady has secretly carried a torch for Daisy for two long years. She’s a member of his congregation, after all, and she’ll never see him as more than a trusted counselor. Jack’s best friend Noah has taken every opportunity to encourage his lovesick friend, but when Noah catches wind that Daisy has joined an online dating site, he takes matters into his own hands and orchestrates a meet-cute of the most unconventional kind.

Owner of the local flower shop, Daisy Pendleton is content with her small-town life, but she’d sure like someone to share it with. After several disastrous first dates, she’s about to give up—and then she finds a seemingly wonderful man online. Daisy gets to know TJ through a series of messages but finds herself spending more time with Pastor Jack outside of the church at the same time. What she doesn’t know is that her online prospect and Jack are one and the same. 

Just as Daisy’s love life starts to look promising, a mysterious woman appears in town. Daisy is faced with a revelation about her family that turns her world upside down, and she looks to both TJ and Jack for help.

Jack must find a way to reveal himself as her online suitor without breaking her heart and losing her trust. As Daisy faces Jack’s betrayal, she’ll have to learn to extend grace to herself, her family, and the man she’s grown to love.

My Review:
Denise Hunter has written a beautiful story of love. Not just a romance, but a tale of the how far love can go to mend a heart. Daisy is one of the most delightful characters I've met. She's a refreshing young woman who cares about her family and her community. Jack, a pastor, takes care of everyone else. Hunter weaves a beautiful story of forgiveness and understanding. I'd love to see this book as a Hallmark movie with Kate Corbett as Daisy and Niall Matter as Jack. Also, this book can be read as a standalone from the series. I love Hunter's writing. Reading her book is like sitting on the porch swing, with a glass of sweet tea; savoring each scene, yet needing to turn the page to see what happens next. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Be Ready

1 Thessalonians 4:16-18
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.
Sun bursting through clouds

I spent two hours in the surgeon's office going over what to expect, what to do, and what not to do for my upcoming surgery. In between talking to the nurse, the physician's assistant, and my rock star surgeon, I waited. As they spouted my much needed information, I took copious notes. Next, I'll sit down with paper and pen and create a list, in order, of all my instructions. I want to be as prepared as possible to face this important event, the one that will in time give me a better quality of life.

All this readiness reminded me what our minister encouraged us to think about this past Sunday—to be prepared for Jesus return. Whether I'm here when the trumpets blow and Jesus descends, or I'm taken home from this earth by him, I need to be ready. Bless God's heart, he gave us a road map to prepare for the trip. The Bible has all the information we need to make the journey. Which is a good thing, because my internal GPS doesn't know right from left.

I want to be as prepared as possible for this all important event, the one that will give me not just a better quality of life, but eternal life.
As I pray, read God's word, and do my best to live a faith filled life—I hope you'll join me as I wait for the Lord. Let's be caught being faithful!

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Novella Collection Review: The Great Lakes Lighthouse Brides Collection, Seven Historical Romances

Book Description:
Lighthouses have long been the symbol of salvation, warning sailors away from dangerous rocks and shallow waters.

Along the Great Lakes, America’s inland seas, lighthouses played a vital role in the growth of the nation. They shepherded settlers traveling by water to places that had no roads. These beacons of light required constant tending even in remote and often dangerous places. Brave men and women battled the elements and loneliness to keep the lights shining. Their sacrifice kept goods and immigrants moving. Seven romances set between 1883 and 1911 bring hope to these lonely keepers and love to weary hearts.

My Review
The Great Lakes Lighthouse Brides Collection written by Lena Nelson DooleyRebecca JepsonCarrie Fancett PagelsCandice Sue PattersonKathleen RouserPegg Thomas, and Marilyn Turk is a delightful gathering of the often romanticized life of lighthouse keepers. Throughout the stories you'll meet a variety of fascinating characters, including female lightkeepers, a lady doctor, backwoodsmen, sailors, gentlemen business owners and more. Every story brings to life the history of the Great Lake's shores. When I finished reading, I was impressed at how each author took a similar setting and topic and created such a unique story. Some based their writing on historical characters, while others were total fiction. I had some favorites, too — but I'll let you decide what yours are after you pick up a copy of this wonderful anthology and read for yourself. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing via NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.