You are currently browsing the monthly archive for November 2011.

In my post for the week, I mention keeping an Advent Calendar.  For many people, this is a much loved family tradition.  If you don’t have a calendar, Trisha at 24/7 Moms has an excellent post on calendars you can make.



Dear Lord,
Your message is clear.
“Go out and help the needy.”
Yet so often day after day goes by
and I have done nothing
but live my own life,
take care of my own needs,
cater to my own wants.

Help me to look out
and see those in need of You.

And then give me the nudge
that I need
to extend myself
to not only see,
but to do.


This is one of my favorite advent hymns.  Its fun to sing and leaves you in a great mood, reading to go out and DO.


As you decorate your home, think of ways to further His kingdom on Earth.

This past weekend wasn’t just Thanksgiving.  It was also the first Sunday in Advent.

I’ll be the first to admit it – Christmas and Advent are my favorite time of year.  I love Christmas trees and cookies, ornaments and lights, music and cheer.

But I also love the introspection that comes with Advent.

Advent means beginning. In this case, the beginning of God’s time on Earth. We are preparing for His arrival.

And in a sense we do that with our Christmas celebrations – we prepare for the arrival of that precious Babe. We set up manger scenes. We gather together gifts for the children in our lives. We bring out our Advent calendars. We remember the Christ child and his family when we give to those who have been turned away by our own society, whose lives are difficult. It is a time of giving. We give to food pantries and shelters.

But to truly prepare for the coming of the Lord, we need to go deeper. What can we do to impact the lives of these people – the neglected? The poor? Because once they eat that meal at the shelter, its done and gone. How can we impact their lives on a day-to-day basis?

Here are just a few suggestions. If your own checking account is near empty, not to worry. You can help without writing a check.

Donate to an organization that helps people feed themselves long term. My family’s favorite is The Heifer Project.

Donate to an organization that helps people find long term or permanent housing. We donate to Habitat.

Write a letter to your state or federal congress people requesting increased health care, including mental health care, for the poor. Many of our homeless are mentally ill, people who no longer have a place to find help with recent budget cuts.

Do you know someone without extended family in your area? Invite them to dinner. And not just Christmas dinner. Invite them over after church one Sunday before Christmas.

Clean out your coat closet. Many of us have an outgrown coat from one of our children. Donate that to a coat crib so that another child can be warm.

Reach out to those around you who need help. When you do, you are preparing your heart for His coming.


1 Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.

2 Let Israel now say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
3 Let the house of Aaron now say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
4 Let those who fear the LORD now say,
“His mercy endures forever.”

5 I called on the LORD in distress;
The LORD answered me and set me in a broad place.
6 The LORD is on my side;
I will not fear.
What can man do to me?
7 The LORD is for me among those who help me;
Therefore I shall see my desire on those who hate me.
8 It is better to trust in the LORD
Than to put confidence in man.
9 It is better to trust in the LORD
Than to put confidence in princes.

10 All nations surrounded me,
But in the name of the LORD I will destroy them.
11 They surrounded me,
Yes, they surrounded me;
But in the name of the LORD I will destroy them.
12 They surrounded me like bees;
They were quenched like a fire of thorns;
For in the name of the LORD I will destroy them.
13 You pushed me violently, that I might fall,
But the LORD helped me.
14 The LORD is my strength and song,
And He has become my salvation.[a]

15 The voice of rejoicing and salvation
Is in the tents of the righteous;
The right hand of the LORD does valiantly.
16 The right hand of the LORD is exalted;
The right hand of the LORD does valiantly.
17 I shall not die, but live,
And declare the works of the LORD.
18 The LORD has chastened me severely,
But He has not given me over to death.

19 Open to me the gates of righteousness;
I will go through them,
And I will praise the LORD.
20 This is the gate of the LORD,
Through which the righteous shall enter.

21 I will praise You,
For You have answered me,
And have become my salvation.

22 The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This was the LORD’s doing;
It is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day the LORD has made;
We will rejoice and be glad in it.

25 Save now, I pray, O LORD;
O LORD, I pray, send now prosperity.
26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!
We have blessed you from the house of the LORD.
27 God is the LORD,
And He has given us light;
Bind the sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar.
28 You are my God, and I will praise You;
You are my God, I will exalt You.

29 Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.

At a family reunion years ago, I ran into a distant relative and we chatted.  She was honest about her struggles with drugs and alcohol, and started to launch into her very personal, very painful story, but then stopped herself all at once.

“That was another time.  Today is a good day,” she concluded, and we went over to the buffet to browse.

Maybe that’s a key to life.  Editing your own story into a Reader’s Digest condensed version that ends on a grace note.

Psalms 118 contains the famous passage:  “This is the day the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (NKJV). But if you look at the whole Psalm, it’s amazing how many horrible things the writer had gone through.  And still, he ends up saying, ‘This is a good day.’

As for me, whenever I talk about troubles, I find that I fall into a bit of a funk.  So instead I cut to the chase.  Different eras would have unique taglines.

When I first found faith a few years ago:

Don’t know where I’m going.  God said, ‘just go.’

When I messed up royally and didn’t know if I’d find my way back:

Cast my pearls before swine.  God forgave me and cleaned me up.

When I went through more than I thought I could bear:

Been through a few things.  God’s grace brought me through.

There’s a reason that this verse is in the present tense – “This is the day the Lord has made” – because that way, we may remember to trust God right where we are.  Don’t know what tomorrow may hold.  But I know Who holds tomorrow.   

One of my favorite Thanksgiving hymns, something of a prayer in song.


This  fall, I joined the Lydia’s Circle at Florissant Presbyterian Church.  Why?  Sometimes I feel like the only women I know well are my fellow choir members and the women who come to book club or prayer group.  I wanted to widen my circle a bit and this seemed like a good way to do it.

What I didn’t expect, and still haven’t entirely deciphered, are the various offerings they collect.  I may not have deciphered all of them, but I have latched on to one of them – the Thanks Offering.

Whenever I am thankful for something, I fish out a coin and drop it into my Thanks Bank.  I also send up a prayer of thanks.  So far I’ve added coins into my bank for:

  • a rainy morning when I got to sleep in,
  • an afternoon spent on the sofa reading a good book,
  • having to make room on the sofa for my son and his book,
  • Indian summer and a second set of blooms from my clematis,
  • a good choir rehearsal,
  • a hug from a friend,
  • getting family photos hung in the living room,
  • a note from my editor that she is taking my book manuscript to committee.

Blessings big and blessings small. They’re there. Sometimes we just need to remember to count them.



1 Praise the LORD.

Praise the LORD, you his servants;
praise the name of the LORD.
2 Let the name of the LORD be praised,
both now and forevermore.
3 From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets,
the name of the LORD is to be praised.

4 The LORD is exalted over all the nations,
his glory above the heavens.
5 Who is like the LORD our God,
the One who sits enthroned on high,
6 who stoops down to look
on the heavens and the earth?

7 He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
8 he seats them with princes,
with the princes of his people.
9 He settles the childless woman in her home
as a happy mother of children.

Praise the LORD.

Like so many Americans, I spent roughly twenty years going to the in-laws’ house for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Three hours (round-trip) road time, thirty minutes of food (scrumptious and savory), three more hours of watching football (which I don’t enjoy) and talking about the weather (how ‘bout that snow?)

Since my marriage ended, none of my friends believe me when I say I don’t need “a place to go” for the holidays.  For a while I tried to explain it, saying that what I really wanted was to find a substantive way of giving thanks to God for all the blessings in my life.  They’d still look at me with sad-puppy eyes and say, “Awww, don’t be alone for the holidays! Come eat with us.”

As much as I appreciate these invitations, I’ve started my own tradition: “Holiday Helping.”  I’ve helped out at the food bank, the home for unwed mothers, and the cancer society – so I’m surrounded by strangers during the holidays.  Not a relative in sight for miles around.

And you know what?  I’ve come to really treasure my time alone (even though it’s always busy and noisy) and consider it living prayer to serve this way.  In fact, I talk to God in my head the whole time.  “Lord, bless and bolster this child of yours.  Give him nourishment with this meal.  While you’re at it, please provide him with new shoes.”

This is a true gift, and it all started because I had nowhere to go for the holidays and felt all alone in the world.  I can tell you this:  not only do I no longer feel alone; I know that sometimes prayers are answered in ways you don’t expect.  So when I run into an old friend and see that tilted-head/sad-eye look coming at me, and I can feel that “pity” turkey-day invitation coming, I can look her in the eye and say it like I mean it.

Thanks.  I’m good.


Have a Mary Little Christmas

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