Everywhere You Go

If you are like me and most everyone else, you’ve been decking the halls with falalalala and making your space look Christmassy.  Unless you are one of the pre Thanksgiving deckers…and I don’t judge you…bring it on whenever the spirit hits you!

It fascinates me that even the lowliest little shop does something to say ‘We are celebrating here,’ even if it is just a commercial ploy to get your gift dollars.  Again…no judgement.   Because honestly, I love seeing the world acknowledge the birth of Jesus, even when they don’t make the connection, because I do! 

Picture This moments for Christmas will come from the songs of Christmas…pictures of words, a.k.a. word pictures.   And this particular song is one of my favorites because, like digging in the attic for the decorations and choosing the perfect tree, it sort of kicks off the season for me, reminding me of my childhood and walking down the streets of Atlanta with my parents and gazing in the magnificent windows of the big Rich’s store.  The windows were filled with animated carolers and Santa’s workshop and other glorious things to fill a child’s imagination.   But my favorite window was the one with giant (to me as a child) gold bells pealing out the sounds of the season.  Which brings me to the song!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Soon the bells will start.

And the thing that will make them ring is the carol that you sing right within your heart.

Whether you go all out with lights and a tree in each room and a snow village and live reindeer in the yard, or you keep a simpler Christmas in a lower key, remember the words of this sweet song.  What happens in your heart is what makes Christmas Christmas. 

Want to know how to get that carol going that will make your heart ring?  Try this direction from Psalm 96: Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous works among all the peoples! …

There’s a Gift to celebrate and the Gift is for you.  Keep your heart singing this week!

When a Donut is More Than a Donut

It’s a donut.  It has raspberry jelly inside.  And if the ‘Hot Light’ is on, even better, because it’s a WARM, raspberry filled donut!   No big deal, you say?  Not so, my friend!  Not so!

From my earliest days, Krispy Kreme donuts have been a favorite treat.  We would stop by the big KK store on Ponce de Leon in Atlanta and watch as the little round nuggets came through on the conveyer belt, into the fryer, out of the fryer, and then right through the glazing bath, exiting on the other side as the perfect round delight that it is.  I would stand and gaze in childlike (because I was, at that time, a child) anticipation, mesmerized by the process, smelling the amazing smells, and waiting for our box to be filled, purchased, and then wolfed down without a lot of ceremony.  It was a taste of family.

When the Army took us overseas, my mother and dad brought a dozen of my favorite, stowed away in their luggage.  I ate several and froze the rest, thawing them one by one, and pulling one out to heat and eat when Georgia seemed too far away.  Not that Germany doesn’t have its fair share of bite delights, but they are no Krispy Kreme…a taste of home.

When we arrived in Augusta long ago on a cross country move in search of a home for our family and totally unfamiliar with the city, we exited the expressway on Washington, took a right, and…you guessed it…we found ourselves right in the Krispy Kreme parking lot.  Our little family was in agreement that this was indeed, a sign that that Augusta was going to be a great place to live…a taste of familiar.

The days are long gone when I could eat as many as I wanted without paying the price.  But on special occasions I still savor the occasional raspberry filled wonder with great joy…a taste of memories. 

Throughout our lives there are places, events, smells, and tastes that are so much more than they might be to someone else.   They serve as markers, reminders, pinpoints on our life map that say ‘You Are Here’.  

The word ‘remember’ comes up 234 time in scripture.  That may be because I need to do some serious ‘remembering’.  For this picture I choose 1 Chronicles 16:12, with the reminder to ‘Remember the wondrous works that He has done’.  

These Picture This moments are just that…remembering the Father in all of the ‘Hot Donuts Now’ signs in life.  Remembering where we have been, where we are going, and Who goes with us!  What are your “Hot Donuts Now’ moments?

Confessed Murderer!

Guilty!  I confess…I am a murderer…a murderer of green growing things in my care.   Not all of them, but some of them do make the trip home from the nursery to certain doom.  Take the “Case of the Lovely Asters”.  When I picked up the three pots months ago, they were loaded with spectacular periwinkle colored blooms that I thought would look great out back.  However, nothing could have prepared them for the rugged conditions of my yard in the Augusta summer.   Sprinklers and extra waterings were just not enough to make them survive, let alone thrive, and soon they were doing the ‘ashes to ashes, dust to dust’ routine in my garden.   

I decided to remove them and replace them with something more along the lines of a succulent that could make it in Death Valley.   When I dug the asters up, I just didn’t have the heart to toss them over the fence into no man’s land, remembering just how pretty they were when I brought them home.   So I tucked all three tired, brown, withered plants into a nearby pot, and stashed them behind a tree, sort of my version of burying the evidence of my horticultural crime.

Fast forward to a cooler day in October where rain happens occasionally, and the sun still shines, but with mercy.  The brave asters have leafed out, all brand new, and even dared to bloom.  I don’t think I deserve much credit here.  But I do love the picture of something that was dead and gone being alive and beautiful!  Ephesians 4:24 challenges us to ‘put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.’   Don’t you love a happy ending, even in a murder mystery? 

When My Safe Place Isn’t…

There are just some spots in my physical world that are extra happy, bringing me contentment and a sense of peace.  The garden steps to my bird feeder and bird bath are such a place.   I have been up and down those steps a billion times filling and refilling and just checking things out.  They are visible from my kitchen table, so there has been plenty of tea consumed while enjoying them.  

All that changed yesterday when we went out to fill the feeders and found a ‘way too large’ (as if there’s a right size to make it good) rattlesnake on those same idyllic steps.  He had struck a cardinal and was working on making her his dinner.  Because this snake was in our living space and a place my grandchildren frequent, he had to be dealt with.  I am just so grateful the snake was spotted before one of us unknowingly tangled with him! 

The picture?  Just how easily something deadly can slip into our lives unnoticed!  And the parallel to the serpent of ‘Garden of Eden’ infamy isn’t lost on me here.   I will henceforth and forever more be wearing suitable, non flip flop footwear when going up the steps.  And if I have learned anything from this life lesson, it is that we must be vigilant to watch for the things that can invade even our safest and happiest of places and be harmful to our hearts and lives.  

1 Peter 5:8 says Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.   Ephesians 6:10 gives us an action plan: Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.   

Let’s keep our wits about us out there!


Before you flood my comments with ways to rid one’s self of raccoons, you should know this: Since this picture, I purchased a raccoon baffle (that’s like a squirrel baffle on steroids) for my feeder. (I kinda miss this little guy’s visits!)

The summer that he discovered our back yard wildlife deli, he started by coming just in the late night darkness.   When he found that he really enjoyed what we were offering, he became fearless.  At one point I even put Crisco up and down the pole.  He managed to get up, but then was stuck on top of the feeder, but that’s another story.

This time, the setup was working for him just fine.  All he had to do was s-t-r-e-t-c-h his full length and he could just get to the goodies. I gave him an A+ for effort! 

When I come up against a challenge in my own world, it usually doesn’t involve a physical stretch so much as a mental or emotional stretch.  Being the comfort loving creature that I am, my first inclination might be to ‘never mind’ it.   Then I remember the words of Genesis 18:14.  “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”   Well, duh!  The Creator of the Universe is uniquely invested in what I am doing.  He stands ready with resources I can’t begin to fathom!  Since God is God…it doesn’t even require Him to stretch!  

What are you reaching for today?  Ask for help…He’s there and waiting!

Name That Tune!

Patience please!  Another bird picture….

On an early morning walk to justify the things l like to eat (of which there are many!) I was serenaded by a mocking bird.  Now, in the bird world, there are much fancier models with much more interesting colors and markings.  There’s the beautiful bright yellow and black American Gold Finch, the ever present Cardinal with his beautiful deep red feathers, the Indigo Bunting, so iridescent and blue that he almost looks electric…and on and on.  But on this particular morning it was the gray, some would say drab, mockingbird that caught first my ear, and then my eye.

What could be so special about a gray bird, of which there are zillions around? 

Here’s the picture. This bird knew everyone’s song.  She (could have been a ‘he’ but I called her ‘she’ because of her soprano voice) sang the song of the Blue Jay, and the Hawk, and a bunch of other birdsongs…she rolled through them one after the other with ease.  

I’m pretty sure the way the mockingbird learns the other birds’ songs is by listening.  Paying attention?  Yes! Paying attention!   Philippians 2:4 instructs us in this art: Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Maybe, just maybe, I should spend more time singing your song. And what if we all spend more time singing each others’ songs?  Not for the sake of imitation, but for the greater cause of understanding.  We are valuable to the Creator, and we are valuable to each other!   Nice song you’ve got there!

Birds, Neighbors and Storms

 I like to think of myself as an observant person, a people watcher, a situation assessor, and a nature observer.  To this end I have several bird feeders in my yard, with a variety of offerings for different kinds of birds to enjoy.   One thing that I have noticed is that during fair weather, birds tend to approach the feeder in groupings by their breeds; the house finches come one at a time, the mockingbird waits until she can have it all to herself and the cardinals sit on surrounding branches like folks at a bakery who have taken a number, and when its time, each one steps up to take a turn at the feeder.

  But in a storm or just before a storm, all bets are off.   The birds flock all together to the feeders, and no one seems to mind how many are there, or what kind of feathers they have, or what size they are…everyone prepares for the inclement weather by coming together.  

  We had an unprecedented storm of sorts in our little part of the world one day when a neighbor and her family had to move out of their home without any forewarning, actually immediately.   All of their belongings were suddenly on the driveway and they had no plan or place to go.

  Now our neighborhood is not unfriendly by any means.  We know each others’ names, we wave and chat and the like.   It is a neighborhood of families at the busiest stage of life, with kids and school and sports and church and jobs and so on and so on.   And we are all respectful of each other’s spaces, both physically and otherwise.   But this storm threw us into a new situation altogether.  

  My first thought, my first reaction, was to stay in my house and try not to add to the embarrassment and frustration of their situation, since I was not a ‘close’ friend, other than in physical proximity.   But God rattled my cage big time, and pushed me out my door to go and see what I could do to assist.  I think it was seeing her Kitcehaid Mixer sitting in the drieway that cinched it for me. I went. At about the same time the neighbor from the other side joined us, and we began to pack up the precious memory portions of the belongings, the albums and pictures.   Still the situation remained overwhelming as belongings continued to be brought out of the home and to the street.   Within a few hours, if something wasn’t done, their possessions would be up for grabs to anyone who passed by.   At that point another neighbor stepped up, having a stash of moving boxes and packing paper.  More neighbors with more muscle came over to help move things onto vehicles.   A rental truck and a rented storage space were procured and we were in business. An offer of a place to stay was given by one family.  Before darkness fell, there were fifteen or more neighbors and friends with strong backs and helping hands moving goods, and making a bad situation tolerable.   Before 10:00 p.m. everything was out of the driveway and on its way to a safe keeping place, and the storm that had come so quickly was made more bearable by the many hands that came to help. 

 From John 13: 34 and 35 comes a really clear direction:  “And so I am giving a new commandment to you now—love each other just as much as I love you. Your strong love for each other will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

I’m not thinking the flow of our neighborhood will change immediately because of this happening.  But I do appreciate knowing that there are people around me that would come to my aid in a crisis…and I can be observant of others who may need a hand.  There’s always a storm in someone’s world…be watching!

It’s a One Way Kinda Day!

After returning from a really wonderful trip through the fjords of Alaska, the raw and rugged northwest coast of Washington State, and the lush beauty of the gardens in Victoria, the laundry is done and the suitcases are back in the attic for a bit.

As we moved through these amazing sights, it occurred to me that many of these places I was seeing for the first, and likely the last time.  Not being morose…I don’t do morose…but there are a lot of places left to see, so the likelihood of me duplicating this adventure of kayaking through Misty Fjords, Alaska is pretty remote.   It was a one way trip of sorts.

My Picture This moment says the same is true for every day of life.  Each day is a one way trip, and though some days the journey may seem familiar, each conversation, connection and accomplishment belong exclusively to that one day. What if we choose to pay more attention to the details of each day as we move through it?  The Psalm 118:24 reminder is “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  

Heads up!  Tomorrow is gonna be different.  Today is a one way trip…make it a good one!

Who Wants Cake?

Recently, what started out as just my ‘favorite to bake’ Texas Sheet Cake as a treat for our family, turned into an impromptu birthday celebration for the summer birthdays, of which we have many!  

After a picnic lunch, I added a dollop of whipping cream, some sprinkles, and candles…Voila!  Birthday party!   As I took the tray out I was mobbed by ‘hungry for something sweet’ kids as I asked, “Who wants cake?”     The response was enthusiastic and unanimous, and after a hasty and rowdy singing of the happy birthday song, we had cake!

This picture reminds me that life is filled with impromptu celebrations of the love of those around us if we are watchful and don’t miss them.   The verse from Psalm 34:8 is written on the corner of our kitchen wall…”Taste and see that the Lord is good.”   Don’t miss the opportunities today to celebrate His goodness!  I mean….The real question is “Who wouldn’t want cake?!”  Get your piece!

Do Over…Mulligan…Fresh Start…Second Chance

Mexican Petunias… one of my favorite flowering plants.  Their fancy name?  Ruellia Simplex.  I have them growing in several places around my home.  Among their virtues; they are hardy, which is a necessity when you are a plant under my care. Joanna Gaines, Fixer Upper heroine of all things lovely, would classify my thumb as more of a ‘Matte Mineral Green’ish than the true Green from the Crayola box.  These perky plants also seem fairly oblivious to the July Georgia heat and sun that beats on them relentlessly.  Also to their credit, these floral warriors don’t seem to be bothered by garden varmints  and don’t require a ton of water.  And when winter comes and they need to be whacked off at the dirt, have no fear!  They will be back in the spring and bring new plants with them.  

Win! Win! Win! 

But my favorite thing about them is something they do summer morning after summer morning.  They start over!   They are covered in lovely delicate blossoms that stick around for most of the day.  And that’s the picture I see today.  

No matter where I land as I end up the evening before, I wake up to a brand new day that has all kinds of possibilities, sort of a ‘Mexican Petunia’ kind of experience.   And though everything may not have been resolved from the previous day’s challenges, I choose the opportunity to have a ‘do over’ as I face a new day.

During busy days of ministry when we would pour out everything we had, physically, mentally, and emotionally to the tasks at hand, my dear friend and cohort, Emily, would often remind me of this truth, found in Lamentations 3, verses 22 and 23.  His mercies are new every morning!  

So, go ahead!   Each morning be your own version of the Mexican Petunia and take your mulligan, your ‘do over, your fresh start…and face your day trusting that you have been gifted with new mercies for the day from the One Who made you!