December 27, 2008

The World Between Worlds

I always think the time after Christmas is the world between worlds. You know, from The Magician's Nephew and the woods with the puddles where Digory and Polly land between our world and Narnia. These days always remind me of that because it is so quiet. The parties and preparation are over and a year is ending. This is actually when I do a lot of spring cleaning as we take down the tree, rearrange the furniture, organize all my new presents.

I really love this time of year. It is quiet, peaceful, contemplative. I'm always tempted to postpone the start of school, too, make vacation last a little longer. Isn't that the teacher's perogative? Just today I puttered around the house putting away Christmas dishes, washing linens, redecorating the blog, adding a new widget (thank you, Anna), visiting friends, making turkey soup for dinner tomorrow and coffee cake for our church's after-Christmas brunch. I really like to putter; it's soothing to my soul. I also like to prepare- sometimes more than I like the doing.

One way we prepare for the New Year is to give calendars and new devotional reading plans to everyone in the family. Sometimes we give the calendars on Christmas, like this year, and sometimes on New Year's. And sometimes we also give new devotional Bibles on New Year's. So, as I am in between worlds, I will be posting my 2009 Devotional Reading schedule and sharing what our kids will be doing over the next week. If you're in between worlds or considering new Quiet Time options, come jump in the puddles with me.

December 24, 2008

Santa's Helper

Merry Christmas Eve! This is always my favorite part of Christmas because I love the anticipation. In fact, I think I like anticipating events and remembering them almost more than the events themselves. Probably because nothing quite ever lives up to the anticipation, nothing that is until we reach our heavenly home.
So, if you made it here today, I am assuming that you had a little time on your hands and maybe you have a few more minutes to check out the Shepherd's Press blog. There is a fantastic article on our words with our children using the analogy of being Santa's helper. And if you are here after Christmas, really, this article is for 365 days of the year. Not just for Christmas. So whatever day of the year it is, take some time to hear the wisdom .
And, have yourself a merry little Christmas!

December 22, 2008

The Promise of Spring

I came home from my walk the other day and started some weed-pulling and little bits of clean-up. I looked at my lilac and just saw the dying leaves and sticks. I was so discouraged. This is my second lilac and the first one I ended up killing. I get a little bit nervous about spending all that money only to lose it. But it was my "First Day of Spring" present and so I thought I would at least pull off all the unsightly leaves. Imagine my delight when I got close....
...the promise of new life. And what a sweet picture the Master Gardener and Creator of Gardens had just given me. My life looks like a winter garden- shriveled leaves barely hanging on, sticks poking up from hard ground, old debris littering the ground- but there is a promise of something beautiful to come. It might be just a tight little green bud right now, but it is going to cling steadfastly to its branch during all the rain and frost, the wind and cold, and then come spring when it feels the Son smile brightly upon it, that little bud is going to burst forth into a big, fat, fluffy, lilac sending its sweet fragrance forth like a song praising its Maker. So come on blustery winter, for I have the promise of eternal spring!

December 19, 2008

God's Purpose for Me II

"After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you." I Peter 5:10 NASB

or in the words of The Living Bible,

"He 'personally will come and pick you up, and set you firmly in place, and make you stronger than ever'." Elyse Fitzpatrick, A Steadfast Heart, (Phillipsburg,N.J.: P&R Publishing,2006), 96.

My purpose? To suffer for a little while, remaining steadfast, and then to be picked up, set firmly in place and made even more steadfast.

God's Purpose for Me I

{Daughter}" beloved by the Lord...God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the spirit and faith in the truth." 2 Thessalonians 2:13
I was "chosen before time began for salvation through His transforming power!"
Elyse Fitzpatrick, A Steadfast Heart, (Phillipsburg,N.J.: P&R Publishing,2006), 96.

December 18, 2008

The Place Where I Am

He brought me here;
It is by His will that I am in this difficult place; that I will rest.
He will keep me here
in His love,
and give me grace in this trial
to behave as His child.
He will make the trial a blessing,
teaching me the lessons
He intends me to learn,
and working in me the grace
He means to bestow.
in His good time He can bring me out again, and when He knows.
So... I am here
by His appointment,
in His keeping,
under His training,
for His time.
Andrew Murray

December 17, 2008

All I Want for Christmas

The Thorn

I stood a mendicant of God

before His royal throne

And begged Him for a priceless gift,

which I could call my own.

I took the gift from out His hand,

but as I would depart,

I cried "But, Lord, this is a thorn

and it has pierced my heart.

This is a strange, a hurtful gift

that Thou hast given me."

He said, "My child, I give good gifts

and give my best to thee."

I took it home and though at first,

the cruel thorn hurt sore;

As long years passed I learned at last

to love it more and more.

I learned He never gives a thorn

without this added grace,

He takes the thorn to pin aside...

the veil which hides His face.

Martha Snell Nicholson

December 16, 2008

The Christmas Bookshelf

Paula from Hopes Fulfilled shares a little bit of her family's Christmas reading:
I love this retelling of the Christmas story. Chuck Swindoll brings insights into all of the characters. It is one of our family favorites. We read a chapter each week - Ch. 1 focuses on Mary, Ch. 2 Joseph and Ch. 3 Gabriel.
I read of one review that read, "Chuck Swindoll gave the most understandable meaning I've ever read of why Jesus was the only way God could offer salvation to a fallen world. It has given me a fresh approach to this Christmas season and I highly recommend it."
It is a little over Bria's (7 years) but fine for Matt (9 years). This is a small book with gorgeous pictures and makes a wonderful gift. Also, I noticed that Insight for Living has a radio theater version of the book. I'm going to check it out!
Thank you for sharing, Paula, and that one looks like a keeper!

December 15, 2008

A Wintery Thought for Monday's Moody Musings

To appreciate the beauty of a snowflake, it is necessary to stand out in the cold.

Artwork by Malcolm

December 12, 2008

A Christmas Verse

But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. Luke 2:19

December 11, 2008

Being Merry

Our friend, worship pastor, and Hannah's piano teacher is also the director for Sonoma County Chamber Singers, thus we have been making every effort to attend his concerts. Last Friday night was a grand kick-off for December. Starting with a processional of "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," this musical feast contained several Latin pieces, the "Ave Maria," a beautiful rendition of the "Magnificat," and some rousing pieces about "Good Ale" and "Figgy Pudding." But the lyrics that caught my heart were from "A Virgin Unspotted" by the early American composer, William Billings.
"Then let us be merry, put sorrow away
Our Savior, Christ Jesus, was born on this day."

These days are a fight for joy, a continual conversation with myself reminding me of the glorious God and His grace all around me. It's learning to take delight in every moment, knowing that moment was part of God's bigger design for my life, whether it is
  • the sight of stark black limbs and bright orange fruit of a persimmon tree against a foggy morning walk
  • the sound of bickering brothers
  • the smell of cinnamon and cloves and yeasty yummies baking
  • the comforting touch of a hug
  • the heartache of facing a sin that I've forgotten is no longer my master

Being merry occurs when I choose, by God's grace, to take each moment as a gift, knowing Christ was the ultimate gift, living the life I couldn't, dying a death I won't need to, and conquering sin and offering me free salvation.

Today, I will put sorrow away.

December 10, 2008

Quotable Christmas

For the Christmas spirit is the spirit of those who, like their Master, live their whole lives on the principle of making themselves poor- spending and being spent- to enrich their fellow humans, giving time, trouble, care and concern, to do good to others- and not just their own friends- in whatever way there seems need.
J.I. Packer, Knowing God, "God Incarnate"

December 9, 2008

The Christmas Bookshelf

from Anna at Joy in Every Step "For the last few Christmas' we have gone through The Advent Jesse Tree by Dean Meador Lambert. We have a tree and set of ornaments that go along with the devotions in this book. I will be sharing more about it on my blog next week." Please do go meet Anna and her three adorable little girls. She was my inspiration for getting back into blogging and for favorite Christmas things.

This is the book that I am reading to the kids in the afternoons. I love it! The kids love it! Honestly, it could be read at any time of year because it is an analogy of salvation, wonderful gospel reading, and yet there is something special about reading it now. Starr Meade does a tremendous job of ending chapters with cliffhangers and so we are always left hungering for the next episode. This is not an advent book, but it certainly leads to the Christ of Christmas. As for ages, as an adult I am really enjoying trying to understand the analogy, my teens, 16 and 14 in a few weeks, are also eager to have it read and do not find it too simple, my very young 10 year old son is entranced and I think the story might be helping him understand the gospel. I do not think it is a book for much younger than eight years. But, it's a good read, so add it to the collection, read it, and decide for yourself.

December 8, 2008

Contemplating Christmas

My much anticipated Advent book arrived late last week. I was so excited! Fortunately, there are only 22 readings so I wasn't really behind. So what is this little Christmas wonder? Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus edited by Nancy Guthrie. The readings are a compilation of "works and sermons" by men of proven character such as George Whitefield, Martin Luther, Charles Spurgeon, and Augustine. Yet it also includes some of today's men who are faithfully bringing us the gospel: John Piper, Ligon Duncan, Randy Alcorn, John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, just to name a few. There are many more and even Joni Earackson Tada makes an appearance (which is good because I have read through her A Christmas Longing for the last two years). I love the variety. Martin Luther's chapter, "The Maiden Mary" was a delightful introduction to the man himself. He is very witty and, for a 16th century author, very concise and readable.
I've tried to incorporate some type of Advent book into my December Bible reading over the last few years, but have found truly meaty ones few and far between. This one not so, as these thoughts from George Whitefield's chapter, "Contemplating Christmas," demonstrate, "And as, my brethren, the time for keeping this festival is approaching, let us consider our duty in the true observation thereof, of the right way for the glory of God, and the good of immortal souls, to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ; an event which ought to be had in eternal remembrance" (12).
Whitefield then describes four ways of how we can best celebrate Christmas:
  • Read the Bible, " read that the King of kings and the Lord of lords came from his throne and took upon him the form of the meanest of his servants; and what great things he underwent" (12).
  • Pray, "...these things call for be earnest with God, that you may have an interest in this Redeemer, and that you may put on his righteousness..." (12).
  • Declare, or spend time in profitable conversation. Instead of talking about your clothes, parties, end of year bonuses or lack thereof, "let it be the wonders of redeeming love. O tell, tell to each other what great things the Lord has done for your souls" (13).
  • "Have a particular regard to your behavior...for indeed the eyes of all are upon you" (13). "Use the good things of this life with moderation...instead of running into excess, let that money which you might expend to pamper your own bodies, be given to feed the poor..." (13). Now is when they "commonly require relief" and as "Christ was always willing to relieve the distressed...can you better commemorate the birth of your King, your Savior..." (14)

Whitefield ends the chapter with this plea, " found in the ways of God; let us not disturb our dear Redeemer by any irregular proceedings; and let me beseech you to strive love, honor, and obey him, more than ever you have done yet; let not the devil engross your time, and that dear Savior who came into the world on your accounts have so little" (14).

What soul food this is! Not only good for contemplating Christmas, but truth for contemplating everyday.

December 5, 2008

A Christmas Prayer

O God,
Take me in spirit to the wathcful shepherds, and enlarge my mind;
Let me hear good tidings of great joy, and hearing,
my conscience bathed in an ocean of repose,
my eyes uplifted to a reconciled Father;
Place me with
to look with them upon my Redeemer's face
in Him account myself delivered from sin;
Let me with Simeon clasp the new-born child to my heart,
embrace Him with undying faith,
exulting that
He is mine
I am His.
In Him Thou has given me so much that heaven can give no more
The Valley of Vision

December 4, 2008

All Decked Out

It's Christmas! Can't you tell. I know, I know, you're wondering why I can't manage to decorate our home but I can get to the blog. Well, there's not rock grit all over the computer that continually has to be vacuumed. So, I'm making effort where I can.
We did something even more decadent today for reading time. Not having been to the grocery store for several days, and being somewhat short on time, but seriously desiring something sweet to accompany our reading we drove to the... The Village Bakery!
  • Hannah- a Bowtie (twisted puff pastry with cinammon sugary filling)
  • Malcolm- a frosted Mint Chocolate Brownie
  • Matthew- a very large Chocolate Cupcake with sprinkles and a candy Gingerbread man
  • Me- a Rasberry-Hazlenut Linzer Cookie

We came home and drank coffee stuff, and ate treaties, and read, and then... we fell asleep. Oh, the sheer bliss and luxury of wintery December days. Isn't God gracious?

December 3, 2008

Getting in the Mood

Yesterday I had everybody open the assignment binders and I slashed away at all the assignments! It was one of the first steps toward "getting in the mood" for Christmas.

The very first step was to start off the season reading chapter five of Knowing God by J.I. Packer. Why chapter five? Because it is "God Incarnate" and just the kind of soul food I needed. This chapter helps me "see and savor" (Piperism) the Savior of the Season.

My goal? To finish school by noonish on Tuesday and Wednesday and to have Christmas school (translate crafts, goodies, and movies) on Friday. So today school was done, I made hot chocolate, exploded it with whip cream, popped corn, and we sat down to read Keeping Holiday by Starr Meade. We made it through chapter one and I had to finish making the rolls for dinner. Imagine my pleasure at Malcolm's displeasure that we weren't reading another chapter! Rolls rising, we started chapter two!

December 2, 2008

Truths for a Tuesday

Instead of posting a new Scripture, I'm just going to share a quick truth about Psalm 119:75-77. I have this notation in my Bible because at one point I wanted to know what afflicted meant. According to Strong's, afflicted literally means to depress. Truly, look it up- #6031. That's why I'm keeping the verse for another week because it is promising me that God is being faithful to me. Regardless of my sorrow: remodeling, loss of cat, PMS (that's pre and post), seasonal, lack of sleep, discipline- God's steadfast love will comfort me.

December 1, 2008

Monday's Moody Musings

December 1st and I am not ready. Not decorated, not a single present bought, my new advent book has not arrived and honestly, I am not in the mood. I told a friend my eyes are like dams with the floodgates about to break. I am very much in the mood for Christ's birth, for a month of delighting in the idea that Christ lovingly became flesh and blood to live the life I couldn't. I'm just not in the mood for Christmas. I couldn't tell you why. Yes, I've been dealing with pervasive sorrow, maybe that's it. We're also doing some minor remodeling- removing a fireplace, replacing a wall, new paint, new carpet, new woodstove. So where is the Christmas tree supposed to go? And all the decorations are going to be covered up with plastic. Is it any wonder I'm not in the mood.? But the thing is, I do have three children and they are in the mood. They are so eagerly anticipating Christmas. And I want them to anticipate. I want them to have eyes of wonder. Thus my challenge is to start getting ready and to start thinking creatively of the things I can do amidst the rubble. I did pose the idea of individual, miniature trees and got booed for that. And it's ok that I'm not keeping up with the Joneses, because we are the Moody's and God knows what He wants this season to be like for us. I just need to be faithful each day to obey and teach my kiddos the wonder of the season that is God.

My friend, Anna, at Joy in Every Step had a wonderful post about Christmas music and it was so delightful responding to her request for favorite Christmas albums. Being an avid reader, I thought I would ask for favorite books of the season. So, I'll start it off with a couple of my favorites and then I would love to get suggestions from all of you who stop by!

Several years ago, my mom purchased three different copies of Joe Wheeler's Christmas in My Heart. Each year we were to read our copy and then mail it the next year along with the Christmas presents. It was such a delight to read my sister's comments and see the tear stains for these are sentimentality at it's best.
Another beauty is The Advent Book. This one features a fantastical door that you get to open like a pop-up book; behind the door is a bit of the Advent story. The year we used this one, we just repeated all the prior bits of the story every night and by Christmas Eve the kids had it memorized. This is a very sturdy book and will last through the grandchildren! We love exploring the intricately decorated doors.
So what will you be reading this Christmas?