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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Year in Review

Remarkably, we've come to the end of another year.  2013 was a life changing year for me for two major reasons: My mom died and we traveled to India.  My mother's death has given shape to my future now and has created an even closer bond with my father.  I remain grateful for the love of my parents, their abiding support of my life, and the joy we shared along the way.  It is still hard to grasp that my mom is really no longer a presence on earth, but I cherish the memories of my life with her.
India was also life changing for a number of reasons.  To experience a place that is so unlike the US and Sweden, to see the sweet spirit of the people, the sheer joy with which they embrace life in spite of difficulties is hard to take in.  Additionally, this trip brought us much closer to our Indian friends in the church, especially Lalit and Sujata Kumar, who we now refer to as our brother from a different mother and our sister from a different mister!  
Our beloved congregation, Immanuel International remains at the centerpiece of why we have remained in Sweden for these 15 years.  They are such an inspiring group of people and give us energy and joy for continued ministry.
For me, Doug and Tanner remain at the center of my life's joy.  They make me laugh, comfort my sorrow, share my journey and love me unconditionally.  What a gift to have both Doug and dog in my daily life!
What follows is a slide show of our year...it starts with New Year's in Saltsj√∂baden with our dear friends who also traveled to India with us.  The events that follow are these:
Officiating at the marriage of a dear friend from college
Conference in San Diego
Winter hiatus in Palm Springs in our cute little house
Confirmation camp
My mom's memorial
On the water and around town in our beautiful city
Moments with our church family
The wonderful summer boating in Stockholm's archipelago
Midsummer with sweet friends
Gorgeous sunsets taken at all hours of the day and night
Our week in the archipelago thanks to the generosity of the owners, also dear friends
Tanner antics and napping throughout!
4th of July celebration with 2 other Americans and a Malawian
More time on the water
Becoming Swedish citizens
Dad's wonderful July visit including the Cribbage board from our epic game where all 3 of us ended up in the stink hole!  Doug won.
Trip to Latvia by ferry
Picnics and tubing 
Wacky Wednesday featuring Dusty Dan and Sheriff Molly McClean
Visits from friends
Holiday in Sicily
A visit from President Obama
Gorgeous autumn in Stockholm
Birthday celebration 
Kids at church
INDIA!
Thanksgiving
Christmas
Sunset on the 30th of December at 3.00 p.m.
(The video is 8 minutes long.  That may seem like a lot but remember, it's 365 days, 52 weeks and 12 months of events!  The photographs maintain a clearer quality in the smaller frame.)



The music is from Rascall Flatts whose concert we enjoyed in Stockholm in July.  The second song is called My Wish.  Here are some of the lyrics:
I hope you never look back but you never forget
All the ones who love you and the place you left
I hope you always forgive and you never regret
And you help somebody every chance you get
Oh, you'd find God's grace in every mistake
And always give more than you take
But more than anything, yeah more than anything
My wish for you
Is that this life becomes all that you want it to
Your dreams stay big, your worries stay small
You never need to carry more than you can hold
And while you're out there gettin' where you're gettin' to
I hope you know somebody loves you
And wants the same things too
Yeah, this is my wish, yeah yeah
My wish for you
Is that this life becomes all that you want it to
Your dreams stay big, your worries stay small
You never need to carry more than you can hold

I suppose I could say that this encapsulates my wish for you, my wish for us at the end of 2013.  It is quite remarkable to review one's year through the beauty of photographs.  2013 was a very hard year in many ways and yet as it comes to a close I don't feel overwhelmed by sadness and loss.  I feel surrounded by love and a fullness of life.  I feel bolstered in my faith and look forward to 2014 with joy and anticipation.  I know sorrow awaits as well, but I am confident that my friends, my family and my faith will see me through the unexpected events of 2014.  I pray this will be your comfort as well.
Happy New Year.  
Thanks for reading!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

'Twas The Day After Christmas...

So...depending on where you are in the world, today is Annan Dag Jul (second day of Christmas in Sweden), Boxing Day, The Feast of St. Stephen (made famous in the carol Good King Wenceslas...he went out on the Feast of Stephen if you know the first line!) or in our case, wow, after a super busy season, we really have nothing we have to do today,day!  I'm savoring this quiet morning...watching the day break, candles lit, King's College Cambridge singing Christmas carols...peace and contentment are the reigning emotions.  Thankful. Blessed. Humbled.
So another Christmas season is over.  We've had a great time with our services and parties, culminating with our annual Christmas Open House yesterday.  Doug and I shared a quiet morning, sipping coffee, opening presents, enjoying a moment together.  Doug enjoyed opening his gifts that eventually revealed a trip a London Jan. 6-9 to visit friends and see the show Spamalot.  We've been wanting to see this musical based on Monty Python's Search for the Holy Grail for many years and when I saw that it had returned to London, I jumped at the chance!  This is what he opened that revealed the show!
Meanwhile, I opened up a beautiful new glass pitcher to replace the one that shattered a few weeks ago, a practical and nice looking new bag for my computer and other work stuff, and a spa day.  My hubby knows me well!  Soon it was time to kick it into high gear and get ready to welcome 80 of our closest church members to enjoy our annual Christmas feast!  Doug began setting up the house and I began mixing, chopping, and fixing!  My helper elves began to arrive around 2.00 and they rolled the sausages in dough for the pigs in a blanket, peeled carrots, arranged the gravad (cured) lax on a platter and generally helped me get it all ready to serve!  We tasted the good stuff along the way and enjoyed the camaraderie of sharing in the kitchen tasks!  Soon the tables were ready, the cider was hot, and people began arriving.  All in all we likely had between 80-90 come through this year.    There were few left overs this year and my homemade toffee and chocolate chip cookies remain a big hit!  I'm thankful that most of it is gone as I need to stop eating it!
No snow or ice impeded people and we had a great time!  Our friend Jen thrilled the adults and children alike by donning the famed Santa Suit and we rounded out the Christmas Carol preaching series by showing The Muppet Christmas Carol for the kids!  
The gathering brings us joy and there are fewer things I love more than to make good food and watch people enjoy it!  It's such a wonderful way to finish out the Christmas season and since today is a holiday in Sweden, it's great to gather on Christmas day evening!  
We always receive many lovely gifts, loads of chocolate and flowers from people joining us.  This year we received an incredibly beautiful and diverse array of flowers!  I love each and every one of them and want to savor their beauty for a long as I can!  It's good to get some new ones in.  My poinsettias and hyacinth are now on the wane!  They've served me well throughout this Advent and Christmas season!
I ended the day by Skyping with my dad.  Poor guy has had a terrible sinus infection.  Fortunately he got into the Dr. on Christmas eve which was quite important as he needed to get started on antibiotics.  So he's been in bed for much of the holidays but he said he didn't really mind because it kept his mind off my mom being gone.  We've missed her for sure. It was so nice to talk with my dad via Skype, see his face, share our happenings.  It is now just about a month until we leave for the US so we're excited about that.
Tonight we're invited to dear friends for their annual Christmas Turkey dinner.  They live up the street from us so it's very nice to simply walk up there and enjoy a feast that someone else has prepared.
I feel so blessed.  Our life is so rich.  We are so thankful for our church family who enrich our lives in every way possible, for the love of family, even though they are far away from us, for friends near and far who we continue to enjoy seeing and hearing from.  Christmas is over but the spirit of Christ is alive and well in my heart. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gifts.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Reflections on our Christmas Eve

It is now Christmas Day morning.  8.00 a.m. Still quite dark.  And quiet. I'm savoring the memories of our wonderful evening and looking forward to opening presents with Doug and then getting ready for our Open House.
We had a most wonderful Christmas eve.  The service was just lovely beginning with the lighting of the Christ Candle. The littlest one had the giggles when they first took their places.  But then he fulfilled his duties well by getting the tall, white Christ Candle lit.
It was particularly moving to watch this family light the candle as the father had lost his sister to cancer just this past week.  The service was filled with beautiful instrumental and sung music, and in keeping with our Dickens Christmas Carol theme, were encouraged to embrace Bob Cratchit's vision for Christmas...be generous and thankful and forgiving.  Not always so easy but a good sentiment to instill in our hearts.  Singing the old favorites, sharing in the lighting of candles while singing Now Shine A Thousand Candles Bright and Silent Night, savoring the joy of being gathered with our church family.
...these things I do treasure in my heart.After the service, we headed up to our dear friends house as has become our tradition over the past several years.  We delight in their hospitality and love being in their warm and beautiful home.  The kids don't live in Stockholm any more so we don't get to see them very often and we love being with them.  They are fantastic young people who add lots of joy to our lives.  I can't believe I didn't get a photograph of them together!
After a spectacular ham dinner, we indulged in this peppermint creation.  It was so good and so rich that the food coma of Christmas was complete!  We ended the evening by exchanging gifts and then played a game where you pass around loads of silly gifts by following certain instructions on a paper you draw out of a bowl.  It was a great time.
We were finally home at 12.30.  
Now it is early on Christmas morning.  I'm savoring yesterday before I begin making memories of today. 
Christmas Eve: A treasured worship service, time with dear friends, a Savior given.  Now that's what I call a great day!  
Even Tanner wants in on wishing you well!
Merry Christmas loved ones!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Advent Journey Day 23

Christmas eve is tomorrow.  Wow.  All 4 of the Sunday Advent candles are now lit.  My calendar candle has almost burned to the stem.  I'm listening to Christmas music, enjoying the scent of my cranberry frost candle, and making a list and checking it twice.  Not to see who has been naughty or nice but to make sure I don't forget anything over the next two days!  I'll be wrapping presents, baking cookies, making toffee, finalizing preparations for our Christmas Eve service, and making sure all of the food is in place for the Open House on Wednesday.  It's a beautiful day here, so we'll try to walk Tanner while it is still light outside, which means we need to get a move on since it's already 11.00 a.m. and by 2.50 p.m. today we'll be into the evening!  

Date: 23 Dec 2013
Sunrise: 08:44
Sunset: 14:49
Length of today: 6h 05m 01s
                     







Well, at least today is 12 seconds longer than Saturday was!  Happy to be heading out of the darkness!I think we'll go out for Indian food tonight as we have a nice Groupon and it allows us to not have leftovers to put in our fridge since it is already quite full with party food!  I'm thankful that I only have to make a trip to the corner grocery store and not do any real shopping today.  But enough about me.  What are you going to do today?  
We are lucky.  Tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday are bonafide holidays here in Sweden so many people also took today to scurry around and finish getting ready for tomorrow.  Christmas Eve is THE day that Swedes celebrate Christmas.  Many will start by watching Donald Duck cartoons at 3.00 p.m. and from there eat the traditional Jul Bord with ham, meatballs, several kinds of herring, cheeses, salads, etc. Then Tomte (their version of Santa Claus) comes and they open their gifts that evening.  Some will go to midnight mass at a nearby church.  Christmas day is just for sleeping in and relaxing.  Many will go the movies on Dec. 26.  
Internationals celebrate in so many different ways that we actually have our service at 4.00 p.m. on Christmas Eve.  We will have a nice cookie and coffee and tea fika afterwards and then head on our ways to celebrate in whatever different ways we choose.  
Whatever the next couple of days look like for you and yours, I hope you will pause to give thanks for the bounty you enjoy.  The fact that you can read this blog means you have some form of Internet connection and that in and of itself is a real privilege and gift.  If hardship is part of your journey this year, I pray you will seek peace in the Christ-child and find comfort in the reality that God chose to come near to us and dwell among us so that we might know a Savior who truly understands our every need and emotion.  Don't let these Christmas days blur into busyness.  Savor your traditions.  Love on your family.  Miss those who aren't with you, kiss those who are with you, and celebrate the child, the Christ-Child, who was born in Bethlehem to lead us all home to safety and light.  
I hope and pray that by being on an advent journey you feel better prepared to enjoy the Christ event.  Advent is now over, but in case you need a little reminder of what it has been all about, check out this video.  I love the line, "Advent is the expectant waiting, hopeful anticipation & cheerful preparation of God breaking into our lives."  It ends with "If you are sick of Christmas by December 25, you haven't done Advent correctly!"
And so my dear friends, I hope that all of the preparations that have been occupying your time have readied you to dig in and enjoy the joy that is ours through Christ our Lord. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Advent Journey Day 22: 4th Sunday in Advent

We made it!  4 Sundays of Advent have now passed and Christmas eve is the day after tomorrow!  We had a wonderful day today.  I preached on The Ghost of Christmas to Come continuing our series of contrasting Dickens' The Christmas Carol with texts from Isaiah. Because the love of God is so deep and his reach so long, it is never too late for us to begin living into a more hopeful future. But the legacy we want to have when we're gone begins being built today.  So start now to live into the legacy that God wants you to have!  The music was lovely and prepared us well for being on the brink of Christmas!
We had a special baby dedication today as well.  Little Isaac was born with downs syndrome and some serious heart and stomach problems.  We almost lost him a few times and the entire church was rallied around this family, praying for his recovery.  They spent months in the hospital.  They have an older son, who is 2.5 years old, and he's a real bundle of energy.  He was pretty excited about the events that were unfolding today!
Anyway...today was the day to bring Isaac before the throne of God's grace and bless his little life. It was a great moment.  Baby Isaac was quite fascinated with Pastor Doug's microphone! The mother just rejoiced with total glee when we sang the song of welcome.   It was a special moment for our church family and for Isaac's family.  
So now we have just a few more hours until we celebrate the birth of Christ.  I hope your advent journey has readied you for the joy and celebration that now awaits us.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Advent Journey Day 21

December 21st has always meant a lot to me.  It is the day my parents got married back in 1957.  I loved looking at their wedding pictures when I was a kid.  I thought they had the most beautiful wedding I could ever imagine.  And even today, as I look at these photos, it really was just a perfect winter wedding.  The men in classy black tuxedos and the women in red velvet...I envied that flower girl dress my whole life!I did end up wearing her gown when I got married, something I had always wanted to do.
And so today, for the first time in 56 years, my dad is alone.  And it's a little sad for me and I'm sure for him too.  I'm so thankful for the marriage my parents enjoyed and for the beautiful family life they created for me and my brother.  There are times when it's still hard to believe that it's really just me and my dad now, but I'm ever grateful that we share such a close relationship.  He's doing really well in spite of the loss and I'm really proud of him.  He still made peanut brittle and gave it out to people, he sent out an electronic Christmas greeting, he bought some presents for some children whose families he's close to...it warms my heart.  He'll go to his club's Christmas party tonight and bring one of his specialities...deviled eggs.  They go in a hurry so he always keeps a couple back for him and my uncle, who lives across the street from him and also lost his wife a few months after my mom died.  Of course, this first go 'round with special events after a person dies is always a little tough but it's also a great day to savor the memories of the gifts that person gave to you along the way.  We miss my mom but we are thankful that she's no longer sick.  I'm so grateful that my dad is healthy and handling his new way of being and living with such grace and generosity.  I'll continue to look at the photos from my parents' wedding and feel the magic of that special day, 56 years ago, that gave me this wonderful life that I enjoy.  I know that their relationship was a great joy for both of them and it's still hard to believe that their earthly union has ended.  But we do look forward to the heavenly reunion that awaits us all one day.  For now, I'm happy to savor the many sweet memories of my mother and look forward to continuing to make many more with my dear father.  Peace to your memory today mom.  You are loved and missed.  

Friday, December 20, 2013

Advent Journey Day 20

Today was a busy day filled with the full spectrum of my responsibilities as pastor, pastor's wife, host, and friend!  I spent the morning and early afternoon checking programs for the coming week and writing my sermon for Sunday, the 4th of Advent. My focus is on "The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come" in keeping with our contrast of Dickens and Isaiah.  I've loved it.  It's been incredibly rich on a number of levels.  Once I finally finished a draft and put together my slides for the service, I was ready to do something different. So I called a close friend in the US to see how her Christmas was shaping up.  Then we walked our dog.  After we got home, I decided that I needed to bake more cookies in order to get ready for our Open House on Christmas day.  So I mixed up some dough and made some sugar cookies followed by some more chocolate chip cookies.  Time was racing away so after a nice Skype chat with my dad, I started to make tacos for dinner because we had invited a good friend over for food and a movie.  I must say, I was pleased with the guacamole even though I kind of threw it together!  Finally we sat down and watched the Muppet Christmas Carol, especially fun because our aforementioned preaching a series.  The Muppet take was great way to encounter the story.
As this day is now coming to an end, I'm thinking about how many different hats I wear in my life. I love them all, but sometimes I do wonder what it would be like to just be a pastor and not also a pastor's wife or to just be a wife and not be a pastor as well.  And while at times it would be nice to just have to bake the cookies or write the sermon, instead of doing both, I think at the end of the day, I would miss the other tasks quite a bit.  I'm lucky to have a great partner in Doug who also functions as a pastor's husband and a pastor...sometimes it's complicated but more often than not it's wonderful.  I'm thankful for the complimentary gifts we've been given that allow us to live into these roles in fun, joyful and satisfying ways.
I hope that whatever your vocation or calling is at this present time, you see God's grace laced throughout it and you are able to enjoy the various tasks that are yours in any given day.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Advent Journey Day 19

 Every year in the midst of the demands of the Christmas season, Doug and I try to find one night when we can go down to Gamla Stan (Old Town), wander through the Christmas market and walk home while enjoying the beauty and splendor of our fair city.  Stockholm is a beautiful city no matter the season and at Christmas, even without a flake of snow, it's pretty magical.  
So today I will let my photographs speak my message. 
The gigantic Christmas tree (actually several trees molded into one) that sits out by the water in front of Gamla Stan.

Love this set up outside of a restaurant.  People traditionally put the greens on the ground as a natural place to wipe your feet before entering.
Iconic look at the famous Gamla Stan buildings with the Christmas market booths in front of them.
One of several booths in the Gamla Stan Christmas market. 
Most Swedes will eat a lot of fish at Christmas including herring of many tastes.  As for me, this photo will do! 
The korv man is always a hit!
The free samples of elk, moose, and reindeer are fun to taste.
The sign says, "You only get real kisses under real mistletoe!"
 Doug and I stole a real kiss in front of the sign while huddled under the real mistletoe.
I L-O-V-E this candle booth!  The candles are so beautiful and right now,
we need all the light we can get!
The bread booth.  Delicious Swedish rye bread on sample.  mmmm. 
Kungsgatan...one of the main drags in central Stockholm, all dressed up for Christmas!
The long view over the water across one of the bridges to
Royal Palace.  The light fixtures are laced with these beautiful white lights.
 
Always good to pause in the midst of the demands to share some love and create some memories
with the one you love the most!

Hope you enjoyed this little Jul Hälsning (Christmas greeting) from Stockholm!


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Advent Journey Day 18

We watched a most delightful documentary tonight called "Becoming Santa."  It was about a man who wanted to add some joy to his life so he decided to go to Santa School (I know, right, who knew this existed?!) in order to take on the role.  It was surprisingly good and quite well done.  You can get it on Netflix if you are a subscriber.
I have quite a few Santas in my house.  
This guy sits up on atop our china cabinet watching over the living room.  He's big and lovely, all set for the Scandinavian winter with his skis in tow...although this year we've barely had a flake so it's a good thing he has sturdy boots too because it's mainly mud he needs to trudge through!  But as I watched film, I was struck by the wonder that Santa's presence brings into children's lives.  I suppose that's why it's fun to believe in Santa Claus and perpetuate the myth.  Have you ever played Santa?  It's pretty fun.  Kids love you and even if they know who you are, suddenly they are taken to a new place with you.  One of the more memorable lines in the film was how people find their bliss and live into it.  Have you ever considered what your bliss is?  And are you living into it? What brings you joy?  And what are you doing that brings others joy?  Often our deepest joy comes from bringing happiness to others.  I've been baking cookies and making toffee and having people over.  It's what I do at Christmas.  It makes me happy and it brings others joy.  What a great combination!  
I think that's why Jesus has told us that our deepest joy will be found in serving others.  It gives witness to the paradoxical truth that putting others first is good for others, but it's also good for us!  So find your bliss!  Wrap up a goofy white elephant present and have a good laugh with friends. Watch outtakes from a funny movie.  Do something nice for someone in secret and savor the joy you have brought into another person's life.  Maybe in our own little way it's how we all become a little more like Santa, oh and hopefully a little more like Jesus too.
Oh, and if you haven't seen anything that brings you joy today, here's a picture of one of Santa's reindeers that somehow ended up on our bed.
It's quite impossible in my mind to look at this and not be filled with joy!  HoHoHo. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Advent Journey Day 17

We've been contrasting Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol with texts from Isaiah as we've journeyed through Advent with our church.  This has been incredibly rich from a preacher's point of view for both of these old texts are still rich with lessons and meaning for our lives today.  
Sometimes, even at Christmas, people don't always like what the preacher has to say!
While Dickens gives us a stark portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge's misguided life, Isaiah illustrates for us the deep commitment to redemption and restoration that God longs for his people to have through the advent of Jesus Christ.  Of course, for Scrooge, redemption comes in the end, but not after it has been revealed to him that he's wounded from his past, selfish in his present and in need of change in order to alter the future.  Who among us is much different than that?  Sunday's service focused on our need to care for those wanting and deal with our ignorance.  You may recall that ignorance and want were the names of the huddled children that the ghost of Christmas present revealed to Scrooge under his large cloak.  One of the main points was that the materialism of the west creates oppression for the least of these in our world.  The point was not that we should not give gifts or enjoy the bounty that is ours but rather that we need to balance the way in which we share and manage our resources.  Doug cited The National Retail Federation's projection for retail sales in the US to come in around 601 billion dollars, up from 466 billion dollars last year as evidence that our sharing of resources in our world might be a bit off.  While he noted America, he made it clear that the entire western world was part of this over indulgent trend.  I found it challenging...to consider how balanced our charitable giving is against our leisure spending.  
Someone fairly new to our church didn't like his point.  In fact, the exact comment was, "The portraying of the U. S. as being over-indulgent and uncaring was uncalled for and mean-spirited."  I'm not sure Doug was portraying the US as uncaring, but over-indulgent...well, that seems quite obvious from my point of view.  After a more understanding correspondence, another comment was, "Is there no place for peace of mind?  No place to revel in love and caring without being bombard with agendas or dealing with issues?  I thought it could be church but guess there are agendas too which is fine and great that you are trying to motivate your congregation into action.  I guess we'll just have to try and decide is it right for us."  
I find this so interesting and sad.  Why in the world would you think that the church would be a place where you don't deal with issues?  I used to get this often when I was chaplain at North Park. If my emphasis was on doing justice or seeking to act compassionately in a world of pain and injustice, some students would cry, "Why can't you just talk about the love of Jesus and not be so political?  Why can't we just focus on discipleship?"  I never understood that.  Does not the love of Jesus, the peace of Jesus that the above mentioned person so longs for come through the grace of God but is then lived out in service to the poor and in pursuit of justice and mercy for humanity?  Is our discipleship also not measured in how well we care for those on the margins of society?  So much of what Jesus taught and how he lived reveals this in such clear ways.  Even so, the rich, the mighty, the privileged...not interested. It seems that some just want a feel good, God loves me just the way I am so therefore I have no need to change my way of living and being kind of religion.  To be fair, this person was quick to name how many charities they support and that's great.  Many privileged, rich and mighty folks are generous and do give, but it seems they want to keep the real issues at bay.  But I believe that our discipleship must also include the ability to talk about hard things and be challenged and also learn to know those who live on the edges of our societies.  It's great to send money.  It's better to come face to face with what it really means to put others above yourself, in the same way that Christ did.
Is not Micah one of the prophets we read at Christmas and is it not Micah who stated, "I have shown you what the lord requires of you: Do Justice, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly with your God?"  It troubles me that it is often those with privilege and power who balk about these teachings.  It seems that often people don't want to hear about the hard realities, like the fact that the western world is hugely wasteful and over indulgent.  Even if the west is also hugely generous, one cannot dispute the reality of our waste.  
OK, sermon over.  Venting finished.  What to do?  Be willing to hear the whole gospel, not just the bits that affirm what you want to hear.  Allow yourself to be challenged, theologically and sociologically.  Try to see the world through different lenses.  And listen, I mean really listen to what the prophets are saying to us as we wait for the birth of Christ once again.  And then, listen, and I mean really listen, to all that Jesus has to say to us as well.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Advent Journey Day 16

I truly love Christmas flowers.  They are hearty for they can endure cold temperatures.  And they change, right before your very eyes.  When you first buy hyacinth or amaryllis, they are mere stems shooting up out of dirt.  But over time, something happens and they begin to open up into beautiful, fragrant flowers that grace the Christmas atmosphere.  I love having them around the house and always look forward to watching their progress.  The hyacinth all up and out now, spilling their fragrance all the house.  The amaryllis flower is finally beginning to make it's way into the world.  We received this back on Thanksgiving and have been waiting for it to bloom ever since!  The stalk went up quite tall before the flower began to show its head.




 I love the winter flowers.  They are hearty and they take a little time to flower and bloom.  But then once they do, they last for quite a long time.  Life requires heartiness at times.  We must hang in there when the flower of our lives is absent, knowing that someday, the bloom will appear.  We've been waiting now in Advent for 3 Sundays.  One more Sunday and just a couple of more days until Christmas eve.  The beauty of Christmas awaits us if we can endure the times when our lives are not bright with beautiful blooms.  But just as God is at work in the soil of these flowers, so it's true that He's at work in our lives...cultivating, readying, preparing us...for whatever beauty he will bring next.  May our waiting be marked by hope because of God's amazing work...however out of sight it may feel to you just now.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Advent Journey Day 15: 3rd Sunday in Advent

We lit the pink candle of joy today!  Rejoice!  After the service, we enjoyed the Children's Christmas program.  The premise was very cute...a group of stars: Shooting Star, Falling Star, Rock Star, Lucky Star, North Star, and Super Star were discussing the new star that arrived over Bethlehem.  One of the songs talked about what a great view they had to see all that God was doing in the world.  It was cool and cute!  One of the best schticks was when the good news was given to a "band" of shepherds.  The four shepherds kicked into action with their guitar, recorder, tambourine, and little hand piano!  Cracked me up.
I just love encountering the Christmas story through the eyes of children.  After all, the prophet Isaiah tells us that a little child shall lead us so perhaps there's something really pure and refreshing about watching the kids tell this old, old story in new and fresh ways.  It's always a day of joy when the kids do their thing...perfect for the 3rd Sunday in Advent...the pink candle, the candle of joy.  The waiting is almost over...another reason to rejoice!