This morning, my neck of the woods woke up to eight inches of snow. I know it was eight inches because my dear husband literally took a tape measure outback to precisely check for himself!!
We typically only end up with a dusting to a few inches when it snows; so this amount of snow is a rare treasure for us—well maybe not for those who aren’t a fan. I’m loving the beauty of today’s winter wonderland though, it’s the messy roads in the days to come I don’t really favor however!
Beautiful, pure-white snow.
Isaiah’s message of warning to a rebellious nation of Israelites comes on behalf of the Lord in Isaiah 1:18-20 and has this to say:
“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
(Bold and italics added by me for the lesson)
Boy if those words don’t sound like we’re just as in need of that warning (today) as Israel and Judah were all those years ago!!!
There are two “ifs” to choose from in that piece of scripture, and depending on the “if” chosen the results are drastically different.
In verse 20b, choosing the second if, consisting of resistance and rebellion, would leave a person in the permanency or stain of deep scarlet-red sin…devoured by the sword.
But by choosing the first if in verse 19, the crimson color that once stood out so boldly from sin, would be entirely replaced with a pure and calm white—the color of snow or wool. Choosing this if requires willingness and obedience but leads to satisfaction or a reward given by the Lord, “you will eat the good things of the land.”
This beautiful, pure in color, dazzling in the sunlight, white snow outside my house windows sets the stage for the reminder that I want to willingly and obediently stand in the presence of God’s desire daily—to “eat the good things of the land,” as quoted.
The message given in Isaiah chapter one—sin cleansed white as snow—was as much for the people of that time as it is for us now. Jesus’ sacrificial blood shed on the cross and his resurrection washed away those crimson colored sin-stains we once carried; and though we’ll continually sin (this side of Heaven) Jesus makes those sins white as snow as we place our faith in Him, seek forgiveness as needed, and remain in unity with Him through a healthy relationship.
Choosing and following Jesus, points us to choose that first “if” in Isaiah 1:19—may we be ever thankful, never taking for granted, but instead praising God for the removal of permanent crimson stain and the washing and cleanness of our sins, white as snow, all because of His magnificent love for us.
I’ll start off by saying I know Jesus is, without a doubt, the one and only reason for the Christmas season. PERIOD! …BUT I’d be lying if I said I don’t get excited about the extra shimmer and dazzle that oozes it’s way into this time of year!
I love decorating with holly and berries while a cozy fire crackles in our wood burning stove, stirring up a batch of homemade chocolate chip cookies, listening to Micheal Bublé’s ‘White Christmas’ …wrapping presents and sipping hot cocoa…
As much as I love the indoor Christmas traditions our family has created, I equally love the part of decorating outdoors.
We live in an area of the United States where pretty flowers and plants don’t do too well in the cold temperatures, so anything that grew in flower pots over the summer usually dries out and then gets pulled once the cold weather comes but the empty pots leave nothing to be desired.
This year, as a first for me, I had dressed up my empty planters with an autumn style and looked forward to changing them up for a Christmas look.
Today I’ll do a quick run through showing how I threw these together!
Empty planters (mine are still filled with soil)
Birch or aspen branches
Yucca seed pods and stems
Faux flowers, berries, icicles (Hobby Lobby)
Evergreen sprigs/wreath (real or artificial)
Pinecones and acorns
Small Christmas sign (Wal-Mart)
I started by adding the branches and yucca stems to the center of my larger flower pot.
I then added the berries, icicles, and Christmas sign, and finally filled in the remaining bare spots using a combination of real evergreen sprigs, pinecones, and acorns.
In the smaller flower pot I first placed an artificial evergreen wreath to fill the outer area of the pot. Then I used two large artificial flowers for the center, and lastly arranged pinecones in the leftover empty spaces.
And here’s the final result!
That’s all there is to it and the possibilities are endless! Let me know if you end up “sprucing” up your empty planters for the Christmas season!
I’m also including an advent reading plan that our family has used over the past few years. While my kids are getting ready for school in the mornings I try to read them the verse of the day from the Bible YouVersion app but during the Christmas season we switch it up to gear toward Jesus and His birth. And below is the reading plan we use by alyssajhoward.com. Feel free to print it off and use it for your own Christmas advent reading plan!
Enjoy and sweet weekend blessings to you and yours!!
Thanksgiving in the U.S. is right around the corner, and with it comes the tendency to oftentimes jump into overdrive taking inventory of our blessings! I never want it to be the stereotypical thing for me or my family to do so I’ve tried to be better about counting blessings of thankfulness YEAR-ROUND instead.
Research shows that when we concentrate on an attitude of gratitude, giving notice and calling out the things we’re thankful for it leads to:
Growing our relationship with Jesus, overall happiness, better mental health, positive relationships, higher energy levels, improved self-esteem, mercy and grace for ourself and others, creates positive thought patterns, lowers stress and anxiety, plus it causes us to be present in the moment.
Recently I picked up a small, blank notebook from the store to serve as a gratitude journal and have been journaling little notes of thankfulness. I’ve not made it an everyday thing at this point but I aim to. There’s a ton of good resources on Pinterest or Google to spur ideas on gratitude topics, including sentence starters.
Gratitude encourages us to look at the glass half full rather than half empty. It takes practice like any good habit but it is achievable and so worth the effort!!
“Gratitude can boost neurotransmitter serotonin and activate the brain stem to produce dopamine. Dopamine is our brain’s pleasure chemical. The more we think positive, grateful thoughts, the healthier and happier we feel.” Cerebral Cortex
I’m subbing today so my time is short while my class is at music, but wanted to share with you a poem my youngest daughter wrote. I’ll leave you with her words as a Thanksgiving blessing and also share a picture of our planters on our front porch. I couldn’t stand seeing them empty during these cold months so I dressed them up for fall and am already looking forward to changing them up for Christmas! I’ll maybe do a DIY as I decorate them for Christmas!
Until next time, sweet autumn blessings and a Happy Thanksgiving!!!
Leaves fall red, brown, yellow. In the distance neighbors say hello.
Hey there!! I realize my posts have been few and far between this year but right now I have time to write, along with a message of encouragement so I’m gonna take advantage of it!!
In our neck of the woods I am surprised camels haven’t shown up with the drought we’re experiencing! The heat from the sun has poured down heavily and meanwhile rain has been almost nonexistent. Crops, cows, and farmers would quickly attest to that!!
My own front yard which consists of what is typically hardy buffalo grass has even felt the sting of a dry, sweltering summer.
Buffalo grass usually looks after itself and can withstand warm temperatures with little watering required and still maintain a nice, healthy, pale green color. My husband and I noticed recently, however, that even our once strong grass was now fading to golden hues, with curled edges and in some areas there was nothing but large patches of dirt where grass once grew.
We needed to quickly improvise if we were gonna keep up on curb appeal with our yard. A trip to Ace ensued where we purchased a standing, rotation sprinkler and once we were home we set it up and turned it on immediately! No joke within one watering session there was a dramatically, noticeable difference. That ground along with its sprigs of grass was thirsty. Very thirsty. And it soaked up that longing for water while almost simultaneously producing fresh, green nourished results in return.
What a spiritual lesson in the midst…
As Christians we experience seasons of what feels like our own personal or internal drought. Jobs, relationships, health…they don’t always measure up to our expectations and therefore can leave us feeling depleted or dehydrated. At times, rather than reaching for Jesus (the only way we can quench our desperate position) we instead stay dormant much like my buffalo grass.
To overcome, action must take place!! My buffalo grass wouldn’t get better on its own without intervention. The same is true for us…
We must reach for our Bibles. Open them and immerse ourselves in God’s word and believe His truths for our good and His glory.
Just like the sprinkler in my yard is hooked up to its life source to replenish our buffalo grass…we have the greatest life source of all, Jesus has sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within us—to guide, remind, comfort and direct—and to connect us with the Father as we communicate our prayers and praises.
We have the blessing of music and the ability to saturate our heart, soul, and ears with rich, meaningful worship of our Savior—filling us with amazing, satisfying hope. Let’s tune in!
We surround ourselves around likeminded Christians…none of that lukewarm stuff, that’s where the weeds have a chance to overtake…we need the fellowship of true, authentic Christ followers to spur us along for encouragement and growth in our faith!
Everyday we should thirst for Jesus’ overflowing goodness.
We are most certainly capable of staying spiritually hydrated when we make a conscious effort to keep inventory of our current condition and then follow up with action that draws hope from Jesus, the source of Living Water!! (Read John ch.4)
Soak Him up sweet friends!!Blessings this weekend!!
Today’s post will be short and sweet on words—I’ll let the pictures do most of the work!
Last week we vacationed to Moab, Utah. Since we live in Nebraska it made sense to do kind of a circle through Colorado, hit up Moab (which is near the western border of Colorado) and then drive the southern highway of Colorado on the way home. By doing this we were able to change up the scenery a bit on the way there and back.
Welcome to our road trip:
***The cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde are some of the most notable and best preserved in North America. Sometime during the late 1190s, after primarily living on the mesa tops for 600 years, many Ancestral Pueblo people began moving into pueblos they built into natural cliff alcoves. The structures ranged in size from one-room granaries to villages of more than 150 rooms. While still farming the mesa tops, they lived in cliff dwellings, repairing, remodeling, and constructing new rooms for nearly a century. In the mid-1200s, the population began migrating to the south, into present-day New Mexico and Arizona. By the end of the 1200s, most everyone had migrated away. ***Info noted at nps.gov
Looking through these pictures I’m reminded all over again that we have an amazingly, creative God! He didn’t have to bless us with an array of color as he paints the sunrises and sunsets each day, or allow us the challenge of climbing and hiking his self-made obstacle courses through rigid mountains.
Landscapes aren’t in short supply, God has perfectly placed them all over the world and we get the opportunity to explore and praise Him because of this. We can see evidence of Him in the beauty of His creations! Nothing to be taken for granted.
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. —Psalms 19:1
Where is, or has been, one of your favorite places to visit, seeing God’s handprint throughout? Maybe it’s even your own backyard…
My little nephew, Jensen, had a sleepover with us and anytime this happens, as long as the weather cooperates, you can usually find us outdoors.
A fast-paced game of tag might be happening (FYI I’m the tagger a majority of the game because I’m not as quick as I once was!!)…other times a soccer ball is getting kicked around, or bunnies and chickens are getting spoiled with hand-fed fresh greens from the yard.
Last night though the kids spotted a perfectly whole robin egg settled against the grass and very carefully my nephew had picked it up and brought it to me to examine. We walked back over to where he’d found it and from what we could tell there wasn’t a visible nest in sight!!
To a six year old a small misplaced egg is a big deal so we patiently wandered the backyard in search of it’s original home.
As the sunset sky grew to darker shades I knew we’d better choose an alternative option—a vacant dilapidated nest (most likely leftover from last year) that we’d found in a low branch of an apple tree would have to do!
We gently placed the round treasure amongst the old brittle looking bed of tightly packed mud mixture and then the young nature lover next to me scooped up a handful of grass and placed it over top, “for a blanket Aunt Alicia.”
Oh my heart.
That egg doesn’t stand a chance—not after the shaking it received earlier to “see if there was anything inside” or never mind the fact that it’s in an old nest without a mama to warm and hatch it, and who knows how long it’s already sat in our backyard.
…But to my nephew it was worth every effort of saving.
I share this sweet and dedicated story this morning because I’m reminded that there are times in life when we too notice ourselves left hopelessly on the ground—we’re emotionally, physically, or spiritually down.
And it’s in those moments (and even in the good times) it’s crucial that we look up, our gaze fixed on Him.
God willingly scoops us up into the palm of His hands, placing us exactly where He wants us if we allow Him to. And sometimes it may not make any sense. Sometimes our situation may not even change in the midst of His rescuing. For a time we may still feel much like an abandoned blue egg wondering what’s become of our fragile selves and if we stand a chance.
But God doesn’t leave us all alone. He’s with us and nurturing us from His heavenly realm regardless of what Satan tries to tell us.
…To God we are worth every effort of saving.
In our frustration.
In our bitterness.
In our anger.
In our hurt.
In our confusion.
He won’t give up on us.We lean into God with every fiber of our being and it’s then we expectantly watch and experience His transformation process breaking through in our lives.
Isaiah 43:18-19 has this to say:
Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.
Those words don’t mimic a God who would allow abandonment do they?
Instead He provides a way…the only Way.
Our God is working and moving in our lives, even if we can’t see past the shell around us and just at the right time He hatches something beautiful and remarkable in our story. He always has a perfectly divine plan but we must be willing to soften to His ways.
The reality is, the robin egg in my backyard isn’t going to have the opportunity to hatch but that doesn’t mean it’s a wasted moment. God still used it to give Jensen a chance to show care and concern. It still offered a hope-filled lesson and provided a story For His Purpose…
Isn’t it interesting how God can teach into us even in the littlest details if we’re willing to be attentive?
I thought since I’m just getting back into the swing of blogging again, today’s post will be light…but “sharp.”
Some of you may remember last summer, the post about mine and my oldest daughter’s brilliant idea to buy three hermit crabs when we vacationed at South Padre Island.
Wellllll…none of them made it to the new year. We tried. The accessories they required that amounted to well over a hundred dollars proves we tried.
But those things are high maintenance and apparently we weren’t doing something just right.
Sooooo…during January, when I was home and sick with the most ridiculous cold I’ve ever had, I started doing some thinking…about how we had an empty cage just sitting around not being used and how that perfectly fine cage should be getting some good use if it’s going to stay in my home.
Without wasting much time deciding what should occupy that space, I began doing some research on hedgehogs!! Man, Pinterest is not the place to look if you’re just in the beginning stages of entertaining an idea! It’ll leave you with a desperate yearning for whatever it is you may be searching over!!
Needless to say it didn’t take much convincing for myself or the rest of the family to decide this could very well be our next best mistake!!
After learning that the cage we already had would be too small we were too smitten over these little creatures to back out now!
We located six week old babies at a town about an hour from us, the kids evenly pitched in their money…$170 total and then Dad and I bought the newer, larger cage and necessary accessories.
My son named her Pixie.
She’s grown soooo much, probably double the size since we brought her home.
We have a lot of fun watching her explore and even her sassy attitude is quite entertaining. It takes her a bit to warm up when we take her out of her little home but she’s getting more used to us and is pretty motivated by her cat food pebbles! I’m convinced she’d do just about anything for her food.
It’s interesting how animals are so relatable to humans. Food, water, air, sleep, and then there’s also mannerism. The attitudes—humans have them and so do animals, especially hedgehogs!
When Pixie feels threatened those sharp quills standout in every direction; once she realizes we don’t want to harm her she relaxes but it takes some convincing.
And I get it.
I can be quite reluctant even in God’s care, and yet I know His intentions are for good but boy there are times I’m incredibly reserved in my trust.
Being Pixie’s caregiver, I KNOW, without a shadow of a doubt, I’m going to do everything I know is right and good to provide and nurture this prickly pet, but she isn’t always with me on that mindset.
When I compare this to my own relationship (with God as my caregiver) I think how silly I must seem to God when I hold tightly to that lack of trust.
Just like I want the best life for Pixie and I know I’m trustworthy to her, God knows and desires the same when it comes to He and I!
Check out Isaiah 26:3 with me, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” —Isaiah 26:3
I love the boldness and certainty in those words…no hesitation found there. No lack of trust. This is how I want my faith to align with our Lord and I pray you’d join me! No poking around, just smooth and comfortable trust in Him.❤️
I took quite a long and unexpected blogging break—in fact this is the first post I’ve written in this new year, the last was at Christmas time!
Toward the end of last year I received my cancer diagnosis, had surgery, worked on recuperating, got Covid, worked on recuperating from that, struggled with depression, and finally (with much gratitude) celebrated Christmas!!
The new year started with an obnoxious head-cold throughout most of January. It was probably worse than my experience with Covid.
Meanwhile I had begun radiation treatments which were every Monday through Friday morning at 8 AM. I had thirty-three treatments and typically was in and out of the clinic within 15 minutes.
The nursing staff at Anderson Radiation are some of the kindest, most caring women I’ve ever met! I would pray over them on my drive into town and thank God for His healing every morning and it became such a blessed part of my daily routine. I’m thankful to be on the other side of it but I miss seeing each one of those gals!
That break from blogging was so necessary as I felt I needed to step back, catch my breath and truly gather my health—both mentally and physically.
Radiation can be exhausting as the high-energy beams not only kill cancer cells but also affect healthy cells too. I had and still have a lot of fatigue especially toward the late afternoon but this will subside with a little more time.
I couldn’t help but notice as I’d walk into the radiation room each morning how incredibly thick the door is. It has to be close to two feet thick and operates by mechanically sliding open and closed in a side to side motion. After making a comment to the techs they explained that the walls of the radiation room are actually eight foot thick and since the door can’t possibly be that thick it’s made from very heavy material causing it to weigh 22,000 pounds!! This might seem drastic but it’s for protective measures to those outside of the treatment room.
When I’d go in for treatment they’d have me lay down on the table, adjust me with precise measurements, then exit the room (closing that 22,000 pound door behind them) and then using computer technology they’d operate the radiation machine to move around me and target the area needing treatment at just the right dose.
As I look back on that time the word protection so accurately describes what I saw and felt. Radiation was quick and painless but I was amazed at how much every little detail mattered— from the very thick walls, to the heavy door, down to a sliver of body placement being set just right…all of it points back to protection.
Protection for my best interest and for the medical staff.
I’m reminded of how much God’s protection is ultimately even greater and bigger than any of those necessary precautions though—how His protection stretches far beyond any of the thickest walls or heaviest doors in the world.
Psalm 32:7 says this, “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.”
Protection. What a beautiful and filling hope and truth. I pray we take comfort in what the Lord’s word says and allow that peace to settle over our hearts and minds.
Sometimes things happen in our life where we might be prone to think “why didn’t God stop this or protect us from that?” And getting through those trials can be incredibly challenging BUT we also must be quick to believe and trust that God is protecting us from things (little and big) every single moment without us even recognizing or knowing it at all!!
He moves, works, and plans in His own perfect way all the time; and always with a divine purpose. We must be ever thankful for His protection—known and unknown.
God deserves our glory. As we’re living and breathing we have reason to praise Him no matter our circumstances. He is good.
Thank you for connecting with me again sweet friends. God willing I’ll get back on a regular blogging schedule!
Have a blessed weekend!!
The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him. —Nahum 1:7
I’m a week and a half past surgery and as much as I want to move beyond writing or sharing about this chapter in my life, I’m not able to just yet because it’s not quite over. God is still providing teachable moments in this and I feel like it’s not for me to keep for (only) my own growth in faith.
For those who are reading this and missed my post a few weeks ago, I’ll do a quick update. The beginning of September I was diagnosed with stage one breast cancer. Appointments and treatment plans have moved along quickly and I’m now on the other side of surgery.
A friend asked me recently how I was feeling and I explained, “I’m ready to be past surgery limitations and be on the go but my body is so achy from some doctor restrictions that are in place…” After I finished my usual, overextended words she quickly drew up her own simple words, “so you’re feeling like you’re energy is back, but your strength isn’t?!”
“Exactly!!” …couldn’t have said it better myself.
And her words are spot on. My energy is there. I’m ready to lift some weights again, get back over to the nursing home to do hair, and take advantage (with a bike ride) of these 70 degree days we’re enjoying here in Nebraska currently.
But with my doctor’s orders (ten pound weight and range of motion restrictions) in place and his timeline in respect—the time is not yet.
I’m gonna give you a quick visual and you can thank me later for the image and laugh! …One of my most important restrictions is that I’m supposed to keep my arms tucked close to my body, no reaching out to the sides.
My doctor, and he’s hilarious, demonstrated how I should keep my arm movements within a limited range. Upon showing and explaining this to my husband to help get the point across of the importance the two of them then concluded that “I need to be using T-Rex arms!!”
So I’ve kept T-Rex arms in mind as I’ve went about my days…did you know you can actually sweep the house using T-Rex arms? Me neither but I learned that!!
Let me let you in on a little secret.
T-Rex arms are not natural. They make a person feel confined. They also leave you feeling stiff and sore from the waist up. Especially after a full night’s sleep in that position.
There’s a reason God allows chicken wing movements. It feels freeing and refreshing! And not so constrained.
Chicken wings aren’t in my care plan just yet though—therefore T-Rex arms it is.
It’s ironic to me just how symbolic this is of the Christian walk.
Chicken wings are like those beautiful moments in life where things feel on track. Our relationships are healthy and whole. Our jobs are appreciated and secure. Our bodies are nourished and thriving. Our faith is strong and vibrant. We feel we can confidently stretch and strut over God’s good blessings.
On the other hand, there are times in our life when our hope spirals out of control as we allow fickle, negative feelings to take root. Our prayers go up but sometimes we wrongly deem them as unnoticed. We feel tied down by undesired wrongs that have happened in our life and we’re just waiting to be released from the burden and trials. We feel trapped or restricted.
By analogy this describes T-Rex arms.
Here’s the solid truth though, over any and all things—God gives us restrictions for our own good and within His perfect timing He leads us to the other side of adversity.
For some of us that heavy load may not be lifted until we’re Heaven-bound. Likewise, for all of us, perfection in every single area and detail will come to fruition when we’re Heaven-bound as well.
The wonderful thing is, however, there’s taming available even in the midst of T-Rex arms…
Consider the way the arms are tucked in close at the sides, no flailing allowed. Now picture Jesus as He comes at your side, wrapping His caring arms around you. You’ve ached for so long that His gentle touch feels welcomed and comforting, merciful and grace-filled. His care is more than enough to sustain. No matter your mindset, His love is humbly fiercer than the pain. His steadfastness eases the harsh mentality. It’s His loyalty that calms the rigid edges.
No doubt, He is more than powerful enough to settle even the unruliest of all T-Rex’s.
Hope in Jesus is key.
And the beautiful thing is—hope is held in our hearts not our arms—whether we’re in a place relating to T-Rex arms…or chicken wings…