Thursday, December 26, 2019

The Aftermath

"For thou hast been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall."
Isaiah 25:4

When you first saw the title of this post, perhaps your mind went to "the aftermath" of  the Christmas season you just walked through!  Clean-up from parties, trash bags filled with torn pieces of wrapping paper, cardboard packaging from ripped-open gift boxes, and a depleted bank account balance that needs refilling.  That image probably rings true in most homes right now, but that isn't quite what I am referring to.  I'll get into the real message of this post in a moment, but first three things.

#1.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY to our dear Zach!  Unbelievable that he is 19 years old today!  God bless you, dear, dear son, with many, many, many more happy, healthy birthdays, and may God allow your Daddy and me to share as many of them with you as possible!  We love you with more love than our hearts could ever hope to hold!  (You can read about Zach's special unexpected Christmas surprise by clicking HERE.)

#2.  Another special thank you to the sixteen writers/contributors who sent us their amazing, inspiring, heartwarming Christmas memories during this beautiful season!  (You can read their posts by clicking on their names - Matthew, Tipper, Chris, Melissa, Aryn, Gentle Joy, Kitty, Nancy, Zachary, Karen, Emily, Henry, Barbara, Janet, Betty, and Marilyn.)  I absolutely loved reading and sharing every, single one of them, and it was such a joy to open the Homespun Devotions platform to these gifted story tellers!  God is leading us to do a whole lot more of that kind of sharing in the future, so stay tuned for more news about that in a future post, Lord willing!

#3.  A sad good-bye to Christmas!  I can't believe it's over!  It went by WAAAAY too fast for me!  I feel cheated, like I didn't really have time to absorb the preciousness because it was just moving way too quickly.  Anyone else feel the same?

Now, back to what I meant when I entitled this post "the aftermath."

The other night, I found myself in a sprawled-out seated position near the bottom of our stairs.  I had gone to bed, couldn't sleep, and feeling inspired to work on a writing project, decided to get back up and go downstairs to the living room to write.  Very foolishly, I made the decision to not turn on the light but just use the light from my laptop to guide the way and enable me to see as I descended the 14 stairs.  Silly me.  I did great until I was near the bottom and somehow mistakenly thought there were no stairs left!  Down I went, somehow managing to hold on to my laptop and keep it from flying through the air.  Have you ever had something happen where it feels like time stands still and everything is going in slow motion?  That's sort of how it all went down (pun intended!)

So, there I was, sprawled partially on the floor and partially on the bottom couple of steps.  I can only imagine how it all would have appeared to someone watching, and even though it was happening to me, I have to tell you, I found it extremely humorous.  I may or may not have even laughed out loud as what just happened replayed in my mind, and my trembling hands struggled to figure out a way to pull myself back up on my feet,

One good thing about being overweight and having the bulk of said weight strategically distributed in the area of impact is that there was plenty of cushion, and even though it hurt terribly to make contact with those stairs and that floor, the blow was at least somewhat softened.  I finally bumbled around and struggled back to my feet, and all the while I was praising our dear Lord that I was fine.  NO broken bones, thank You, dear Jesus, from the depths of my soul.  Just pretty shaken up as I hobbled over to our double recliner, collapsed into it, and tried to get my nerves settled down enough to write.

I have no idea how it happened, but by the next morning, the middle toe on my right foot had turned purple, and it was difficult to walk.  Not too big of a deal, just uncomfortable.  I could live with it.  A couple of days went by, and I became startled when I looked down at my right arm and saw one huge, then another small horrible looking bruise!  Now, where did those come from?  At first, (can anyone say "fear is my default mode?"), I panicked like I do every time I see bad-looking, unexplained bruising.  You see, one of my favorite people in the world, my 3rd grade teacher, Sis. Cloud, had very weird-looking bruises.  They were all over her arms and legs, and I remember standing by her desk one day and innocently asking, "Sis. Cloud, why do you have so many bruises?"  In her tactful, discreet, unassuming way, she gave me some casual answer that wasn't really an answer at all, but served to calm my little troubled mind.  Not long after that, she started missing work, and I missed her terribly when she was gone. She was my hero.  I still remember how Mom and Dad had previously taken me to her house after school and how much I loved being there with her.  She was just a gem and had a huge impact on my young life.  When it became more of a norm for her to miss work than to be at work, the news finally came out.  She wouldn't be coming back to teach us anymore at all.  Ever.  Our dearly beloved Sis. Cloud had leukemia, and she died just a short time later.  It broke my little 8-year old heart, and I have never forgotten her.

So, when I see strange bruises, Sis. Cloud and the awful disease that took her from us are the very first things that come to my mind.  That's just what happened when I stood there looking down at the nasty bruises on my arm the other day.  Then, instant relief washed over me.  Those bruises had to have happened when I took that unexpected trip in the dark!

A few minutes later, as I was praying, the precious Holy Spirit spoke to me, and this is what He said.  "You didn't see those bruises when you first fell, did you?  Yet, the fall is the exact thing that caused the bruises.  You don't see the full impact of how much you are being affected by an injury until the aftermath when the signs become evident.  The discoloration in your toe didn't show up until later, even though the damage happened during your fall."

Then He reminded me of the hurricanes and hard storms we have been through while living in hurricane-susceptible areas.  I remember how we would would board up our house windows, huddle up inside for sometimes days at a time, bracing for the worst.  We could hear the torrential rain and the violent wind, but we really didn't know exactly what was going on outside, nor could we know until the storm had passed.  After the rain stopped and calm replaced the wind, we would cautiously open the front door and peek outside to assess the damage.  Then, and only then, did we really start to see the devastating effects of the storm we had just weathered.  Debris all over the street out front.  Tree branches broken and flung all over the yard.  Power and phone lines down.  Electricity off and no means of outside communication for several days.  Fuel shortages.  Leftover standing water from violent storm surges.

This is just the way it is with the storms of life.  God provides a certain type of merciful oblivion while we are going through the hard places.  There is this special kind of sustaining grace He gives to spare us from knowing how deeply we are being impacted by what is hitting our lives.  Adrenaline kicks in, we sort of go into this mode where we are able to function and go through the motions and do what we have to do without really being able to comprehend the full impact.  Then the winds die down, panic gives way to reality, we start to come back to our full "senses," and —then comes the aftermath.  Bruises start to appear in places we didn't even realize were affected.  Wounds become evident, and we realize we are bleeding and in need of healing from injuries we didn't even realize were taking place.  Deep sadness takes a hold as we realize what we have lost.  We start to see that what happened has left behind a trail of emotional debris, physical trauma, and spiritual impact.  In the wake of the storm, "normal" has been permanently altered for us.  Life has changed, never to be the same again.

Walking through the aftermath is sometimes harder than weathering the storm.  Clean-up can take weeks, months, years, even a lifetime.  Sadly, sometimes we never fully recover from the blows that are dealt us in this life, but I want to offer encouragement to you today.

Whatever you are "reeling" from in this moment — a disturbing medical diagnosis, the loss of a dear loved one, the end of a relationship, the severing of family ties, walking away from a long-attended church, having to move from a place you dearly love, an unexpected job outsourcing, a forced career change, abuse from those who should love you, or a plethora of other life-altering storm situations - you are not walking alone.

Several months ago, I was deep in prayer one day, and Holy Spirit spoke these words to my inmost spirit, "Do you believe I can get you through ANYthing?"  When I heard His still, small voice asking such a thing, I was alarmed because I instantly started wondering what He was preparing me to face.  Why would He ask such a thing if there weren't hard things up ahead?  As I went on praying, He whispered the same thing to me over and over, and I waited to answer until I could say, from the heart, "yes, Lord, I do believe You can get me through anything."

Throughout the storms we have encountered since then, His words have come to my mind so many times, and through each storm, sure enough, God has proven Himself completely faithful.  He HAS gotten us through every, single time, in spite of the extent of difficulty, but His help did not stop with just "getting us through" those storms.  He has STAYED with us in every moment of "aftermath."  During the healing, during the "clean-up," during the questioning, during the seasons of such life-altering change.

He is the God of the storms, yes.  He is also the God of the aftermath.  He never leaves.  His last words spoken to His disciples before ascending to His Father were, "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen."  Matthew 28:20

He is still with you, my friend!  You and I —we still serve an amazing God!

I pray that whatever you are walking through—the storm or the aftermath— (because aren't we all in one of those places nearly all the time?)  you feel His presence with you in new and unexpected ways.  

After one of those particular hurricanes in FL, I remember how we walked outside to assess the damage and how completely overwhelmed we felt.  We didn't even know where to start.  It was almost paralyzing to stand there and feel that the challenge was too much.  But, as we found the courage to put one foot in front of the other, the aftermath was tackled by picking up one broken tree limb at a time.  As you try to pick up the pieces and move forward, give yourself grace and remember that the clean-up and healing will happen only one small step at a time.  Just put your hand in Jesus' hand and get through today.  Let Him do the heavy lifting.  Stay focused on Him and what He can do, not on what you cannot.  

He will get you through this.  He can get you through anything.  Keep encouraged, stay the course, and press on!  At the end of the aftermath awaits a new start, and perhaps that is exactly what you need.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Marilyn Moseley Shares "A Sea-Sick Christmas"

"But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel."  
Matthew 2:6 (NIV)

Praise God for our precious Shepherd who was born on that long ago Christmas Day in the little town of Bethlehem!

I am sad that today is the last day of our special series of sharing favorite Christmas Memories!
I don't know about you, but it has been such a wonderful, joyful time for us reading these precious stories as they came in, then passing them on to you.  I hope they blessed and warmed your heart!
And, now here is the last Christmas Memory Sharing Post of 2019—a harrowing, yet comical story about a Christmas ferry ride in a storm!

Guest Post #16

"A SEA-SICK CHRISTMAS" by Marilyn Moseley

"Some memories you have as a child never seem to fade, while others prompted by a story or another memory come back into view.  Being this is the Christmas season, many memories of Christmas gone by have wriggled their way to the surface, but this particular memory is forever etched in my memory as the star of the show. 

Because my mother’s family lived about eight hours away, going to visit our grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins was always a cause for excitement at Christmas.  As children, we were never terribly concerned about driving weather conditions, but rather we excitedly prepared to see all the family and looked forward to the massive family dinner followed by opening presents under the Christmas tree, and spending fun times with our cousins.  

That fateful Christmas week however, a massive storm was headed up the coastline, with its eye pointed right at our little island.  My parents decided they would leave a bit earlier than usual, hoping to outrun the storm.  The anticipation grew as we kids began our yearly fight over who would sit where in our family station wagon.  The most coveted seat, of course, was the back seat which could be folded down into more comfortable quarters for the long 8-hour drive.  Soon the station wagon was loaded to the gills, and off we went, excitedly talking about all we would see and do once we got to Gram and Gramp's. 

We lived on a tiny island, Prince Edward Island, Canada and the only way off the island at that time was by ferry.  My parents knew the schedule of the ferry, and were anxious to make it there to catch the ferry for the anticipated departure. Upon arriving at the ferry, our hearts sunk as we saw the lineup of cars waiting to board, and it surely seemed like we weren’t going to make it on this run.  The wind by this time was whipping snow across the parking lot, and visibility was diminishing. Still the ferry kept loading, and suddenly a big smile burst out on Dad’s face… we were going to make it on the ferry!  And not only that… we were the last car to board! Whooppee! With excitement all of us kids hollered out with joy…. We made it!  

As Dad drove the car up onto the ramp of the ferry, huge gusts of wind barreled across the car, and I wondered if we might blow right off into the ocean.  Dad’s smile was waning as he looked worriedly at the skies and the water.  “Well,” he said, “We made it!” 

The fun part was ahead of us now as we made our way to the deck of the ferry, and opened up the lunch Mom had packed for us.  We had just settled in our seats when the ferry groaned and tipped sideways.  Then lurching back the other direction, we could feel the momentum of the ferry moving forward.  Dad’s eyes looked a bit concerned as he walked over to the window, joining multiple other passengers there, gazing out at the ocean beneath us.

It wasn’t long until one of my sisters started to look a little green.  My own stomach felt a little woozy too.  As the ship slowly made its way forward, the deck was quiet as passengers had stopped their cheery greetings and small talk, and now most of them stood at the windows.  Soon a lurch sideways sent many of us off our seats and onto the floor.  Then back again, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.
Then the panic set in as passengers began making their way to the tiny bathroom, some not making it in time.  Soon every trash can, receptacle, toilet, sink, and whatever else could be found had passengers losing their stomach contents in great agony.  

The ship’s captain came on the loudspeaker warning everyone to sit on the floor and to hold onto a pole, chair, or something secure.  No one really paid much attention as most were already doing just that.  

For what seemed like light years, the agonizing lurching went on as the wind howled and the windows showed nothing but white fury.

Amazingly, my stomach’s contents stayed in place, and I crawled around the women’s bathroom dumping the trash baskets for my mom and sisters who weren’t so lucky.  I don’t know where I got my nerves of steel, but I’ll never forget being very calm and just trying to help everyone since I was mostly unaffected by the sea sickness. 

The never-ending motion finally came to a grinding halt, several hours longer than it would normally have taken.  My dad came to the restroom to help my mother and sister, while I held onto the other sister.  My brothers were holding onto Dad. Bleary-eyed and exhausted, we made our way down to the car.  

Once we were settled in, Mom and Dad began to pray and thank the Lord for our safe arrival in spite of the massive storm.  As our car exited the ferry onto the other side, we saw the gate closed and realized that the ferry had been shut down to other travelers.  

The storm continued unabated, and we inched along in the station wagon, wondering how much more we could take.  But miraculously, the gusts of wind began to cease and ease up, and soon the road had cleared enough to where Dad could drive at a decent speed again… it seemed we must have outrun the storm.   

After the long hours had passed and we finally reached our destination, I saw my father finally relax as he sunk into the rocking chair in my Gram’s kitchen.  We had made it, Praise the Lord!  We gathered together in praise and thankfulness that the awful experience we had had on the ferry had ended without any problems.  It seemed cause for rejoicing as we reunited with our cousins, aunts and uncles, retelling the story of our fateful ferry crossing.

I can guarantee you that Mom and Dad never tried to outrace another storm again! 
I can’t tell you what I got for Christmas that year, or any other details about that Christmas other than to remember how very grateful, and thankful I was that we survived a winter’s stormy ride on PEI’s Northumberland Ferry." 

Marilyn from Mountaintop Spice is an avid hobby photographer living in North Idaho who shares her love for photography with inspirational writings on her blog and with the writing group she is a member of.  Her love for the Lord and ambition as a writer began at an early age growing up in Prince Edward Island, Canada, the home of Lucy Maud Montgomery, whose writings were Marilyn’s childhood inspiration. Leaving the red soil of the Island, she married a Texan, and now lives in North Idaho in with her husband, two children, 20+ chickens, two dogs and the reigning king of the home, Mister Simba, the cat.   Marilyn enjoys seeking out beauty with her camera lens in the Lord's creation around her to share with friends, family, and the blogging community. She blogs at Mountaintop Spice.  Images from her photography can be found at Mountaintop Spice Photos.

A huge THANK YOU to Marilyn for sharing her heartwarming and humorous Christmas adventure with us here!  It was truly such a blessing to our hearts!

And, a huge thank you to ALL of the wonderful participants who sent us their amazing stories about memories, traditions, special gifts, and precious moments from Christmases past!

I'm sad to see this special series end!  I hope all of you enjoyed reading the stories and were as blessed by them as we were!  

May God bless all of you with a wonderful Christmas Day, and may He send peace to your hearts as 2019 continues to wind down and come to a close.  For many, this has been a very hard year, including our family.  Sometimes, peace is hard to find, but we all know WHO is our peace.  Our dear precious Lord Jesus who was born all those years ago into such humble surroundings.  His entrance into this world was not with worldly fanfare, but heralded by the angels of Heaven!  

How I love and adore Him!
More than ever before in my life, I long to serve and please Him. 
He truly means everything to me.
I hope He does to you, too!

From Kevin, Zachary, and me, we want to wish every reader a very

Merry Christmas!!

In case you missed them, you can read previous Christmas Memory Sharing Posts by clicking these links:

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Betty Draper Shares About A Missionary Christmas Overseas

"For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."
Romans 8:18  (KJV)

Guest Post #15

"Hello Cheryl, thinking on a favorite Christmas is hard. My first one would be the year we had our daughter. I had already lost 6, then had her. We had been married 12 years, so that comes to mind, but so does another one that carries a deeper message in my heart.  By then we had both our children, and God had a special lesson for us all.

We answered the call to be overseas missionaries, and by August 1991, our daughter was entering her sophomore year, our son was in 7th grade, and we were on our way to Bolivia, South America, with 19 bags of our life in them.  It was exciting for us, well, for Ace and I, but our kids were anxious—our daughter more than we knew.  They were leaving the only place they had ever lived, the only church they had gone to, and the only state they had ever lived in.  We felt this pull from others to not go, which made us want to say, "Let us go! We want to go! Stop being negative about it, stop making us feel bad about going!" Our kids, especially our daughter, were praying the plane would crash, we would live, and then we could go back home.  It was a mixture of feelings for all of us that only a Holy God can sort out. 

Our ministry was being dorm parents to high school guys at a missionary boarding school— we had 16 the first year and 35 our last year.  Since it was gender-style dorms, our daughter had to be in the high school dorm, which was only a building away, but still, she was struggling a lot. She was terribly homesick. We told her this was not a sin—Jesus was homesick for heaven.   By the time Christmas came around and all the kids went home, except those whose parents were on staff, the school was a lonely place.  It was cold in Bolivia in the winter if the sun did not come out, and nights were very cold. Our stucco dorm had a huge fireplace in the big living room, so we spent a lot of time around it.  Our four stockings looked so small hanging on the fireplace.

With very few people there during Christmas, we got on a bus to go up to a rain forest that was 10,000 feet, then to a huge 12,000 foot city in the Andes mountains.  We  had little money that year and were not sure the kids were going to get a present, so we just made the trip our present.  Someone gave us some extra money, so Jared got his own soccer ball and Tara got a leather jacket, which was cheap there.  On our ride to and from the school to the city, we saw water falls and stopped and had a snow ball fight with all on the bus.  We stopped at an outdoor restaurant—just two ladies with big pots boiling beans over an open fire among the rocks.  We had to get off the bus in the rain forest, due to a  mud slide, which we all walked across, while the men dug a way for the bus to get across. Finally we were back at the school.  We talked about all the Christmases we had spent with lots of family or church folks around.  This was our first Christmas to spend with just our kids.  It was fun, it drew us closer, and our understanding of Bolivian culture grew.  It was the first Christmas our kids had us just to themselves.  We played games, talked, ate the goodies we made and found in the city, and hiked the countryside, if it was warm.  It was a really relaxing time for all of us. 

When we told our kids we felt like God wanted  us to serve overseas, we also told them it was okay to not be excited about living in a third-world country.  We also had told our kids that God’s only call on their life at that time was to honor and obey their parents, and they were doing that.  It was the first, but not the last time God took them out of their comfort zone.  Sometimes that is the best Christmas.  God’s Son spent 33 years outside His comfort zone!
Thanks Cheryl for letting me share."

Ace and Betty Draper

"Ace and Betty Draper are Member Care Reps for Ethnos 360.
A believer in God wastes nothing.  Being Member Care Reps was His way of using all our experience to help missionaries coming home from overseas.  
The first couple we met in this ministry role was a young couple with two children.  They had finished four years in Southwest Asia and were home on assignment for a year.  After meeting with both their pastors, they met with us.  After two hours of mostly listening to them, they said, "You understood everything we said without us explaining."  It was then that we knew the ministry of Member Care Reps was from the Lord.  Their words validated our ministry.  
We love what we do, just as we loved what we did in Bolivia, South America and Papua, New Guinea.  It is all being a part of reaching those least-reached that live in remote places all over the world."

Please visit Betty at her blog at Wise Hearted Woman, where you will find much spiritual edification and encouragement!  And please be sure to check out our exclusive interview with Betty by clicking HERE!!

THANK YOU so much, dear Betty, for sharing these wonderful memories with us!  You are such a blessing!

In case you missed them, you can read previous Christmas Memory Sharing Posts by clicking these links: 
Christmas from the Dumpster 

Monday, December 23, 2019

Janet Fehskens Shares A Heartwarming Christmas Memory

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

Guest Post #14

"A Christmas Memory" by Janet Fehskens

"After two stormy years of marriage, the passionate, spontaneous, and exciting “long-haired hippy” I met in college turned out to be the good boy my mother had prayed for her daughter to marry.

Not quite hidden under the long curls was a young man whose vocational training began at age 14.  As a teenager, he spent four years in a Catholic minor seminary, which resulted in a wonderful education and a passion for the unborn.  He also carried with him a confusion that the Lord majestically cleared after wooing us into a whirlwind courtship with Him and leading us to a different denomination.

We said goodbye to my mother and North Carolina and his training continued
in cold Indiana, with his vicarage in Cheyenne, WY.  We were seeing the world.

The Divine Call Service for the seminary graduates was in May of 1981.
May, 81, was our mantra for four years, and began what the cold weather and hard work were all about:  serving God in his first parish.

Two specific prayers steadily pounded on heaven’s doors: 
Mine: Be close to family.  
His: Be near water.

We were thrilled when the call landed us on an island in Maryland within driving distance of both families.  The young church family doubled in size during the four years we spent there.  I still look back on that time as “Camelot.” The friends I made there are still my best friends.

Our sons doubled during that time, as well.  Having arrived from the seminary with two sons, we left with four, the youngest only ten days old.

Although excited and optimistic about missionary work in the Great White North, the reality of transplanting to Minnesota did a good job of teaching me discipline regarding my tongue. 

We contemplated why God would put us in such a foreign culture. No longer a parish pastor, my husband’s new position as national director of Lutherans for Life left us searching for a church home in addition to everything else.

Our recent experiences filled 5 of the 10 “Most Stressful Life Experiences,”— check, check, check, check, check. My outlets were the Bible, common sense and oh, so much prayer.  And let’s not forget a detailed book about colic called “Crybabies.” Postpartum tears sprang to my eyes when a kind word was had for me. Those words were few and far between since I was at home alone with small children, so far away from family and friends. 

A kind neighbor encouraged me to “go out every day no matter what” but the frigid, unkind wintry winds of Minnesota, compared to my balmy North Carolina home, kept me indoors with above-mentioned tears flowing for other reasons, as well. 

Taught “*The Thumper Rule,” not only by Disney’s Bambi character, but my mother who lived by, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all,” I vowed that if I couldn’t say something nice about our new situation, I would keep my mouth closed.

On our first frozen, white Christmas Eve in this strange place, our family braved the great outdoors and attended the Christmas Eve Candlelight Service at our (seemingly) frozen and unfamiliar church.  

The congregation boldly confessed our familiar faith through an ancient creed, and my heart lifted. I recognized this community of saints as it enveloped past, present, and future believers, bound together in Holy love and worship. 

I held onto Mark 10:29-30:
'Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, there is no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive in this age a hundred times as much—homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, fields, all with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life."

As the nativity was relived in candlelit wonder, my thoughts moved to young Mary, who traveled uncomfortably with her dear and bewildered Joseph to fulfill her mission.  I pondered the thoughts she may have had of the warm and familiar family left behind, likely at least as confused as my family was.  Did her mother teach her the Thumper rule?  Was it hard for her? I hope she was sent with love and support, but have a feeling that’s wishful thinking.  

The exhausted pastor looked deep into this lamb’s eyes as we filed past him, and back into the night to embrace the “good” part of Christmas the children anticipated, Santa!

Taking both of my hands in his, he exclaimed, “Your hands are so cold!” while my “Joseph” struggled to hold onto the hands attached to small bodies squirming to get away.  

Numbly I nodded, determinedly holding tight to my vow, “say only something nice.”
“Do you like it here?” he queried.
In return, he received a smile. 
God bless him, he knew there was more to the story.  
“Are you settling in? Do you need anything?”
I nodded, then shook my head, refusing to say anything that could be used against me.
Finally, “Is your house warm?”
“Yes!” I exclaimed, "My house is warm!", so grateful to speak words to the kind man who searched for the hidden treasure he knew was there if given the time to unearth it. 

Her house is warm!” he announced to the patient parishioners who filed behind me, and then he introduced me to one of the saints, 
who was also waiting for me – 
to be her friend.  
And then another one. 
and then another one. 

a hundred times as much.

The community of saints.  The forgiveness of sins.  The resurrection of the body.  Life everlasting.

Thank you, Jesus.

Merry Christmas, friends."

Bio:  Janet Fehskens has led workshops at national Lutherans for Life conventions and has published articles and poetry in Living, Gentle Spirit and local newspapers. She has spoken at the Ft. Wayne Seminary, high schools, camps, and women’s functions.  She served as president of the local Lutherans for Life chapter in St. Paul, MN, and has led several women’s ministries in parishes throughout the country.
Both Janet and her husband, Ed, are avid readers.  Ed keeps up with current events, but will watch sci-fi with Janet while she does handwork after the sun has gone down.  Her favorite medium is primitive folk-art.  She also loves taking photos during their travels.
Janet homeschooled their six children for four years, and began working part-time (away from home) when their youngest child began school.  She completed eleven years of administrative work in NYS colleges while she and Ed lived in and near Buffalo, NY.  Now adults, these children are parents of their 12+ grandchildren (#13 is due in February!).
She and Ed are now retired. They enjoy traveling and being “on call” for their children and their families, who are within driving distance, while simply praising God for His amazing grace as they enjoy time spent with their favorite people – all grown up. 

A huge thank you to Janet for sharing her heart and heartwarming Christmas story with us!  I was so challenged by her courage, fortitude, and determination to find the good in her situation and focus on that.  May we all do the same this Christmas!
As you think of Janet today and ponder upon her words, may I ask a favor of you, dear readers?  Will you please pray for Ed and Janet's daughter, Mary Grace and their son-in-law, Danny?  Danny is 29 years old, in need of a hip replacement, and trying to complete his college degree by this coming spring.  His surgery was scheduled, but after doing blood work, the doctor found that his liver enzymes are elevated, which is preventing the much-needed surgery.  He is in a lot of pain and on crutches.  All this, while Mary Grace is due to give birth to the couple's second child in February.  They have a little two-year old.  Please pray for this dear family — for healing and relief of pain for Danny, normal liver enzymes, the green light for a successful hip replacement surgery, the smooth delivery of a healthy baby, and for their needs to be supplied during this trying time.  Your prayers are SO appreciated!
In closing, here is one of my favorite Christmas songs, beautifully sung and played by some very sweet friends of ours!  I hope you enjoy!

Beautiful Star of Bethlehem by Paul Wilson and The Pressley Girls

In case you missed them, you can read previous Christmas Memory Sharing Posts by clicking these links:

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Barbara Dunford Shares Her Christmas Memories from Cornwall, England

"Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope. Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail."
Lamentations 3:21,22 (NIV)

Guest Post #13

"Christmas in Cornwall, England" by Barbara Dunford

"Moving to my grandparents beautiful house by the water, just after the War, was a revelation to us children.  My mother had been left a widow, far too young, and had to leave the University house where we had lived in Wales.

England was in the throes of rationing, so there were few Christmas shopping treats, few decorations and people tended to live on what they grew. Fortunately, my Grandfather was a wonderful gardener and produced vegetables and fruit.

Grandma always had a huge turkey and made all the bought dressings or sauces for her. She was an amazing cook.

We had no Television back in the 1940s and didn’t miss it. The days before Christmas were spent making things. We made presents for family. We made decorations. The big dining room where we were allowed to work was a sea of glitter and glue! My cousin and I made countless paper chains. We made sparkly decorations for the tree. We printed wrapping paper using potato cut outs. We were so imaginative.

The tree was cut from a nearby wood and put up the week before Christmas. The most exciting thing was to see the real candles clipped on to the branches and lit, just for a little while, as we sat round and admired the glow.

In those days most presents were handmade, knitted gloves, a new dress sewn by my mother, a scarf woven, toys carved. How we loved everything!

When I see the amount of things that children today receive, and seem to expect, I look back fondly to a time when there were no choices, and we had what there was.

It was a wonderful innocent time."

Bio:  Barbara grew up in Cornwall, England. She trained as a teacher of children with special needs.  She is married with 3 children. Sadly, she divorced when young but later met the man to whom she has been married for almost 40 years and who is a lovely, devout Christian.  Between them they have seven grandchildren ranging from 16 to 30 in age.  She spent twelve years living in France, which was lovely, she traveled to many countries including Canada where her daughter lived, and Australia where her eldest son lives.  Living in France, she was able to take  trains all over Europe.  She and her husband love their garden. Though her husband is now blind and disabled and relies on her to make it look beautiful, he still helps her plan. She likes to sew and do a fair amount of patchwork when she can find the time.  Barbara and her husband are members of their local church, but seldom get to go to services now and rely on Home Communion being brought to them.  They live a quiet life now.  Barbara is a Carer for her husband, and they feel fortunate to have a daughter, son, and daughter-in-law living nearby, who are very supportive.

Please stop by and visit Barbara's lovely blog at Small Moments.  I know you will be blessed!

Barbara, thank you from the bottom of our hearts for sharing your beautiful Christmas memories from long ago with us.  They really warmed my heart, as I know they will the hearts of all who read them.

And, dear readers, in case you missed them, you can read the previous Christmas Memory Sharing posts by clicking these links:

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Henry Morgan, III, Shares A Precious Christmas Reunion Story - "Seems Like Yesterday"

“Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered— how fleeting my life is. You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand. My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; at best, each of us is but a breath.” 
Psalms 39:4-5 (NLT)

Guest Post #12

Christmas Story:
"Seems Like Yesterday" by Henry Morgan, III

  "I was excited all day, waiting for my mom to come visit me from out of state. I hadn’t seen her in a couple of years, due to her being ill and not being able to walk. After a strenuous recovery, she was now ready to see her baby boy. It was a few days before Christmas, and she was coming back to her hometown of New York. The wings from the butterflies were hitting against my stomach hard and fast.

Nana, is she really coming to see me? How long does it take to get here?”

Yes, Henry she is really coming to see you. It’s a long drive here from Michigan, and she is not driving; her friend is”

Who’s driving her here?”

You remember Ms. Mary that used to baby sit you in Detroit?”

Oh yeah, I remember her!”

Well, she is bringing Rosie to the house.”

   I had been living in New York with my Mom’s family because she was unable to care for me (at the time), and my Dad was in prison. It was a full house. My Nana, Aunt Sandra, and two cousins,  Charmelle and Robert, all stayed there with me. It was never a dull moment, there was always something going on in the house. This day in particular was very special—the reuniting of a mother and child. 

I see a car in the driveway!” I said staring out the master bedroom window.

He’s right.” My cousin Charmelle exclaimed, as she nudged me to the side a little bit to have a better view out of the window. 

   Aunt Sandra held me close. She knew it was a big moment for me, and she knew I was anxious. The door bell rang. Nana went down the stairs to open the door. I wasn’t far behind. Robert swiped through the top of my hair to show moral support. We all stood in the hallway as Nana opened up. 

   “Hey everybody!” my Mom said to all of us with excitement and cheer. Mom and Ms. Mary walked in the house and greeted everyone. I stood back in the hall and looked at my Mommy now walking with a wooden cane. It wasn’t the way I was used to seeing her, and I was a little scared.

    “Come here boy, don’t you want to give your mother a hug?” I walked over to Mom and she met me half way, slightly limping with her cane. We hugged each other for a long time. That hug was warmer than a big open fire on a hot day. She kissed me all over my face and told me how much she loved and missed me. I was so happy—the first woman I ever loved was with me again. God was granting me a huge wish for Christmas. 

   After our warm embrace, and after all the bags and gifts were taken out of the car, Mom gave me a letter. The outside of the envelope had my name on it. 

This is from your Dad, Henry. Your Grandma, (my Dad’s mother,) gave this to me before we left to come here. We’ll call her later. Go ahead and open it. I’ll help you read it.”

   The inside of the letter made me smile and shed a few tears. Dad wrote how me he loved me and how proud of me he was. He told me to continue do good in school and listen to my elders. He said he was getting out of prison soon and he couldn’t wait to see me. It was a day I was looking forward to as well.

   The next few days were fun and full of love. The adults cooked my favorite foods like lasagna, split pea soup, and fried chicken. Nana, Aunt Sandra, and Mom caught up with each other and talked about the old times. Charmelle and Robert helped me look at the ‘hidden’ gifts for Christmas early, even though we weren’t supposed to (sorry, God). Ms. Mary even played catch outside with me in the cold weather. During that Christmas we celebrated God, family, and being able to put things back together again.

Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NLT
   After the holiday, Mom and Ms. Mary had to head back to the Motor City. Everyone else either had to go back to work or school. As Mom went to the door to leave, she hugged and kissed me one last time and said, “I love you son, I’ll see you soon.” I gave a final tight hug, with water in my eyes and said, “Goodbye Mommy, I love you too!”
   This Christmas, enjoy every moment with friends and family. I implore you to not take for granted time with loved ones. We don’t know what God has in store for us or how much time we have left for memories in the flesh. Life moves in a flash, and you wonder where all the time went. 

The moments we think of while reflecting feel like they happened yesterday. Ms. Mary, Grandma, Nana, Robert, Dad, and most recently, my Mom, are now in heaven with the Lord. My Aunt Sandra, Charmelle, and I are left to celebrate their memory and to make new ones, but what we would give to have all them back here again. 

   Make sure to make the calls, send the text or email, put the letter or card in the mailbox, make dates and meet each other. Let’s celebrate each other as we celebrate Jesus. I wouldn’t be who I am or be able to write this without the people in it. Let’s spread Godly cheer and thankfulness this season. 

Happy Holidays, from my family to yours. Be safe, peace, and love.

“Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.”
Psalms 90:12 NLT

Bio: I was born in Detroit, Michigan where I spent most of my life and also lived in Mt. Vernon, New York for five years. Currently I reside in Flowery Branch, Georgia where I live with my wife and two children. We all attend church and serve the Lord at Free Chapel. At this time, I’m a Wire Technician that installs and repairs internet and television services. I’ve been writing since a young kid in New York sharing stories with my family, but never to the world. I feel a strong calling from God to use what he has given to me and share with people that might need it.

You can connect with Henry on FacebookInstagramTwitter.

This story brought tears to my eyes!  A big thank you to Henry for sharing this precious Christmas reunion memory with us!  Please keep Henry and his family in your prayers, as his dear Mom just passed away recently.  May God hold them close to His heart in each moment of grief.

In case you missed them, you can read previous Christmas Memory Sharing Posts, by clicking these links:

Friday, December 20, 2019

Emily Vick Shares About Precious Gifts from Her Paw Paw

"And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger."
Luke 2:16 (KJV)

Guest Post #11

"Christmas Snickers Bars" by Emily Vick

"Living in eastern North Carolina, we never knew from year to year if Christmas was going to be cold or warm, but we always knew one thing: Paw Paw would have our Snickers bars waiting.

Grandma and Paw Paw’s house was only a short walk from ours—a beautiful walk
through the woods. On Christmas afternoon, aunts, uncles, and cousins all gathered in
that little house, each distributing something on the counter, until it was filled with a
variety of delicious food. A turkey, ham, creamed corn, cranberry sauce, Aunt Marcia’s
cheese-and-cracker-crumb covered green beans, Mama’s sweet potato casserole, a
chocolate fudge pie, a pecan pie, and of course, Grandma’s fried cornbread. We
always held hands and thanked God for His blessings before enjoying the feast.
But the feast that fed our souls was the feast of laughter and conversation. Hours of
catching up with no schedule to keep, basking in each other’s presence. 

After dark, Paw Paw would take down his worn, well-loved Bible and read the story of the Christ-
child, God become man, and our hearts would fill almost to bursting with the joy of this miracle we celebrated.

Next came Paw Paw’s special gift. Each year, everyone received a Snickers bar with a little cash wrapped carefully around it. Each candy bar had a name on it, and no one was ever forgotten. As a child, I savored that candy bar and planned with excitement how I would spend my cash. But as an adult, looking back to the those days that can never be recaptured, I realize the real gift Paw Paw gave me in those Christmas Snickers bars was far greater than candy or cash. He gave me memories, tradition, something I knew would always be waiting for me at the end of a year. He gave me
love. He always remembered me and had that Snickers prepared for me. 

To this day, the sight, smell, and taste of a Snickers bar transports my mind to Christmastime. I can
smell cranberry sauce and fried cornbread. I can hear my my dad and uncles’ guitar and banjo playing, my mom and aunts’ laughter. I can see the happy tears on Grandma’s face as she talked of how blessed she was to have such a family. We didn’t know what each year would hold, but we knew one thing: At the end of it, Paw Paw would have our Snickers bar ready."

Bio:  I’m Emily, 25-year-old youth pastor’s wife and stay-at-home mom of three: Avonlea Joy (3), Levi Tyler (2), and Gideon Marshall (1 month).

When I have time, I read mysteries by candlelight, collect life-giving books, watch black-and-white movies, play the piano in a sunlit room, and write. Most of all, I savor God’s good gifts, which fill my life to the brim every day.

As you can imagine, life with three under 4 can be hectic, but we strive to make our lives as simple and focused as possible, keeping clutter out of our home and hearts and seeking to know and love Christ more intimately every day.

Please visit Emily's new blog, The Tansy Patch, where she shares her journey to a simple, Christ-centered life while learning to savor every moment as holy.
You may also connect with Emily on her Facebook page.