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Celebrate the Season-Advent Daily Chocolate Day 3- It’s All About The Gift

Sitcoms are great for bringing to the audience a sense of humorous tension created by a character who finds himself in a situation that he can’t seem to get out of… Yeah, well my life’s a sitcom.

Several years ago, in preparation for our staff Christmas party my boss asked me to write down everyone’s name on paper for us to draw names for gift giving. While I was in the other room gathering up the paper and a container to pick names from it hit me… Wouldn’t it be funny if everyone got my name? In other words, no one would know that my name would be on every slip of paper and when they selected the gift recipient, they would all have my name.

I could just picture how funny it would be when everyone showed up at our Christmas party with a present for me…. It was a brilliant plan!  So I did it.   For each of the staff members, including myself, I wrote my name. We all drew names out of the hat and I was the only one who knew that they all had my name.  I was laughing inside… I was going to be laughing all the way to the Christmas gift bank until I began to get a guilty twinge. I noticed that one of my co-workers, because he had drawn my name three years in a row, was wanting to trade names with another… they found out that they both had me.  I immediately fessed up.  We all laughed and I rewrote the names and this time did it correctly and our Christmas party went on without a hitch.  We talked about for a few months, laughed about it and then the whole thing seemed to be forgotten.

So…

A few years later, our staff had grown in numbers and my little gift plot hadn’t been talked about for quite some time and I’m pretty sure it was forgotten.  As before, my boss asked me to write everyone’s name down on paper so that we could draw names for our gift exchange.  Well, once again the thought of everyone walking into the Christmas party with a gift for me sounded just too funny.  So I did it again…. I wrote my name on every slip of paper and everyone drew MY name out of the hat.  I truly thought that before the day was over that I would once again be found out, we would all laugh and names would be rewritten and drawn again.  But just like any good sitcom… it didn’t happen the way that I thought it would.  No one seemed to catch on that they each had my name.

After a day or two, no one said anything about it so I knew that I had won.  I was going to get a gift from everyone.  I could just picture how funny it would be when it was time to pass out the gifts that everyone would hand theirs to me.  Then, like a kick in the rear, I realized that I would be the only one who got a gift…. I know, I know, that was the plan, but I love my co-workers; I didn’t want them to .not get a gift.

Because several days had passed, I was too proud or maybe too embarrassed to admit my plan, I  had to find out if they really, truly didn’t know about the numerous duplicate “Nancy” names floating around.  I began hinting but no one seemed to catch on.  So I went to the one staff member that I felt would team up with me…. I still won’t tell who it was…

After much prying and the promise that I would never reveal my source, I was told that yes, everyone knew that they all had my name.  But what I found out beyond that blew me away…. I was told that not only did they all know they had my name but they had plotted against me!  They redrew names and didn’t include me at all.  I was going to show up to the party and not get a single gift!

Now you might think that is completely fair but …. okay, well, I guess it was…… but I couldn’t let them out do me… I had to be a creative thinker and come up with a plan to make them all feel guilty for leaving me out.

I thought and thought and the only thing that I could think of that could possibly make them feel bad was to let them believe that I felt so guilty that I would be receiving all of these gifts, that I went out and purchased a gift for all of them…. but not just any gift…. I wanted to get them something BIG.  Then when they opened their gifts they would be like, “Oh man! But wait, we didn’t get Nancy anything…. I feel so guilty… I feel so bad for trying to out do her…. I feel like such a terrible friend and she is such a good friend… Just look at this gift she gave me.. How will I ever repay her?”  (Maybe a tad over the top but you see where I’m going, right?)

So, my search was on…. I needed to find a great gift for each of them but I had little to spend.  Still yet, I was going to show them.  I began by looking for great items at places like Goodwill and other treasure outlets but nothing.  Then I finally found the store that made my gifts come to fruition.  I drove an hour and a half to a little town that happened to have a store that had great coats for very low cost.  I stocked up.  I bought wool coats, leather coats, team coats, down coats… I was a coat monster….. My husband wasn’t too happy with me but it was worth it….  Those guys were going to feel so ashamed!

I arrived at the party and laughter roared as I walked into the room with my stack of gifts.  Little did they know that the joke was on them.  We ate and talked and then it was time to open gifts.  I made my little presentation… I told how guilty I felt and that I wanted to do something nice.  So they each opened their gifts and they were all amazed at their generous gifts.

Now, I will admit that I didn’t have this great feeling of accomplishment that I had hoped for… they really thought that I had spent a lot of money and they did seem to feel a little bad.  As much as I plotted and planned, I realized as they opened the gifts and I saw the look on their faces that I never really wanted them to feel bad…..I loved them. (still do)  I was just having fun… albeit over-budget fun (which my husband asked that I please not do again) and at that point, I didn’t want them to feel bad at all.  I wanted them to enjoy their gift whether they had gotten me anything or not.

I think a true gift is just that…. something we want people to enjoy.  It is pleasing to the giver when  there is an appreciation for what was given.  During the Christmas season, it is easy for me to get so caught up in the giving and doing parts that I tend to forget about what a great generous gift God has given to us through Jesus.  Not only is there hope, peace and love in that gift but there is the gift of eternal life and it  was given for us to embrace, appreciate, share and enjoy.

This Advent Season, through songs, stories or other means, be reminded of the great gift that God has given to us. But more so be reminded that he would have given this gift even if your name was the only one in the hat.  He thinks that much of you. 

Romans 6:23

 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2012 in Advent, Devotions, Faith, Life Stories

 

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Celebrate the Season-Advent Daily Chocolate Day 2- What’s in a name?

 

51088xr7fXL._SL500_AA300_I find name meanings to be very interesting. My name is a form of Ann which is a name that means “grace.”  I wonder how many parents pick names because of their meaning or if they just like the name.

My name was not picked by happenstance… I was named for two of my aunts.  Though I could be wrong, I’m pretty sure my parents didn’t name me with the thought that I would practice grace, exemplify grace or bestow grace on those around me ust because my name translated so. (However, I’m sure they’d be proud if I did)

Picking a name for a child is a tough job… my husband and I had the hardest time deciding on each of our girls’ names.  Honestly, I didn’t look at the meanings of their names or if I did, I didn’t give it second thought.  I just went with the name that I liked.

My advent reading today was Isaiah 9:1-7 and I focused on the names that this prophecy gave Christ…the names were descriptive of who this “son” was going to be… Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  I love these terms, not just because I can sing them (Hallelujah Chorus), but because of what these four or possibly five names can really mean.

Wonderful- astonishing, amazing.. wonderful goes beyond good, even beyond great….. wonderful exceeds expectations and in most cases blows us away

Counselor- who can I depend on to guide me in the best direction?  Who can I confide in? Who can I gain understanding from?  Yep, it would be the counselor…. or rather, the Wonderful Counselor

Mighty God-  I love the term mighty.  From what I can comprehend about God… there is nothing that can touch Him… He is mighty and more powerful than all

Everlasting Father- Never ending…. No death…. infinity and beyond … However you best understand it, God is forever.

Prince of Peace- I’m not sure if this title is descriptive of world peace or peace within but I believe that Christ showed us how to live peacefully within ourselves and among the world

I love the fact that Christ lived up to his names…. I’ve experienced the Wonderful and was blown away.  I’ve experienced the Counselor and was guided in the correct direction.  I’ve experienced the Mighty God… so much power and never backs down… fights the enemy for you.  I’ve experienced the Everlasting Father…. time is of no issue… He is always there.  I’ve experienced the Prince of Peace…. there have been times when I thought my world was falling apart or times when I was broken… Peace came in and rescued me..

Christ lives up to his name…Just one of the many reasons to celebrate the season and the hope that it brings.

Isaiah 9:1-7

1 Nevertheless, that time of darkness and despair will not go on forever. The land of Zebulun and Naphtali will be humbled, but there will be a time in the future when Galilee of the Gentiles, which lies along the road that runs between the Jordan and the sea, will be filled with glory.

2 The people who walk in darkness
will see a great light.
For those who live in a land of deep darkness,
a light will shine.
3 You will enlarge the nation of Israel,
and its people will rejoice.
They will rejoice before you
as people rejoice at the harvest
and like warriors dividing the plunder.
4 For you will break the yoke of their slavery
and lift the heavy burden from their shoulders.
You will break the oppressor’s rod,
just as you did when you destroyed the army of Midian.
5 The boots of the warrior
and the uniforms bloodstained by war
will all be burned.
They will be fuel for the fire.

6 For a child is born to us,
a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor,[d] Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 His government and its peace
will never end.
He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David
for all eternity.
The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies
will make this happen!


 
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Posted by on December 3, 2012 in Advent, Devotions, Faith

 

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Celebrate the Season- Advent Daily Chocolate Day 1: Love is Blind

When I was a kid I used to look so forward to December 1st.  That was when I could open the very first window in my Advent calendar.  This was the calendar that I received around Thanksgiving and was tortured by chocolate desire for a week or so.  But on December 1st, I could finally look and see what the chocolate design was… you know, an angel, a wiseman, a shepherd, Santa, etc…. and then eat it up.  The main problem though was that by December 2nd, the only thing left behind in those little windows was a hollowed out shell and  the smell of the chocolate …. Yep, I had no self control and I counted down to Christmas in one day.  What do you expect?  The pieces of chocolate were wafer thin and the windows weren’t locked…I had to make sure they all tasted the same…16767

Well, now I’m all grown up and have self control ……. And I also have a job so I can buy an extra calendar or two just in case…..but, this isn’t about chocolate calendars….it’s not about self-control…..  It is about the Advent Season and the excitement that the countdown brings.

I’ve found myself many times when I’m reading during my quiet time, wanting to read more and then a bit more and even more …. pretty much like the chocolate of my childhood, I don’t want to stop until I’m satisfied.  So to add to my regular Bible reading plan,  I’m opening an Advent reading window a day (while eating a piece of chocolate, of course).  I’m doing this so I can share the “chocolate” that is satisfying to me and hopefully to others to.

So grab your chocolate …. the real stuff.. or not….. and hold me accountable to sharing with you a devotion, insight or story a day until Christmas.  Hopefully,  you’ll enjoy it as much as I will.

So, we’ll begin here in Isaiah…. Isaiah 11:1-5 to be exact

Isaiah is prophesying- He’s telling about a person (Jesus), a descendant of David, who is going to have some pretty obvious qualities about himself…. Godly wisdom, Godly Counsel, Godly Understanding…Just these three alone are enough to make you think He would be the one to follow, but as you move on down into the scripture there is something that I read that makes the whole appreciating Jesus thing even more precious.

It talks about his quality of blindness in Christ… not literal blindness, but instead, it is the ability to look at someone and not see them as others do and not judge them because of the way that they appear.  He judges the heart (That is why the Pharisees stayed so angry at him all of the time) .  In other words, he doesn’t love us just because we are attractive, or physically fit, or big givers of our money, are financially sound, teach Sunday School or sing in the choir or any other deed.   He loves us because we are his creation… made in his image..    That’s an incredible hope for a society who lives in a shadow of Hollywood images and lifestyles … It is also incredible hope for those haunted by their past.

We also find out He also judges by what he knows and sees … not rumor…He waits to know our hearts and doesn’t allow the opinion of another to persuade his thoughts about us.   More hope for those plagued with a history of poor choices or a past (or even present) that have been a topic of conversations of others.

When Isaiah was prophesying about this Messiah, he painted a picture of a fair and loving Christ that we fortunately now have an opportunity to know…. personally.

Have you pushed Christ aside because of a sin, a past, a hate, a bitterness or just an esteem that feels undeserving?  Look at how he see us… it’s different than what we are used to …. allow him to show you that love.

What about those who have experienced his love… How is your love? Is your love blind toward others?  Is it based on what you feel is attractive or not so attractive (appearances, financial status, hygiene, rumors, lifestyle, political positions, educational background, personality)?  Today is a great day to practice blind love… to try to see the heart of a person rather than what the world sees.

So, I’m off to buy more chocolate…. I love this time of year!

Isaiah 11:1-5

New Living Translation (NLT)

1 Out of the stump of David’s family[a] will grow a shoot—
      yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root.
 2 And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
      the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
   the Spirit of counsel and might,
      the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
 3 He will delight in obeying the Lord.
      He will not judge by appearance
      nor make a decision based on hearsay.
 4 He will give justice to the poor
      and make fair decisions for the exploited.
   The earth will shake at the force of his word,
      and one breath from his mouth will destroy the wicked.
 5 He will wear righteousness like a belt
      and truth like an undergarment.

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2012 in Advent, Devotions, Faith

 

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Mirror, Mirror on my Desk…

Some days, like today, I really wish I were a morning person…. I would love to wake up and be on top of my game…. cooking a nice healthy breakfast for the family rather than warming a breakfast cookie (yes, that is a real breakfast product) in the microwave and rushing to get in the car…. or getting up prior to the rest of the family and having some quiet time with God rather than dropping my daughter off at school then going to the office early and taking that time then. No wait,  that one works out really well… Okay, how about this one… I would love to be able to get up and clean my house spotless before everyone woke up.  (Ha!  That one will never happen!) or even just get up without having to rush to get ready in the morning.

Regardless of what I would like to be, I am a perpetual night owl and think sunrises may be beautiful but I’d rather wait and see the movie of one than see it first hand. So, after many different strategies, I came up with a great plan… Because I’m sluggish in the morning and have trouble getting ready quickly, I would have a dual getting ready system.  At my office, I would have a duplicate of my hair styling things and an extra makeup bag in case I couldn’t get ready in time at home.  It was a great plan but was lacking in one thing, a mirror.  I decided to get a mirror that I could prop on my desk and after a great search, purchased one from the Dollar Tree.

I was thankful for that mirror because after some time, I began to get frustrated with my hair straightener when I noticed, by looking in that mirror, that it wasn’t straightening like it should.  Two straighteners later, I began to question my solution.  That’s when I looked closely at my helpful little mirror…. On the right side of it I noticed a slight wave in the glass… it just so happened to be in that same spot that I could never straighten… It wasn’t the straightener nor my hair… It was a tiny little carnival mirror that showed my hair as something it wasn’t… The good news: It wasn’t bumpy hair… it was straight hair all along.  The bad news: I wasted a lot of time trying to correct it when everyone else could see that it was straight already.

I was thinking this morning about grace…. God extending a hand to me to help me when I really don’t deserve it…. not just extending a hand but stooping down like a father to a child and picking me up and loving me when I don’t deserve it…For me it has always been a hard to thing to not only comprehend but to accept.

Sometimes or maybe even most of the time, it is difficult to allow and accept the gift of God’s grace for yourself.  When you look in the mirror you see the old self… the one with the bumpy hair… the exact one that evil wants you to focus on… the one that the enemy seeks to remind you to look at… the one that you deem so imperfect that it is not worthy of such a gift. But God’s grace sees the mirror and knows it is warped/bumpy/wavy and is causing the illusion and He knows it is not who you really are… He sees you as the perfection he created you to be… He sees what is real and not tainted.

I don’t know what is going on in your life today or how you see yourself when you look in the mirror… maybe you see the past crime, the addiction you are still battling with, the string of terrible decisions, the lack of trust, the lack of faith, the broken heart, the anger…. all things that you’ve given to God but you still see them when you look at yourself… But God wants us to see the person in the mirror that He sees.. the one who has no bumpy hair!  God wants us to be on the the top of our game…to recognize the bump in the mirror,  to be focused on Him and not our funky mirror illusions, to show His grace to not only others but experience it for ourselves…. all because he want us to be alert and cautious and not fall into the enemy’s trap. 

Satan, like a lion, preys on the weak, sick or young… He will prey on those that are focusing on the warped mirror and trying to get the “hair straightened” instead of walking away from it.  The enemy wants us to be defeated and will use the mirror as a weapon to frustrate, discourage and distract so he can attack.

I know this…. I’ve looked in the bumpy mirror all too often myself.  Time to get a new one.  🙂

1 Peter 5:8

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2012 in Devotions, Faith, Life Stories

 

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Thanksgiving + Christmas =Thanksmas

It’s over.  My family made it through the criticism, the sneers, the rejection, the envy and an assortment of other emotionally charged gestures and opinions.  Yes, we are that family who decorates for Christmas on the first weekend in November…..  and we can now finally breathe a sigh of relief and fully enjoy publicly what we had secretly been enjoying for weeks.

Every year, as soon as Halloween is over, my husband begins the routine of decorating for Christmas.  It is a quiet thing that we do…. no photos on Facebook, no talk in conversations to our peers, we just get out the decorations from the attic and begin putting them in their place.  The inside is garbed first and then the outside gets its makeover.  In fact, my husband is always full of surprises for as I was spending a late evening at the office and doing the basketball practice routine with our daughter, my husband had worked his way from the indoor decorations to the outside while I was gone.  When we turned the corner into our cul-de-sac, my daughter and I both said, “Whoa!”………As the Hallelujah Chorus rang throughout the neighborhood, we were blinded by the bright lights on our house. Okay, the Hallelujah Chorus thing didn’t actually happen and we weren’t truly blinded, but we were certainly the Griswold family in our own minds.  It was an amazing sight and also the signal that our household was Christmas decor complete.

Maybe you can picture how it looks….Beginning with the Hallelujah chorus approach from the street, you move through our well lit icicle guttering and step into a fully decorated house with a lighted tree (actually three trees now that I think about it), evergreen scented candles, a fireplace setting with a cozy Santa chair (aka Blue’s Clues Thinking Chair)  and Christmas paraphernalia pretty much everywhere. Oh, and of course, the Christmas music playing in the background….


Now, we know we aren’t alone in our decoration timing, we see it more and more each year, but we also know that there are many who do not understand why we “skip” or “forget about”  Thanksgiving.  But that’s exactly what we don’t do…. We are thankful… very thankful… We are thankful for Christ, thankful for his birth, thankful for the grace, peace and hope he gives, thankful, thankful, thankful and we don’t want to celebrate just for a little while….we want to make the most of it.  We want to prolong the feelings of good will, friendliness, peace, happiness and care for others that we see during the season…. So take our cozy, glowing, spirit-filled house, add the aroma of turkey, dressing, pumpkin pie, other Thanksgiving feast goodies and a dash of evergreen and you have Thanksmas.   That would be Latin-ish for a mass of thanks.

Okay, now that season of peace, kindness, love, joy, hope, giving, thankfulness that I mentioned….  yes, I realize that all of those things aren’t always so evident, but we do tend to see more of it during this season than any other time.  Maybe its the music, maybe the brightly (or blindingly) lit homes, maybe its the scent of cookie and homemade goodies baking….. whatever it is, we see families gather, co-workers and bosses celebrating together, thankful lists, people giving their money to help others, people letting others know how special they are through cards, gifts and time and more.   But the reality is, when the turkey leftovers are gone, the decorations are put away, gifts exchanged and the perpetual strategy to get rid of the new ten pounds creep up on us, we tend to fall back into the same stressful busyness that entraps us until the next year.  So why then is this season so different? I’m thinking maybe it boils down to one thing… EXPECTATIONS.   Because it is expected of us, we step out of the everyday routine and encourage peace, thankfulness, hope, love and all of the other great things within the holiday season. There are no seasonal rules that we have to obey, no holiday laws to break… it’s just a given…. It’s what we do because it is that time of year.

Recently my “verse of the day” reminded me that according to Colossians 3:15 , if we are followers of Christ, we are expected to be that way not just the month of December (and for some, November) but all of the time.  Can you imagine what it would look like if all followers of Christ lived by the expectations of allowing peace to rule our lives and always being thankful? I think we’d see no orphan without a home, no widow in need,  no elderly forgotten, no one disabled who is neglected, no one homeless without hope or needed treatment, no one who is dying without care… people would be freed from addictions, their pasts, stereotypes, loneliness, poverty and hatred…. we’d hear encouragement, feel love, gain wisdom and experience grace… we’d rest well, worry less or even none at all…. we’d spend time being thankful for what we have rather than spending time trying to accumulate more things….. we’d know God better than we ever thought possible…

If we can live by expectations from a holiday perspective then I would think we can live with the expectation of carrying a peace like Christ, which would also be a piece of Christ, and then top it with thankfulness at all times…. Now that would be a complete Thanksmas! …The only thing then that would separate the celebration of Christ’s birth from the rest of the year would be the decorations…. in early November! 🙂

Colossians 3:15

And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.

 
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Posted by on November 26, 2012 in Advent, Devotions, Faith

 

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Conversation: Hobbits

Conversation while watching a tv commercial for the new Hobbit movie.

Chris: Well, thats one movie that I won’t be watching.

Me: Really? Why?

Chris: Just no interest…besides who do you think will really “win” in the end?

Me: The bad hobbits always win….

Chris: What do you mean?

Me: Because their enemies will eventually tire out…

Chris: What?

Me: Umm… everyone knows that it takes approximately 12 weeks to break a bad hobbit…… Ba Da Bum! ( my rimshot)

Chris: (with a smile) Very funny

Me: (with a bigger smile) Thank you!

20121124-224950.jpg

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2012 in Conversations, Fun, Life Stories

 

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You’ve been prayed for

It’s 4:00a.m. and I woke up only to not be able to go back to sleep… I felt compelled to take this time to pray for you. That’s right, you, the one reading this. Whether you are a Facebook friend or a reading this from my blog, or both, I hope you find comfort knowing that no matter what you are going through -financial issues, relationship problems, running from God, physical, emotional or mental pain, or something completely different- I may not know what’s going on but God does and he loves you. You’ve been prayed for!

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2012 in Faith

 

You’ve been prayed for

It’s 4:00a.m. and I woke up only to not be able to go back to sleep… I felt compelled to take this time to pray for you. That’s right, you, the one reading this. Whether you are a Facebook friend or a reading this from my blog, or both, I hope you find comfort knowing that no matter what you are going through -financial issues, relationship problems, running from God, physical, emotional or mental pain, or something completely different- I may not know what’s going on but God does and he loves you. You’ve been prayed for!

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2012 in Faith

 

We Can Always Use a Friendly Reminder… Speaking for Myself and Maybe You, Too

Often in the morning when I am reading (a.k.a. quiet time), I will run across something that really stands out to me.  Sometimes it is a Bible verse or sometimes it is a quote from a devotional that I read….wherever it comes from, I want to remember it.  So, when one stands out to me I usually try (key word-try) to document the author and date found. I usually write them on Post-it notes and place them on a bookshelf that hides my desk which allows me to see them daily.  Many times I don’t think about them being there, but today was one of those days that I felt compelled to look them over. As I was scanning the collage of sticky notes, I noticed a theme that I hadn’t before and thought it to be interesting having just followed an election….. particularly an election that seems to have divided so many…

As I’ve said before, I am not a fan of nor do I talk about politics except on rare occasion… just ask my family.  I don’t believe that there is a single person, party or platform that can truly bring our nation together… there are just too many who won’t let things go… both sides. But I do believe that the reasoning for holding on to it is because there is a conviction and passion from those who believe their ideology is the correct one and hold on tight to where they stand  … on both sides ….  and that tends to bring division.

So, what you need to know about me and politics is that I do my homework, I believe what I believe, I pray, I vote, I’ll listen to you but I most likely will not talk to you(meaning anyone)about it.  With that said, I’m posting some photos that were reminders to me this morning…. and both sides whether liberal or conservative…..Donkey or Elephant……Democrat or Republican… Pleased or Displeased….and anyone who is a follower of Christ…..maybe in our words and actions these can be a reminder for us all….. Oh, and excuse my sloppy handwriting…

 
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Posted by on November 7, 2012 in Devotions, Faith, Life Stories

 

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Conversation in the Living room- A Second Wind

We are loaded with these conversations tonight…..

My Husband, Chris: I can’t sleep again… any suggestions?

Me: Why don’t drink some hot tea and take a hot bath….

Chris: Already taken the hot bath..

Me:  (referring to Leah’s favorite calming tea) Well, then how about some “Night Night” Tea

Allison:  Yeah, that would be what we call Benadryl…..

 
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Posted by on November 6, 2012 in Conversations, Fun, Life Stories

 

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