Simple Woman's Daybook...My Favorite Week of the Year!

FOR TODAY...December 28, 2009

Outside my window... Cold and sunny, with lingering patches of our Christmas Eve snow.

I am thinking... about the ways God prepares us for each season of our lives through the lessons of the last, and wondering what the preparation of the last few years is leading up to for our family.

I am thankful for... God's grace and blessing through the Christmas season, with beautiful reminders of His great Love Gift and wonderful worship opportunities.

I am wearing... Razorback sweats, hiking socks, and warm slippers.  It's 52 degrees in the house right now. :)

I am remembering... the simple beauty of our Christmas Eve worship service...I'm so thankful for the focus on reverent worship in our church, and even more so as I realize how rare that is becoming in today's churches.

I am going... shopping with Bay in a bit for her friend's birthday gift.

I am currently reading... new Christmas books!  The Pioneer Woman Cooks, Eat to Live (anyone else amused by the irony in that combo?? :)), and John MacArthur's The Jesus You Can't Ignore.   Also reading Restoring Broken Things, by Steven Curtis Chapman and Scotty Smith.  

I am hoping... that the roads don't get bad with the predicted snow tomorrow night.

On my mind... plans for the new year...looking forward to some time to get them down on paper in the next few days!

Pondering these words... "The  only basis for any real and lasting hope--about anything--is that Jesus died for our sins on the Cross, was buried in a tomb, and was raised from the dead on the third day, inaugurating the greatest restoration project imaginable.  Jesus has promised to make all things new, and He has also given us His word that He will return one day to completely rid the world of every expression and evidence of death and sin..." ~ Steven Curtis Chapman, Restoring Broken Things

From the kitchen... Meatballs in the crock pot for supper, with plans for Pioneer Woman's Monkey Muffins for dessert.  Yum!

Around the house... Christmas decorations are still up at the moment..we'll see if they last until the new year. :)  Tradition at my house was to leave them up until after New Year's Day...I always wanted them to stay up until my birthday on the 31st.  Billy's from the "take it all down the day after Christmas" camp.

One of my favorite things~ this week between Christmas and New Year's!  It's always been my favorite week of the year.  That probably started due to my birthday falling on the 31st, but now I love it because it has a different "flavor" than any other week of the year.  There is still a lingering of the beauty of Christmas, with a continuation of holiday spirit due to the coming New Year's celebration.  The shopping, cooking, and preparation deadlines of Christmas are over, and it is usually a "slow" week commitment-wise.   And what a week for a "planner/list-maker", as goals and plans for the new year are being created!

From my picture journal... 

(Our new chihuahua/rat terrier mix puppy.  This was my surprise Christmas gift from Billy. :)  Isn't she cute???  Her name is Wilhemina Rose.  I didn't *want* a dog...but I couldn't resist her when she showed up.  She was about to have to be taken to the shelter, and she came with her own food, carrier, and all her initial vet stuff done.  How could I say no? :))

For more Daybooks, visit Peggy's blog.  


In "Other" Words...Unraveled

“When the trials of life unravel
the fabric of our plans.
When we face the deep confusion
of painful circumstance.
When our feeble strength is broken,
and we stand with empty hands.
That’s when the Father whispers
‘Trust the pattern I have planned.’ “

Lyrics from song, The Weaver

It's amazing to me how music brings back such vivid memories.  I've blogged before about certain songs that seem to almost transport me back in time when I hear or sing them.   It happened again as we have been preparing for this year's Keyboards at Christmas presentation (which was incredibly amazing, by the way! :)).  

"Come, remember what God has done!  
Sent from Heaven His perfect Son!
Now the Spirit of love will raise
A great outpouring of praise!"
~ Claire Cloninger and Gary Rhodes

I'm not sure what year we first sang those words as part of the musical "A Christmas to Remember".   I know we've sung them several times in the intervening years.   My first realization upon singing them this year was that I still had the whole song practically memorized...words, notes, rhythms, the whole thing...which I found ironic, as I was having a hard time with music we had worked on much more recently.   I know that I have a harder time these days learning music than I used to...but it was odd to me that I could remember previously learned music so clearly, when my memory seems to be so faulty these days in so many areas. :)

My second realization was much deeper and more relevant. :)  As we worked on this song, I found myself once again transported back in time.  I could almost hear voices of certain choir members who aren't here anymore, and I felt odd sitting in the "wrong" place in the choir, although it's been years since the move was made.  And I could see my dad, dressed in his red sweater, singing those words with joy on his face.   For just a bit, every time we have rehearsed or sung this song this season,  the years disappeared, and I was for a few minutes back in what seemed like a completely different life.  

And then, almost as a cartoon character on TV who has been floating around in a dream, I suddenly came thumpity-bumping back to earth.  

There are the normal changes...choir members have come and gone, the church carpeting is different, and I have a few more children...and a lot more gray hair...than I did in those days. :)  But when I come thudding back to earth, it is not those changes I notice so much.  The first, and most obvious, thing I notice, is my dad being gone.  How I miss him!   He's been gone 5 years and one week, and while the grieving is much, much less intense than it used to be, this time of year always brings back so many, many memories.  But there are other, less public, changes that hit just as hard if not harder...and in the moments after the "thud", the feeling that descends is truly a feeling that things have completely come unraveled.  

Never in a million years, back when we first sang this song, would I ever have expected our family to experience the things we have experienced in recent years.  Our lives have veered so far from any plans we had in those days, that when I'm taken back to that time it almost seems like I am a totally different person.  If I let myself (and to be honest, I occasionally do), I can put together a pity party fast thinking of "life then" and "life now" and how different things are than what they were "supposed" to be.  

But thankfully, God is working, and those pity parties are fewer and further between than they used to be.  As we've sung "Come, remember what God has done", He has reminded me over and over of the amazing things that He has done ~ of the blessings of His faithfulness, love, goodness, and sovereignty.  He is continually reminding me that the true blessing of Christmas is hope ~ the hope we have in Him through salvation, and the hope that He provides in *all* circumstances that He is working for His glory and our good.   Yes, our  lives are vastly different than we would ever have imagined, but we have seen His glory in ways we would never have imagined as well.   Those glimpses of His glory are worth all the confusion, the painful circumstances, and the broken strength.

Loni selected the above lyrics from "The Weaver" as this week's In "Other" Words quote.  I haven't read her post yet...I wanted to get mine typed out before reading everyone else's...but I know that Loni has been through some serious "unraveling" herself, including her teenage son's death five years ago this month, and her daughter's heart problems.  I am so thankful for her selection of this quote this week.  I have so needed to ponder it in the midst of many memories *stirring* on many fronts, as well as facing another "layer of the onion" being peeled away in an ongoing extended family situation.  

And I am thankful for the ways that God keeps reminding me, through it all, that He is faithful, and sovereign, and all-sufficient.  For the hope He's given even this week in an answer to a 3 1/2 year long prayer.  For the reminders of the blessings I have...a wonderful, Godly husband who spoils me rotten and who has been my rock through it all;  four adorable (I hope Peter doesn't read this...not sure he'd appreciate that!), usually-happy, healthy children;  friends who have become like family (and who get me hooked on Mike and Ikes or make me play multiple pieces of music in 5 sharps...ahem! :-D);  a precious church family we love, with a pastor who is committed to preaching the truth no matter what, and a minister of music who is devoted to excellence and true worship in music.

Most of all, I am thankful for the assured hope of salvation and of His good and perfect plan.  

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand;
 and we exult in hope of the glory of God.
And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;
 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;
 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
~Romans 5: 1-5

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

For more thoughts on this quote, please visit Loni at Writing Canvas.  Thanks to her for hosting and for a great quote to think on this week!


Blog Tour ~ The Familiar Stranger

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Familiar Stranger

Moody Publishers (September 1, 2009)


Christina Berry


Single mother and foster parent, Christina Berry carves time to write from her busy schedule because she must tell the stories that haunt her every waking moment. (Such is the overly dramatic description of an author's life!) She holds a BA in Literature, yet loves a good Calculus problem, as well. All that confusion must have influenced her decision to be team captain of a winning team on Family Feud.

Her debut novel, The Familiar Stranger, released from Moody in September and deals with lies, secrets, and themes of forgiveness in a troubled marriage. A moving speaker and dynamic teacher, Christina strives to Live Transparently--Forgive Extravagantly!

Her work has also appeared in The Secret Place, The Oregonian, and Daily Devotions for Writers.


Craig Littleton's decision to end his marriage would shock his wife, Denise . . . if she knew what he was up to. When an accident lands Craig in the ICU, with fuzzy memories of his own life and plans, Denise rushes to his side, ready to care for him.

They embark on a quest to help Craig remember who he is and, in the process, they discover dark secrets. An affair? An emptied bank account? A hidden identity? An illegitimate child?

But what will she do when she realizes he's not the man she thought he was? Is this trauma a blessing in disguise, a chance for a fresh start? Or will his secrets destroy the life they built together?

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Familiar Stranger, go HERE

My thoughts: The Familiar Stranger is one of the best fiction reads I've read this year. New author Christina Berry grabbed my attention on the first page and never let go until the final one. This was one of those books that tempted me to ditch commitments and stay home to read it straight through (I didn't! :) But it definitely tempted me!) I will definitely be watching for Berry's next novel.

Disclosure: I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher for review purposes.


The Christmas Lamp~CFBA Blog Tour

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Christmas Lamp

Zondervan (October 1, 2009)


Lori Copeland


Lori Copeland has been writing for twenty-five years and has over three million copies of her books in print. She began her writing career in 1982, writing for the secular book market. In 1995, after many years of writing, Lori sensed that God was calling her to use her gift of writing to honor Him. It was at that time that she began writing for the Christian book market.

To date, she has more than 95 books published, including Now and Always, Simple Gifts, Unwrapping Christmas, and Monday Morning Faith, which was a finalist for the 2007 Christy Awards. Lori was inducted into the Springfield Writers Hall of Fame in 2000.

Lori lives in the beautiful Ozarks with her husband Lance. They have three sons, two daughter-in-laws, and five wonderful grandchildren. Lori and Lance are very involved in their church, and active in supporting mission work in Mali, West Africa.


Christmas trees, twinkling lights, skating in the park, and holiday displays are the hallmark elements for celebrating Jesus birth for the sentimental residents of Nativity, Missouri. Will fiscal responsibility replace Christmas their traditions when times are tough? Though their priorities and methods clash, Roni Elliot and Jake Brisco want the same thing, for the town to prosper. As the two get to know each other better, each begins to gain a new perspective on what the real wealth of Nativity and the season might be.

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Christmas Lamp, go HERE

My thoughts: Unlike many of the books I've read for review purposes recently, this one was written by an author whose novels I've read often. I know that she is a master story-teller, and I enjoy her often-slightly-quirky characters. I have to admit that I wasn't particularly interested in reading this Christmas novella until I noticed the author's name...but I'm so glad that I changed my mind. I've been in a season of more "serious" reading...even much of my fiction reading recently has been a bit on the "heavy" side. The Christmas Lamp was a refreshing break from that pattern. Light, but not total "fluff" (as Christmas novellas can occasionally be :)), it's perfect reading for a cold night by a warm fireplace after a busy day of holiday activities.  

Disclosure to comply with new FCC regulations for bloggers: I was provided a copy of this book free of charge from the publisher for the review purposes.


In "Other" Words...God With Us!

Welcome to today's In "Other" Words!   Please join with us in sharing your thoughts on the John MacArthur quote below.  After posting on your blog, come back here and post the perma-link (the link to your In "Other" Words post, not the main page of your blog) in the Mr. Linky.  If you have trouble with Mr. Linky, please post your link in the comments to this post. Also, if you don't have a blog, feel free to post your thoughts in the comments here.  Thank you for joining us today!

“If we could condense all the truths of Christmas 
into only three words
these would be the words: 
'God with us.' 
We tend to focus our attention at Christmas on the infancy of Christ. 
The greater truth of the holiday is His deity
More astonishing than a Baby in the manger is the truth that this promised Baby is the 
omnipotent Creator of the heavens and the earth!”

~ John F. MacArthur, Jr.

God with us!  Such an amazing truth to ponder.  Even His name was to remind us that this was no ordinary baby born in such humble circumstances, but God, come to be with us:

Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name 
which being interpreted is, 
God with us. 
~Matthew 1:23

This past Sunday evening, our Children's Choirs presented the musical The Best Christmas Present Ever.  All four of our children were in the musical...Peter, Bayley, and Emlyn had speaking parts, and Ammah Grace and Emlyn had solos.  Billy and I were both involved as well...Billy working the sound and me as an accompanist.  All of that to say, we've been pretty immersed in this musical for the past few weeks/months.

It was a perfect combination of humor and *teary-eyed* spots, with great music and excellent drama.  But in between the howls of laughter and the "Awwww...how sweet"s, the message was very clear.  The main character, an arrogant news anchor, makes it quite plain that he sees no way that a "2,000 year old guy" could be relevant today.  Only naive children could believe anything different.  The children and their teacher explain that the "Good News" is that God gave us the greatest gift of all...He sent His Son, Jesus, to earth to be born in a manger.  But...we have a choice to make...to accept the gift of salvation He provided through His death and resurrection, to give Him our hearts, and acknowledge Him as our King.  

At the end of the musical, the anchorman reports that the "2,000 year old man" has changed his life~He has saved him and given him the best Christmas present ever!

It is so easy to get wrapped up in the "sweet little baby Jesus" aspect of Christmas.  As I've heard several times lately, the people all over the world celebrate His birth...whether they truly acknowledge it as such or not.   But when we actually stop and think about the fact that that "sweet little baby" in the manger was "the omnipotent Creator of the heavens and the earth", it gets a little harder.  That requires a more serious response from us than "Oh, how sweet!"  It requires a choice from us...a choice to accept the gift of salvation He offers, a choice to give Him His rightful place as King of our hearts.  It demands reverence, and worship, and obedience.  

But...not only is that realization a bit harder, it is also infinitely more wonderful!  If it was just a "sweet little baby" born in the stable that night, it is little more than a beautiful story.  But the fact that the All-Powerful God of the universe was in that manger is Something indeed!  He loved us so much that He chose to come to earth in human form, be born as a baby, grow into a man, and then be beaten and tortured before He took our sin on Himself and gave His life on the cross.   But then, because He *is* the Almighty God, He rose from the dead on the 3rd day, and now sits in Heaven at the right hand of the Father, offering the free gift of salvation to all who will accept it.

For those who have not yet accepted that gift, the most wonderful thing that could happen this season is to accept that gift of salvation.  For those who have already accepted that gift, we too have choices to make this season.  Is he truly Lord of our Life?  Are we truly worshiping Him as the omnipotent Creator of the heavens and the earth?  Are we obeying Him in all that we do?   Does He truly have first place in our hearts this holiday season?   Are we sharing the Good News with others?  

I so want to focus not only on the Baby in the manger this Christmas season, but on "God with Us" throughout the year. 

"She will bear a Son; 
and you shall call His name
for He will save His people from their sins."

~ Matthew 1:21

God exalted Him to the highest place
      and gave Him the name that is above every name,
 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
      in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
      to the glory of God the Father.

~ Philippians 2:9-11

(My apologies to those who looked for In "Other" Words earlier today.  I had planned to post early this morning, but between Billy being off and our being completely off-schedule, and the engagement last night of a dear friend's daughter, I've been a bit distracted this morning! )