focused on Glory...Unexpected Winter Beauty

I know that God didn't give us beautiful weather last weekend just for my birthday, but it was a welcome gift regardless!  Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were beautiful, with mild temperatures (we even hit the low 70s for a while!), gorgeous sunshine, and a touch of wind.  It felt more like spring than New Year's weekend!

We took advantage of the beautiful weather to spend some time outside...both during my birthday outing on Friday, and at home in our yard throughout the weekend.  The beautiful weather...and the creatures enjoying it with us...were wonderful reminders of God's creativity, goodness, and definitely His glory!

Our yard was full of young mourning doves this weekend...they fascinate me!  

They are beginning to lose that look of "armor" in their feathers, but there is still a touch of that.

There were four doves clustered in this tree.

Loved these two in the tree together...

Squirrel on the roof.

Beautiful sunshine!

Horrid picture, but the way these guys balance in the trees amazes me!  He looks like he should be toppling forward out of f this branch, but he's perfectly balanced, munching away. :)

Be sure to see Tauna's focused on Glory post here.  What a precious story! 

Addendum to last week's foG post:

Somehow between the spacing/formatting/photo issues I was having with Blogger last week and the two girls who were bouncing around waiting to watch a movie with me, I completely lost a {very important} paragraph of last week's foG post.  I'm going to try to recompose it here. :)

From last night's post...

"Mrs. Shirley was the mother-in-law/mother/grandmother of dear friends.  She was a very special lady to our children, and she and I had a bit of a special relationship as well...we were choir buddies for a few years when she first joined our church and sang in choir until she was no longer able, and then I stayed with her once a week or so during her last year.  God used her in a big way in my life. "

What was supposed to follow that was this...(or something close :))...

"Not only did God use  my relationship with Mrs. Shirley in a big way in my life, but He also used my front row seat in watching my friend Jodie take care of her mother-in-law.  I'm no stranger to the world of caring for aging family at home.  I lived with my grandmother for several years to enable her to stay independent as long as possible, and then my parents cared for her for several years both before and after her stroke(s).  But caring for Mrs. Shirley came with its own set of challenges, and watching the way that God sustained and enabled my friend to meet those challenges made a huge impact on my life."  


focused on {eternal} Glory...

This week's post is a simple one...photos of the beautiful casket spray from our friend Mrs. Shirley's funeral last week.  She loved red roses and cardinals, and this arrangement ended up being just perfect.  Since we love cardinals around here, too, I had to go back out yesterday and take a few pictures of these.  

Mrs. Shirley was the mother-in-law/mother/grandmother of dear friends.  She was a very special lady to our children, and she and I had a bit of a special relationship as well...we were choir buddies for a few years when she first joined our church and sang in choir until she was no longer able, and then I stayed with her once a week or so during her last year.  God used her in a big way in my life. 

Not only did God use  my relationship with Mrs. Shirley in a big way in my life, but He also used my front row seat in watching my friend Jodie take care of her mother-in-law.  I'm no stranger to the world of caring for aging family at home.  I lived with my grandmother for several years to enable her to stay independent as long as possible, and then my parents cared for her for several years both before and after her stroke(s).  But caring for Mrs. Shirley came with its own set of challenges, and watching the way that God sustained and enabled my friend to meet those challenges made a huge impact on my life.


At her funeral and graveside service, we were reminded of the certain hope that lies within us...

 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him  those who have fallen asleep.   For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.  For the Lord himself will descend  from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them  in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.  Therefore encourage one another with these words.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

"For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth,
and the former things shall not be remembered
or brought to mind."
~Isaiah 65:17

Bro. Kent also talked a little bit about Heaven, and reminded us of this description in Revelation 21...

"And He carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 
It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed— on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. 
And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
  And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls.
 The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And He measured the city with His rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal. He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel's measurement. 
The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, like clear glass. 
The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. 
And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.
  And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.
 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 
By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 
But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life."
Revelation 21:10-27

Talk about focused on Glory!  To think that the city is going to be that beautiful and that glorious...and yet the truly amazing thing is going to be the Glory of God.  Such an incredibly awesome thought! 

Be sure to see Tauna's foG post here.  I love her post this week...she definitely decorates her world! :) 

(I apologize for missing last week's foG post completely, and being late with this week's.  Last Tuesday was the funeral, and the day completely got away from me. The following day brought some unwelcome excitement that has carried on throughout the week...more about that in tomorrow's post, if all goes as planned.  But...the point is that photography and blogging have been rather on the back burner.  Hopefully we're back on schedule now and I will do better!  ETA: I also apologize for the spacing/formatting issues with this post.  I've been working on it off and on all day, and Blogger and I are apparently not on very good terms today, because no matter WHAT I do, I can't seem to fix the problems.  Ugh! :))


End of the Year Daybook :)

I haven't done a Simple Woman's Daybook post in a long time, but I got up this morning in the mood for an "End of the Year Daybook" post, so here it is. :)

December 26, 2011
Outside my window...Cold, cloudy, gray day with rain in the forecast.  The birds and squirrels are having a feast on the old air conditioner outside my window...since it no longer works, but we can't remove it, we've turned it into a bird feeder.  They make a huge racket out there, but I love it. :)

I am thinking...On the brink of the New Year, this verse about the ultimate in "new" has been on my mind since last Tuesday:

“For behold, I create new heavens
and a new earth,
and the former things shall not be remembered
or come into mind."  ~ Isaiah 65:17

Bro. Kent said last week at Mrs. Shirley's graveside that we always think about people in Heaven thinking about things that happened on earth, but that actually the Bible says that in Heaven we won't remember things that happened on earth.  I've been pondering that all week...what a comforting thought on so many levels! 

I am thankful...for all the blessings and lessons of this holiday season, for a healthy family, for daily provision, and for the encouragement of friends in so many ways in recent weeks.  

From the learning rooms...Planning and preparing for second semester!

In the kitchen...Making a big pot of potato soup for lunch.  Glad to have leftover treats from yesterday...cookie dough bites, cherry-pistachio bark, and oreo truffles (except I actually sent the last remaining oreo truffles with Billy to work...there weren't many. :))

I am wearing...Warm, cozy fleece and new fuzzy slippers I got for Christmas...for which I am VERY thankful this cold morning. 

I am creating...plans and schedules for the new year.  Billy is on week 2 of his 3 weeks working his "intermediate" schedule...transitioning from his former schedule of 6:30-2:30 to his new schedule of 11-7.  I'm not even sure what these weeks officially are...8-4, maybe?  Should be interesting...we start back to school January 2 and will need to adjust our schedule for the "intermediate" hours for one week, then start our 11-7 schedule the following week.  Apparently we needed some work on flexibility!

I am going...to venture out sometime today or tomorrow into the post-holiday chaos.  Children have Christmas money they are aching to spend, and I have a couple of returns (blech! :)).  

I am pondering...a blog post I've been planning since Thanksgiving and still not composed/posted.  God is still working on it...and on me!...but I'm hoping to finish it this week. 

I am reading...Katie Davis's Kisses from Katie.  Haven't had time to read much, but I can already tell it is going on my "Favorites of 2011" list.  Wow.  If it weren't on loan from a friend, I think I'd be underlining half the book. :)  Bedtime reading these days (when I'm not too tired to hold a book by the time I collapse into bed) is Mary DeMuth's The Muir House.  I hope to review it soon.  Can't wait for her newest book to come out later this month...Beautiful Battle.

I am hoping...for a very low-key week this week, with no surprises.  We've had a little too much excitement the last couple of months. :)  Really hoping to just have a relaxing, productive week this week. 

I am looking forward to...2012! After my favorite week of the year, of course. :) (See below...:))

I am hearing...Listening to Guy Penrod's "Breathe Deep" CD on my wmp playlist, in honor of the GP shirts the girls got for Christmas (Guess who those were from?? :))

The girls LOVE their Guy Penrod shirts!  "Pray About Everything" is Gracie's favorite song.   Someday I need to video her singing it. :)

Around the house...Enjoying our new-to-us Christmas Day surprise sofa!  Friends called Christmas morning and said that they had bought a new sofa, and could we use their old one?  So we added a little furniture moving to our Christmas afternoon plans.  So thankful! 

Going to be doing some serious decluttering and organizing this week (and maybe even a little painting??  I am afraid to get my hopes up, but maybe. :)  Sure would be nice to get the dining room done...or even half-done!...for my birthday. :))

One of my favorite things...(from my Daybook post this time 2 years ago :))... 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! 

A few plans for the rest of the week:  SO thankful for an empty calendar this week.  No mid-week church activities, even...which will be really weird, but for which I am thankful after the hustle and bustle (much of which wasn't even holiday related) of recent weeks.  Homekeeping, cooking, planning/scheduling/school prep, a few errands here and there, relaxing time with family and friends, and hopefully a little crafting and photography...those are my plans, but we'll see what actually happens. :)

Here is picture I am sharing...

Silly picture of the kids when we were attempting to get some Christmas pictures...hopefully we'll get some better pictures sometime this week!

Linking up with the Simple Woman's Daybook today...visit Peggy to see more!


Oven-Free Friday...on Saturday :)

Nothing like deciding to start a new weekly feature and then abandoning it entirely for a couple of months!  I started Oven-Free Fridays in October, got caught up in 30 Days of Gratitude in November, and then December went crazy and I've barely blogged at all.  (In fact, I still have a post pending from the "30 Days" series, and I still haven't posted my "focused on Glory" post for this week. :-/ )  BUT...I do want to get back to the Oven-Free Fridays feature, so here is my "jumping back in" post. :)

One of the things that has been an adjustment without an oven has been desserts and snacks.  Cookies, pies, cakes, brownies...all of these typically require an oven.  I have plans to try some variations with the crock pot, toaster oven, and electric roaster, but I haven't gotten very far with those plans as of yet.  I have, however, found some truly "oven-free" alternatives this year that have been hits around our house.  

For the first, I have to give credit to my friend Valerie.  She sent this Cherry-Pistachio bark to our youth Christmas party last week, and I was hooked!  I was even more excited when I discovered how quick and easy it is to make.  I will add these three comments to the linked recipe: 

(1) I don't have a 15x10 pan.  I've been making it in an 11x16 pan and using foil to make "bumpers" in the pan to make the space smaller.  I realized when I made it yesterday that I think I would prefer it a little thinner, so next time I make it, I'm going to do away with the foil "bumpers" and let it spread out over the whole pan.  

(2) I noticed in the comments that someone said that when they stirred the cherries and pistachios into the white chocolate, the colors all ran together.  I liked the idea of the Christmas-y red, white, and green, so I spread the white chocolate in the pan, then sprinkled the cherries and pistachios over the white chocolate.  Then I used the back of a spatula to gently press the cherries and pistachios down into the chocolate, so that they weren't "sitting" on top.  (My son would probably want me to mention that that was his idea.  He is a smart boy. :))  

(3) I can't get this to cut in anything remotely resembling "squares".  I use a big knife to cut it apart, but it ends up in all kinds of shapes.   This doesn't bother me a bit.  If you are the kind of person who wants perfect squares...well, be warned that you may have trouble. :)  

Yummm!  :)

The second recipe is one I found on Pinterest.  I've planned to make it for weeks...since before Thanksgiving, I think...and never made it. Yesterday as we were preparing for a party, I thought, "I'm going to try those Cookie Dough Bites for tonight."  (I was taking other food, so if they'd been a complete flop, it wouldn't have been a disaster, and this is the kind of party where you can do that sort of thing.  I wouldn't ordinarily plan to take something I'd never tried before to a party. :))

One of the things we've missed most about being "ovenless" has been cookies.  We've done some of the ready-to-bake cookies in the toaster oven, but you can't really do a big batch of baking that way.  When I saw these cookie dough bites, I thought, "What a perfect cookie substitute!"  Everyone always wants to eat the dough anyway, and although I've eaten raw cookie dough all my life and am still alive to tell about it, as a mom, I feel this responsibility to tell my children "That has raw egg!  It could make you sick!"  (They do still eat raw cookie dough occasionally, in small amounts.  It's one of those things I feel guilty about regardless...guilty for depriving them of the joys of raw cookie dough on the one hand, and guilty for letting them eat something so "dangerous" on the other. ;-)  Oh, the joys of being a mom! :))

These cookie dough bites solve that problem.  They are eggless.  All the yumminess, none of the guilt.  Yay!  And easy...I decided to make them at the last minute, had everything I needed on hand, and even managed to drizzle chocolate on top on my way out the door. :)   

Again, my comments on the linked recipe...

(1) Even with my hands, I couldn't get the dough to stick together.  I added a tiny bit of water, and it worked fine.  

(2) I didn't have mini-chips, so I used regular ones.  If I'd had time, I would have gotten out my kitchen hammer and crushed them in a ziploc bag first...but I didn't, so I just threw them in "as is".  They worked just fine that way, and since I always have a big bag of chocolate chips from Sam's in my freezer, we'll probably continue to make them that way.  

More yummm! :)

Do you have a favorite oven-free treat?  Please post any recipes or links in the comments section...I'd love to hear from you!


In "Other" Words ~ Year-Round Christmas

Christmas belongs to us, the believers of Christ, 
It doesn't belong to the world.
Christ needs to be elevated in our hearts year around.
He didn't come to be marketed, as a seasonal gift on sale for half price.
We were the ones that were bought at a price.
~ David Jeremiah

Christmas is in 5 days.  I am woefully unprepared.  Our tree stands in the living room, fully lit but barely decorated...over a week ago I told the children, "two ornaments apiece, and we'll finish it tomorrow..."  Or maybe a few days after tomorrow...*blush*

I bought my first Christmas gifts yesterday...thank goodness for Amazon and free SuperSaver shipping!  Hopefully today I will cross a few more off the list...I so want to be finished BEFORE Christmas Eve.  

I realized yesterday that I need a new "plan" for Christmas brunch...or breakfast, as it will need to be this year, due to Sunday morning church.   For various reasons, our traditional brunch fare won't work this year, so it's time to get creative quick.

And speaking of realizations, I realized in the wee hours this morning that I completely, totally FORGOT about our standing Christmas Eve tradition...the one package we open on Christmas Eve...just left it off the list entirely.  Realized entirely too late, as the Christmas budget is already past the point of last minute additions...a last-minute "what do I do now?" pickle that I seriously wish I had avoided. 

I had a list of Christmas crafts, ornaments, and gifts I really wanted to tackle with the children this year...I still hold out hope of accomplishing a *few* things off that list, but given the schedule for the week, it won't be nearly as many as I'd hoped. 

I'm reminding myself that considering the events of the last couple of months, I've actually done pretty well.  It isn't as though I've just been lollygagging. :)  Since the first of November I've had a couple of humdinger illnesses, one of which landed me in the ER, and both of which required some serious "down time" in order not to put myself even *further* behind.  And then there were the few days of electrical issues, which threw several kinks into our plans.  Amazingly, we made it through all the Christmas music at church (with all the associated extra rehearsals) pretty much without missing a beat.  They were wonderful, and a treasured part of our family Christmas traditions with our church family, but they definitely take a huge chunk of our schedule during holiday prep time.

And again today, as with so many Christmas seasons in recent years, we have a funeral to attend.  As we've been preparing for today, my mind has gone back to spending Christmas Eve at the funeral home 13 years ago after Granny Kitty died...to Daddy's funeral the day after the Christmas musical in 2004...and spending my birthday at the funeral home last year when Great-Papa died.  (Was that just last year?  Or two years ago?  The years seem to be running together...)  This year dear friends lost their mother/mother-in-law/grandmother.  She had been on hospice for 9 months and had her ups and downs, and yet...no one really expected it to happen now. 

As jarring as funeral homes and funerals and loss and grieving seem against the backdrop of the festivities of the holiday season, I am reminded again, as my friend said the other day, that this is what Christmas is all about.   While the grim reality of death seems so out of place in the midst of the season of joy and gladness...it's really what the joy and gladness are all about.

I remember walking the mall on Christmas Eve 13 years ago, shopping for earrings in which to bury my grandmother.  There weren't any suitable earrings from her collection which matched the suit in which she was to be buried, so with my mom and aunt busy with other details, I volunteered for earring duty.  

It was hard not to be sad walking through the mall that afternoon.  Christmas sweaters and Santa hats and funny reindeer antler headbands were everywhere.  There were clusters of happy shoppers with armloads of bags overflowing with gifts.  Of course, there were also the grumpy scrooge-type shoppers...the ones who complained about long lines, empty shelves, and crowded aisles.   I felt like such an out-of-place observer, distanced from the holiday frivolity by my somber mission.

Just as I found myself fighting tears, remembering many happy trips to that very mall with my grandmother in her healthier "shop-til-you-drop" days, realization dawned.  While I felt that the purpose of my trip was decidedly "un-Christmas-y", in reality, it pointed to the real meaning of Christmas in a way that the Christmas sweaters, reindeer antlers, and Santa hats couldn't begin to.  

God reminded me as I wove through the crowds that day of a truth I saw more clearly than I ever had before...a truth I had heard, and read, and said for years, but which I was actually experiencing in a whole new way.  The death that had propelled me to the mall, the grieving that I was experiencing as I walked along...they, not the holly and glitter of the holidays...they were truly the point.  

I realized that many of those happy shoppers I was passing might be experiencing the holiday spirit, but completely missing out on the Spirit of the holiday.  Although we were experiencing sadness in the fact that my grandmother wouldn't be there to celebrate Christmas, we had an amazing joy and certain hope in the knowledge that she was now worshiping her Savior face to face, and that we would see her again someday.  As our friend Jeanette Cox said, "This may be your worst Christmas ever, but it's her BEST one."  I've remembered that often this week.  

Decorated trees, holiday baking, beautifully wrapped gifts, family traditions...they are all wonderful parts of our Christmas celebration.  But as God keeps reminding me this year...they aren't the point.  They are fun, special, precious extras that hopefully help remind us, our families, and our friends of the true gift of Christmas.  But they aren't Christmas.  

Christmas is, as the quote above points out, all about OUR being bought...not on sale, but at the highest price imaginable.  And not as a last-minute fix to an unexpected problem, but as part of a divinely perfect plan from before the foundation of the world.  God created us KNOWING that we would sin, KNOWING that we would need a Savior, and PLANNING to send His one and only Son, fully God and yet fully man, to come to earth and die...for sinful, selfish, evil us.   The gift of Christmas is a year-round gift of hope and peace and joy found in salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, His death on the cross to pay for our sin, and His glorious resurrection.  

I'm reminding myself this year that I need to let go of all the other stuff of Christmas, and focus on that truth.  The greatest gift I can give my family is not Christmas Eve pajamas, traditional brunch food every year, or a beautifully decorated tree.  The greatest gift I can give my family is to live out the year-round reality of Christmas every day, and to spend the Christmas season reminding them of that year-round reality in all that we do.  (Conversely, the worst thing I can do is get stressed and grumpy because Christmas isn't looking like I think it should or wish it would...not that I would ever do that...*whistles in the air*.  I still have a blog post pending from Thanksgiving about God using a friend to "sharpen" me a bit in that regard...God is still working on me!)

Thanks to Karen for hosting In "Other" Words this week.  Please visit her blog to see what she and others have to say about the above quote she selected for today.

P.S....Just as I was finishing this post, Billy called and said my Christmas Eve gift crisis had been solved.   God is good, always, and I am thankful! 


focused on Glory...Moon

Almost a week had passed since our first focused on Glory post, and I was not much better off than I was the week before in the way of photos.  The infection that had landed me in the ER the previous week was a doozy, and my camera hadn't been in hand nearly as often as usual.  When it was, the photos I took were quite uninspired.  I was beginning to get a bit antsy about the upcoming focused on Glory post. 

Then as we pulled up at the house after Sunday night's second and final performance of this year's Keyboards at Christmas, I saw it: a HUGE bird flew over the van and the house into our back yard.  Its underside was totally white against the hauntingly dark night sky.  "What was THAT?"  I asked Billy.  "An owl...a HUGE owl," he replied.  

We raced into the house and out the back door, reminding the children not to let the dogs out in the yard.  I just knew this was going to be the solution to my lack of photos for this week's focused on Glory post...what could be better than a big, beautiful owl in a tree?  

We saw it, sitting regally in the top of the tree across the alley.  As dark on the outside as its underside had been light, it was still quite visible high in the tree against the dark sky.  Alas...what was visible to the naked eye was too much of a challenge for my photographic skills...the combination of distance, zoom lens, darkness of the sky, and darkness of the amazing bird were just too much.  As I frantically changed settings over and over, trying to come up with *something* that would work, the giant bird suddenly took flight and disappeared.  

There is nothing quite like the devastation of knowing that you have missed an incredible photo opportunity.  I stood in the yard with eyes peeled for the massive owl, repeatedly asking Billy, "Do you think it will come back??"  He tried to console me, but we both knew it was probably gone for the night, if not forever.  

As I searched the dark sky for the elusive owl, I began to notice something else that I'd been looking right past...the moon.  I had really wanted to get up and take pictures of the eclipse Saturday morning, but that was not to be.  As I looked at the moon, and the clouds and trees that framed it, I decided that I might have missed the photo opportunity I had dashed out the door for, but I had another one in the sky right over my head. 

Be sure to see Tauna's focused on Glory post here.  (And don't miss the delightful story behind it here!) 

I Heart Faces...Pets

This week I Heart Faces is all about pet faces!  Here's the blurb..."This week is all about the animals that we love and adore!  Enter a photo of an animal (doesn’t have to be furry – any type of pet, animal, insect, bird, snake, etc. is fine).  " 

This is Apollonia.  Apollonia is very definitely a pet.  If we go out in the yard without food for her, she runs up to us and follows us around until we go in and get something for her.  She takes food out of our hands.  She is seriously spoiled. :)  I especially love this photo of her from earlier today because you can see her cute little tongue. <3

Be sure to check back later this evening for this week's focused on Glory post! 


Remembering Seven Years Ago...

Remembering seven years ago...
missing dress rehearsal, friends helping in so many ways,
Isaiah 40:11,
Diet Coke in a bag, 
half the choir showing up at the hospital when dress rehearsal ended, 
just the right people being there at just the right times, 
watching every breath and wondering if it was the last...
until it was, and all the suffering was over, 
and we were left with a great big husband/daddy/father-in-law/Papaw-sized hole in our hearts.  

So thankful for these years he's spent rejoicing and worshiping instead of suffering, and for the certain hope that that night seven years ago was not good-bye.  Almost the last words I heard him say, in the midst of incredible pain, were "God has been so good to me."  So thankful for that memory that challenges me when I get caught up in earthly stuff and forget to see His goodness...

So thankful for my Daddy...


...and missing him an awful lot tonight...


Not exactly according to plan...

"I may end up cheating on the first FOG post tomorrow..."  was the message that popped into my chat window yesterday.  "I may have to as well..." was my reply.  Not an especially auspicious start for our new joint blog venture!

Just hours after I posted our announcement post last Thursday, I found myself in the ER, thanks to a sudden and severe infection that totally derailed the rest of the week.  Thanks to some heavy-hitting meds and lots of mandatory rest, I am finally beginning to feel something akin to normal.  However, all my plans for a photo-filled weekend fell completely flat.  No Christmas card pictures, no birthday photos of our oldest, no Keyboards at Christmas photos, no nothing!  I did take a few backyard bird photos, but my arm wasn't steady enough to get anything approaching a great shot.  

Poor Tauna didn't even get her camera out during that time.  She was hit hard by a nasty bout of bronchitis and ended up in bed all weekend.  

As Tauna suggested, it almost seems as if Satan is working overtime to discourage us from focusing on God's glory and sharing it in this way.  Not going to work, though!  :)  I may not have the photos I intended to have, or even anything close, but I'm going to use what I have and share regardless.  

I don't know if Thursday night was the sickest I've ever been, but if it wasn't, it was certainly in the running. But God worked in that time in such a precious way...He showed His faithfulness and glory in the cold (quite literally, as I was shaking with chills), sterile (well, until the poor paramedic bumped a syringe and shot blood all over the exam room...yes, it was a fun night for all :)), and sometimes lonely (Billy was bouncing back and forth trying to take care of me and checking on the kids) ER room just as greatly as He shows it in a gorgeous waterfall or in the amazing view off a mountaintop.  

I posted this on Facebook on Friday...

I have the best husband, the best children, and the best friends anywhere. And I am so very, very thankful for them. And thankful for our ever-faithful God, and for His Word, which is a comfort and help in any situation. I was also reminded in the wee hours of the morning how thankful I am for Marie K's parents, Steve and Heber M, who encouraged not only me, but our family and our church, in systematic Scripture memory for many years, and for my parents, who made that a priority. We tend to think that it's just in case we ever end up persecuted and have our Bibles taken away, but sometimes it's just a simple matter of not having a Bible available when we really need one, or not being in a position to read one if we had it. There are a lot of things I can't quote verbatim, but it is such a blessing to be able to meditate on what I do remember when I can't pull out a Bible and read it.

I am so thankful for all the ways God showed His faithfulness and glory that night.  One of the biggest ways was through my sweet husband.  I posted this on Facebook later on Friday...

I have to go back and say how thankful I am for my husband. He worked 10 1/2 hours yesterday, came home and went to the Living Nativity with us, and then spent 5 hours in the ER (where he'd worked all day) with his sick wife. He came home and slept for not-quite-two hours, got up and ran a bunch of errands that I couldn't do (and brought home warm, fuzzy socks for me!), did laundry, and then went to the store to help me get the essentials since it's two-week grocery day and there was no way that was happening. All without complaining at all. I am so blessed and thankful (and more than a bit spoiled).

I am very blessed (and yes, spoiled :)).  I am so thankful to have a husband who shows the love of Christ for the church in his love and care for me and for our children.  His birthday happens to be tomorrow. :)  So even though this is not really the type of photo I had in mind for this feature...it's actually just a snapshot from a quick birthday dinner tonight (because of church tomorrow)...I decided it was an appropriate one for this "not according to plan" "focused on Glory" feature.  

I'll work on more creative, technically correct photos for the coming weeks. :)  In the meantime, here's a quick bonus I did take this morning. Not a great shot for all kinds of reasons...particularly some irritating purple fringing I've been dealing with lately (I'm not sure why that has suddenly become an issue, but if anyone has any suggestions, please let me know!)....but there was something about this shot that I loved, with all it's imperfections, so I did a little playing in PSE and decided it was a keeper.   I am more amazed all the time at God's glory shown in these feathered creatures.  The more I watch and photograph them, the more they fascinate me.  Today was a gray and dreary day, and the tiny bursts of color of the cardinals in the trees were definitely glimpses of God's glory. 

Be sure to visit Tauna's "focused on Glory" post as well...her Haiti photos first caused me to fall in love with her photography, and she shares a few of them in today's post.