Favorite Posts of 2011, part 2

The 2nd installment in this week's "Favorite Posts of 2011" series...

Happy 76th Birthday, Lake Catherine! ~ One of our favorite spots celebrates 76 years...

So Why the Squirrels? ~ The story behind all the bushy-tailed critters around here...

Lessons from a Lakeside Getaway ~ A few observations from our spring travels...

It's All Good ~ Thoughts on a favorite and very familiar verse..."Our suffering is going to result in the praise and honor and glory of God!  And it is going to result, as I keep being reminded this week, in our being purified as gold is refined in fire.  And He gives 'joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory' in the midst of what we think of as the 'bad'.  What could be better than all that?!"

When God Becomes Real ~ Reflections on a John MacArthur quote..."And the  Apostle Paul said embrace your suffering, embrace the pain, because in it you're perfected, in it you are matured.  In it you learn to pray more intensely and you draw nearer to the Lord.  In it you're going to find grace poured into your life..."  

See Part 1 of Favorite Posts of 2011 here

focused on Glory...Owl

Those who know me well at all know that I love owls.  Birds in general fascinate me, but owls have a special place in my heart.  They just amaze me.  We have one (or more) living in our backyard.  This one (an Eastern Screech Owl, we think) let me get right up underneath her (him?  Not sure. :)) the other night.  Such an amazing little creature that points to God's glory in such an incredible way!

Late January Daybook...

(*Note:  People sometimes ask, "How do you have time to blog?"  And sometimes I reply, "One sentence at a time."  That's pretty much how this post has gone...a line or two throughout the day as I would sit down at the computer in between other activities.  I started it early Monday morning, hadn't quite finished it when I began falling asleep at my keyboard at 8:30 last night, and not quite 24 hours after I first started, I think I'm actually about to finish it. :))

FOR TODAY...January 30, 2011 

Outside my window...Sunny and cold now, with temperatures predicted to be near 70 this afternoon.  So loving this mild winter!  

I am thinking...about Francis Schaeffer, one of my great heroes, born 100 years ago today.   We actually saw him in person when we attended First Baptist, Dallas, on vacation when I was about 6...one of the highlights of my life!  God has used his books...and even more those of his wife, Edith, to impact my life greatly.  

I am thankful...that we are well this week, other than the lingering annoying cough still plaguing some of us.  This time last week we were beginning to drop like flies with a nasty bug that knocked us out for almost an entire week.  Thankful that we can actually get up and do chores and school again! 

In the kitchen...On the menu this week: HIOOTP Chicken, Saloon Beef Sandwiches, home-cooked burgers and fries, chili, and creamy tacos.  Can you tell it is comfort food week here? :-)

I am wearing...Warm, comfy Razorback fleece. :)

I am creating...Organized bookshelves!  

I am going...to take my mom out to lunch for her birthday as soon as she gets well.  We've now postponed twice.  Looking forward to her being well and being able to celebrate!

I am wondering...how the end of January got here so fast!  I feel like I blinked and lost a month somewhere. :)

I am reading...good stuff right now!  Kisses from Katie, by Katie Davis (on loan from a friend), Beautiful Battle ~ A Woman's Guide to Spiritual Warfare, by Mary DeMuth (this just came out and I have been SO excited to read it!), Broken-Down House, by Paul David Tripp (on my Kindle...excellent book so far!), and the book of Nehemiah during my quiet time.  My current bedtime fiction is For Time and Eternity, by Allison Pittman.  

I am hoping...that the current mild winter weather holds out.  So thankful for a warmer winter after last winter's extreme, record-breaking cold!

I am looking forward to...a more normal, productive week this week, after a week of sickness in our house last week. 

Around the house...Catching up and decluttering this week.  

I am pondering...my 36 in 366 list and how best to get caught up after falling a bit behind for January.  Determined to "keep on plugging" and remember that what is important is *finishing well*, even if I get behind in the meantime. 

A favorite quote for today...""Niceness"—wholesome, integrated personality—is an excellent thing. …But we must not suppose that even if we succeeded in making everyone nice we should have saved their souls. A world of nice people, content in their own niceness, looking no further, turned away from God, would be just as desperately in need of salvation as a miserable world—and might even be more difficult to save."

One of my favorite things...Belated birthday presents! :)  I love matryoshkas (Russian nesting dolls), and a friend found the *cutest* matryoshka measuring cups/spoons for my birthday. <3  I can't wait to find the perfect spot in the china cabinet for them today. :)

A few plans for the rest of the week: Taking my mom to lunch for her birthday, catching up on school and chores, normal church routine, finalizing plans for Ammah Grace's birthday (she will be EIGHT next week...how did THAT happen???) 

A peek into my day...

Not from today, but a recent random trip to the National Historic Site five minutes from our house.  I love mockingbirds, but somehow the ones in our yard always seem to evade the camera when I'm out.  This one was obviously quite used to people, as he sat and let me snap pictures without flinching. :)

For more Daybook entries, please visit Peggy at The Simple Woman's Daybook


Favorite Posts of 2011, Part 1

I've recently noticed various bloggers doing "best of 2011" posts, and thought perhaps that would be fun to do here, too.  In typical form, I had a hard time limiting my favorite posts from last year to just a few, so I've decided to do a week-long series...5 favorites from 2011 per day.  Hope you enjoy! (Full-size photos,full text, and additional photos can be seen in original posts by clicking on the links here.) 

focused on Glory...Moon ~ Sometimes we are so focused on the glory we want to see, we miss that which is right in front of us...

Happy Birthday, Peter ~ The boy's 14th birthday!

Thankful for the Scars ~ Thoughts on the truth of this quote..."In my deepest wound I saw your glory, and it dazzled me." ~ St. Augustine

Stay Thy Heart ~ In all circumstances, see Him in it all...

The Music and the Gifts ~ Memories, pencil scratches, and the gift of music...


Sunday Song ~ God and God Alone

Funny the way my mind works...or doesn't work, as the case may be...sometimes. :)  This morning John sang this song in church in place of our usual choir special, as Lyndel is on vacation.  As I sat and listened to the words, I thought, "I should do a blog post on that song."  Then later today, I was reviewing past blog posts in preparation for an upcoming project when I discovered that I actually did blog on that song earlier this year. :)  I didn't say much about it then, and don't think it needs many now...but I thought I would repost it here with (with some new pictures :)).   The words are so powerful...

God and God Alone
Steve Green

God and God alone,
created all these things we call our own;
from the mighty to the small,
the glory in them all
is God's and God's alone.

God and God alone
reveals the truth of all we call unknown.
And the best and worst of man,
won't change the Master's plan,
it's God's and God's alone.

God and God alone
is here to take the universe's throne.
Let everything that lives,
reserve its truest praise
for God and God alone.

God and God alone
will be the joy of our eternal home.
He will be our one desire,
our hearts will never tire,
of God and God alone.

(See video here.)


focused on {Everyday, Backyard} Glory

No special story for today's focused on Glory post.  Just some beautiful Eurasian Collared Doves in our backyard on a random day this past week.  I'm amazed at the glimpses of God's glory that are there to be seen every time our back door is opened.  I love the fact that even during weeks when I'm not able to go searching for God's glory with my lens, it's still there all around me.  



Be sure to see Tauna's focused on Glory post here.   She has a wonderful subject this week! :)


focused on Glory...Better Late Than Never!

So tomorrow it will be time for a new focused on Glory post, and I am just now posting for last week.  It's been one of those weeks around here...actually, it's been six (and a half!) of them. :)  I started to just skip this week...since I usually begin to hone in on the following week's post over the weekend...but decided that since my goal is 52 weeks, and I've already missed one, I needed to go ahead and post back-to-back. 

I had a post planned for last week using photos that are on my phone.  I'm a dinosaur, you have to understand...I don't have a smart phone, I don't use my phone for anything other than talking and setting my alarm every night. :)  I thought I could get the photos from phone to computer via the usb cord that came with the phone...but apparently not.  At least not in a manner simple enough for me to figure out. :)  

Then Katie played "His Eye is on the Sparrow" during yesterday's "quiet music" time at church.  As I was sitting there, I was thinking about how much sparrows have come to mean to me over the last year or so as I have been observing/photographing them, and I decided I wanted to try to get some new sparrow photos for {another} sparrow post. :)  I never get tired of them!  

So yesterday afternoon, Billy and I went out to soak in the warm sun in the backyard for a while, and I set out to get some new sparrow shots.  Little did I know the surprise waiting for me!  I was just bemoaning the shot I had missed of a red-breasted woodpecker, (I LOVE woodpeckers, and I've managed to "just miss" this one three times lately), when I glanced up and saw a lone sparrow perched in the tree.  As I focused my zoom on it, I saw a tiny splash of yellow...yellow stripes on the top of his head.  

We had recently caught several glimpses of a white crowned sparrow, which has distinctive stripes on the top of its head, but the yellow markings were new to us.  Upon later study, we discovered that this was a white-throated sparrow, a variety neither Billy nor I had seen before.  

He hung around the yard long enough for me to take several photos, disappearing (along with the 50 or so house sparrows that had been keeping him company) when the huge hawk that has been hanging around our house swooped through and ended our bird-watching/photographing for the afternoon.  (I didn't get a shot of the hawk, either...he keeps eluding me, but I am determined to capture him [photographically :)] one of these days!)

Our Sunday School lesson yesterday was on Psalm 139...the value of each human to God, and thus the value they should have to us.  We talked about God creating us all differently, and not only making each one of us different, but having a special, individualized plan for each one of us, set in motion before we were even created!  As I thought about sparrows yesterday while Katie was playing, and the things God has shown me through them, I thought how perfectly that all went along with that morning's lesson.  

Sparrows are such a common bird...one of the most common birds in North America...and definitely the most common bird in our yard.  There are times when there may be hundreds of sparrows in our little yard all at the same time.  Apparently they were pretty common in Bible times, too...Luke 12:6 says that they were sold two for a penny.  And yet...every sparrow is different.  No two of them look the same.  And Luke 12:6 also says that "not one of them is forgotten by God".  He then goes on to say in verse 7 "you are worth more than many sparrows".  

Jesus used a lowly, common sparrow to teach an important lesson.  Matthew 10:29 words it this way: "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care."  

How much more does He care for us?  And what a glimpse of His glory...to see that the God of the universe not only created the lowly sparrows, and made each on different, but that He also cares about them, not allowing a single one to fall to the ground without His notice.  What a huge, incredible, unfathomable God we have, that in the midst of controlling the entire universe...He notices each little sparrow fall.  

Be sure to see Tauna's focused on Glory post this week at Creative Confetti.


Jenny...A Needed Reminder...

I'm way behind on blog posts...had hoped to get caught up this weekend, and then our internet has been down most of two days, which didn't help. :)  I have plans for new posts soon, but Jenny Mc has been on my mind as I've prepared for today's Sunday School lesson, and I thought perhaps today would be a good day for a repost from the archives.  For more of Jenny's story, see Mr. James's article from the October, 1982, Moody Monthly magazine here.  

Here's my post from August 28, 2007...

"Under the banner of God, victory is always assured; but apart from it, defeat is a certainty. When the banner of God's rod was not held high, Amalek prevailed.
You can't do battle against the flesh under your own power."

~ Kay Arthur ~ 

Lord, I Want to Know
Loni at Finding Joy in the Morning is hosting In Other Words today, and she has selected this quote from Kay Arthur. God seems to be reminding me of this truth everywhere I turn lately...probably because, like the children of Israel, I keep forgetting it. The verse this quote references is Exodus 17:15..."The Lord is My Banner."

I am reminded by this of a lesson God taught me in a very powerful way years ago. Close friends had a daughter who was born blind and profoundly retarded. Jenny was almost my age, but never walked, talked, or even took care of any of her own needs. She was completely dependent upon the care of others. 

Although her needs eventually forced them to place her in a state facility, her parents were completely committed to caring for her as much as they were able. Almost never did a day go by that her family did not visit, reading the Bible to her, singing to her, massaging her limbs, and talking to her about any and everything. Their love for her was evident to everyone who knew them.

Her parents were an example to everyone around them. Strong, committed Christians, they were used by God to witness to many unbelievers and to encourage many believers. They were like family to us, and they taught me many things, through example and words, that still impact me today.

When I was about 16, though, God very suddenly used Jenny herself to make a huge impact on my life. I was struggling with something...I'm not even sure what at this point. I was also dealing with a lot of stress from trying to manage school, church commitments (lots of them), a hectic babysitting schedule, and family responsibilities. I remember sitting at my desk one morning during my quiet time expressing my frustration to God because I just *couldn't do it*. I was tired of failing. I was tired of missing the mark. And suddenly God brought Jenny to mind.

He reminded me of all the people whose lives Jenny had touched. He reminded me of all the people her parents had influenced, and of the testimony of her father, one of the godliest men I know, about the way that God used Jenny's birth to bring him to Himself. He gently showed me that Jenny's life had had more impact than most people ever dream of having...and yet she had never uttered a word, taken a step, or written a sentence. I realized in a whole new way the truth of 2 Cor. 12:10:

2 Corinthians 12:10
That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I realized that day that Jenny was exactly where God wanted me to be....completely dependent. God began teaching me that day that He was able to use Jenny so mightily because she didn't get in the way of what He wanted to do in and through her. He reminded me through her that when I try to do things *on my own*, I am simply getting in His way. 

Only when I am completely dependent on Him am I useful to Him, and only then can He do His work through me. Just as He used Jenny's family and the staff at the Center to meet her needs, He brings people into my life to help meet my needs (as Aaron and Hur lifted up Moses' arms in Exodus 17). And just as He used Jenny's parents and the staff to meet those needs, He wants me to be available to lift up the arms of others when they need it. But most of all, He wants me to be completely dependent on Him.

I needed to be reminded of this again this week. Once again, I have struggled with feelings of failure...feeling as though no matter how hard I try, I can't *get it together*. Once again, God is reminding me that *He* is my banner...that as this quote says, victory is only assured through Him, and when I try to do it on my own, I am assured only of defeat. When I start to feel failure overtaking me, I need to get back under His banner.


For a real blessing, a dose of encouragement, some good laughs, and maybe a few tears, visit one of my favorite websites. James McAlister, or *Mr. James*, is Jenny's dad, and for a number of years, he has written a much-loved newspaper column. This site archives many of his newspaper articles and other items of interest. ( This one this one, and this one
are *especially special* to me...they are about my parents. :) You might want to grab a kleenex before reading, though.) There is much good reading there...take some time to browse his site...I think you'll be glad you did!

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(ETA: Loni's blog can now be found here.)