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Remember, I have moved my book reviews to their own blog. Tracy's Book Nook is now active.


Wednesday, December 31

The Curtain is Closing on 2008

The curtain is drawing closed on 2008, and what a year it has been for America and for most of us personally too! Ups and downs, wicked weather and even more wicked economic storms, history has been made with our Presidential election and scandal has been made with corporate and personal greed (Madoff) as well as miscellaneous public servants (i.e. politicians) living duplicitous lives.


But through it all Jesus remains and God is still on His throne! We may not be living the ‘good times’ right now, but we are not without hope. We may not know what the future holds, but we do know Who holds the future! And if we just keep our eyes on Him, the storm will not overtake us.


My last blog post was a book review of For these Tough Times, by Max Lucado. For my final blog post of 2008, I’d like to share a prayer Max included at the conclusion of the book. I hope you enjoy.


~~~


Dear Lord,

We’re still hoping we’ll wake up. We’re still hoping we’ll open a sleepy eye and think, “What a horrible dream. How could this have happened?”

We are sad, Father. And so we come to you. We don’t ask you for help; we beg you for it. We don’t request; we implore. We know what you can do. We’ve read the accounts. We’ve pondered the stories and now we plead, “Do it again, Lord. Do it again.”

Remember Joseph? You rescued him from the pit. You can do the same for us. Do it again, Lord. Remember the Hebrews in Egypt? You protected their children from the angel of death. We have children too, Lord. Do it again.

And Sarah? Remember her prayers? You heard them. Joshua? Remember his fears? You inspired him. The women at the tomb? You resurrected their hope. The doubts of Thomas? You took them away. Do it again, Lord. Do it again.

You changed Daniel from a captive into a king’s counselor. You took Peter the fisherman and made him Peter an apostle. Because of you, David went from leading sheep to leading armies. Do it again, Lord, for we need counselors today, Lord. We need apostles. We need leaders. Do it again, dear Lord.

Most of all, do again what you did at Calvary. What we saw in this tragedy, you saw there that Friday. Innocence slaughtered. Goodness murdered. Mothers weeping. Evil dancing. Just as the shadows fell on our children, the darkness fell on your Son. Just as our world has been shattered, the very child of Eternity was pierced.

And by dusk, heaven’s sweetest song was silent, buried behind a rock.

But you did not waver, O Lord. You did not waver. After your Son lay three days in a dark hole, you rolled the rock and rumbled the earth and turned the darkest Friday into the brightest Sunday. Do it again, Lord. Turn this Calvary into an Easter.

Thank you for these hours of prayer.

Let your mercy be upon all who suffer. Grant to those who lead us wisdom beyond their years and experience. Have mercy upon the souls who have departed and the wounded who remain. Give us grace that we might forgive and faith that we might believe.

And look kindly upon your church. For two thousand years you’ve used her to heal a hurting world.

Do it again, Lord. Do it again.

Through Christ, Amen.



HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Tuesday, December 30

Ta-Da! My New Blog Look

Ok, here is the new look that I've chosen to get me through for the next few months. I will be working on my "permanent" look and hope to unveil it for my blogiversary, which is coming up in April. This is a lot of work! But in the end it's worth it, I think.


In this look, I've tried to make it easier to read by lightening the background and de-cluttering somewhat (which was accomplished by adding the tabs at the top). Also, I now have the date back, which I had lost in the last template. I do have some more work to do on this, but for the most part it's ready.


I'd love to know what you think! If I typically display your blog on my blogroll and you find that it's not there, I think I've missed some. Simply notify me, by clicking the Contact tab at the top, and I will re-add your blog to my list. As always, thank you for reading and for your encouraging words! I love my bloggy friends! Blessings and Happy New Year!

Monday, December 29

A New Look for the New Year

Hi Everyone!

As much as I've enjoyed my pretty pink blog, it is time for a change. I really don't enjoy doing all the work that is required in changing my blog and hope this is the second to last time for quite awhile. With the New Year beginning, I want to start out fresh with a new look. This is not the look I want permanently (I'm still really working on that), but am happy to have found a template I can live with for a bit. It is pretty and wintery (ok, Christmasy, but we can pretend it's all about winter), isn't as busy or as dark and is much easier to read.

I will be taking my blog offline for a brief time, beginning tomorrow, so that I can make the changes I need to make and customize it. Obviously this is a process that takes a lot of time and effort, but I hope to unveil the new look on New Years Day.

In the meantime, I wish you all have a very Happy New Year and a Blessed and Prosperous 2009!

Tuesday, December 23

Glory to God in the Highest ~ Word-Filled Wednesday


This is my contribution to the meme Word-Filled Wednesday. For more beautiful pictures with inspiring Scripture, please visit The 160 Acre Woods, home of WFW.

Thank you, God, for the gift of Your Son, sent for us over 2000 years ago. May we never forget the cost.

Thank you, Jesus, for the gift of Your life, spent and spilled for us nearly 2000 years ago. May we never forget the sacrifice.

Thank you, wonderful readers, for the gift of your time, words and encouragement to me. I pray that the Lord will bless you abundantly for your giving. May I never take you for granted.

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Choosing Life at Christmas ~ 'Tis the Season Indeed!

This is my latest Choosing Life column at Take Root and Write, which posted yesterday. I hope you enjoy. Ladies, if you'd like to read other fabulous columns in a great variety of topics, please check out Take Root and Write. Blessings and Merry Christmas!

~~~

‘Tis the season, indeed! By now, I’m sure we’ve all been inundated with everything Holiday, a lot of which is probably without the Christ aspect. Now more than ever, it is imperative that we as Christians are in the world, not of the world. For us, Christ is (or should be) the reason for Christmas! So how do we choose life at Christmas time? By choosing to be mindful of and embracing the true spirit of Christmas.

I love to give and get gifts, for Christmas or any other time, for that matter. In fact, that is one of my primary love languages. I love unwrapping gifts, I love looking at all the pretty packages under the tree, I love the anticipation of unwrapping gifts, and I love seeing how someone I care about reacts to receiving a well thought out gift. All of that is to say this: I think that gift giving and receiving at Christmas is a lovely expression of our affection for the people we love. HOWEVER, we must never forget the true spirit of Christmas.

I’ve mentioned that twice now, the true spirit of Christmas. So what do I mean by that? I’m sure if you ask that to 100 different people you’ll get 100 different answers! But, to me, the true spirit of Christmas is first of course, the birth of Jesus, and second, being an extravagant giver. The birth of Jesus was a miracle and it paved the way for the redemption of mankind. The birth of Jesus was as great as it was humble – the birth announcement was given by angels, the gifts were brought by kings and first visitors were lowly shepherds. And the birth of Jesus was the perfect example of extravagant giving – from God the Father, to us, His children.

Being an extravagant giver is not about spoiling our children with all of their wants, or giving meaningless gifts to everyone regardless of the relationship we have with them, and it’s certainly not about going into debt to have Christmas. On the contrary, that is choosing death, not choosing life. Being an extravagant giver is giving with your heart and it doesn’t matter who the recipient is – you may not even know them. But it is giving without thinking of receiving and it is giving cheerfully and it may even be giving sacrificially. Again, I’m talking about much more than money or gifts that money can buy, though obviously that is included.

Christmas is called the most wonderful time of the year – there’s even a song about it. But to many people, it’s not. To them, it’s a long, drawn out period of time which is painful and they dread it coming every year. Sorrow, pain, poverty and loneliness seem much bigger during the holiday season. If you’ve lost a loved one, are in a bad marriage or have no family, there is a loneliness that exists that is both oppressive and destructive, especially during the holiday season. This can also be a particularly difficult time for our military who may be all alone and thousands of miles away from home, often times in hostile and dangerous areas (please I implore you, don’t forget about them). Whatever the cause, it’s hard to see beyond the pain of your own situation.

Consequently, it’s no surprise that self-destructive and emotion-numbing behavior tends to increase this time of year. It’s a sad reality for those in the world, but what about those in the church? Isn’t God enough? While the easy, and patronizing, answer is yes, the reality is much different. When someone feels all alone in the world, they may know that God is with them and loves them even, but it does not negate the fact that deep down they know they were created for relationships. God said it Himself in Genesis 2:18, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” The sad fact is that there are many even within the walls of the church who are feeling loneliness to the point of despair, especially this time of year.

What about those who live in poverty? As a child, when I believed in Santa, I didn’t understand why, as good as I tried to be, I was never good enough to get what I wanted for Christmas. When I was old enough, I realized why – it was because we were poor. I know what it is like to experience Christmas mornings, knowing it’s only because of the church, Salvation Army, or another charity, that we kids had anything to open at all. Now, as a mother, I can’t even imagine how difficult that must have been for my own single-mom. But as bad as we had it, I realize now that it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. For far too many others, receiving a gift of clean water for drinking, a goat for milking, immunizations to be combat disease, a coat to stay warm, a blanket to ward off the cold of sleeping outside, or even having a place to escape to so they can leave the horror of forced prostitution, is a life, and hope, giving blessing that cannot be underestimated in worth.

How do we choose life, during the busy, hectic and far-too commercial Christmas season? By looking beyond ourselves. It’s easy to see, if we will just look. Things are tough right now in the U.S., there’s no doubt about that. But for most of us, if we were to be honest, it wouldn’t hurt us in the least to go without the latest gadget, or cut down on the latte’s. If we choose to see the need that is all around us, we can also see that there is probably something we can do to help – even if it doesn’t seem like much to us. That is choosing life. No one can do everything, but everyone can do something. This year, my husband and I have decided to give to World Vision, in lieu of exchanging gifts with each other. Please understand, I’m not trying to make you do the same, or even something similar, this is just something we feel compelled by the Lord to do.

Most of us can give something of financial value, even if it seems to be of low value to us. That is the miracle of multiplication – God can take our little amount and multiply it with others, to do something really significant. Of course, if we have more to give, that is even better.

But can we go beyond giving something of financial value? Of course! Caring for and showing kindness and concern to someone who is hurting and alone can make all the difference in the world. Phone calls, cards, letters, prayers and gifts are all things that can be done to help someone who is hurting to get through the season. That is choosing life. Most importantly though, bringing them into your home and family for dinner, or to simply spend time together, is not only choosing life, but it can truly be life-giving.

Beyond that, there are so many organizations that you can donate your time, talent and/or treasures to all the time, but again especially this time of year. With all the options out there to be actually be an extravagant giver, surely there’s something that suits you.

Some of you, who are reading this, may be experiencing any of the situations I’ve talked about or many more that I have not. How do you choose life? It is still by taking your eyes off yourself. In the pain you may be feeling, that is probably not easy, and I truly do understand that because I’ve been there. But if you reach out to others and reach out to God, and do something that is beyond yourself, I have no doubt that God will meet you where you are and touch your life in a powerful way. He is faithful, He does love you and He did choose you.

So this year, please join me in choosing life during Christmas. This season more than ever we should look and see to find a need and fill it, find a hurt and heal it. That is Choosing Life!

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.’” ~ Luke 2:8-11

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” ~ John 3:16

Monday, December 22

More From 'He Said, She Said'

Hi Everyone! Just in case you're interested, Jeff and I have each published a new blog post on our team blog He Said, She Said. It's the latest in our giving at Christmas series. We'd love to know what you think! Blessings and have a very Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 20

Wishing You...


Tuesday, December 16

For God So Loved ~ WFW



This is my contribution to the meme Word-Filled Wednesday. For more beautiful pictures with inspiring Scripture, please visit The 160 Acre Woods, home of WFW.

The Christmas Season is about giving. It exists because God gave. We celebrate it because we celebrate Him and we follow His example by giving to others. It doesn’t have to be a pretty package, but it can be. It can also be a smile, a compliment, a kindness, a dinner invitation, a phone call or a little extra grace and mercy as we go about our day. God gave because He loved. What a better way to express our love for God, than by showing and sharing His love to others. Merry Christmas!

Conscientious Consumer ~ Levi's

It has become abundantly clear to me, that America is in such moral decline, because we Christians have allowed it to happen. Because most of us have not wanted to get involved in politics, media, entertainment and consumerism, we have simply turned our nation over to the enemy. Did we really think it wouldn’t affect us? Did we really think we would accomplish anything by sticking our heads in the sand (which, by the way, leaves a very big target out in the open)?

It really doesn’t take a scholar to see that our history is being revised, our Constitution is being twisted, our entertainment (all forms) have been perverted and our political and financial systems are fraught with greed, deception and dishonor. It can be pretty depressing, come to think of it! But there is hope! There are people, Christians, out there who are trying to make a difference. If we would only get involved personally, or support those who are, I believe we could really make a difference.

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” ~ 2 Chron. 7:14

The reason I bring this up, is because I’ve just seen two highly disturbing, well, disgusting really, Levi’s commercials. I’m a jeans type of girl and have worn Levi’s for literally decades, so I was shocked and offended at both of these scandalous commercials. And I decided that it was time for me to do more than just complain about it. I decided it was time for me to put on my Superhero cape and become A Conscientious Consumer! My first order of business in this new role was to email the advertising department of Levi Strauss & Co. about my… concerns.

In case you haven’t seen both, or either, of the ads, and want to, I’ll include the Youtube videos and links to the videos. If you would like to read my complaint, it is included below. If you would like to join me, in being silent no more, I’m including the link (select advertising) to Levi's and encourage you to post this on your blog (if you have one) as well. Together, we can bring back decency and good moral fiber to America!


Levi’s Commercial, Secrets and Lies ~ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S83u8eQ6acA&NR=1

video

Levi’s Commercial, First Time ~ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lk5sBagFzB4

video

My Email to Levi Strauss and Co:

I am a woman who just turned 40, so I have literally been wearing your product for decades. It really saddens me to see the new low your advertising department has sunk to, with your most recent commercial. Frankly, I find it to be disgusting and am highly offended by it. Typically, I purchase Levi's for my husband for Christmas, but I can assure you that will not be happening this year. Nor will I purchase them for either of us, or any children we may have in the future, if this disgusting advertising trend continues. Your company has been around for more than a century and is a mainstay in America and around the world. I don't honestly believe you need to sink to this level to get sales, do you? It might serve you well to remember that you are selling a well-made item, that is both useful and fashionable, not pornography.

I'm sure that my humble opinion probably doesn't matter much to you, but I assure you there are many more that feel the same way, but won't be bothered to share their concerns, rather they'll simply stop buying from you. It's a shame, really.

Sincerely,

A Conscientious Consumer

Monday, December 15

Wasilla Bible Church

I’m sure most of you have heard that Sarah Palin’s home church in Wasilla, AK was seriously damaged by arson recently and has suffered $1 million in damage. The event itself is very sad, but for me, what’s even worse is the fact that I’m not at all surprised by this cowardly act. In case anyone is interested in supporting this church during their time of need, you can make donations to:

1. Please make your check payable to: Wasilla Bible Church

2. Mail your check to:
Wasilla Bible Church1651 W. Nicola AvenueWasilla, Alaska 99654

Saturday, December 13

Wishing You...


Friday, December 12

A Small White Envelope

This came to me just today, in the form of an email (thank you, Denise). I have no idea if it is true or not, but either way it is a beautiful story for the Christmas Season. Since it made me get all teary-eyed, I thought I'd share it with you. I hope you enjoy it, and pray that you have a happy, healthy and blessed Christmas!

~~~

It's just a small white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. It has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past 10 years or so.

It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas --oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it – the overspending, the frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle Harry and the dusting powder for Grandma -- the gifts given in desperation because you couldn't think of anything else.

Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties, and so forth. I reached for something special just for Mike. The inspiration came in an unusual way. Our son Kevin, who was 12 that year, was wrestling at the junior level at the school he attended.

Shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church. These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to our boys in their spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes.

As the match began, I was alarmed to see t hat the other team was wrestling without headgear, a kind of light helmet designed to protect a wrestler's ears. It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously could not afford.

Well, we ended up walloping them. We took every weight class. And as each of their boys got up from the mat, he swaggered around in his tatters with false bravado, a kind of street pride that couldn't acknowledge defeat.

Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly, 'I wish just one of them could have won,' he said. 'They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them.' Mike loved kids, all kids, and he knew them, having coached little league football, baseball, and lacrosse.

That's when the idea for his present came. That afternoon, I went to a local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church. On Christmas Eve, I placed the envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done and that this was his gift from me. His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year and in succeeding years...

For each Christmas, I followed the tradition --one year sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas, and on and on. The envelope became the highlight of our Christmas.

It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning, and our children, ignoring their new toys, would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents. As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but the envelope never lost its allure. The story doesn't end there.

You see, we lost Mike last year due to cancer. When Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree up. But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree, and in the morning it was joined by three more. Each of our children, unbeknownst to the others, had placed an envelope on the tree for their dad.

The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further with our grandchildren standing around the tree with wide-eyed anticipation watching as their fathers take down the envelope. Mike's spirit, like the Christmas spirit, will always be with us. May we all remember Christ, who is the reason for the season, and the true Christmas spirit this year and always.

God Bless! Please pass this along to those friends and loved ones who you know are the givers who understand the true meaning of Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Tuesday, December 9

Takin' the Time

This is the time of year, in which a lot of us typically think about… well, time. The current year is drawing to a close and the New Year is about to begin. We reflect on what we’ve experienced throughout this current year and dream about what we’ll experience next year. Sometimes we’re happy to see a particular year end, because it’s been filled with difficulty and trials, other times we ponder the abundant blessings the year has brought us.

During the Holiday Season, there never seems to be enough time and we are frequently far busier than we should be. We rush around in frantic fashion, going from this event to that, constantly cooking and cleaning, and doing shopping for and wrapping of gifts. How can we enjoy the season if we’re too busy to experience the joy of the season?

Time is a precious commodity, and we all have just a certain amount of it. The Bible tells us to ‘redeem the time,’ to make the most of it. Once it’s gone, it’s gone, there’s no getting it back or making more of it. At the end of our days, we don’t want to look back and think about all of the busy times, but rather we want to think about the special, meaningful times, and have our memories filled with warmth and love, instead of emptiness and regret.

The activities I mentioned previously are all good things, as long as the business doesn’t overtake the joy and meaning of the Christmas Season. If you’re stressed and overloaded this time of year, try to make a conscious effort to slow down, take a break and enjoy. It’ll do you good to relax a bit. Take some time to think about the reason for celebrating – the birth of Jesus and the love of family and friends. I guarantee you it will be time well spent!

Ordinary days and activities do have a place in our lives, and we should be productive, but we must be mindful to seize the moments that come our way that are filled with joy, beauty, laughter, love and life. This is to build memories and to not just get through our time here, but to enjoy the journey. At the end of my days, I want to remember that through it all, I loved, and lived, life. Don’t you?

"Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the number of moments that take our breath away." ~ Unknown

Friday, December 5

Wishing you...


Wednesday, December 3

More From 'He Said, She Said'

Hi Everyone! Just in case you're interested, Jeff and I have each published a new blog post on our team blog He Said, She Said. We'd love to know what you think! Blessings!

More Blessed to Give ~ Word-Filled Wednesday


This is my contribution to the meme Word-Filled Wednesday. For more beautiful pictures with inspiring Scripture, please visit The 160 Acre Woods, home of WFW.

The Season of Giving is upon us. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year – but not for everyone. Now, I think more than ever, we must be mindful to give – a smile, a compliment, a kindness, a dinner invitation, a phone call, whatever is necessary to fulfill a need. So many people are hurting right now and this time especially, we should find a need and fill it, find a hurt and heal it. That’s what God did for us…

Monday, December 1

An Update On... Me!

It’s official. I can no longer pretend that I have not reached middle-age! Today is the 11th anniversary of my 29th Birthday – or if you don’t want to do the math that means it’s my 40th Birthday. So, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!!! Ok, now that I have the shameless, and obnoxious, plug out of the way…

I have to admit, that turning 40 hasn’t bothered me that much, other than the fact that it just sounds weird when I apply it to myself. And we really do want to have another baby, and being older tends to complicate things in that area. But, I have learned to appreciate, uh, maturing, because I have found that I really do get better with age. And from what I’ve experienced, each decade has been better than the last. I feel none of the angst or depression that often seems to accompany this milestone birthday, I really am good with it.

One thing I am really excited about is that I did complete NaNoWriMo 2008, which means that I wrote a novel in 30 days. My final word count is 52,518! Yes, it still has a lot of work that’s needed as for editing and such, but I did it! This is a great accomplishment regardless, but it was a goal of mine to write a novel before my 40th birthday, and I did it! I’ll do a blog post soon with the extended synopsis of my novel and periodically, I’m sure I’ll update you on the status too. Like all writers, I hope this first novel is not my last, and that one day I’ll be published. We’ll see if that’s what God has for me.

With the Holidays upon us, things get crazy and hectic and I’m sure we will all be around a bit less in this blogging world. I’m taking some time to really think and pray about what my blog will look like next year. This includes content as well as aesthetically. I have a couple of ideas, but will turn them over to the Lord to see what He thinks about it all. I am confident that I will continue to post a “Love Letter” each Monday from the book His Princess. In addition, I’ll be getting back on track for continuing my series on Choosing Life.

I’d like to offer thanks, one more time, to all of you who have encouraged me, supported me and helped me to grow through this first year of blogging. I’ve made some wonderful friends, read some amazing blogs and have grown not only in my writing and blogging journey, but in my spiritual journey as well. Thank you all for the part you’ve played in this.

I’m really excited to be able to begin reading and commenting more on all of the wonderful blogs I’ve missed, while I took time away for NaNo. God bless you all! ~ Tracy


P.S. By the way, I am the featured guest writer this week in the Writer’s Lounge. If you’d like to read my article, all you have to do is click here.