Thursday, December 27, 2007

A Word for the New Year

Camy here.

Every year, I pray and ask God to give me a Word for the year.

A word or phrase that He wants me to keep in mind for the entire year. A word or phrase that will impact and guide my walk with Him, a word or phrase to remind me when I start to stray.

This past year, that word was “fear.” God wanted me to learn to truly fear Him—as God, as Lord Almighty, as Sovereign Lord, as a God who never changes, who has everything under His control.

This was such a great word for me this year. The concept of fearing God, of healthy, reverent respect, applied to so many aspects of my life—discipline, love, faithfulness, patience. It was a nice kick in the pants to remember to revere God, to spur me to obey Him.

I’m not sure yet what the coming year’s word will be. I’m just praying and trying to listen to Him to tell me what He’d like me to work on in my spiritual life.

How about you? Why not pray for a word for this year? Spend some quality time praying to Him, maybe reading a few passages in the Bible. Listen to your heart, listen to the passages you read, and try to hear that still, small voice that will whisper your word to you.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

What if you were that friend?

Who was the first one Jamie Lynn Spears turned to when she found out she was pregnant? Not her mom. Not her sister. She turned to a friend.

So as a teen what can YOU do when a pregnant friend comes to you for advice?

Remain calm and loving. Your friend most likely feels alone, frightened and extremely sensitive about her pregnancy. The most important thing you can offer is your continued friendship.

Show God's love and forgiveness. Your friend may have been looking for love by giving herself intimately to a guy. Now she might feel ashamed and unworthy of love at all. Point her to God, who loves her unconditionally.

Celebrate life. Your friend may consider this baby a "mistake"—a barrier between her and "normal" life. She needs you to lovingly remind her that no matter how the baby was conceived, he or she is a gift from God.

Be available to share … and to listen. Your friend has big decisions to make, and although you can't make those decisions for her, you can be available to help her consider her options. Share information you've discovered on fetal development and on the physical and emotional trauma of abortion. Most of all, be willing to listen to your friend's deepest concerns.

Find help. Your friend is most likely in need of more answers than you can give. Visit a local crisis pregnancy center with your friend, or call CareNet for help at 1-800-395-HELP. Encourage her to tell her parents and to seek the counsel of a pastor or youth pastor.

Partner with her to make better decisions in the future. My Life, Unscripted (Thomas Nelson) is a book for teen girls and encourages teens to script their lives instead of being caught up in the drama and emotions of the moment. Read it together. Talk about the importance of making good choices.

Also, be sure to remind your friend of another pregnant teen that most likely had to face a lot of gossip and questions. Mary, Jesus' mother brought the Savior of the world into the world, sacrificing her own reputation in the process. Every child is a treasure and every life is precious!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Some Seasonal Questions to Ponder

Holidays like Christmas cause many of us to pause and reflect. Being one who thinks a bit too much sometimes I thought I’d pass some of my less serious Christmas ponderings your way.
Such as . . .

1) Why is it that when I am looking for a box of plain old peppermint candy canes all I can find are pina colada, cherry, or cinnamon? Yesterday I needed candy canes for a recipe and found a shelf displaying every flavor imaginable EXCEPT peppermint. In fact, the only peppermint candy available in the store was a gigantic $3 bag of Starlight mints. I passed them up and decided to “borrow” some from our Christmas tree and replace them with the strawberry ones that my husband bought by accident. I couldn’t justify buying $3 worth of mints that I planned to smash to bits.

Which brings me to Part 2: why do I insist on replacing candy canes that I take from the tree? Nobody eats them! It feels too much like eating ornaments. After the tree comes down nobody is in the mood for sucking on candy canes because it’s no longer Christmas. Still I can’t bring myself to toss them with the wrapping paper and squashed boxes. That’s wasting and what about all those starving children who never get candy canes and would love to have ours? So instead of wasting right away I put them in the snack cupboard to be ignored until next year when I can toss them without guilt because “those candy canes are a year old!” It makes no sense.

Okay, on to deeper questions:

2) How did the song “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” even become a hit? I’m trying to picture the record producer who discovered that particular performer. Did he find him singing away in a club and say, “Man, you’re talented. That voice—it’s amazing. And those lyrics! What a powerful story they tell. You’re gonna be a star.” What happened there?

3) Why is it that I never tire of torturing my husband and oldest son with the following tree-decorating tradition?
As soon as I hang our silver bell ornament I give it a jingle and announce to my teenage son, “Listen, Christian, an angel just got his wings.” I get eye rolls and groans every time. Nathan thinks it’s hilarious but he’s five. It won’t last long. Yet I must do it. It’s not Christmas until I’ve jingled the bell and said that ridiculous line that is so biblically false. Why not something a bit more . . . I don’t know . . . a bit more Christian like telling the story of the candy cane as we hang them or sharing the spiritual significance of tree garland (certainly there is one)?

4) Why are Russian tea cakes always on our menu when we aren’t Russian? One of these days my kids will want to know and I won’t have an answer. Maybe it’s the festive snowball appearance or the fact that they require five ingredients and very little effort but look like I slaved away to make something that looked so seasonally appropriate. All I know is I’m not allowed at my parents’ family gathering without them.

5) Where did the little drummer boy come in? Did he arrive with the shepherd or the wise men?

6) I know the story behind Santa but what warped individual thought up reindeer and elves? Scarier still, how is it that, at some point most of us fell for it as kids? And why is it that we all wanted such a creepy story to be true? Seriously, if I even saw a fat guy peering through my window so he could see me while sleeping, and certainly if I saw him diving down my chimney, I’d call the police, presents or no presents.

7) Why does someone always get sick at Christmas? I’m currently recovering from a kidney infection, my son from a second bout with strep throat and my husband from that lovely cold/cough combo. I’m relieved in a way because it means we’ll be healthy for the big day. But if nobody had been to the doctor with something by now I’d be worried about what awaited us next week. If we have a healthy Christmas season I thank God but I also dread what the New Year will bring. I must admit that when Christmas rolls around I think, oh boy, what illness will it be this year? But why can’t everyone get sick on Groundhogs’ Day instead?

8) Finally, why is it that no matter how hard I try, no matter how determined I am to do otherwise, I always lose perspective at some point. On December 1 I vow to enjoy the season and remember Who it is about. By mid-month I am stressed out, up to my eyeballs in lists, behind on the shopping that I’d planned to do less of, and yes, secretly wondering what I’ll get. Perspective returns on Christmas Eve when I attend the evening candlelight service. I walk away wishing I’d paid more attention to Jesus before that night . . . taken more time to reflect and remember why He came. Now that I’m aware of it I’m trying to make a daily discipline of focusing on Christ at some point. Still, I could do more of it.

So what are your Christmas questions, funny or serious? I’d love to hear them.

Who thought up those fruit flavored candy canes anyway?

Merry Christmas!

(cross posted on my blog)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Christmas Elf in Us All

My actual day to blog was the 16th, but I was having fun being a Christmas elf Sunday and Monday, so I didn't sit down to blog.
My three college students who assist me helped design t-shirts. We ordered a grand amount, and Sunday we packaged up enough to give to our church's youth group. Then the next day we took t-shirts to the staff at WaterBrook.
I got to thinking about how much fun it was to design the shirts, sort them, and pass them out. It truly is more blessed to give than receive.
We are created in the image of God. The little bit of joy we get when we give a good gift is a reflection of what God feels when He gives to us. Do you doubt God loves to give us life, and not only that but, abundant life? Don't! You feel it too. Our joy is a HIS! HIS joy is ours.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Meet at McDonald's

This past Sunday my Sunday school girls and I went to McDonald's during Sunday school. What is it about getting together for a meal that's so special? I figured, it's almost Christmas. Let's just do it. Celebrate.

I've been teaching high school girls on Sunday mornings for about 15 years. I had more show up yesterday than I've had all year--plus two new girls.

When we got back to church somebody said, "Did you still teach your lesson?"

Good question. We couldn't sit together at one big table so we lined up in lots of small ones. So, no. I didn't teach a prepared lesson. Instead, I went around to each person and said, "How can I pray for you this week?"

EVERYBODY had something coming up and asked for prayer.

One had a friend commit suicide this past Wednesday.

A few had parents going through a divorce.

Almost everybody has finals next week.

Maybe I did teach a lesson.

Love you much,


Friday, December 14, 2007

Christmas complaints

This is Camy, complaining. Nothing goes the way I want it to during Christmas.

I hate traveling in general, but what’s worse is that I have to brave crowded airports during the busiest time of the year when I’d rather be home sleeping in.

I hate rude people at the mall, but I have to dive into the fray in order to get gifts for everybody on my list. And then I inevitably forget someone and have to go back to the mall for one or two more things.

And if I’m smart and actually buy something online, it ends up being shipped late unless I pay up the wazoo for faster shipping fees.

I try to fish for what my parents want, and once I get them something, I find they either already have it, just bought it, or don’t want it.

I light my aromatherapy candle to make myself calm down and de-stress, and I end up setting fire to my Kleenex box.

My dog has just shed hair all over the cardigan I’m knitting for my mother. And I just discovered I don’t have enough yarn and need to order one more ball and hope it arrives in time for me to finish the cardigan and mail it to her so she gets it before Christmas.

I have gained 10 pounds in the last two months and I don’t fit into my pants for Christmas dinner at my in-laws’.

And people are preaching platitudes to me about remembering the reason for the season? Calling me Martha when I should have a more Mary-like attitude? Mary never dealt with the Lady-Deathstrike-meets-Michael-Meyers cashier at Macys!

Yet if I stop my consumer-driven frenzy and don’t give anyone anything for Christmas, I’ll lose all my friends and Aunty Geraldine will send me a fruitcake doorstopper.

(Actually, Aunty Geraldine will probably still send me a fruitcake doorstopper, regardless of what I do or don’t do.)

We live in America. Let’s face it. It’s hard to get away from the gift-driven aspect of Christmas.

So let’s prioritize. My best friend Charlotte is totally not going to care if her gift is late, or even if it’s only a $2 pair of mittens from Walmart. Or a hand-knitted scarf. Or a hand-made card.

However, I need to find something decent for Cousin Angelica, so I’ll get her a gift card. Who cares if it’s impersonal? My mental well-being is at stake, here.

If mom gets upset her gift is late, I’ll be on her “ignore list” for only 6 months. I’ll get her something extra nice for her birthday.

If I whittle down my list this way, I actually have time to sit down with a cup of cocoa (heaped with marshmallows). I have time to take a few deep breaths, spend some quality time with Jesus, let Him speak to me about this past year, about what He’d like for me this next year.

And maybe He’ll give me an idea of what to get Aunty Geraldine.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

It's okay to start small

This is Curtis. He married my daughter three months ago. This is the living room of their cozy cottage. And this is their first Christmas tree.

I love this picture for many reasons, but I posted it simply to say it's okay to start small. Most of us are in a hurry to achieve our goals. We want big success (in school, relationships, sports or hobbies or even in our faith) and we want it now. But there are reasons why God didn't create us as full-grown, knowledgeable, talented adults. We have to grow and learn. Develop our skills. Study. Practice.

In His wisdom, God even chose for Jesus to start small. He came as an infant. He had to learn to walk and talk and feed Himself. He had to go to school and learn to read. He had to practice carpentry under Joseph's watchful eye. He even had to spend time in prayer to refresh His spirit.

If starting small was okay for Jesus, it's okay for us, too.

Maybe someday Curtis and Grace will have a big, fancy Christmas tree in a lavishly furnished home. But meanwhile, they're making the most of small beginnings. They're happy. And that, my friends, is huge.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

What if she'd said NO?

Last weekend we put out a new nativity set that my Grandma purchased for us for our Christmas gift this year. It's a beautiful set, and I love that it's the centerpiece of my dining room. Of course, I had to pause as I was setting up beautiful Mary. In fact, it made me think, "What if she'd said no?"

This morning this thought came to me again as I was reading Called and Accountable by Henry and Norman Blackaby. Here is what they had to say:

"One of the most significant illustrations of hearing and responding to God is found in the life of Mary, Jesus' mother. God's eternal purpose was to bring a Savior into the world, and through that Savior to bring his His great salvation to every person. He found the one through whom He would choose to work--Mary, a quiet servant girl. An angel from God announced God's purpose through her. Then came her amazing and wonderful response: "'Behold a maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.' And the angel departed from her" (Luke 1:38). And God did what He said He would do! Impossible to man, but possible with God (Luke 1:37)." p. 19

It made me stop to think about how willing I am to follow what God has asked me to do. Do I always respond like Mary. No. Are there things He's asked me to do that I haven't followed through with yet? Yes.

Often, I ask God to lead me to new places so I can reach new people, and sometimes I wonder if He's waiting. Waiting for me to finish the assignments He's giving me. Waiting for me to say yes to all He's already asked.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Our Christmas Switch-Up

I love Christmas, and it just grows more and more amazing each year.

About eight or so years ago, I realized that our children's Christmas morning expectations might be a little high. It was going to be one of those years when the budget wouldn’t come close to touching their want lists. Actually, because we’re in fulltime ministry, most years are like that. While my kids had friends who spent most of the morning and into the afternoon opening gifts, our gift-opening easily took way less than an hour.

My kids were catching on, so what to do?

We already had a morning routine that they insisted we stick to: waking up to Christmas music; opening stockings full of carefully chosen small gifts; chowing down a hardy breakfast that has to include home-baked cinnamon rolls; and the telling of the Christmas story in every way imaginable.

That year—whenever it was—I started praying about how we could use our time after we finished with the above traditions. God answered on Christmas morning by bringing to our attention the need of an elderly man in our community. He was sick, living alone, and holed up in a cold house.

Here came the switch-up. We’d already finished the stockings, breakfast, and story, but we hadn't opened gifts yet. We stopped, put together a meal of homemade tamales (something we rarely make, by the way), and we traveled the forty minutes to visit our sick friend. We stayed just long enough to build up a nice fire in his woodstove, pray for him, and get him set for his Christmas meal.

When we returned, it was already close to noon. Our children enjoyed opening their gifts, but it was no longer the main focus.

The next year we heard about a family who had lost their mother and grandmother early December. They were all pretty down, so we put together a basket of coffee, cocoa, and warm cinnamon rolls and delivered them Christmas morning

Now each year, during the entire season we are on the lookout for how God might want to use our Christmas morning trip. Sometimes we know right away and other times not until that day. Depending on who we’re visiting, we may call ahead or make it a surprise.

This has turned into one of the highlights of our Christmas.

I’d love to hear what you do during this season that has grown into a special tradition for you. Please share!


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

How to Not Let “Happy Holidays” and Winter Concerts Ruin Christmas

Like most Christians it upsets me that so much politically correctness has seeped into the celebration of Christ’s birth. I remember how angry we all got when public schools changed Christmas break to winter break and had to represent every December holiday when it came time to decorate the classroom (Chanukah, Kwanza, Christmas—meaning Santa and the elves not Jesus—and a few took advantage by adding Wicca’s winter solstice celebration). Communities have “tree” lightings, winter concerts, and holiday craft fairs now. We can expect to find Kwanza cards in Wal-Mart and rarely hear a store clerk say “Merry Christmas” anymore. I could go on and on and in the process probably get pretty irate. But what good would that do?

This morning I received one more in a long string of e-mail “alerts” about another store that is apparently anti-Christmas because clerks are required to say “Happy Holidays” and the only reference to Christmas found in their catalog was a selection of pajamas. Suddenly, instead of feeling the need to fight for my rights to free speech and decoration choices, I wanted to send a rather snotty reply and say, “Enough! Someone needs to get a job if they have so much free time to count words in catalogs and tally store clerk greetings. Nobody is stopping US from saying Merry Christmas, displaying angels, and singing Christmas songs. Can we just enjoy the holiday? Excuse me, Christmas?!” I was very tempted to send a list of all the positive reminders of Christmas I have seen so far this season. Since I doubt they have time to read my rant, I’ll post my findings here instead. They are actually pretty cool.

1) Josh Groban’s newest CD Noel – I don’t know where he stands spiritually but his selection includes so many Christian Christmas carols that a Christian organization offers it as a free gift for donations over $25 and a Christian bookstore had it playing over their sound system when I went in to buy my son’s a . . . (in case they read this I better not say). I also heard it in Border’s last night. Josh sings the words “Christmas,” “Christ” and “Jesus” many times. I own the CD and have already played it to death (I’m a huge fan) so I can promise you that “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” has not been changed to “Have Yourself a Merry Little Holiday.”

2) Whenever I venture into Wal-Mart (always for “the last time until after New Year and this time I mean it”) they are playing carols like “Away in a Manger” and “O Holy Night.” Okay, they are usually being sung by an entertainer whose lifestyle reflects anything but godly character, but still. They are singing about Christ not Frosty.

3) In a new shopping center in Reno they had a concert the weekend before Thanksgiving, gave away cider, and ended with fireworks and lighting of the CHRISTMAS TREE. A local high school choir sang and their repertoire included several Christian carols. The director admitted to getting chills during “Silent Night.” When Santa arrived he shouted “Merry Christmas” between “Ho Ho Ho”s.

There’s more but I want to give you a chance to share your own evidence that Christmas has not been completely replaced with generic holidays. What have you seen and heard in stores and other public arenas this Christmas season?

And by the way, when a store clerk says “Happy Holidays” I always reply with “Merry Christmas.” I feel like such a rebel.

Merry Christmas!!!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Tis the Season...For Holiday Forwards

It's that time of year again. Christmas carols. Tinsel. Jingle bells.
And Christmas emails.

I got this one last week and thought I'd share. Feel free to contribute your own or pass it on to others. Some of us are not afraid to halt some work or school day productivity to participate in some mindless emailing. Especially when it's in the name of Christmas!

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Paper. Duh. If it’s too easy to get into, it’s no fun. I like to delay the big reveal.

2. Real tree or artificial? – Call me a Grinch, but I don’t do trees at all. If I had one though it would be a 1950s silver aluminum one like my grandma's.

3. When do you put up the tree? First of Never. I used to, but my cats just didn’t appreciate it as much as I wanted them to.

4. When do you take your tree down? I do put out some decorations. Sadly, last year they never made it back to the attic, so they’ve been in a spare bedroom FOR TWELVE MONTHS. And THIS is why I don’t decorate for Christmas! If I had a tree it would still be in a corner of the living room.

5. Do you like eggnog? Eggs are not meant to be sipped.

6. Favorite gift received as a child? Probably my bike with the ribbon handle bars and daisy covered basket. Or my first CPK. That’s Cabbage Patch kid, if you’re down with that.

7. Do you have a nativity scene? No, knowing how much dust it would collect at my house, I think that would probably be pretty sacreligious.

8. Hardest person to buy for? I dunno, but easiest person is myself. I’m usually out shopping like a maniac (and crying and downing Starbucks and Diet Dr. Pepper) on the 24th because I’ve spent the whole month shopping for myself cause everything is marked down so much. It’s a sickness!

9. Easiest person to buy for? See above. And my cats. They get free water bowl refills.

10. Worst Christmas gift you ever got? A toss between the cat-related home décor items and one that I can't share online, but I sure wish I could. Oh, it was SO horrible! Like unrecognizable HORRIBLE. But funny...

11. Mail or email Christmas cards? I totally prefer to get them in the mail. meant how I send them. comment?

12. Favorite Christmas Movie? Elf. I like White Christmas a lot too. And Christmas Vacation. And last year I discovered the old movie Christmas in Connecticut. I highly recommend it!

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? I usually start buying for myself (in bulk) the day after Thanksgiving.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Yes, but nobody would take the kitty bath towels or the gift-which-shall-not-be-named.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Christmas breakfast

16. Clear lights or colored on the tree? Lights are a fire hazard, and I’m not allowed around them.

17. Favorite Christmas song? Do You Hear What I Hear. Also I love O Holy Night. And anything by Alvin and the Chipmunks.
Just kidding.

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Travel to two different locations. Both about 15 minutes away, both with populations less than 3k. Not glamorous, but at least nobody frisks at security checks. Well, maybe that one crazy uncle, but he's senile, so it doesn't count.

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? Yes. I can’t tell you who our Lt. governor is, but I can name the reindeer. And the members of N*Sync in case anyone ever needs that information.

20. Angel on the tree top or a star? I dunno, but one time I took out my mom’s glass tree topper because I was compelled to climb a tree and sing into the shiny ornament. We had a great concert. Then right at the doorway in, I broke it. I will never forget that. It wasn’t pretty for me. I think the only reason you don’t hear me on the radio today is because of that moment.

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Both. And we still do stockings on Christmas morning. Even though my brother and I are old. And crabby. And probably didn't make anybody's "Nice" list. And every year Santa brings me chocolate covered raisins. Except for one random year he didn't. I never knew what I did that ticked him off so much.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of year? Um...myself? Seriously, I get a little wired and weird at this time. I’m usually behind on shopping, I have a calendar full of events, and I’ve started some insane house-painting project. I shouldn’t be allowed in public shopping places during this time.

23.What does Christmas mean to you? It means we stop and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. It's so easy to forget what it's really about. But this year, I'm really going to try and focus on that. And some fudge.

Okay, so copy and paste that and send it to 1,000 people you know or your whole year will be cursed, your hair will fall out, and the reindeer will tinkle down your chimney.

-Cross-posted from MY BLOG.

Monday, December 03, 2007

I Have Celiac--Oh My Gosh

I was just diagnosed with Celiac--and I bet none of you have ever heard of it.

It means I shouldn't eat any wheat or gluten products. Meaning no more donuts, cookies, cakes, pies, bread, pasta, bagels, etc.

At first I was kinda in shock. I've spent so much time over the past four days reading labels and shopping. I found some gluten-free brownies and bread mixes, and also some nice-tasting breakfast bars.

I went to a church brunch and only had fruit, but it wasn't all that bad. The worst part is explaining, but if you go ahead and tell people, it seems they're really interested. And they care.

I wanted to go public with this in case it might help anybody else.

Life doesn't always go the way we want. Things happen that we don't like or understand.

My new attitude is this...I've decided to focus on WHAT I CAN HAVE TO EAT. Like, do you know how good fresh-squeezed orange juice is? I'd forgotten. I had some this morning. :-)

And I can't forget that God is "intimately acquainted with all my ways." So this is no shock to Him. He made me.


Sunday, December 02, 2007

Designing T-shirts

I had a t-shirt designing party this afternoon. I had two friends over. One can sketch about anything you ask her to and the other is a computer graphics wiz. So what did I do to contribute to the t-shirt designing party. I was the "Idea Man." In this case, ideal gal.
We were designing t-shirts to promote the books I write. Here are some of the sayings we came up with for the t-shirts.
Poke the magic dragon, and puff will be your name.
Dragons can't help being flighty.
Look wise, say nothing, and eat only those who annoy you.
"Wear pink. It confuses the enemy." -- Lady Allerion
When you're a dragon, trouble comes naturally.

We the t-shirts on . I am so excited. I've written books. Now, I've written t-shirts!

PS: We got carried away. It was more fun than a home shopping party. We made hats and mugs and bags as well as t-shirts.