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Snowy Day? Fun Ideas for a Cold Day


It is SUPER cold today.  Feels like 2 degrees.  For West Tennessee that is crazy cold.  I love it!

I was so excited when our younger two headed out to play.  After piling on layers and joined them.  Reminding me of my childhood and playing in the snow with my dad, I love, love, LOVE being out in the blowing snow.

Elizabeth Jane and I had been dreaming of the snow around December 21st when we officially welcomed winter.  We read one of our favorite books that is an abridged version of Little House on the Prairie called Christmas in the The Big Woods.   When the snow fell today she remembered this book and an idea from the book.  They made their own molasses candy for Christmas.  (A link to the a Youtube version is in a link at the endow the post.)

The neighbor girls gathered outside and we had big fun sledding.  When cheeks and fingers got too cold to stay out any longer, the candy making idea came back up.  We decided to give it a try.

I melted some sorghum molasses in a small sauce pan.  (It had to be runny so that it would pour.)   We filled a cast iron skillet with snow.

I poured the melted molasses into the skillet and it melted immediately.  It was amazing to watch the runny molasses immediately turn into candy.

I thought I would be able to make the pretty shapes and swirls but that was a bit trickier than I had imagined.  The girls thought this was super cool even though their refined taste buds…for candy…were not crazy about the molasses candy. The activity was really easy AND  fun.

Lunchtime came and we made snow cream and hot chocolate.  I mean isn’t that what you do when you get a snowfall in the south?  Lunch was a big hit!

Here’s to hoping the girls will always remember this day.  As they grow up maybe they will remember sledding and candy making on a snowy day.


If you want to try these ideas with your children or grandchildren here are some of the fun supplies.  If you do not have the book Christmas in the Big Woods you can listen to it read here on Youtube.

We used a small cast iron skillet to try and get the Little House vibe.  You will need molasses.  Two different options are Blackstrap Molasses or Original Molasses.   I hope your snowy days are super fun!

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The Gatherers’ Friend

Ok, here is the truth.  I am taking a risk and being vulnerable.

I stink at baking cookies.  Even slice and bake.

I am not exaggerating.  In spite of loving to eat them, cookies are not my friend. (Neither are squirrels but that is for another post.)  After all these years in the kitchen I have not made peace with cookies.

What bugs me the most about this problem is that cookies can be the gatherer’s best friend, especially at Christmas time.  Anyone can keep a container of Toll House Cookie dough on hand to cookie at the last minute.  Add a scoop of french vanilla ice cream with a hot chocolate chip cookie on the side and your guests, or family, will feel loved.

But nooooooo.  Not for me.  My nemesis, the cookie, either gets undercooked or nearly charred.  It is an attention problem, I know.  The only thing you have to do with slice and bake is pay attention.  That sounds so easy.  And yet just recently I made a batch of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies that ended up being called biscotti.  That is just not right.

When Christmas rolls around, sugar cookies have to be made.  I distance myself from the project as much as possible to give the children the opportunity to have delicious cookies.  I am a pretty fair cookie decorator and can assist with reading of the recipe and measuring of ingredients, but I tried to take a wide berth to let our youngest cook take the reins.

Watch what happens around your house when cookie baking starts.

“Whatca making?” they begin to ask.  As soon as the dough is forming the pinching fingers begin to come out.

“Can I have a bite?”  If I am cooking the cookies they have a better chance with the raw dough than they do the burned cookies. The repeatedly ruined cookies are probably why 3 of the 4 of the kids prefer the dough.

If hot cookies come out of the oven (eatable) they are like magnets.  Bring out icing and even the most reluctant may join in and decorate.

Christmas is full of these kinds of gathering opportunities…it always has been.

The very first Christmas was surrounded by gathering after gathering after gathering.  In two’s and three’s, with small groups and even multitudes. Groups even began to travel to get to the big event.

Why would that be surprising?  The One who came as a baby was the Great Shepherd of the Sheep, who was all about gathering His sheep. Of course His birth would cause people to come together.  His time on this earth was about relationship and connecting people to the Father so that they would know how loved they are.

Be on the lookout opportunities this holiday season.  They could be in your kitchen or they could be anywhere at all.  One favorite party is the Cookie Exchange.  Done traditionally it can be quite laborious.  Here are a few untraditional ideas that might make this party a bit easier:

  • Host a cookie making party.  Instead of having your guests come with ten billion perfectly cooked cookies, invite them to the experience.  Choose two or three recipes and make the cookies together.  Have a tasting party and send them home with a tin full of cookies.  Add some Christmas music and a few other snacks to eat while you cook.  You will come away with stories about that night that will be told for years to come.
  • Make a recipe book.  Have your guests bring one dozen precooked cookies and eat the cookies together (with milk.)  Each guest could bring enough copies of each recipe (written on recipe cards)  for each guest to have one.  Turn on your holiday tunes and make a cookie cookbook out of your recipes.  By punching a hole in the top corner of the cards you can tie them with a ribbon to hold them together.  Create a cover card with the date on the front will be a keepsake for years. Gathering around the table to create will provide sweet space to talk about the holidays past and present.  If you want to get to know this group better you could start by having each lady write a question for the group to answer.  This would be a fun for small groups that have just begun to get to know each other.
  • Cookie Outreach. If you want to reach out past your group you could have each guest bring a one or two batches of cookies and a tin.  As a group you could load all the tins with a mixture of cookies and write some holiday cards to attach.  Loaded with a list of shut-ins or some people that need loving on this holiday take your cookies and head out to bless these folks with your cookies.  If you are feeling feisty you could sing a carol at the door…but this is not a party requirement.  Sharing a hug or praying for the person could be the best Christmas present they receive all holiday.

I love these recipes Christmas recipe cards and Christmas tins.  They could put some finishing touches on your party time.

I would give you cookie baking tips…but I have none.

You are officially on your own with this one. However I could use your tips…you can leave them in the comments below.

Happy baking, friends!


Gathering Around is participate in Walmart Associates Program and Target affiliate program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising feels by advertising and linking to Walmart .com and
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Baking Christmas Gifts-the Gift that Keeps on Giving

Do the holidays cause you to reminisce?  My thoughts are traveling back to Christmases past.

  • Cutting a real Christmas tree and my sister, Missy, and I trying to get it in the stand.
  • Wrapping presents with the comics from newspapers.
  • Finding oranges, apples and nuts in our stockings (along with a book of Lifesavers, and chocolate covered cherries.)
  • The anticipation I felt waiting on Christmas Eve for Santa to come.
  • Cooking Christmas treats to share with friends.

Cooking strawberry bread was one of my favorites.  One of the recipes we used required you to cook the bread in metal coffee cans. (I wonder if that was a cooking phase, and if any of you tried that recipe years ago.)

As I was thinking about this bread today I began to think about the opportunities that came with it.  This was a family cooking project.  We came together in the kitchen to cook.  We talked about who we would like to bless with our cooked bread.  Those were good conversations.

Creating a space for children to learn about giving is a rich opportunity.  When Mom allowed me input it helped me to become more invested in the giving.  I wanted to see the reaction on peoples’ faces when they received the gift we made with so much tender loving care.

Mom has had my children out to help her, even when they were young, as she made gifts for the postman and the garbage collector.  What an awesome lesson to teach children to see our community helpers and thank them for what they do to help.

But these goodies can become even more than a thank you.  As I am writing I am realizing there is a dear friend who is in her 90’s.  We could take bread to this year.  She would probably like the bread, but she would LOVE the visit from our children.  We could take tea and cut her some bread while we visit.  To know she had been thought of, planned for and cared about could be one of her favorite gifts this season.  All we need is a loaf of bread and a little time.

There is a friend who has little several little children .  It is harder for them to get out of the house right now.  We could go visit them and plan a little tea party for her little ones.  The recipe: a blanket, some apple cider and strawberry bread..

Maybe you do not have children who will be cooking with you this season…not a deal breaker.  Turn on your favorite Christmas songs and enjoy singing while you cook.  As you cook maybe your questions may be different.  Who would you like to sit with for a little while?  Maybe there is a lady you have admired from a distance but have not taken the time to engage.  This could be your opportunity.  Call her and ask her if she might like to visit…you’ll bring the bread.

You know Jesus called himself the “bread of life.” He said, “No one who comes to Me will ever be hungry, and no one who believes in Me will ever be thirsty again.” (John 6:35)

As you go, He goes with you.  He has always loved the one in front of Him so well.  He will help you to do the same.  Honestly, none of us need just another good thing to do.  This is an invitation to step out of the usual hustle and bustle.

Enjoy the opportunity to gather.



Lucy’s Strawberry Bread

3 cups of flour                                     1 cup of pecans (optional)

2 cups sugar                                         1 t. salt

1 small pkg. frozen strawberries      4 eggs beaten

3 t. cinnamon                                       1  1/4 cup oil

1 t. baking soda


Sift all dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl.  Make a deep hole in the center of the dry ingredients.  Pour the rest of the ingredient into the hole.  Stir carefully.  Only stir enough to dampen and mix the ingredients.  Pour into well greased bread pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. I used one large bread pan and one medium bread pan.

I test all my bread with a stick test with an Amish Broom Cake Tester before taking them out of the oven.  This often looks done on the top but the center may not be completely done. There is a wonderful invention that looks like a small handheld broom but it is only for cooking.  By breaking off piece and sticking it into the bread you can see if the bread if done on the inside.  A clean stick means the bread is ready.  If some dough comes out on the stick it need to cook some more.  This is probably one of my faves in the kitchen. If the top of your bread looks brown and the center needs more time you can loosely lay a piece of aluminum foil over the top until you are finished to keep the top from burning.

I saw a bread pan at William Sonoma the other day and am kicking myself for not grabbing it for this recipe.  It is absolutely beautiful and I think this bread would be beautiful in it.Nordic War Anniversary Loaf Pan If you wanted to bump it up even another notch you could sift powder sugar over the top of the loaf just before serving.

I would love to hear you feedback.  Post in the comments about how you like the bread. We would all love to hear your success in gathering stories.  When you share we all get the blessing of your ideas! It would be wonderful if your success lead to the success of another and another and another…

Gathering Around is participate in Walmart Associates Program and Williams-Sonoma affiliate program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising feels by advertising and linking to Walmart .com and
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Making Room at the Table

What is the first picture that pops into your mind when you think about the word “table”?

Grandma’s table was formica rectangle with six metal chairs.  We traveled to Pennsylvania twice a year for Christmas and during summer.  Grandma and I would exchange snail mail and often would discuss the food she would have when we came.  We planned getting together when we weren’t together.  She shopped intentionally for me.  Her table was the gathering place.  Starting early in the morning over her cup of instant coffee (gasp) we would begin visiting.  The rest of the house would be quiet and she would make some toast.  (The smell of toast still brings tears to my eyes.) Others would eventually come, neighbors and family.  Shoes rarely touched the den carpet, but everyone came to the kitchen table. I knew I was special at that table.

The small round wooden table at the Aunt’s house also comes to mind.  Even as small as the table was, there was always room for one more.  They used Johnson’s Brothers coffee cups and saucers.   No matter when you popped in–and lots of people did all the time–they would say, “All we have is leftovers.” And out of the refrigerator would come a delicious fare suited more for a king than an average person.  Everyone felt special around that table.

Mom’s Queen Anne oval table was the most versatile table ever.  We moved it thousands of miles from one room to the next.  Because we loved to rearrange furniture we put it in every possible space we could think of.  When it came to eating, all were welcome.  Christmas breakfast was the most treasured of events.  In the early years grandparents, aunts, and uncles came to the feast.  The leaf was put in and the dining table expanded.  Card tables were set up to include more people.  Laughter and stories resounded and the smell of country ham filled the air.  No one was in a hurry.  We just visited.   We still have Christmas breakfast to this day. You can not help but feel special at such a wonderful event!

My Mother-in-love gathers a motley crew of us most Tuesday nights.  Pop built her a table that seats one billion people and she is never happier than when it is full of people.  We are on a group text that pops up on Tuesday mornings.  We wait to see it.  Everyone responds with a thumbs up or down if you and yours can come or can not.  Are we eating this week? Who can come? There are family members, a minister,  and college students on the list.  This week a neighbor/friend came who had never been before.  It is always a joyful time.  Who ever can come is always glad they did.  All feel special.

A tiny two seater table also comes to mind that belonged to an elderly woman I knew as a child.  She had me and her granddaughter to lunch one day.  I was very young and I can remember the lunch like it was yesterday.  The meal was simple–apples and cheese.  It was beautiful.  I cannot remember the plate but I still remember how she placed the food on it.  Maybe that food is all she had or maybe she bought it just for us.  That lunch was one of the best lunches I had ever had.  I felt so loved at that table that day.

Tables convey community. People invited to sit at your table feel special.

  • College students a long way from home often reminisce about how much they miss their tables at home and how much they love home cooked meals.
  • Elderly widows’ eyes feel with tears as they relish the sound of families and recall years past. (They also may enjoy their quiet homes a little bit more when it is time to go home.)
  • People who have never sat at a table (unfortunately there are many) soak in the tangible love like a dry sponge does water.

Here are some commonalities.  To have someone to eat takes a little bit of time and as least a small amount of preparation.  It does not have to be hard.

  • People can bless people and feed them-but in a lot of different ways.  It might be pizza from a box or a huge feast. The food is not always the blessing.
  • Wether you can cook or not does not matter in the least.
  • A space can be anything from the largest table to a blanket in the park…making a space for people is the goal. Consider another.
  • You could brew coffee or serve instant (Really? Did I say that?) But the truth is a glass of water will suffice.
  • Invitation=blessing.

Who could you make a place for this week?  The table and the food are truly irrelevant.  Make a space for people to be heard.  God could really use you to encourage them!  You could be a game changer just by making a space for another person!


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Dreading the Holidays? 5 Ideas to Make Your Holidays Merry and Bright

The holidays are quickly approaching.  Some, like my children, are super excited.  Actually, many adults have already “decked their halls.”  Christmas cards are being made and wish lists have been started.

But maybe you are not excited.  In fact, you may even be dreading the holidays.  I do not know your story, but for whatever reason you are not looking forward to the upcoming festivities.  This post is for you.

This is not an all-inclusive list but a few ideas that may help your creative juices start flowing. You can be a powerful person this holiday to make it better than you ever anticipated.

If you have family that tend to be toxic this idea is for you…make other plans.  If every time you get together you and those around you get hurt and leave the holiday feeling more wounded than you came, be kind to yourself.  It is ok to give yourself permission to take a trip or have a staycation. There is no hard and fast law that says that we have to spend our holidays with our families EVERY SINGLE YEAR.  What would you like to do this holiday?

Maybe you are alone (or lonely) and you are trying to figure out what to do this year.  This list may help.

  1.  Plan an event.   Make it fun.
  • Host a christmas brunch where everyone brings a dish. You could have a single gift swap where you bring your favorite book and swap. If you don’t like hosting in your home borrow a room at church for the party.
  • Take a group caroling (it doesn’t matter if you can’t sing).
  • Game night! Cook some easy food like pizza and enjoy playing.  You could invite anybody to this.  Even if folks have other plans in the morning might love something fun and different to do on the night of Christmas.
  • Theme party.  Christmas in Hawaii and everyone come with food and dressed for the destination.  Maybe you choose a old holiday classic like Holiday Inn, White Christmas, or Miracle on 34th Street and plan around the movie.
  • Macy’s day parade party.  Invite everyone to don their favorite Christmas pjs or ugly Christmas sweaters and have your own voting to choose the best of the floats and musical acts.  Tally the results and announce the winners over brunch.
  • Gather a group to go to a midnight mass or a Christmas Eve service at a church and go out for a Christmas Eve dinner afterwards.


2.  Make the holiday about someone else.  

  • Ask your  pastor who needs encouragement over the holidays.  Who will not be spending the holiday with anyone else?
  • Serve a meal at the soup kitchen.
  • Take goodies to the nearest nursing home and just hug necks and say “Merry Christmas” to the residents. If you want company in your project you could contact your church (or the people who work in your office) via social media to invite others who might be interested as well.
  • Invite an elderly neighbor over for a quiet meal.  Do some investigating and find out what he or she really like to eat and pamper him/her.
  • Do some cooking (or creating) and go out to find people you can bless.  Just a Christmas Card with an encouraging word about the difference they are making  could change an entire day for a gas station attendant or waitress on Christmas Day. Think of yourself as Santa’s Elf.  Maybe you hand out candy canes or chocolate covered cherries.  Christmas devotional books are good too. The point is to bless people who may feel overlooked on such a special day.
  • Every single holiday meal we have someone (or several someones) who eat with us.  One of my sisters, Missy, has a neighbor we love.  She is expected every holiday.  When we are setting the table we always set her a place.  We have more fun stories about Mrs. Jackie and the joy she brings to the table!
  • Remember there are always some college students who live across the country or in another country who have no where to go for the holiday.  They would treasure a home cooked meal and a good conversation.  You can contact your local college and ask for the faculty who works with the foreign students to locate these students.

3.   Plan a personal retreat.  This requires thought and care.  To truly pamper yourself you have to think ahead and plan.  Since a lot of places are not open on Christmas you have to gather you special items ahead of time. Enjoy the entire process.  Who knows, you may love it so much you may plan more in the future.  You are worth it!

  • Identify what you love.
  • Splurge on yourself.  If you love gifts buy yourself a few things you would not normally get and have the store wrap them for you! Save the gifts for you special retreat. Spread them out over the day or treat yourself to them all at once.  It is your day and can be whatever you decide for it to be.
  • Give yourself permission to pamper you.
  • Do you like baths…get some new bubble bath.
  • If you love to read…get yourself a new book for the day.
  • So cooking is your thing…plan the recipes you would like to try the most and make food that you would love to eat. (If you have leftovers you might plan to bless someone with those or plan to enjoy each leftover morsel the next day.)
  • If you hate to cook then think ahead about food.  Are their restaurants open that you love.  Make an order ahead of time to make sure you can get your favorites.
  • Movie night.  Think of a movie you have been wanting to rent and get it.  Think of a movie you haven’t seen in years.  You may have to order it ahead of time.
  • Turn your favorite music on and sing at the top of your lungs.
  • Spend time reading the Christmas story and journaling about the parts that touch your heart.
  • Maybe you like to draw or color.  New supplies would be a fun present to open Christmas day.
  • Pull up a dance video and learn some new dance moves while nobody is watching.
  • Wear you pjs all day if you want to.

4.   Shake it up a bit.  Maybe this particular year is hard.  The first year after one of my sister’s divorce she and her daughter started a new tradition.  They began going to our parents’ house on Christmas Eve and spent the night.  They all did Christmas morning together with our folks.  She knew that would be hard for her to stay at home that morning so she planned ahead and created a new tradition.

  • Be honest with yourself and decide what would help you to help yourself.
  • Maybe you have always done breakfast, but you hate mornings.   How about planning ahead and allowing some input to try a new midday get together.
  • Maybe you are have a large family and traveling is hard.  Stay at home. You could invite others to come to you.
  • Or maybe you have never traveled and this is your year to make a change and hit the road.

5.   Ask to be included.  Now this is risky…you have to be careful who you ask.  You are not close enough with all people to ask to jump in on their holiday festivities.  However, close friends would not mind having you join their Christmas meal!

Possibly you somebody who misses having your home full at the holidays and you might want to invite a young family with no in laws over for a meal.  You might never know what a blessing that invitation might be to them as well as you.


This is the time to choose now how you can have the best holiday possible.  Please do not hear me negating any pain you might be having.  Pain is real and it hurts.  The challenge here to be powerful in spite of the pain.  Plan ahead and give yourself somethings to look forward to could be empowering and encouraging.

I would love to hear about your plans in the comments below.  Your ideas may spur on others with your thoughts.  I am praying that you would have the best of holidays!

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To Do Lists…Do They Rule You?


What is on your “To Do” List?

On days when your list is long, do you ever feel a bit anxious or hurried? I am asking because I do.  The list mocks me and, if I am not intentional, it rules me.

Today my list felt a mile long.  It is one of those weeks (months to be honest) when life is full to the brim.  I was distracted by all the things before me.

Of course there was a slow poke in front of me in line.  Other people checked and out and left. All my stuff lay crammed on the conveyor belt…it was too late to switch lines.  I listened as the elderly woman in front of me talked on and on with the cashier.

I have to be honest.

As much as I value the elderly I was not liking this lady today.  Her jabber was slowing me up from checking off my list. I really did not want to hear about her diabetes and how the company that makes this canned goods was going out of business.  I am now embarrassed to type my thoughts, but these are the honest truths.

I heard some folks talking loudly across the front of the store.  To get my mind off of the eternally long time it was taking me, I began to observe these people.  They were obviously a family or close friends.  They spoke in a language I had never heard.  Large backpacks and lots of children made them look a bit gypsyish.  One man was pushing two tiny babies around in a buggy. They seemed quiet pleasant as I tried to figure them out.

In the midst of my distraction I heard the lady in front of me speaking directly to me.  I focused as she is asking me if I heard the cashier say that her son was healed of diabetes.  I am instantly engaged.  I am also aware that this elderly woman’s demeanor had completely changed.  As she is left she looked at the cashier and told her that she knew now why she came to Walmart today.

It was my turn.  I jumped right in and asked the cashier about her son.  We began to encourage each other.  I told her that it was amazing how the Lord uses her to minister to people as she checked them out.  It crossed my mind that her conversation with some customers may be the only one they have all day long.  She is beaming and so am I.  She shared with me how the greeter prayed for a man’s hand this morning.  As I left she came around and hugged me, knowing we have each made a new friend.

I found myself smiling as I walked to the parking lot.  Even though I can not find my van, I am so touched by this woman’s ministry I am wandering and thinking.

I began to hear the people again. Their strange language is reverberating though the parking lot.  They are loading up in to multiple vehicles and as I locate my van I notice their license plates.


They had been displaced by Hurricane Ima.  I get a nudge from the Lord.  “Speak to the them.” I argued.  “But they don’t speak English. This could be humiliating for us all.”

As if to say, “I will make this one easy for you,” one of the men headed directly toward the buggy return, beside my van.  The flashes from the store came flooding back.

  • heavy laden backpacks
  • tiny little babies
  • lots of people

In spite of my potential embarrassment I began to speak.  I did not have a clue what to say, so I just jumped in.

“God bless you man.”

He looked at me with a huge smile and without even waiting for me to say the rest he said (in perfect English) “Thanks so much!”

I mentioned that I had seen their Florida tags.

Continuing in his joy he responsed, “YES! And we are headed back now!” He was obviously thrilled to be going back home.   I blessed their return as we parted ways.

I was so busy that I almost missed huge blessings.  My list was so big and distracting that I almost failed to see the Lord at work all around me.

I still have so much to do.  The list really is not any shorter than it was an hour ago.  But I am sitting in my chair typing this out so that I do not forget one single part.  I have temporarily kicked that stupid list to the curb.

So if you find yourself in the same place as me I hope you will remember this story.  May the daily grind of your day not overwhelm you to the point that life becomes all about getting the very next thing done.

May you see people loving people.

There are people all around us who have hard things going on in their lives.

It sometimes helps our perspectives to get our eyes off ourselves!  There is so much for which to be thankful, even in the Walmart line.


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You Will Find Rest

rest, slow down,

We race from one thing to another.  Even when we our bodies are still, our minds are racing.

The world we live in applauds busyness and celebrates exhaustion.  We compete with each other, comparing our to-do lists.  We are almost ashamed to admit it if someone calls us in the middle of a nap.

We are not hamsters on a wheel.

“Come to me all you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matt. 11:28  We get to make a decision about carrying heavy burdens.   We are invited to come to Him and receive rest.

 “In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat-for He grants sleep to those He loves” Psalm 127:2.  Again, choices.  Working is not bad.  Maybe we should look at our motivators.  Are we working because we think we have to prove or earn something?  Sometimes we choose to live like this because we desire the approval of man.

But what good is this lifestyle? In actuality it is a dangerous way to live.  Our health struggles when we run to and fro.  Hearts ache when there is lack of peace. Work can even become sloppy.  Relationships get compromised.  None of these are for our best.

Are we letting Him be the king of our hearts?  Or have we let something else have that place?  “I lift up my eyes to the mountains-where does my help come from? My help come from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” Psalm 121:1-2.

Do not misunderstand.  Work is good for man and we are not meant to be lazy.  But this is not an either/or situation.  Culturally we tend to swing from one extreme to the other.  We do not want to swing from our hamster wheel into a Lazy Boy recliner.

I would like to suggest that it is possible to do the work that we need to do from a place of rest.  At first consideration that seems like an impossibility.  Just look at this verse, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” Matt. 11:29-30.

We can look at the life of Jesus for an example.   Jesus understood pulling away from the crowd (as well as pulling away from the disciples)  in order to get filled up.  The time He spent with the Father was His time of refueling.  These times set an example of how important it is for man to slow down and be still.  His relationship with His Dad empowered Jesus to do His ministry with love and grace and peace.

I can hear your voices right now saying, “Yes but he was God.”  I understand but we cannot negate the fact that he was fully man as well.  He came to show us how to live.

He stopped for the one.

Jesus touched the untouchables.

He got angry but His anger was timely and appropriate.

He saw value in everyone.

He washed feet and fed multitudes.

Teaching all the time, He always had a lesson ready.

He also got tired and thirsty and sat down at a well.

Jesus was constantly about His Father’s business but he did it from a peaceful place.  Let’s try going about our business this week from a different place. Imagine starting from a quiet place, getting filled up before we go out.  What if when we began to feel inappropriately anxious or angry we just pulled away from the crowd and got alone with our good Dad.  “We will find rest for our souls.”  That is a promise.

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Just A Few More Steps

When was the last time you attempted something really hard?  I have been in the midst of learning one of the most challenging things I have ever learned and I hit a wall today.  So in that place I chose to remember another time I needed encouragement.

Two years ago I decided to take a hike at Young Life Camp.  Because we live in West Tennessee most of that hiking is easy.   I knew NOTHING about this trail except that some of the campers ran it for exercise so I was not too concerned.   I just wanted to be on the mountain trail.

The cool fall weather and the gorgeous leaves (not to mention the complete quiet) were not disappointing. Even the acorns were beautiful.  I thrive in the mountains and was soaking it all in.  The first 20 minutes were fantastic. Everything about the time was wonderful.

The grade slightly began to increase.  I was excited to think I was getting closer to the top.  I saw signs that marked one mile and then two.  Surely I was getting close.

Then the grade increased even more.  The acorns that were beautiful were now slippery to maneuver. I was having to pay attention to my steps instead of looking at the leaves. I am not sure that I saw a single bird during that part of the hike.

By the time I saw the 3 mile marker I began to wonder just how far I was going.  However, I was determined.  I would finish this hike.  With every bend I would think it was the last one before the top.  The final part of the hike literally felt like I was climbing steps the entire time.  My out-of-shape-self was truly struggling.  Every single step had to be intentional and careful. I made myself keep going. The very last steps were the hardest by far.

The view of the top of the mountain was breathtaking.  A hawk was soaring just in front of me as I stood awestruck.  Minus still trying to catch my breath.  The challenging part of the hike seemed forgotten.  I was so glad I came.  I was proud of having completed it.

Today I was reminded of that first hike.  Not knowing where you are going on a journey and not knowing how long it will take to complete can be freeing or it can be frustrating.  Not knowing what you are getting into can also be the grace of God.  Realizing that you could be in over your head might keep us from ever starting.

I was floundering on this new trail today. At the point of tears I was reminded that there is a time in certain journeys for dogged determination.  There are times when we just have to grit our teeth and keep stepping.  I was picturing myself on the last steep steps of that hike and realized that if I had stopped short I would have never enjoyed the view from the summit.

I do not have to compare my journey to anyone else.  Although that trail seems like nothing to strong high schoolers who literally ran up it, my journey is not theirs.  And things that may seem simple to some of us may be challenging to others.  When the monster Comparison tries to steal from us we have to shut them down.  when we score a personal victory we need to enjoy it.  It is great to rejoice in a personal win!

If you are in the midst of a hard trail I am beside you cheering you on today.  Do not give up.  The summit will be worth it. if for nothing more than to know you finished!   You really can do it.  If you feel at the end of yourself just lean into the Lord and know that “you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.” (Phil. 4:13)

What is the mountain in front of you?  Have you approached it one way only to realize you might need to come at it from another direction?  Have you stumbled on your way and considered turning around?

Then last year I did the hike a second time.  I shaved 15 minutes off my time and I noticed I was stronger.  The exercise over the year had paid off.  I totally enjoyed the entire trip up the mountain.  It was much easier having the knowledge I gained the first time.

I passed one group of teenagers doing the hike the second year.  They were at the point where the grade had increased and one fellow turned around and headed back down the mountain all by himself.  He did not think he could do it.  I prayed and prayed for him as I continue?

What about you?  Have you headed down the mountain? Even if you are at the bottom, it is not too late.   You can see yourself do what you truly desire to do.  I believe in you.

I would love to hear your stories.  What was your journey like? Did you see the summit?  Or did you head back down the mountain? What was your summit? How do you feel about you story today?