Saturday, December 24, 2016

Candy Cane Lines

It’s that time of year again—time to gather with loved ones to catch up and celebrate the Savior’s birth, and if you know me, it’s time to catch that perfect shot for my themed Christmas card. In more recent years, I’ve made a shift. Instead of a card created with photos of me and my children, I now include snapshots with my grandkids. And if you know kids, you know that getting that perfect shot is next to impossible. So, I’ve shifted my thinking too. Now I strive to catch that perfect imperfect shot. It certainly makes for less stress, and who can’t use a little more peace this time of year. This year’s theme is the candy cane (in case you didn’t catch that already), and it seems the confection got its start for that very reason—peace. 

According to The Legend of the Candy Cane that dates back more than 350 years, mothers used white sugar sticks as pacifiers for their babies. Around 1670 the sticks were bent into canes to represent a shepherd’s staff and were used to keep the attention of small children during Christmas church services. At the turn of the 20th century, the red stripe was added, along with the peppermint and wintergreen flavors.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Patiently Endure

Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.

It was a whirlwind visit for my daughter Rebekah, her husband Jairo, and their two-year-old son Javier (“Javi”). They arrived at my house late on Friday and spent all day Saturday at our family reunion. The next morning they packed up to return to Pennsylvania.

Javi is a typical two-year-old boy. He loves climbing, jumping on beds and playing outside. He makes toys out of sticks and feathers and is especially fond of animals. Rarely will you spot him without an animal figure in hand.

When he comes to visit, a trip to the pasture is always in order so he can see the cows. But this weekend, there wasn’t a break in the schedule for tromping to the fields.

As Rebekah and Jairo packed suitcases in their Jeep, Javi and I followed. In a flash, Javi took off running, arms flailing, feet flying straight for the pasture, fenced in with electrified barbed wire.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Have You Been Added to the Family Tree?

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!
—1 John 3:1

My cousin and I are co-chairing a long-overdue family reunion for our mothers’ side of the family.

I assumed the responsibility of creating the family tree and am taking advantage of a free trial period with I’ve been busy plugging in names, birthdates, and places of birth and am amazed at how the tree is taking shape. I’m especially delighted whenever a green leaf appears on my screen, which means the database has an ancestry hint for me. It could be a documented record of birth or a census record indicating a place of residence. I consider each hint to determine if it’s applicable and decide if I want to add it to the family tree.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Unlocking the Secret of the Labyrinth

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”
—Isaiah 30:21

Until last week, I had never walked a labyrinth—although the idea intrigued me for years.

When I read the July 29th devotion in Daily Guideposts, which referenced a steel hedge labyrinth, I was once again fascinated with the idea and turned to the Labyrinth Locator to find one in my area. I was surprised to find three.

A few days later, while kayaking on the St. Mary’s River with my friend Paul, I remembered that one of the three was located just a stone’s throw away on the grounds of historic Trinity Episcopal Church.

Soon Paul and I made our way up the riverbank and onto the church property, where we landed in the memorial gardens—and discovered why it has been described as a place where “land, water and sky meet in beauty and take the breath away” (Saint Mary's Parish).

After taking pause and savoring the beauty from an inviting bench that overlooked the river, we ventured through the sacred cemetery to find the labyrinth.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Earmarked for Him

He has put his brand upon us—his mark of ownership—and given us his Holy Spirit in our hearts as guarantee that we belong to him, and as the first installment of all that he is going to give us.

I was planting a begonia in the container at the end of my lane when my cousin, Shorty, stopped his truck in front of me. Leaning out the window, he tried to persuade me to do some yard work at his house, just up the hill from mine, next to the barnyard.

“This is about all I can handle. Too hot out here for me!” I returned.

“Well, we got started early this morning to beat the heat—marked 38 calves—and then fixed the boys.”

Wednesday, July 20, 2016


Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

If you follow me on social media, you might have read these recent posts:

6/20 – “A broken down car, a clogged drain, and a TV that won't turn on. Not a good combination when I have my 3-year-old granddaughter for a week.”

7/5 – “When you're sick and your TV is broken, what do you do?”

7/11 – “First a broken car, then a broken TV, and now a broken phone. If any of you have been trying to reach me without success, that's why. Try email. For now, my computer is working. Lol.”

I tried to infuse a little humor, but truthfully I didn’t think it was funny at all. Why was everything breaking down?

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

O Say, Can You See...Can You Feel, Do You Know What It Means?

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!
—Psalm 33:12

I was 13 years old when I was selected to raise and lower the flag every day at the private school I attended.

Jane was my partner. She and I learned flag etiquette and the proper way to fold the U. S. flag, twice length-wise, followed by triangular folds, starting with the striped edge and ending with the stars.

I remember how I felt when I held the flag, careful not to let it drop, and when I folded it, trying to perfectly align the ends as neatly as I could. Privileged. Special. But more than that. It was something I felt with my heart. Reverence and respect. For my flag. My country. A holy moment.

But after 40+ years, there are some things I don’t remember, like the meaning behind each of the thirteen folds.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Plugged In, Charging?

Turn my eyes away from what is worthless! Revive me with your word!
—Psalm 119:37

My laptop is temperamental these days. At times it does not charge even when plugged in. I discovered the problem a few months ago when I couldn’t get the laptop to turn on. I took it to a techie, and after some troubleshooting, he diagnosed the issue and suggested that I regularly check the icon in the lower right of my screen to make sure that it says “plugged in, charging.” If it says, “plugged in, not charging,” I need to fiddle with the cord a bit until it makes the connection.

Sometimes I exhibit the same symptoms as my laptop. I appear to be plugged in, but I am not charging. I seem to be doing all the things a Christian should, yet I don’t feel energized. What is happening?

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Right Tools for the Job: Using your tools to conquer everyday problems

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

With my toddler grandson, Javier, coming to visit, I decided it was time to add to my toy collection. At the thrift store, my eye caught glimpse of a posable brown-eyed repairman figure wearing a red and white cap and a pencil behind his ear. I picked him up and turned him over to check the price. Marked on the sole of his work boot was $1. What a deal!

Placing him in my cart, I discovered something more magical than the price.

“Let’s get to work!” he said.


As I pushed my cart toward the check-out line, he said, “Abuelito needs our help. Let’s bring the tools!”

Abuelito? Isn’t that Spanish for grandfather? What a perfect find for my bicultural grandson!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Make the Switch

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
—2 Corinthians 5:17

It was 1:35—for years. The hands of that old clock were stuck. It was time for a change. And Easter was the perfect season to make the switch.

I removed the clock from my living room wall and replaced it with a beautiful hand-crafted cross. I received the cross in exchange for a donation to Teen Challenge, a program which “provides successful recovery for women, children, young men and families with destructive, abusive and addictive lifestyles through mentoring, education, training and spiritual direction.”

The wood for these crosses is handpicked from old, discarded horse fencing from the Teen Challenge Northern Virginia farm. Cut and stained by the students, the crosses are a reflection of what happens in their lives. They come into the program broken, but as a result of Christ’s work in their lives, they become new.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Mezuzah and the Palm

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Blessed is the king of Israel!
—John 12:13

I glanced at the corner of the door frame where I had tucked my palm branch under the edge of a mezuzah. I smiled at the juxtaposition of the two objects of faith, seemingly diametrically opposed to one another, the mezuzah of Jewish origin and the palm branch a symbol of Christianity.

My friend Stan brought the mezuzah back from his trip to the Holy Lands. As I unwrapped the souvenir and turned it over in my hands, Stan explained its significance.

Found in most Jewish homes, the mezuzah is a parchment scroll, contained in a decorative case, inscribed with specific Hebrew verses from the Torah, Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21.

Stan didn’t need to recite those verses to me, because I was already quite familiar with them. In fact, I had just returned from a writers’ conference in Atlanta where I pitched a children’s book built on the premise of teachable moments. I had included those same verses in the book’s Note to Parents.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Don't Be Afraid of the Rain

In the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
till the storms of destruction pass by.
—Psalm 57:1b

The Weather Channel reports severe weather along the east coast.
Severe thunderstorm warnings scrolled across my TV screen. Meteorologists pointed out the makings of tornadoes. They directed viewers to the safest places to ride out the storms. My church canceled its regular Wednesday night activities.

I called my daughter Emma to make sure she was safe. She answered on speaker phone, and I could hear my two-year-old granddaughter Layla in the background, “It’s storming, Grandma.”

“Yes, it is.”

“Grandma, you’re driving your car?”

“No, I’m home.”

She must not have heard me.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

No Turning Back

“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”
—Luke 15:17-20

Farm cats are typically outdoor cats that keep undesired rodents from entering the farmer’s house and eating stored grain crops. My mouse-catchers, Sam and Sandy, are tough cats. They’ve weathered many storms, sheltering in the crawl space beneath my house. I was sure they would do the same in the recent blizzard, which blew in on a Friday afternoon.

I fed them well that morning and then settled in myself, bracing for the storm, predicted to rage for a couple of days.

After the sky dropped more than a foot of snow, it gave up its tantrum and smiled brightly on Sunday morning. I emerged from my shelter to shovel and clear a space on the deck, where I placed bowls of cat food and water.  I called for the kitties, but neither came forth. I called again. Still no response.

Shovel in hand, I trudged through knee-deep snow to the entrance to the crawl space. As my boots crunched through the crusty surface, I heard faint feline mews rising from beneath the hatch, now covered with a mound of white stuff. Quickly, I went to work, digging deep, until I had opened up the passage. I called to them, but they didn’t emerge. I called again. Still nothing.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

How Long, O Lord?

How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
—Psalm 13:1

“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” I echoed the psalmist’s cry, as I prayed once again for the same prayer requests I’ve prayed for twenty years.

“Don’t you know how old I am, how long I’ve waited, Lord?” I reminded Him, while I sipped my coffee at the kitchen table, staring at the wall.

I’m talking to a wall.

“Lord, that’s how I feel! I feel like I’m talking to a wall!” I blinked back tears.

I blinked again. What’s that? I wondered, as my eyes focused on a shiny spot on the wall. A handprint.

That must have been left by my one-year-old grandson, Javier. I figured.

But why hadn’t I noticed it before? Javi hadn’t been at my house since Christmas.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Outdoor Worship Service

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
—Psalm 136:1

In case you haven’t heard, a worship service is being held outdoors this morning.

That’s right. All churches in our area have cancelled “indoor” morning services due to the aftermath of Winter Storm Jonas. But a worship service is being held right outside your home.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Are You Prepared?

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
—Matthew 6:19-21

I have one eye on the window and the other on the forecast. Meteorologists are predicting an epic storm, a blizzard of historic proportions. One to two feet of snow is expected to drop on our region within the next two days, halting all life as we know it. The governor has declared a state of emergency. Schools and businesses are closed. And we all brace for the storm. But are we prepared?

Sunday, January 17, 2016


I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
—Psalm 32:8

Everybody else was a-steppin’ and a-kickin,’ and I was stuck with my feet glued to the floor, my eyes glued to my aerobics instructor’s feet. What is she doing?

For some reason, I couldn’t process it. I just couldn’t make my feet do what hers were doing. If she moved right, I’d move left. If she moved left, I’d move right. Why couldn’t I catch on to the routine? What is wrong with me?

Flashbacks of physical education class flooded my mind. Voices haunted me.

“Why didn’t you hit that ball?”

“How come you didn’t catch that?”

No one ever wanted me on their team. It’s no wonder. I am so uncoordinated.

“Kick to the back,” I heard my instructor say.

If the step didn’t change every two seconds, maybe I’d catch on to this, I argued, my throat tightening. I can’t cry over this. Stop it! I berated myself. Do what you can. Keep moving!

Thankfully, the song came to a close.