Monday, December 28, 2009

The Monday after Christmas

Welcome, everyone! I trust you had a very wonderful Christmas, celebrating the fact that God became flesh and dwelt among us.

I had a very relaxing Christmas with my family. It was wonderful to just have all 8 of us together. December has been full of days on end when we never had all 8 of us sitting down together at the same time, so just eating breakfast together on Christmas morning was a gift.

One big reason that we haven't had as much family time this month is because my brother Curtis has gotten a job (praise the Lord!) and because of the shift he works, he's gone almost all the time everyone else is home, so it's been a bit sad, and I have thoroughly enjoyed his time off this week!!! Dad had several days off as well, which is always wonderful.

But, as wonderful as family time is, it isn't the reason for Christmas. Celebrating Christ coming to earth is the important thing, and I'm glad for the time set aside to do so.

Do you remember the Christmas story I posted on here? It was intended for the Christmas Carol service at our church, which was supposed to take place the Sunday before Christmas. Because of the 1.5-2' of snow we received that week, though, services were canceled.

That meant we celebrated our Christmas service last night at church! It was very nice - beautiful music, and a good message.

The King's Strings played one song for the service, and I think it went very well. It was fun to play. We did "Go tell it on the Mountain" mixed with another song.

I didn't get very nervous when we played. It's hard to get nervous with that many people up there with you. Besides, we were enjoying what we were doing.

Then it was time for the dramatic reading...which I had written.

That's when I got nervous.

The man chosen to read the piece did a wonderful, wonderful job. He made the words come to life, and I enjoyed listening to him. He made it sound like he was really Joseph. I liked it very much.

But I still was a little nervous. I had written the story to bring God glory and to make people think of Him, yet a small part of me still had some pride, and still cared about what people would think of my writing, so I got nervous.

It's rough, being human. (It's even rougher admitting it.)

But I didn't need to be worried. After the service many people came up to me and told me they had been blessed by the reading. That, of course, blessed me! I was so happy they had been touched.

Just about everyone who talked with me about the story told me that I ought to publish it. Pastor even said that from the pulpit.

It sounded familiar....almost like what my blog readers had said. :) (Doesn't it make you happy to know I was thinking of you at church last night? :)

I keep wondering if God is hinting to me. In fact, I'm seriously considering writing and publishing a collection of these kinds of stories. Will y'all help me pray about that? I think it would make a good project for the New Year.

I have all sorts of project ideas for the New Year. I hope the next few posts I do will be more structured, and focused on some of these ideas. I have several post ideas running through my mind, on topics like:

~ Time Management; multi-tasking in order to redeem our time

~ Clothes; does the way we dress affect the way we act?

~ The role stress plays in our lives

....and etc. I won't tell you everything I'm thinking of. :)

I must run for now. It's a busy Monday here!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

More Rambling

Only two days 'til Christmas, and I'm convinced that y'all must be awfully busy because things have been very quiet around this blog as of late. I tell myself that I must not have any readers, but I know better than that. I know you are keeping busy!

I am not exactly bored, either, but things are starting to slow down. I think I'll enjoy my last two days before Christmas very much. :)

In fact, I have enough extra time to think of writing another "rambling" post. ...I wasn't thinking my first one was very exciting, but it was great fun to write, and since I'm not sure y'all have the time to read anything on this blog this week anyway.....why not? :)

You know what I really wish? I wish it was easy to upload pictures onto my computer. I have so many fun scenes from the past weeks that I could share with you! Our almost-2-feet of snow was a lovely fun thing. ...And Heather snapped a cute picture of Lezley and I cutting out Christmas cookies. ...And there are other things I want to show you, too. I haven't even shown you the shirt I made back in late summer!!!

Yikes. How can I call this place The Fruit of Her Hands when I don't even show pictures of my projects? I've got to get better at that.

I wish I could show you the skirt I finished this week! It is a lovely, lovely, grey-and-white wool-y type of fabric. Again, this was from the bags of fabric that were given to me by a wife of Dad's coworker. God is so good to me! I made this skirt for nothing!

It's a 50's style circle skirt...only it's not quite a full circle. But it still has that look of being fitted at the waist and coming out to a lot of fullness at the hem. I debated whether I should make this skirt ankle-length or not, but decided to pull it up six or seven inches. It's amazing what a difference that can make! The skirt went from looking heavy and weighty to being swishy and sporty.

But enough of that. Clothing description is boring without pictures. :) :)

I went shopping this morning with my Dad and two brothers. I'm SO thrilled to have all my shopping done now! I had only two more items to pick up, but my men folk were pretty much doing all their shopping in one trip....two days before Christmas.

I had to laugh. Those dear, sweet guys!

Oh - guess what happened in one of the check-out lines? The cashier noticed my brown corduroy ankle-length skirt and said, "Oh, I love your skirt! Where did you get it?"

"Oh, thank you. I made it." Then, a little shyly; "...I have my own sewing business."

"Really? Here in town? What's it called?"

"I just run it from my home. It's 'Amber's Ambitions.'"

"Amber's Ambitions. Hmm." (Looking at the skirt again.) "It's great. Looks very J.Crew-y."

Amber, smiling; "Thank you."

Maybe I ought to focus more time on making clothing to sell! Have you seen the prices J.Crew charges? :)


It is SO much fun to go shopping with three fellas when you're the only girl along. I certainly feel protected! Walking through the parking lot with Dad and my two bros, (who are all taller than me), I was as care-free as could be.

But it's also fun because the men want your opinion on whether something is "right," and sometimes they need your help to find their way around in the "girly" departments when shopping for sisters or Mom, .....and then they urge you to rush through your shopping. :)

But you know what? I like that about them. I like that my menfolk are menfolk. I like that they are protectors. I like that they want my advice. I like that they care about getting gifts for their womenfolk. I like that they took charge of the shopping trip and knew what they wanted.

Differences are good things. They add spice to life - like speech accents and hair color.

I've been learning lately not to fight against differences so much - not when they aren't important differences. If somebody's wrong about something, that's one thing - 'specially if it's spiritual - but just because somebody likes contemporary home decor, and I like country home decor, I don't have to spend hours trying to convince them to change their tastes. Or if they loooove shopping and I like hiking, I don't need to stress out about it., I think I'm going to end this post abruptly. My brother Curtis just came indoors with the news that one of our pets has died, and I don't feel like writing anymore. I'll pop in later to wish you a merry Christmas on Friday. :)

God bless!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


I know I posted this last year, but I just HAVE to post this again, for those of you who haven't seen it.

This is an amazing video. You absolutely HAVE to see it.

You trust me, right? You don't think I'd lie to you, do you?


So watch the movie. It's truly a must-see.

Oh yes....I guess it'd be nice of me to explain the content. I'm just afraid that I won't do it justice.

Let's just say this video brings God glory by reminding me just how BIG He is. And it uses the stars to prove it. In particular, the star of Bethlehem. Did you ever wonder wha -

...Oh bother. I give up. I can't say it big enough.

I could say it's amazing, but that's not quite right. I could say stunning, but that's not right either. I could say it makes hair stand up on my neck...that's be closer, but still incomplete. I could say it makes me weep with sheer wonder, and that's even closer.

Please, please, PLEASE watch this. It won't be wasted time, I assure you. I only posted the first part here on The Fruit of Her Hands. To see the remaining parts, you'll have to follow the link at the bottom. Be sure to watch the extra part at the end of the movie....the story of the stars didn't end at Bethlehem; they proclaimed the gospel even at the day Christ died. I like that part best.

Please, please, please, go HERE to see the rest. That link will take you to part 2, and from there you can find the rest (part 3, 4, 5, etc.). Enjoy!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

We're snowed in!!!

As the old song says, "it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!" ...If you equate snow with snow with Christmas, that is.

We like that song I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas. The only problem is, here in southern Virginia, a white Christmas would not be "just like the ones I used to know." I've known only a few white Christmases in my life, and they were just barely white. But we like the song anyway.

And we just might get a white Christmas this year.

I must gasp for just a few sentences about the weather here. We have over a FOOT of snow! More like 2 feet, now, probably. The snow started late yesterday afternoon, and it hasn't stopped since. I think that's a record. I can never remember it snowing for that long in my life!

Our local "snow brigade," (such as it is), is understandably unprepared for such a dump of snow. Only main roads have been plowed, and all of us who live on roads that aren't highways are basically stuck. We probably would have had our road plowed by now if it had stopped snowing, but I'm sure the continuing snow is keeping the snowplows busy just on the highways and main roads.

My sisters and I went out for some sledding this afternoon. Our little slope in the backyard would make our Northern cousins laugh, but we enjoy any slide that is faster than a walk. The snow is dusty - not packing snow - and works pretty good for sledding! I broke our brand-new toboggan, (the one Dad specifically went out and bought for this snowfall), by sledding over the woodpile, but that's another story. Sigh.


But snow wasn't what I was thinking of when I said it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. We've finally decorated our home for Christmas! (Please don't ask. We're almost always this late. It's just the way we do our Christmas decorating. :) Our tree, though it isn't real this year, looks lovely, the snowman candles grin cheerfully, and the garland-wrapped floor lamp sparkles. I can hardly believe it is Christmas time again.

Many good things happened yesterday! Christmas isn't allowed to pass without our making Christmas cookies, and because we've been sick, we hadn't made any yet, but yesterday afternoon my sisters and I rolled out the first batch of cookie dough for this season.

Our special cream-cheese Christmas cookie dough recipe.

Lezley said it best; I had made the dough earlier that day, because it needed to chill, and when I told her that it was finally time to roll out the dough and cut our cookies, she jumped up and down and spun toward the kitchen. "Oh goody - now we get to eat Christmas cookie dough!"

She paused in mid-spin and looked back at me. "That's the best part, you know; that's what it's for."

I couldn't help laughing....because I agree with her. :)

We had the radio playing all afternoon while I was in the kitchen. At first it was just Mom and I, working on supper preparations before doing the cookies with all the girls in the house. The station had Christmas music playing continuously, and although they had a few modern Christmas songs thrown in (I find them a bit annoying) there were lots and lots of goodies!

I love old music. I love voices from the 50's. I love big old bands and orchestras, like on The Lawrence Welk Show. And we got to hear plenty of that. I got to hear songs I recognize and love, but don't know all the words to, like Walking in a Winter Wonderland, It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas!, and Let it Snow! The swirling snowflakes outside the window, the cheerful atmosphere of hard work inside, and Mom's laughter and smile made my heard sing.

Then it was time to cut out cookies, and I fetched my younger sisters. We switched off the radio and put in a new Christmas CD from our dear lovely friends, The Neely Team.

There was a lot of good conversation and laughter and smiles and eating while we worked. Some of the old cookie cutters I was working with brought back memories of many Christmases past, even way back to when Mom had to help me cut the cookies. Tiffany, was talking about how she's starting to realize more and more the true meaning of Christmas. Lezley was busy helping me by passing me whatever I needed, in between cutting out her own cookies.

A little while later, the noise in the kitchen had died down. Mom and my younger sisters had left the kitchen, the cookies were all cut out, and I remained alone in the kitchen, to rotate the cookies in and out of the oven.

I was very happy. Very content. Very Christmas-y feeling. (Very full, too. :))

The CD player started to play one of my favorite songs on the CD, All is Well. It's a plaintive melody, but full of hope at the same time.

I knelt down to fetch something from a low drawer.

I heard the words, drifting along through the high and sweet tune; "...our God is pleased with man to dwell. Be still my soul; all is well!"

I just stopped where I was, and let that thought sink into my mind. I felt tears in my eyes.

Our God is pleased.

With man to dwell.


God with us.

The evening had just gone from great to wonderful.

Monday, December 14, 2009


I'm in the mood to write a blog post today, but I don't have a specific topic in mind, so if you'll tolerate a bit of rambling, I'll proceed to spill out my thoughts.

That's the thing about liking to write (ahem...loving to write); you get the urge to do it, and can't feel satisfied until you do it.

I'm not a big fan of just "rambling." I'm always sure that I'll later regret something I wrote on the spur of the moment. "In the multitude of words there wanteth not wisdom." (Sorry, I can't give the reference for that Proverb 'cause I don't remember it.) But now and then a bit of chattering is a nice way to make people you care about know you care about them, because you want to talk to them and let them know you are glad they are there. :) :) And I'm certainly very glad you take the time to visit my blog.

I was thinking about that this morning...about why I started this blog. I confess I originally started it with the idea of gathering thousands of readers and selling advertisement space on the side bars as an extra income.

...Now I'm shaking in my seat with suppressed laughter. I couldn't care less about that "goal" today. Instead, this blog has been a wonderful way to meet new friends, a venting place for my writing urges, and a useful place to store photos and stories of my various projects.

But I did love the fact that my blog came up on the first page when I randomly searched for "fruit of her hands blog" this morning. I was just curious to see how many pages of search results I'd have to wade through to find my blog. ...And there it was on the first page! Maybe that was just a one-time happening. :)

Or maybe it was my search engine. OH - by the way, I love the "swagbuck" search engine. I have had it for several months, and have earned over $40 in amazon gift cards. All you do is use the swagbuck search bar instead of your google or yahoo search bar, and you'll be awarded points every few searches you do. (I guess they make their money from the advertising on the search results page.) Those points can be traded for things like gift cards!

If you get people to sign up with swagbucks because you recommended it, you'll make a point for every point they make, for their first 100 points. It's great. I've had 2 people sign up under me, and I made 200 points from them. (That's about $20 in amazon gift cards right there.) ...Of course, now they are past the 100-point mark, and I am back to earning points all by my lonesome self. Sniff, snifff.

At this point Amber shifts a little in her seat, and shyly points to her "swagbucks" button on the sidebar of her blog. She whispers "if you want to sign up under me, just click there. I really would love to earn some more points!" Then she blushes and shakes her head at herself.

Ah, yes. I'm a great self-promoter.


I am involved in 4 different entrepreneurial things here at home, and I KNOW that all of them would be flops if I didn't have my family to help me advertise. I tell very few people that I've written a book, that I teach sewing lessons, that I do custom sewing, or that they should visit the website my sister and I run. My family is so sweet to "brag" on me occasionally. It's the main way I get customers. :) (Not that they really brag, but you get the picture.)

Now I feel like I've done way too much talking, so I'm going to switch formats and just give you a list of things I've been thinking about or wishing for this month. Let me know if you feel the same way about any of these things!

~ The amount of junk email you get in December is awful.

~ I am looking forward to spring weather.

~ Christmas time is waaaaaaaaaay too stressful! (the first half of this month)

~ I'm so in the mood for Christmas! (The last half of this week. :)

~ I'm so glad to have my shopping almost done!

~ I want to make Christmas cookies, and wish I didn't have to wait until our lingering colds leave the house.

~ I've been planning things for a date with my two younger sisters sometime before Christmas. I tell them I'm gonna kidnap them and run off with them some time. We need more time together!

~ I have been thinking of goals for the New Year. One is definitely to wake up earlier every morning. The past two months I've become shamefully lazy about that!

~ Another goal is to help my family more.

~ I'm excited that my older sister, Heather, found a camera for sale for $30 this week. Yay! It's a nice camera. (And I get to borrow it. :) We needed one for our online store.

~ I'm determined to do a better job at running our store.

~ I want to write more this coming year.

~ I'm excited that a package with my name on it arrived today. It's the first of my gifts to arrive. This one is for my brother. I haven't done much Christmas shopping online before, and I'm amazed at how much fun (and how easy!) it is to have stuff delivered to your doorstep.

~ I'm dreading the pile of dishes waiting for me in the kitchen.

~ I have a BUNCH of sewing to do.

~ Today I'm going to start training my younger sister, Tiffany, to help in my sewing business. It will mean a lot less stress on my part, and a little pocket money for her. I'm SO excited to have help! ...And my "little" sister, of all people. :)

~ I got up earlier than usual today, and I'm thinking about how nice that feels.

~ I'm thinking how thankful I am for "little" blessings, like warm woolen blankets and hot rice bags at night, and the good smells of a Christmas kitchen, and the sound of laughter. I'm thinking how nice it is when the family is all together.

~ I'm thinking of friends I pray for, wishing they all knew how much I care....and more importantly, how much God thinks about them, and how involved He is with their lives, and how He plans every detail. I wish they knew how often God and I talk about them.

~ I'm thinking how glad I am that lack of spirituality on my part doesn't change God. Lack of faith on my part doesn't change Him either. I read that today; 2 Tim. ....but I can't remember which chapter and verse. But it said that God cannot deny Himself. He will be Who He will be, no matter who I am.

...Yet He responds to me. He responds differently depending on me. Some days He is the firm Instructor, rebuking my sin with a voice so firm I weep, yet I cannot be angry because I know He is right. Other days He is the mighty Comforter, holding my heart together when it is in pieces. Other days I am dull and spiritually asleep, and He nudges me and bumps me until I wake up. Other days I am so happy I can't help singing and bouncing....and He seems to soar along with me.

But yet He's always the same. His voice is the same, even when the tone and words are different. He doesn't depend on my mood at all. The way I feel doesn't change Him. He's just so big - I can get lost in Him. I wish I could find the right words to praise Him properly.

Boy; now I've got my thoughts spinning so much I can't think of what else to write. I guess I've chattered on long enough anyway. I hope you are all doing well, and enjoying your week so far. Remember to give Jesus praise today, because where Jesus is glorified, that's where the Spirit is, and we are to walk and live in the Spirit.

Tell me how you are doing. I love to hear from you!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Joseph's Account

Well, last year during December I thought an awful lot about Mary. This year, my mind is more curious about Joseph. (Though, I admit, I'm still pretty interested in Mary - I just read through that post I wrote last year, and my imagination is whirling again!)

My interest in Joseph could have something to do with the fact that I was asked to write something about Christmas, and my Dad suggested looking at it through Joseph's eyes.

But I'd better start at the beginning.

You see, we have a candlelight service at our church every year on the Sunday night before Christmas. (Well, we call it "candlelight," but because of so many accidents with hot wax in past years we've left out the candles for several years now.) Most of the evening is filled with music; both instrumental and congregational, as well as special singing sometimes. The service is closed with a short message from Pastor. Every year, something is read aloud mid-way through the service. Sometimes it's the Christmas story, from one of the gospels. Other years we hear the story behind one of the Christmas hymns we've sung. Or a moving account of a past Christmas in history, during a war time or something like that.

This year, the father-daughter team who puts together our Christmas Service schedule came to me and asked me to write a short story based on one of the people who was present at the first Christmas. I was thrilled because this gave me an excuse to write another Bible-based story. I've written a couple of those here on my blog. There's my post about Mary, which I already mentioned...and the one about the Prodigal Son...there's the story about Paul and Silas, too, but I left y'all hanging on that one, with the phrase "to be continued." :) :)

I love, love, LOVE that kind of writing. I mean, I just plain love to write anyway, but that kind of writing is my absolute favorite. It reaches down and pulls stuff up from deep inside me. Something about the stories in the Bible inspires me. I hope you don't mind when I let that inspiration take over and write those stories on here occasionally, instead of storing them in my "sheet files" folder on my desktop.

I don't think y'all mind. If you do, you hide it very well. You have only ever been kind and encouraging when leaving me comments. It is with that in mind I have decided to share with you the story I've written for our Christmas Service. I hope it makes you think as much as it made me think! :)


Joseph's Account

Mary was with child.

I couldn't – wouldn't – believe it until Mary herself, unshed tears in her eyes, assured me it was true. We had just finished the evening meal (I often ate with her family in those days) and had been reclining comfortably as we talked. I was unaware of the spear that was about to be thrust into my life.

Mary's lips trembled as she spoke, but her voice was determined. She said she was the mother of the Messiah, and that God Himself had put the child in her womb. She even said the child she carried was the Son of God.

How could I believe such a thing? Her father shook his head as he sat there behind her. If such a tale were true, would not he and her mother know it? It was very unlike Mary to have this far-fetch explanation. ...Yet it was also unlike her to be with child when she was betrothed.

How could Mary do such a thing? Hadn't she breathed out numerous pledges of love to me? Had she not treated all other men with gracious disinterest? We already had plans for the wedding. She had seemed so happy and content. Surely this situation was not her fault. Someone else...? I lifted my face to ask her the question, but her voice was tearful as she insisted there was no one else.

I left her home that night wanting to dash my head against a stone wall. Why did she persist in this wild tale? If only she would break down and admit to everything, it would be so much easier to forgive her.

My strained mind was already searching for a plan. I still had time to break the betrothal without explaining the real reason to our friends and neighbors. There were still a few more months before Mary would be unable to keep her secret.

“God of our fathers, help me!” I pleaded even as I hurried home. “What am I to do?” The scribes would say the law demanded Mary's death, but now-a-days that old law was rarely enforced – only when the husband or betrothed pressed charges. My heart knew I could do no such thing to the woman I had loved.

Did I still love her? My heart screamed yes, but my fists clenched as I thought of her. Then I thought that surely it was not her fault, and I felt no anger - only hopelessness. There was no easy way out of this problem, and I clung to Jehovah God as the only sure thing in my world at that moment.

Several days passed before I made my decision; I would put Mary away quietly. Breaking our betrothal was the only thing to be done. I could not bring myself to have her publicly accused, and yet I could not bring myself to marry her.

I did not tell anyone about my decision. Not yet. It was still too painful. I avoided her family, but I saw Mary's face in all my thoughts. She was there, in my mind, when I worked in the shop. I dreamed of Mary every night.

Every night, that is, until the night he was there, in my dream.

As a little boy I had always wished I had been born during King David's time, as one of his mighty men. I loved to pretend I was a mighty warrior. But never had I imagined any warrior as mighty as the being who was in my dream that night. His splendor and brightness took my breath from my lungs and I was left speechless. His voice resonated deep into my mind;
“Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife; for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name JESUS: for He shall save his people from their sins.”

I woke with a start, breathing heavily. My palms were damp with sweat. So it was true! The idea of doubting that messenger never entered my head. I don't think anyone could have seen him and doubted.

At first, all I could think about was that I could take Mary. He had said so! The LORD would not be angry with me. I ached to see her and tell her I believed her story at last.

But then I shook myself further awake and realized where that child in her womb had come from. For a moment I forgot to breathe. Shivers ran down my spine. After thousands of years of promises, Jehovah God was finally sending the Messiah! What was more, apparently the Messiah was no mere mighty man, as the Pharisees would have us think. He was divine. I could not quite wrap my mind around that thought.

But I understood one thing; I could see Mary again. I sprang to the window and was filled with joy to see the sun was rising. Ten minutes later I was breathlessly entering her father's house and saying, “Mary, I believe you!”

The next six months were filled with every emotion God has given to man. In my first joy at having Mary back, I had not thought about all the difficulties we would face.

First we had to convince her parents that I truly wished to wed her and raise this child as my own. Then the whispers started – my customers in the shop talked to one another behind my back, and dropped vague hints to my face. I had always held a reputation of being an honorable and just man, and I think many of my customers were confused that I stuck by Mary, even in her situation. I tried to explain, but I don't think they really believed what I told them.

Mary and I had so many decisions to make. God was finally sending the Promised One! Such thrilling news I had hoped to hear in my lifetime, yet now it was much more personal than I ever thought it would be. It was also much more intimidating. Should I teach him my trade of carpentry, as if he were my true son? What would this Messiah be like, anyway? What were we expected to do with him? There was a moment of pain when I thought that I would not be able to name him my own name, as I had always wished to name my first son.

“But he isn't your firstborn,” Mary said gently. That always made my brain ache with awe, because it made me remember whose son that baby was.

It was hard, finding a balance. Some days I thought of the unborn baby as my own. Other days he was a stranger – and a very intimidating stranger at that.

During the very last month our situation was made worse by the journey we were forced to take. I worried about Mary. I muttered under my breath a few times, wishing to call our Ceasar all sorts of names, but I kept quiet and focused on helping Mary as much as I could. It was some consolation to remember we would be seeing the city of David again.

The place was packed when we arrived. It was all I could do to find us lodging in the stable of the inn – and I was charged ridiculously high for even that. But I didn't care; Mary was exhausted and I just wanted a place for her to lie down.

It was late that night I awoke to her nudging. Things had happened so quickly after that....and yet so slowly.

And then, there I was; leaning against the wall of the stable while the old innkeeper's daughter tended to Mary. A sudden cat-like wail of a baby filled the stall next to me, and my feet slipped out from under me in my hurry to stand up.

In a moment I was rounding the corner of the stall and on my knees next to Mary. The inn keeper's daughter was tending to the baby, using the swaddling clothes I had managed to find three hours ago. I grasped Mary's hand, but couldn't take my eyes off the child.

He was a perfectly formed little human. So very human. When the woman finished with him and handed him to Mary, I still had not found words to speak. The little one cried just like every baby I had even seen, and snuggled next to his mother so very naturally. It was hard to think he could possibly be divine. Yet the memory of the angel came back to me to assure me that this child was indeed divine – the Savior of our people.

Mary had quieted him, and she looked up at me. “Do you want to hold him?” she asked.

I held out my arms and took him in them. He was so light. So tiny.

“...And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name JESUS: for He shall save his people from their sins.” The angel's voice rang in my head.

“Jesus,” I spoke his name to him for the first time. I wanted to tell him how we had waited and waited for him to be there, but I just kept looking at him.

To think, that I had the Son of God in my hands....and was responsible for raising him. I didn't feel equal to the task.

But then the little eyes fluttered open, and Jesus looked at me.

And I knew that the years he spent in our home would be the very best years of my life.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


I had a lot of trouble sleeping last week. I think my trouble was too much on my mind ( other words, s-t-r-e-s-s).

I was complaining a bit about being tired on Sunday afternoon, and - randomly - I turned to Dad and asked "Do you have any advice for getting a good night's sleep, since you never seem to have trouble with that?" (He sleeps solid for 3-4 hours or so, and then is ready to go!)

I wasn't expected a very profound answer, and I certainly wasn't expecting to hear anything about how my day affects my night.

"Put your whole heart into whatever you do during the day; work hard, and you'll fall asleep easily at night."

My first impulse was to say, "but I do!" ....But, taking a lesson from past instances, I paused to reflect a moment before claiming innocence.

Was I really putting my whole heart into my day? Was I working hard during the day? Physical work, as well as mental work? Was my stress the result of a body too lazy? Was there such a thing as working too hard to have time to worry?

Ugh - don't you hate it when you can't quite honestly say you've been perfect?

Of course, the first verse that popped into my head was that Proverbs about "the sleep of a laboring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much, but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep."

Do I have too much abundance?

All these thoughts crowded my head that night. And I knew I have room for improvement.

As the radio commercials say;

..."Something to think about."

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Whay hasn't Amber been posting much lately?


Well, it's not because I'm busy. I know that's the favorite excuse of blog authors; "I'm so sorry, but I've been SO busy!!!!" I have been busy, but I can always find time to write if I want to. :) :)

No, the reason I haven't written is more complicated.

When I first started this blog my parents were a little unsure about the whole "blog" thing - they know me well enough to know that, while I'm very reserved in person, I most often forget caution while writing, and tell my entire life history and current emotional status to the page.

That's all very well and good when the page is my hidden journal. It's not so advisable, however, when the page happens to be a screen, and anyone around the world can read it.

But (obviously), my parents consented to my having a blog, so long as I exercised caution in writing on it.

That, my dear friends, is why I haven't been posting much lately. Because I couldn't write and exercise caution at the same time. My heart has been so full lately...for several months, which seems to be a lifetime. I feel as if to do a post about cooking, or sewing, or something light-hearted would not be real. It wouldn't be.

I've been terribly busy with such things - and other things, too - but that's not where my mind is dwelling most of the time. And, despite my blog title, I write here what's on my mind, not just what's coming out my fingers and hands.

What do you do when your heart is full and you're not sure where to spill it out? Do you keep it precariously balanced, hoping you won't spill a drop for fear it will ruin whatever it spills on? Do you lose all caution and spill it out to the first acquaintance who asks how you're doing? Do you seek your bosom friends - your closest dear ones?

What do you do if you can't find them? What do you do if you tell them and they don't understand? Or what do you do if they understand but can't do anything about your problems?

Talk to Jesus, of course.

I think that's why we go through rough times. You are close to your dear ones because you've gone through thick and thin with them. Mere acquaintances haven't cried with you. They haven't seen your faults and flops. And we get close to Jesus when we cry in His lap.

I read a verse this morning that I know was written for me. It's from Romans. I don't remember exactly where, and I'm typing this from memory, so forgive me if it's not word-perfect;

"...we rejoice in tribulations, knowing that tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope. And hope maketh us not ashamed, because the love of God is spread abroad in our hearts through the Holy Ghost which is given us."

I really am starting to understand what he means about "rejoicing in tribulation." Can I tell you a secret? There actually have been several times when I've seen trials coming and gotten excited because I thought, "Oh goody!! How is God going to change me through this one?" I couldn't wait to be more like Jesus when emerging from the other side of the valley. Yes, I actually was excited.

And you know what? I was embarrassed by my excitement. I knew very well what was expected of me - I was supposed to dread this trial! (Yes, they were actual trials, and I wasn't blind or naive; I knew they were going to be painful.) I was supposed to struggle and cry and be miserable! I didn't want to.....but I gave it my best effort, for the world's sake. It wouldn't be proper to be happy in such circumstances. If I clasped my hands and smiled, they would look at me as if I were crazy!

This morning's reading freed me. I suddenly realized that the Bible says it's okay to rejoice when you see trouble coming! I know - I should have known that before. I mean, I did know it....but I didn't really internalize it.

Now where was I going with this train of thought? Oh yes - trials.

Well, I guess I'm in the middle of one. Have been, for several months. Some days I feel like rejoicing...but it's as if, since I gave in to "mourning," like I was "supposed" to, it's hard to work back out of the pit. But in my heart that verse still rings true....I know without doubt that trials teach patience...and patience gives experience. ....And experience teaches me HOPE. ...And somewhere mixed up in that hope will be joy. :) :)

Isn't that lovely? How does God know so much about real life? Oh, what a silly question.

Forgive me for not posting oftener. I've had very "fruitful hands" lately; many maybe there will be an actual interesting post here in a few days. I'm not making any promises, but we'll see. :)

In the meantime, hello to all you dear friends, and may you have a blessed Lord's Day tomorrow!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Hey, Lookie! Free Recipes!

I just stumbled across these two links:

~ Find a free download for a Martha Stewart Thanksgiving Hotline Cookbook HERE.

~ Find free online access to Taste of Home's October/November 2009 Issue HERE.

Hope you enjoy. Isn't it fun to bake this time of year? It makes the kitchen so cozy, and the house smell so good.

It's cold and rainy here. It's very windy, too. In fact, we have several very large branches down in our yard. Nearly half a tree crushed our lawn swing. Last night I couldn't fall asleep until midnight; in part due to the wind whipping the rain against the walls of our house. But I am thankful for the rain - it's been dry the past few weeks. And, like I said, it does make the house cozy. :)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I'm really not sure why I'm posting this.

The only reason I can come up with is that it makes me laugh. And you know me; if it makes me laugh, I want to make other people laugh. :)

I just thought some of you might get a kick out of seeing what I look like when I'm writing. I really get "into it," ya know. In the picture below, I'm not working on a blog post (obviously - see the pen?) but I'm working on writing something, just the same. I was trying to come up with new lyrics to an old tune.

Now, usually, I'm not one to broadcast it when I look a little foolish. I'm afraid my pride level is still too high. But when it comes to writing, a lot of things go out the window for me. I abandon all ideas of caring what people think of me, and just do whatever it takes to get the ideas flowing - up to and including laying across a bed with my head hanging off the end while I brainstorm.

I really, really, really love writing. It's a heart thing, for me. ...And I guess my whole body gets into the act:

Sorry about the fuzziness.

I can't help but chuckle. Maybe you don't think it's funny. That's okay - I really don't care. :) I just felt like shouting "I LOVE WRITING!" and this photo was the first idea that popped into my mind.

It kinda feels good to have at least one area in my life where I don't care what people think about me. Most of the time I'm so trapped by other folks' expectations. Do you ever feel that way?

Its a hard thing. There's a balance somewhere, between caring and not caring. Of course we want to be sensitive to others, and respect them and their opinions. And of course we want to feel liked and loved and admired. And of course we don't want to cling stubbornly to our own views and opinions if they are wrong. ...But we don't want to be wishy-washy either, swayed by every person who crosses our path.

It is a comforting thing to know the Bible holds the secret to finding a balance. Sometimes that comforting thought is the only thing that keeps me sane when I'm trying to find my own balance. Because I care what people think. A lot. ...But I care MOST about what Christ thinks.

And that helps.

A lot.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

My status on Facebook this afternoon was this:

Read the comments below if you have time and want to know what I do when I have a morning to spend doing frustrating things. (sarcasm should be duly noted) :) :)

#1: Got in the car. Got on the road. Noticed I was low on gas, and already past the gas station.

#2: Transmission stalled out in the middle of route __. I prayed desperately as I drifted along, my speedometer slowly going downward. Praise God - the transmission coughed and came back!

#3: Got to store. Had 6 items on shopping list. Found zero.

#4: Went to post office. Spent $26.95 to ship a $3.00 package.

#5: Headed for next stop...and got lost. Still low on gas.

#6: Finally found next stop. Once I was there, it was a great morning. Thank God for giving humans the ability to have a sense of humor! (Granted, it was afternoon before this ability surfaced in yours truly, but still!) Also, thank God we can sing praise even when everything is going wrong. :)

...So how was YOUR morning???

Ah, yes - sometimes I wish I could just "unplug" from the rest of the world forever, but I must admit that one reason I like being "plugged in" is that I can turn a frustrating, awful experience into a bit of a humorous story and, more importantly, a way to praise the Lord.

It was kinda strange, this morning. I was driving along the highway, realizing that I'd turned the wrong direction, yet unable to turn around until I got to the next exit, 1/2 a mile down the road. I was low on gas, short on time, and very short on patience and joy. I just sat there with tears leaking out of my eyes, wishing I could just restart the morning...or fast forward it and get it behind me.

And God brought to mind the story of Paul and Silas in prison, and how they sang in the midst of difficulties. I knew He wanted me to sing. I opened my mouth, searching for something to sing...and out came the first thing I could think of;

"I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever;
I will sing! I will sing!
I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever;
I will sing of the mercies of the Lord!
With my mouth will I make known
Thy faithfulness. Thy faithfulness.
With my mouth will I make known
Thy faithfulness to all generations!
I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever;
I will sing! I will sing!
I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever;
I will sing of the mercies of the Lord!"

Down the highway I went, still crying a little, but singing - almost fiercely, every time I came to the phrase, "I will sing!"

And you know what? Now I can smile about my morning. :) :) :)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

"Confession's good for the soul"

That's one of my dad's sayings. Confession isn't fun, really, but I'd have to agree with Daddy - it's good for you.

Good for me, to be more specific.

I guess my post about being a pack-rat was a good thing. But it started more than I thought it would.

For example, after writing about how much I want to be free of the "love of stuff," I started wondering "how badly do I really want to be like that, anyway?" Was I willing to take drastic measures to be sure I wasn't clinging to "stuff" too tightly?

It was on my mind all yesterday evening. I was a little worried about having too many "things," but I was also worried about my attitude towards those things. ...At least, that's what I to be wanted to be most worried about. Do you know what I mean? I wanted to be most concerned with my heart attitude. I think I was. ...But it's so hard to know your own heart, ya know?

Hmm. Anyway... this afternoon I headed to the basement and dug out every last bit of clothes I own that are in storage, and I also lugged all the contents of my closet down there, so everything would be in one place. Then I proceeded to sort.

Not without praying first, though. I begged God to make me not care about what I had. I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted, but I knew I wanted to be free.

Then I sorted.

I won't bore you with all the details, but it was a time of self-examination for me, and I'm not quite happy with what I saw. There was that moment when I dropped that sweater into the "give away" box...the sweater with much sentimental value...the sweater I wore only a handful of times, if that. It wasn't easy to drop it in there.

There was also the moment I remembered one of my younger sisters was in need of winter clothing. There was the moment she pulled that sweater out of the box and it fitted her perfectly.

And there was the moment I put the boxes back....each of them only half-full.

And there was the time I spent talking with my Mom, receiving much wisdom on the topic of beauty - both inner and outer, and how they connect.

Guess what? I'm going shopping tomorrow morning, Lord willing. Clothes shopping. I found out that I actually could use a few items! And I think they'll actually fit in my closet now.

And you know what else? I happened to be reading my Bible just shortly before I got on the computer. Guess what chapter I "happened" to fall upon?

Luke 12.

Read it, if you've possibly can. You might enjoy God's sense of humor, that He should direct me there today, of all days. :)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

But I might NEED it someday!!!!!!

Yup, I'm officially a pack rat.

Or a "keeper."

Or whatever you call them in your family. You know the type; the ones who can't bear to throw anything away because they "might need it someday!" The ones who have kept every gift they were ever given - AND all the wrapping paper it came in. They have a decently clean bedroom, but woe to the person who should open their top dresser drawer, or get a peak at the mountain of boxes in the basement!

What is worse is a secret pack rat. It's really hard to be, let me tell you. Of course, everyone knows your secret, but you pretend they don't. You even develop a sort of warped pride about how neatly all your stuff is stored or stacked. And when you go through your closet and get rid of 2 skirts and 5 shirts....whew! You are really on a roll! Aren't you the perfect picture of a minimalist? ...Of course, you try to forget the fact that you stored those same 2 skirts and 5 shirts downstairs in a box. You need that comfort - it's nice to know they're down there in case you regret your sudden weeding of your wardrobe.

You also try to forget that you have clothes down there from the weeding of your closet that took place when you were fourteen.

My mental picture of a pack rat is someone who is messy. They have all that "junk" pouring out of their garage doors...their attic is packed to the bursting point...they can't shut their closet doors. Never do I picture a pack rat who has a neat bedroom or nearly-empty garage.

But I've come to the conclusion that it's all in the attitude. It's that worrisome nagging in the back of your mind - that urge to hold tight to what you have. And you can hold as tightly to 2 skirts and 5 shirts as you can to 200 skirts and 500 shirts.

I like the minimalist idea. I really do. Pictures of Victorian living rooms, with all that clutter, annoys me. They honestly thought that was pretty? You'd have to walk sideways to get out of the room without knocking over a lamp, falling into a chair, or bumping a picture off the wall. I much prefer the country look, where only what is used and loved is in a room. I like that saying "have nothing in your home which you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."

I used to like having a lot of knick-knacks and wall hangings, and all that sort of thing, but in the past several years my tastes have changed. Now, if I am not using it, or it doesn't absolutely make me smile and laugh for joy when I see it (like pictures of loved ones), I don't want it in my room.

So of course I'm not a pack I?

Well, the truth is....I still have all those knick-knacks and wall hangings and clothes and photos and calendars and lamps and whatever else I had when I loved packing my room with "stuff"! Even though I don't really need or care for those things any more, I keep them. ...Because I might need them someday.

So I might as well face the truth; I'm a pack rat. And I'm gonna do more than just publicly admit that; I'm gonna tell you my worse faults in my pack-ratting!

#1 - I'm pretty bad about keeping clothes, as I've already hinted. It's sad...but I've gotten a bit better in this area in the past year or so. I think I've gotten rid of 2 boxes so far. ...Don't ask about what's left.

#2 - And I'm pretty terrible at throwing fabric scraps away. I have a two scrap boxes, and they have scraps in them the size of threads. ...In fact, I occasionally keep scrap thread, too. Honest.

#3 - I'm even worse about keeping papers. I have a box in the basement that has school notebooks from when I was learning long division. ...No, not the textbooks. The papers I wrote my answers on. (You must understand I have a love affair with writing....and I guess I can't stand to see paper or books in the trash...even junk mail.)

#4 - But what I'm absolutely, positively terrible at getting rid of is files. My conscience has lots to soothe it on this point. They're computer files, right? That means they don't take up visible space, they don't clutter my room, and they are certainly something that I'd miss if my computer crashed.

...Well, maybe. I don't know. It could just be me. ...But I really think something is wrong with my computer. A little while ago I tried to play a song I had downloaded from the web, and windows media player wouldn't play it. The pop-up said "Your computer is too low on memory to play this song. Please try closing some programs and try again." I only had 5 programs up!

...Of course, I do have a lot of pictures stored on here. And I do have over a dozen books I'm "thinking about writing," and each book requires an average of 3 to 7 files....I don't know. Maybe I do have stuff I'm not using on here. I could probably do without the receipts for everything I've ever bought online. And maybe I wouldn't miss the internet program I switched off of. ...But what if I want to switch back?

Yes, I'm afraid I'm a pack rat. I hang on to stuff. It's really tempting to treat this as a kind of joke - lots of people laugh about their pack rat tendencies, and I could easily be one of them.

But is it right or wrong to hang on to stuff so tightly?

I guess it depends on where those feelings come from. I know that part of my pack-rattedness (what a word!) comes from my hatred of waste.


I hate waste with a passion. I can't stand to see perfectly good items being thrown that piece of junk mail. Think of the cost of the ink and paper!!! And fabric - whew - that stuff isn't cheap. And you'd better prepare yourself for a lecture if I see you throwing a can away. Rinse it out and put it down in the bin in the basement, with all the rest of my collected tin cans. Some day we'll recycle them. I even reuse paper towels if they aren't too dirty.

But there's also a part of me that wants to keep stuff that I could give away to a good home. After all, giving away clothes to someone who could use them isn't a waste at all. ...So I can't blame my stash of clothes on a hatred of waste. That stash is being wasted right now - I can't possibly wear it all.

So it's a mix. Some of the causes of my P.R. tendencies are good, and some aren't.

So I can't tell you about the pack-ratted-ness of everyone else, but I know that my conscience squirms every time I read these words:

Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

I could have copied out most of this chapter (Matthew 6), but I thought it might be a little long. This whole chapter focuses on Christ telling His disciples not to hold so tightly to the world.

It's easy to say, "Oh, I'm not attached to the world. Christ means more to me than anything." But there's also a certain way of living that just seems so....loose. So free. So unattached. So unhindered.

I'm thinking of a certain family I know. They are so generous - not just with money, but with items and time and everything they have. I have never seen anyone treat possessions so flippantly - unless I count another couple who once let us have their home for several days (that's another story of God's provision!).

But this family constantly amazes and rebukes me with the way they live. Things flow through them, not to them. It's as if they own nothing. ...And you know what? I think that's what they think.

At first it seemed very scary to watch. ...But I kinda envy that freedom. They don't have to worry about what isn't theirs.

It makes ya think.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Sights you see when you're driving

I saw a bumper sticker when I was out driving this morning. It said "attitude is everything."

Isn't that the truth, though?

It's not really the circumstances that count. I've seen myself go through almost identical circumstances with different attitudes each time, and the results are totally different in each case. If I lose my temper, the results are always guilt, emotional stress, the difficult task of asking forgiveness, and an all-around mess. If I show the fruit of self-control, the result is so much more pleasant! I have victory in my heart, and that can make me happy for the rest of the afternoon.

Strange - if I hadn't had that victory, I wouldn't have the joy. So, in a way, the circumstance was beneficial. Of course that's why God sent it.

But the circumstance can also produce opposite feelings...if I let anger or impatience or grudges take root in my heart.

Same circumstance.

Different attitudes.

So I agree with the bumper sticker.

It's kinda funny that Harley Davidson should have so much wisdom. :)

Edited to add:
Boy, I sure didn't know how much I would need to remember the words of this post a few minutes after I wrote it! I lost a very valuable item that didn't belong to me, and I was looking high and low for it. Few things make me angry and panicked the way losing something does. I was SO ready to blow! But I didn't dare - not after writing this post! (Well, okay; maybe I was a
little panicked.)

I was writing this note at the bottom of this post, to ask y'all to pray that I'd find the item I was looking for - and lo and behold! As I sat down to type, my brother Justin (who has wonderful determination) found the item in the very top of my bedroom closet! Praise the Lord!!! (And thank you, Justin!)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Behold, the kindness, and power, and wisdom, and foresight of God, that He should put into deciduous trees this ability to become brilliant beauties of red, orange, and yellow.

His wisdom, and kindness, and foresight, and power are made evident in two ways through these leaves:

1) These colors come only where cold weather follows them. The farther north you go, the more brilliant the display each fall. Now, just imagine if the leaves did not turn colors. Can you imagine the foliage simply turning brown and dropping to the ground? Leaves curling up and dying in drab agony? Signs of death all around. What more depressing way to usher in winter can you think of?

How good God is, to give us this last bright joy of nature before He puts the plants to sleep for the winter!

In this we see His kindness.

2) I've been thanking God for His kindness all week long, but only today (while driving on the highway and having my breath snatched from my lungs by the beauty that unfolded in the mountain ranges as I went around a curve and came upon a clear view) did this second thought hit me:

God planned this kindness before fall existed.

This ability for leaves to change colors; it is built into them. It only shows up when the chlorophyll of summer dies down, but it is there all along - like the stars that only show themselves when the sun goes to bed.

Before sin, cold weather was unknown. The first mention of cold weather in the Bible comes after the flood. The harsh winds and snows of winter did not come upon the earth - most likely never until after the flood, but certainly not in the garden of Eden. Life there was a perpetual spring.

What need did the leaves have of their hidden colors? Who would ever see those reds and oranges and yellows? Why did God make them like that?

Because He knew the future.

He knew mankind would fall into sin. He knew many autumns and winters would wash over the face of this earth before He returned. And even before the first man walked the earth, God planned beauty for his offspring's eyes during the lingering days of autumn.

Behold, the wisdom, and the power, and the foreknowledge of GOD!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Before I tumble into bed....

I had an absolutely indescribable day. Loved every minute of it! From 8:30am to 5:30pm I was at the Celebrate the Glory conference. I spoke of this conference before here at The Fruit of Her Hands. It is designed to encourage families to study God's Word together every day, and is held in a beautiful outdoor community center. This was the third year for the annual conference.

Wonderful speakers and music! Very encouraging. Dad and I even had the pleasure and honor of speaking at a session, as I mentioned we would on this blog several days ago. Between sessions I sold books and CDs at our family's table, and got to talk with folks. I saw so many friends and met so many wonderful new people!

Some dear friends of ours, whom we've not seen in over a year, came to the conference and then came home with us for supper afterward. Their family is very musical, and we not only had splendid fellowship in talking and laughing and praying and singing together, but got to have a "jam session" too, with two guitars, a banjo, a dobro, a mandolin, and five fiddles/violins!!!!

I have been running on adrenalin for just about the last 48 hours... I have tasted only one of my meals today, and can remember only about 1/3 of what I heard and said this morning. My toes are still warming up from the freezing weather during the outdoor conference, while my cheeks and ears are still hot and bright red from excitement and laughter. I slept very little last night, and know intellectually that I'm tired, but I have no consciousnesses of fatigue....only a faint fuzzy feeling in my brain that is steadily growing. My heart is still racing and my mind is still spinning.

What makes it strange is I don't know what emotion I am feeling. Am I feeling the remains of frayed nerves? Was I nervous about speaking at the conference? (Was I? I still don't know.) Am I shaking because I haven't warmed up yet? Then why am I so hot, and my palms a little sweaty? Am I just feeling excitement that hasn't worn off yet? Why can I feel my brain spinning when I don't even know what I'm thinking....or if I'm thinking?

Did I enjoy today? Totally. What did I like best? I really don't know. It was a beautiful, splendid, exhilarating blur. I would gladly repeat it. I already miss our dear friends who have left us after only a short visit. I ache to see them more often, and it was only maturity and the dignity of almost-adulthood that kept me from chasing after their van as they left, yelling, "Come back! Don't go! Staaaaay!"

I also loved speaking at the conference. I know I am a rarity - enjoying public speaking - but I enjoy it for a different reason than others might think. I enjoy it because it is a strange time of uncommon closeness with my Heavenly Father. How can I explain this...? I don't know how to describe what it's like.

When I know I am going to speak somewhere, I spend time praying and wrestling with ideas, begging God to give me something worth saying - something that is honoring to Him. Then I write down what comes to my mind - every word and phrase. Then I run those words over in my mind many times, for several days. Usually God brings someone into my life who says something to me that makes me start thinking differently all over again....and I re-write what I had written down. That may happen several times.

I write in a different way when I'm preparing something to say rather than something to be read. I take note of how I feel when I'm saying the words in my mind, and write that into it.

When I feel at peace what I have written, I memorize it - every emotion, every pathos of voice, everything God has laid on my heart. I know that if I don't internalize it during this preparation time, I will never get a blessing out of it myself. ...Because I never hear myself on the actual day I speak.

No, on the day I speak, when I get up there, after time spent alone in prayer, I - though this sounds funny - just let my mouth run. I know my tongue knows what I believe God wants me to say, so I let it work itself. My mind is usually not involved. Instead, my mind is earnestly asking God to work. And my eyes are looking at the faces I see before me. And I begin to see God answering my prayers.

It is this time of communication with God that so draws me to speaking. It is the strangest feeling, to know that my body and voice are in front of many people, but at the same time my soul and heart are far away, before ONE. I love the closeness I feel to Him, and the sense of urgency that is always in my prayers at a time like that.

What did Dad and I talk about today? Family Devotions. Dad shared about what first convicted him to study God's Word together in our family, and I talked about what it's like to receive the blessing that God pours on the children of those who follow Him. Though there were many other young people there who also know what it's like to be blessed that way, all the other speakers were fathers who were looking at things from the other side of the coin; they were encouraging parents to teach their children the Word because they will be blessed.

I had the immense privilege of describing that blessing that has already fallen on me.

It was a wonderful honor. I got to look those parents in the face and tell them "It's not in vain! Be encouraged! God really does fulfill His promise to bless the children who are taught His Word." Of course I explained that it's also a personal thing - I talked about how I myself fell in love with God - but I couldn't help loving to be able to stand up there as an older child and say how thankful I am for how my parents obeyed God's instructions to teach their children the Word.

Whew - now I'm excited all over again! It's 12:24 in the morning, and I know I'll be tired tomorrow, but I couldn't go to sleep without getting some of this out of my system. I had such a wonderful day. Talking with people after the conference sessions finished was wonderful, too. Encouraging younger families - and being blessed myself by talking to older families - is something I could easily do all day long and not tire of it. I was blessed SO much today in different conversations I had with folks. It's refreshing to be with folks who earnestly care about making Christ the center of their home, and who want to talk about that subject!

Well, I'm afraid I've been much too long-winded. I shall make an effort to get some sleep. If this post has been rather tumble-style and rambling, or too full of "me" and "I," just ignore it and know that I at least was able to tumble out the story of my day so my mind could relax a little. Thanks for listening. :) :) :)

P.S. Neely Family; I MISS YOU!!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Random things about me

~ My favorite colors are the ones most found in nature; blue, green, brown, etc. But I've never seen a color I didn't like...only color combinations I didn't like.

~ I love my books. In a rainstorm, I automatically pull my coat over any books I am holding. If there isn't room for both the books and me, off comes the coat!

~ Lately I've been very bad at keeping up with this blog.

~ I talk more in public than I do at home. (Is that good or bad?)

~ I love, love, LOVE to fold bath towels. Give me a pile to do and I'm happy!

~ I truly haven't forgotten to finish the story I started telling on here. I'll get to it eventually. :)

~ If I'm going to get together with a friend, I'd rather work side by side on a project and talk, than go do something like shopping or eating out.

~ I am a terrible whistler.

~ Contrary to popular opinion, being a seamstress does not mean I am a very patient girl by nature.

~ I used to not mind being stereotyped - didn't bother me a bit. Now I can't stand it.

~ One of my not-so-secret dreams is to someday ride an ostrich.

~ I have a very keen sense of smell and love it.

~ I love, love, LOVE sweet potatoes

~ If I could visit any place in the world, I'd pick a missions orphanage in India.

~ I'm scared of heights....but climb trees anyway. (Well, when I was younger. Now I just climb other tall things, like buildings and mountains and stairs.)

~ I can wiggle my ears.

~ I'm wondering if you were interested enough to read this far, and what you are thinking by now.

~ I love to write, but find it very hard to make myself sit down and start. Writing is my stress-relief. If I'm flustered and worried I don't want to sit down and do it, but if I do...ahhhhh! Relief! (Psst!....This means that if I haven't posted in awhile you can make a pretty good guess that I'm stressed or else really busy. Drop me a note and tell me to write. :) :) :)

~ One of my hobbies is reading biographies about old actors. My favorite actor of all times is Roy Rogers, both because I like his movies and he's the only actor where I did not find "dirt" in his private life when I researched it. A Christian in Hollywood - amazing!

~ The apostle John is my favorite disciple.

~ I am awful at picking names for things that belong to me. I've had several pets in my life time, and I do believe my siblings have named all but one of them. If it belongs to someone else, I can think of lots of names, but if it's mine I draw a blank on a good name. (My poor children someday!....)

~ When I was in school, I LOVED every subject but grammar, which I hated with passion. Exactly one year before I graduated, I fell in love with it, and have liked it ever since.

~ I have the best family in the world.

~ I adore being outdoors on a beautiful day.

~ I've made over 600 pizzas in my lifetime.

~ I've only seen the ocean twice.

~ I like interior decorating.

~ I don't say "how are you?" unless I mean it. If someone else says it and I don't think they mean it, I won't answer them. They've never noticed. (...I hope.)

~ I have the amazing gift of being saved from sin and knowing Jesus Christ personally.

~ God answers my prayers.

~ I think it's really cool that my circle of blog readers is small enough that I can recognize almost everyone who comments, and know a little bit about each of you....though there's always room for one more. :) :)

~ I am easily startled. My siblings know this. I jump or scream when I am startled. My siblings know this also. (Ahem.)

~ I like public speaking.

~ I LOVE meeting new people.

~ I love good fellowship.

~ I can't wait for Saturday.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I just got it.

How many times have I sung "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee"?

Dozens and dozens of times.

Yet it was only just now that I got it.

I was sweeping the kitchen floor, and my sister Heather was giving a resounding edition of the song Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee on the piano in the next room. I - loving songs the way I do - couldn't help singing along.

I got to the phrase "hearts unfold like flowers before Thee, opening to the sun of above," and as the words left my lips my voice trailed away and I was lost in dumbfounded thought.

Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee.

It's fall time here - Heather and I had just returned from a walk before this scene took place. We strolled down our quiet road and remarked on the maple trees in our neighbor's yard that are just starting to turn a brilliant red. The sky above us was so blue and so glass. No cloud in sight, to pin that wide expanse back up where it belongs. We could almost reach up and run our fingers down the cold solid wall of blue. ...But at the same was so far away. So distant and mysterious. A brisk wind played with our hair and made leaves jitter across our path. The smell of fall is all around us - even blowing through the open window beside me now.

But I haven't forgotten spring. I haven't forgotten the thrill of new baby plants, or buds on tender branches, or slivers of red between the green folds of tightly shut tulips. And I haven't forgotten what it's like to walk down the sidewalk one morning and see the colors that have finally burst open. The fragrance in the air is like being able to smell joy.

And every flower - every bud - strains with all its might to reach the sun. They grow toward it with every fiber of their being. Our front yard is shady; the sun only touches our flowers beds for a few hours each day. To see those blossoms bathing in the sunlight, basking in the warmth, is to see pure pleasure.

Why did it take so long for me to grasp what I have sung so many times?

Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee, opening to the sun above.

It is beautiful to picture. Can you see it?

P.S. You must go see this clip of flowers opening in time-lapse photography!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Another bit of imagination

He lounged on a hard bench in the narrow shadow of the overhang above him. Precious little shade was cast by the bit of flat roof that stuck out farther than the wall, but it was enough to keep the burning sun off his face. His legs, propped farther out, caught the full force of the sun, and even though their bronze shade showed they had spent much time in the heat, they glistened with sweat, just like the rest of him.

Vitus played idly with the whip in his hands, using the very tip to flick a nearby pebble and send it bouncing several feet away. It was not often he had a few minutes to sit and watch the traffic of Philippi flow by. His brown eyes flitted from figure to figure in the market area across the street. It was one of many in the large city, and contained mainly finer goods.

Vitus spotted a small group of men who were talking earnestly beside one booth, and recognized them as the travelers who had been in the area for several days now.

"Philosophers of some sort." They preached a strange sort of religion that followed but one God, and yet also followed a dead man. Vitus had heard only bits and pieces of what they said. "And I would not even give them that were it not for the attention focused on them from another someone."

"There they are!" It was her. She had spotted that group of men again. Threading her way through the crowded street, she headed for the market area. Her shimmery golden wrap fell in her hurry, exposing one shoulder and a long pale neck. Black curls cascaded down her shoulders in an alluring manner. Many men considered her beautiful, but Vitus shivered when he looked at those black eyes. They did not see what was before them; they saw something evil and vague. Everyone knew that Aeola could foretell the future.

Vitus glanced over his shoulder at the prison door, just feet from where he sat, remembering the day Aeola had been placed in his charge there. She had been seized by the authorities when she first came to town, wandering around in a confused state, sure to cause trouble. No one knew where she had come from or what had made her the way she was, but when a rich father and son had offered to buy her as a slave, rather than letting her rot in prison cell, the authorities quickly sold her. Her new masters let her wander as she pleased during the day, and she told fortunes to those who paid her. A young man - also a slave of the same masters - followed her at a distance and kept an eye on her. She gave all the money she made to her masters. She seemed not to know the value of the coins she was given.

"There they are!" Again Aeola cried out, staring at the philosophers with her empty black eyes. "Listen to them!" She grabbed the sleeve of the man nearest to her, but he, accustomed to her presence and odd ways, laughed, shook her off, and turned back to his haggling. She tried the next man. "These men are servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation!" she sang in her strange, high, voice. He rolled his eyes and motioned for the lad who followed her to take her off somewhere else.

Aeola darted forward, passing very close to Vitus, and headed for the market area. Once there, she stood in the very group of men and women the preachers were talking with. "These men are servants of the most high God! They show unto us the way of salvation!"

"She's been at this for days," Vitus mused. "Salvation. How can such as she know anything about salvation? She knows nothing of any god - only the strange and awful creatures she deals with in order to learn the future."

"Salvation! They are servants of the most high God!" Aeola's shrill voice rang out much louder than that of the preacher's. One of the men who was not speaking leaned over and whispered something to the main speaker, who shook his head. Vitus was amazed at the patience of these men. Aeola had been following them around for many days now, yelling during all their attempts to preach.

Apparently they were giving up for the morning. The preaching stopped. The crowd disbanded. The men turned and headed toward the street again. A few interested men of the city walked with them, discussing what they had heard preached. Aeola followed.

"Give heed to these men!" she shrieked.

The oldest of the men, who was deeply involved in a conversation with a man of Philippi, finally stopped in the middle of the road, only a few yards from where Vitus sat. He turned to face Aeola.

She stood with her mouth not quite closed. Her eyes were as empty as ever, but fastened on the man who had turned to look at her. When their eyes met she jerked suddenly, and her delicate hands fluttered. She seemed to be incapable of speaking.

Vitus tore his gaze off the woman to look at the man. His face was very grave; almost...sad. He was studying the woman.

Vitus suddenly realized how quiet the street was. He sensed that everyone in the market area was staring at this man and woman, but he dared not look away. He could not. Not a donkey brayed. Even the gurgle of the fountain seemed muted.

In a slow, deep voice, the man spoke. "I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her."

The change was instantaneous. Those black eyes were suddenly clouded. Anger, hatred, and putrid, evil things passed behind her pupils, fighting in some sort of battle. Her face muscles convulsed in terrible ways, and her body shook. With a loud scream that chilled Vitus' very bones she covered her face and sank down on her knees in the dust.

Then she was still. The man watched her for a moment, then turned and continued on his way. His companions followed him; a few of them casting backward glances at the woman who knelt in the street.

It was not until they had disappeared from view that Aeola moved again. She slowly sat up and looked about her. By chance, her head turned towards Vitus, and she met his eyes for a moment. A second later she seemed to gather her strength, for she sprang to her feet and ran down the road the preachers had taken. The young man assigned to watch her had been hanging back with the rest of the market-goers, but he now grabbed her arm.

"Aeola! You will leave them alone now! You have caused enough trouble."

"No." She shook his hand off, her voice clear and earnest. "I must speak with him." She ran out of sight, her bare feet as fleet as a gazelle.

Her young guard stood for a moment in shock, staring after her. Then he turned and ran in the direction of his masters' home.

A hand touched Vitus' own arm, and he jumped, then turned to see his wife. She had come out of their home, which adjoined the prison where Vitus was keeper.

"Did you see that?" she asked.

"Her eyes."


"Her eyes," Vitus whispered. "They saw mine."

"I've never heard her voice so clear and...knowing as it was when she spoke just then. Do you suppose - do you suppose, Vitus - that she possibly has regained her senses?"

"Her eyes knew what they were seeing. They saw mine," he repeated. "She will never look into the future with those eyes."

"But how did he do it? How is it possible?"

"I don't know. He used the name of his God. Jesus Christ."

"Then it is a new God he preaches. There is something behind what he is saying. You have heard him more than I, Vitus; what has he said?"

"He says we are in danger. He says this God will judge the world sometime soon."

Alarm crossed his wife's face.

"Do not worry. I do not believe everything he says."

"...But Aeola...?"

"I know." Vitus stood and flicked his whip again. "There is something going on in this city - and I don't like it. Those men will cause trouble. Did you see Aeola's keeper dashing off to find his masters? They will come to find her. And when they do, do you think Aeola will go with them any more than she would go with her keeper? They will be paying those philosophers a visit soon - and not a pleasant one."

"What do you think - "

"Agathi, I am only a jailer. I do not meddle with these things. Now, I have my rounds to make, and you have our evening meal to make. Begone with you."

Vitus looked once more where Aeola had disappeared. His insides still shook with the tensions of the scene he had just watched. Those men had uncanny powers. They were going to cause trouble. He just knew it.


Monday, September 28, 2009

Just thought you might like to know...

Vision Forum is having a huge sale right now. Often, when I get promotional emails, I simply ignore the sale/special/deal, but I'm glad I popped over there today, because now I can tell you that there are some good deals over there!

For example:

~ The League of Grateful Sons, a very moving documentary about the fathers of the World War II generation, is on sale for ONE DOLLAR. (Yes, you read that right!)

~ Lots and lots of CDs are on sale for $5.oo a piece. (Including The Making of Return of the Daughters ...ooooh, tempting! Don't you love "the making of" info?)

~ There's a 135-page biography of David Livingston that's tempting me; on sale for $3.30

~ There's an in-stock-but-limited-supply of John Bunyan's book Prayer. A must-read...for $7.00.

~ Several DVDs reduced to $10.00

~ Organic growing kits of some sort for $4.00. Haven't tried these, but they look interesting.

...and lots of discounted books.

Of course, these are just the things that caught my eye. You may spot other treasures.

No pressure, of course, but for those of you who have a little extra spending might want to check it out. If you plan to buy something, you might click on the link below to go check out the sight:

(Go to the "Clearance" section)

If you do, I'll get a little something from anything you buy.

Now, how's that for a shameless plug? :) :) :) :) No, seriously; I don't usually promote much on this blog, but I thought there were some good deals on there, and wanted to let y'all know. I really don't care if you use my link or not. :) :) ...But neither will I get upset if you use it. :) (See what good friends we are? I trust my readers explicitly.)

Happy browsing, and have a lovely day! I have another post up my sleeve that I hope to have on here before the day is over....

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Will you come visit with me?

I've often wished I could invite every one of my readers to have pizza with my family and I one evening. Unfortunately, I don't think very many of you live across town. (And I also don't think our cupboards contain more than 8 pizza pans.) ...But, seriously, wouldn't it be fun to get together and talk in person? You sweet ladies and girls have been the most wonderful readers I could imagine. I feel like I'm friends with you all.

I can't invite you all to our home, but I do have an event, on October 17th, that I would like to invite you to attend - my family and I will be there, and I would so love to meet some of you there!

Celebrate the Glory. That's what the event is called. CTG for short. It's a conference, a gathering of families, who are coming together to celebrate the glory of God's word. Speakers will be there who want to encourage families to read the Bible together every day, and study God's Word together.

The simplicity takes some getting used to. CTG is not about "how to preserve your marriage," "how to raise amazing children," "how to grow your church over 5,000," or "how to witness to 20 people a day." It's just about celebrating the beauty, uniqueness, holiness, and sufficiency of God's Word. That's it.

My family attended the very first CTG, and we're pleased to be going back again for our third year. The meeting is held in the lovely foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the fall colors show promises of being gorgeous this year. We look forward to listening to speakers and visiting with old and new friends during the 2-hour lunch break. Meeting new friends is one of my favorite parts of the day!!! I hope I'll get to meet some of you this year.

For information on what speakers will be there (we know some of them from past years, and are looking forward to hearing them again!), expenses (registration/attendance is free - lunch is available for those who want to buy it), times, location, and other such details, click here.

Oh yes - one more thing. When you visit that info page, you might want to click on the "Guest Bios" link. Way down at the bottom of the guest bios, you'll come to a bit about a father-daughter team who will be speaking at the conference. The daughter has written a book about family devotions, and about children having the right attitude about being discipled by their parents. At CTG, her father will speak about leading devotions in the home, and then she'll say a word to the young people there, trying to encourage them in their role as disciples.

I do hope you'll say a prayer for that daughter and father and their family. They have a heart to see families loving God's Word, and they so want to be a blessing at this conference. If you are able to make it to CTG, be sure to stop by and talk to this girl. I know she'll love to meet you. In fact, she'll be thrilled.

You see, that girl is me.