Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas to All and to All a Good Night!

Nothing about this Christmas season has gone at all like I had it pictured. Some years are just like that, I guess. At least that's what I'm telling myself. I didn't make any toffee or molasses crinkles for my neighbors; I didn't get any Christmas cards out; we didn't go to look at lights; we didn't read a different Christmas picture book each night; we haven't taken a Christmas picture (yet). I simply don't know where the time went, but it is Christmas Eve already, so I don't know that there is much I can do about those things (except maybe the picture of the fam in front of our Christmas tree).

So, all I can simply do at this point in the season is to wish those who stop by here a Merry Christmas and a new year filled with His peace and joy.

Blessings to you all,

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Grief Revisited

I am always quick to share what a blessing, privilege, responsibility, and joy it is to be called to serve as pastors.  And I am so grateful for the grace-giving churches in which the Lord has allowed us to serve.  God is so good.

However, sometimes in ministry, there are roads that we are asked to walk alone.  (Loneliness is the number one issue pastor's and their wives say they struggle with.)  There are hard paths upon which the Lord allows us to walk so that we can truly experience the truth that HE is enough and HE understands, even though someone else may not.   There are lessons to be learned, fears to be faced,  character flaws to be recognized and acknowledged,  growth to be experienced, and truth, forgiveness, and grace to be learned in the process.  

I am not saying that all the paths we find ourselves on are God's will because we are sinful people living in a sinful world, and we simply cannot control what other people choose.  Sometimes in ministry, we simply find ourselves on a path that we do not want to be on.  However, I believe that God can redeem absolutely everything in our lives, and sometimes (probably most often) that redemption is a process that takes place over time, not in the blink of a tear-filled eye.

Today, circumstances allowed me to come face to face with a grief that I am unable to share.  It is a grief that I have experienced over a period of years, and although I have seen the Lord work greatly in me through this grief, it is still there.  Today's situation allowed the depth of that grief to again bubble up.  I don't think that's a bad thing, but it is a hard thing.  In fact, I would go so far as to say the circumstance today was a gift in an odd sort of way.  It was a gift to again acknowledge how much this "thing" meant to me.  I think grief is the truest expression of how much we have loved and maybe today, I just needed to be reminded of that love.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Inspiring Ideas

In the midst of the busy holiday season, I am always grateful for ideas to keep focused on the true meaning of the season.  It's the simple things - reading a Christmas story with the kids, stringing popcorn, sipping hot cocoa, looking at the lights - that are most remembered by us and our kids, and those are the things we'll want our children to do with their children some day.  

Today, I ran across a great idea in one of the blogs I visit (I don't take the time to actually go to all these blogs, I subscribe to them in an RSS feed), and I thought I'd give you the blog address so that you can be blessed also.

Inspiring Ideas is a great little blog and I think you'll enjoy it.  Jeanne Winters (blog author) has a new line at Hallmark, and since I'm a Hallmark junkie, I've already seen her stuff - simple and sweet.  Be sure to visit her blog, wouldja?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Telegraph Fire Update

Last post, I shared that my youngest kiddo likes to take pictures, and truthfully, it's a good thing.  I often forget to photograph things or events because, well, I'm just like that - forgetful!  Anyway, as I shared here and here this summer, the Telegraph Fire was burning furiously through the area of my family's property.  The CDF saved our structures and the hilltop where our trailers are located, so when we were there on Thanksgiving, it was hard to believe that there was ever a fire.  However, just about everywhere else was massive evidence of the destructive fire that came through.  And........our young family photographer snapped some pictures of the aftermath including the areas where the CDF just plowed over everything to make fire breaks.  I thought I'd share some of those with you today.

The one thing that she didn't get a picture of was the manzanita bushes at the top of the hill that are blackened and stripped bare by the fire.  They are beautiful in an eery sort of way.  Their black, bare, up-reaching arms were silhouetted against the gorgeous blue sky.  

One upside of the fire?  We are able to see Half Dome from the top of our property.  Beautiful!

I pray that in the midst of this holy season you are able to take a few quiet moments to focus on the wonder of the season - God of the universe coming to us in flesh and blood - to be with us.  God with us.   GOD WITH US.  I thought about that phrase over and over this morning as I sat looking at our Christmas tree during my quiet time.  God with us!  Wow, if that doesn't cause us to stop, ponder, and be thankful, not much will.


Random Pictures

My husband continually assures me that digital photos are great, and I'm sure he's right. I'm just an old fashioned kind of girl in this respect and I love having actual photos to put my hands on. It makes me less afraid that I'm going to lose (or more realistically forget) what pictures we have. But there are a couple of things I enjoy about digital photos - the ability to delete photos that don't turn out rather than paying to have them developed and seeing the unexpected random pictures that someone (most often my youngest daughter who wants to be a photographer when she grows up) has snapped.

I just downloaded some photos from Thanksgiving weekend, and here a few of the unexpected photos I discovered:
A picture of the centerpiece, which was a great idea!
A artistic level view of the centerpiece and table.
A great close-up if you ask me!
And we mustn't forget about the salt and pepper! 
The little details, such as a golden ribbon around the sparkling cider, make for a beautiful fall table.

By the way, one of the blogs that I enjoy reading is "The Reluctant Entertainer."  Sandy (the author of the RE blog which is celebrating its 300th post) photographs some of her dinner parties, so perhaps my youngest daughter is taking after her.  I read Reluctant Entertainer because one of my yearly resolutions is to have more people over to our home, and Sandy helps to remind me that it's not about having the perfectly clean house and table settings, but about opening your heart to others and loving them where they are.  A great goal for all of us, don't you think?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Coffee Moms

I had the best time tonight with some of my friends. When our kids are on track, we meet for coffee on Monday mornings, and truthfully, it's always a day brightener to spend some time with them all. Anyway, tonight was our Christmas get-together and we laughed, we ate, we shared, and we laughed some more. One mom bought us all Starbucks ornaments that we all then signed to take home. A truly great time.

It's getting crazy again around here! I'm off to UCSF tomorrow with Dave's sister and will be gone all day. Saturday holds a basketball game, making our gifts for the staff, and celebrating Christmas with Dave's family because his sister, brother-in-law, and nephew are here from Portland. (By the way, our nephew, Hugo, is the cutest little guy, and we sure wish we could see him more often!) And on Sunday, I'll be at church for first service, at a meeting during second service, and then our staff Christmas dinner and dessert which will be at our home. (Of course, the staff Christmas party ends with the infamous white elephant gift exchange!) It's all good even though it's so busy. I somehow need to find time to finish the gifts we're making, write out cards for all of the staff, grocery shop and cook my items for the family Christmas, wrap Christmas gifts needed for Saturday, clean the house, and get the desserts ready for the staff party. No problem-O, right?

By the way, come back soon to see one of the Larson family's holiday traditions.


Monday, December 8, 2008

Behold the Lamb of God/Servolution 2009

Today, I'm posting some links for you to visit.  The first is for the beautiful, poignant, and memorable event that our church is providing for our community.  It is called, "Behold the Lamb of God - The True Tall Tale of the Coming of Christ."  Click on the link (the title) and you'll be directed to the website that gives more information, including video clips from last year's production.  The thing I heard over and over from those who attended last year is that 1) if they had known how beautiful and terrific the production was, they would have invited everyone they knew to attend, and 2) "Wow!  I don't know what to say."  That's how good it was - really.  You can see my post from last year with my comments HERE.  In fact, here's an anonymous comment from someone who read that post: "Anonymous said...`What an amazing evening....such talent! I brought a friend along, and she was moved to tears more than once. On the way home she asked if she could come to church with me sometime! I think I'll be back Sunday evening.....maybe bring another friend!"  That's the best kind of endorsement - non-solicited and genuine.  Invite everyone you know to come with you to the Turlock Community Auditorium to experience this event on December 20 and 21.  You'll be glad you did, and I'm not just saying that!  

Another link for you to visit is the Servolution website.  Now, not all the information is up yet for this year's event, but believe me, you'll want to mark your calendar for May 9, 2009!  I also posted about last year's first ever Servolution and you can check it out HERE.  A commenter on that post said, "That was the most amazing day....this is the most amazing picture.....And we have the most amazing God......He is so working in this most amazing church family....
What amazing hearts there are to serve the Lord.....I feel as though the church is going to bust at the seams to make more room to grow!!!!!! You can absolutely feel the Love!!!!"   

Want to see what it's all about?  Watch this:

Wow!  Don't you want to be a part of that?  Last year was just the beginning; we will step out to serve our community in even bigger ways this year!  I'm so excited, and you'll love hearing all that we'll be doing.  I will be posting more about this event in the future, but for now......just mark your calendars so that you will be free to serve along with us on May 9th!

So, get ready!  There's lots of good stuff coming up and you don't want to miss it!

God, you are REALLY something!  Thank you for the many ways in which you are working, and thank you for opening up our eyes to see all that you are doing.  We stand in awe.