Saturday, December 31, 2011

Be Still

Today is the last day of 2011.  It's a time to look back over the year.  My year was not at all what I had expected.  And yet, despite the rougher times, it was a good year.  I can say that I was able to truly experience what it means to be a part of community - on the receiving end this year.  And it was good.  I can say that I experienced what it means to feel the prayers of others supporting them.  And it was good.  I can say that I experienced the feeling of knowing that it was God who gave the strength and the hope and the encouragement.  And it was good.

Tomorrow is the first day of 2012.  Now is also a time to wonder about what the new year brings.  None of us knows what that will be.  And that is probably a good thing.  What we do know is that God goes with us into this new year.  And that is more than good!  God gives us hope and the promise of His abundant blessings.  And that is also more than good!

For the last number of years I have focused on words rather than making resolutions.  While that focus got blurred at times, having the focus to come back to has been such a blessing to me. 

For the last number of years, I couldn't decide which of several words to focus on, so I had a couple.  This year is different.  I do have one focus that I hope to base my life on. 

Be still.  This comes from Psalm 46:10.  "Be still and know that I am God."

I want to take the time to be still.  This means taking time to stop.  Taking time to see God.  To know God.  It also means trying not to worry.  To still the thoughts that sometimes swirl through my mind. 

As I was putting in the pictures for this post, a thought about being still occurred to me.  Still waters reflect their surroundings more clearly than rough water.  I want to be still so that I can better reflect the gifts of God. 

I love the way it is put in the Message.  "Step out of the traffic!  Take a long, loving look at me, your High God."

Be still.

Christmas will never end.

The Christmas celebration with my family has ended.  My time with family was wonderful.  We really enjoyed each other's company.  Many of us went to a candlelight service on the 24th before getting together at my brother's house.  What a delight to worship together and then to enjoy our annual book exchange.  It is such a good way that we can all be involved and celebrate.  Christmas dinner was, as always, delightful.  And the game of Catch Phrase afterwards will not be forgotten.  Thanks, Dad, for your contribution to the memories.  And thanks for being able to laugh with us.

The celebration of Christmas is over.  But Christmas is not over - and it never will be.  The true gift - the gift of Jesus is eternal.  And everyday!  What a reason to celebrate each and every day.

My list of gifts continues - heading closer to 1000!
744) a beautiful sunset of reds and oranges
745) a tiny sliver of the moon shining brightly in the deep blue of a winter morning sky
746) a child reaching for my hand
747) the words of encouragement on Christmas cards from students
748) the contentment I felt when I watched my students focused and learning - even during the last few days before holidays
749) the feeling of peace leaving work for a holiday - especially since all my marking is done
750)pretzel sticks dipped in chocolate - and made by a student
751) celebrating a friend's birthday with her - and with other friends
752) finishing mending for my sister (which had been sitting here since the summer and only took 30 minutes to do)
753) anticipating the look on her face when she opened her "gift"
754) packing to go spend Christmas with family
755) an eagle at the side of the highway - close enough to get a good look at
756) arriving "home" to my parents and a sister
757) hugs from nieces and nephews
758) delighting others with gifts
759) playing games with family
760) laughing with family
761) the camaraderie of working together to put together our part of the Christmas dinner
762) finding that elusive puzzle piece I had been searching for (which shouldn't have been hard to find)
763) going for lunch with my parents and a sister - and being served by my beautiful niece
764) completing a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle
765) coming back "home" again to my home
766) lunch with a friend
767) running errands without feeling rushed
768) the opportunity to attend a World Junior Championship hockey game with family

Sunday, December 18, 2011


Tonight was the annual Candlelight service at my church.  I must say that I am so happy that the service is held prior to Christmas Eve.  If it wasn't, I would miss it all the time.  It is one of my favourite services.  Very profoundly moving.  Tonight was no exception.  There was so much talk about light and darkness, songs about light and darkness, traditional Christmas songs, and other favourite songs.  At the end of the service, the sanctuary lights were turned off and the light was passed from the Christ candle to the candles each member of the congregation held.  The light spread and the sanctuary grew warm with light.  All while we sang "Silent Night."  Truly awe-inspiring and poignant.  Pointing to the reason we celebrate - the Light has come to the world of darkness.  Thank you, Jesus, for coming to spread your light!

Another thing I did today was to finish my Christmas cards.  The picture above is what I put on the cards.  The message inside was from a song. 

Light of the world,
You stepped down into darkness….
King of all days
oh, so highly exalted
Glorious in heaven above
Humbly You came
To the earth You created
All for love's sake became poor.
Chris Tomlin

It was absolutely lovely to spend my day with the focus on the light of Christ.

I even took the time to continue my list of gifts.
722) watching children proclaim the powerful message of Christmas in their Christmas program at church
723) the smell of fresh ginger
724) a gift of meals of soup
725) the enthusiastic and heartfelt singing of a young girl, singing that stands out in a crowd and brings a smile to so many faces
726) morning sun ont he tops of snow-covered mountains - all that and blue sky, too
727) the complete silliness of dancing plastic flowers in the bank window - facing the drive-through lane for the ATM
728) the joy of Safeway having the gift cards I wanted to buy for Christmas --
729) which mean that I could kill 2 birds with one stone(what a gory saying!)
730) the gift of free admission passes to a Christmas event
731) the peacefulness of the city night, blanketed in freshly fallen snow
732) time with friends
733) successfully finishing a quilt block that had 51 pieces (yes 51!)
734) the joyful squeals of children enjoying sledding in the snow
735) a lesson that clicks - and students learn with delight
736) cumin
737) the satisfaction of making Christmas cards
738) each card and letter arriving in my mailbox - a symbol of the people who have been and are a part of my life - gifts to me
739) a candlelight service
740) the impact of watching the church light up as the congregation passes the light
741) a young gifl using her violin to praise God and add to the worship service
742) the flickering beauty of candlelight
743) tea with a friend - and catching up with her!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Appreciative Living

When we hang our hopes for happiness on things that are outside of our control, we set ourselves up for disappointment….We give up our power.  We let go of our responsibility for joy.  This is a very vulnerable place to be, and we end up becoming dependent on others for our happiness……..The more attached we are to an outcome, the more dependent we become on it, and the bigger the disappointment when it doesn’t happen.”  Jacqueline Kelm in The Joy of Appreciative Living   p. 86 and 87
While I really like what this has to say, it is missing something very important.  And that is that those things that are outside our control are in God's control.  I will admit to being incredibly happy to know that, ultimately, it is God in control of my life and not me.  While I will also admit that not everything that happens in my life is what I would wish for, what matters most of all is that God is what I wish for - and then some.
I had time for a glorious walk this morning in our winter wonderland, a city covered in a deep blanket of fresh snow.  And I was reminded anew that when I take time to "be still and know that God is God" (Ps. 46:10) I am able to see His incredible gifts, large and small.  When I am still, there is room in my brain to SEE.
The list of gifts continues......
703) Christmas cactus in bloom
704) clean sheets - and, no, that NEVER gets old!
705) the smooth feel of crisp, new fabric
706) amazing school secretaries
707) being able to make some one's day
708) dinner with colleagues/friends
709) the thoughtfulness of a friend
710) the thoughtfulness of administrators
711) an incredible gift of time
712) getting home safely on snowy streets
713) quilting and lunch with friends
714) mounds of snow piled on remnants of summer flowers
715) pristine snow caps on brilliant red bunches of mountain ash berries
716) walking under a canopy of pine branches covered in fluffy white blankets of snow
717) walking in a winter wonderland
718) boots that are high enough to keep the snow out as I wandered through deep fresh snow
719) blue Alberta skies over the bright white snow blanketing the city
720) a beautiful bird soaring through the brilliant blue Alberta sky
721) the squeak of snow underfoot