Part 1 of 4--Published Each Saturday

Since before Thanksgiving Day the weather had been dismal-gray-wet-filled with clouds hanging so low you only had to reach up to touch their water drenched cotton.  Each day dawned with the slow creep from the deepest dark that comes in the middle of the night to the emerging muted tones from the sun rising far behind the deep bank of clouds.  A day in a long succession of days that all blended together into one long symphony of the same note played over and over.

        The streets of the small town were narrow and lined with parking that you slid into-at an angle all along the street.  The sidewalks along those streets were cracked and sometimes broken-starting and stopping with empty lots.  Each business owner along the street was responsible for the walk in front of their building.  The condition of the walk clearly denoted the success of the business, which all the town knew anyway, without any need for the gauge of the state of repair of the walk. The little town could ill afford to fill the gaps in the sidewalk and so you had to come prepared for mud in the midst of the concrete as you walked the streets of the small Southern town.  Such was life in a small town, everyone knowing, and no ability to hide nor keep secret any aspect of your life.

        The days were simple—simple and slow—from the outward appearance an Eden caught in a time warp of the world flying by.  A carbon copy of Mayberry with a similar list of characters some sweet-others with sharp edges-some with wagging tongues-and many-many with strong backs-good character-compassionate hearts.  Good citizens who looked past the human flaw and weaknesses of their neighbors and instead chose to focus on the good sometimes buried deep under the rubble of the pain and struggle of life.

        Being a young girl in this close small world, Emma clung to the goodness of what seemed a long ago past.  Emma was small, almost frail, girl with long gangly legs like a colt who dreams of the big pasture.  The past year had been a bad dream that never seemed to end and now the holidays were here.  The questions were buried deep inside: Why was she the girl without a father?  Why did her world get turned upside down?  What had she done to deserve this?  Never accepting the world she lived in, and always dreaming for something better, Emma lived in the present but yearned for the past.
Any thoughts of the warmth and beauty of a holiday filled with family, fun, and food were quickly dashed with the arrival of Thanksgiving.  As the world around celebrated and enjoyed the warm embrace of family and friends, Emma’s family spent a solitary day surrounded by grief and wrapped in loss.  With curtains pulled and lights down low, there was no glimmer of celebration.  A mother so wrapped in her own grief, lost in memories of better days, and fighting the struggle of survival with three children to support, she was unable and unwilling to acknowledge any celebration.  Instead without any explanation she chose to ignore and gave no acknowledgement to the day.  A day filled with silence, sorrow, and memories of a much better time.

 Emma clung to the hope—the hope of the days to come—Christmas was coming—surely things would be better with it drawing near.  A magical time of the year—perhaps this magic would surround her mother—and the glory and wonder—the invisible mystery would once again appear.  The town would be filled with the beauty of the season – even in Mayberry they celebrate Christmas.  She looked to the future in bright anticipation of a time filled with hope and love as they celebrated that very special birthday in a manger of long ago.  Yes—Emma would cling tenaciously to her hope and count the days until her dream came true.


Today is the day--the media has named---BLACK FRIDAY.  Marked by those that love the thrill of shopping and seeking those impossible bargains.  They join the throngs of shoppers--pushing - shoving - hurrying - scurrying - standing in long lines - enjoying the thrill of the chase of the deal of the year.  Is this part of your holiday tradition?  Your holiday would be incomplete without this day of pandemonium?  ENJOY---have a great day!

My day will not be spent in the midst of crowds--never shopping--I had rather scrub commodes than join the throngs of shoppers.  NOT to worry--there will be no scrubbing on this day--I plan to enjoy the day and embrace the joy of this time of thanks. 

 I am thankful for the holiday fare of yesterday.  Today I am enjoying it again AND it is always better the second and third time around.  Why is it so much better as leftovers?  Perhaps the herbs and spices have had time to saturate and penetrate ---bringing out the full flavor of that which started as good and only got better with time.  A little like you and me---we get better with age---like a fine wine--time brings out the deep full flavor and bold bouquet.

I might take a ride--or perhaps even a walk--a slow nature savoring travel down the path.  Ambling along--enjoying the beauty of the day--the slow warming as the late fall sun rises in the sky--bathing in the fall colors as I trek down the path.

Enjoying a laugh---sharing a chat---spending time with those that I love and who love me.  Playing a game--watching football--being close and spending time with those who are special and I hold dear.  What better way to spend my day?

So enjoy your shopping on this Friday known for being black.  I prefer to pass on the shopping spree - not sure I understand the fun of that kind of day.  I much prefer to stop---slow down---relish the day.  My Friday will not be black--nor will it be blue---it instead will be a golden day.

"Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever."
I Chronicles 16:34


Today is Thanksgiving and I dare to say most are with family--friends--and kin.  I too am with family and friends---and Thanksgiving no longer looks like it did for most of my life.  I cherish the sweet memories of years that have gone by and am blessed to now smile when they bubble to the surface.

This year I am especially thankful to discover a corner that has been finally turned.  God has used the friends from my past and the new ones of today to finally convince me He has wonderful plans for today and tomorrow.  He finally is beginning to reveal why He had me move and reminds me of His careful care all along the way.  He never left me---He faithfully loved me--He tenderly provided for me and now He has helped me turn the corner to healing.

He has shown me all the gifts and talents He has richly blessed me with.  He has reminded me of friends from the past and friends being made today.  He has used so many others to remind me of what He thinks of me.  He has allowed me to leave behind the pain of rejection and reminded me of what He thinks.  He thinks I am His beautiful creation--filled with a loving spirit--loved by many and loving many--gifted with the desire to serve--over flowing with a passion for Him and blessed by His deep abiding love for me.

Friends from old and new friends too have all been used by Him to convey what He thinks.  I am strong, I am brave, I am courageous, and I am His beloved.  He has faithfully loved me and steadfastly walked by my side.  He has plans for me and for that I am thankful.  He knows I am special and He has used you to remind me---for that I am thankful.



"I thank my God every time I remember you.

In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy."

Phillipians 1:3-4


As  I went about the daily--the daily sameness of living--I stopped as I stood in front of the mirror.  I stopped---paused---and thought about the reflection that was peering back at me.  Squinting my eyes --studying the image--reflecting not only on what I saw--but who the person is that is staring back at me.  As I paused and pondered, I began to see not the superficial outside--but more--much more.  I peered into my eyes - deep within them - to the very core of me and who I am.

It is my choice of what I see as I gaze into that mirror.  I decide if I will gaze and see the reflection the world would have me to see.  A mirror is not like a photo---there is no capability of air-brushing or re-takes.  When you stare into that mirror---are you gauging the reflection by what the world has told you or are you peering through the eyes of truth?

As I looked in that mirror---I tried to look with the eyes of Christ--not the eyes of the world.  The eyes we peer through totally change the reflection we see.  As I look deep into my eyes---I see a beautiful creation--created in God's own image.  The world has told me different.  

As I gaze deep-deep into those eyes--I see reflected love--love I have learned from His example.  I see compassion for those in pain--in struggles--in need--in grief--in illness--  Deep compassion that draws me to tears when I hear or see the burdens you must bear.  

I see lines by my eyes and my mouth caused from years of laughing and huge smiles.  Years of blessings raining down upon me in the form of children, grands, family, and friends.  All of whom have gifted me with great delight and wonder and my expressions reflect the blessings they bestowed on my life.  I am blessed to have these blessing lines.

Most important--when I gaze in that mirror through the eyes of Christ---I see His good glory reflected.  His creation which He loves dearly--His Holy presence living in the very depth of my being.  A reflection of the aura of His protection and provision and the beauty of His sacrificial love.  I see the true reflection of me and who I am---His beloved.

On This Thanksgiving Eve
My Prayer Is For a Day Filled
With the Wonder
Of His Deep-Deep Love For You
As I Send A Holy Hug
In Thankfulness For
The Blessing Of You In My Life.

"For the Lord your God is living among you.

He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
With His love, He will calm all your fears.
He will rejoice over you with joyful songs." 

Zeph. 3:17


Fodder for your thoughts-

"What are you praying for that will be around in 60 years or more?"

A challenging statement from a recent message at my church.  It started the wheels turning.

Are your prayers "beyond ordinary"?  "What kinds of honor and glory do you bring God when you pray for things that will take care of themselves?" This is NOT to say that we should not pray for any and all concerns--that God places on your heart.  When I pray--I pray about the minutiae as well as the life changing, eternity altering, God seeking, God glorifying.  As I have practiced praying over the years, my prayers at times consist of a day long conversation with Him as well as those in the closet on my knees.

What are the qualities that mark "Beyond Ordinary Prayers"?

HUMBLE--praying in the spirit of one knowing the majestic-glorious-all powerful-all knowing-all seeing-King--and my condition of human frailty-weakness-lowly-fallen-earth bound flesh.    Praying in complete awareness of my limitations and His boundless abilities.  Praying beyond me and my needs-praying with His good purpose and glory always in mind.  Getting my eyes off my navel and scanning the horizon for the big picture.

PERSISTENT--if it is beyond ordinary, if it is within His Will as revealed in His Word, it is worthy of being asked for over and over.  In Mark 10: 47-48, the blind man kept calling to Jesus as He passed.  He did not give up when rebuked or when there was no answer at first but continued to seek Jesus.  The Word is filled with examples of petitions being raised to Him over and over.  Consider the parable of the persistent widow.  Do not give up---with faith continue to call out to Him.  Remember as Tim Keller states:
"God will always answer your prayers in the manner you would have it answered IF you could see what He can see."

BIG-  beyond ordinary prayers are not for the food on the table, safe travel, a good day--most of those will take care of themselves.  We are blessed with His provision BUT BIG means just that BIG.   BIG is beyond yourself--BIG is eternity impacting--BIG is God glorifying--BIG is world changing and yet BIG can be a cure or healing for that which seems hopeless---Big can be the finding of one who seems hopelessly lost--Big can be an oasis in the endless desert.  BIG is always that which we are helpless in ourselves to accomplish and know that we need Jesus to accomplish the task.  We will dismally fail without His help.

SPECIFIC--no bless everyone in our family, keep all the little children safe, bring the lost in China (wherever) to know You, world peace.  Instead name names---name places---name events--name dreams.  This IS NOT to say you name it and claim it---false theology.  This is to say when your prayers are in the will of the Father and serve to glorify Him --then go before Him with specifics--not generalities.

I was inspired and encouraged today with this message.  I am thinking about how this will change my prayers and broaden my scope of just who God is.  It has lead me to desire for my prayers--my communication with Him to be not so ordinary---but FAR BEYOND ORDINARY!

"Your Kingdom Come"
Luke 11:2


I heard a comment today----"I thought God had forgotten me."  How many times has this very statement been repeated?  What utter devastation of spirit would lead to the desperation of this statement?  As I heard those words repeated in my mind over and over, I began to remember how many are lost, lonely, abandoned, rejected, devastated, bewildered, suffering, and on and on with the holidays approaching.  The entire world surrounding them is engaged in joyous celebration and they are frozen in their tracks looking up and questioning "What has happened?".  "Did He forget me?"

The sun rises each and every morning--even when you do not see it--in the eastern sky.  At the end of the day, it slowly sinks in the west--even when you do not see it-to mark the end of the day.  He does not forget.

The seasons change in regular order---Spring begets Summer--Summer begets Fall--Fall begets Winter---Winter begets Spring and they continue to roll around the circle of seasons.  New birth--growth--maturity--and a fade into the stillness of winter--year after year---He does not forget.

The water bubbles out of springs in the ground and fills streams as it leaks from the earth.  The springs flows to rivers and the rivers flow to the ocean.  The tides roll in and roll out in a rhythm of the ages.  He does not forget.

A baby is born into a family---the baby grows to a child---the child grows to a teen--the teen grows to a young adult--the young adult grows to middle age--the middle aged grow to old age--and finally the day comes when life ends and we return to Him.  Some lives are shorter--and yet still--we are born and then we die.  He does not forget.

When you look around at the natural order of the world--stop and pause to consider who created the intricate and perfect orchestration of the world we live in.  Who could have known our each and every physical need and created the world so that  all would be met?  Who could have known our deep need for relationships--and created those that we would meld together with to fulfill that deep heart need?  He does not forget.

If each and every day that comes and then goes you observe the miracles of creation---the stars in the sky--the moon in its stages--the flowers as they bloom---the hierarchy of living beings--the sun as it rises and then again sets-the breath of fresh air--the cool gentle breezes--the canopy of trees--the warmth of the noonday sun---knowing He never forgets to keep it all in motion-pause, reflect, and remember--He does not forget.

Life can be difficult--the path can be rocky--steep--treacherous--but He is there by your side.  He has not forgotten you--nor will He ever.  Look around consider His handiwork and how marvelous it all works together.  You can have faith the sun will rise and set--water will flow to the ocean--the tide will roll in and out--babies will be born and we will all die--He has provided all our physical needs--and when we are lonely----He will fill the void of our aloneness.  YOU CAN HAVE FAITH -HE NEVER FORGETS.

"For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”
Isaiah 41:13


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It is Thanksgiving week----and I praise Him~



We are all happy and filled with such glee
Good food and good fun will be had with all 
Thanksgiving day is coming soon you see
A Celebration day at the end of Fall.


We are busy planning a really fun day
Filled with all of our favorite kin
Playing and running and games, you say
Stories and football for all in the den.


But not everyone is excited as the days pass
leading up to the huge feast
Some are in dread that leads to bad gas
Creating a very unhappy beast.


Tom the Turkey is fretting and dreading it too
Knowing the danger held by the menu
He wishes he could learn how to moo
Or at least ask for a change in his venue.


The other turkeys have told Tom the tale
Of what is planned for the main course
If he had a boat, he would set sail
The rumor must be true it came from a good source.


How could this be? Who has made this plan
Surely a cow would make a better dish
Eating a turkey someone should ban
Why not try a delicious grilled fish?


Poor Tom is resigned to his sure fate
There is only one good thing of the upcoming dinner
After all he surely must rate
Being the main dish must make him the winner.


Every lesson should have a "Take Away" and I hope what you will reap from my words is this:  It will not be the same--but it can be good.  With a change in the cast of characters--it is perfectly alright and perhaps even good to change the traditions.  Different is not bad--different is just different.  Spend some time thinking about how your holidays have looked and how you would like for them to look.  Talk it over with your loved ones--family and friends.  Seek the New Normal--just as normal evolved over years of time before the change in your life---this new normal will also have to evolve and the starting point is this year.  

Perhaps the single most important thing to remember is that you are not the only one in this boat.  There are others out there also suffering during this holiday period.  Many do not have homes, many do not have food for the table much less gifts to share.  Could it be that taking the spotlight off our own grief and concentrating on others we will not only survive the holidays, but actually thrive during them?  The gift God has given me repeatedly over the past few years --the balm for the pain--has been service to others.  Stepping outside of the circle of grief and taking a detour down the path of service.  If I am serving others, I am not thinking of myself.

Are there others in your sphere of influence who might be alone during the holidays?  Invite them into your circle.  Change the venue, change the guest list, change the menu---embrace the change that has occurred and make good changes of your own.  Tradition is important to you--then continue the traditions--relishing in the memories of the past-but recognize the importance of the present.  Change has occurred--face that fact and figure out how to make the present also wonderful. 

I have spent this week writing and encouraging you to not only survive--but create a new normal of joy during these holidays.  How will my holidays play out and will I wrap myself around my own advice?  I promise to report this year how my holidays looked.  I am in control of my holiday--my attitude-my new normal---if it is a dismal failure it will be my fault and mine only---BUT what I am expecting is a joy filled holiday as I seek the new normal--ALL with Him in the center--for I know the plans HE has for me---THEY ARE GOOD!

"2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials"
James 1:2


With the holidays comes food--our entire nation has a preoccupation with food.  As we are eating one meal--we are asking what the next meal's menu will be.  So many moms show their love by the meals they prepare for their loved ones.  The family I grew up in for many reasons did not place the normal importance on eating.  We ate to survive, not survived to eat. I learned to love to cook and grew to relish the resulting product as an adult.  At some point as my mother aged, the responsibility of the holiday meals fell on my shoulders.  I loved cooking the holiday meals, sitting as a family--and with friends enjoying the delicious food and most important the wonderful companionship.  Thanksgiving was shared with life long friends and the menu never varied.  Christmas was a different story--I loved varying the menu from year to year--it was always delicious.

The first year alone--I did not decorate--and I did not cook---and visited #1 son and family and they provided the food. I have very little memory of that Christmas--again God's grace.   There was a void in my life that year in many ways.  I was trying to survive the year of first's.  Last year I went to Austin and we all cooked together.  It was great fun and delicious---traditional Turkey day food. Last year's Christmas is a blur of 3 children--a brand new baby--cooking-washing-cleaning-diapers---I am SURE we ate-but was so busy that I cannot tell you what we ate.

SO what am I up to this year--plans are made for Thanksgiving--involving extended family--more cooks to share the fun.  Grands--a traditional menu--I am looking forward to the day.  Christmas---we tend to not think too far in the future in our family-so your guess is as good as mine.

A long time friend shared with me that she provides the groceries for the holiday meal for families of soldiers who are struggling financially.  "My way of saying thank you."  What a great idea!  I have always bought one of the prepackaged sacks at the grocery that are distributed to those in need by local care agencies.  I have a friend in R who volunteers with the local Christian Community Action--providing food for the needy.  Here in the Big City there is a food bank that distributes food --you can donate or you can volunteer.  How much easier will your huge meal go down knowing you have shared with someone that might not have had this same blessing?

In a nutshell---eat and cook what makes you happy.  So stuck in the quicksand of grief that you cannot begin to think about preparing a meal--no need for worry.  They have places you can go eat all your favorites and not lift a finger.  You want to be together as a family---share the load--you do not have to shoulder the entire burden.  Cherish what is sweet--relish in the sweet memories of holidays past--focus on those around you.  

The menu is not what is important--relationships are important.  God created us to be in relationships---His desire is for us to model those relationships after His relationship with us.  Savor the flavor of the love you are surrounded with--enjoy the sweet aroma of fellowship and fill yourself with the bond of sweet memories as you are sated by the community of loved ones.  Do not get  hung up on the menu---it is not important--the ingredients of love, kindness, service, family, friends, sharing---they will all combine into the best menu possible. 

"And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers."
Acts 2:42 


One of the questions I have asked myself is "Do I decorate or not?".  Remembering all the years that I took the greatest pleasure in having not one room void of holiday cheer is a good memory.  I enjoyed doing it inside-outside--from top to bottom.  LONG hours of decorating and always searching for new and different.  It was fun---the kids and then the grands enjoyed it and still remember their favorite things.  Pumpkins, ornamental corn, gourds, fall leaves, berries and on and on for Thanksgiving. Garlands, pine cones, trees, lights, reindeer, Santa's, boots, sleighs, holly, another long list of decorations for Christmas.  What should all of that look like in my new normal?  

First---who are you decorating for?  If you have a house full of friends and family and you enjoy decorating, then by all means continue the tradition.  If it is just you--leaving for the holidays--just not in the mood---there is NO rule that says you have to decorate.  Two years ago--I was NOT in the mood--and was not going to be home for Christmas.  I did not even get the boxes out of the attic---not even a Charlie Brown tree.  Here I am two years later telling you there was no permanent mental damage done and I do not regret not decorating that year.

Last year I was in my sweet little home in the French Quarter.  I decorated --knowing I would be gone helping with the new baby--I still decorated and loved doing it.  I had friends over and entertained and it was festive and fun.  I did not get out the tree decorations from years past--too many memories tied to them--but instead did a fun-- glitz & glitter tree.  I had my sweet friend that mowed my yard come over and help with the outside lights and all the heavy lifting.  I LOVED the finished product and remembered how much fun it can all be.  I just made it different---and different was good.  My family did not come home--so they did not see and did not miss the traditional decorations---it was me and those sweet friends who came over to enjoy.

Here I am in FW and it is time to think it through again.  This is a transition year-since I am in an apartment.  My FW grands come several times a week to see Lulu-SO I have to decorate for them.  I suspect I will go simpler--but still decorated.  Different with them in mind.  Something that they can play with without me stroking out over breakage.  All the way back to a child's sense of Christmas will probably be my theme.  I do not have outside light outlets--so that will not be in the cards. Something festive--to remind them as they drive up what fun this all is, but simple--child like.

I have also considered the many that are unable to decorate for a multitude of reasons.  Why not purchase a small pre-decorated tree or wreath and take it to a nursing home?  Last year a sweet little family did the 12 days of Christmas- Secret Elf for me.  WHAT FUN!  I did not have a clue who was doing it until they revealed their identity the final day.  I looked forward every day to what they would bring and loved trying to figure out who the secret elf was.  Look back at last year's posts starting with December 1, 2012 and read forward.  It was the highlight of my Christmas!

What will you do?  Consider what I have written---who are you decorating for-change is perfectly acceptable--things have changed--life is evolving and your expectations around decorating can also--do not make it a chore---embrace the joy of doing that which you love and leave the rest behind.  Different is not always bad--but can even be refreshing.  Want and need things to be the same--go for it.  ENJOY the holiday --do not get over-whelmed--concentrate on that which you delight--and leave the rest behind.  Best of all--do something festive for someone else--eyes off the navel and up!

"Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you".


Being slightly OCD--OK----MORE than just slightly--I made a list of the things that need to be thought about when it comes to the holidays.  The TOP of the list--of course---"Where am I celebrating?"  Remember---THIS IS HIGHLY PERSONAL--you have to figure out what is going to work for you.  I will tell you my experiences--take it--think about it---decide what works for you.

When my first grandchild came along, I decided it was important that he and his family establish their own Christmas and holiday traditions.  My memory is full of Christmases of trying to see two sides of family AND squeezing in my own family's celebration--it became a nightmare of exhausted, over-gifted, over-whelmed-whiny kids and perhaps I might have also whined a tad.  Thanksgiving was not as stressful as Christmas--but it was always a balancing act of trying to go and stay and see them all. Something tells me this is NOT what it is all about!

Before I began my Alone Holiday Experience, one of the last Thanksgivings spent as a couple was spent on a holiday trip.    Perhaps under the right circumstances, and for the correct reasons--this might be a good plan.  Do you know someone else facing the holidays alone?  Plan a short fun trip--skiing--to the beach--something quite out of the ordinary.  I must warn you-that the absence of family can feel like a huge void and we ARE creatures of habit---BUT this can also be a great change AND fun.  If you chose this route, remember--it is going to feel different--different is not always bad!  One of my favorite Thanksgiving memories is being in Belize on a island---and eating fresh seafood until I thought I would grow gills.  Sandy beaches--gentle ocean breezes--long days of snorkeling--sun filled days--good company of friends--DID NOT miss the traditional Thanksgiving that year!  Was also SO disappointed when the hotel staff tried cooking the traditional turkey dinner---would have preferred fresh seafood!

My own holiday experiences usually occur at one of my children's homes-  someday they have to take the mantle--mine just took it earlier.  Not having the space nor kitchen facilities to feed a crowd--it just evolved into this. ALSO they have families and should be in their homes with their families. I loved the days of everyone coming home--feeding the entire crowd--but life has moved forward and so must I.

For more than 30 years we had Thanksgiving with our dear friends The Thompson's---alternating homes each year.  I cherish those sweet memories--of cooking together--being together--enjoying the good company.  Our families have grown up and have families of their own.  It is REALLY complicated to think about this happening every year at this point-  perhaps a year here or there--but not every year.  So with my change of status and move--this became increasingly impossible.  Time for a change.

This year I will be sharing Thanksgiving with #1 daughter's sweet in-laws---What a blessing!  Christmas will be different--I will be in FW until just after Christmas day and then go to Austin with #1 daughter and little grands in tow.  The day we are together is not as important as being together--keep that in mind--be flexible.  My plans are always subject to change since my children have another parent to include in their celebrating---but I am open to being flexible and sharing the blessing of family.

I have also considered serving dinner to those who have so little at one of the local missions.  Now THAT will put into perspective how blessed we all are.  Any time I serve those who are so less fortunate, I am the one that receives the greatest blessing.  Their thanks and sweet spirits always humble and grow me.

LOTS OF WORDS--bottom line---think about where works best for you and your family.  It is perfectly fine to stray from the normal--BUT if tradition works for you that is right also.  Start thinking about your new normal--and what works for you and your family now.  Be prepared for different--and embrace the joy of the present.

"Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name."
Psalm 100:4