Merry Christmas: Focusing on The Present

Merry ChristmasMerry Christmas from my home to yours. You’re doubtless every bit as busy as I am (or more), so this will be short and sweet, but I wanted you to know that our family (including 7 kids, 5 with spouses, and 14 grandchildren) is thriving. Christmas Hedgehog Also, this will be the only post for the next couple of weeks while we all celebrate the holidays and enjoy our families. This will be something new for me, as I’ve been trying to post nearly every day for the past year, but sometimes living in the present requires 100% of our attention, doesn’t it? Here’s hoping we’re all able to put aside our past pains, present problems, and future anxieties so we can focus on the goodness God intends us to experience each moment of today in the way of love, joy, hope, and peace in his presence and the present He’s given us: Jesus Christ, His perfect son, who came to show us how to live and then died in our place so that we can have forgiveness for our sins and eternal life. Think of His life—full of pain and suffering, abuse, grief, problems, and reasons for anxiety about the future. Yet, Christ lived a life of perfect compassion and love, fully present with those around him and able to meet every challenge by prayerfully submitting himself to his heavenly Father. He was even able to say, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do” to those who killed him. If Jesus could live a sinless life in the midst of the terrorism the Jews were experiencing at the hands of their Roman oppressors…without a home for refuge, any transportation besides walking, or even food in his cupboard (backpack?), then can we honor Him by taking time to focus on The Present—Jesus—and the time He’s given us to live today? I hope so. God bless you! See you in January.

Names of Jesus“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God,  The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end…” (Isaiah 9:6-7a).


A Different Sort of Night Before Christmas

Cozy fireplace on Christmas EveThis was passed on to my by a cousin, but it made me think of my son Michael, who’s in the military and can’t get home for Christmas this year. However, Mike’s family is hosting some of their closest friends right now, because the father in that family is serving in Afghanistan tonight.

A Different Christmas Poem
The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,
I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.
Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
Transforming the yard to a winter delight.Snowy StreetThe sparkling lights in the tree I believe,
Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.
My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep.
In perfect contentment, or so it would seem,
So slumbered I, perhaps I started to dream.Twinkly Christmas TreeThe sound wasn’t loud, and it wasn’t too near,
But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear.
Perhaps just a cough, I didn’t quite know,
Then the sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.
My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
And I crept to the door just to see who was near.
Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.SoldierA soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old,
Perhaps a Trooper, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.
“What are you doing?” I asked without fear,
“Come in this moment. It’s freezing out here!
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!”
For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts.
To the window that danced with a warm fire’s light
Then he sighed and he said, “It’s really all right,
I’m out here by choice. I’m here every night.”Soldier on guard duty “It’s my duty to stand at the front of the line,
That separates you from the darkest of times.
No one had to ask or beg or implore me,I’m proud to stand here like my fathers before me.
My Gramps died in Europe on a day in December,”
Then he said,”That’s a Christmas ‘Gram always remembers.”
I’ve not seen my own son in more than a while,
But my wife sends me pictures. He’s sure got her smile.
Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
The red, white, and Blue American Flag.
I can live through the cold and the being alone,
Away from my family, my house and my home.
I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.
I can carry the weight of killing another,
Or lay down my life with my sister and brother.
Who stand at the front against any and all,
To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall.”
“So go back inside,” he said, “harbor no fright,
Your family is waiting and I’ll be all right.”
“But isn’t there something I can do, at the least,
“Give you money,” I asked, “or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you’ve done,
For being away from your wife and your son.”
Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
“Just tell us you love us, and never forget.SoldiersTo fight for our rights back at home while we’re gone,
To stand your own watch, no matter how long.
For when we come home, either standing or dead,
To know you remember we fought and we bled.
Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us.”

If you’re enjoying a sense of relative peace and security today as I am—no matter where you live around the world— I hope we stop to consider that on a human level, a major part of the equation is the sacrifice and commitment of our military personnel, most of whom are not able to be home for Christmas so that the rest of us can. May God bless and keep them. May God end war and bring peace and goodwill to all people in every nation through the redemption found in Jesus Christ, who came to earth on “Christmas Eve” so long ago.

“The dayspring from on high hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
Luke 1:78-79


An Update on my Double Singles: A Pleasant Christmas StEve and Noël with Joel

Stephen and Joel at Anna's HouseIt’s been quite a while since I’ve told you much about our two youngest,
Stephen and Joel, but I’ve decided that today’s the day!Chinese Music Conservatory Stephen is now at Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY,
working on his PhD in musicology (although this picture is really from China),Joel and Joel is at N0rtheastern University in Boston, MA,
working on his PhD in literature. Families are like fudgeThey’re both still single, and they’ll both be home for Christmas. Joel, Mom, MikeIn fact, Joel is already homeReserved for Organist but Stephen is the pianist/organist at his church in Rochester so has to stay for a pleasant Christmas (St)Eve(ning) service there and then will be traveling home on Christmas Day, hopefully in time for dinner with the rest of us! Kite and Angel CloudBoth Stephen and Joel keep so busy that they’re a bit like blue streaks
(or purple kites) dancing across my sky,
but their energy and industry make me a very happy mama. Steve just happened to see Laurie at airport in DublinStephen is on a roll with speaking at musicology conferences
and has traveled extensively (even to Dublin, Ireland) presenting papers.
(This is Steve with one of my friends, who just happened to be in Dublin!)Joel and GilesJoel spent the summer interning with Our Daily Bread Ministries here in GR and loved it so much that he would have been tempted to drop out of school had there been a permanent position available. (Joel with one of his nephews.)TeachingHowever, he is doing some free-lance work for ODB
as well as studying and teaching at NEU,
where he’s finished his coursework and is studying for his qualifying exams,Hiking in White Mountains so he’s fully engaged with professional pursuits for the time being. Birthday Dinner at Zeytin'sBeyond their academic careers, Stephen and Joel are working together
on a fantasy political satire in their not-so-spare time.White Mountains Additionally, Joel is very active with his “intentional Christian community” in Boston, a group who not only encourage each other in their faith and outreach, Thanksgivingbut have lots of fun and fellowship throughout the year. Stephen and ZoeI wish every single young person could have such an option during the challenging years between leaving home and finding their lifelong mate. Love the LonelyJust a thought, but if you know someone this Christmas who’s single…why not ask if they’d like to join you for a pleasant Christmas Eve or Noël?Christmas Picture“But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee.” (Psalm 5:11)

From NYC to San Francisco and Facebook to Square

Aaron and CarleenMy firstborn, Aaron, with his wife Carlie and their family Leaving friends in CTpulled up their comfy New England roots Utah and migrated cross country Squareso that Aaron could take a new job with Square, Near Salt Lake City, UTand I wanted to share some pictures (and thoughts) Relaxing at nightfrom their whirlwind journey.Ready to Go! Packed in car It’s mind boggling to consider all they saw and did in just a little over a week, Taking a break for a hikeand one of the most touching things to me New York State Capitolwas that they made sure they visited family as well as saw the sites as they went. Aaron and StephenTheir first stop was to check out younger brother Stephen’s Visiting Stephennew flat in Rochester, With Grandma Joycebut they also saw Carlie’s grandma, our family in GR, Colorado Cousins Kathy and Jodiand other relatives and friends along the way. Maid of the Mist RideBut beyond loving up their family, they took time to ride the Maid of the Mist Niagara Fallsas they crossed from Niagara Falls into Canada.Chicago They stopped in Chicago Art Institute of Chicagoand toured Chicago’s fabulous Art Institute. Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and AquariumThey took time to explore Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquariumwhich is often rated as America’s best zoo now. NevadaThey saw some pretty special sights too:Steamboat on Mississippi a steam boat as they crossed the Mississsippi River at sunset, Elk near Fuita, COelk feeding in the Colorado Rockies, Bonneville Salt Flatsand the amazing desert area called the Bonneville Salt Flats…Rain in the desert??where it started raining! Who would believe??! West Coast, CABy the time they reached the west coast, Sequoiasthey’d had an unforgettable adventure, Ice Cream Breakincluding lots of fun On the road!…and lots of moments that might have been less than perfectly comfortable!  Mountains of Western AmericaAre any of you facing the possibility of big change and/or a big move? Reid's softball team I know it’s super hard to give up the relationships you’ve worked so hard to buildFront Door& close the door on the present chapter of your life, but if God’s calling you: Go! FacebookI’m sure that signing out of Facebook Driving Cross Countryand driving with his family clear across the country A strawberry comes to Squareto begin all over again at a new company has been very challenging for Aaron, Child in a carseat...ready to roll!but by God’s grace and lots of Carlie’s enthusiastic support, they’ve all survivedColorado National Monumentand Aaron is really loving his new job!Gingerbread HouseThey’re still trying to fix up their house Golden Gate Bridgeand find their way around town, All You Need is Lovebut they’re getting their basic needs met Eating Birthday cakeand are already having wonderful fun Cousin funwith their California cousins. Four boys on a wallChange is traumatic, but if we’re willing to face the challenges and respond with faith and courage, the changes promote growth and help us become stronger. Golden Gate ParkSo, if you find yourself at a cross road, I hope you’re willing to prayerfully consider your options, ask God for guidance, and take the risks associated with making whatever changes are for “the best.”CarlieTrust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass” (Psalm 37:3-5).

Fort Christmas

Fort Christmas FortificationsHave you ever heard of Fort Christmas? It sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it?Santa Claus at North Pole? When I first heard the name, I visualized an outpost near the North Pole
for Santa and his reindeer to protect penguins from polar bears. Fort Christmas EntranceBut, in reality, it’s a fort in Florida where construction commenced Fort Christmas Native Americanon Christmas Day back in 1837 during the Second Seminole War. Fort Christmas RiflesHowever, the war moved southward,Fort Christmas Quiltsand the fort was abandoned after just two months.Fort Christmas Cabin 2A hundred and forty years later, Fort Christmas was rebuilt  Fort Christmas Spiining Wheel by fireplaceas a living history settlement to preserve the rural heritage of Florida. Fort Christmas 3Fort Christmas Historical Park is just 45-minutes northeast of Disney WorldFort Christmas Living room and free of charge…Fort Christmas 2a place where kids can roam without fighting crowds or getting lost.Fort Christmas Green grass Rolling in the grass, Fort Christmas Catpetting the cats,Fort Christmas School room and Interpreter or chatting with the interpreters are all acceptable parts of the experience.Fort Christmas LIving roomI found it totally charming…Fort Christmas Fooda pleasant retreat back in time with a gently educational flavor,Fort Christmas farm cabinand something that could definitely counterbalance Disney mania
one afternoon if you’re in the Orlando area.Inside Fort Christmas I was particularly struck by the story of Fort Christmas
(as a response to attack that retrospectively seemed unnecessary)
because it reminded me of Fort Wilkins near Copper Harbor, Michigan,Fort Christmas Soldiers and Native America which I wrote about last September. ( Fort Christmas Military ScenesIn both cases, our military responded out of fear
in a way that appeared unwarranted. Fort Christmas OuthouseI don’t want to draw any false conclusions about military strategy
from these 2 instances, Fort Christmas Alligatorbut it did make me ponder my own life and recall times I’ve responded out of fear rather than seeking God’s direction in frightening circumstances.Fort Christmas Mosquito NettingSafety lies not in self protection, but in obedience to the Lord,Fort Christmas Larderwho desires us to be at peace so that we can “serve him without fear,”Fort Christmas Hunting gearwalking “in holiness and righteousness before him.” Fort Christmas Hymn BookThat’s why God sent Jesus to us that Christmas so long ago.
We don’t need a Fort Christmas, we just need Christ, who is our fortress!

Fort Christmas BibleBlessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; The oath which he sware to our father Abraham, That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.” (Luke 1:68-75)

 (I took all the photos at Fort Christmas near Christmas time, 2014. The Santa cartoon is from

Rise Up, My Love (167): Our Golden Head

Salvador Daili Galacidalacidesoxiribunucleiacid 11.18.14Song of Solomon 5:11 “His head is as the most fine gold…” In verse ten, the bride gave her overall impression of her lover, but now she goes on to analyze his beauties in detail, describing every aspect of his attractiveness from head to toe. “His head,” she says, “is as the most fine gold.”

What—or really who—is the head of Christ? I Corinthians 11:3 teaches us that “the head of Christ is God.” In what way is God “as the most fine gold?” In many ways! Gold is the most precious, most beautiful, most prized metal in earth—and in heaven! In heaven, the city and streets will be paved with gold (Revelation 21:18,21), and Christ himself will be adorned with a golden girdle and a golden crown (Revelation 1:13; 14:14). In the Old Testament, Job declares, “Yea, the Almighty shall be your gold and silver, a tower to you” (Job 22:25 Hebrew Interlinear Bible). God is our treasure. God is our gold… most prized, most precious, most holy. God himself is the pure, golden head of Christ!

When considering this verse, one can’t help but think of the passage in Daniel 2:31-38 where another figure with a head of gold is discussed. Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that troubled him, and God revealed the dream to Daniel: “Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible. This image’s head was of fine gold…”

Now, Nebuchadnezzar’s dream about an image with a head of fine gold left him terrified and troubled rather than thrilled (as the bride doubtless was by her vision), because Nebuchadnezzar did not know and love God at that time. Nevertheless, the symbolism of the head of fine gold was similar. Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was a prophecy about the kingdoms of this world, over which his was to be the first and greatest ruler, or “head.” “Thou art this head of gold,” Daniel explained to him. Gold—the best, the most beautiful, the most highly sought and prized metal in the ancient world—Nebuchadnezzar and his kingdom were likened to gold.

However, as Daniel explained, the future kingdoms would be of lesser strength and power… chest of silver, thighs of brass, legs of iron, and feet of iron mixed with clay. “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever” (Daniel 2:44).

What is the kingdom that shall stand forever? The Kingdom of God! Who will be the king of that kingdom? The King of Kings. Of what shall His head be made? The head of the earthly kingdoms was “of fine gold” (Daniel 2:32), but the head of the heavenly kingdom will be “as the most fine gold” (Song of Solomon 5:11)!

Who is this head of finest gold…most beautiful, most highly sought and prized ruler of the universe? Jesus Christ! For, the Scriptures say, “Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son…who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature…and he is the head of the body, the church…” (Colossians 1:12-18).

Christ is spiritually the king whose head is “as the most fine gold,” “for in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9). In Christ—embodied in the Son of God—is all the fullness of the Godhead: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Jesus Christ is indeed God incarnate…God in the flesh…the head of the body…made of the finest of the best…purest gold! “And ye [we] are complete in Him, which is the head of all principality and power” (Colossians 2:10). We are complete in him who is our head. All the fullness of God is in him; he rules over every principality: every territory in the universe, and every power: every single energy or force or authority to move or change! Christ is the sovereign ruler of the universe, and we are made complete by being united with him…becoming his bride…bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh…members of his body…and joint- heirs with him in his kingdom (Romans 8:17).

(I took this picture of Salvador Dalí’s 1963 painting, “Galacidalacidesoxiribunucleiacid,” which is in the Salvador Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida. Although the picture definitely speaks of God’s offering hope to those who suffer through the resurrection of His Son, I was especially taken by the image of God as our “head of gold” which is reflected again beneath the cloud within the painting.)

Bless Your Baby: (Ideas for the Tenth Month, Week 42)

Blocks288. Asking and Receiving

“He should have fed them also with the finest of the wheat:
and with honey out of the rock should I have satisfied thee.” Psalm 81:16

PRAYER: Dear Father, you are our Rock, and honey flows from you! Thank you for your willingness to feed us with the very finest wheat—our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the bread of life. May we come to you for filling and be satisfied always with your best!

THOUGHT: Although I didn’t study sign language (and you may not choose to either), do think about the gestures you and Baby use to communicate, and help him by being intentional and consistent in whatever signals you do use.

ACTIVITY: Here are a few examples, but you can make up your own too. It is especially helpful if you say the appropriate words while you give the gesture, so Baby is learning what you mean and what to say.

“Yes,” nod and “No” shake. These are probably the first signs a baby learns.

“Open wide!” and open your mouth when you’re trying to get Baby to eat for you.

“All gone!” shrug your shoulders, hands extended out, palms up whenever he’s eaten all of a certain type of food. Either it will be obvious to him just by having you point to the spot where it was, or you can show him the empty cup, bowl, or whatever.

“Drink?” Pretend to hold a cup or bottle and tip your head back like you’re drinking.

“Hungry?” Pat tummy. (Baby can learn to pat his stomach to let you know when he’s hungry or tip his head back with his hand to his mouth when he’s thirsty.)

“Hi” and “Bye” both with a wave of the hand. This one you can practice by having Daddy come through the door and then leave again.

“Shhh” with finger to your lips. It means “time to be quiet” and those who use this gesture are ad infinitum!

“Be held?” reaching arms out to Baby or “Be held” with Baby reaching his arms up to you.

Babies Meeting289. Patient Teaching

“Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him
that teacheth in all good things.” Galatians 6:6

PRAYER: Dear Father, thank you for sending Jesus to be our teacher. He is the faithful and true witness, the cornerstone of our faith, and the “apostle and high priest of our profession.” Jesus is the holy, anointed one…the chosen one. And, he chose us too! Thank you for choosing us to be your children and the recipients of your grace. I pray that Baby would also hear your calling and accept your gifts of salvation, grace and love.

THOUGHT: Although infants are motivated to imitate, grow, and learn from birth, there seems to be a glorious day where they can actually succeed at any particular task. It’s always good to “lead the horse to water,” but let her wait to drink until she’s ready!Alan and SamuelACTIVITY: How about trying a “Where is?” game to see if you can broaden Baby’s understanding of words. If you’ve been playing the “Eyes, Nose, Mouth, Smooch” game, Baby probably knows what those words mean by now. You can add to it the question, “Where are Mama’s eyes?” Where are Baby’s eyes?” “Where is Mama’s nose?” etc. If Baby doesn’t know, point to the correct place. If Baby still doesn’t understand, take Baby’s hand gently and point to the correct spot. If Baby does point to a correct spot when asked a question, be sure to say, “Good!” and clap for Baby. Whenever you play with him, no matter how slow he is about learning, please don’t ever criticize him or make him feel dumb! Be infinitely patient if necessary, and always give him lots of approval for succeeding. Baby needs his parents to be his Numero Uno fans until he has a good spouse to take over that job!!

Bath Toys290. Constant Watch Care

“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.” Psalm 23:5

PRAYER: Dear Adonai, my shepherd, thank you for taking care of me, even in the midst of darkness and trouble. Please bless Baby with that same loving watch care. Please lead her beside still waters and restore her soul. Please keep her safe and lead her into the paths of righteousness for your name’s sake. May goodness and mercy follow her all the days of her life, and may she dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Amen.

THOUGHT: When you’re bathing Baby, keep the water very shallow, so Baby doesn’t float away, and never leave Baby even for a minute. Once when Aaron was almost three and Michael about 10 months, I left them both in the tub to go get some clothes I’d forgotten to bring in beforehand. Somehow I imagined that Aaron understood about the possibility of drowning, but not so. When I returned, Michael was floating on his back with his face just barely above water. Aaron was patting him. Neither of them seemed the least bit distressed, but I was totally traumatized by the realization that Michael could have gone under and Aaron might not have understood the danger or need to lift him out or call for help! (Years later, on more than one occasion Aaron rescued one of his younger siblings from drowning, but that’s another story!) So, the moral of the story is: never, ever leave a child unattended in or near water…even if it’s only a few inches deep.

ACTIVITY: Although the soap in bubble bath is very drying to the skin, for a special treat, you might consider putting a little bubble bath in the tub. It’s also fun to let Baby practice drinking a bit of fresh water from a plastic cup floating on the warm bath water.

Baby standing. M+G's kids copy291. Straight and Upright, but Flow with the Grow

“I have walked in mine integrity; I have trusted also in the Lord; therefore I shall not slide. Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; try my reins and my heart.” Psalm.26:1-2

PRAYER: Father, your Christ will someday return as a glorious king, mustering the armies of the world to fight evil. Help me to remember to “endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ”…to be a well-disciplined disciple and a person of integrity.

THOUGHT: As broad parameters, most healthy children learn to walk sometime between 8-18 months, and probably most learn between 10-14 months. However, babies are unique, complex creations, and many factors impact their development, so enjoy the journey at your child’s pace. If you’re worried about a developmental issue, consult your pediatrician, but otherwise, try not to push Baby to be super fast or worry about him if he seems a bit slow to you. Show him how to do stuff, but relax and have fun. Just flow with the grow.

ACTIVITY: How about a good marching song for our adventurer? If you sing slowly enough, he may be able to catch on to some of the hand motions, and within a year he’ll be able to imitate like a real trooper! (Sing it to the tune of “The Old, Grey Mare.”)

“I may never march in the infantry,”
(March feet up and down without going anywhere)
“Ride in the cavalry,”
(Bounce up and down with hands together as if riding a horse and holding reins)
“Shoot the artillery.”
(Clap hands and pretend to fire off a round of shells from an automatic rifle)
“ I may never fly o’er the enemy,”
(Arms out and tipping side to side like an airplane flying)
“But I’m in the Lord’s army!”
(At every “I” point to yourself, and at every “Lord” point up toward heaven)
“Yes, Sir!”
(At every “Yes, Sir!” salute smartly.)
“I’m in the Lord’s army! Yes, Sir! I’m in the Lord’s army!”
At the end, repeat the first five lines.

Listening to voice292. The Sound of Your Voice

“Hear attentively the noise of his voice,
and the sound that goeth out of his mouth.” Job 37:2

PRAYER: LORD God, I love that your voice is like the sound of many waters. Your voice thunders and is awesome. I also love that you sometimes speak to us in a still, small voice and whisper in our ears, “This is the way; walk in it!” Thank you for Jesus, who is our wonderful Shepherd and calls us by name. Please bless us, dear Lord: May we always listen for your voice and respond in faith, following you wherever you lead.

THOUGHT: I don’t know if anyone has figured out why there’s such an increase in autism in the world over the past few decades, and I don’t know if anything can be done to prevent it. But, I do know that the more pleasant verbal cues you can give Baby, the better, so keep up the happy flow of communication, and let him hear your voice!

ACTIVITY: Here is a verbal skills game that will become increasingly funny to Baby as he grasps language better and begins to understand which words are real and which are not. In the meantime, he will enjoy hearing the many variations on a word theme. Take any word and then make rhyming sounds, whether or not they are real words. For example: pickle, quickle, rickle, jickle, nickel, tickle, sickle, lickle, mickle, dickle, brickle. Sammy, lamby, jammy, nammy, whammy. Funny, honey, bunny, runny, money, sunny, wunny, dunny. Or, you can literally go through the alphabet from A-Z. For a starter: At, bat, cat, drat, et, fat, gat, hat, it, jat, etc. Or, air, bear, care, dare, ‘ere, fair, gair, hair, etc. If you and Daddy are riding in the car together, you can both participate and double Baby’s fun.

Trottin' Trottin' Go to Town293. Peace in the Midst of Jolting

“The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1

PRAYER: Oh Lord, you are my light and my salvation, so why should I be afraid? With you protecting me and strengthening me, I can do whatever you ask me to do. Help me to rely on Jesus Christ, remembering that he is the power of God and the ruler of your creation. Please bless my family. May we remember that Jesus is our peace!

THOUGHT: Babies love games! Most babies love some games where there are surprises and sudden turns as long as they are happy and feel very secure in your care. I wouldn’t try this game on a baby you don’t know, or have a stranger try it with your infant, but it’s a lot of fun for the 1-3 year-old set, and your little one will probably enjoy it too.

ACTIVITY: Here is a “ride on the knee” game that even older toddlers love. If Baby enjoys it, and he’s not too intimidated to be off your lap for a few minutes, he might enjoy watching other children play the game after he’s had a chance, and it will be a way of befriending curious children without putting too much pressure on Baby to be their direct playmate. However, if Baby is around older children who are too demanding, you may want to save this game for times when it’s just the two of you.

“Trottin’ trottin’ go to town,”
(Bounce Baby on your knee for each first line of each verse)
“Watch out Baby or you might fall down!”
(Holding Baby so he doesn’t really fall,
lean him backwards as if he’s going to fall.)
“Trottin’ trottin’ go to Dover,
Watch out Baby, or you might fall over!”
(Tip Baby off to one side.)
“Trottin’ trottin’ go to Lynn,
[which is the name of a river in England]
Watch out Baby or you might fall in!”
(Holding Baby so he doesn’t really fall,
separate your legs and let him go through.)

Metal Truck Toy294. Safe on the Rock

“In the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.” Psalm 27:3-5

PRAYER: Dear Savior, please bless Baby, protect her from harm and make her secure!

THOUGHT: Although playing in the sand has always been a perennial favorite of children—ours as well as the world’s—I do have one grim caution. Never let any child dig into the side of a sand hill so far that she puts his head inside the hole. Once while playing along the rugged coast of Lake Superior, our children began digging a long tunnel into the side of the sandy shoreline. Jonathan, who was probably about ten, dug so ambitiously that he had a tunnel long enough to fit almost his entire body into it…when it collapsed on him. Dad and I were strolling up the sandy beach, and had it not been for the screams of the kids and Alan’s lightning fast running and digging (in fact, frantic digging by all of us), Jonathan would have suffocated to death. To this day I have traumatic memories, as I’m sure Jonathan does. So, never let a child put his head into a hole he’s digging…sand, dirt, or anything!

ACTIVITY: Big metal, toy construction trucks were among our boys’ favorite toys for many years. They are very expensive, but at some point you might consider investing, because they last pretty close to forever. They make dump trucks, bulldozers, graders, front-end loaders, back hoe, etc.! Our kids’ favorite was probably the dump truck, which could be loaded up with sand and moved to the far corners of the world (about one foot) to build a great mountain…which would then be summarily smashed, bulldozed, and used for future construction projects back at the original site.

Crazy Christmas Questions

Snoopy Hanging Christmas StockingsJust in case you need a few more riddles to make your season bright:
(I’ve dedicated a few to various loved ones for fun…hope you don’t mind…)

How many presents can Santa fit in his sack when it’s empty?
Only one; after that it’s not empty anymore. (What do you think, Ru?)

Did Rudolph go to school?
No. He was Elf-taught. (God bless all homeschooling moms this season!)

What do you get when you cross a snowman with a vampire?

Frostbite! (Olivia M….)

How do snowmen get around?
They ride an icicle.

What did the beaver say to the Christmas Tree?

Nice gnawing you!

Who delivers presents to baby sharks at Christmas?

Santa Jaws.

Oh, ya? Well then, who gives presents to puppies?
Santa Paws, of course! 🙂

What do you get if you cross a bell with a skunk?

Jingle Smells. (Dedicated to the memory of our beloved Abishai, who could never resist chasing skunks, and for all of you who love and own dogs.)

Who hides in the bakery at Christmas?
A mince spy. (This one’s for Annika. Congrats on your new bakery!)

What carol is heard in the desert?

O camel ye faithful! (Dedicated to my son Stephen and all musicologists.)

What do you sing to a snowman who’s depressed because he’s melting?
Freeze a jolly good fellow.

Why did Santa’s helper see the doctor?

Because he had a low “elf” esteem. (These 2 are for all my psychiatrist friends~)

What do you call a bunch of chess players bragging about their games in a hotel lobby?
Chess nuts boasting in an open foyer. (I’ll try this one of my son Aaron!)

What’s green, covered in tinsel and goes ribbet ribbet?

Mistle-toad. (For all grand kids who love toads [which includes all mine!])

What did the stamp say to the Christmas card?
Stick with me and we’ll go places! (This one’s for my husband.)   🙂

Why don’t you ever see Father Christmas in hospital?
Because he has private elf care. (Dedicated to all dedicated physicians.)

Why did no one bid for Rudolph and Blitzen on eBay?
Because they were two deer! (For all fellow lovers of second-hand stores.)

What is the best Christmas present in the world?

A broken drum, you just can’t beat it! (For my drummer boys, Dan and Joel.)

How is a Christmas tree like a clumsy knitter?
They both drop needles. (Did you almost guess this one? I did! Dedicated to all knitters, especially Sarah J. and my son Michael, who are the best knitters I know!)

How did Mary and Joseph know that Jesus was 7lb 6oz when he was born?
They had a weigh in a manger. (Now here’s one I couldn’t guess, dedicated to Kari, the best Ob/Gyn I know!)

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22, NIV)

Need a Laugh? Here are a few Christmas Jokes

gingerbreadhouseIf your Christmas holidays have been as challenging as mine, then I thought you might be ready for a bit of light-hearted humor. I don’t think I have a funny bone in my body, so I have to resort to perusing the net to find silly jokes to share with my grand kids when they visit. But, whether you’re young at heart or old in body and looking for some fun to pass along to the young’uns this holiday season, I thought you might enjoy these from the Boys’ Life magazine:

Darth Vader: I know what you’re getting for Christmas.
Luke: How do you know?
Darth Vader: I can feel your presents. (Mark R., Barrington, RI)

Luke: What do elves do after school?
Jeffrey: I don’t know. What?
Luke: Their gnome work! (Luke C., Somers, NY)

Joe: What nationality is Santa Claus?
Moe: What?
Joe: North Polish. (Joe B., Huntersville, NC)

Will: Where do snowmen keep their money?
Bill: Beats me.
Will: In a snow bank. (Will M., Big Canoe, GA)

Tim: Did you know Santa had only eight reindeer last Christmas?
Jim: Huh?
Tim: Comet stayed home to clean the sink.
(Tim S., Merriam, KS)

Josh: What does Jack Frost like best about school?
John: What?
Josh: Snow and tell. ( Joshua S., Lafayette, IN)

Teacher: Johnny, define claustrophobia.
Johnny: Fear of Santa Claus? (Ronesha M., Allen, TX)

Santa: Knock, knock.
Elf: Who’s there?
Santa: Olive.
Elf: Olive, who?
Santa: Olive the other reindeer. (Joe R., Saint Charles, MO)

Amanda: What’s the difference between Santa’s reindeer and a knight?
Robert: What?
Amanda: One slays the dragon, and the other’s draggin’ the sleigh. (Amanda M., Springfield, MO)

Josh: Knock, knock!
Samantha: Who’s there?
Josh: Dexter.
Samantha: Dexter, who?
Josh: Dexter halls with boughs of holly.  (Josh B., Dublin, OH)

“Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God” (Isaiah 40:1).

Welcome to My World!

Christmas PartyI love being 65. At 65, people stop expecting so much out of you. If you’re still working, then people know you either like to work or you need to work, but either way, you’re still able to work, and that’s good! The kids are grown, so finances aren’t quite so tight, and if you want to go to bed at 9:00 pm, there’s nobody around to think you’re weird! Tired is acceptable. If you’re accidentally fashionable, that’s a plus, but you can wear purple or red or black and nobody thinks anything of it. Brenda, Virginia, and MeHowever, I’ve also noticed a distinct downside, which is that peak memory, hearing, vision, strength, and endurance all begin to ebb slowly away, leaving me feeling like a senior citizen—which—of course I am—although it somehow never occurred to me! Larry and KariFor example, we’d made plans to have dinner with friends before the Michael W. Smith concert last week, but just as I was getting ready to pull into the restaurant, Kari called to let me know that she and Larry had forgotten their tickets and would have to go back home to get them. Yikes! Alan and I had forgotten our tickets too! We had to scrap dinner, fly home, and grab burgers from a McDonald’s drive through in order to make it to the church on time! Forever Friends!Last night, we had dinner with the same friends and another couple. Alan was relating my faux pas of somehow having 1.1 terabytes of pictures on my 1 terabyte computer that had totally shut it down, making us late for our dinner after spending an hour at the Apple store trying to get help. Brenda serving teaOur hostess had some stories to share too: Her router wouldn’t work, and after a lot of frustration, she called tech support, who figured out that she’d unplugged her modem! On another occasion, her remotes wouldn’t work properly, and a different support tech support figured out that she’d accidentally swapped the two remotes. Thankfully, we can just laugh and pray together! It sure helps to have fellow pilgrims traveling the road with you!Kari's famous plum pudding While relating some of these tales to my 76-year-0ld brother, he just laughed! “Welcome to my world.” So, I’ve been thinking about the world of baby boomers who’ve now become senior citizens. May I encourage us all with this silver lining as we grow older? As our natural abilities start to fade, may we focus more on spiritual perceptions. Our physical losses could be very depressing were it not for the challenge that our inner man can (and should) continue to grow throughout life. May those of us who are senior citizens respond to our calling to continue to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!Flaming Plum Pudding

For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).