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Christmas Offering

30 Dec

Ascribe to the LORD the glory due His name.
Bring an offering and come before Him;
Worship the LORD in the splendor of His holiness.
I Chronicles 16:29

 

 

“I bring an offering of worship to my King
        No one on earth deserves the praises that I sing
                 Jesus, may You receive the honor that You’re due
                        O Lord, I bring an offering to You.”

The offering that I bring is my heart … my heart that is overflowing with gratefulness from Christmas.  Christmas that brought family together from many miles apart.  Christmas that bridges the gaps in relationships.  Christmas that celebrates anticipated new life.  Christmas that honors and remembers those we still love who have gone on before us.  Christmas that embraces the gift of my heart as an offering to Jesus ~ the Baby in the manger ~  my Savior. 

Our Family ~ Dec 23, 2011

My Mother’s home was the hub of our Christmas reunion as our family made its way across the country from two different directions to spend time together.   Six of us, including a dog, a 2 ½  year old little boy, and a pregnant mom, traveled from central Pennsylvania and Baltimore ~ Ryan and Brittany flew into Indianapolis from Seattle.  What a great time we had as we shared laughter, family fun, little boy antics, and the warm company of many extended family members over the course of 4 days.  Special memories were made and will be tucked away in the recesses of our hearts.

Speaking of hearts, just a little more than a month ago, Tim had a second stent inserted inside his original one from 2004.  This original stent, which he received while living in Albuquerque, was 99% blocked.  As soon as he began to shovel the heavy 6” snow that we received late October, he began having immediate pain and shortness of breath.  We are grateful for these modern day miracles that can open a blockage and fix a heart within moments.

Moments are what seems to have passed by when we look at our grandson and realize that he will be three years old in March.  This tiny pre-mature newborn has grown into a healthy, vibrant, smart, and very talkative little boy.  He says what he thinks, and he must think all the time!  His play world still includes tractors of every make, size, and color ~ and they all tip like in the CARS movie!  Dora and Diego, Toy Story, Winnie the Pooh, and of course, CARS all entertain him.  He loves to sing, he loves his dog, he dearly loves both sets of grandparents, and he loves life.  Cole Michael will be a big brother in May … and he loves to kiss his momma’s preggie belly ~ his baby sister.

Thrilled doesn’t even come close to describing our hearts as we anticipate the birth of our grand daughter in May.  A cheery bright nursery is being put together with love in the Arndt home, accented in pink and frills.  Kim’s first 5 ½  months of expectant bliss has been survived as she has kept up with Cole during the day, grateful for the time when Daddy comes home from work to give her some rest in the evenings. Troy has been with Booz Allen Hamilton for a year and a half, and is now a Senior Consultant.  This next year he will be working on his Masters degree in Cyber Security via an online program through UMUC.   He and Kim are members at the Grace Pointe Community Church of the Nazarene in Severn, MD where they are part of the leadership team for a new contemporary service beginning the first of the New Year.  They are also active in a weekly Bible study, and Kim and Cole participate in the monthly Mom’s group.  We are so grateful that they have found a church home that has embraced them in love, support, and the Word. 

Words are never enough to express my love for my children.  Besides Kim and her little family being only a little more than an hour away in Maryland, Ryan is still living in Seattle,Washington.  He is an assistant store manager for Verizon Wireless, with his sites set on having his own store soon.  He still enjoys playing ultimate Frisbee with friends, watching sports, and reading.  He is still dating the most precious and beautiful young lady, who has stolen all of our hearts … Brittany Bergam.  She works as a medical transcriptionist and is planning on applying for medical school in the near future.  We were blessed to have them both join us at my Mother’s house last week for Christmas.  Time seems to slip by all too quickly when we are with Ryan and Brittany! 

Family at the beach

However, vacation in August was awesome!  Ryan and Brittany, my Mother, the Arndts, along with Mimi and Papaw, packed, overloaded two vehicles, and headed for Bethany Beach, Delaware!  We rented a condo, which was just a short drive to the ocean, swimming pool, golf, volleyball, and shuffleboard!  We played games, ate delicious meals fixed by all, enjoyed Cole’s slow progression toward liking the sand and the surf, and the company was just superb!  Four generations to love, to share, and to cherish!  The final few days of our family time included a birthday party for Tim, who turned 50 years old on August 5th.  With Ryan and Brittany still here, Tim’s mom, along with some of his siblings came for an afternoon of smoked pulled pork and birthday cake.  He was totally surprised and enjoyed every moment of the attention!

Tim is still employed by Kitchen Savers where he remodeled kitchens until he had knee surgery in June, when he had a torn meniscus repaired.  Following this procedure, he then assumed a position in the office as Installation Manager.  He measures the jobs, orders the material, schedules each crew to a job every week, and makes sure it all gets done to the customer’s satisfaction.  His responsibilities require several hours of his time each day, but we are home together each evening for dinner, and he has his weekends free to relax and enjoy life.  Now since he had the new stent inserted in November, his energy level has picked up, and he’s feeling much better! 

After working a couple temporary jobs earlier in the year, I am currently working part time in the office for the Robert Clofine Elder Care Law Firm.  Office duties are shared and we give support to two attorneys and two paralegals.  It is quite an experience to see first hand the pain, heart ache, and the decline in folks as they age and become dependent upon others.  Although the job was not posted as one of ministry, I use it as such as I daily pray for clients and especially for those with whom I work.  Since my hours are part-time, this allows me to keep up with the house, the yard, my writings, and my grandson!  Tim and I have been attending Stillmeadow Church of the Nazarene in York, PA.  I am so grateful that God is faithful to always lead us to a church fellowship where the Pastor preaches Holiness in every message.  God’s Word and my early morning time with Him continue to carry me through the day-to-day routine of life.  I keep an active prayer list, gleaning names and needs from Facebook, emails and texts, and nudges from God Himself, spending time praying for family and friends.  This is my ministry for now … for such a time as this.

Click here to listen to …  Christmas Offering by Casting Crowns

Over the skies of Bethlehem appeared a star
While angels sang to lowly shepherds
Three Wiseman seeking truth they traveled from afar
Hoping to find the child from heaven
Falling on their knees they bow before the humble Prince of Peace

 

Just as the wise men traveled from afar, seeking Truth,
hoping to find the Child from heaven,
our family journeyed many miles to
come together to celebrate His birth …



We bring an offering of worship to our King
No one on earth deserves the praises that we sing
Jesus may you receive the honor that you’re due
O Lord I bring an offering to you

The sun cannot compare to the glory of your love
There is no shadow in your presence
No mortal man would dare to stand before your throne
Before the Holy One of heaven
It’s only by Your blood
It’s only through Your mercy
Lord, I come

I bring an offering of worship to my King
No one on earth deserves the praises that I sing
Jesus, may you receive the honor that you’re due
O Lord, I bring an offering to you

We bring an offering to you
We are an offering to you
We are an offering to you, Jesus

We are an offering of worship to our King
No one on earth deserves the praises that we sing
Jesus, may you receive the honor that you’re due
O Lord, we bring an offering to you

O Lord, we bring an offering to you

We bring an offering to you
We are an offering to you
We are an offering to you

 

As this Christmas season comes to an end with the beginning of another New Year, may you join me in bringing an offering of worship to our King …

It’s only by Your blood
It’s only through Your mercy
Lord, I come …

 

Merry Christmas and a Most Blessed New Year!
The Van Hooks

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Merry Christmas Daddy!

16 Dec

For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father
deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting
and urging you to live lives worthy of God,
who calls you into His kingdom and glory.
I Thessalonians 2:11-12 

It would only be most appropriate to sit here and sip on a hot cup of coffee (with cream and sugar, as opposed to black) as I jingle Heaven’s portals with a Christmas greeting to you.  The sights and sounds of the holidays have a way of tugging at the memories of my heart, and I always miss you so much during the holidays. 

You know that I so enjoy all of the music this time of year, but there is a distinct genre of songs that melt this little girl’s heart into a puddle of warm memories.  Just a few notes of one of these songs, and I am immediately transported back to any cold December day in my childhood. Remember how you and I would go shopping together every Christmas and buy gifts for Mom?  Every store we went into and every station on the radio would be playing Burl Ives’ “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas” or Nat King Cole’s “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire”.   I loved being with you, Daddy … your funny little quirks of always stopping at the men’s cologne counter to splash a half dozen different scents of after shave lotion on your face, often taking my own little face in your hands and lovingly pat the potpourri of manly fragrances on my little girl cheeks.  A few more songs like the musical rendition of “Sleigh Ride” by Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops and “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” sung by Andy Williams would serenade us as we began our quest for the right gift that year for mom.  You loved to have a lot of gifts under the tree for her ~ I always felt like it was your way of showing her how much you loved and appreciated her.  Soft and flowing night gowns with matching robes, a new winter coat with accompanying boots, and peanut brittle.  Oh, the big gifts were different every year, but we also always got her a box of peanut brittle.   I picked up that yummy tradition in your honor until a few years ago when she began to make her own homemade brittle … thinking of you the entire time she’s doing so, I’m sure.  Speaking of peanuts, on our way out of Sears and Roebuck, you would usually swing by the snack area and buy you and me a small bag of warm salted cashews.  How fun to remember how special that made me feel that you would stop and buy this special treat for me … you and me.  I don’t even know if we saved any for mom and the boys. 

I had to chuckle the other day as I was walking through the grocery store and passed by the infamous bag of mixed nuts!  Do you remember the glass dish that mom got out at Christmas and filled with all sorts of hard candy, oranges, and nuts?   I think of you every time I look for something in the utility drawer in my own kitchen and I see the nut cracker and pick.  I have so many simple, but oh so special holiday memories of you, Daddy. 

Your birthday is coming soon, which always means that Christmas is only a few hours away.  You were always so gracious, having a Christmas Eve birthday, to excitedly accept your annual birthday gift of new Christmas pajamas right along with us kids!  Still to this day, you are always remembered and sung to in the unique Wells tradition … as the birthday cake is shared by many December birthdays each year.  “… Happy Birthday, dear Daddy / Grandpa Johnny!” 

There is an unmistakable warmth, safe and secure, and happy feeling ~ embraced with all the love a little girl’s heart can hold ~ when I think of you, Daddy … especially at Christmas time.  The aromas, the sounds of the holidays, the fun varieties of cookies, snacks, fruit, and the Christmas dinner itself, … and just the presence of our family together.  Thank you, Daddy, for sufficiently providing for us, with not only the things we needed, but with lots of love, attention, and security.   I know your grandkids still remember you for your extreme heart of fun and love that always made each one of them feel so special.  You have great grandkids now, Daddy!  Tim is a grandpa to Kailee’s kids, and Jay is just weeks away from holding his first grandson!  And I will once again be Mimi as Kim is expecting her second little one in May … her own little girl!   Oh Daddy … I miss you so!

You know how busy it gets this time of year, but we all plan to be together once again at your house.  You may not physically be there, but you will be there.  Your example, your jovial and sometimes feisty spirit, and your love will always be with us!  Instead of the 5 of us, plus Mammy and Pappy ~ like it was every year for many years, there will be 25 of us and 3 babies on the way.  What a blessed heritage you gave to each of us … yes, you will be there.   Make that 26.

The older I get, the more I miss you.  There must be something about better understanding the struggles and the hard times of life ~ and wishing that I had paid more attention and spent more time on my knees then than I did.  But here we are.  The journey for me continues, and I know that my tears will continue to flow from time to time … until they will be dried by Jesus Himself as I am met by you at that great Gate … Someday.   

Well, I will hush for now, Daddy.  I promise to meet you here again, from time to time, on the pages of my heart.  Happy 78th Birthday, Merry Christmas, and I love you!

Until next time,
Your Bobby Naw

For a nostalgic walk through some of these favorite classis  Christmas songs … click below!

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year by Andy Williams       http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gFtb3EtjEic

The Christmas Song by Nat King Cole                                                    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oqpyfa2EmzQ

Holly Jolly Christmas by Burl Ives                                                         http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Up1t5siifEw

Sleigh Ride by Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops                         http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rAm9TloD2bA

White Christmas by Bing Crosby                                                              http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aShUFAG_WgM

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer  by Gene Autry                           http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T5VdsuQ-YfM

Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree by Brenda Lee                          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bnIqLlBwzrc

Let It Snow by Dean Martin                                                                        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mN7LW0Y00kE

It’s Beginning to Look Like Christmas by Perry Como                    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6KjSsTagY3s

Silver Bells by Bing Crosby and Carol Richards                                 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H4mkRR4oJNM

I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause by Jimmy Boyd                       http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UI8spatbGEo

For my friends who subscribe to Morsels of Mercy and automatically get a copy sent to your email, check out the blog on my website to see additional photos of my family         https://morselsofmercy.wordpress.com

**  Blog photo of Christmas decorations … 2011 

Camping

8 Jul

The LORD will guide you always;
He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame. 
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
Isaiah 58:11

We used to camp a lot when our kids were growing up.  Honestly, it was the only way we could afford a vacation that provided swimming, hiking trails, and playground equipment that did not include staying with relatives or friends.  Through the years we had a variety of shapes and sizes of campers which depended on our income level and the amount of people in our family.  When we were first married, we worked some special deal while buying a used Fiesta from some friends, and they threw in their very old and very tattered fold-down camper.  We took great pride in fixing up this box on wheels.  We scrubbed, we repaired, we painted, replaced, and took along a big tarp to cover the skylight and to keep out the mosquitoes.  It wasn’t much, but it was enough to allow us to travel to Niagara Falls on our first wedding anniversary.  Now, 30 years later, we can look back on those days and smile with fond memories. 

Camping at Rehoboth Beach

As the kids came along and we needed to have more amenities to make life more comfortable for all, we bought a Viking pop-up, complete with ice box, sink, stove, lights, and a furnace!  We felt like we had moved right up into a Holiday Inn!  We still made sure we were within walking distance to the bathhouse, but we had most of the other luxuries of home!  A few years later as Kim and Ryan were getting bigger and Dad’s job provided us with the extra income, we bought a 22’ Prowler travel trailer.  Wow!  We now had a couch, an overhead fold-down bunk, a kitchen with stove, counter top, sink, refrigerator and table, a closet, and a bathroom with toilet, sink and tub/shower!  Nice!!  We felt like we went from a Holiday Inn to a Residence Inn!!  

Those were fun times, full of memories that will last a lifetime!  Hot, humid days were survivable because we spent nearly the entire day at the beach or in the pool.  Fans were set up against the screen ‘windows’ at night to pull in the not necessarily cool night air, but the less hot air of the evening.   A quick passing thunderstorm was always welcomed as we often sat near the screened windows in order to feel the cool mist from the rain outside.  The distinct smell of charcoal burning and the aroma of bacon frying tweaks a camping memory every time!  Sigh …

Well, this past weekend was a gentle reminder of those days as the air conditioner in our home went out Saturday evening.  Not quite sure why the house wasn’t staying cool as we went to bed, we opened windows and doors, setting up fans to pull in the less hot air of the evening.  By the light of the following morning, Tim diagnosed the problem as a simple fix, but it was Sunday and a holiday weekend.  A family cook-out was on the schedule for our day, so we loaded up food, swim gear, the grandson and his parents, and headed up to Harrisburg.  The hot, humid day was survivable because we spent a big part of the day in the pool.  After eating, swimming, and visiting with siblings, nephews and nieces, babies and children, aunts and uncles, we headed back home to our non-air conditioned home.  The pre-plan to build a bon-fire and roast hot dogs and marshmallows was quickly vetoed, so we ordered a yummy white pizza from our favorite local pizza shop and had it delivered.  We sat out on our screened-in back porch with the ceiling fan on high, listening to the constant chirp of our backyard birds while we welcomed a quick passing thunderstorm that blew in a refreshing mist that lowered the temperature several degrees!  With fans strategically set up throughout the house (including one on the grandson while he napped) to pull in the cooler evening air, I believe we actually began to enjoy the ambiance of the moment.  As the “noisy pretty lights” were beginning to show in the sky, we all piled in our van and drove a short distance to gain a better view of the local fireworks.  Years ago we would find the right spot to sit with the kids to watch the sky light up,  and then head back to the camper.  We did the same again this year. 

Now, we always had the alternative to pack up and spend the time in Baltimore at Kim and Troy’s home, where the air conditioner is always on high.  The suggestion was often mentioned, but I think there was something unusual and alluring about staying here and ‘roughing’ it.  The birds were louder, as were the motorcycles and loud trucks, the smell of the bacon frying was more inviting, the breezes were felt and greatly appreciated, the taste of the ice cream was more refreshing, and the laughter in the little boy’s swimming pool was more fun because our perspective was a bit different.  It felt like we were camping, but we were certainly staying in the Renaissance of the Marriotts this time … minus A/C. 

Once our daughter and her family said their good-byes and headed back to the real world of air conditioning and home, I actually had one more day of vacation.  Computer problems at my place of employment kept me from going to work on Tuesday.  Allowing myself the luxury of sleeping in a few hours, I slowly woke to the bright beams of sunshine that flooded through both of my opened bedroom windows onto my bed, along with the cooler morning air which was being pulled in by the fan.  As I pulled the covers back and crawled out of bed, my heart was full of anticipation of the new day ahead and the hope of seeing the A/C repairman soon.  Later as I clicked the thermostat over to COOL and shut all of the windows and turned off all of the fans, there was a big part of me that was grateful for the excuse I had had to sit out on the porch more than usual, to enjoy the cool mist of the rainstorm, and to wake up with my blinds and my windows opened wide to the bright sunshine. 

Won’t you join me in accepting the unexpected and less comfortable moments while we embrace the improvised, unusual, and rare?  Sometimes it takes times like those to see the ray of sunshine that otherwise would’ve been hidden and never enjoyed.

Until next time,
Debbie

Blog photo of flowers taken in our backyard ~ July 8, 2011

Completely

20 May
 

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul
and with all your mind and with all your strength. 
The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 
There is no commandment greater than these.”
Mark 12:30-31

 

I was honored with an invitation to be the guest speaker at a ladies’ annual spring banquet last Friday night.  The church was located back in my old tromping grounds of southern Indiana, so I was blessed beyond measure to have 12 of my dearest friends from the Cincinnati area come and see me!  The evening’s festivities began with cupcake chat, singing, and a delicious dinner.  What a joy it was for me as I sat there eating, talking, and listening to the different conversations around the table … trying to soak up every moment of being with my friends so I could tuck away the evening’s morsels of memories and savor them later. 

Most of the gals, plus my Momma!

With satisfied and full tummies, we all made our way back up to the sanctuary for the remainder of the evening.  Moments before I was introduced and welcomed to come up front, a young lady began to sing a very special song.  As the music started to play for her accompaniment, my heart began to swell and my eyes began to fill.  I sat there in that pew, totally transported to another time and another place. 

The time was September 13, 2006 and the place was Higher Ground Conference and Retreat Center in West Harrison, Indiana.  Having packed every item we owned, leaving behind our place of ministry in Albuquerque, NM for the past 9 years and friends too many to count, a new life was before us.  After traveling for 3 days and 1400 miles, we were almost there.  As I followed behind the big yellow moving truck and exited off the interstate, I slipped my Sandia Women’s Retreat 2006 Worship CD into the player and found this special song on purpose.  The message of the words penetrated my being as I once again had to let go and surrender everything to His control.  With tears streaming down my face, we pulled onto the grounds of our new home, ministry, and life.  I sang this song as an act of worship … my heart filled with sadness in leaving friends and ministry behind, and my soul filled with the uncertainty of a new place, new work and ministry, and new people.  Right there in that moment …  Click here to listen

COMPLETELY 

The secret of life is letting go
The secret of love is letting it show
In all that I do
In all that I say
Right here in this moment

The power of prayer is in a humble cry
The power of change is in giving my life
And laying it down
Down at your feet
Right here in this moment

(Chorus)
Take my heart
Take my soul
I surrender everything to your control
And let all that is within me lift up to you and say
I am yours and yours alone
Completely

This journey of life is a search for truth
This journey of faith is following you
Every step of the way
Through the joy and the pain
Right here in this moment

(Chorus)
Take my heart
Take my soul
I surrender everything to your control
And let all that is within me lift up to you and say
I am yours and yours alone
Completely

Right here, right now, and for the rest of my life
Hear me say

(Chorus)
Take my heart
Take my soul
I surrender everything to your control
And let all that is within me lift up to you and say
I am yours and yours alone
Completely

I am yours and yours alone
Completely

 

As I sat there last Friday night once again listening to this song, I could still smell the freshly mown grass, I could see the deep plush green of everything (as opposed to the very little green and mostly brown that we had grown to love in Albuquerque), and I could still feel the intense ache, fear, and loneliness that enveloped me at that moment in 2006.   But as that young lady continued to sing, my Jesus wrapped His arms of love around me and whispered in my ear … “Look around you.”  There I was, literally surrounded by 3 rows of women who specifically came to see me.  These weren’t just any women.  They were the ones I rubbed shoulders with on a regular basis … at work, at district functions, Munchy Monday, … all from my life at Higher Ground.   We have laughed together, cried together, prayed together, and lived life together.  They were the result of my letting go, laying it all at His feet, and saying I am Yours and Yours alone … completely.  

I am overwhelmed with how personal and loving my Jesus is to me.    He took the past 5 years, placed it all in a box for me, and wrapped it up with a nice pretty bow on top.  He placed a tag on the outside and wrote “I love you, Debbie!” Those girls, especially, know what that means to me.  They are the jewels inside that shine above all the other stuff. 

With tears still in my eyes, it was my turn to come up front and speak.  Temporarily laying my notes to the side, I had to share my journey through those last 5 minutes and express my love in return to my Jesus.     

Take my heart
Take my soul
I surrender everything to your control
And let all that is within me lift up to you and say
I am yours and yours alone
Completely

I am Yours and Yours alone
Completely

I will share the rest of the story … next time.
Debbie

Snow

19 Jan

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts,
since as members of one body you were called to peace.
And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly
as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom,
and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude
in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed,
do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Colossians 3:15-17

 

The white fluffy stuff has quite the romantic and cozy deceptive charm about it. A bowl of popcorn, mugs of hot chocolate, a favorite person, and a roaring fire in the fireplace…all the while the landscape outside is being transformed from a dreary and bleak site into a white winter wonderland. Along with the glistening beauty and the snowy glow comes the hush…the hush of freshly fallen snow.

The above description is what I call the billboard version of snow or the glossy magazine cover version that truly doesn’t depict reality. Oh, not to be mislead … to a degree it is all true ~ insert the scenario of your choice and add in the bright white hush. But there’s far more to the story of snow than the Hallmark movies would like for us to believe.

South central PA, where we now call home, has been on the outside edge of some of the largest snowstorms of the season for the east coast. Some of our neighbors just an hour or so away have had to dig themselves out of deep accumulations and deal with extreme conditions due to the blizzards that have come their way. Our families and friends we have most recently left behind in Indiana continue to be harassed nearly every 4 or 5 days with a new batch of precipitation, whether it be snow, ice, or rain. Tim is certainly counting his blessings this winter since someone else has the privilege and challenge of constantly plowing the roads and keeping the sidewalks clear of snow at Higher Ground. And once again, the immediate weather forecast is for another bout of snow to soon hit those we love … and it is still January.

Cole sledding in the snow

Our first round of snow at our house in PA took place while we were in Indiana for Christmas. Upon our return, the roads were dry, our driveway was mostly all clear, and the grass was already poking through the melting mess. Then last week, we were gifted with an overnight blanket of the fluff that measured right at 4” on our back deck. The highlight was a few days later when our 22 month-old grandson and his dog brought their parents up for an evening of playing in the snow. Since our house is built into the side of a hill, the side yard was a perfect spot for a little boy to enjoy his first and many more fun times in his sled. What fun we all had in the snow as we looked at it not only through the eyes of a toddler, but through the protective and loving eyes of his parents and the heart-warming eyes of his grandparents.

Two nights ago, more snow fell, along with a crunchy coating of ice. Tim was prepared and parked his work truck at the top of our driveway/hill, making for a guaranteed exit the following morning for work. For me, I was quite proud of myself for getting out our beast of a snow blower and actually getting it to start on the first try. As it crawled along the driveway, it quickly became bogged down with the heaviness of the ice and refused to cooperate with me to clear the way. Reluctantly, I took it back to the garage and instead grabbed the shovel. Grrr! As the morning wore off into early afternoon, I slowly made progress, one shovel of heavy snow/ice at a time. I was reminded of the hours I use to spend at Higher Ground behind a vacuum cleaner or cleaning the many windows of the dining hall … and how I passed the drudgery of that time away by praying. I immediately began to bombard Heaven for the many people in my life who I love … who need Jesus in one way or another. Before I knew it, the driveway was cleared, I had my exercise, and my heart had reached out and touched the portals of Heaven on behalf of many of you.

I know that snow is far more than a picture on a Christmas card, but I can’t help but live my life in such a way that in all things, I give thanks.

Be joyful always; pray continually;
give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
I Thessalonians 5:16-18

 

Remember when we were little kids and how exciting it was to sit beside the radio to listen in hopes to hear our school named on that long list of those that were cancelled for the day? How fun was it to bundle up in multi-layers of clothing and snow suits to the point where we could barely move … and head for ‘dead man’s hill’ (that’s what it was called in the woods near our house) and to spend hours sledding, making snow people, and having snowball fights?

Won’t you join me today and throughout the remainder of this winter, to give thanks in all circumstances ~ for the memories, for the fun times with today’s little people, and for unexpected opportunities to spend time in prayer for others. Spring is coming … but let’s make the most of what is before us today.

Until next time,
Debbie

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Psalm 51:7

“Come now, let us reason together,”
says the LORD.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
Isaiah 1:18

“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are My ways higher than your ways
and My thoughts than your thoughts.
As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is My word that goes out from My mouth:
It will not return to Me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
Isaiah 55:9-11

Merry Christmas from the Van Hooks!

21 Dec

Our beautiful children!

Once again, we are in awe of God’s blessings, His great mercy, and His precious gift of His son Jesus as we celebrate this Christmas season and enter into the New Year.  As the song writer penned … “Many things about tomorrow, I don’t seem to understand, but I know Who holds tomorrow, and I know Who holds my hand.”

 

Bahama Cruise

This year has been eventful!  Our grandson, Cole Michael, celebrated his first birthday in March.  How quickly that year seemed to fly by, and how quickly this little guy is growing and changing!  Following our trip out to PA for his birthday party, we headed on down to Florida for our vacation.  In celebration of our 30th wedding anniversary (July 11th) we enjoyed a 4 day cruise to the Bahamas, then soaked up some Florida sunshine for several more days before heading back to reality.  Reality consisted of the normal things of life, like home and work, but it also suddenly included helping to take care of my mother who fell and shattered her elbow while we were away on vacation.  After surgery, months of physical therapy, doctor visits, and lots of help from us kids and her church family, Mom is continuing to gain use and strength of her right arm and hand. We are so grateful for the Lord’s touch on her as she has slowly healed!

Our son-in-law, Troy, graduated from Penn State University this past May.  With his degree in Security and Risk Analysis, his new career as a consultant relocated this little family to Glen Burnie, MD, located on the south side of Baltimore.  Up until their move, Kim worked at the Courtyard by Marriott where she was the Assistant General Manager.  Now she is blessed by being able to stay home with Cole full time, employed by the cutest little toddler around!   Kim enjoys working out at their local gym where she takes Zumba and other exercise classes.  She is also involved in the Mom’s group at Grace Pointe Church of the Nazarene.

As the busy days of spring collided into the even busier days of summer, Tim was offered and he accepted a new job in the state of Pennsylvania.   September 1, just two weeks short of beginning our 5th year at Higher Ground Conference and Retreat Center, we relocated to Red Lion, PA.  He is now employed by K/S Remodeling Systems, where his talent for detail and craftsmanship is utilized on a daily basis to refurbish and remodel kitchens.   This is very similar to what Tim did when we lived in PA back in the 90s.   We are renting a very nice home that is very roomy and spacious for when our family gathers in, which happens quite frequently since we moved.  Kim and her family only live an hour away, so we are overwhelmed with the blessing of being able to watch Cole grow and become his own little person.  His favorite things in the whole world are tractors, and Dora the Explorer, fire trucks, cars, animal crackers, puzzles, and his dog all coming in tied for second place!   He is so much fun and has brought such joy to Grami and Grampi’s life!

Not wanting to miss out on the excitement of our move, Ryan flew in for a visit and spent a week with us.  Since it was his first time out to see his sister’s new home as well, we all took the time to relax and enjoy some of the favorite sites of Baltimore for a few days.  The highlight was our trip to the beach and to play in the sand and ocean with Cole.  Once we got back to our house, there were boxes to unpack, and furniture to arrange, all the while we had lots of fun and cooked lots of yummy food in our big kitchen!  Family time is such a blessing!!

Regis Philbin, Mom, myself, and Kim

Christmas began early in December at our house this year.  Kim and I surprised my mom with a trip to New York City and tickets to be on LIVE with Regis and Kelly!  What a fun time we had!!  The following day, Ryan and his girlfriend Brittany flew in from Seattle to join the festivities that had already started a few days prior.  We enjoyed lots of family fun playing Wii, going bowling, watching movies, and enjoying a houseful of good cooks.  “Fake Christmas” was celebrated as gifts were exchanged, stuffed stockings were emptied, and Cole rode around on his new tractor. 

Cole and his new TRACTOR!

As many of you already know, I love to write and started a blog back in February.  Morsels of Mercy is just that ~ short stories inspired by God’s mercies through my journey of life!   https://morselsofmercy.wordpress.com     Many of the details of this past year that I skipped over here in my Christmas letter you can read about in my blog.  Enjoy reading!!

Christmas week is now upon us, and we will be back in Indiana for the holiday.  As we travel the many miles and gather with our families, my heart and thoughts will be turning toward many of you who are hurting this Christmas season.  I will be praying that you will find Jesus to be so much more than a baby in the manger, but that He will be your Healer, your Comforter, your Strength, your Everything. 

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
Because of the LORD’s great mercies
we are not consumed,

for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning:
great is your faithfulness.

I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”
The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.
Lamentations 3:21-26

Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year!!
The Van Hooks

 

Tim & Debbie
Troy, Kim, Cole & Tadpole
Ryan & Brittany
My mom, Wilma

Our family

Ornaments

29 Nov

 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.
 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father,
may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation,
so that you may know him better.
Ephesians 1:16-17

 

After the busyness of the past several days of precious family time, I find myself, in the quietness of my thoughts and the sacredness of the holidays, wondering where Thanksgiving is suppose to end and Christmas is suppose to start.  Can we honestly celebrate one without the other?   How fitting that both special days are so close on the calendar!!

Our daughter and her little family spent much of this past week with us in our home for the Thanksgiving holiday.  With a 20 month-old toddler around, we laughed a lot, were entertained by the simplest gestures and words, and watched a few episodes of Dora the Explorer.  Turkey Day itself was shared with a total of 23 around the dinner table at ‘Park Place’ … the home of  Tim’s oldest sister.  This is becoming quite a holiday tradition as the individual Van Hook kids have married and had kids, and their kids are now getting married and having kids…and we can all gather at Aunt Debbie’s house to visit.   What a blessing this year as four baby boys were born into the family since last Thanksgiving!

Once family all went home, I rearranged the living room furniture in order to make room for our Christmas tree.  My thoughts and prayers were going out to several friends who are struggling with life.  My mom’s best friend suffered a heart attack during the wee hours of Thanksgiving morning.  The medical staff at the hospital in Greenwood was able to save Nellie’s life with an immediate surgery and procedure … A big thank you goes out to those who work on special days when most of us have time off!  Another friend in Albuquerque lost everything in an apartment fire last week.  A dear friend in Cincinnati is leaning hard on Jesus since her husband’s cancer has returned.  Another precious friend is going through the holidays for the first time without her father, who passed away in August.  It seems that everywhere we look, life is full.  It is full of joy and it is full of sorrow.  Even through the sorrow, we can still have joy as we have SO much to be grateful for! 

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
Because of the LORD’s great mercies we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning: great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”
The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.
Lamentations 3:21-26

 

With the tradition of Karen Carpenter, 4 Him, and Amy Grant filling our home with songs of the season, my heart was still celebrating Thanksgiving as I opened boxes packed full of 30 years of life.  Inside were memories all wrapped up in garland, lights, holiday tins, a musical moose, stuffed Christmas veggies, gingerbread houses made of clay, and ornaments.  Ornaments that tell stories about people, places, events, and times.

As I hung each ornament on the tree, my heart was overwhelmed by God’s love and His mercies, for they ARE new every morning and every year.  Testimonies to His faithfulness hang all over my Christmas tree!  Homemade treasures made out construction paper and paper doilies, complete with school photos, represent sweet blessings all grown up now.  Friendships old and new, special places like Kauai and Venice, and many ‘1st’ ornaments, for the various locations we have called home.  An attitude of prayer filled my living room as I gently placed each memento on the branches, thanking God for the people who came to mind, and seeking Him on their behalf … wherever they are, whatever they are doing this Christmas season, and for their part in my life  ~ sometime between 1980 and 2010.

I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.
 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father,
may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation,
so that you may know him better.
Ephesians 1:16-17

 

I look forward to this special prayer service next year.  My own personal Thanksgiving/Christmas celebration.  I know that my home would never be displayed in a trendy home décor magazine, but that’s ok.  The simple decorations and the tree, complete with icicles and unique ornaments never to be found in a boutique shop, adorn a most sacred chapel of worship. 

Won’t you join me in continuing to give thanks for His blessings as we enter into this Christmas season to celebrate the birth of Jesus, our Savior?

Until next time,
Debbie

You are my God, and I will give you thanks;
You are my God, and I will exalt you.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
His love endures forever.
Psalm 118:28-29