Christmas in July

29 Jul

In all my prayers for all of you,
I always pray with joy …
It is right for me to feel this way about all of you,
since I have you in my heart.
Philippians 1:3 and 7

 

It sure has been a fun and exciting July … a visit over the 4th with my little brother and his young family, then two weeks later, my big brother and his wife made a spontaneous trip to the east coast. They also came to visit some of her family, making our home their place to kick back and get a couple good night’s sleep. We were especially blessed to also have Cole and Lillie with us that weekend for their mid-summer visit with Mimi and Papaw. Blueberry picking, yard sales, and catching lightning bugs were some of the favorite things enjoyed by our little Loves, not to mention the fun play time with Uncle Jay and Aunt Sue while the guys repeated the weekend motto of “It wasn’t me!” With only a few more days left in this month, anticipation of more family fun time this weekend catapults me into August!

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So where are the Jingle bells, red Santa suits and the mangers filled with hay? I have my own assortment of them and more in greeting-card form in a bright and shiny gift bag, easily accessible and set in a prominent place. If you sent a Christmas card to us this past December, you have received this text or email from me … or a similar version.

I once again started up an old Van Hook
family tradition this year and began
putting my Christmas cards that we
just received in a bright shiny Christmas gift bag.
Each morning I pull the front card from the bag and
pray specifically for that family that day.
I just wanted you to know that today is your day.
Thank you for the Christmas greetings and the
year-long reminder of you and yours
and our special friendship! Much love!!

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Once the stack of cards cycled through the first time, I then began to pull a new card at the beginning of each week, followed by another text or email …

In keeping with our family Christmas tradition,
I pulled your Christmas card once again this morning.
I will be praying specifically for you and yours this week …
could you please share how you would like me to pray?
Are there any urgent requests, concerns on your heart,
or needs that I can take to Jesus on your behalf?

I have received requests from parents with children who need Jesus. Others have concerns regarding job frustrations. Some have severe health issues. Children have requested prayer for their parents. There is a need for guidance and direction during a recent divorce and others have requested prayer for safe travels this summer. Another friend reached out regarding her husband’s addiction to alcohol.  No matter who we are, the sun will shine and the rain will fall. We will experience immense joy and extreme sorrow. We embrace peace, but also suffer pain. There are always reasons to pray for others.

With the ease and convenience of real-time communication and opportunities to send virtually “cost-free” greetings on various forms of social media, we don’t put postage stamps on envelopes and mail Christmas cards out like we used to. However, if you would like to be included in my tradition of Christmas card prayers, put Tim and I on your Christmas card list this year! I would be honored to take you and yours to Jesus throughout the coming new year!

Won’t you join me in celebrating Christmas in July … and all the other months, too? This could become a tradition in your own life – one that by the very act of doing connects hearts, tears down walls, and boosts our faith in the One who has the answers!

Until next time,
Debbie

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence,
so that we may receive mercy and find grace
to help us in our time of need.
Hebrews 4:16

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.
Colossians 4:2

Brotherly Love

10 Jul

Your love has given me
great joy and encouragement,
because you, brother,
have refreshed the hearts
of the Lord’s people.
Philemon 1:7

 

Summertime holidays are always fun — outdoor activities or the cool inside comfort of A/C, sunshine or rain, car or motorcycle! What tops them off as some of the best times of the year is that we make an effort to be with family … whether it’s a quick trip to the south side of Baltimore to see our Loves or a run up north along the Susquehanna River to visit Tim’s mother. Celebrating the 4th of July was no exception!

 

July 2, 2016

Enjoying the new patio set with family!

What an extra special treat July 4th was for us this year as we began to plan a fun-filled weekend with my little brother and his family! Weeks of anticipation, menu-planning, much-needed projects placed on the to-do list (company coming is a great motivator and inspiration!!) and the purchase of a brand new patio set for our back deck! In celebration of our 36th wedding anniversary tomorrow, I consider this first-time ever patio set purchase to be an amazing gift from my loving hubby!

 

The big day finally arrived and numerous updates were texted as they drove from Indiana to Pennsylvania.  Several hours and many miles later, we welcomed five road-weary travelers to our home and began our holiday weekend of family fun. Even before bedtime, we were entertained by Princesses Zarah and Remi as they found the dress-up corner in our playroom. Once the kids were all tucked in bed for the night, it was so good to simply sit and talk to Tim and Courtney.

 

Hershey Chocolate World

Hershey Chocolate World

Tim and Courtney with their family

Tim and Courtney with their family

A visit to Hershey Chocolate World was enjoyed by all, heart strings were pulled as old photo albums were perused, and amazingly comfortable weather allowed us to be outside to enjoy the kids in the backyard and to sit out on the new patio furniture! There was Sunday morning worship together and lots of family games testing our memory and our patience … and always good food and pleasant company!

 

The 4th of July was made even more special as our Loves from the south side of Baltimore joined our holiday party with more excitement, more chatter and lots more yummy food! We enjoyed outdoor and indoor play, a piano recital, many pretend goodies prepared in the play kitchen and served to all, and a brief interlude of evening showers so the kids could light sparklers! What a fantastic family fun-filled day to end our holiday weekend!

 

The toys have been put away, the kitchen cleaned up and even the left-overs have been eaten. Sometimes I think that the house is too quiet and too big, but then I remember how incredibly blessed we are to literally have a haven of rest for guests to come to, a place for children to play, and a warm and inviting home for friends and family to gather and simply sit and talk. Those few days with my little brother and his wife were priceless to my big-sister heart! In preparation for their visit, I prayed that God would mend any old wounds and restore a sibling relationship that just existed through the years without any real connection. I longed for a renewed appreciation and respect for him – one that he deserves as a person, as a husband and a father, as a police officer, and as my brother. As I stood in the driveway and hugged and kissed them all good-bye on Tuesday morning, my heart was full and running over with gratitude, love, and anticipation of the next time!

 

Won’t you join me as I continue to celebrate and embrace the days of summer, appreciation of family and friends, and most importantly, God’s love for each of us?!

 

Until next time,
Debbie

This is how we know what love is:
Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.
And we ought to lay down our lives
for our brothers and sisters.
1 John 3:16

We ought always to thank God for you,
brothers and sisters, and rightly so,
because your faith is growing more and more,
and the love all of you have for one another is increasing.
1 Thessalonians 1:3

 

 

 

 

On a Day Like Today …

24 Jun

A time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance.
Ecclesiastes 3:4

On a day like today, I find it difficult to grasp the fact that I am an adult woman and not an innocent little girl who adores her Daddy. My thoughts, my memories and my heart are all taking me back to a day and time when my world revolved around my parents and my brothers … a world where life seemed to be so simple and very safe. I wouldn’t necessarily say that it was always calm and without noise, for a family is all about emotions and moods, good days and bad, sunshine and rain. Snowstorms and snow days. Dogs and cats. Neighbor kids and bicycles. ’55 Chevys and shammy towels. Yes, shammy towels. Google it. It’s a wonder we didn’t get them for Christmas! Fishing poles and night crawlers. I could go on and on. That’s where I am today. It’s nice, but it also hurts.

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Me and Daddy 1967

My little-girl world fell apart 22 years ago today. I was 33 years old at the time, but life as I had always known it had changed in the instant of a heartbeat. Literally. I remember the feeling of utter disbelief and helplessness when I received the phone call that he was gone.

So here I am today. I posted a bunch of pictures of my Dad this morning on Facebook. In his honor, I stopped and picked up a coffee on my way to work…Daddy loved coffee. I chatted about him to my accommodating co-worker as we both began our work day. I sent an ‘I love you, brother!’ to both boys this morning.  I texted my mom, complete with a row or two of emojis that represented Daddy. She got a big kick out of that, so I challenged her to come up with her own cutie little icons! I then slipped out of the office for a few moments to call her, just to hear her voice and to let her hear mine. We laughed about our selections of emojis and about how silly we were, and also talked about how much we miss him.

 

After work, I stopped at Kohl’s. As I walked through the store, I kept thinking how the world goes on as usual for everyone around me … they have no idea that my Daddy died 22 years ago today. On my way out of the store, I passed an older gentleman who was sitting on the bench in the entrance, no doubt biding time with his cell phone while his wife shopped. I couldn’t believe that I had this passing thought to go up and hug him! Debbie … get a grip! My next ‘I must do this today’ was to stop and wash my car. Unfortunately I do not have a shammy towel, but I thought of Daddy the whole time I was washing and wiping my car dry.

 

The day is winding down now and soon it will be June 25th. God does give Morsels of Mercy to us in the fact that tomorrow does come and it will be a brand new day. It’s only natural to feel the loss deeper on certain days, but thankfully we don’t stay there. Family is coming for a visit over the 4th of July weekend, and we are looking forward to and are excited to celebrate life and freedom together!

 

Won’t you join me in thanking God for Daddies and little girls, sweet memories of years gone by, and the anticipation of tomorrow?   And best of all, with Jesus as the Lord of our life, we also have the promise of eternal life!

Until next time,
Debbie

Weeping may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning.
Psalm 30:5

 

 

Sunshine on the Eastern Shore

14 Jun

The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad;
let the distant shores rejoice.
Psalm 97:1

 

Many years ago in Hershey, two cute little blond-headed kids came to our Wednesday night Caravan program. They were brought faithfully by a friend of their momma. Some of us ladies began praying for this momma … that she would come to church with her children and fall in love with Jesus. Soon after, the momma did come to church with her kids, and she fell head over heels in love with Jesus. A vibrant personality, contagious cheerfulness and a glow that is unmistakably Jesus is the reason for my term of endearment for Miss Mary Sunshine.

 

Mary was eager to jump in head-first, with no hesitation, into whatever God asked her to do! So in September of 1997, Mary moved to Albuquerque, NM, just a few months after we arrived there to be part of the ministry team at Nazarene Indian Bible College. Mary became our neighbor, our co-worker, my prayer partner and a dear friend.

 

June 10, 2016

On our way to Virginia

Life’s been a journey since that time in our lives nearly 19 years ago. Much has taken place for us both, including a few changes of address. But right here, right now, we find ourselves only 6 hours away from one another. This past weekend, that gap was temporarily closed when Tim and I packed every nook and cranny of our Harley Davidson and rode the 260 miles to see our friend. Mary moved to the Eastern Shore of Virginia in November of 2015 and was recently installed as the new Pastor of the Bloxom Community Church of the Nazarene.

 

Mary’s enthusiastic spirit and visionary heart has begun the restart of a church that once thrived in Bloxom and reached into the surrounding communities … hosting camp meetings and revivals, youth camps and gospel sings. The rich heritage that many locals remember, along with God’s call and the contagious excitement of the new pastor, Bloxom is beginning a new chapter.

 

June 11, 2016

After dinner group photo

Life-long friends with hours to catch up on, local seafood to eat, roads with beautiful sites to explore on the motorcycle, and three precious Chihuahuas to love on … what a fun weekend! A lot of things have changed since those days of praying for that young single mother, but the one forever constant is her glowing love for Jesus. No matter her circumstances or where she calls home, she will always be my Miss Mary Sunshine!

 

Won’t you join me today in celebrating friendships, God’s undeniable call, and His love that continues to redeem lost and broken lives?

 

Until next time,
Debbie

 

P.S.  Click here http://www.bloxomchurchofthenazarene.org/site/cs/Index.asp to go to the church website to see how you can help with the restoration process of the property.  Many years without a pastor or congregation has taken its toll on the buildings and grounds.  Consider taking a work team to the Eastern Shore of Virginia and I guarantee that Mary Sunshine will be a gracious hostess!   Drop her an email and schedule a time to be the hands and feet of Jesus to that small but growing church!

ohmary02@gmail.com

Restore us, Lord God Almighty;
make your face shine on us,
that we may be saved.
Psalm 80:19

Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens,
and those who lead many to righteousness,
like the stars for ever and ever.
Daniel 12:3

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”
made His light shine in our hearts to give us the
light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

2 Corinthians 4:6

At the Playground

6 May

Is anyone among you in trouble?
Let them pray.
Is anyone happy?
Let them sing songs of praise.
James 5:13

 

What kid doesn’t like a playground?!   Just driving by the brightly colored community play area will bring shrills of laughter, whining, begging and pleading! Once the child is unstrapped from his or her car seat, a mad dash ensues, followed by darting motions as they try to quickly make up their minds in which direction they want to head first! The big slide or the twisty one? The swaying bridge or the hamster cage? The monkey bars or the swings? It doesn’t really matter where they start … the playground will be a fun place to run and play until it is time to go home.

 

Life is like a playground. I know Forrest Gump thinks otherwise, but I believe it to be true. Just driving by fills a little one’s heart and mind with the excitement of anticipation! There are difference sizes of playgrounds – some only have the basics … swings and a slide, while others look like castles full of adventurous places to climb, hop, jump, slide and run!   And just like life, the playground is always so much more fun if you have family or friends along to play!

 

March 26, 2016

Gettysburg, PA

March 25, 2016

Hershey Chocolate World

It seems that the past few months have been a playground to me! The month of March was full of family excitement as Ryan and Brittany came to visit for Easter weekend! We celebrated Ryan’s 30th and Cole’s 7th birthday with an afternoon spent at Sky Zone, along with some fun mini road trips to local attractions. Hershey was a fun favorite as we visited Chocolate World and the Cocoa Castle playground, followed by the next day of touring the battlegrounds and statues of Gettysburg. There were Easter eggs and baskets, and even some left-over Christmas gifts that were finally exchanged! This Momma had her entire family with her in church on Easter Sunday morning and my heart was truly blessed … full and overflowing! It was a whirlwind extended weekend, full of family fun and love!

 

April 16, 2016

Lillie climbing the blue ladder –  to the super fast slide!

On my playground called Mimi’s World, exciting days were enjoyed by family and friends as we recently celebrated Cole and Lillianne’s birthdays with monster trucks and dancing princesses. On another occasion, the kids also cashed in a Christmas Gift Coupon for an adventure to Cabela’s where they saw hundreds of animals on display, shot guns for target practice, walked through a fresh water aquarium, petted a live goat and fed the fish. To complete our day together, I took them over to the community playground in hopes to zap any remaining energy they might have left before baths and bedtime.

 

The playground that day was the inspiration for an original song, written and performed by our Lillie. Here are the lyrics to her song, so you can follow along …

Click here  https://youtu.be/luieEeDTubl  to watch the music video,
At the Playground…

Lyrics —
I go at the playground with my Mimi,
and I’m there with the blue ladder
then that last slide is super fast …

That’s why I know the playground is special for me and you,
God will make us all the times … at the playground.

~~

Life is like a playground.
You go there with your special people.
You hang on tight as you climb up the ladders and go down the super fast slides!  And you know it’s all special for you and yours…
and God is at the Center of it all …
at the playground!!

Won’t you join me … at the playground?

Until next time,
Mimi

But be very careful to keep the commandment
and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you:
to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to Him,
to keep His commands, to hold fast to Him
and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul.

Joshua 22:5

 

 

One Year at CASA

16 Mar

When Jesus spoke again to the people,
He said, “I am the light of the world.
Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness,
but will have the light of life.”
John 8:12

While the world around us is focused on candidates, primaries, and all that goes with an election, life still happens…the good and the not-so-good. In my immediate work day, little children continue to be taken into protective custody and placed into foster care homes. Physical and sexual abuse, neglect, deplorable living conditions, drugs and alcohol addictions, domestic violence – and the list goes on and on …

 

Nearly every day in the York County CASA office, I sign children into our playroom … a safe and fun environment where kids can be kids while their world comes together in a court room to discuss their future. ‘Bio mom and dad’ stand before the judge, usually stammering and stuttering, full of excuses as to why they have not made much progress toward the goal of getting their children back … if they even show up at all. Foster parents, attorneys, caseworkers, service providers, a CASA and other professionals speak on behalf of the children whose lives are currently upside down.

 

Today is March 16 … my one-year anniversary as the receptionist for York County CASA. I am blessed beyond measure for the awesome opportunity to be a part of this program! Even though I am not personally trained and sworn in as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for children, I do have direct participation in the process of being a voice for the children.

 

Not only am I thrilled with the mission of what I do for CASA, I thoroughly enjoy making new friends with many people who also work in the County Court House! We have laughed and cried together, shared stories and prayer requests … and it always warms my heart to look across the hall to see a smile and a friendly wave directed toward me as I walk by!

 

I always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in my prayers.
I remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith,
your labor prompted by love, and your endurance
inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
I Thessalonians 1:2-3

In the midst of major election campaigns that are full of promises to fix, to renew, and to make great again, I am committed to be fully devoted to the Only One who can make good on those kind of promises! While I celebrate my 1 year CASA anniversary today, this song will be playing in my heart as I walk through my mission field that God has laid before me in York County, PA. Won’t you join me as we stand united in the wonder of His love .. we follow after the One who gave it all, Christ alone be praised!

Click here to listen to the song  …    https://youtu.be/LW3XPazLHg0

 

When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said,
“I am the light of the world.
Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness,
but will have the light of life.”
John 8:12

Until next time,
Debbie

Our Extra Day!

29 Feb

 

This is the day that the Lord has made,
let us rejoice and be glad in it!!
Psalm 118:24

Because 2016 is Leap Year, today is the last day of February instead of yesterday! Wikipedia gives a great explanation as to why this extra day is inserted into our calendars every four years, but somehow I feel a great responsibility to not waste this gift of 24 hours! Although it is still Monday and I am still expected to go to work today, I want to do so with my heart filled with the joy of living!!

 This is the day that the Lord has made,
let us rejoice and be glad in it!!
Psalm 118:24

It is a good day to think about the passing of winter and the arrival of spring! I don’t know about you, but I always anticipate each change of season. I look forward to wearing sweaters, boots and scarves in the winter, and I always enjoy a good snow storm or two! But by the time March begins, I’m ready to put away the snow blower and hot cocoa and swap them for a motorcycle and Cherry Coke!

The Blizzard of 2016 did make headlines for the east coast last month, dumping between 2 and 3 feet of snow throughout our local area of south central Pennsylvania. Such wide-spread and consistent depth of coverage closed York City and County government offices for two business days!   Yes please and thank you!!

Our kiddos, just south of Baltimore, received their own Blizzard of 2016, so there was no great appeal to travel north to Papaw and Mimi’s house to go snow sledding. As the neighbors all around us partied in the snow with their little ones, our home remained quiet and the snow-covered yard remained untouched.

Fun Snow Day!!

Fun Snow Day!!

Within a week or so, temperatures rose and the rains fell, melting away some of our huge drifts of snow. But it was still winter. The rain soon became snow again and began to add to the piles once more. Valentine’s Day weekend brought love to our house and so much fun in the snow!   Bright sunshine and warm snow suits kept everyone bundled and warm as our family played and laughed and enjoyed winter and love together on that Valentine’s Day.

Now with the official start of spring being literally three weeks away, I can use this extra day to think happy thoughts about melting snow piles and warming temperatures, beautiful spring flowers and motorcycle rides instead of snow sleds! With the change of seasons, it’s also time to begin to think about seeds and planting a new garden.

 He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven
and crops in their seasons;
He provides you with plenty of food
and fills your hearts with joy.
Acts 14:17

It is a great day to pray! My prayer journal is daily filled with names of people I know who need Jesus. Cancers, relationships, loss of loved ones, drug and alcohol addictions, spiritual needs, health concerns, financial crises, and the list goes on and on each day.

I always thank God for all of you and
continually mention you in my prayers.
I Thessalonians 1:2

 What a fabulous day to encourage someone … or two! A helpful hand, a simple smile, a Facebook post, a quick text or even a longer email can all warm a heart, add joy to another’s day and lighten the heavy load of a burdened soul.

My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart
and united in love,
so that they may have the full riches
of complete understanding,
in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ.
Colossians 2:2

 Since this bonus day is still full of responsibility and duty, I must get ready to start my day! Let’s make the most of this gift, February 29th! I plan to do something that will bring joy, hope, love and encouragement to others today … and everyday!  Won’t you join me?

Until next time,
Debbie