Nana’s Corner: Christmas 2016

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This is officially Christmas week and it is half over. Today my daughter, along with her dad and I, took the two grandsons off to Woodbridge, VA where we ate at a Denny’s Restaurant and then stopped by Hobby Lobby for some last minute gifts.

There were numerous cars on the road and even Denny’s was very busy. In fact, it took a lot longer to get our meals than normal. Guess everyone was out shopping and got hungry so they all stopped to eat as well!

It was a fun morning and Gryphon, and I got to watch the movie, “Minions”, in the car on the way up and on the way back. We also enjoyed the Christmas decorations and lights that adorned outside houses and businesses. The baby slept most of the time on the way up, in the restaurant, and on the way home. Gryphon fell asleep just before we got home but awoke after we went inside, and he didn’t want Nana or Pap (as he calls Roger) to leave either. So sweet to watch him interacting with his Pap!

In the hustle and bustle between shopping, parties/dinners, and additional church services this week, it is easy to forget that “Jesus is the reason for the season.” Does Christmas come but once a year? Technically, it does to many people during this time of year. But let us not forget to celebrate and be giving throughout the entire year as well. We need to support and encourage each other all year long and not just during one week in December.

Let us continue to show the love that God has shown us not only to our friends and family in the new year, but may we also be made aware of the needs of those around us and show them love and kindness throughout 2017 as well. May you feel blessed as you open up your hearts to others. Jesus taught us to “love one another as He loved us” and may we also do the same.

Blessings,
Yvonne

Mary’s Journey (From Ordinary to Extraordinary)

Since the Advent season began on Sunday, November 27, our pastor has asked for volunteers to speak on each of the Sunday mornings leading up to Christmas Sunday morning about specific Bible characters who have had a special impact on leading up to the Birth of Jesus Christ. Last week my husband, Roger, spoke about John the Baptist who was born to Zechariah and Elizabeth. John’s life would “prepare the way” for our Lord Jesus Christ and His ministry.

This past Sunday I spoke about Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and want to share some insights into her humble life with all of you.

INTRODUCTION

. Mary is the best-known female character in the Bible and, of course, everyone knows her as the “Mother of Jesus”.
. In Matthew 1:16 her name appears in the geneology of Matthew–“…and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called the Christ.”
. It has been told that she was a peasant woman, a young adolescent, and probably poor, from the descendant of Aaron (priests).
. Her parents and/or siblings are not mentioned in the scriptures, but it is assumed that she came from a Godly home of devout Jews–she lived in the Village of Nazareth.
. During Mary’s time period, it was a Jewish custom that girls were not trained in the Holy Scriptures but were trained to run the household; however, as seen in her praise to God in the “Magnificat” or “Mary’s Song” in Luke 1:47-55, Mary was well-versed in scriptures.
. Mary became betrothed to Joseph, son of Heli and a descendant of King David, at a very young age. Although we don’t know the exact age that she was pledged to be married, the minimum age for girls to be betrothed during this time period was 12 years old, and this generally took place one year before the marriage which was legally binding and could only be dissolved by a legal divorce.

OVERVIEW OF OTHER PLACES IN SCRIPTURES WHERE MARY IS MENTIONED

. Luke 1:26-38: Mary was visited by the Angel Gabriel and then she visits Elizabeth for three months.
. Matthew 1:24 and Luke 2:1-7: Both gospels tell about the Birth of Jesus–Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem per the decree by Caesar Augustus for the census, and this is where Mary gives birth to Jesus.
. Luke 2:21: Jesus is presented in the temple at 8 days old to be circumcised and is blessed by Simeon.
. Luke 2:41: Feast of the Passover each year–During one of their travels when Jesus was 12 years old, his parents were returning home, and it was discovered that Jesus had stayed behind so they went back to get him. In VS 48, Mary tells Jesus that she and his father had been anxiously searching for Him; and His reply in VS 49 was, “Didn’t you know that I had to be in my Father’s house” but they did not understand.
. John 2:1-11: Wedding Feast in Cana—On the third day of this celebration, the wine ran out. Mary asks Jesus for His help and He turns the water into wine.
. John 19:26: Crucifixion–Jesus sees His mother and says, “Dear woman, here is your son” and to John, His disciple, He says, “Here is your mother” so John cared for Mary the rest of her days.
. Luke 24:9: Resurrection–Mother of James (Jesus’ mother), plus Mary Magdalene and Joanna run to tell the 11 disciples that Christ was risen.

OTHER CHILDREN OF MARY AND JOSEPH

. In both Mark 6:3 and Matthew 13:55-56, it mentions Mary’s other children: James, Joses (Joseph), Judas, and Simon, plus two other sisters (whose names are not mentioned).

THE BIRTH OF JESUS FORETOLD IN LUKE 1:26-38

. VS 26-28: The Angel Gabriel greets Mary telling her that she is highly favored by God (favor means gaining approval, aceptance, or special benefits or blessings).

. VS 29: Mary’s reaction was that she was troubled and afraid. BUT as we continue to read the rest of their conversation, we get a better picture into Mary’s character. She exhibits a:

Humble Heart:

. That God had chosen her to carry His Son.
. She probably thought to herself: Who am I that God would think so highly of me for this blessed event. After all she was not wealthy or noble, but just an ordinary young girl and a chaste virgin.

Willing and Open Heart:

. She listened to what the Angel told her about what was going to take place and how the Holy Spirit would come upon her and she would be with child.
. She then accepted and trusted God and she was willing to be used by God

Obedient Heart:

. Mary was an obedient follower of God. God didn’t look at her outward appearance or her circumstances, but He knew her heart and that she would be obedient in what He asked of her.
. The Angel tells Mary about her cousin Elizabeth and how that even in her old age, she was going to have a baby (now in her sixth month).
. And in VS 37, the Angel concludes his time with Mary by saying, “For nothing is impossible with God.”

Servant Heart:

. Mary was a woman of faith and in VS 38, she said, “Let it be to me as you have said.” (If God said it, then I believe it mentality.)
. Mary proves that she is humble, willing, and obedient to become God’s servant and believed God’s destiny for her life.

MARY’S VISIT WITH ELIZABETH

. After Mary’s visit with the angel, she goes to the hill country of Judea to visit with her cousin Elizabeth to see for herself that Elizabeth was with child.

. Luke 1:40: says that when Mary greeted Elizabeth, her baby leaped in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In VS 42-45 Elizabeth confirms to Mary that which would take place in her own life: She was chosen to carry the Son of God and would be blessed among all women.
. Mary then begins to praise God.

MAGNIFICANT–MARY’S SONG

. VS 46-55: In this passage, Mary definitely shows that she knows the scriptures. This is a song of strength, trust, obedience, and power to believe that what God said He would do, and what He would now accomplish in Mary’s life.
. VS 48: Mary declares: “For He has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed.” (A humble servant)
. Mary then stays with Elizabeth for three months before returning home, indicating that she was probably there for the birth of John.

CONCLUSION: How can we apply the events in Mary’s journey to our own lives today???

. I Samuel 16:7says: “…The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (Remember this was how King David was chosen)
. When God chose Mary, He looked at her heart, not her appearance or circumstances.

. When God wants to use individuals like ourselves, He is looking at our hearts–our love for Him–and not at our outward appearance or circumstances.

. Colossians 3:23 says: “Whatever you do, do it from the heart for the Lord, and not for people.”
. Mary wasn’t thinking about “what will people think” (especially Joseph), but only that she was highly favored and chosen by God to carry His Son.

. God asks that whatever He asks of us that we do it with our whole heart for Him and not for men AND FINALLY…

. Luke 1:37 says: “For nothing is impossible with God”

. Just as Elizabeth conceived in her old age, and Mary miraculously bore the Son of God–Jesus Christ who would end up bearing the sins of the world and saving us all–they both understood and saw firsthand in their lives that “nothing was impossible with God.”

. SO SHOULD WE: “When God speaks to each of us and we listen to Him, let us all be willing to step out in faith so that He can show us His continued plan for our lives, because “nothing is impossible that God can’t do in and through our lives today for His honor and glory”.
. Just believe and trust Him, and He will guide you on your life’s journey every step of the way!

I concluded my time of sharing about Mary’s Journey by singing “Breath of Heaven” which solidified perhaps what Mary further thought as she traveled to Bethlehem and where she gave birth to Jesus Christ and “laid Him in a manger.”

During this Christmas season, may we find ourselves most grateful and thankful for the blessings that we have received throughout the year and enjoy our precious time with family and friends. And most of all, for the birth of our Saviour, God and King!

Blessings,
Yvonne

A Meaningful Life

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough troubles of its own.” (Matthew 6:34, NIV)

I have always loved this verse and what Jesus taught us about not worrying. But who doesn’t worry. We get in a financial bind and our first instinct is to “worry” where we will find the money to pay for the things that we bought (but didn’t really need). We stress over our jobs, our children, life in general and begin asking ourselves “what is our purpose in life” and “where am I going” or “am I headed in the right direction”?

We might ponder over the answers and what our options are in certain situations, but something within us keeps us from “taking a risk” and from “keeping the faith” when we are at a low point in our life’s journey.

Jesus said in Matthew 6:33 that we should “seek his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” What he then asks of us is to “not worry about tomorrow and what it holds” because He wants us to know that He holds our future and the difficulties and circumstances in our life are just “pit stops” along the way. Our faith is hopefully strengthened even more deeply during these times of adversity.

I recently purchased a book called “The Magnolia Story” by Chip and Joanna Gaines (available at www.magnoliahome.com, www.amazon.com, www.christianbook.com and other bookstores). A wonderful memoir of how this couple met, eventually married, and had four wonderful children. In a poignant manner, they share all the ups and downs about how they developed their business endeavors and how they eventually ended up doing their current TV show, the Fixer Upper on HGTV. They shared their faith in God as He directed every aspect of their lives. Their show took off and became quite successful along with their other projects as well.

What I enjoyed most about the book was how they shared their faith with family, friends, and even strangers along the way and how they expressed that their lives are definitely full of meaning (purpose).

When I recount numerous experiences where I have had to rely on God’s direction and exercise faith even under trying circumstances, I can truly say that my life has been filled with a great deal of meaning and that I am where God wants me at this season of my life. After all, I get to watch my grandson every day and play. (I think I have regressed to childlike behavior but I won’t say that out loud.)

If we are seeking a meaningful life, then we need to be open to the many possibilities and opportunities that God gives us along the way. Being aware of His presence in our lives and listening to His still small voice to direct us and to help us keep the faith no matter what is happening around us.

Life is full of meaning. We just have to trust God to show us His purpose. Do not worry. Let tomorrow take care of itself.

Let me leave you with yet another wonderful quote regarding not worrying:

“Why worry? If you’ve done the very best you can, worrying won’t make it any better.” –Walt Disney

Blessings,
Yvonne

Through Water and Fire

In my walk with the Lord, I have always been a firm believer that “God does not give us more than we can bear” and that “He always goes with us” through our experiences–the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Two weeks ago, I was definitely tested on the “bad and the ugly” when I fell–up the stairs–holding my grandson who, thankfully, was not hurt. Fortunately, I fell forward and not backward. I was able to lay him gently at the top of the stairs, and–at the time–I thought all I hurt was my knee. That was on a Thursday afternoon but by Sunday, I was experiencing a lot of pain on the left side of my lower back which generated all the way down to my knee. By Tuesday, standing was getting more difficult, and my husband and I decided it was time to go to the chiropractor and my primary care physician.

My first visit was with the chiropractor whom I trusted completely to examine me and determine what the problem(s) were with my back. Unable to lie face down for an adjustment, she recommended that I go to my primary care physician because I might need an MRI to determine what the course of action should be. After an ultrasound/cold compresses, I went home and took some Aleve, along with bed rest for two days.

Before the doctor’s office could see me, I ended up going to the ER for several hours where they hooked me up to pain medication/saline drip and did a CT scan which showed I had a “bulging disc”–the cause of the pain. After the diagnosis, I was given discharge instructions, along with pain and nausea prescriptions. Luckily, I was scheduled for a visit with my primary care physician the next morning.

However, at the doctor’s office the next day, even though I had a scheduled appointment, the waiting room was quite busy and I ended up waiting for an hour just to get into the exam room. Sitting, however, was less painful than standing but the wait caused me to become more anxious than I realized. Did I mention that along with the back/leg pain, I also had a “terrible cough” all week as well and trying to breathe in and out while she used the stethoscope caused me to cough even more. Because strep throat was going around, she decided to do a strep test, and I was now diagnosed with strep throat. A prescription was called into the pharmacy for us to pick up in half an hour. I called my daughter immediately to let her know about the diagnosis and that she should take Gryphon to the doctor because he had also been coughing. The result was he, too, had strep throat.

In the meantime, my husband and I decided that I needed something to eat so we stopped at our favorite diner–Denny’s. They seated us right away, and I was able to relax and eat. After our meal as I waited for my husband to pay, a woman approached me and asked about the pain I was experiencing, where it was, and what caused it. She proceeded to tell me that she had been a massage therapist for over 20 years and was known in the local area where she had her business. Along with her background, she gave me an exercise that she knew would ease my pain although it would be uncomfortable to do. I thanked her and appreciated her advice which I later used and it did help relieve the pain.

Along with the “exercise” advice, she also told me that she was a strong believer “that the Holy Spirit” directed her to talk with me and I agreed that I believed that as well. God always allows individuals to come into your life at the time you need them has always been my philosophy, and it has been proven over and over throughout the years. By the ending of our conversation, my husband joined us and also agreed with what she shared. He, too, was thankful for her advice and that she allowed the Holy Spirit to talk with me as well. Isn’t the Lord good. She could have just sat in her seat and did nothing, but she obeyed the prompting of the Holy Spirit, and that action lifted my spirits tremendously.

I may not see this woman ever again, but I will always remember her kindness and words of encouragement during the time that I needed someone to lift my spirits. It also served as a reminder that “God loves me no matter what I am going through.” I do believe that He also will not give us more than we can bear without an “end” in sight to whatever is happening in our lives. We just need to remember and recognize the little things that He does–sending someone along at just the right time–to encourage us and give us the strength that we need at the time.

I want to thank my sister who was visiting for over a week from CA that–even though she had to work during the week on her computer–she was there when I needed someone to help with household items, as well as make me laugh by talking about past childhood incidences (i.e. toilet paper). Along with a number of my sisters, she is one that I can always count on and she is one of my best friends. The Lord knew when she booked her trip that I would need her more than ever.

Also a note of thanks to Grammy Cindy, who came down immediately to watch our grandson for the rest of the week. She didn’t hesitate to come when she was needed, and I appreciate her taking that time to do so for me and for my daughter as well. She is truly a “one-of-a-kind”, “down-to-earth”, “honest-and-true”, precious friend, and I feel very blessed to have her in my life. I really miss those “Panera” lunches we used to have before I moved to VA as well.

If you are going through some difficulty in your life at this moment, I pray that the Lord will send someone–your pastor, a friend, a family member, or a stranger–along to encourage your heart and to help give you the strength to go through your circumstances no matter how big or small.

May the Lord bless you in your daily walk with Him.

Blessings,
Yvonne

Snow, Snow, Snow…Everywhere We Go

Unbelievable. The forecast during a beautiful, sunny Thursday afternoon last week was calling for “the snow storm of the century” beginning on Friday around noon and lasting through Sunday morning. As I looked outside and felt the sun’s rays through the living room window, I had a certain amount of doubt that this was really going to happen. After all, it was so still, quiet, and peaceful.

But on Thursday evening, my husband and I decided that we should go out to dinner and stop by the grocery store for last minute items before the big snowfall. When we got to the grocery store, all of the milk and most of the bread were off the shelves. I went up and down the aisles to check out other items when I noticed that most of the spaghetti was off the shelves as well. Grocery shoppers filled their carts with water, TV dinners, baked goods, bread, milk, and snow melt for starters. By the time we left the store and returned home, I was glad to be back in a warm, cozy home and relaxing time for the rest of the evening.

Then on Friday, as predicted, the snow began to fall ever so lightly around noon, just as Grammy Cindy was arriving from PA to spend the weekend with my daughter/husband and grandson. By the time I left from visiting with her, I noticed that the snow had already begun to cling to the branches of the trees and there was a powdery snow on the roads. I told myself that I needed to get home as quickly and safely as possible.

By the time I arrived home around 1:30 pm, there was at least 2-3 inches in the driveway, and on the deck and walkway, with a prediction of 18-24″ by Sunday. By late afternoon, my husband attempted to shovel the deck and walkway, leaving the driveway covered until he got out the snowblower on Saturday afternoon. The snow was definitely light and not heavy, so it was easier to maneuver. Saturday’s snowfall, as predicted, ended up being between 18-24″ and by Sunday morning the roads were completely covered and no plows had been able to get through.

Schools were cancelled for Monday and Tuesday and some scheduled Wednesday off as well. The roads were ever so quiet at the beginning of the week except for snowplows going up and down the streets. The main roads were cleared first but people did not venture out, even to go to work, until the later part of the week.

Listening and watching the weather reports indicated that up and down the east coast, the storm had left its mark in a number of states with NYC getting 26.6″ of snow. There were reports of 30″ of snow due to the snowdrifts caused from the high winds as well. The 60-mile an hour high winds were creating flooding along the NJ shore. Everyone was asked to stay off the roads until the snowplows could begin clearing off the streets in a number of cities.

By early Sunday afternoon, the snowfall ceased and the end result was a tremendous amount of snow. We didn’t have snow for Christmas, but this snowfall more than made up for it that’s for sure. It has been one week now since the snow fell and people are just getting back to normalcy. Streets are now cleared and traffic is again moving at a normal pace. Schools ended up being closed all week but will resume full speed ahead on Monday.

Life is so much like the snow storm that we just experienced–calmness and then a disaster strikes. People, cars, planes, and trains were rendered immobile due to the heavy snowfall. Safety was the biggest issue, especially for many individuals who couldn’t get out of their driveways. But somehow we all survived, and we got through it with the Lord’s help. He sees us through all of the ups and downs–the storms in our lives–and we are made stronger and more resilient through it all.

May the Lord bless you and keep you safe.

Blessings,
Yvonne

Looking Back (2015) So We Can Move Ahead–New Year 2016

Question to ask ourselves in the coming New Year is found in Romans 8:35: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword.”

It is incredible to think that the year 2015 is quickly coming to a close for everyone around the world, and New Year’s Eve will be a myriad of various traditions/customs and celebratory parties around the globe. For one night, everyone’s thoughts will be about ending the old year (2015) and looking ahead to what can be accomplished in the New Year (2016).

As Christians we are taught to “forget those things which are behind and run the race which is set before us.” For many, the New Year will bring a number of changes in their lives–financial gain or loss, personal goal setting, and physical/mental changes for themselves or loved ones.

What if we would take the year 2015 and look back at all of the experiences we have had throughout the year, both good and bad, and then take those learned experiences with us into the New Year? What would we be able to accomplish? Would we try to emulate those learned experiences in a positive or a negative way? Would we try to do the same things over again, or would we re-think some situations and circumstances in our lives and try to do them over with a new perspective?

The Book of Romans, written by Paul, teaches us that everything we need to know about God’s great plan for redemption lies in its sixteen chapters. Paul talks about God’s wrath against mankind and God’s judgment and how that no one is righteous, not even those who “follow the law.” Romans 3:21-22, and 24 says simply that Jesus died as a sacrifice to pay sin’s penalty and to those who believe and receive his offer, he justifies us. In Romans 5:8 it says that “…God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” We now have access to God, peace with God, access by faith into God’s very presence, and we can be joyful even when we face hardships in our loves. He keeps pouring his love into our hearts.

Romans 8:1 says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” We are controlled by the Spirit who lives within us. We can then look back at what has happened in this past year and take those life-changing lessons and apply them to the New Year. Heartaches and disappointments throughout this past year can even be turned into positive ones because we will be able to share those heartaches with those who may have to go through the same struggles in the coming year. Why? Because we have the love and compassion of Christ in our hearts.

Romans 12:9-13: “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”

If you continue reading in Romans, it also tells us that we are to “rejoice” with those who rejoice; “mourn” with those who mourn; and “live in harmony” with one another. Romans 12:20 sums it all up by saying, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” These instructions were given so that we can truly show our neighbors the hospitality that Christ would have us show them. Romans 13:9-10: “Love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”

In summary then, how do we answer the question that I asked at the beginning and apply it to any given situation in the coming New Year? The answer can be found in Romans 8:37-39:

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

As we all begin to examine our hearts and turn our eyes toward the coming New Year, let us remember the words written in Romans 15:13: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” I believe that this applies to every area of our lives. God wants us to love others as ourselves. He wants us to help those less fortunate, and He wants us to share the hope of redemption with others.

God bless you in the coming New Year (2016) and may God bless you richly in every area of your lives,
Yvonne

Christmas Time is Here: 2015

One does not have to go very far to hear the sounds of Christmas: in the store, on the radio, TV, Pandora on desktops and/or phones and Kindles, etc. Although I enjoy all the Christmas music at this time of the year, one can only hope that Christmas is with all of us throughout the year.

This Christmas, however, will be a very favorite one for my daughter and her husband, as well as for the grandparents of a one year old, little wide-eyed boy, Gryphon, who already has been enjoying the sights and sounds of Christmas. The Christmas tree is basically up, without ornaments, but with all the colored lights. He has been enjoying putting on and taking off the number of candy canes on the tree and has even managed to feed some of them to the dogs. Our time together during the week now consists of playing Christmas music on the TV and/or my phone/Kindle which he happily dances to. He is so curious and full of life; and although he does not understand the true meaning of celebrating Christmas yet, he seems to be having a lot of fun watching “Billy, the elf on the shelf” that my daughter rested on a shelf in the living room. Maybe she moved him, so I will have to look for him tomorrow as well.

The weather here in VA is promising 70 degree weather on Christmas Day with no snow in sight, but I really don’t count that as a bad thing because we have lived in a number of places where we have had our fair share of snow. But, when I was growing up, we always looked forward to the snow during the holidays so that we could go outside on Christmas day and build a snowman. Hopefully, my grandson will get that chance after the holidays.

Today, at church, we had a Christmas service about hope and what that means to us as Christians. The past few weeks, our pastor has talked about love, joy, peace, and finally hope because Christ was born over 2,000 years ago for the redemption of man. That is why we celebrate this very important event and Jesus is our hope for peace in this world.

Quotes to warm your heart at Christmas time:

“If I could wish a wish for you, it would be for peace, faith, and happiness not only at Christmas, but for the whole year through!” –Catherine Pulsifer, “My Christmas Wish to You”

“From home to home, and heart to heart, from one place to another, the warmth and joy of Christmas brings us closer to each other.” –Emily Matthews

“Like snowflakes, my Christmas memories gather and dance–each beautiful, unique, and too soon gone.” –Deborah Whipp

“For each new morning with its light, For rest and shelter of the night, For health and food, for love and friends, For everything Thy goodness sends.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

May the Lord bless you and your families during this wonderful Christmas season with love, health, and happiness and bless you abundantly in the New Year!

Blessings,
Yvonne