Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Out With The Old & In With The New

Tonight at midnight, the year 2008 is gone and the new year begins. The world waits with anticipation. We wonder and hope. Some of us look back with gratitude at what the last year held for us, some with regret and maybe some Que Sera Sera for a year that might have been painful or difficult.

New Years Resolutions will be made - and broken - by many. I am not included in that group as I gave up New Years Resolutions a long time ago when I realized they were more damaging to my personal growth than helpful.

Regular and honest personal inventory is what I practice instead. I am a believer in change. My growth in my relationship with the God of the Universe and the One in charge of all change in my life is greatly important. Personal growth, spiritual growth, and a life of simplicity and joy are my goals...all year long.

So, as I have spent time pondering the close of 2008, I have asked myself some questions. Questions like,

"What have I done to honor God this year?"

"How many ways has He blessed me?"

"Who have I been a blessing to?"

"Who do I need to apologize to, make amends to?"

"Have I been a servant?"

I think about the lessons that He has taught me. I remember things like His promise to me to replace fake pearls with genuine pearls.

I rejoice in the work He has done here. I lost one friend but I have more friends now, and they are all genuine pearls! The fake ones are turned over to the Lord and they did not stand the test of time, fake indeed.

I see the blessings He has bestowed upon my family.

The list goes on and on...........

With God in my life, all things are good. 2008 might not be my favorite year, but God's hand was in it.

I welcome 2009 with expectancy. I know God is here. Tonight I will celebrate with my dear husband and a dear friend at a fancy restaurant, all dressed up. We will come back to our home, friends, and children to ring in the new year together with food, drink, laughter and the joy of relationships and love.

And I will ask myself these questions,
"How will I honor God this year?"

"To whom will I be a blessing?"

"How will I serve?"

I will keep my eyes and heart open to His glorious blessings.

I will promptly apologize when I have wronged someone.

I will look for ways to grow in my relationship with HIM and with others.

And testify to His awesome love.
Healthy eating, exercise, wise money management, more time with family, diligent Bible study...all these things on my former resolution list are things that I am working on today, tomorrow, and all the days to come.

Happy New Year!

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!
In His great mercy He has given us NEW birth into a living hope
through the reurrection of jesus Christ from the dead...
1 Peter 1:3

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Safe and Warm

These days are like being in a cocoon.
I am with family and close friends. My cell phone has been off. I have checked email very irregularly. My days are filled with cooking, visiting, fragrances of candles and food. There is music in the air, laughter, humming, and fun.
Today, I left this safe place, out into the world to buy more groceries. It was like another planet. Reality. Cars. Money. Strangers.
I couldn't wait to get back to the warmth of home. Family. What is familiar. Safe.
My mind wonders.
Just a few more days, our son goes back to the east, with his girl friend.
I like my life, it is good.
But this cocoon is so safe, so full of love.
Gratefulness fills my heart for times like this when all I need is all I want.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

The King has come!

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him."
Matthew 2:1


Friday, December 19, 2008

The Russell Christmas tree

An excerpt from the Russell Christmas card story 2008...

Russell family tradition is to have a family party on the day our tree is trimmed for holiday celebration. We select a night for the entire family to gather. Cookies are baked, eggnog is served, and Christmas songs fill the air. It is our official ushering in of this magical season. The tree ornaments are placed on a table so that we can select our special ornaments and hang them on the tree.

Memories are mentioned, fun stories of how each ornament was adopted into our family are told year after year. In the past, I have deemed a few of the ornaments the "ugly ornaments". Previously, I hung them on the back of the tree, out of sight. Like the one below, I painted when I was in the 3rd or 4th grade. My mom tells me that my dad tried and tried to talk me out of selecting the colors, but I insisted. The ornament was so ugly, I inherited when I left home, and it hangs on our tree, in all it's pitifulness, year after year.

We also have the pretty ornaments, the ones selected because of their beauty, their shine. I personally like vintage glass ornaments, and I love the jewel tones, unlike the lime green and hot pink that I selected in my youth.

This year; however, the "ugly ornaments" have front row spots on our tree.
The reason?
I realized that all of our ornaments represent something important in the history of our family, the good and the bad come together to make up what is unique to us. When the tree was completed this year, it sparkled proud and majestic, displaying all our ornaments...the lovely and the unlovely.
And like our lives, it looks ...

It reminds me of how God takes all things and makes them work for good. He takes our ugly and makes us beautiful and like Him.
When He looks at us, He sees us as the finished project, just like the Russell Christmas tree.

Merry Christmas!


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Mary, did you know?

Mary, did you know
That your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Did you know
That your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know
That your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that youve delivered
Will soon deliver you

Mary, did you know
That your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Did you know
That your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know
That your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little boy
Youve kissed the face of god

Mary, did you know?
The blind will see
The deaf will hear
And the dead will live again
The lame will leap
The dumb will speak
The praises of the lamb

Mary, did you know
That your baby boy is lord of all creation?
Did you know
That your baby boy will one day rules the nations?
Did you know
That your baby boy is heavens perfect lamb?
This sleeping child youre holding
Is the great I am

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Pain = Peace

Amidst all the hustle and bustle, joy to the worlds, and Ho, Ho, Ho's, I am reminded that there are some people who find this time of year more difficult, more sad, and more painful than any other time. For myself, there is an amount of grief this Christmas season that is new to my repertoire of things to feel sad about.

My father in law died just a month ago. He was very loved and respected by everyone in our family. I can hear his voice, and see his smile, and it makes me very sad to know that we will not be able to love on him this Christmas. And losing the friend that I loved more than any friend I have ever had has left a gaping, weeping hole in my heart. At this time of year, she and I shared being one of the big things. We were best friends, she was my music minister, her family spent Christmas Eve with us, and we shopped...boy, did we shop. So many times, I just want to call her and tell her what song I just heard, what the band concert sounded like, and how far along I am in the preparation for our Christmas celebration. It is worse than if she is passed on because she is alive and has chosen to end our friendship. Both of us are at fault, but I have asked numerous times for reconciliation. She refuses to answer all forms of communication.

Yesterday, I had a melt down. The sadness overwhelmed me. I wanted to call and simply say, "I miss you." But I must respect her decision, her husband's decision as he never trusted. Jealousy. Sin.

I called a friend. She listened, diverted my attention, spoke of happier subjects. I calmed. When I checked my email later, there was a sweet note from her, an encouragement to spend some time with God...praying, reading, thinking on the things that I could not change. Acceptance.

I read this: They say that pain is inevitable but suffering is optional. If I learn to accept that pain is part of life, I will be better able to endure the difficult times and then move on, leaving the pain behind me.

Oh, sweet words. Suffering is optional. Today, I remembered that I am powerless over her decision. I may not agree with it or think it to be right in the eyes of God, but it is her decision. I am powerless over it so I have to accept it.

My world is rich with wonderful gifts; beauty, loving fellowship with family and friends, challenges that strengthen and prepare me for what God intends for me. This day is too precious to waste by resenting things that I cannot change, people that I cannot change. When I accept everything as it is, I tend to be reasonably peaceful and serene.

I am responsible for changing what I can and I have to let go of the rest if I want God's peace. Just for today, I will love God and love myself enough to give up a struggle over something that is out of my hands.

Psalm 29:11
The LORD gives strength to his people;
the LORD blesses his people with peace.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Truth about Christmas

My family and I were members of Fellowship Church for two and a half years (officially, we still are) and loved being a part of that ministry. Last year, this video was played during the Christmas Service. I ran across it on a different blog, made a comment about how good it was and ran across it again tonight while looking for something else. Must be a God-thing, so I post it to share with you. Fellowship Church is an amazing place to worship and the gifts that God has put together in that place will blow your socks off.

Enjoy and listen to the truth.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Extreme Makeover Home Edition

Ty Pennington, filming

Fred and I on the set

Camera crew and volunteers

My husband and I had a fun afternoon on the set of Extreme Home Makeover. It is absolutely amazing what one camera crew, one cast, and several hundred local volunteers can do in 5 days!

Two days ago, an old abandoned house was standing in the place where this project is being done. Monday night, a family dislocated by flood and financial hardship, will be sleeping in their brand new home after a lovely week in Hawaii!

My husband and I wore guest passes around our necks -allowing us access to anywhere on the site. We watched the camera crew -film, the operations crew -oversee, the security crew -secure, along with all kinds of activity that I never would have imagined happening behind the scenes. The mood was very upbeat and it was organized like I have never seen before.

The highlight of my day...not Ty, not the camera man, not the lunch I ate in the Crew Tent, but the kids. Kids...tons of them, walking down to the house that thier classmates used to live in (the two teenage kids whose home is being rebuilt) and the big eyes, the "wows!" out of their mouths, the way they strutted onto the set like they were very special (they were!) and the thank you's they offered as they were given cookies to snack on as they walked six blocks back to their school building. The community is into this! Everyone was thrilled to see the blessing that will be bestowed on this family. Just really cool stuff.

The show is scheduled to air on February 15, 2009. My guest pass is good through the revealing of the house on Monday afternoon. Who knows....maybe I will go and watch them -


'Tis the season of giving. I love seeing this family be blessed in such an amazing way.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Note from My Pastor

Every week, my pastor sends a note to all who are in his congregation. This is fairly common practice for some in the ministry, but my pastor sends the best letters! (I am biased, I know) Below is this week's note. I found it to be such a blessing and such an encourgment that I felt it might be fun to share with you!

Pray for our spiritual leaders. I love to hear testimony of God's blessing upon the one's He calls into full time ministry. I am personally blessed to have this man as my pastor.


December 2008 Issue #2

Good Morning,
On Tuesday night this past week, I had the privilege of going to Bass Hall in Ft. Worth to see "Handel's Messiah." I have heard a lot about this oratorio but had never seen it personally. At the end of the second act they sang the "Hallelujah" chorus and the crowd stood to its feet. Afterwards, I had to search Wikipedia to figure out what was going on. Here's what it says:"Tradition has it that King George II rose to his feet at this point. As the first notes of the triumphant Hallelujah Chorus rang out, the king rose. Royal protocol has always demanded that whenever the monarch stands, so does everyone in the monarch's presence. Thus, the entire audience stood too, initiating a tradition that has lasted more than two centuries. It is lost to history the exact reason why the King stood at that point, but the most popular explanations include:
As was and is the custom, one stands in the presence of royalty as a sign of respect. The Hallelujah chorus clearly places Christ as the King of Kings. In standing, King George II accepts that he too is subject to Lord of Lords.
He was so moved by the performance that he rose to his feet."The music during this chorus is big and stirring and thousands of people standing to their feet create a lot of energy, but it's the words to "Hallelujah" that I found to be profound and moving. The words are taken from three passages from the book of Revelation (
19:6, 11:15, 19:16). The words are:
"And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth."
"And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign forever and ever."
"And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS." During all of this, I couldn't help but think about what it might be like at the consummation of all things. When the real King of Glory will be visible and fully present and the voices of the multitude of all the saints will sing these words for real. This weekend we will finish what we started this past weekend in Luke 10. When you get a chance read verses 3-10.

I love you and look forward to seeing you.
For the joy of all people,
Matt Chandler
Lead Pastor

Cold in Texas

Cold weather is not my favorite.
It is cold in Texas today. (and yesterday)

I wake this morning to the sound of Christmas song on my radio, my body snuggled into the warm flannel sheets and the man God has given me.

I don't want to arise to the cold air, the wind.

there is joy in my life.
I have friends, work, (Extreme Home Makeover) today
My life is so blessed
with children
people to love
people to help
parties tonight

My body leaves the warm nest in my bed, hesitant to be hit with the chill.

I feel warm. My robe helps, but really...
it is my heart.

So much love.
So much to be thankful for.
So much to look forward to.
It is another day!

God warms my heart!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Extreme Fun with Extreme Home Makeover

My husband told me several weeks ago that he had been contacted by Extreme Home Makeover. For a split second, I hoped it was for us (LOL). The home that is next to his office had been nominated and approved for a makeover. Today the demolition begins. Tomorrow my husband and myself will be on the set and I am so excited. I am not normally star struck...I don't even watch television (it is the truth, really!) but I have watched a total of three Extreme Home Makeover shows and if I DID watch T.V., I would watch this show.

So, stay tuned. Pictures of myself with Ty Pennington himself coming soon!

Here is the newsclip from the noon news today.

Extreme Home Makeover

Monday, December 8, 2008

Christmas Wish

Christmas Shopping is almost finished. The tree is up and decorated, the halls are decked, the cookies baked. (the first batch anyway)

This is fun stuff.

Today, I did one of those little on-line quizzes that one receives in your email, a little Get-to-know you quiz, Christmas tid-bits. One of the questions was, "What is the biggest annoyance about this season?"

Selfishness was my answer.

At a time when we are to be worshiping the birth of our Savior and King, it is easy to get caught up in being selfish. Even when we try not to be selfish, we have to fight it. Even the good things like "spending time with family and friends" becomes our focus instead of celebrating the birth of God in the flesh.

My desire has been to teach my children that it is not all about them. This is a challenge every year.

Currently, I hope that my nearly 15 year old daughter's focus is out and not in.

The radio station that I listen to does a thing called Christmas Wish every year. Beginning the Friday after Thanksgiving, the morning show team travels to Chick-Fil-A stores all over the DFW area. There are huge notebooks full of local families who have been nominated for a Christmas wish. One can hear everything from wheelchair needs, to job needs, to food needs, to time is amazing! They also give away free Chicken Biscuits.

OH! That will motivate my teenage daughter to go with me.

And it does.

Last Friday, she and I went to the local Chick-Fil-A and met the morning show host of my favorite radio station. We met our the mayor of our town. And we donated to Christmas wish. My daughter's mouth was agape when she realized how much money was to be given to someone that we do not know.

And she smiled. It was not about Chicken Biscuits anymore. She focused out.

Now when she hears the Christmas Wish, she has new perspective. She has a personal attachment, and she has the heartfelt desire for one's who are struggling to know the love of Jesus.

That is Christmas and I got my Christmas Wish!
Merry Christmas.

KLTY Christmas Wish

Check it out!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Just For Today

I think I have mentioned before that I attend a Recovery Group, commonly called a 12 - step program, weekly. It is vitally important to my serenity and ability to live life without going crazy. I wouldn't change a thing about what I have experienced, my family of origin, or even the one's in my life who are still actively in addictive behaviors because of what I have learned as a result of their influence. What I do want to change is my heart, my reactions, and the way that I look at and live life...which sometimes is off, self-centered, and co-dependant. What I do wish I could change is the fact that I did not start working a 12 step recovery program when I first realized that some of my (crazy) behaviors and thought patterns were directly related to my experiences with alcoholism. A counselor and pastor at my church years and years ago (about 17 years) suggested that I do this and at that time, I didn't. Regret won't get me anywhere, but I wonder how different I would be and how many relationships would be healthier (or even existent) if I had taken recovery seriously way back then.

Anyway, I say all of this because I have been working for many months on some particular things and can finally give credit to God that some serious (wrong) attitudes are gone!
Yes! Gone!
The slate is clean!
Don't you just love grace? Don't you just love miracles?
Ha ha! Yes, I believe that God changing my heart is certain areas is miraculous!

It is my pleasure to boast in Him today!

I want to share with you, a prayer that I pray every day. I have it on a book mark that I keep in my journal. I also carry it with me in my purse. If a moment comes along that I need to be reminded of what I CAN control (sometimes I get confused!), I pull this out and read it.
Dear God,

Just for today: I will try to live through this day only, and not tackle all my problems at once. I can do something for twelve hours that which would appall me if I felt that I had to keep it up for a lifetime.

Just for today: I will be happy.
This assumes to be true what Abraham Lincoln said,
*Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.*

Just for today: I will adjust myself to what is, and not try to adjust everything to my own desires. I will Take my *luck* as it comes, and fit myself into it.

Just for today:I will try to strengthen my mind. I will study. I will not be a mental loafer. I will read something that requires effort, thought, and concentration.

Just for today: I will exercise my soul in three ways: I will do somebody a good turn and not get found out; if anybody knows of it, it will not count. I will do at least two things I don't want to do-- just for exercise.
I will not show anyone that my feelings are hurt: they may be hurt but today I will not show it.

Just for today: I will be agreeable. I will look as well as I can, dress becomingly, keep my voice low, be courteous, criticize not one bit. I won't find fault with anything, nor try to improve or regulate anybody else but myself.

Just for today: I will have a program. I may not follow it exactly, but I will have it. I will save myself from two pests: Hurry and Indecision.

Just for today: I will have a quiet half hour all by myself, and relax. During this half hour, sometime I will try to get a better perspective of my life.

Just for today: I will be un-afraid. Especially I will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful,and to believe that as I give to the world, so the world will give back to me

For more information on Recovery Programs:

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Photos - Trip to see Adam and Thien

Adam and Thien

The View from Adam's apartment window and balcony.

The Apartment

They fed us lunch...yes...Cajun Craw fish - fresh, steamed

Chillin' out after that big lunch

The famous Chesapeake Blue Crab - can't get this in Texas!

A fish market, rarity in Texas.

Adam, hanging out in his room.

Thien in the kitchen, preparing a Mango for lunch.

Adam's workplace.

Having fun at the Seafood buffet to die for. It's called Todai

The whole family. We met Thien's sweet parents.

Mai and Thuc

Me and my son!

Adam and Thien

Fred, myself, and Adam

So happy. These bears have a story. They came all the way from Vietnam.

A great time and a great lunch at the Truong's.


Being silly.
Add Image

Adam and I trying to see what's going on!

Thien's first flight! As fate would have it, our best friend was in the area with his brother-in-law and we got to take Thien up in the Piper Cub. This is a family tradition!

Okay, she passes the test! See the smile on her face? She loved it!

She is going to fit right in!

Thien taking Ryan for a ride.

Taking Thien back to Blacksburg. The weekend is over......

But Christmas Holiday's are coming,
and so are they!

See you in Texas Adam and Thien!

November's End

Tomorrow is the first day of December and today I am putting away all the Fall Decorations, carefully replacing pumpkins and turkeys with snowmen and Santa's. I brought out the Nativity a couple of weeks ago as we prepare for the season of celebrating the birth of Jesus. Bringing it out early helps me focus on the real reason that we celebrate with all this red, green, and glitter.

As I thought about the passing of this season, and gave thought to writing a note - to you - and to myself, I realize that November was full of pain and full of joy. Sometimes the same week, the same day, and even the same moment brought feelings that did not go together in my mind but I could not separate them in my heart.

Bob, my husband's father, and my father-in-law of almost 30 years, passed away after a difficult battle with cancer. Joy and pain. He was hurting and tired. He left and we were left hurting and tired. Being with family helped with the pain, the fullness that I felt being embraced by love and comfort. But there was also pain involved in the one family member that remained distant and hurt, not comforted by her family.

Similary, my friend at work, who passed away suddenly after surgery. She was not ill, she was not old. She had her gall bladder removed and never came back. Her office next to mine, a constant reminder. And one coworker who's self centered-ness challenged my Christ-like-ness in a way I have not experienced before. Even the thought of going back to the office tomorrow is painful and dreadful. The joy is in knowing that He is with me.

And then the trip to Washington DC, to visit my son and his girlfriend. To meet her parents. To see his home and the places he spends his time. Joy in being able to be there, to sit with him, to eat with him, to hug on him. Sadness at the distance between us, geographically, and that time is limited and short. It was even more pronounced in my mind and heart being more aware of how quickly things can change.

My birthday is in November. A very special friend and I went to see Coldplay in concert. It was a tremendous treat. My husband had to travel on my actual birthday, and knowing that our family celebration would fall on a different day, to go see one of my favorite bands with one of my favorite friends brought much joy. I could hear, see, sing, and dance! How blessed. But it was also the first birthday in many years that I did not hear from my former best friend. We used to share this time as her birthday is just a few days later. Her silence a reminder of the depth of her pain. I sent her a card via internet, which went unopened by her. Her rejection is painful and unlike Christ. I keep praying.

To help with the pain, I joyfully accepted the opportunity to spend time with a friend, who I love to spend time with and who knows the pain I feel. We took our daughters, who are friends, out to dinner and the movie High School Musical. We laughed and sang and ate and shopped. I remembered that God will not leave me in my pain but help me move on. This joy took place on the (painful) birthday of my old friend.

To end the November that I will always remember with mixed emotion - Thanksgiving. It was beautiful and it was ugly. Holes in the photographs that I didn't want to take. Sadness in eyes that I didn't want to see. But joy in the babies, the young one's growing up, the way that I look at them now like I once was. Thankful but sad.

I spend the day, preparing my home, preparing my heart, allowing time to process and time to heal as we move into this "most wonderful time of the year."

I pray and hope for peace.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace
Isaiah 9:6