A Snowy Welcome in Oklahoma!



This weekend, Hubby is doing a little work in Tulsa. Remember all the cathedrals I showed you this summer? I do hope we can attend church in the biggest one, but that may not be possible.



I little thought when I arrived that it would be snowing! What a treat for this Houston gal to have snow.. maybe a bit too much snow! HaHa!

You can't help but remember Bing Crosby's version of Silver Bells walking down the snow covered city streets. :)





We South Texas girls are not used to bundling up, sloshing through brown snow and protecting ourselves from a wintery blast on cold city streets! 




But I have to say Tulsa has it's consolations in winter.

Real winter beauty is something we don't get to admire very often in our little country home in Willis, Tx.

video









Snuggled down in a city wrapped in snow and Christmas finery made me smile. I could not have asked for a more pleasant way to spend the weekend such a short time before Christmas. :)

Winter-Time

  by Robert Louis Stevenson
Late lies the wintry sun a-bed,   
A frosty, fiery sleepy-head;   
Blinks but an hour or two; and then,   
A blood-red orange, sets again.   
   
Before the stars have left the skies, 
At morning in the dark I rise;   
And shivering in my nakedness,   
By the cold candle, bathe and dress.   
   
Close by the jolly fire I sit   
To warm my frozen bones a bit; 
Or with a reindeer-sled, explore   
The colder countries round the door.   
   
When to go out, my nurse doth wrap   
Me in my comforter and cap;   
The cold wind burns my face, and blows 
Its frosty pepper up my nose.   
   
Black are my steps on silver sod;   
Thick blows my frosty breath abroad;   
And tree and house, and hill and lake,   
Are frosted like a wedding-cake.
- See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/19310#sthash.os1Rur47.dpuf




 Though the weather outside is pretty frightful, it's quite delightful in our warm cozy hotel. I am sipping warm coffee, listening to Christmas music, and happily bundled away from the wintery blast.




 The next couple of days, I'll be addressing Christmas cards from my hotel room and it does seem strange to feel as if I literally 'stepped' into a live one!

Late lies the wintry sun a-bed, A frosty, fiery sleepy-head; Blinks but an hour or two; and then, A blood-red orange, sets again. Before the stars have left the skies, At morning in the dark I rise; And shivering in my nakedness, By the cold candle, bathe and dress. Close by the jolly fire I sit To warm my frozen bones a bit; Or with a reindeer-sled, explore The colder countries round the door. When to go out, my nurse doth wrap Me in my comforter and cap; The cold wind burns my face, and blows Its frosty pepper up my nose. Black are my steps on silver sod; Thick blows my frosty breath abroad; And tree and house, and hill and lake, Are frosted like a wedding-cake. - See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/19310#sthash.os1Rur47.dpuf

Taking in all the snow and the bright Christmas ornaments..and the tall city skyscrapers made me think of this poem...

Winter-Time

Late lies the wintry sun a-bed,
A frosty, fiery sleepy-head;
Blinks but an hour or two; and then,
A blood-red orange, sets again.

Before the stars have left the skies,
At morning in the dark I rise;
And shivering in my nakedness,
By the cold candle, bathe and dress.

Close by the jolly fire I sit
To warm my frozen bones a bit;
Or with a reindeer-sled, explore
The colder countries round the door.

When to go out, my nurse doth wrap
Me in my comforter and cap;
The cold wind burns my face, and blows
Its frosty pepper up my nose.

Black are my steps on silver sod;
Thick blows my frosty breath abroad;
And tree and house, and hill and lake,
Are frosted like a wedding cake.

The Heart of Joyful Gift Giving



 A reader from Primitive Homestead  brought up a very important problem   that we often have to deal with at Christmas--the promotion of materialism. It is sad that gift giving sometimes comes down to just the price tag,  the brand name or even one-upping others by our gifts.

 But we can take a different approach to gift-giving
--it's all up to the giver. 

There is no question that stores promote  the 'love of stuff' to a degree that could leave a bad taste in anyone's mouth.  I'm sure it's a bigger problem here than in any other country on the planet! 

That being said though, I do think that it is important to reflect on the true meaning of giving at Christmas.. at least what I see as the real meaning behind giving gifts.


In many ways God set the example of gift giving by giving his Son's life.. for us. In fact, he commanded us to 'love one another as I have loved you'. Regardless of why we celebrate His birth by giving gifts to others, the fact is that giving to others in the right spirit is always a good thing!


It takes a certain amount of unselfishness to give anything to anyone. There is something just intrinsically good for the soul in giving. :)

Here's what the bible says about giving...


God Loves a Cheerful Giver
Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.  Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed;…

Admittedly, this refers to giving to God and to those in need.. but if our hearts are right, we can give to others in His name and it is the same thing.  We should do everything as 'unto the Lord and not unto men.'.. even in giving Christmas gifts. Generosity is always praised in scripture.. and selfishness, or stinginess is always condemned.

Even if we have two coats...the bible says we should share with someone who has none. I have been trying to put that into practice. I found out very quickly that I don't like giving as much as I thought I did. lol   I had to learn to be more selfless--it sure doesn't come naturally. I wrote about that struggle on my devotional blog on a post called--Surrendering my love of money.

I can remember times when gift giving at Christmas seemed like a daunting task.. especially when we had so little.. and it was hard not to feel embarrassed or pained at our lack of 'splash'.  Still, as I tried to teach my children, giving is good for everyone and regardless of how little we have, we can always give a little. :)
As far as traditional secular gift giving during a holiday, I for one am so glad that people have one day a year where they would feel awful if they didn't give something of their worldly goods.. to someone else.  It really does shine a little light of love and joy when we learn the joy of giving.

Otherwise some people might spend every year just being selfish with their stuff. I do hate how businesses capitalize on that by promoting stuff to the point of materialism, but that shouldn't ruin the heart of our holiday giving.



 
Giving gifts is a love language and something mentioned often in the bible. God loves giving gifts to men. And He commanded us to love one another as He loved us and to emulate him. He gives freely to us and wants us to give freely to others.

 Jesus himself said, give to him that asks of thee, and to him that would borrow.. turn not away. In another passage, he says our Heavenly Father gives good things to those who ask .. not to consume on our own 'passions' but still.. giving to others is a beautiful way to show God's love.. and what better time than Christmas?

However, it is sad that it's been so commercialized. We are challenged by the Lord to give to those who cannot give back and for many Christian families, we consider Christmas the best time of the year to do that. Angel Tree, Operation Christmas Child, Salvation army, needy folks in our neighborhood and church.. are all ways to do that.

But just to give simple gifts from the heart to those we love, once or twice a year, could never be a bad thing. Our gifts for others don't have to be expensive.. but always say--you are special in my life and I want to bless you. :)




If you are giving from the heart, and you love the Lord with all your heart, then you need not fear that there is anything at all wrong with gift-giving at Christmas time.

So even if the world commercializes it, and tries to change the name from Merry Christmas to Happy Holidays.. I for one am glad because for so many Christians this is one chance of all others..like Easter.. to share the good news without any compunction whatsoever. Many more ears are open to that truth at this time than any other.

My prayer, is that we can demonstrate to the world, the true spirit of Christian love by giving in such a way, that the recipient knows he is loved with uncommon love.. in a way that honors the God of the bible and not the 'god' of this world.

Our family has always been careful to give as we have been blessed through the year. We have never had much in the way of funds, but we gave the best we could.. without any desire or need to give the perfect gift or to give beyond our means.. which would not be a blessing to anyone.



As I'm sure my readers know, giving is a chance to think about and care for someone else and say I love you in a tangible way. It really is the thought that counts.  This year I tried to give a lot more thought to my gifts. That way they truly were a blessing. The pottery above was purchased from art students on our college campus for $4-7 per item. I am giving them to our Deacons at church as a thank you for all their faithful service all year.
 
Some of the best gifts have more to do with heart and thought than time... gifts of service, photographs and videos for loved ones living far away, gifts that grow, or handmade gifts.  Sometimes we even have to be a bit sneaky and find out.. what does that person like to do.. what makes them smile.

This year, I tried to focus on only one person or family per shopping day as I hunted for gifts, so that I could give them my whole heart and attention. It really did change my perspective on gift giving. :)

May the Lord help you to give in His name for the sake of blessing those who receive your gifts and may you be double blessed by having a joyful attitude as you do so.  Be sure to find someone who won't be getting gifts or is in need too. Such a wonderful way to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas.

Happy Homemaking and Merry Christmas!

Donna :)



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Eliminating Stress, Worry, and Frustration During The Holidays



I don't know what it is but despite the joy we want to feel and are supposed to feel at Christmas, that is often not our experience is it?  Somehow the stress rises with every passing day, even hour. But this year I have a secret source of  help to  get through the hustle and bustle with not only a good measure of peace, but true joy!

Sunday, we had our first advent celebration and the focus was on John the Baptist's impending birth. Because the Lord sent him to 'prepare the way' for the Lord, we decided, as a family, that our first advent candle this year represented preparation.  

It occurred to me that if we do what we usually do.. jump headlong into the Christmas to do's without heart preparation, this Christmas will be just as stressful and 'un-joyful' as all the others have been at times.






So as a family we agreed to do all we can to  stay focused on the REAL reason for Christmas.. the celebration of the birth of our Lord Jesus.  We are reading daily from an online advent devotional plan by John Piper called Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent.


As long as we focus on the best gift of all.. the birth of our Lord and his coming down to earth to bring salvation to a hurt and dying world, we have done the most important thing on our Christmas list. :)  Everything else is extra.

However, in spite of our good intentions, for some reason, a whole list of projects, concerns, and tasks were on everyone's minds this morning at my house. The sheer weight of all those things that needed to be done, must be done, and weren't yet done, caused a bit of tension to hover just on the edge of the various conversations we were having.

I felt such an intense pressure! Before I started seeking Jesus with my whole heart, I would have had a few sharp retorts to throw into the mix, or just curled up on the bed for a little pity party. 

But no.. the daily time in the Lord's presence that I keep so faithfully in times of ease, trusting the Lord was changing and filling my soul.... paid off beautifully under the pressure of everyone's anxious thoughts as to all the needs looming on the horizon, and their fears that all might not get taken care of.

The Holy Spirit immediately brought this verse to my mind, when I was tempted to get weighed down by it all.  I chose to grab on to and rely on it's precious truth! 

You will keep him in perfect peace  
whose mind is stayed on you
because he trusts in You. Isaiah 26:3 


All the future and it's details are in God's capable hands. We have no reason to fear, when we choose to walk by Faith.

 I had to laugh when I finally read the assigned bible reading for the morning and there was the very verse the Lord had reminded me of! It's amazing how He really does bring all things to our remembrance just when we  need it.

A few thoughts on what this verse really means...

keep- maintain and hold fast

perfect peace - no fear, no doubt, steady and dependable, unshakeable

mind - a mental focus, all our thoughts, hopes, imaginations, understanding

stayed- focused, glued, concentrated (no wandering or doubting)

on thee - God himself

trusts - Has faith, knows that God is trustworthy 
and will keep his word and knows what is best for us

A simple summary is that as long as we have FAITH in God and keep our eyes on Him and his wishes for us, refusing to doubt or entertain sinful  or fearful thoughts, God will guard our peace and keep our hearts tranquil and at ease. Nothing will be able to shake us.

God will do the keeping.. but we must believe (inspite of any evidence to the contrary)  and take captive our thoughts and imaginations and force them to stay focused on the truth of God's strength, love, capability to provide, and his sovereign plan for our day and our future.



Worry is the result of doubt and self reliance. 

Peace is the result of relying on God day in and day out and having faith in Him and his provision and guidance.

 We must stay close to the Lord and seek Him daily, if we want to walk in faith and enjoy peace in the midst of difficulties.

Don't let your mind wander from God's 'reality' to the long list to be done. Instead, accept each day's work as God's assignment to you, trusting that he will make you able to do it.

Do the next thing and leave the list in God's hands. Worry won't get it done--but it will freeze you in your tracks. 

Nothing wastes more time than anger, worry, self-pity, and fear.

If you must waste time.. do it with God. You will be so full of peace, joy, and self-control, that you will whip that list out in no time!


If it doesn't get done, then the Lord didn't want you to do it. :)

 Do the Next Thing" 
From an old English parsonage down by the sea
There came in the twilight a message to me;
Its quaint Saxon legend, deeply engraven,
Hath, it seems to me, teaching from Heaven.
And on through the doors the quiet words ring
Like a low inspiration: “do the next thing.

Many a questioning, many a fear,

Many a doubt, hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment, let down from Heaven,
Time, opportunity, and guidance are given.
Fear not tomorrows, child of the King,
Trust them with Jesus, do the next thing.

Do it immediately, do it with prayer;
Do it reliantly, casting all care;
Do it with reverence, tracing His hand
Who placed it before thee with earnest command.
Stayed on Omnipotence, safe ‘neath His wing,
Leave all results, do the next thing.

Looking for Jesus, ever serener,
Working or suffering, be thy demeanor;
In His dear presence, the rest of His calm,
The light of His countenance be thy psalm,
Strong in His faithfulness, praise and sing.
Then, as He beckons thee, do the next thing.

~Author Unknown


Dear Lord, We thank you for your promise to give us your perfect peace to preserve and protect our joy, when our minds want to derail us with doubt, fear, and discouragement. And if we are not stressed right now, may we take the time to seek your face and 'store up' good treasure against the days of storm which will certainly come in time.

 Lord, help us to press in, by faith, to Your grace to enable us to withstand the temptation to worry or get frustrated over others lack of  cooperation. You will not give us too much to bear. Grow our faith so we can honor You today in everything we do. Amen

When the Holidays Don't Feel Quite so Bright...


For most of us the holidays are  a wonderful time to enjoy our family, friends, good food, special memories and to recount the blessings of the year and thank God for them. May we count our blessings till our joy is more than we can bear!  Truly God is good!

But for some of you, the holidays are not so joyful right now are they?  For you, this may be a sad or lonely season. Or perhaps you don't have much in the way of blessings.


Has this year been one of trial? Do you dread the thought of family tension, or lack of funds at the next family get together. Or perhaps your year has been one of difficulty after difficulty. Perhaps you or someone you love is ill or even gone.

I do not know where my post today will find you, Friend, but I do have one suggestion that might make your holidays a little more bearable.

I'd like to help you have a little holiday cheer too. :)

The first thing I'd suggest is simply this. In the midst of your bad things.. can you thank God for just one good thing?

When my husband had cancer, the baby had club foot, and we were facing $100,000 dollars of medical debt, the cps was making 'friendly 'visits to our house over concern for our home birth (while we were homeschooling in a seriously unfriendly state to homeschoolers), and we were driving our dilapidated 79 pontiac station wagon, facing no medical insurance, and unsure from day to day whether Tim would get fired or not due to the effects of chemotheraphy....

 No, our holidays did not feel too cheerful.

I remember sitting in the livingroom, feeling as if all the joy of Thanksgiving and Christmas, was just gone.  How does one celebrate in such a state as that?


How I wanted 'normal' back. I ached for it. Yet that was not the 'cup' the Lord had given us to drink from that year.

The one thing I recall most was that we had to focus on the good that was there--our children's shining faces, Tim's prognosis helped (95% cure rate), that we could still homeschool, that God was there and that He loved us.  We learned to walk by faith that year.

Where misery abounds, God's grace abounds more. 
He is there when we suffer and He cares about you. 

Holidays (Holy days) are truly about God and not so much about us.  We have one thing we can thank God for.. and that is that He always cares for us and will never let us go.

He asks us to turn to Him in our darkest hour and he will bring back joy.

What if there was no God? That would be very bad. But He is there and he does love us and He will get you through! I promise that.

Count your blessings today. Find at least one. 

It's so hard when we suffer trials and that can spoil the joy, but He will carry you through them. Holidays are days to thank the Lord for gifts that cannot be taken away.


Of all the people who can truly understand the true meaning of a holiday--those who suffer can. Because the temporal things that can be removed from our lives don't cloud the true meaning.

Our first Christmas as a married couple, was in a two room married student housing unit. We had a toddler because I had been an unwed mother when I met my young husband at a little church--five months pregnant.

 He made $5.00 per hour! Yes.. and he wanted me to stay home to take care of little Matthew.

That Christmas I did crossstitch the whole first year, as cheaply as possible.. mostly just bible verses. We framed them. I also made jars of grape jelly (don't need a pressure cooker) and I collected baby food jars and made construction paper silhouettes for tea candles to shine through. It was either that or have nothing to give our relatives for Christmas.


I am certain that at least a couple were not impressed with our meagre gifts. But I was so happy making and giving them. :) It was the best Christmas ever! We had only a nativity set.. no lights, no tree and I don't remember any turkeys. But how happy we were in each other! :)

We counted the blessings we had and thanked God for those we didn't.

Yes, that's the 2nd step. Thank God for the bad things too! That year in Florida, when Tim had no insurance and cancer, we had lost an important job right before the move. It would have given us $3000.00 to pay for a midwife after getting to Florida.  We didn't know he would get cancer or that his company would fail to add him to the insurance policy in time.

I remember the day Tim told me that his last attempt to finish a job that would have earned him the money had fallen through. The program crashed. The moving truck was packed.  He delivered our baby via instructions from the midwife over the speaker phone two months later.

But that night, I hung up the phone.. and I was certain the Lord said--thank me. So I did.. through the tears and the uncertainty.. I offered a sacrifice of praise and thanked him for the 'bad news'.


12 months to the day later I found out WHY God wanted me to thank him and trust him. If we had made $3,000.00 more in that 12 month period than we did.. we would not have qualified to have $100,000.00 of medical bills written off.  Yes--God knew what we did not--that we should thank him for everything... even the bad.

If you are dreading the holidays because of financial lack, distress, grief, burdens, family contention.. whatever it might be...

Come to Jesus.. and ask Him to help you. Look to Him for your joy.

As the Dr. Suess's Whoville learned, Christmas doesn't come in packages or bags..

And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?
Don't let circumstances 'steal your joy'. We can always find something to be thankful for.

And if you want real joy, thank Him for the bad things because...

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Praying you will see a little light in your dark world.. if that world is dark today. :)

With much love,
Donna

PS. Here's the link to the Walnut-Streussel coffee cake I made. It's a Taste of Home recipe. :) Frugal and delicious!

Links that might help you if you're struggling...

The Sacredness of Circumstances
Faith vs. Facts
When God Says, Not Yet
God Grieves With Us
Why Bad Things Happen (sometimes)
Suffering that Honors God

Introducing 365 Less things.. a Decluttering Challenge


I'm facing a pretty tough de-cluttering challenge this week. We are moving back to our country home in September. But we are bringing the equivalent of a 2nd household's worth of 'stuff' with us. Yipes!


 There are a few things that make this task pretty daunting.

One, I can only just 'hobble' about with a fractured left toe and a booted right foot..with a broken bone that is still healing.

The other is that I'm 'between homes'.. staying at the country house  temporarily to get some things done.. but going back and forth.. so we have to have some bare minimum of stuff at both places.

On top of that I can't drive.. to get boxes or ship things or whatever. My son has to take me wherever I go.



Hubby's request is that I somehow 'make room' because he plans to move us in stages. This is akin to having surgery.. on a weekly basis.  Not the kind of misery you want to 'stretch out' lol.

My brain..sort of rebels at this plan.  It isn't like life suddenly 'stops' for these kinds of 'events'.

Honestly, I wasn't quite sure how I was gonna do it. Then I stumbled (thank you Lord :) over this blog..



Here are a few tips from her introductory post....

  • Keep it simple..
  • Pledge to remove, on average, at least one item a day 
  • The departure point ~ Designate an out of the way area to place your decluttered items until you are ready to take the next step. The next step might be to through it in the bin, recycle it, sell it or donate it.
  • There is no speed limit ~ If one thing a day is too slow for you declutter as many things as you like just be sure to keep within your comfort limit.   Try to do something everyday to maintain your momentum. 
    Be mindful about your decision making - make sure you don't get rid of something you'll need later

 You can read the rest here.
I really really like the idea of breaking down the decluttering process into such tiny baby steps. The best part is making a daily habit of it. You'd never have to get overwhelmed by this process again!

So I'm getting rid of a few things in these areas this week..


  • Teas
  • Shoes
  • Books
  • Grandchildren items (sniff.. all living long distance now)
  • Jewelry
  • Desk Caddy papers

She posted a challenge today and suggested we get rid of duplicates like scissors too. I might add scissors and pens to that list.

I may make my schedule 3 items a day instead of 1 since.. I'm a bit behind lol.

After all.. it is August and she started in January.




But I am so excited about the idea that if I got rid of 3 items a day for the next six months.. my new year would be a lot brighter! That's 3 x180 = 550 items gone out of my house!

If I also put a 'moratorium' on bringing stuff in, the reality of a 'simplified, clutter-free home', could be mine..and yours.

Be sure to check out that blog and get inspired. I'll let you know how it goes on my end.

Clutter free.. here I come!


 Happy Homemaking :)

Donna


Do We Spend Too Much Time Online?



Dear Friends, 

I'm sure you may have wondered what 'happened to me' when I disappeared from the blog. I made excuses and tried to post.. but the truth was I got caught up in a seemingly innocent thing.. and it really did derail my life for a solid year.  I have hesitated to post this. I buried the post at the bottom of my devotional blog.  But when I think of how many people might be struggling with some form of online addiction whether it be facebook, games, surfing, texting, or even blogging, then I feel I have no choice but to be transparent with you. 

If this doesn't help you, you may have a teen or a spouse or friend who could be helped by it. Please, pass the word.  This form of addiction doesn't go away by accident.  

Lovingly,
Donna

How I have wept  over my lost year...a year of ignoring the regular pleas of my children to give up the online community and game that they had all grown tired of long before I did. I did not in any way want to share this story with anyone.  Never have I failed in such a way in my life.

 If you can hang in there through the story below.. I will explain.. what caused me to even consider that I was 'addicted' and then how I was able to get free. It all started with a bible passage I was reading that appeared to having nothing at all to do with the problem...


2 Samuel  The anger of the Lord burned against Israel when Satan tempted David, saying "Go and take a census of Israel and Judah". So the king said to Joab and the army commanders with him, "go throughout the tribes of Israel... and enroll all the fighting men, so that I may know how many there are."  But Joab replied to the king, "May the Lord your God multiply the troops a hundred times over and may the eyes of my lord the king see it. But why does my Lord the king want to do such a thing? The king's word overruled Joab and the commanders: so they left to go enroll (count) the fighting men.It took 9 months and 20 days to count all David's troops. And Then he repented when he realized what he had done.

A few things stood out to me so starkly in this story...

 First,what was it that compelled him to count those men? I realized..it was pride.. and self-worth.. wanting to enjoy what 'he' had accomplished in his kingdom.  No doubt it made sense and it seems a 'small sin' to us that he wanted to count his men. But I also knew that in God's eyes this was a HUGE thing. 

Second was his staunch determination to do what he knew to be wrong in spite of the clear and desperate protests those closest to him.  This was not an 'accidental' sin.. or a complete blindspot as the men he relied on most were calling him out on it.

Lastly, what shocked me most.. was not only did he willfully and stubbornly determine to do this against all reason and right and knowing God's heart on the matter..in spite of loud protests and begging by those under him to choose the right path and honor God, he did it for NINE MONTHS and 20 days. 

Can someone who loved God more than anyone else recorded in the bible, David, really have done this so blatantly and for so long and been so oblivious to the consequences? Self-deception is the only way I can fathom being able to persist so long in known sin.  Perhaps he didn't 'see' it as sin...just felt it was the most sensible course for organizing his armies.

 So... a surprising story... and I can only imagine how awful he must have felt when the full realization of his decision and the course of that nine months finally came to a halt.

What does all this have to do with you? or with me? As I was sharing this story with my husband and wondering why in the world the Lord might pick this as his 'word to me', suddenly, with horror, I saw it all.  Just as David did not SEE his sin with Bathsheba.. till Nathan told him the story of the sheep, I had not seen the full ramifications.. of my own sin this last year.. not in this light.

I have spent my whole adult life doing my very best to love the Lord and serve him with my whole heart and to help my children do the same.  I was the one begging, pleading, reminding my family not to spend all day online. My family, husband and kids, have loved and played computer games for years and years. I could not see what it was that they liked about them. It puzzled me completely.. until this year.

I had given up blogging (which I now see was where this started--a bit of hypocrisy here) because the kids hated that too. They felt I was giving too much attention to the women on the blog and not enough to them. They were right. Sadly so. But I could not see it. I was 'helping' others. Or so I thought. When I finally gave it up.. the family had just discovered a new game that was online and they could all play together.  After several weeks of sitting in the living room in the evening by myself I decided to 'try' it and join with them.

What I found was that online games.. can be very very fun. The sense of accomplishment, purpose, living in a 'beautiful home' (we had a very mediocre one), having a beautiful character, and even playing together in this amazing world with scenery beyond one's imagining.. (Lord of the Rings online), was a zillion times more fun than a movie or a book.

At first it was fine, we all had a great time laughing and everyone thought it was so funny how scared I was of fighting the bad guys or dangerous creatures. Mom was playing a computer game and how fun was that? :)  But what they could not know was the slippery slope I was on.

Coming from the background I did, I had a huge need for praise. And accomplishment was my medicine of choice for feelings of insignificance.  After Lotro, one of our sons told us about another game we could play as a family called Minecraft and we got it for Christmas.  So that we could all play together, even though this son lived long distance, and a daughter was moving out, we decided to get on a 'public server' so we could still play this game of survival in the elements and building beautiful homes of virtual blocks and we could all 'log on' together.

Whereas Lotro lost my attention pretty quickly, building beautiful homes in Minecraft fascinated me. The owners, two older teenage boys, were so impressed with my building skills that we were invited to move to a 'city' on the server. When I finished the 2 story English home , the owner made me 'admin' which meant help manage the server and the players.

The world of an online server can be so so addictive. The game is.. the community is.. and the positions of rank and leadership.. all are incredibly attractive.  But because life was normal.. the game stayed in it's proper place.  We only played at night.. and it was just fun.

But then Tim got a new job, and I broke my arm and could not do anything but sit around, and Tim and our 20 yr old daughter (after 15 yrs working at home) decided to move closer to the new job as we couldn't sell our country house right away things changed dramatically.  That same month, my other son Jacob moved to his first apt with friends.  It was down to me and Christian (our expert gaming child) in a house.. all alone... with a broken arm and an empty nest. Meeting on the server seemed like a perfect plan until the house could get sold and our family could be reunited.

 I feel so much better giving all my excuses...but sadly.. that's all they are-- excuses.

I was already entranced by the game before all this happened .. it's just that it would probably never gotten so bad but for the situation. Tim and I both thought.. oh how fun--we'll keep playing on our land, building our house, caving in the underground caves, mining for gold and iron etc (his favorite part) and on the server we can 'meet' every night.

I guess you can see where this is headed. The pain of losing my hubby's companionship after 15 years of being together day and night.. and kids was huge. My whole role in life changed from busy mother of teens, on the go all the time, just dissipated into nothing over night. I could only be with Tim on the weekends.   Every Friday night was heaven.. and Sunday was a day of grieving... and the game and the little friends became a solace.

Later, on a much more mature server,  I ended up with a lot of friends who were much older than the young teens,  so it was quite a fun group. We all loved to create beautiful things.. cities, massive structures...anything you could imagine.. we built it. Lots of fun banter but.. almost all non-Christian. :(

 What was probably more insidious is that being a part of their lives felt like a ministry too. So many lost, desperate, lonely teens with no one to advise or comfort them but their own friends. My heart aches for them. But that element of the scenario helped me 'justify' the addiction. How deceitful our hearts can be. :(   It's not ministry if it's not God's will and your heart is not right or your family suffers. Enough said about that.

Hours slipped into days.. into weeks.. into months. But so did my heart, my affections, my time with the Lord, and my focus Getting back to real life was the hardest thing I ever did and only the conviction of the Holy Spirit, the constant kind encouragement of my daughter and another Christian friend who was on the server with me (he was 22), could bring me out of it. Both regularly challenged me on my time with the Lord, his word, and getting my 'real life' work done.

 Until I 'woke up' as David did, I had no idea just how awful the consequences had been. How much I regret the things I didn't do that year.. that the Lord would have liked for me to do. How different my testimony could have been if I had turned to the Lord to meet my deepest needs...instead of a worldly substitute.

Thankfully, Debbie and Laurie took me out to lunch one day and challenged me to tell Tim--look things have gotta change. We managed to get an apt together even though the house had not yet sold.. but that was seven months later.

But my sin was OH so like David's.  I turned to my own resources.. and to worldly accomplishment and tons of praise and adulation instead of to the Lord in my great need. The kids adored me and the owner who was in school all day was thrilled to have a mom who could help manage the server during the day while he was gone.

This is truly the heart of idolatry and the fuel for addiction...turning to something else for your happiness and significance.  David turned to his armies for security and validation.. I turned to an online community. Either way, the Lord got left out altogether. 

How I wanted to not share this story!  I wanted to hide my sin... I wanted to repent and fix it but never have to tell anyone. :(  But the Lord will not let me. Our ladies' bible study lesson on repentance...is staring me in the face. And I can't ignore it. How many tears I cried over whether or not to share this.

But I know I must.. that however awful I am.. or have been.. or how badly I failed.. I know I am not alone.  For the sake of others who might have failed in some other way, I will make a fool of myself here publically (thank goodness it's a small crowd ) and share the shame... but also.. the glory.

How God has restored.. and changed me!  I have no words. The peace and joy are beyond description. The fellowship with the Lord I have now is so much more amazing than when I first became a Christian. I am walking in the spirit strictly because of the overwhelming quantity of grace God is pouring out on me.

In order to break free, I had to cry out to God day and night.. over and over till I could 'tie my 'happy' to Jesus instead of to players on the server.  Never in a million years could I have imagined a scenario like the one above happening to me.

How many of us can imagine doing what David did... like committing adultery. I can't. You can't. But yes, even if you love the Lord very very much.. you can get so busy.. doing the things you believe God has called you to do.. that you start slipping... and getting busy... which before this year was happening to me. And you don't realize you are relying on your own strength.Then the temptations come and you hardly realize what has happened.

All I can say is that the Lord has restored me... and brought me closer than I have been to him in the whole of my adult life with the Lord.  He has changed my focus so much that my life at home has truly been transformed.

I've learned to love his word like the very air we breathe.. like the food we eat. Without Him, I cannot be happy. I discovered what it really means to 'walk in the spirit' and you WILL NOT fulfill the lusts of the flesh.  This is a reality every day for me..and it can be for you too.

This is terribly long but the Lord seemed to want me to write it so here it is... and my reputation along with it such as it was. But I leave the results to Him for his praise is all I want or ever need.  If you or someone you love is addicted to online games, facebook, texting, blogging, or even alcohol.. please consider this website, www.olganon.org .

Love in Christ,
Donna

Visiting Cathedral Square in Tulsa Oklahoma



You know, when you go on a road trip... a place like Tulsa, Ok is not at the top of the average traveler's list of 'places I am dying to go see. ' In fact I am certain it never would have made the list at all. 


It was, however, the unforseen jewel that turned up at the end of our 20,000 mile, ten day trek.  We got to the hotel late in the evening and crashed in our 11th floor hotel room at the end of the longest trip we've ever made. I was thoroughly tired of sitting in that truck however much I adore my dear hubby. lol



But I was indeed rewarded for my flexibility and patience. Who would have guessed what I would discover out my window the next morning! :)


 

 
 There are at least seven cathedrals in this sleepy little town (little as compared to Houston.) I'd love to find out the story behind this massive investiture in architectural beauty!

 
 Honestly it was so hot, dry and barren, at least downtown, that I really expected there to be nothing worth seeing while we were there.

Tim was doing a little job for his former boss so we tacked on an extra day to the trip to help him out. I am so so glad we did!

 
I really was in heaven.. being the architecture 'buff' that I am. :) 




It must have been 115 degrees outside--I mean baking hot.  I got sunburned and almost over did it in the 45 minutes that I trekked around the block of our hotel--but I just couldn't refrain from snapping pictures left and right.You can see even more from other photographers at flicker.


It was absolutely worth it!  Tulsa, Ok now holds a special place in my heart. :) 




Cathedral square.. the hidden jewel of Oklahoma.
 If you happen to be passing through that state.. stop and visit. :)


Happy Homemaking..
Donna

Alone with God

6 My eyes will watch over them for their good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up and not tear them down; I will plant them and not uproot them. I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.Jeremiah 25:6,7

I was reading this out on the deck this morning.. the first morning home but without my hubby.  It’s his 50th birthday.. and I had hoped to do something special with him.  It was hard saying good-bye last night. 

I can’t help but remember when I broke my wrist last year.. and then Tim got the wonderful job but had to move away.. and the kids moved out to their new homes.. and it was just me and my 18yr old son for seven months—hubby only coming home on weekends.

The Lord wanted me to turn my heart to him in my trial of aloneness and instead I turned to the world.. to a game and an online community. I didn’t intend to. It was a family game and we chose to meet online during the seperation. Sadly, I used an earthly means to meet my needs instead of turning to the Lord in my loneliness.

It didn’t work and you can read about it in this post.. the amazing miracle God did to bring me out of it. Sadly, I told no one until this February when the Lord answered my plea to help me. He had been working on me through January.. but Feb. 5th was emancipation day for me. 


This morning I sat on the deck, looking out at the amazing green of our forest, listening to the myriad of sounds of nature surrounding me, feeling the gentle breezes of an early morning in the woods, and  marveling at God’s grace..and just worshiping Him.

 I told him, "Thank you Lord for these broken feet. For giving me a 2nd chance to this time..turn to you. This time, through the amazing grace of your Holy Spirit enabling me,  I won’t fall apart.. and cry through every weekend of hello and good-bye.

This time I will embrace the chance to be ‘alone with you’ and even rejoice in it. This time I will turn my ears to you and my heart and learn the lessons you tried to teach me a year and a half ago."

Really .. we aren’t alone .. it’s just we’re alone with Him.
 
The context of these verses in Jeremiah is that the Lord commanded the disobedient children of Israel to surrender to the Chaldeans.. as he had decided this was for their ‘best’ and for their good. In the vision of the good and bad figs, one group submitted to the Lord’s disipline.. and the temporary captivity.. and the other refused to leave their stronghold.. .. they were the bad figs. Unwillling to give up their ‘safety’ and really pride and position, the Lord set his face against them.

How I have embraced the Lord’s call to be alone for the next few weeks.. and am so grateful that is the work of His holy spirit in me. 

 During this ‘alone’ time I know he will build me up and plant me and cause me to love Him even more.  Surrendering whole-heartedly to His will for me.. and praying for grace for my family as they ‘cover’ for me. 

Praying the Lord will keep me focused on Him and not the circumstances.. for his GLORY.. and not mine. Last year, you got to see the evidence of how ‘Donna’ handles crisis like being alone. So don’t think for one minute that ‘I’ did anything. 

The 'real me' blew it big time and always will. It is only in seeking the Lord and God’s amazing grace that we walk in the spirit during trials rather than walk in my own strength. I do hope my story will help anyone who is struggling in a similar way.
Now that I will be sewing more and sitting more, I have a feeling I'll have a bit more time too and perhaps can take up regular posting again. It'd be nice to stay in touch with all of you more regularly. We have finished a 60 hour round trip visit to the kids and grandkids, I've done a lot of wedding sewing, and have plenty of time for tea with you! 
Blessing to each of you,
Donna :)