Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Fog and Sunshine

 Here we are, friends! We've made it into 2021, and 2020 is now truly a year that is in hindsight.  How thankful I am for the many mercies and love of the Lord on our family throughout the past year, as He always has.  And whatever this year holds before us, I look into this year through a "glass darkly" yet with complete faith and trust that the Lord's provision will be sufficient, no matter what our earthly circumstances or political stage looks like.

When I walk each morning, it gives me a chance to spend time in the Lord's creation, and to bask in the beauty of His world.  There is something so comforting about looking upward to the skies, and to the horizon beyond me, and to the world in front of me, and to realize that our Lord does ALL THINGS WELL.  It is in those times of walking with Him, praying, and spending time in the Word in the morning before I leave, that I find the strength, peace, and joy to carry on with each day He has given me breath to enjoy. 

As so often is the case, here in north Idaho, January can be a very foggy, gray month.  The fog hangs low and thick, and the horizon often may not stretch much farther than the breath you breathe.  And it can seem in those gray, foggy days that the skies, mountains, and familiar horizons have forever disappeared into the mists that surround your present being.  Yet, in our heart's mind, we know those familiar landmarks are there, even when they cannot be seen. Soon though, in its own time, the sun will break through the clouds, and shine its light onto the world, illuminating clearly that which could not be seen just moments (or days) before.  

The reality is that the sun is always shining, 

up above the clouds, 

and it is just the clouds obstructing the sun's rays 

that prevent the light from shining.  

The mountains have not moved, the horizon has not changed, nor has the forest disappeared from sight.  It just takes the sunshine to bring back into focus what we knew was there all along. 

Just as it is at night too... many times in the darkness of the hour, it is hard to believe the reality of what we know to be true.  Sometimes the darkness can cause us to doubt what we know.  Yet... without fail, the dawning of the day always comes, and sunlight floods into the darkness, and truth is made known. 

January Fog

I think so often how this relates to our spiritual walk with the Lord. We may feel that we are in a deep foggy state, where landmarks that we are accustomed to are out of sight and we may struggle to remember and believe that they are there.  

But even in the dark, foggy moments, sweet delights of beauty await on closer inspection. We can choose to look for beauty, even in the difficult moments... for they are there! 

And when the fog lifts, and the sunshine begins to spread its warm glow on the world, there is a beauty manifested in its wake that reassures the soul that all is well. 

And so dear friends... when the way you walk is dark, or shrouded in fog, take heart, because the sunshine will soon come... and it will be a beautiful sight to see! 

We've had a very mild January this year, but the little snow we have gotten has been beautiful! 

I just love the world as the snow gently falls, the quiet beauty of the snow
upon the landscape fills the air with a solemn stillness. 

As we are well on our way into the new year of 2021, I look forward to the road ahead, somewhat uncertain, perhaps filled with a storm cloud or two... but with the Lord's constant companionship, 
I know whatever roads ahead we face, our Lord is with us. 

I want to leave you with this precious passage of scripture that remains so true today. 

I Corinthians 13
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, 
and have not charity, 
I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
And though I have the gift of prophecy, 
and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; 
and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, 
and have not charity, I am nothing. 
And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, 
and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, 
it profiteth me nothing. 

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; 
charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 
Doth not behave itself unseemly, 
seeketh not her own, 
is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 
Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
Beareth all things, believeth all things, 
hopeth all things, endureth all things. 

Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, 
they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; 
whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
But when that which is perfect is come, 
then that which is in part shall be done away.

When I was a child, I spake as a child, 
I understood as a child, I thought as a child: 
but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
For now we see through a glass, darkly; 
but then face to face: 
now I know in part; 
but then shall I know even as also I am known.

And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; 
but the greatest of these is charity.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

The Christmas Season of Great Joy


It is always amazing to stand at the pinnacle of the ending of one year, 
looking forward to the year that approaches, 
then backward at the year that was, 
and wonder at just how quickly the days passed 
that brought us to this place.  

Once a year, we have a special day set aside to remember the miraculous night over 2000 years ago when the Savior who spoke this world into existence wrapped himself into the confinements of a fleshly body, and made himself of no big fanfare or fancy attire and surroundings, but chose the setting of His birth to a young virgin and a carpenter in a lonely outcast stable where animals were the only witnesses to His birth.  The greatest birth in the entire history of the world took place in a most unassuming and simple way.  For that reason, we never want to forget the love of our Creator, who came knowing His purpose was to die, and who humbled himself to the limits, burdens, and cares of humankind, just so He would truly understand, and know our every heartache, pain, hurt, care and deepest needs. My heart rejoices to know that our precious Lord did this for me!  

And so the busy-ness of the season and all that comes with it descends upon us every year, but may we never forget Jesus, the reason for the season! 

I was so thankful that the clouds parted on December 21, when the alignment of two planets came together to possibly create the same star formation the wisemen may have seen that led them to Bethlehem 2000 years ago.  It was a cloudy day, and most people were not able to see the star in our area.  I walked right at sunset, and the skies parted, and I was able to glimpse this beautiful formation in the skies! In the picture, if you look under the "B" you can see the star.  

As I walked that night, the most incredible sunset appeared in the skies.  Truthfully, we had not even seen the skies for days, as clouds and fog had set in.  It was truly miraculous as I walked to see the skies unfold, the clouds roll back, and this magnificent sunset to preclude the Bethlehem Star.  
Did you get to see this star? 

As I watched the sunset unfold before me, I thought it might be a good opportunity to get a good picture of the dogs.  Well... you can see that didn't go so well... I had to chuckle at this picture! 
Perhaps you have a good caption for this photo? Do share, if you do!
(My dogs don't like to look at the camera, and that is really why they weren't looking at me, ha!)

There is something about this picture that just speaks of peace and tranquility to my heart.  This is of a neighbor's home viewed from the back acreage of our property.  

Another beautiful sunset... no snow! We've had no snow for several weeks, just heavy fog and frost. 

I had saved some of my pumpkins from my garden to
make Christmas pumpkin pies (my family's favorite pie!) 

Sliced pumpkins just out of the oven, which is how I cook them, before I puree them for the pie. 

I let this pie cook a little longer as the puree seemed watery, and I wanted to make sure the pie was done.  I can tell you, this pie tastes just so amazing! There is no comparison to pies made with the pie filling you get from the store.  In fact, I've heard that the pumpkin pie mix is actually mixed with other squash varieties besides pumpkin.  This is purely pumpkin puree and the flavor is so good.  I love to grow my own pumpkins just for this reason... my family's favorite pie! 

My chickens enjoying the veggie scraps from all my pie and Christmas baking! 

I made this platter of cheeses, fruits, and nuts to set out for Christmas Day
for us all to nibble on... as if we needed any more food {smiles}

What's Christmas dinner without homemade rolls? I don't know, as it has always been a tradition at our home to have fresh homemade rolls. I use a 30-minute roll recipe.  It has been a family favorite. 

Our family enjoyed a traditional Christmas dinner with turkey, creamed potatoes and gravy, broccoli & cheese casserole, homemade stuffing, glazed carrots, Caesar salad, and homemade cranberry sauce.  It was a feast indeed... and we enjoyed our time together so much.  I kept the desserts simple this year - pumpkin pie, pecan pie, and apple pie.  However, I neglected to get any pictures of pecan or apple... but we enjoyed them heartily.  

As we opened our gifts shared with each other, it was wonderful to spend the time with our kids and a special gift to us this year, was the addition of a new son (in-law) to our family.  We are so thankful for Zak, and enjoyed a special day celebrating with our kids, and remembering Jesus, our Savior and Lord who has blessed us abundantly beyond measure.  

As this Christmas holiday season continues into this week with the New Year approaching, my heart is deeply grateful for all the many and rich blessings of the Lord.  I know that this year has been such a tough year for so many people, in so many different ways.  

However, when we think of blessings, we often think of good things that don't hurt or feel painful.  But when I remember our Lord's admonishment in Matthew 5 when he begins to share what blessings really mean in His kingdom... perhaps we can look at things in a different light. 

Matthew 5:1-12
1 And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: 
and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: 
2 And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,  
3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 
4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. 
5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. 
6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. 
7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. 
8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. 
9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. 
10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 
11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 
12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. 

If this year has been a difficult time for you and you identify deeply with any of the "blessed" above, then perhaps you may understand that the Lord looks at the difficulties our human nature faces, and sees that the difficult things that come into our lives are used for a greater and higher purpose, which has a deeper weight of blessing in our lives than just material or earthly things.  

So let your heart be encouraged, whatever you may be facing, our Lord didn't shield himself from pain and suffering as He came to this earth in a most difficult position and circumstance.  He never hid himself from the pain of humanity but rather immersed himself in it, and He understands and knows far more of what your heart's cries are than any other.  Do not be afraid to call upon Him, turn to Him, and seek His face in the midst of the turmoil found in our world today... His peace passes understanding, and His joy is rich and full in spite of circumstances, and His greatest gift is eternal life with Him.  How grateful I am that we have such rich promises to hold onto and trust in!

I pray the peace of the Lord Jesus, and the joy of what His coming meant to this earth will bless your hearts, and sustain you today, and throughout the remainder of this year, and into the coming New Year 2021! 

Monday, December 7, 2020

A Texas Thanksgiving Trip

Each year, it has been our tradition to make a yearly trip to Texas to see our families and dear friends.  We have always flown, because it is just so much quicker, well most of the time.  We have been delayed our fair share of times, along with missed flights and lost luggage.  However, most of the time, it has been the fastest way to travel.

This year with covid, everything has changed. Flying did not seem to be the best option, and so we decided we were going to drive to Texas.  There were some states that I had never driven through, and we were excited to see the views and make our way down and back to Texas. We chose to go through Montana, Idaho, Utah, New Mexico, and then finally Texas.  

I've tried to condense the 900+ pictures I took during the trip to the few I would like to share here.  We saw so many beautiful sights along the way and enjoyed every moment with our families.  Most everyone in our family in Texas has already had the virus, and we had the virus visit our home and community here as well, so we decided to make the trip happen.  Dan's mom is in a nursing home and has not been able to get out since lockdowns began back in March.  We were able to spend a lot of time with her, as she stood or sat at the glass door, and we gathered under the portico of the nursing home entrance and talked on the phone to her.  It was a blessing to see her and to spend Thanksgiving with her in this way.  

We celebrated three big milestones in my family, with my Mom's 70th birthday, the celebration of our daughter Danielle and son-in-love Zak's marriage, and my niece's graduation from RN nursing school, along with the usual Thanksgiving festivities.  So it was an important trip for us to make in every way, and we are so thankful that we were able to go and see everyone. 

We left after work on the Friday before Thanksgiving and drove about 5 hours,
making it into Montana.  The skies serenaded us as we drove. 

Saturday morning we turned south on I-15 and drove through Montana and then again into Idaho. 

The morning skies dusted the mountain tops in rosy whispers... a delight to see. 

At a chilly 7 degrees, the landscape was crisp and still. 

Our son and my husband did most of the driving.  I was on "camera duty". {smiles} 
They enjoyed switching off driving. 

Soon we entered the beautiful state of Utah, and I was enamored with the red sandstone mountains. 

Windmills became a common sight to see as we traveled. 

Highway 6 through Utah took us through some incredibly beautiful countryside, winding through the mountains with views in every direction. 

We drove into Arches National Park, and enjoyed our short visit.  Because we had so many miles to cover, we did not stay long, but did get to get out and walk up to several of the lookouts and views. 

We drove through Utah, into Colorado for a few miles, and then entered New Mexico. 
We made it to Gallup, New Mexico Saturday night. 

The next morning, we drove into the sunrise over Albuquerque, New Mexico.
What a brilliant sunrise it was! 

Through northern New Mexico, the beautiful rock outcroppings continued,
so beautiful to see them as you traveled. 

We stopped at Whataburger in Albuquerque, New Mexico, my husband's favorite place to eat a fast food breakfast.  Whataburger is a Texas hamburger chain and Albuquerque is the farthest north on our route that you can find one. 

Soon we entered the great state of Texas.  This northern area of Texas is wild and desolate, with many pieces of oil machinery as the only landscape markings to see. 

We dined on Chicken Express for our evening meal, another great Texas fast-food chain. 

We made it into Kerrville, Texas Sunday evening around 8 p.m.
We were quite ready to crawl into this comfy bed! 

The next morning the sun was shining beautifully! We gathered with the family at the nursing home to see Dan's mom.  She has been on lockdown since early March and was so delighted to be able to visit with us. 

We then drove to see my sister and her family, and they treated us to a meal at Salt Lick BBQ. 

If you want all you can eat Texas BBQ, the Salt Lick is where you need to be... amazing food! 

Then we made it to my parent's house the next day, and Mom prepared a wonderful meal for us. 

Thanksgiving preparations were well underway! 

The next day, Mom cooked homemade pizzas for all the family, and everyone came to eat and visit,
 the night before Thanksgiving.   

My nieces made a charcuterie board for everyone to enjoy. 

My brother and his wife hosted the Thanksgiving dinner in his covered sunroom overlooking the pool. It was such a perfect place for us all to sit and visit, and eat way too much food! 

We had way too much food... our plates were groaning! 

My brother's neighbor's cows come every night to his fenceline to get treats.  They were fun to feed! 

Mom and Dad enjoying some special swing time with one of the grandkids.

Our family always enjoys playing the White Elephant game after our Thanksgiving meal.
This year we were able to play it outside in the beautiful setting under the gazebo by the pool, as the weather was beautifully warm. 

We gathered around the fire as evening shadows fell. 

Somehow in all the excitement, family pictures were a last-minute thought. My mother had already taken the littles back to "Grammie's house" to spend the night, and didn't get to be in this picture.

The day after Thanksgiving, we had three big milestones in our family to celebrate... my Mom's 70th birthday, Danielle & Zak's marriage, and my niece's RN graduation. It was another big day of celebrating family! My brother and his wife were so kind to host two big family events back-to-back! He barbecued for us all on Friday and we had another big day together. 

My mom had help reading her birthday cards from two very smart readers! {smiles} 

Danielle and Zak enjoyed all the special attention from the family, who were not able to be at their wedding.  This was Zak's first time meeting our family, and he was loved by all!

My niece will be graduating from RN nursing school this month, so we celebrated her hard work and achievements as well.  Needless to say... it was a big day of celebrating! 

The day after the celebration, it was time for us to return home. 
Back on the road, the west Texas oil fields and machinery were our view for many hours of driving! 

I am always amazed at how different the view can be on the way back,
even though it was the same way we came, not to mention that some of the roads we traveled were in daylight now whereas before we traveled them under the cover of darkness. 

We stopped at the Wilson Arch just outside Moab, Utah.  We decided to climb up to the arch. It was a bit of a steep climb, and a great way to stretch our legs after spending long hours driving. 

The views from the top of the arch were incredible! I don't care much for heights, and the uneven ground at the top, coupled with the steep slope once at the top was a bit unnerving, so while I was happy to have made it to the top, I was quite happy to make the descent
back down to the level ground, ha! 

I'm a pretty adventurous soul, but the steep, uneven ground
at the top of this arch tested my spirit for adventure! 

Standing at the top... you can see how the ground slopes downward.  There is no real "even" ground to stand on.  The rock is very slippery too.  I didn't have "climbing" shoes on as this was an unexpected stop, and would definitely say that you probably don't want to make this climb without decent hiking shoes.  I'll be honest... I was happy to be there, but really glad to begin the descent back down from the height of that arch!

Ryan took a picture of us once we reached the bottom of the arch.  It was a great experience! 

As we continued our journey towards home, the snow on the mountaintops
reminded us what awaited on the home front we were heading to :) 

More views as we traveled home. 

December's Beaver moon serenaded us morning and night as we drove. 

The roads were beautiful for the whole trip, dry and clear.  We ran into snow on the Montana side of I-90 as we went over the pass.  The snow was light that was more wet than anything.  Thankfully we crossed both passes without any issues with the snow.  We heard that later on that day, the snow had continued until they began requiring chains to be on the pass. 
We were glad to have made it over when we did!

With great thankful hearts, we made it back home safely, in the midst of the snowstorm.  Our animals were overjoyed to see us, although they had been well taken care of by our wonderful neighbor. It is always wonderful to travel and see family, but even better, to come back home to happy animals, and to sleep in our own bed once again :)