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Archive for February, 2011

The Family Journal

Time has a way of dulling even the most important memories of our lives.. We don’t intend to forget things, but ultimately we do.We can’t see the faces of loved ones who’ve passed away without a photograph to remind us. We can’t remember the everyday little things that used to give us so much pleasure – at least not until something triggers those memories. So here are some ideas to help keep those family memories safe.

  • Keep a daily diary of all the funny, important, memorable things from each day. When my mother began showing signs of Alzheimer’s, I lived far enough away that I couldn’t visit her very often. I began to write down at least one story from that day to share with her the next time I visited – anything from funny things my children did to memorable sermon points. Sometimes I included photos so she could read and see the family since it helped her remember.

Remember Anne Frank? She left a permanent record of her family’s struggles in World War II in the pages of her diary – a slice of life during a difficult time which has helped countless children and adults remember the horrors of that time in history.

  • Interview parents while they are still here to get a good picture of what their lives were like and important lessons they learned, family traditions, stories, etc.

Too often we lose a valuable part of our heritage when family members die. Little things like their favorite foods and recipes are lost. How did they celebrate Christmas? What kind of games did they play? Where did they travel?

My father fought in World War II and has many photos of himself and his buddies standing outside his barracks in Hawaii, though he refused to talk about his experiences. The things I learned I had to piece together from his discharge papers and other small snippets of memorabilia I found after he passed away. Sites like www.military.com help to fill in the blanks. but I still feel as though I lost some valuable insights into my family history.

  • Create scrapbooks with journaling of the family photos and the stories you collect. Include important papers like military discharge papers, old letters, photos, and other memorabilia you can find. One of the best pieces of memorabilia from my mother was an old autograph book with cute rhymes from her 10th grade schoolmates. 

Take some family time to go through the old family photos and write down who is in each one, the dates if possible and any memories the photo triggers. It will help to create a visual family tree of relatives long gone or ones you know little about. One of my mother;s relatives put together a genealogy of the family which dates back to  the 1700s when the family first arrived in the US. Around the early 1900s they began including photos as well which is a rich source of my Mennonite heritage.

My mother and father kept all the little remembrance cards from the funeral homes. For many of them i was able to piece together small snippets of memories about their lives and family connections.

  • Keep a record of family illnesses too. For example, I know almost every member of my dad’s family developed diabetes before they passed away. My mother’s family illnesses included arthritis, Alzheimer’s and  some cancer. The information is important to pass on to my children and grandchildren.
  • In the days following the death of a loved one, write down all the memories that come to you – not only will it help you to grieve through their loss, it will give you some tangible memories to look back on later, memories that could fade and be lost over time.

As you sort through their things, save their diaries, writings and personal memorabilia that you find.  You may not have time or  the heart to go through it right away, but later on you will value it and be better able to judge what you want to keep.

I’m not sure why, but the older I get, the more important it becomes to me to  remember my family heritage and pass on those memories to my grandchildren.  While they are busy growing up and changing their world, I have slowed down and find myself trying to document the important things my generation changed. We need the energy and enthusiasm of youth along with the wisdom of age and creating a family journal can help keep it all in perspective – not to mention give the grandkids a fit of giggles when they look back at our funny hair styles and clothing. LOL!

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“Nothing humbles and breaks the heart of a sinner
like mercy and love.
Souls that converse much with sin and wrath,
may be much terrified;
but souls that converse much with grace and mercy,
will be much humbled.”

~ ~Thomas Brooks (1608 – 1680) ~

A Touch of Mercy
Bonnie Winters © 6/5/2006

A short story based on John 8:1-11 (NIV)

Gritty dust caked on her teary cheeks as she lay panting on the ground where she fell. It mingled with blood seeping from the cut on her mouth where a heavy-handed man slapped her to quiet her protests.

“Get up, harlot. Let’s see how Jesus judges you today.” A rough hand hauled her to her feet and shoved her forward. She willed herself to keep silent against the pain as she stumbled into a circle of leering men. Regaining her balance, she lifted her chin in an attempt at a haughty pose. Her clenched teeth bit back the retort she would have made to the Pharisees who dragged her here.

Fools, she thought, raking the circle with her eyes. She masked her fading bravado as she realized there was nowhere to run. The bawdy crowd blocked her escape, calling for the Master’s decision.

“Stone her. She was taken in the very act of adultery. She is guilty!” A sallow man, dressed in the gaudy robes of richness, stroked his beard with one hand while he shook his other fist in the air. She recognized his beady eyes and harsh features; he was the man who had been spying on her every move, waiting and baiting her.

She spat her contempt in his direction as the crowd took up his accusation. “Stone her! Stone her. It is the law.” She could almost see their fingers twitch in anticipation against the rocks in their hands.

On the fringes of the tense crowd, enterprising young men lay odds on the outcome of the spectacle. Anger and fear warred in her breast as her breathing quickened through her clenched teeth.

The icy bitterness in her eyes focused on the one they called “Master.” Go ahead. Condemn me, just like everyone else. What’s it to you if I die? There will just be one less harlot in the world. Why should you care that a Roman soldier stole my virginity before I was even a woman? You are a man just like all the rest, taking what I offer, then spitting in my face. But at least when I ply my trade, I hold the power.

Jesus met her glare. Like the warm wind of spring blowing over the land, His gaze melted the ice in her eyes. The catcalls and demanding shouts from the crowd faded until He was the only one in her world. Suddenly the air grew thick as she gulped back the tears, trying to steel herself against the searing compassion in His eyes. Her heart burned as though a flame had scorched it – burning away all her defenses, her hatred and bitterness, leaving her soul naked before Him. She pulled her torn cloak tighter around her shoulders, grasping it about her neck. If only she could run and hide her shame from His eyes.

Unable to break the hold of His powerful gaze, images of her life flashed through her mind. She was a cowering child with a tear-stained face, an angry adolescent declaring she would overcome her oppressors, a haughty woman taking control of her life in the only way she knew how. His eyes reflected a frightened and hurting lioness ready to turn back toward her enemy in self-preservation and rip him to shreds. The total love and forgiveness she felt in his visual embrace shamed her to the core of her being.

How can He love me with all the bitterness and hatred I see in my heart? I can never be good enough – never be clean enough to be worthy of Him. She held her body rigid, fighting against His love. The only evidence of her inner struggle was the trembling of her lower lip.

When He turned his gaze away and stooped nearby to write in the dust, the burning faded. The air chilled as though the sun had disappeared behind a gray cloud. Her soul was alone again with its icy bitterness.

She became conscious of the crowd once more. “What is he doing?” Necks craned to read His words. “Why isn’t he doing something?” The crowd began to shift nervously. “He must call for stoning. It is the law!”

When the woman’s accusers continued to badger Him, He rose and met each man’s eyes with a level gaze. “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”

“No!” Fear swallowed her last shred of hope as she raised her arms to cover her head for what little protection she could muster. He had deceived her! Lulled her into a false hope that He was different, caring. This Jesus was throwing her to the ravenous Pharisee dogs. She tensed, closing her eyes and waiting for the first stone to pelt her body. But the pain never came.

Nervous feet scuffed the ground, as the crowd dispersed man by man. Silence. She opened her eyes; slowly lowering her arms, daring to glance around her, yet ready to cover herself if needed. The Master still wrote on the ground, but the men were gone.

Her eyes stared at the man drawing pictures in the dust. She willed him to look at her, to face her and explain why – how He could move her heart to repentance in one moment then turn on her the next. But she dare not voice her thoughts. He was after all a man with the power to break her.

Finally Jesus stood and gazed around the empty street. “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

The dragon of self-protection rose in her heart, spewing haughty words. “No one, sir.” As their eyes met for the second time, she flushed with self-condemnation for her shameful actions. She sniffed back the tears. Her lips trembled again, awaiting His judgment.

Why don’t you condemn me? Why don’t you stone me? You know what I am. You know the anger and hatred I feel. Do something! Please don’t just stand there staring at me. I deserve to die.

“Then neither do I condemn you.” He smiled, His understanding and love reaching out to her lonely heart. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

She turned and fled from His presence, running until her breath came in hard gasps. Nausea roiled in the pit of her stomach. Bile burned her throat as she retched onto the hard-packed earth. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand.

Kneeling there beside the road, she poured out her sins and hurts to her God. I am so sorry, God, so sorry. She wept bitterly.

“Neither do I condemn you.” His words reverberated in her mind. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

A feeling of lightness, newness, seeped into her soul. She could never, would never go back to that life again. He had seen the raw nakedness of her soul and showed mercy in spite of it. Behold, He made all things new

***

Today’s In Other Words is hosted by Twinkle Mom at her site SunflowerFaith.  If you’d like to participate, share you thoughts on your blog site.  Then, visit Twinkle Mom’s blog  and share a  link to your blog.

Be sure to visit the others who have also written on it and leave a comment for each one as well, so they know you were there.You will be blessed!

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Leaving a family legacy

During some lean times several years ago, I wanted to give a special gift to each of my children at Christmas. I’m not sure where the idea came from, but I decided to put together a family cookbook with favorite family recipes. Along with each one, I included some journaling – family trivia like where the recipe came from, who liked it best or stories about when the recipe was served.

Using clip art and some word art from my computer, I printed two to three recipes per page, inserted them into page protectors and  categorized them into recycled three ring binders. There was Aunt Alice’s Jewish Apple Cake, the Father’s Day chicken marinade from a friend in northern NY and  my favorite chocolate-peanut butter owl cookies from Halloweens past, among others.

When we cleaned out my mother’s house to sell it several years ago, I claimed the family photos and her recipe books. What treasures! I found hand written recipes, many of which will find their way into the cookbook in future years with little anecdotes about my parents. Using the scanner, I can include them in her own handwriting, perhaps with a family photo to go along with it – a kind of recipe scrapbook sharing family food and traditions.

When my children were born, I started a baby journal for each of them.  My favorites were the spiral bound ones with pockets for each age group where I could file news clippings, samples of artwork, journalings of important events in their lives – spiritual as well as family events, medical shot records and photos of my kids from each age. I wasn’t very good at organizing the info in these, but when the children grew up, I had a nice fat packet of memorabilia to send with them.

My daughter and sister-in-law both create great scrapbooks for their families. They chronicle everything from important events to physical growth, blending photos, journaling and embellishments on each page to make them aesthetically pleasing. I look forward to receiving these photo journals each Christmas.

Scrapbooking has become so easy these days with all sorts of digital programs, both free and elite which allow you to upload photos,  make pages online and have then printed into coffee table type books for a modest fee.

Why do we create these scrapbooks, cookbooks and baby journals? I think it’s because we are wired that way. LOL! The older we get, the more important it becomes for us to leave our mark on the next generation. To be remembered. To help our children know their heritage.

In Deuteronomy, God instructed Moses to  teach the Israelites about Him from the time they were small. He knew how easy it was for them to forget the pain and suffering of slavery in Egypt. He understood they would soon forget the 40 year wilderness trek when they settled into their new homes in Canaan. The idolatrous ways of the local inhabitants would infiltrate Israel’s traditions and their worship, distilling it.  Eventually the influences of the world around them would lead them away from their dedication to God.

So God used visual things like the furniture of the Tabernacle and food items in the feasts like Passover to remind them of their heritage. Mothers repeated the family stories of their ancestors – Abraham, Isaac and Jacob –  to their children, beginning when they were tiny infants to help them remember.

God inspired men to write “journals” if you will, of their history and interaction with Him to be read on each Sabbath or holiday to remind the people of their special relationship with Him. These ancient writings became our Bible of today.

We may have more fancy technology to help us pass our stories and heritage on to our children, but one thing hasn’t changed. We are still charged with the responsibility to be sure our children remember who God is and what He has done for us. Through writing down our family stories, by writing down our testimonies, by sharing our day to day faith in journals and diaries, we can help our children know who God is and His plan for their lives.

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When I get anxious I know I have gone from God’s time to my time and it’s a waste of time. Charles Stanley

I am an avid card maker. At one time I loved to sew, but can’t do that so much anymore because of my eyesight. Instead, I now merge my passion for paper with my love of quilt patterns to create faux quilted cards.

All that paper piecing! Some think it’s too tedious and a waste of time, but I tell people it keeps me sane. LOL!

Last night I began designing a card with a log cabin pattern in an effort to use up some of my scraps that are threatening to take over my craft room. I chose coordinating colors and began to glue the paper strips onto the card.

When I got done, I wasn’t too satisfied with the results. The card looked plain; just a hodge-podge of paper strips glued onto a piece of card stock.. and I didn’t care for the design at all. It needed “something,” but I wasn’t sure what..

Hmmm. Maybe some faux stitching. I grabbed my pen and added some little stitch lines. That helped.. Next I added some embellishments from my stash .Yes! Now it seemed like it was coming together!

A long time ago, I learned that I can’t judge my cards until I finish them. Often in the middle of the project, I just want to throw up my hands and say, “Forget it! This is UH-GLY!” But if I keep at it, I usually end up with a design I am proud to give to a friend or family member.

My life is a lot like that card. God is designing something wonderful with the scraps of my life, but I can’t see the finished product yet.

I have a tendency to get anxious over the unfinished state of my life’s design. When that happens, I try to add my own design elements to make  things better. What a huge waste of time and energy since He just has to redo everything again according to His plan.

Lord, Help me not to get anxious as you piece together my life layer by layer. Create a masterpiece which You will be pleased to use to bless Your World. Amen!.

***iow-small

Today’s In Other Words is being hosted by my dear friend Karen over at In Love W.I.T.H. Jesus. Be sure to pop in and see her take on the quote.

If you’d like to participate, simply blog about the quote on your site then add your URL to the Linky tool on Karen’s blog. Be sure to leave a comment for her and visit the others who are participating today! You’ll be glad you did.

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The Bible Study Journal

Like its sister, the devotional journal, a Bible Study journal helps to get me into God’s Word. This journal often generates ideas for future devotional articles or messages for me as a writer and speaker. It also provides a place to organize and categorize my Bible research. But you don’t have to be a writer to benefit from keeping a study journal.

Here are some hints to begin your own Bible study journal:

1. Study by topic

This is a great way to get an overview of all the Bible says on a particular topic or key word.  At one point of my life, I dealt with issues of forgiveness for a wrong someone had done to me. By studying all the verses I could find about the topic, I was able to gain a better understanding of what it meant to forgive and how to work through those issues.

2. Study by Bible characters

I enjoy studying about the women of the Bible and have found them to be wonderful mentors and friends. I like to know what happened to her and find out as much as I can about her personality through her words and actions. Though the bible doesn’t generally show her emotions, I try to put myself in her place to see what she may have been feeling. It helps me to work through my own feelings when I find myself in similar situations. These in depth studies have led to the writing of two Bible novels and many short stories which have blessed my soul and helped me to grow spiritually.

3. Study by passage or chapter

Many Bibles will divide up the chapters into segments with sub headings. This natural division offers a byte size portion of scripture to study. Verses in these portions are grouped together around a common story thread or theme.

This type of study might include the parables, the Beatitudes or the Psalms among many. They are short enough to read and study one portion in a day and meaty enough to speak volumes to our hearts.

4. Study a specific time period.

There are great insights and personal lessons found within each historical time period in the Scriptures. During a time of recovery from some childhood traumas in my life, I studied the stories of the wilderness wanderings found in the books of Exodus through Joshua. Watching how God delivered the Israelites from their slave mentality and helped them grow during that time proved especially beneficial for my own spiritual growth and recovery from the damaged emotions.

5. Study word-byword

This is perhaps the most extensive way to study the scriptures for serious Bible students – taking a verse or chapter and breaking it apart word by word. Studying each word’s meaning from the ancient languages along with its placement in the sentence structure, the context and meanings of words around it can be rewarding, but is time consuming and exhaustive. This was the method most used by Bible scholars and translators and thus bears mentioning here.

No matter what method you choose to use for your daily Bible studies, Always keep  these questions in mind:

– To whom was it written?

– What was going at the time on when the author wrote it? You might need to check a Bible handbook for this info or read the verses surrounding it to get the context of the verse.

– What message was he sending to the readers of his time?

Always make your studies personal for yourself:

– What does this verse say to me about this topic? 

– Also note any questions it raises for future study.

As with the devotional journal, you might want to include a written prayer for the Lord to help you apply the lessons learned from this passage.

The Bible is a living, breathing book! Even in the dustiest, mustiest passages of the law or the endless genealogies, there are spiritual lessons and treasures waiting for those who dare to delve into its depths. Treasure hunting anyone?

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The Daily Devotional Journal

Having daily devotional time is one of the most valuable parts of our day! It is a time of deepening our relationship with our heavenly Father,  a time of reflecting on His words and learning from them as well as a time of personal growth as we find guidance and answers from the Word.

But in this hustle-bustle, gotta-hurry-up-and-wait world, we don’t always have time to get into the Word and let it soak into our spirits. Often we pick up a daily devotional guide like grabbing a cup of coffee and sweet roll for breakfast as we rush out the door. We know we need the spiritual nutrition, but we have to get it “on the run.”

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing bad about using a daily devotional guide. Many times God has spoken to my heart through the author’s choice of verse for that day. But a wise writing mentor once said that daily devotionals are more beneficial for the writer than the reader.  The writer is studying, living and applying the scripture he or she uses to write the devotional material. It is too easy for the reader to gloss over it and say, “Okay, I’ve had my devotions for the day,” without applying it personally.

So here are some ideas to get the most out of those devotional guides:

1. Keep a notebook or journal with your devotional guide.

A journal is a place to write your personal reflections. By keeping a journal with your devotional guide you give yourself permission and motivation to personalize the message of the day. Over time, it will become a habit to jot down anything that comes to mind during these devotional bytes.

2. Look at how each devotional is written.

There is a formula for writing devotional guides. Most include these three elements: A daily verse or passage, an illustration from the author’s experience generated from that Bible passage and a prayer. Some will also include a core truth – a few words in bold print stating  the focus  or key thought of the devotional.

You can set up your journal the same way. Jot down the verse at the top of each page, along with the core truth. Under it, leave space for any thoughts the scripture generates like life experiences, testimonies, feelings, questions.  Leave room at the bottom of the page for a personal reflection or prayer.

3. Read the Scripture passage from your own Bible if possible.

It’s okay to read the verse from the devotional guide. but if you pick up your Bible and reread the verse, you might see something else that jump-starts your spiritual thought processes, like notes in your Bible from sermons on that passage, or dates from a time when God spoke to you from that verse.

You can also read the context  – the verses before and after it, which give you a clearer picture of the setting of the verse in the devotional guide.

At times, the devotional booklet will include additional reading suggestions. If you have time you can read those passages as well for an even stronger understanding of the passage.

4. Ask the Lord to show you  something from that verse or the author’s illustration to think about for the day.

Perhaps as you read the author’s illustration, it will trigger memories of a time you felt the same way or had a similar experience.  Write that down in your journal. It may be the Lord giving you encouragement that you are not alone in your spiritual journey, or a reminder to trust Him through the day’s circumstances.

By asking God to speak to you about the scripture or illustration, you are taking a moment to connect with Him personally and asking Him to be part of your day rather than just reading about Him.  As you take time to open your heart and listen, He will speak – giving you something to take with you that will nourish and sustain you through the day.

5. Jot down a prayer generated from the devotional experience.

Whatever the Lord drops into your heart, whatever you need from Him that day, take time to write down the prayer. it may be just a few words. It may become more of a praise than a prayer. No matter what you pray for, you have taken time to speak with Him one-on-one rather than just rushing off to start your day.

Daily devotions don’t take the place of praying, reading and studying God’s word for yourself. They are what they are – brief moments spent with the Lord, kind of like the good-bye kiss I give my hubby as he goes out the door.

Devotions can become commonplace without meaning; just something we do out of habit or because we’re supposed to.  Or  they can become a glad reminder of his presence that we carry with us through the day. The more personal we make these devotional times, the more real He will be to us ,

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“In Other Words” Tuesday

“Learning to wait on God’s timing –
and having the patience to follow his lead rather than running ahead of him –
is essential to those who are committed
to seeing their faith journey through to the end.
God seldom rushes things along.
Getting used to his pace will help you in the long run.”

~ Essentials for Life For Women by Marcia Ford ~

Two of the largest maple trees I had ever seen stood in the front yard of our new home.  Towering over 75 feet tall, their branches provided shade in the summer, helping keep the house cool. They provided a safe haven for many varieties of birds and squirrels and were pleasing to the eyes.

But each time the high winds ripped through our neighborhood, branches littered the ground beneath the trees. At first it bothered me. I worried the trees would eventually become scraggly and ugly with no leafy branches at all, until I realized that those branches on the ground were usually leafless, dead branches which provided no shade or health to the tree. They were almost always dead wood.

Branches which were sap-filled and alive had more flexibility, bending in the wind rather than breaking off.  They remained attached to the tree, following the ebb and flow of the seasons as well as the winds.

Staying spiritually healthy is one of my greatest battles in life. It’s easy to switch back to my old patterns of coping and trying to handle things on my own. But when I do, I’m in danger of becoming a dead branch, one that will snap off the tree  the minute the high winds sweep across the area.

As long as I stay connected to the Tree of Life, I can stand against the unexpected wind storms of life, maybe badly shaken, but still spiritually intact with His life flowing through me.

God, help me to get  so used to Your pace, Your strength, Your life flowing through me that I will survive life’s unexpected storms.  During those clear days when there is no wind, help me to be content to soak up your life and strength for the days ahead – always resting in You!

***iow-small

Today’s In Other Words is being hosted by Deborah at Chocolate & Coffee. Take time to think and ponder on  the quote below and share about it on your blog. Then, visit Deborah’s blog  and share a  link to your blog and visit the others who have also written on it.  Be sure to stop by the other blogs and read their take on the quote as well and leave a comment to let them know you were there! You’ll be glad you did.

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