{ God’s Valentine }

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Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
    I have called you by name,

You  Are  Mine.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
  And through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;

When you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
    and the flame shall not consume you.

For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

Isaiah 43: 1-3 ESV

~~~

Although this love message was written to God’s chosen people, Israel, it can speak comfort to all believers. In the New Testament, God’s never-changing love is affirmed in verses like Romans 8:38-39:

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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~~~

Photos:

Hush Naidoo

Chandan Chaurasia

 Ryan Stone

{ Meet Esther Goetz ~ The Dolly Mama }

It’s funny how people float in and out of your life. Your best high school buddy has disappeared, but the girl you didn’t know, who sat in the back row of homeroom, is now your dear friend and neighbor. 

Esther Picture for Dolly Mama

In a way, Esther Goetz is that kind of person. She was the friend-of-a-friend at our college on the outskirts of Chicago. I knew she was outgoing and friendly, and had grown up in Ethiopia as a missionary kid, but I didn’t know much more about her while we shared the same campus,

We went on with our separate studies and friends and lives. Graduation scattered everyone to build their own careers and families all over the map.

Fast forward three decades, when I stumbled upon a blog called The Dolly Mama.

Here I found someone with a kindred world view, words of truth, and a winsome sense of spunk. Esther’s photo and name looked familiar, and later I discovered that she was the Esther from college years, molded and sharpened by a life yielded to God and His Word. 

After college, she married Allen; they have four adult children, one son-in-law and a feisty toddler grandson. Esther and her husband lead the marriage mentoring ministry at their church (they have met with over 120 couples over the past 15 years!) Esther also leads a women’s group.

Her blog reflects what she does in real life, as she discusses faith, family and friendship.

Besides family, church, blogging, leadership and more, Esther likes to read! Right now, she is enjoying The Next Right Thing by Emily Freeman, and her three favorite books of all time are:

Whenever I visit Esther’s blog, The Dolly Mama,  I often end up crying or laughing. She inspired me to choose a Word of the Year– her 2020 word is HYGGE.

Some of her recent posts have titles like these:  

So visit Esther Goetz at the Dolly Mama.  Say hello, and be encouraged and inspired!

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{ The Romans Farewell }

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This is all for Him, who can strengthen you, because of Jesus

Because of the gospel

That mystery that was hidden for thousands of years

That secluded secret that has now been whispered

And joyfully shouted

To you — to us —  to the world

 

This is all for Him, whose words can inspire faith and enable obedience

This is for Him, the only God

The wise God

Who deserves glory forever.

In the name of Jesus Christ,

Amen.

From Romans 16:25-27

~~The Apostle Paul wrote 13 letters to the churches. The closing of each of these letters often read like a blessing or a doxology — a short passage of praise to God. I was reading over one of these the other day, noticing how Paul’s personality, passion for God and love for beloved, struggling pilgrims showed up in the letter closings. It made me want to try to understand each one. In future posts, I’m going to try to put each one of these in my own inarticulate words.

~~Photo:Aaron Burden

{ She Seeks Wool }

Upcycling Wool Sweaters

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Ten years ago, I found a book that inspired me to make things out of old wool sweaters.

(Warm Fuzzies by Betz White)

It’s rewarding to sew something pretty and practical out of a castoff “holey” cashmere sweater, or Uncle Ralph’s vintage plaid wool cardigan.

 

After accumulating stacks of sweaters and a few handmade patterns, I started an Etsy* shop: (Wool Soup)

Things got a little better after the first disastrous order.

I had sewn the mitten thumbs on backwards.

The customer had said, “These just don’t seem to fit right.”

Here are some of the creations I have made and sold over the years:

My Etsy shop Tagline:

I enjoy taking something discarded and unloved, and making it into something useful & beautiful.

My desire to do this with scraps of wool is just an imperfect shadow of what God can do every day with people like me…and you.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”– 2 Corinthians 5:17

Shop Sale

  • I am running a coupon now — good on all products in my shop.
  • The HEART15 coupon code will give 15% off the cart at checkout until Valentine’s Day ~ 2/14/20.
  • I don’t have a lot left in stock, but I’m adding new items regularly. And, I promise you won’t end up with any backwards-thumb-mittens.

More Etsy Shops

This week I have visited a few delightful Etsy shops hosted by other WordPress bloggers, such as:

 

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*Etsy is an online marketplace that sells unique handmade goods and craft supplies.

 

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

{ This Valley }

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This valley does not go on forever.

Just keep walking.

One step at a time. 

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While you are walking

While you are praying

While you are looking up

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The ground will rise to meet you,

The wind will suddenly be at your back

And sunlight will fall tenderly upon you.

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You will know that God

Has been

Holding you gently

  In His loving grip.

~~~

“May the road rise to meet you, and the wind always be at your back. May the rains fall softly on your fields. May God hold you gently in the palm of his hand. — Traditional Irish Blessing

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The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace. — Numbers 6:24-26

~~~

Photos:

K

Jeremy Bishop

Wolfgang Lutz

 Marc-Olivier Jodoin

This is one of my all-time favorite devotional books: Streams in the Desert.

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As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. 

{ Better Than }

God’s steadfast love is better than life. ~ Psalm 63:3

A good name is better than great riches. ~ Proverbs 22:1

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. ~ Ecclesiastes 4:9

The end of a thing is better than its beginning. ~ Ecclesiastes 7:8

The patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit. ~  Ecclesiastes 7:8

To obey is better than sacrifice. ~ I Samuel 15:22

But God treats us much better than we deserve… ~ Romans 3:24

Consider others better than yourself. ~ Philippians 2:3

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Photos:

 Annie Spratt

 Michal Janek

 Tim Marshall

{War Declared on Sin Today }

War declared on

SIN

today.

Zero tolerance.

No exceptions.

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No questions asked.

No holds barred.

No ifs, ands or buts.

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The enemy–

Including but not limited to–

Pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth,

Will be apprehended and arrested

Without a phone call,

A trial,

Or a last meal.

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Offenders will first be

Drowned in light,

Then beheaded with a double-edged sword

Followed by hanging from the highest gallows.

–The Management

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For when you live controlled by the flesh, you are about to die. But if the life of the Spirit puts to death the corrupt ways of the flesh, we then taste his abundant life. — Romans 8:13 TPT

~~~

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I am reading this book,thanks to Brenda, who recommended it. 

Photos:

Museums Victoria

Henry Hustava

Aaron Burden

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

{ My Psalm 139 }

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Dear God,

You have searched my heart

  • Inside and out
  • Up and down
  • All the way through

(and that would scare me a little, if the searcher was anyone but You)

Because there are some:

  • Cluttered corners
  • Dusty nooks
  • Untidy spots

In this heart of mine.

But because YOU are the One pointing the spotlight,

I know that you see it all and love me still.

Your searching light doesn’t drive me away…instead it draws me.

So go ahead and search –

(I can’t escape that loving lens anyway.)

If I try to hide under a pile of feeble plans and works

You smile and shine bright on me.

If I disguise myself in one of my favorite masks,

You lift it off and embrace me.

Using toys, tricks, and hopeless distractions

I cover myself.

But you know I’m there.

You saw all my thoughts and future words

even before I was born.

You scrutinized it all when you were:

  • Secretly crafting me
  • Masterfully molding me
  • Uniquely carving out my days and ways

And you keep on weaving, sculpting and sovereignly decorating me from the inside out.

Your work makes me

  • Stand up and celebrate
  • Kneel down and weep
  • Glad to praise you forever

And while You keep shining Your light,

We will keep clearing out the clutter.

I will grip Your hand and

Follow Your path into eternity.

~~~

Today is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.

{ Word of the Year: Stretch }

 

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This is how I chose the word STRETCH for my 2020 Word of the Year: 

I’d like to withstand and even embrace the changes that come my way.  I’d like to learn to stay joyful in the middle of a changing family, life and world. 

 

So I Googled:  “What’s a word that means can withstand changes?

That led me to the online publication: An Introduction to the Study of Physics, Volume 1 By A. F. Walden, J. J. Manley. (Recommended reading for those who struggle with insomnia.)

The word I found there was elasticity.

I looked up synonyms for elasticity and found: words like stretchy, flexible and pliable.

The word stretch can also mean: reach, develop, extend. 

Philippians 4:12-14

I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

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To find your Word of the Year, try following these simple steps, courtesy of The Dolly Mama.

Photo by Unsplash:Michael Walter

 

{ True Theater: The First Christmas }

 

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Curtain opens / Scene appears peaceful

Middle-Eastern baby in dimmed spotlight

(a real baby, wrapped in livestock rags) 

Nestled in rough wooden feeding trough

Country setting. Clear night with stars. 

Mother exhausted. Sleeping.

Father watching. Thinking.

After miles of sweating and praying

After the end of the journey

After the labor

Just sitting

Just gazing

Now cue the angels.

The shepherds.

The wonder.

The starlight.

Behind the stage and unseen by the audience:

A fierce and ugly dragon – yes, an actual beast – has been trying to walk out on center stage.

He’s been trying to ruin the show.

He grabbed the script and stuffed it into his flaming mouth.

(It didn’t matter, because everyone already knew their lines.)

He tried to tear down the curtain with his talons (that’s supposed to happen anyway — scene three)

His demonic buddies brought an assassin to kill the baby. They stormed and burst down the side stage door. (He wasn’t a good shot after all, and the baby was whisked away.)

The director just sat there. Directing. 

He knew this was going to happen.

It was all actually in the script. 

***Spoiler alert: It has an ending that’s out-of-this-world***

Curtain.

~~~~~

Inspiration from Revelation 12 and Luke 2.

Manger photo:Greyson Joralemon