Tuesday, November 30, 2010

This Time of Year, Part 2

You didn’t know there was going to be a Part 2, did ya?!
Well, you see, I have to admit that this next Holiday Season is close in the running of my favorite times of the year.
I love the Christmas Holiday season!!
I love the sights … you know all the pretty decorations in and on houses, in parks, on city streets. The traditional Norman Rockwell scenes, or the way it’s all captured by Thomas Kincaid. The colors of this holiday season are classic – those deep greens, reds … and oodles more thrown in to enhance them. Christmas is a time of beauty!
The smells of this time of year are some of the best! The pine needles of the traditional tree, oranges, cinnamon and clove, and all the odors of baking and cooking those special delicacies and delights of this season.
Which brings me to the tastes … Christmas candy is the best! Fudges, ribbon candy and hard tack, orange slices, and spice drops! Cookies in wonderful shapes or filled with good things and decorated just so! Nuts to crack and dig into! The feasts of the day itself – every family probably has its own traditional yummies that smell and taste so special.
The sounds of the Christmas Holiday Season are some of the most majestic, peaceful, happy, stirring, jolly, and holy sounds of all mankind! Words of the songs of the season have us remembering, worshiping, and celebrating throughout the season.
Decorations, traditions, music and songs, parades, the fabulous foods and drives to look at holiday lights! The preparation. The anticipation. I love it!
Not that I am able to listen to Christmas music – we didn’t happen to bring any Christmas CDs with us; and not that I have a Christmas tree – I have seen a few artificial ones here and there but we don’t have one; and not that I have any decorations up in our home but there’s several stores with a good variety of them here.
But, I bet you are and do … are listening to this once a year traditional music, and do have your tree up or at least are planning to do so very soon! And I would be in the middle of all that if I could … maybe, tomorrow, I will change some of that. I think there’s some holiday music on the laptop that I downloaded last year. I saw poinsettias the other day for sale – I should get one for us to put on our table.
Which brings me to the other biggie of this Holiday Season … and that is, you’re probably Making A List, and checking it twice! It doesn’t matter who’s naughty or nice – family and friends are going to get presents! It truly doesn’t matter how big or small as long as it’s special!
I love taking my time, thinking about just what this one or that one may love or enjoy.
There will 23 of us at our family Christmas celebration this year … none of us have the money to buy for everyone so, we celebrate part of our gift giving with “Dirty Santa”. Kiddos get treated and remembered special along with the dearest of dear ones. Lots of families or office staff or just small groups do this and I think it’s way fun.
And then, also, there’s the list goes on … “secret sisters” get to do something special for their secret someone. Teachers in school and at church are recognized at this time. Caregivers for young and old are given gifts of appreciation. You may traditionally buy a gift for your best friend or you may want to start a tradition this year. Preachers and ministerial staff are often acknowledged during this season too.
It can get overwhelming!
Here’s an idea:
Shop from home, online … with the holiday music playing in the background, outfitted in your coziest comfies, with a cup of hot chocolate or friendship tea only a reach away.
Yep, this year, for a great portion of your shopping needs, whether it be decorating, or gift buying, remember us. Know that when you purchase from Your Ninth Hour you are not only buying quality but also a percentage of all your dollars spent goes directly into our work here in Santa Rosa – you can look at Heart Notes and see what that’s all about.
Now what could be better than that – buying and giving more than you bargained for!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

This Time of Year

Well, this was supposed to post yesterday but oh, well.  I will post it today. Blessings to all of you for a Wonderful Sunday!
You are actually coming to the conclusion of my favorite time of year – Autumn! For me, Thanksgiving Day is kind of like the culmination of all these wonderful days of harvest! I love the colors – browns, golds, oranges,  yellows, and reds …  and all their shades and hues. They make the prettiest pictures here, there and on the mountains! I love the smells – you know … the ’smokieness’ – with the first fires in chimneys, leaves being burnt, and of course, then there’s the smell of all these wonderful autumn foods cooking – apples, squash, pumpkins and you name it, I am so happy I can smell autumn! The produce mentioned above and others that are unique to the season – mmm, wonderful, most especially when you are harvesting from your own garden! And finally, I love the activities leading up to  and the actual day of Thanksgiving. I love it all  – the preparation, cooking and baking! Honestly, I don’t even mind the clean-up. Even then I am counting my blessings but, most especially in the States where it is just natural you wash your dishes in the kitchen at your own sink and have hot water at your fingertips. But, I’m wandering now so back to … I love AUTUMN!!
Now, I know not all the United States enjoy the fall season like I described, but I have been privileged to delight in living in the Carolinas the biggest portion of my life and we know how to put on a show!!
So here I am, in Honduras where there is no fall. No changing of the seasons. No pumpkins, no greens from the garden, no frost on the ground or brisk, cold winds. Between Argentina, Nigeria and now here, this is the eighth year I lived in a country where there is no changing of seasons and maybe that’s why it means so much. You know, ‘you miss what you can’t have’.
But, by contrast, here I live and there is green all around … there will be a time later when we’ll be longing for rains; there be a lot of dust and it will start browning up a bit. However, as mentioned, it is green here and you know what? Of all the colors on the palette of God, green is my favorite color! I love all shades of green, all tones. To me, green represents l-i-f-e … full, vibrant and beautiful. Well, how’s that for a gift? I sit here in our family room, on the second floor of our house and out any of the 3 sets of windows see beautiful, glorious, resplendent shades of green!



Greens to the left of us.Behind us.


Greens to the left of us and behind us.
There’s quite a few smells I love here too. So much of the cooking is done in outdoor kitchens that with all the walking we do we are going to smell any number of fragrant dishes being cooked on any given day. There’s lots of flowers in this climate – and their scents waft on the breeze continually. Walking down town we pass several bakeries, and although I haven’t found any pastries to rival those we found in Argentina, well, baking bread is baking bread and my, oh m, it is wonderful to smell!

'Greens' in our yard.
'Greens' in our yard.
My flowers - shades of red, orange, yellow!
My flowers - shades of red, orange, yellow!
I have yellows!
No, we didn’t have the usual Thanksgiving fare but we had most of it. We were reminded we were here and not there when Donna lost electricity at her house – since she has an electric stove, she had to bring the turkey to my house to finish baking in my gas oven. And we didn’t find any canned pumpkin or pecans but we did substitute almonds, lemon and chocolate and had glorious desserts after a big, wonderful meal.
Thanksgiving in Honduras!
Thanksgiving in Honduras!
Yummy food! Great Fellowship.
Yummy food! Great Fellowship.
All that to say: Life is what you make it. Wherever you are, you can decide on being blessed. What? Decide on being blessed? Yes, I can make up my mind not to dwell on what I don’t have but to insist from myself that I will take pleasure in the blessings at hand. So, I did. I do. I love living here. I love making do with ‘this’ when in my heart of hearts, I would really, really love and enjoy ‘that’.
Yep, indeed, God is good, and I am blessed and highly favored.
Me! Blessed and highly favored.
Me! Blessed and highly favored.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thankfulness Week

This is what our daughter, Jessi, is using as her theme this week over at Musings of a ReNewed Girl. I love it. She is going from day to day with her list of Thankfulness. We have kind of copied her theme in our own family blog. You can see it here at Heart Notes.
I hate that we’re not more thankful more often. I am glad whoever decided we (the States) should have Thanksgiving as a regular holiday put it into writing and on the Calendars! It is so special to take time to reflect and really recognize how blessed we are.
This special day just could be my very favorite holiday of the year. I love everything about Thanksgiving. I love the time of year – autumn is absolutely the best season! Being always on this Thursday makes it predictable – you can count on it. The days leading up to this day are happy in anticipation of not only good eats, the gathering of family and friends but also the expectancy of being grateful. Everyone loves to count their blessings – sometimes we just forget.
I know some people routinely go out to eat their Thanksgiving meal or maybe cater it in and that’s okay, but me and mine LOVE the cooking part of it all! I like all the food that we prepare. We each have our specialties that we make from year to year. Pies, salads, dressings (stuffing) like this and like that, turkey, whole cranberries
This is what our daughter, Jessi, is using as her theme this week over at Musings of a ReNewed Girl. I love it. She is going from day to day with her list of Thankfulness. We have kind of copied her theme in our own family blog. You can see it here at Heart Notes.

I hate that we’re not more thankful more often. I am glad whoever decided we (the States) should have Thanksgiving as a regular holiday put it into writing and on the Calendars! It is so special to take time to reflect and really recognize how blessed we are.

This special day just could be my very favorite holiday of the year. I love everything about Thanksgiving. I love the time of year – autumn is absolutely the best season! Being always on this Thursday makes it predictable – you can count on it. The days leading up to this day are happy in anticipation of not only good eats, the gathering of family and friends but also the expectancy of being grateful. Everyone loves to count their blessings – sometimes we just forget.

I know some people routinely go out to eat their Thanksgiving meal or maybe cater it in and that’s okay, but me and mine LOVE the cooking part of it all! I like all the food that we prepare. We each have our specialties that we make from year to year. Pies, salads, dressings (stuffing) like this and like that, turkey, whole cranberries and sauce, homemade rolls, sweet potatoes like this and like that … and then the clean up … it’s a blessing too, because, we had it all to enjoy!

Well, I am not Stateside this year. But, I remember last year – and it was a blast! We were all together in Barling, ARK … Michael, Janna, Emily, Madelyn, Jessi, Benjamin, Jared, Jacob, Lowell and me. There was a lot of laughter … and a little fussing (brothers and sisters and husbands and wives), and more laughter and conversations and fun! And so, today, far away where there are no fall colors, no pumpkins, no autumn anything … I am thankful for memories of days gone by. Fun times. Family.

Tomorrow I’ll let you know the blessings of the here and now but today, ah, memories – they are precious indeed!
and sauce, homemade rolls, sweet potatoes like this and like that … and then the clean up … it’s a blessing too, because, we had it all to enjoy!
Well, I am not Stateside this year. But, I remember last year – and it was a blast! We were all together in Barling, ARK … Michael, Janna, Emily, Madelyn, Jessi, Benjamin, Jared, Jacob, Lowell and me. There was a lot of laughter … and a little fussing (brothers and sisters and husbands and wives), and more laughter and conversations and fun! And so, today, far away where there are no fall colors, no pumpkins, no autumn anything … I am thankful for memories of days gone by. Fun times. Family.
Tomorrow I’ll let you know the blessings of the here and now but today, ah, memories – they are precious indeed!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Relative Abundance

I have been thinking more and more about abundance since living in Honduras – first in Santa Ana de Francisco Morizan and now in Santa Rosa de Copan …
First of all let me clarify that I realize there are different ‘types’ of abundance if you will. I have actually devoted this site to the understanding that a person is rich only when they create a close relationship with God, are true to themselves and their dreams, when they realize abundance is found in the relationships one builds with  family, friends and community,  and it comes in choosing to celebrating life.
That being said, I want to address something that is glaringly evident in our lives here in Honduras … we come off as being rich.
The truth is: we are rich if you compare us to some Hondurans (but not all!) and we’re poor to middlin’, if you compare us to some Americans. You see here in the above pictures some homes – if you notice the 1st house and the last house, you will see they are the houses in which we’ve made our homes. We rented them from people who built them, loved them and had stories in them. The first house’s story is pretty sad for although many years were lived there, the family ended up a ‘broken’ home with the patriarch/husband leaving the wife and her spending years in bitter sadness, aloof from her neighbors and friends.  They rented it to us at a very reduced price after she was no longer able to live there by herself.  The second house, where we are now, is owned by folks who came here from El Salvador and make their careers as professors, have kids, and pets and are now teaching in Bolivia. They continue to have a good reputation in this small neighborhood. They rented it to us at a reduced price on a one-year contract that may last for the 3 years they are out of the country.
The pictures of the other houses are randomly chosen – with 2 thrown in that we helped build – just to show you that the homes are pretty much all a hodgepodge of people and economic levels – electricians living beside teachers, seamstress living across the street from military, cooks next to bankers. That was how it was in Santa Ana and here. Of course, there are more and more neighborhoods (or colonias) being built like regular neighborhoods we have in the states where the houses are pretty much from the same mold, but it isn’t common at all.
My point is this, there is richness or abundance, if you will in life all over the world just as there is poverty. The worst poverty of all perhaps is the poverty that is inflicted on oneself because of ignorance or their own neglect. We’ve been invited to a good number of homes here in Honduras. And we’ve opened our home to loads of Hondurans to come over and visit. What has become glaringly clear to me is that I am very rich and I thank God for it. The richness I am talking about is not what this nice home of mine represents – it is what is represented by the choices I make every single day and have made since I was 14 years old. I choose to follow Christ, his teachings and His Way.
I do not take for granted that I was raised in a family who chose to follow God early on. I had Christian parents, amazing church families wherever we lived, and then I chose to marry a Christian man, who along with me every day, chooses to live in accordance to God’s word to the best of our ability. Have I messed up? You better believe it – but I had a Shepherd out looking for me and wouldn’t rest til I came home. Do I still make mistakes? Yep indeed and I’m not proud of making them but I know it is only by grace I am here at all so, I don’t beat myself up about it. The point is, I decide to live ‘on purpose’ if you will, every single day and the fact that I know to choose this, is simply because of the sweet and dear legacy that was given me.
Here is a paragraph from our last newsletter and maybe this is what prompted these thoughts and reflections …
“We’ve met people here and listened to them tell who their siblings are … it makes your head spin just hearing the explanation of who is who’s kid and which is their father and on and on. I feel sorry for children that grow up in that kind of situation because they never know when one of their parents are going to up and leave. This is the reason we want these couples to be legally married. The cycle of abandonment needs to stop.”  Click here to read entire newsletter and see more of our work.
There is so much that is left unsaid, knowledge of terrible things that have happened and will continue to happen that make you walk the floor in tears in the middle of the night because you want to do something but don’t know what   - but know this, a good home is not to be taken lightly or for granted. Commitment, loyalty and fidelity are rare and are more precious than you can ever imagine. None of this may come natural but it can be taught, lived out and exemplified. I am encouraged by what is starting to happen around us … a new generation is arising that are intent on breaking the crazy cycle of what they have known and truly want to give their own children the rare gift of living on purpose – choosing the path less traveled.
And so I am today, once again counting my blessings. The blessing of a childhood lived in a home where abandonment was far from me, where I was able to learn about God the Father from a man who strived to live like a Christian, and a mother who committed herself to the betterment of each of us. I am counting the blessing of being in a marriage that is a true covenant before the Lord. We have four delightful children who are living “on purpose” and are walking that narrow way when the world screams at them – do this, try that.
This life of mine did not happen by accident. It wasn’t luck of the draw. It was and is an investment every single day. I lay aside moment by moment to store up riches for eternity’s sake. The beautiful, amazing thing is – in giving all I can, the richer I become.
Yep, I am so very rich and yes, thank God, I live in abundance.