Thankful #26:

Today I was thankful for snow shovelers. I got to church and there was a large snow bank in the walkway.i thought maybe I might have a few visitors for coffee, so first thing I did was grab a shovel. I was just scooping in front of the lower door when a couple of guys pull up and unload a snow blower. I was super happy. It was a long day with the tapes to copy and mail and deliver. I also dropped off six plastic containers at the local florist. I was so glad to clear them out of the back room in church. As a thank you the florist gave me five roses that were going bad. They are pretty. I will leave you with a picture, and hope you all have a great Thanksgiving.

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Thankful #25: cookies

Didn’t do much today. Looked at the songs for the rest of Advent. Later in the afternoon I made up two small steaks as a roast and added potatoes and carrots. While that was all cooking, I pulled out the cookie dough that we bought. I will probably be using my old recipe and making them from scratch for Christmas. We just couldn’t resist the price the other day when we were shopping. When you see the pictures you will understand. Today I am thankful for learning by trying.

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This is how they looked when I rolled them out. They didn’t roll that well.

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This was the way the first batch looked. Too much baking powder is what I think. James said my homemade ones taste better.

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So the last batch was a little better in terms of looks. I would frost them but I want to show off how bad they look. Catch you later.

Thankful #24: Christmas lights at dusk

As I mentioned a few days ago, I took some pictures of what the little trees looked like in the near dark. I used to do pictures for a local newspaper, so I know just how difficult it is to get a good picture of Christmas lights at night. This is my compromise.

The long view of the characters lit up.

The long view of the characters lit up.

Hmmm, this now makes me wonder whatever happened to the icicle lights we used to have hanging from those little ladder like things on the porches. We could use some lights up above too. The big problem was we couldn’t get onto the top levels because of all the snow blocking the doors. Maybe now that some has melted we can do round two.

Snoopy and Rudolph. The carolers are in the background.

Snoopy and Rudolph. The carolers are in the background.

If you look real close you will see that Snoopy has had a nose job. Duct tape is great, especially the white or semi-white stuff. He fell over in a wind storm one year. He is standing on a double layer of pavers. I put binder twine on the bottom layer and covered it with the top one. James put a smaller brick inside Snoopy at which time a piece cracked out as it fell inside the base. Next I wrapped and twisted and tied like crazy, but Snoopy won’t be falling on his nose this year. Rudolph’s wire base is stuck deep into that flower pot. He looks like he is ready to fly, but he, too, won’t be leaving the yard. Such fun we have!

The trees are lit here. Hopefully I will get a better picture later.

The trees are lit here. Hopefully I will get a better picture later.

Today I am thankful for time with family and time to get things accomplished. I went to my great-aunt Dorothy’s funeral with my sister and brother and his wife this morning. We stayed for lunch and visited with the family a bit. There really are not that many when you take us out of the mix. Dorothy and our great-uncle had three children. Her daughter Doris, who was my what we would call nanny now days and I was her flower-girl, has four grown children. My mother had five grown children, and we are the two biggest families of our generation. Many other families in this family were three, two, one or none. This is quite different from the 8, 10 and so families here around the same time.

Anyway, it was a good time visiting and later when I was at home, I got to work on the bulletin and message for Sunday. It was nice to take the time to do that now. Maybe on Wednesday I can do something that is of more importance, like planning a few things down the road. It always feels good to be able to work ahead and see more of the “big picture.” So, what are you thankful for today???

Thankful #23: But for the Grace of God

Today’s sermon was titled on Wednesday, and last night I was struggling to make it fit. I finally realized as I was sharing it today, that it couldn’t fit. Using this title was all judgmental and wrong. I even add a bit to the printed version, but that will just have to be for us. I am not ready to preach for with or at a church that seeks to judge others and try to be better Here is what things were based on.

Scriptures were: Ezekiel 34:11-24, Ephesians 1:11-23 and Matthew 25:31-46. The title in the bulletin was “When did you care for Jesus?”

Today we are at the end of a church year. We have spent quite a bit of time going through the book of Matthew and starting with Genesis and the beginning of when Abraham was called to father the people of Israel. Next week we will turn to a new part in the lectionary cycles as we begin Advent and a new church year. We have been on year A and now go to year B. I think it is rather appropriate that we started at the beginning together.

It is also apparent at our house that we are getting ready for the Christmas season. I am going to put the, well I won’t say blame, but I will truthfully say that the reason I have been more organized and better prepared for Christmas this year is the fact that I need to get organized here in church for Advent. Our house doesn’t have a nice space for a big Christmas tree and though we have figured out how to put one up in the past, this year we opted for a little white one on a stand.

We also took advantage of the weather yesterday, and decorated the six evergreen trees we have at the edge of the driveway. We also set out a few Christmas characters and James and Paulina put lights around the porch. We are almost ready for the big day, we even have several gifts wrapped and under the tree. Maybe it is because we have a baby in the family this year, but it just seems that we have a little more of the festive attitude.

I actually can’t wait until Friday when I can put away my Thanksgiving decorations and dig out the Christmas farm set and the Nativity sets and the Advent candle for the house, and on and on and on. But, we have a few things to talk about today before we can get this carried away with what is to come.

Part of what we read for today should make us think of Advent, and that part is the repeating metaphor/comparison/theme if you want to call it that, of sheep and shepherds. In Ezekiel we read that God plans to return to gather up the sheep rather than letting them fend for themselves. God will come and search for the lost sheep to take care of them. God will find good pastures for the sheep to lie down, food for them to eat and even take care of the injured.

It also says that he will appoint one shepherd, David to be the shepherd to take care of the good sheep. Although the author writes David here, many of the scholars suggest that the actual meaning is Jesus. There are many other scriptures in the Old and New Testament that point to Jesus as good shepherd, as well as Jesus being from the “House of David” The one shepherd who will tend to the sheep is Jesus the Son of God the descendant of King David.

There are also warnings that the strong sheep will be cast away. Here perhaps the meaning is the cruel or the spiteful or perhaps the bullies among the sheep; another word besides strong is the fat sheep. Yikes what does that say for us who are taught to be self-reliant and tough and assertive to make a place for ourselves in the world?

The passage we read in Matthew is the final part of chapter 25. It is more a story than a parable, and it isn’t found elsewhere in the Bible. This is a story related only by Matthew. There is a correlation in the gospel of John, but it is only two verses about the coming of the end times. No other gospel gives the account of God dividing the sheep from the goats at a day of judgment.

According to the sermon notes on the UCC website, just discussing or even mentioning the part about the “day of judgment” makes some people nervous. And when you come to think of it, we don’t talk about that very often. Perhaps it is because “day of judgment” gets us into the mindset that someone is the judge and someone is the jury, and maybe we have to have some rules and some laws and walk the right and righteous way, and now who does that for us here and now?  I will be sure to let you know that as soon as we start acting like that, I will be the first to say, “don’t pick me.”

As I was reading and pondering about the lesson for today, I was reminded of a question posed to me by one of our guests a couple of weeks ago. It was after we talked about the parable of the talents and how the master treated the servant who didn’t use his talent. The question was: “where does grace fit in?” The question was probably a little longer, but in essence that is what was being asked. Today’s lesson is also one where we could lose sight of God’s grace.

As we look at the metaphor of Jesus the Good Shepherd/God going through the flocks of the world at the end times, meaning going through all of the people, whether it is at one great judgment day, or our individual judgment day, as we look at this dividing into the sheep and the goats, it would be easy to interpret this story to mean that the way to salvation is through doing good. The way to eternal life with God, the way to becoming a sheep is by doing all the things listed in the rest of the story.

So now we have broken salvation down to a “to-do” list. Does this really mean that to get to be one of the chosen all we need to do is: feed the hungry, give a drink to the thirsty, welcome a stranger, clothe the naked, nurse the sick, and visit the imprisoned? Well let’s get right on it. Ok, I don’t mean to sound glib. I don’t mean to poke fun of this. This is a very serious passage. It is a very serious subject. And if it were not of any real importance, the lectionary would not include it, today of all days the week before the beginning of Advent. And as much as I would like to put the focus today on all of the things we need to do to help others, and who do we help, it is more than that.

In Ezekiel we hear that God is coming to gather up all of his sheep. God is coming to find all who are lost and gather them into the fold. We are offered that opportunity because of God’s great love for us. God gives us this love not because we have earned it, but because God wants us, all of us, each of us. It is by the grace of God that we are able to enter into salvation. It is because Jesus was willing to die for us. Jesus didn’t die for us because we did all those things for him or for others. Jesus died for us because we were sinners and couldn’t do it ourselves.

So what is the meaning of this list? Why does Jesus keep mentioning it, over and over? Why did Matthew share it in his gospel when no one else bothered? If you look at it, look at it closely and think about all that we are offered because of God’s love and grace and Jesus sacrifice for us, when we accept that unconditional love, when we really accept that for ourselves, then, then and only then are we changed. And when we are changed and it probably isn’t some zapping sort of change like you see on a fantasy movie or read in a book of that sort. This is a change that we work at on a daily and weekly and monthly basis. But when we really accept the love of God for ourselves, then we want to share and do for others.

This story is put into this part of the calendar perhaps not just because of where it falls in the scripture, though I am sure that is part of it. But this is likely also here because of the time of year we are approaching. Here we are just a few days away from Thanksgiving. We will likely sit down with family or friends or someone to celebrate a meal and maybe even talk about some of the good that we have encountered this year, maybe during commercials while watching our favorite football games.

Or maybe you are in the other room like I am watching those happily ever after, cheesy Christmas movies, and your mind turns to what can you do to share your good fortune with others. Looking at the words of Jesus we should have plenty of ideas on how to reach out to others. Yes we may be leery about who or how or what, but we can work some of that out together. There are lots of opportunities for us to offer a hand to others.

But we need to remember that we are doing this not to earn a spot on the right hand side with the sheep, but because we are so overcome with joy that God has chosen us to be one of his sheep that we are more than willing to reach out to others in their time of need. I remember the words of my mother when she would look at someone down and out and say, “But for the grace of God, there go I.”

As we look ahead to Advent, let us be thankful for God’s love and grace, and let’s do our best to share that with all we meet along the way. I will leave you today with my version of a popular Christmas saying, remember as we are getting ready for Christmas and a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus, remember these words: “Wise Men and Women still seek Him.” Amen!

Thankful #22: Hanging Lights

Today I am thankful that the weather has taken a turn for balmy. It is the best way to describe a warm winter day. It is  a bit over 35 degrees (F) and the sun is shining as hard as it can. I semi-cleared off the colored concrete and in less than half an hour it was heated enough to melt what was left behind.

Concrete after I shoveled off the snow.

Concrete after I shoveled off the snow.

About a half hour later after the sun did some thawing and we set up the characters.

About a half hour later after the sun did some thawing and we set up the characters.

James sure could have used Victoria’s help today. He wasn’t so excited with the way Paulina and I tend to take over boss when there are projects like this to do. I finally came inside and let him do the lights on the house the way he wanted to. I, though, had to put my two cents into how Snoopy and Rudolph should be placed. I also tied all of those plastic candles to the pillars. Hopefully we have everything tied down enough so the winds won’t wreak havoc like in the past. Earlier, we strung lights on the evergreens. I was positive we would also put lights on the trees at my mother’s place. Fat chance with that. The largest of our trees took four strands. It would be the second smallest at my mother’s place. The only tree, well two, that we could even consider doing would be the one on the end that I nursed back to health a couple of years ago, and it looks a little like the Charlie Brown tree. The other is the one by the shop that is tucked out of the way. So much for those plans. The biggest issue is we should have a pay loader to reach the top. I have no idea where we could find someone who would help us with that problem. I can share pictures of the “in-progress” part. When it gets near twilight, I will try to remember to take a few pictures to share tomorrow.

Ladder behind the tallest tree. We put a tree topper on this one and the two on the ends.

Ladder behind the tallest tree. We put a tree topper on this one and the two on the ends.

Row towards the west.

Row towards the west.

Trees to the east, still not sure about the tiny one.

Trees to the east, still not sure about the tiny one.

James and Paulina working on a tree.

James and Paulina working on a tree.

Recaptured dog.

Recaptured dog.

In the middle of the tree trimming event. We stopped for a brief dog rodeo. A husky who lives in town decided to evade his owner for about 40 minutes. Because we live on the edge of town, we became an idea place for the husky to roam. Paulina decided to help the owner in tracking the dog a bit. The gentleman is new to this town and I guess didn’t really know what is in this part. The husky soon discovered the dike and the train bridge, and figured it was a great place for an escape. As is turned out that was how he was caught. He was just a bit afraid of crossing the bridge, and his owner was able to get a hand on the collar. Thankfully so as the area is wide open beyond that bridge and does have a coyote or two that would love a good dog fight. As for tomorrow. I should be in two places at one time. My only remaining great-aunt on my mother’s side passed away. Her funeral is on Monday, which I will be able to attend. The family service is on Sunday night and I am doing the call to worship for the community service in Eureka. I should have called someone to cover for me, but I guess that is how it goes. Sometimes we just have to do what we do. I am guessing that we won’t see some of those cousins anytime again, soon. If that just made sense. This is the side that never does a family gathering, and rarely attends each other’s weddings, so I guess until the next generation starts passing away, this is where we are. Sad really!

Thankful #21: shopping success

Today James and I went to Bismarck after school. We needed some items around the house plus we wanted to get a start on some Christmas shopping. There are about 30 some days left to shop, so this is quite eRly for us. Mostly we picked up toys, for the very young ones on our lists. It was fun! It was also great for me because we bought a new small kettle for boiling noodles and maybe eggs. It is so cool because it has a lid and edges that will allow for draining the liquid without a strainer. I also chose a set of four puzzles of 1000 pieces. It will be wrapped for me to have a gift that someone will be surprised they bought it for me. Ha! Paulina got a chair for her dorm with the same stipulation.
Another thing that was great was that we took an old love seat stored in the basement to Paulina’s dorm room. We also took a set of sink and stove and left it in her room for Jessica to pick up on Sunday. Well that is all for tonight. Sorry no pictures today.

Thankful #20: Organized sewing area

Today I am thankful for having a room I can walk around in and a closet where I can find what I want. I am also thankful for clutter being cleared away enough to start and finish a few projects before Christmas.

I finally bit the proverbial bullet and got to work on the mess in my room. First off the closet was a disaster for so many reasons. I won’t even share pictures of it before or after. One reason was that I haven’t cleared out old clothes since I was teaching in Mobridge which is like four years ago. I also dug out some of the well packed baby items looking for a blanket the weekend of the baptism. As the house was already in chaos, I didn’t put anything away at the time.

I am surprised we even found our way into the bedroom let alone the closet. By last Monday things were spilling on to the couch and the rocking chair not to mention the trunk, and it was time to put the plants in the window, and I couldn’t get near it. I admit that there are still a few things to put away and to use, but at least I can walk, get to the dresser and the closet rack and best of all the shelves on the other wall are useable again.

One of my biggest accomplishments was the t-shirts in my dresser. I don’t have it perfect yet. I still need to sort and toss a few, but at least the majority have a home. What was three drawers full is now one and a half. So I will admit that the tank tops were relocated, but in the summer, I will just swap them with the sweatshirts. Here is a peak.

T-shirts in line by color.

T-shirts in line by color.

Sweatshirts and long sleeved t-shirts.

Sweatshirts and long-sleeved t-shirts.

Next is the sewing station. I realize a master bedroom is really not the best place for your sewing set up, but here is the thing. If I were to put it in another room, we would lose an area for beds, and when everyone is home, that becomes a critical issue. Add to that there are no TV hookups in any of the rooms I would get, and no land line plugs, you get the picture. Plus this room has the most light, the best heat, and there is a bathroom right next to it. I am thinking the best idea is relocate the master bedroom and use this entire space for sewing and crafting. I could finally fit a larger table for patterns and layouts. Ha!!

When Victoria and Nate were moving, they decided not to take the changing table that they received from Melissa. It has cracks in the bottom legs and Victoria was afraid it might fall apart with Ana on the top. She wasn’t sure if Melissa wanted it back, or what should be done. I rescued it with the intent of checking it out. I know Melissa is always lamenting the clutter in her life, so I called to ask if she wanted it. For a brief second, I thought my plans were foiled. Well, for now the changing table has become a craft shelf. I know the wood look is outdated, but so am I.

If you go back to the frontier days, where I might have chosen to live, well maybe not given no running water, anyway, in those days everything was the wood look, and that is where I am in terms of decorating. I want the original wood trim, etc., etc., etc. So here is what the station looks like, matching or not.

Changing table after a clean up and before filling it.

Changing table after a clean up and before filling it.

Filled with material and other items.

Filled with material and other items.

The shoe boxes on top don’t look so great, but I realized that Roger and Sophia would think that I had made them a wonderful new bunk bed if I were to layout all the material. As it is, I am sure they will be caught several times sitting on the boxes because you can look out the window from there.

Library table.

Library table.

I purchased the library table at my great uncle’s auction sale. It cost about $5. and looked a wreck. His sister laughed at why anyone would want the butchering table. She claimed they cut up chickens on it. James took it to a person who redid furniture, and I am pretty sure we upped the value considerable. It has no drawers, but is a wonderful and useful relic. I figure it is the perfect size to lay out the patterns for the 18″ doll clothes which is an up and coming project for me. What did I say about the cats? Here is Roger photo bombing and plotting her next move already.

Thread holder.

Thread holder.

I ended up with an old slide strip cabinet when I was purchasing items at an auction. Good grief it sounds like that is all I do. I want to spray paint this a different color someday, but for now it works. Only real problem is that I barely have the top shelf in us and there are six drawers. It is also quite heavy, so I am happy to have found it a home as I don’t want to lug it around.

Ribbons and other trim items to use on projects.

Ribbons and other trim items to use on projects.

This is the middle drawer of the sewing cabinet. The bottom drawer is full of jars of buttons and such. I rarely throw away an article of clothing without at least taking the buttons and any functioning zippers from them. Now I am starting to see the use for other parts like pockets and button up areas.

Other items used in storage are old pop corn tins.

Other items used in storage are old pop corn tins.

Well, I am guessing that I should get to work rather than just write about doing something. Ha! Story of my life, write the list, but never do the work!!

Sunrise this morning.

Sunrise this morning.

It was a fantastic bright sunrise, and I tried so hard to get it from the window upstairs, but Roger, again, was hanging out and I didn’t trust her not to try to jump out when I removed the screen. By the time I cleaned that thought up and made it down the steps, the sun was slipping up into the clouds, and I don’t think we will see it again today. Currently, we have light snow outside. Oh dear, I better go find Sophia, she must be freezing on the porch. For what are you thankful today?

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