Monday, December 31, 2018

Joys, Challenges and Changes

Dear Friends,

This year I made a Funfetti Christmas Cake Roll. It had colorful sprinkles on the inside and cream cheese icing inside and out. It reminds me of life this past year. Lots of different ingredients went into it. So I’m reflecting on 2018 and looking forward to a new year (wondering what sweetness and spice it holds for us):


Last January Friends of the Heart celebrated 20 years of meeting as a small group (12 years of ministering to women). This past year we spoke about 20 times, including several weekend retreats. A busy year, for sure, as we’ve made new friends and revisited old ones.

Bill and I celebrated our 57th wedding anniversary with two couples who married the same year. We’ve been celebrating together for more years than we can remember. We’ve all survived physical challenges this last year, so it was a special time just appreciating being together.

And then, of course, there are the ongoing joys of celebrating life with our family, which now includes grownup grandchildren—one working, two in college and two in high school. All a huge blessing to our lives!

I meet so many wonderful people as I write their stories for our local newspaper, The Upper Dauphin Sentinel.


My brother Russell passed on to heaven last spring after suffering from Parkinson’s and other health issues. I miss him. He was the last of my four siblings and so good to his little sister.


Bill is undergoing chemotherapy for lymphoma. I have had two ER visits with atrial fibrillation. But God’s grace has seen us through, and we’re trusting Him for His best for us in 2019.


I read 40-plus books this year. Some of my favorites:

The Gift of Years by Joan Chittister
Biblical Grandparenting by Josh Malvihill
Waiting on God: What To Do When God Does Nothing by Wayne Stiles
Intros Muros
Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering by Timothy Keller
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Bachman
The Masterpiece by Francine Rivers
The Bible
Sisterhood of Faith: 365 Life-Changing Stories about Women Who Made a Difference – by me!

Now why, you may wonder, would I read a book that I myself wrote? Sisterhood was published several years ago, so it was like reading a new book. The women’s stories are so refreshing and inspirational. How God uses us in a myriad of ways just fascinates me! I am so happy Simon and Schuster still sells the book.

I also discovered Sheryl Pellatiro’s Bible studies and worked through Philippians as part of an online study group. We start Ruth on January 14. You can find her at

Each year I read through a different Bible translation. This coming year I’m going to use the Contemporary English Challenge Bible (with notes by Don Wilkerson). Can’t wait to start!

My Verse for the Upcoming Year:

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14 (NLT)


Instead of posting this newsletter at the beginning of each month as I’ve been doing, I’m going to start posting every three weeks. The post will also be available on Facebook on our Friends of the Heart page where Kim, Janine and I take turns posting each Saturday morning. So “like” us on Facebook if you’d like to receive notifications when we post.

As the song goes, “Thank you for being my friend.” I look forward to what God has in store for us in the months ahead. Always feel free to express your feelings and reactions to my posts.

Happy New Year!


Monday, December 17, 2018

Blessed Surrender!

Dear Friends,

Instead of saying “Merry Christmas” we should perhaps say “Blessed Surrender.” Oh I love the twinkling lights, the sparkling trees, snow swirling around street lights. But in the midst of it all, it’s easy to forget the baby in the manger. And it’s easy to forget the message of the manger: Surrender! Mary got it. Joseph got it. Do we get it?

When the angel told Mary she would conceive and give birth to a son, she said, “I am the Lord’s servant.” When the angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him to take his Mary, his betrothed, as his wife, he did. Both of them surrendered to God’s will—at great personal cost and embarrassment—and Jesus was born.

In a Christmas message, Dr. David Jeremiah talked about how both Mary and Joseph bowed to the will of God. He said too often we pray “my will be done” instead of “thy will be done.”

That is so true. I come to God with a grocery list of wants---wants that go beyond needs. Because after all, I have most everything I need. But I want health and healing for my loved ones. I want to live in safety and comfort. I want . . . I want . . . I want . . . .

What if my prayers focused more on God’s will rather than mine? Would that change how I pray? I’ve written “Thy will be done” at the top of my prayer list. That will remind me to pray:

1.    For God to heal spiritually as well as physically. After all, physical healing is important only in this world; spiritual healing blesses for eternity.
2.    For God to direct my paths rather than tell Him where I want to go.
3.     For God to change someone to what He wants them to be rather than into my image for them.
4.    For God to use me in any way He chooses—sick or well, successful or not, comfortable or uncomfortable—I am His.
5.    For God’s will to be done in the lives of (not just the work of) missionaries. They experience the same hassles and nitty-gritty family life we do. They face the same temptations.
6.    For God’s will to play out on the international scene, not just in my corner of the world, so that peace on earth becomes a reality.

Surrender. Just three syllables. So easy to say. So hard to do. But if we surrender, the carols hold more meaning. They put the emphasis back on the gift of Christ, rather than the gifts we give and get. They remind us that Christ overcame death so that we may live in eternal, not just earthly, comfort. They remind us that Christ gave Himself for others, and so should we.

"Prayer is surrender--surrender to the will of God and cooperation with that will. If I throw out a boathook from the boat and catch hold of the shore and pull, do I pull the shore to me, or do I pull myself to the shore? Prayer is not pulling God to do my will, but the aligning of my will to the will of God." E Stanley Jones (

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).

Ponder today the words of the carols: O come all you faithful . . . (sing) joy to the world . . . (as you consider) . . . what Child this is. I love Thee, Lord Jesus. I will come and worship and not only worship—but surrender!

Blessed Surrender to you and yours!


Thursday, December 6, 2018

This is a Test Post

Dear Friends,

I recently discovered that some subscribers were not receiving my posts. In the hope that accumulated posts on my site had caused the problem, I've deleted all posts prior to this year.

You should have received my blog at the beginning of each month with book reviews now and then. I would so much appreciate if you would you click on the link below and leave a comment to let me know that this post arrived in your Inbox safe and sound.


Book Review: The Gift of Years

Joan Chittister packs a lot of wisdom about growing old gracefully into the pages of The Gift of Years: Growing Older Gracefully. Short chapters cover topics such as: Regret, Fear, Newness, Possibility, Relationships and much more. In fact, forty chapters are sandwiched between an Introduction and an Afterword on The Twilight Time, the time we may become dependent upon others. Even during those years, Chittister helps you see the wonder of a new beginning on the horizon.

I liked the book’s structure. Chapters open with quotes related to the topic and end with paragraphs addressing “A burden of these years . . . “ and “A blessing of these years . . . “ This technique draws you away from the negatives of aging to appreciate the positives.

She concludes a chapter on Limitations suggesting we see limitations as boundaries rather than barriers. By the time you finish the book, you realize there is much to enjoy and appreciate about growing older.

I recommend this book for anyone approaching the mature years. Her observations will inform you of the process and inspire you to embrace the journey of life with renewed enthusiasm. This would make a good gift for both men and women moving toward or living in the final years of life.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Better Than Eggnog

Photo by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels

Dear Friends,

Nurses recently told both Bill and me that we were dehydrated. They had a tough time inserting needles into our veins to establish intravenous connections. They urged us to drink more water so that the volume of blood in our veins would make things easier for them.

Bill and I had no idea we were dehydrated. We simply drank water when we became thirsty--but that was not often enough.

Just as we become physically dehydrated, we may become spiritually dehydrated. And just as Bill and I did not realize we were physically dehydrated, we may also miss symptoms of spiritual dehydration. We may feel perfectly normal, going about business as usual.

Here are three signs of spiritual dehydration:

A lack of interest in worship. You no longer attend church. You give little thought to praising God for who He is, to thanking Him for his daily grace. You really don’t feel a need to connect with other Christians. You have a nice group of friends with whom you have fun and conversation.

A lack of interest in working for the Lord. Perhaps you’ve never discovered your spiritual gifts. Or you may have little interest in using the gifts you know you have. Service for God becomes something to do if you have nothing else to do.

A lack of interest in witnessing for God. Perhaps you no longer think about talking about God in conversation. You’ve grown careless in your use of God’s name and you laugh at jokes told at someone else’s expense. You’ve forgotten your responsibility to live responsibly before God.

I’ve taken steps to keep my body physically hydrated. Each morning I fill a pitcher with water and try to drink all of it each day. And you know what? The more I’ve started drinking, the more often I get thirsty.

Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well that she needed to be spiritually hydrated:  “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14

Here are four things you can do to be sure you’re spiritually hydrated during the Christmas season:

Drink the living water by coming to Jesus and worshipping him on a Sunday morning with like-minded Christians. They will inspire you. The words of hymns and choruses will fix your mind on Christ, and you will become aware of him walking with you in the week ahead.

Drink the living water by making room in your schedule to read your Bible and pray. Set aside time that you keep just as surely as you brush your teeth. Find a Christmas devotional book to read. Each Christmas season I read Joni Eareckson’s A Christmas Longing. 

Drink the living water by looking for opportunities to say a good word for God, even if it’s just saying “God bless you” when someone sneezes. If someone shares a problem, pray with them. Send cards that remind people Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus. Include a tract that explains your faith. Take Christmas cookies to a shut in.

Drink the living water by enjoying God’s creation. Nothing is more refreshing than a walk in a woods or a meadow, pausing to listen to the birds, to ponder a snowflake. Feed the birds in your backyard, and thank God for their resiliency in cold weather.

There is no better time than the Christmas season to refresh yourself with living water. Meditate on the words of Christmas carols. Let Christmas lights remind you of the Light of the World. Throw some change in those red buckets. And rest assured the living water will flow through you to refresh others as well.

Have a blessed Christmas season. And feel free to leave a comment to share how you refresh yourself spiritually during the busy Christmas season.