Monthly Archives: December 2014

Surviving the Christmas Season: Part 4 of 4 Traveling with the Holy Family…

“Lunch Ministry”…

Definition: The act of two or more friends meeting for lunch and ministering to one another.

a/k/a Cheaper-than-therapy.

a/k/a The single-most-difficult-activity to explain to our husbands.

So….one day before Christmas several years ago, my friend and mentor, Jane Chilton and I met at one of our favorite lunch spots, the infamous Jack Fry’s. ( ) Sidebar: Do not miss the warm brie salad. (Do tell Stephanie, the sweet owner, Jane and I sent you. And please give her a hug. She loves hugs.)


This was to be our Christmas celebration with each other. Before we ordered our iced tea, Jane reported, “We need to run back by my place as your gift is in a box too big to bring into the restaurant.” Wow…mega anticipation grew during our entire meal! This gift-loving gal was beyond excited.

Lunch over with, back to Jane’s we went. En route, I checked my cell phone and had a voice mail from an unknown number, and… the area code was from Lexington. Yikes—such sightings always made me worry about my parents.

Sure enough, the call was from a caregiver of my parents and my Dad had fallen and broken his leg–his femur, no less. They were in the ER of a Lexington hospital.

Quickly I told Jane of the phone call. We hurriedly opened our gifts. To my delight, Jane gave me a lovely sculpture of Joseph, Mary, and Baby Jesus. (I love it so much it stays out all year, decorating our home.)

Holy Family

I put it back in the tremendous box, securing it in the back seat. Jane prayed for me and for whatever I’d be facing, and off I trekked to Lexington.

This was one of many trips to Lexington throughout Daddy’s rehab, etc. to heal that badly broken leg. Hundreds of hurdles to jump presented themselves.

By then, Mother had quit driving. Getting her rides to the hospital and subsequently to the nursing home were just a few of the hurdles.


On about the fourth trip over to Lexington, several days later, I glanced in my back seat, and there was the very large box from Jane. Unnoticed until now, the words “HOLY FAMILY” were printed along the tallest side of the box.

I burst out laughing and called Jane. Not missing the parallel here, I decided:

Toting the Holy Family back and forth with me to Lexington was a huge source of comfort.

Peace Of Mind.

Not that I needed them per se, since we believers are all blessed with the Holy Spirit within us…but especially during difficult times, we sometimes forget our Advocate is WITH US all along.

Yes, that Christmas season, the Holy Family logged many miles from Louisville to Lexington and back again. Who knew that such a big box filled with the blessed family could be such a security blanket?

As we reflect upon Christ this Christmas, may we take the time to rejoice:

O Holy Night

In a message Billy Graham preached at the White House in 1973, he said, ”When others cynically ask, ‘Where is this Prince of Peace in a world filled with so much trouble?”

Reverend Graham continued, “But the real Christmas message goes far deeper. It answers all the great questions that plague the human race at this hour.

The Christmas message is:



And Reassuring to us today.

I believe it can be summed up in three words:

A Cradle,

Wooden Baby Cradle

A Cross,

Wooden Cross on Dramatic Sky

And a Crown.”

Gold crown isolated on white background

Let’s close by reading (or perhaps singing?) the beautiful lyrics to O Holy Night. (Originally composed by Adolphe Charles Adam in 1847 to the French poem “Minuit, Chretiens” by Placide Cappeau, Placide used the gospel of Luke for his inspiration. It was John Sullivan Dwight who wrote the English translation.)

My prayer is for these words to literally help us all fall on our knees, savoring the Christmas Season:

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining,

It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth

Long lay the world in sin and error pining

‘Til He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices

For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn’

Fall on your knees, Oh, hear the angels’ voices

O night divine, the night when Christ was born;

O night, O holy night, O night divine!

O night, O holy night, O night divine!


Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,

With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.

O’er the world a star is sweetly gleaming,

Now come the wise men from out of the Orient land.

The King of kings lay thus lowly manger;

In all our trials born to be our friend.

He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,

Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!

Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!


Truly He taught us to love one another,

His law is love and His gospel is peace.

Chains He shall break, for the slave is our brother.

And in His name all oppression shall cease.

Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,

With all our hearts we praise His holy name.

Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,

His power and glory ever more proclaim!

His power and glory ever more proclaim!”


Fall on your knees.

Rejoice, our Savior is born.

Savor your Christmas Season.

Our family wishes you and your family a Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy Blessed New Year!!!

Hoagland Family

Our precious Hoagland clan descended upon Hyde Park, near Cincinnati recently for a fun, overnight shopping spree. Left to right on the back row are Gordy, John Jr. and Lauren. Left to right on the front row are LT, Woody, Goldie the Golden Pig (No idea what her real name is!!!), Yours truly and Beloved Hubster John.

‘Til next time!

And as we used to say prior to Christmas Break at school, “SEE YOU NEXT YEAR!!!”

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Surviving the Season of Christmas – Part 3 of 4: When Your Husband Discovers Artificial Snow…

Let it snow,

Let it snow,

Let it snow…..

Oh, and did it ever snow here in November as well as over a good part of our United States. Unusual for Kentucky…

Equally unusual:

It also snowed in early December…

                                                                in our basement…


One fine Saturday morning, after a hearty breakfast at an old favorite, The Café ( ), John and I popped in a fun shop called Work the Metal in Butchertown. ( )

Filled with eclectic gifts for those hard-to-buy-for-souls, we became amused at every turn. Half of Louisville must have been shopping that morning.

Sidebar: Should you shop there, please do not miss Cellar Door Chocolates, which also happens to be in that building. The sweet-as-pie chocolatiers frequently offer free samples which translate into multi-dollar purchases. Our personal favorite? Try their dark chocolate peanut butter cups with sea salt. ( ) I digress…


While shopping in Work the Metal, we saw an adorable Charlie Brown tree covered in what looked like snow. I had a fit over it. Precious piglet ornaments adorned it.

Ever the Artiste-with-the-eye, Hubster proclaimed, “I can do that!” After delivering me home, he escaped to Hobby Lobby and procured one can of artifical snow.


Unbeknownst to yours truly, he also hunted in our yard full of sticks, thanks to a recent storm, and snagged the perfect Charlie Brown tree to be “snowed upon”.

Sorta forgetting about his pronouncement, we went about our business for a few days until we decided it was time to drag out the Christmas decorations.

Down, down, down to the scary basement (!!!) we went. Trip, after trip, after trip up the stairs, we climbed, loaded with Christmas décor.

The abandoned place

Sporting a black sweatshirt, I happened to look down and realize I was now covered in white something. Showing it to John, he matter-of-factly said, “Oh, that’s my new snow!”


Sure enough, the newly snowed upon Charlie Brown tree was hanging upside down, no doubt drying, waiting to be taken upstairs and decorated. Now, more in tune with the puzzling scenario, I realized the gray, cement floor was also white.

As were the soles of our tennis shoes.

As were the mantle decorations.

As were just about everything else in that little room.

Not even slightly phased, John simply stated, “It wipes off. No big deal.”


I continued to decorate while he assembled and decorated his creation. Wait ‘til you see which ornaments he used…

My Mother had a lovely collection of Lalique crystal ornaments ( ) we’ve had stuffed in a drawer for years. That would not make her happy.

I made the grave error of starting that collection for her years ago. In the beginning of their production, the ornaments were only about fifty dollars. They increased year by year until the last year I bought one, it was nearly one hundred and fifty dollars. I told Mother she had plenty as of that year. (!!!)


She loved the ornaments so much, that besides decorating for Christmas with them, she hung them from her dining room chandelier, year round.

I believe she’d love John for his efforts. This tree would indeed make her very happy. Here’s our finished product:


So where in the world are we headed with this lovely discovery of artificial snow? So glad you asked….

While the artificial snow is excellent for decorating indoors, I believe we’d all agree real snow, only made from weather our Creator Himself created, is:

Beautiful to look at.

Fun to play in.

A sight to behold.

Winter Forest

Likewise, the REAL Word of God is our plumb-line for surviving not only this Christmas Season, but our world on a daily basis.

We must guard our hearts and minds from artificial or false prophets.

Did you know there are sixty-seven verses about false prophets? (Checkout )

Four in particular help open our eyes:

#1 – 1 John 4:1-6 says, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. “ (ESV)

#2 – 2 Peter 2:1 says, “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.” (ESV)

#3 – Matthew 7:15, from the Phillips version, begins this section of Scripture with “Living, not professing, is what matters:

Be on your guard against false religious teachers, who come to you dressed up as sheep but are really greedy wolves.”

Grey Wolf (Canis lupus) Next To Birch Tree

One frightening real-life story occurred right here in Louisville, several years ago. There was a wolf in sheep’s clothing who affected many of our friends and families, including our own family. We were all duped by a teacher in a Christian school. It was beyond frightening.

I still believe God sent an angel, a new student who arrived mid-year, to unveil this wolf in sheep’s clothing. Upon observing this teacher’s behavior, he immediately said, “This is not right.” He headed straight for the Principal’s office, revealed his observations, and the teacher, when confronted, literally fled the country.

#4 – Romans 16:18 says, “For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve.” Scores of us were deceived.

May we heed Jesus’ advice to the Disciples in Matthew 10:16 to survive the Season of Christmas, and the New Year forth coming:

Stay alert. This is hazardous work I’m assigning you. You’re going to be like sheep running thru’ a wolf pack, so don’t call attention to yourselves. Be as cunning as a snake, inoffensive as a dove.” (The Message)


Guard your hearts.

Stay alert.

Study your plumb-line, God’s Word.

And while you’re at it, go grab a can of artificial snow and have some fun.

‘Til next time!

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Surviving the Season of Christmas: Part 2 of 4 When You Get Trapped in a Dress…(Overextended…and Loving Most of It! The Unexpected Joy of Being Harried, Heartbroken, and Hurling Oneself Off Cliffs by Lisa Harper)

Any claustrophobes out there? I succumb to claustrophobia almost every time I step into an elevator. The one at my in-laws’ condo’ in Naples was slower-than-a-snail, without air conditioning. Certain we’d perish while suffocating, I bravely learned to take the stairs.

The year our family stopped to see Ruby Falls (Please tell me, how many times can you see that billboard and not GO SEE Ruby Falls???), I had no idea what I was getting myself into…

Ruby Falls

(Notice we are all five smiling…this was before the interminable elevator ride…)

The boys thought it was the coolest thing ever, but… as we progressed our way into the deep, dark abyss toward the Falls, I was more than ready to make a fast exit.

The elevators also have chains rather than doors, so you can “see” the depth of rock you’re descending down, down, down into….

Oh yeah, I was the first of our family of five to return to the fresh air up top. Yes, Ruby Falls, one thousand, two hundred and twenty feet under the top of Lookout Mountain, was a sight to behold. Let’s just say I’ve beheld it and will cling to that sweet memory F-O-R-E-V-E-R…


Fast forward several years and you’ll find us forty-eight hours prior to our middle son’s wedding. This afternoon was D-Day to ensure my dresses fit okay, accessories in place, etc. as we’d be packing up soon for Lexington, Kentucky, where Lauren and Gordy’s wedding was to be held.

I slipped into my Rehearsal Dinner dress. Zipper was super slow. I wound up getting it probably 9/10 of the way up when it held firmly at a stand still. Uh-oh. At each attempt, “Zippie” wasn’t budging.

Red zipper isolated on white

Hating to, but doing so anyway, I hollered at Hubster John who was working out in the yard, “Honey? Could you please come in here for a minute?”

“Right now?” in his I’m-in-the-middle-of-a-project voice.

“Yes, it’s sort of an emergency….”

I could feel the lining of the dress beginning to stick to me…Weather was warm and claustrophobia was quickly closing in

“Zippie” wouldn’t behave for John either. He suggested, “Just pull it over your head.” No way.

Next idea, “Just pull it down to the floor.” Not a chance.

About ready to cut it off…I fetched the scissors. More-patient-than-anyone-needs-to-be-John was mercifully able to cut the lining out of the zipper and somehow get it undone.

Even more amazing, he was able to get me in and out of it successfully for the Rehearsal Dinner. (I’ve since had a new zipper put in. Life is good.)


Author and speaker Lisa Harper has written a must-read for your sanity and survival:

Overextended and Loving Most of It: The Unexpected Joy of Being Harried, Heartbroken, and Hurling Oneself Off Cliffs.

Given my “gift” of overextending myself, particularly at the last minute, (lest you forget the above dress snafu), I snatched this book right off the shelves.


I’ve been blessed to hear Lisa speak several times. Her gift of teaching the Bible is amazing. (For notes on her talk in Houston at Women of Faith’s Unwrap the Bible, please click here.)

This book will help us better survive the Christmas season, or any busy season you may be blessed to be in.

Here are a few of the great questions Lisa answers in the book:

“When is it worth being stretched beyond my comfort zone?

When is it worth ‘overspending’ myself for the sake of the Gospel?

If I erased all the commitments on my calendar this month, would anybody besides my dentist or the pest control guy really care?”

Lisa confesses, “My calendar is so often double-booked that I have alerts for my alerts. ..All too often I live like I believe busyness is a spiritual fruit.”   Hellooooooo…Anybody relating???

Multi-Tasking Concept

One of my favorite chapters is: “Blasting Through Burnout”.  It teaches us an acrostic for “BLAST”.  (I’d go so far as to say read this chapter first–Everything else then falls into place.)

Before we ever get into the chapter, don’t miss the quote Lisa offers from Tim Hansel:

“Quiet minds,

which are established in stillness,

refuse to be perplexed or intimidated.”

Here’s where we must stop and camp on Psalm 46:10a which tells us to “Be still and know that I am God.”

The CEV says, “Our God says, ‘Calm down, and learn that I am God!’”

TLB says, “Stand silent!…”

The NASB says, “Cease striving!…

Let these Scriptural reminders establish us in stillness…

Here’s Lisa’ acrostic for BLAST:

B – “Breathe – Inhale God’s peace and exhale anxiety.

L – Listen – And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. Isaiah 30:21

A – Ask God for clarity

S – Smile

T – Take the next step…”

Lisa adds, “When life is tough or taxing, it doesn’t mean we should try to bust thru’ it like a linebacker trying to flatten a three-hundred-pound defensive tackle.

Football Tackle 1

Nor does it mean we can bury our head under the covers and the hard or hectic parts will disappear.

Funny Young Woman Lying In Bed Under Blanket

Instead, we have to put our hand into the outstretched, nail-scarred palm of our Redeemer and allow Him to lead us. Simply by doing the next right thing.”

Helping hand - hiker woman getting help on hike smiling happy ov

Purposefully make time to savor this book this season!

Your survival skills will improve leading you into a much calmer Christmas and a much-improved 2015!

‘Til next time…


Filed under Book Reviews, Family, Holidays, Life Lessons, Margin

Surviving the Season of Christmas – Part 1 of 4, The Sure Cure for a Bah Humbug Attitude

Greetings, friends! The below post is a reprise well-worth repeating to inspire you with an idea for this Christmas season.

It’ll help you cope with our culture’s craziness. It’ll help you survive this season of Christmas!

I’m thrilled to report this very fun tradition lives on….

Check it out:

Just wondering, now that Thanksgiving’s past and that Christmas décor’s been up since Halloween (in some stores that is, surely not in this household!), if you have a KICK in your step while shopping, or if you are SLIP-SLIDIN’-AWAY, Scrooge-like?

Grunge Scrooge With a Small Gift

Don’t even talk to me if you’re done with your Christmas shopping.  And don’t even look this way if you’ve shopped and wrapped.

Christmas isn’t happenin’ today, the way Jesus intended it to.  For that, I’m certain.  Every single year I try to think of ways to “taper down” on the gift-giving, think of the less fortunate, donate to new charities/ministries, and yet I still wind up looking more like Santa’s helper/enabler than a child of God.  Big sigh.Santa's Elf on Sign EdgeThe commercialization of Christmas makes me say “Bah humbug”…and I’m determined to NOT let it get the best of me. Lord, please help us  focus on you.  Matthew 6:33 reminds us: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Praying Friends

So, now that the Christmas season’s officially “on”… no thanks to some poor souls opening up on Thanksgiving Day (really?), Black Friday, Cyber Monday, etc., I’d like to give you one prescription sure to bring a smile to your face, and a cure for any “Bah Humbug” attitudes trying to surface.

I am beyond blessed to have a very fun cousin.  Her name is Bonnie, and we in the family call her “Martha”, as in Stewart.  She’s one of those creative types:  she can whip up the most gorgeous bow you’ve ever seen. Friends now recognize them sayin’, “Now THAT’S a “Bonnie Bow”!!!

Bonnie will also try any new recipe.  She’ll paint a room an entirely new color when the mood strikes.  Furthermore, she will absolutely, positively, do anything for anyone, at any time, just for starters.

A few years ago, Bonnie came up with this fabulous idea…  She invited a group of our friends, a/k/a “the Butter Babes” over for a gift wrapping party.  Soup simmerin’ on the stove, Christmas music in the air, pool table covered as our wrapping station, and we move in for the day.


What’s great about this is she sets the date way ahead of time (novel idea!) so we know when our deadline is…as in if you want to wrap a pretty package, you’d better have done some shopping and have packages in tow!

The five of us man our stations and the wrapping begins.  (Did I mention her endless supply of reams of paper and enough ribbon to extend to the moon?)  Oh, but the conversation around the table is the best.  You’re wondering if there’s a message here! Or what’s so spiritual about a wrapping party?

Well, you’ve got to know these Butter Babes.  These are some serious Bible study students and teachers.  These are some very close friends and mentors. These are some serious prayer warriors. They share meaningful Scripture. They share prayer requests. They share answered prayers.  They have lived a lot of life.  We laugh.  We cry.


One of my favorite verses depicting this friendship journey is found in Proverbs 27:17 which says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” (NIV)  It’s a huge blessing simply doing life with the help of dear friends who teach you to ultimately lean on the Lord.

Nary a  “Bah Humbug” erupts from this bunch. Nope, the Butter Babes would flat have a meltdown if such a phrase surfaced.  (Oh, I could have fun with that last phrase…)

Proverbs 27:7b says, “A sweet friendship refreshes the soul.”  Refreshing it is to be surrounded by such sweet sisters.  No Scrooges allowed!

Let me show you one more favorite verse to go along with our prescription:  Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,  not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. “

The “sure cure” for a Bah Humbug attitude can be found straight out of the three above phrases I’ve italicized:

Spur one another on:  This means we cheer each other on toward the finish line…as in our Heavenly Home.

Not giving up meeting together:  Keep regular gathering times with your friends.  How many times have you heard “friends are cheaper than therapy”?  It’s always nice to have something to look forward to.

I have another group of friends which includes a retired school teacher.  (Several actually, but one in particular is the glue that holds us together.)  Periodically, Jayne will shoot us an email with the tagline being:  “Random Dinner”.  She randomly picks a night and we show up to catch up.  Try it.  You’ll like it.

Encouraging  one another This goes hand in hand with spurring one another on. All three of these are great fuels for fanning the flame of friendship.

Kelly Minters Nehemiah

Kelly Minter’s  Bible study on Nehemiah—A Heart That Can Break offers a PERFECT DEPICTION of what I’m attempting to recommend to you regarding friendship.  She opines*, “The world doesn’t need more wealth, strength, power, or skill as much as it desperately needs trustworthy people.  My heart is never more at rest, my soul never more at peace than when I am in the presence of a person of integrity.

I find relational serenity in never having to second-guess what the person really meant, not having to dodge gossip or duck drama.  When I have the assurance that a person’s word is true, motives pure, and intents just, I have found a rare treasure indeed.”

Look again at those two above paragraphs.  Did you see that cool phrase, “relational serenity”?  What a sanctuary! What a safe haven!!!

Whether it’s a wrapping party, or a lunch out somewhere, or a Starbucks rendez-vous, I pray you’ll set a date with some of your friends and sail cheerfully thru’ this Christmas season, in relational serenity, sans any “Bah Humbugs”.

Purposefully celebrate Isaiah 9:6, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (KJV) Remember Christ’s Birthday.

Savor God’s gift.  As Liz Curtis Higgs said, “Let’s be forever grateful for the One whose birth changed everything.”  (Click here to see an interview with her…)


‘Til next time!

(This December post is happily dedicated to my long-time friend, cousin-by-marriage-who’s-more-like-a-sister, partner-in-crime in shopping, encourager extraordinaire, Bonnie Johnson. May blessings be abundant to you and your sweet family this Christmas season!!!)

*Lest you think I toss out unique words frequently, this one, “opine,” was a new one to me. Can’t believe I haven’t discovered this word ’til now.  I’m practically a professional at offering my opinion!  May we all opine with tact.

I ran across it twice in two days in two different books!  Both worth recommending:  one by Tim Keller, The Meaning of Marriage:  Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God and the other by Robert J. Morgan called Angels—True Stories—What Angels Do For Us.

Tim KellerRobert J Morgan




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