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3 Reasons I Plan to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick's DayI have a fresh interest in St. Patrick’s Day this year. Since last March 17th I discovered that I’m sort of Irish!

For Christmas, Wayne gave me a DNA kit from Ancestry.com. It was something I’d been wanting to do. Basically, the test confirmed what I suspected – I’m basically a mutt, a pound puppy. But I was surprised by the top percentage. Thirty-one percent of me is Irish!

Perhaps, like me, you’ve considered St Patrick’s Day a fun, but frivolous observance – a day to wear green clothes, eat green food, and listen to Celtic music. However, there’s actually good reason to stop and consider St. Patrick.

A Really Brief History of St. Patrick

Patrick wasn’t Irish. He was born about 387 AD in Scotland. Although his grandfather was a priest and his father was a deacon, young Patrick did not embrace the family faith. Then at the age of 16, Patrick was kidnapped by Irish pirates and taken to Ireland and forced into servitude.

During his years as a slave, Patrick spent large amounts of time alone caring for the herds of his master. This life of slavery and solitude fostered a deep prayer life and Patrick came to true faith in Christ. In “The Confession of St. Patrick,” Patrick acknowledges that God used his time of trial to turn heart toward Him.

After six years of slavery in Ireland, Patrick escaped and returned to Britain where he continued his religious study. But it wasn’t long before a vision of a lost Ireland burdened him with the need to return with the Gospel. God was sending Patrick to a people that the church had decided was too lost to be reached – the pagans of Ireland were just too different.

In his mid-40’s – after becoming a bishop of the church – Patrick returned to Ireland as a missionary. He spent 30 years converting thousands of Irish “pagans” to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Patrick died on March 17th, 461 AD at the first church he built in Ireland.

Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland and although never officially canonized, early Christians consider him a “saint in heaven.”

3 Reasons I Care About St Patrick’s Day

  1. I’m Irish – Well, at least I’m more Irish than anything else and it’s the closest I will ever get to an ethnic holiday. So humor me.
  2. Patrick faithfully followed Christ no matter the cost – Loyalty to Christ and concern for the eternal state of his enemies led Patrick back to Ireland. He willingly and obediently faced danger to take the Gospel to Ireland. He constantly fought the temptation to leave the mission field and return home. Patrick even shared the Gospel with his old master. That’s bold faith!
  3. Patrick sets the example for evangelism – Patrick wisely separated the Gospel from the Roman culture, something the Catholic Church could not or would not do. Just as many Jewish Christians in the first century wrongly believed Gentiles had to first become Jews before they could become Christians, the church of the 5th century thought the “pagans” had to first become “civilized” before they could come to Jesus. But, Patrick shared the Gospel within the Celtic culture. He did not try to change their culture before he offered the Gospel. His method of evangelism freed him to embrace the areas of their culture that did not break God’s laws of righteousness. Like the apostle Paul, Patrick became “all things to all people so that by all possible means” he might save some (1 Corinthians 9:22). In this way, Patrick showed respect for the Irish and was able to build bridges and relationships that fostered opportunities to share the Gospel. By the way, Patrick used the 3-leaved shamrock to help explain the concept of the Trinity!

St. Patrick’s Day is not just a fun day of all things Irish. For those “in the know,” remembering St. Patrick encourages us to faithfully follow Christ no matter where He leads and to boldly share the Gospel of life with those in our path, no matter how different from us they may be.

How do you plan to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?

Some helpful articles for more information on St. Patrick:

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A Century Old Bible and a Legacy of Faith

BibleFor the last few months, my brother and I have been working to move my parents from Louisiana to Tennessee. Mom and Dad’s health took a nosedive last summer and they need to be closer to one of their children. I’ve been making regular trips from Houston to Shreveport to check on them on begin to go through the family home in preparation for the move.

Since our parents have been in the same house for almost 50 years, there is quite a bit of “accumulation.” Though much of it is regular household stuff like gift-wrapping supplies, long-lost Tupperware lids, and manuals for appliances they no longer have, we have also discovered a few treasures that reveal a family legacy of faith.

For instance, back in September, I shared a letter I found from my great-great grandmother to my great-grandfather. She wrote how she prayed daily for him and his family.

BibleI discovered another treasure this past weekend – a crumbling Bible given to that same great-grandfather, Howell Adam Shouse from that same great-great-grandmother Mary Dozier Cash. The inscription is dated March 7, 1910, more than 100 years ago.

Over the last few months, I have discovered several letters, Bibles, and other items that reveal the consistent and persistent faith of Mary Dozier. I’m not sure what Howell Adam did with her legacy, but I know that her name sake and my maternal grandmother, Mary Dozier Shouse Addington, shared her love for Christ.

My grandmother, Mary Addington, shared her grandmother’s name and her faith. And like her grandmother, she constantly talked about Jesus with her grandchildren. That legacy of faith continues with me – Mary Kathryn. I share my grandmother’s name and her faith. I pray I will continue that legacy of faith with my grandchildren.

How can we be purposeful in passing our faith to the generations that follow?

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The Case of Mistaken Location

FamilyI’ve basically been living out of a suitcase for the last year. If I added up the days at home and the days away, the days away would probably win. A death in the family, the arrival of two grand babies, our son’s wedding, and severe health struggles for my parents have kept me on the road.

This last week was no different. I left home last Wednesday and drove to my parents’ home in Shreveport to meet my sister-in-law. We spent several days packing and preparing for my parents upcoming move from Louisiana to Tennessee.

Then Saturday afternoon I made the 4-hour drive from Shreveport to our second daughter’s new home in Denton, Texas. Sarah and her husband moved from a rental to their first home that morning and I went to help with the baby for a few days so she could unpack and settle in.

I had seen the new house once before they moved in, but still needed to use Google Maps to find it again. I drove into the neighborhood and spotted what looked like their home on the next corner. As I turned onto the street in front of the house, Google announced “You have arrived at your destination!” Great!

As I parked on the street in front of the house I took note of the cars in the driveway. I didn’t recognize either of them, but since friends and family had been helping them move earlier in the day, I surmised they belonged to them.

Since I didn’t want to cause more work for them, I got all my stuff out of the car and up to the front porch. Now, you need to understand that when I travel by car, I don’t travel lightly. I had a suitcase, a shoe bag, a snack bag, my rolling briefcase, and two king-sized pillows.

As I got the last of it on the porch, I knocked on the door and looked around. Although it looked just like the house I’d visited before, there were a few things that gave me pause – the potted plants, the door mat, and the multiple dogs that began barking at my knock.

Hmm. Could I possibly be at the wrong house? I texted Sarah. “Am I at the right house?”

I heard a woman’s voice inside talking to the dogs, just inside the door. “Who’s out there guys?” It was not my daughter’s voice.

I envisioned the home owner looking through the peep hole. What did she see? Unknown middle-aged woman with baggage.

What should I do? What would she do?

About that time Sarah texted back. “No.”

My fear was confirmed. I was at the wrong house.

Okay. Well, I decided that when the woman opened the door, I would explain my mistake with a laugh and apologize.

But the woman didn’t open the door. She must have thought I looked too dangerous. Or crazy.

Either way, it was time for me to go. I wanted to run and not look back. But I needed all my baggage. And it took two trips to get it all back to the car. I wondered if the woman watched out the peep hole the whole time.

Sarah’s house was exactly one block to the south. Same corner. Same layout. But the residents were much more friendly. They even helped me haul in my bags.

I love how God works. In the midst of a chaotic time in my life, he used a case of mistaken location to give me a laugh and to remind me not to take myself too seriously.

I just wanted to share a little bit of what my life has been like recently. God has me in a unique season. But He is growing me and I’m leaning on Him. What has YOUR life been like lately?

 

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Changes Ahead

ChangeSome of you read this blog regularly. Over the years, you’ve read about my family and my travels and my ministry. And you’ve shared with me. And even though most of us have not met face to face, we have a connection through Christ and shared experience. I love that!

So, with that in mind, some of you may be interested in a little update about my life. We are in the midst of some changes and the next few months will be hectic – maybe even overwhelming.

First, my husband retired in December after 37 years with Conoco-Phillips. It was kind of sudden. He had planned to work two or three more years, but pretty much every oil company had layoffs last year, so when the opportunity came up, we prayed and talked and he volunteered.

In addition to adjusting to the new “retirement” schedule, for the next few weeks, Wayne and I will be busy “decluttering” the house so we can put it on the market. Our plan is to move closer to our daughters and their families.

Of course, as so often happens, this is not the only major thing happening for us. My parents are not well and neither my brother nor I live in the same city with them. It is really hard to give them the care they need long-distance. I’ve spent a lot of the last few months on the road. But God has finally brought everything together for us to be able to move them to the city where my brother lives.

That move will happen before our move. In fact, I’m heading there tomorrow to do some packing and visit my folks.

I have been fairly faithful to blog twice a week – every Monday and Thursday. I love sharing with you and I love hearing from you. And I have this thing about being consistent.

But when I sat down to write the post for today, I thought “I’ve got nothing!” So, instead of some interesting illustration or devotional thought or brief time in the Word, I decided simply to share what’s going on with us. And maybe you’ll remember it in case I miss a day – or two – of posts in the weeks ahead.

I’d love to hear from you! What big or little thing is dominating your life right now?

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Refocusing Christmas

ChristmasMy big, beautiful 7 foot tall Christmas tree is sitting at the end of the driveway this morning waiting for the garbage truck. Every December, for almost a decade, it graced a prominent spot in our living room all decked out with glittery gold and brilliant red ornaments. But not this year.

Yesterday afternoon I drug it out of the storage closet in the garage. I cleared the spot in front of the window and set up the stand. I stumbled in with the heavy bottom section, wrangled it into the slot in the stand and fanned out the branches. One fell off onto the floor. Oh well, just one. I could fluff to fill that spot.

Then I plugged it in to test the lights. Only about a fourth of them worked. After trying in vain to get the rest working I made a difficult decision. It was time to retire the tree. We had hoped to get one more season out of our old friend, but alas, it was not to be.

With a sigh I carried the prickly base back out to the garage then out the open door and down the driveway to the edge of the street. Soon I had the tree bag and all the other sections out there too.

I had been vacillating on whether or not to even put up the big tree this year. This is our “off” year with our grown children. They were all here for Thanksgiving. They will be with the in-laws for Christmas. But I love the festive red and gold ornaments. I couldn’t imagine the season without them twinkling at me every time I pass through the room.

Yes, I could run out and buy another big tree. But since we will be moving some time in 2017 it doesn’t make sense to buy a new tree before we know where we will be living.

Briefly I contemplated going the “no tree” route. In the end I decided to put the 4-foot tree that usually goes in my office in the living room. We call it the “outdoor tree” because we decorate it with woodsy ornaments and top it with feathers. It’s a tribute to my husband’s hobbies.

I put the wreaths on the front doors and hung the stockings on the fireplace. Done. Anyone who knows me knows that this is a fraction of the decorating I usually do. Normally “Christmas” shines in every corner.

Last night as I sat and looked at the outdoor tree, I really missed my big, beautiful red and gold creation. But this morning I have decided to take a step back and refocus.

I could make this year’s “scaled back” version of Christmas an opportunity to focus on the more important things of the season. Less decorating and more sharing. Less cleaning and more loving. Less me and lots more Jesus.

Ah, that’s what it should be all about anyway. Christmas. More Jesus.

In what ways have you lost focus on Jesus in Christmases past? How can you refocus on Jesus this year?

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Family Recipe: Chicken and Dumplings

Chicken and dumplingsI just completed a fun project. I used Shutterfly to create a memory cookbook for our grown children. The book includes photos of my husband’s parents and his mom’s recipes we all loved most. I ordered 5 books. One for me, one for each of our grown kids, and one for Wayne’s nephew.

The idea for the project took root early this past summer. Wayne’s dad passed away in March and we were going through his things. We found two small boxes containing all of Wayne’s mom’s handwritten recipes. Wayne’s mom – we called her Mammaw – was a wonderful grandmother and a great country cook. She also taught first grade for 34 years. I learned a lot from her about parenting and cooking.

Sadly, Wayne is now the last of his nuclear family. Cancer claimed his brother in 1994. Mammaw died in a car accident in 2004. And we lost “Pappaw,” Wayne’s dad, this spring. The memory cookbook seemed like a nice keepsake for the grandchildren.

family photo

Howard Family 1993

So, since I’ve been focused on recipes the last few days, you all get to benefit. My favorite “Mammaw recipe” is her Chicken and Dumplings. Since the dumplings are made from scratch, it’s a bit time-consuming. But it’s totally worth it!

The recipe is below, but you can also print this PDF!

Chicken and Dumplings

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole chicken
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 ½ cups boiling water
  • 1 stick butter
  • 2 cans cream of chicken soup
  • Salt and pepper

Cook chicken in large pot of water until done. Remove chicken from pot and reserve broth. When chicken is cool enough to handle remove skin and bones. Cut or tear chicken into bite-sized pieces. Set meat aside.

Add enough water to broth to make two quarts of liquid. Bring to a boil. Meanwhile, prepare dumplings. Mix flour and salt. Blend in butter. Add boiling water. Roll dough out thin and cut into short strips. Drop dumplings into boiling broth and simmer until done. Add chicken, soup, and salt and pepper to taste. Serves 8 to 10.

If you make it, I’d love to hear how it turns out and how your family likes it! What is your favorite fall recipe??

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Today’s My Birthday. Am I “Old” Now?

BirthdayToday is my birthday. I am 55 years old. Some days I feel old. Some days I feel like I’m just getting started good.

But this specific number –  “55” – comes with an “old age” stigma. I keep thinking about this group they had at church when I was growing up. They called it the “Double Nickle” club. It was for the “old people” at church and they met once a week for lunch and games. Probably Bridge. That strikes me as a game for old people because my grandmother played Bridge every week with a group of friends. But I digress…

So, one day not long ago, I was thinking about turning 55 and it hit me – the “Double Nickle” club was for people 55 and over. I am now old enough for the “Double Nickle” club.  And for the senior menu at iHop.

I must look it too. A few weeks ago my husband and I went to see the new Star Trek movie. He dropped me off to buy the tickets while he parked. The young man at the ticket booth quoted me a price less than I expected for two tickets. When I questioned him, he told me that included the “senior discount.” Turns out the “senior discount” is for those 62 and above. The young theater employee just assumed I qualified.

But I really don’t feel “old” – most days anyway. But, ask me again some morning after I worked in the yard for hours the day before. Funny, my Bridge-playing granny told me something about aging when I was little that I still remember. She said, “Your body ages, but your soul never does.” I didn’t really understand her statement then, but now I think I do.

God created us for eternity. Oh, yes, we have a temporal, physical “tent” that breaks down and falls apart. But God’s purposes for His children are eternal. And He wants to keep using us here on earth as long as He allows us to remain.

But the godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon.
For they are transplanted to the Lord’s own house. They flourish in the courts of our God.
Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green.
They will declare, “The Lord is just! He is my rock! There is no evil in him!”
Psalm 92:12-15

Here’s my conclusion. I am not necessarily “old,” but I am “older.” And until God is finished with me here on earth, I am certainly not “done.”

So no “retirement” for me. Nope. As long as I’m able, I want to serve the Lord and His people. On that day when God calls me home, I want to be able to declare with the Apostle Paul:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7

And discounted movie tickets and cheap pancakes are just an added bonus!

 

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A Sad and Joyful Goodbye

We spent the weekend celebrating the life of my father-in-law John Howard. Born May 27, 1927, he passed from this earthly shadow life into the reality of eternity on Tuesday, March 1, 2016. (See obituary.)

Four generations of our family gathered to remember and say goodbye. Yet even while we grieved our loss, we rejoiced because of what Pappaw had gained.

The death of a Christian brings an odd mix of emotions. Grief because our loved one is no longer here with us, but joy because he is now in the presence of Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:8). When a child of God dies, he fully realizes the promises of God. The hope of life eternal.

My father-in-law suffered for years with a frail, ailing body. He groaned with the burden of it and looked forward to the day when he would receive his new, heavenly body. He has been freed from that burden and now enjoys the perfect, whole body God prepared for him.

The apostle Paul wrote about this great promise for believers:

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.   2 Corinthians 5:1-9, NIV

We grieve and we rejoice. We will miss him, yet we are thankful for the legacy of faith he left our family. His hope was in Christ and that hope is sure.

Do you have the hope of eternal life through a saving relationship with Jesus? If not, or you aren’t sure, find out more about what it means to have a relationship with Him.

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My Oldest Christmas Memory

My earliest Christmas memory is from the mid 1960’s. I was only three or four. My parents and I went next door to visit the neighbors during Christmas week. We admired their Christmas tree and my dad picked me up to get a good look. A beautiful red bird caught my attention and I reached out for it. Neighbor Lady took it off her tree and let me hold it. I was in love with a Christmas ornament.

The very next day, Neighbor Lady knocked on our front door. She had bought another red bird just like hers and now she held it out to me! Little girl wonder and Christmas joy all wrapped up in one small bird.

Red bird

Mom helped me hang it on our small tree. And that red bird has been front and center on my tree every year since. When Wayne and I got married, I brought the bird to our home and placed it on our first tree together. Wings have fallen off and been glued back on, but now, 50 years later, it still claims a place of honor.

My red bird reminds me of Christmases past, family, and dear friends. And I know this may sound strange, but it’s also reminds me of a comforting “constant.” No matter what life may hold at Christmas, the red bird will be on the tree and Jesus will be on His throne.

I don’t know what life holds for you this Christmas, but no matter your circumstances, Jesus is still on His throne. Grief, loss, and pain does not diminish that glorious truth. Keep your eyes on Him.

May the Light of Christ shine in your hearts this Christmas.

 

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The Birds, The Beast, and an Empty Nest

Empty NestFour baby barn swallows peered over the edge of the mud nest on a wall in a corner of our patio, eagerly waiting for their mother to return with breakfast. I had a really good view of the feathered family from my bedroom window. “This is going to be great,” I thought. “I can watch them grow, learn to fly, and leave the nest.” Like my own empty nest, the experience would be bittersweet, but exciting.

Then I remembered the beast. Our ninety pound, yellow lab dominates the back yard. Did the baby birds have a chance against a dog that pulls trees up by the roots? Maybe it would be better for the babies to never leave the nest. The mama bird could continue to feed them. Of course the daddy bird would have to build an addition to the nest…

Two days later I stood at the bedroom window again. One baby clung to the edge of the nest and one was perched beside it on a brick that jutted out from the wall. It was time for flying lessons! Mother Swallow called to them from atop a blade of the patio ceiling fan about five feet away.

The beast lay on his side by the back door seemingly unaware of the unfolding drama. The baby on the brick hopped off into space, untested wings flapping. He dipped low, coming within eighteen inches of the ground. I held my breath. The beast slept on. Then the baby’s wings caught air and he awkwardly joined his mother on the fan blade. Whew! One down, three to go.

Within a few days, all four baby birds had successfully learned to fly. At first they only flew to the ceiling fan, then back to the nest. As the days went by they became a little more adventurous and visited the roof and the large tree beyond the patio. Then one day they were gone. The nest stayed empty. Their mother had done her job and they were on their own.

All three of our babies have tried their wings and left the nest. Even now, I worry about what could happen to them outside the nest. Will they watch out for those “big, yellow labs?”

Yet, today God brought one of His many promises to mind:

What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. 30 And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows. Matthew 10:29-31

Nothing happens to a single sparrow without God’s knowledge. If He cares that much for a sparrow, how much more does He care for my children? For yours? They are worth more than many sparrows.

So I’ll pray – and watch from the fan blade with squawks of encouragement.

May is a time of graduations and planning for “leavings.” Do you have someone leaving the nest soon? What promises of God do you hang onto?

 

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