Tamara's Journeys

Journeys as great as the destinations.

Thoughts for the New Year

December 30th, 2015

“Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.” Romans 12:1a

Going into the new year, many of us will plan to begin anew. New diets and exercise regiments. New Bible studies and reading plans. New organization and time management routines. Many will commit to break bad habits, restore broken relationships, and be “better” people. We call these New Year’s resolutions. I confess. I’m not a fan of New Year Resolutions. I want something better. What about you?

I decided to write a prayer. But not just any prayer. Reread Romans 12:1. That’s a powerful message. Paul tells us to take our lives and place them before God as an offering. This is my New Year’s offering.

Heavenly Father, I praise You as my Creator. You are the Author of my life. You are the Strength of my heart and my Portion forever. You are all I need. My heart’s desire in this New Year is to grow closer to You. In knowing You better, I will know myself more because my identity is found in You.

I want to become a believer after Your own heart. God, I ask You to help me each day carve out time to spend with You. Give me eyes to see, ears to hear, a heart to receive, and a mind to understand all that You will teach me. Make my heart tender to hear Your voice.

Give me a heart of humility. If there is anything in me that keeps me from hearing You, reveal it to me. Cleanse my heart and renew a right spirit within me so I can be in perfect fellowship with You.

Fill my heart with Your truth. Plant it deep so that it takes root. Move me. Change me. Transform me. Empower me to live out what I hear and learn.

Every day of this New Year, make my life one long walk of obedience in response to Your Word and Your Holy Spirit Who lives and reigns in me. Let Your love and Your Word shape my life. This is my prayer offering. I ask this in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Now let’s commit together to praying more throughout the year. Asking God to change us from the inside out and see what amazing plans He has for us.

Happy New Year!

Sunday in Michigan

December 27th, 2015

In the changing of the season from fall to winter, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is magnificently transformed. The landscape becomes a snow-sculpted wonderland, with frozen waterfalls and noble pines.

Today, I excitedly shoveled the driveway and pulled out my winter hiking gear to suit up for the first hike of winter. This is winter in earnest. In some places the snow was at least over a foot deep. The snow is fun. It’s cold, but there’s an absolute stillness in the air and a refreshing solitude of the woods that’s exhilarating and pushed me further up the trail towards the roar of Bond Falls.

As I hiked, I wondered, what is it about waterfalls that’s so magnetic? Perhaps the idea that every time you visit them, they are different, transformed by seasons and unceasing motion into something new.

In winter, Bond Falls hold a different allure from my fall visit. From half-frozen crystalline plunge-pools to gossamer cascades it was easy to find a few meditative moments of peace on the frozen trail before continuing my Sunday drive to the Porkies.

Bond Falls 1 Bond Falls 5 Bond Falls 2 Bond Falls 12 (2) Bond Falls 13 Bond Falls 15 (2) Bond Falls 16 Bond Falls 18

Now that the snow has finally fallen in the Porcupine Mountains, I decided to take a peek at Lake of the Clouds. While Lake of the Clouds was a fall favorite, it still looks simply picturesque when frozen over and flanked by frosted pine trees. I’ll be strapping on my snowshoes and returning to hike into view the many frozen waterfalls during this winter.

Lake of the Clouds 1 Lake of the Clouds 2

So, pack a thermos of hot tea or cocoa, watch your step on slick trails, and celebrate winter’s frozen splendor with a winter hike.

To read about my fall visit to Bond Falls:

Sunday in Michigan

To read about my fall visit to Lake of the Clouds:

Sunday in Michigan

 

Christmas Day: Jesus

December 25th, 2015

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. Matthew 1:21

Sometimes a name is just a name. And sometimes a name perfectly suits the person. Ancient people would choose names carefully, so as to make a lifelong statement about a person’s identity. “Jesus” is a name so familiar these days that we could easily forget it was a name with extraordinary significance. The very name an angel announced should be given to Mary and Joseph’s unborn child. And what a name! “Jesus” means “the Lord saves.” He does indeed.

None of us can save ourselves anymore than a person sinking in a rowboat can save himself by pulling up on the side of the boat. We need a savior who has the power to do just that … save us from ourselves.

But there wouldn’t be saving if there hadn’t of been a sacrifice. And there wouldn’t have been a sacrifice if there wouldn’t have been a baby named Jesus. We don’t need to wait until Good Friday and Easter Sunday to celebrate the Savior. The saving started Christmas morning with the birth of Jesus.

There’s no way Mary and Joseph could have understood all this, of course. They were obedient and named the baby Jesus, but how and when the Lord would save them remained a mystery to everyone. But not for us, on this side of the resurrection, we know the extent of the saving love of God.

Merry Christmas everyone!

baby-jesus-mary-joseph-by-dewey

Christmas: Manger

December 23rd, 2015

She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7

Manger

I have a co-worker expecting a child any day now. I’m pretty sure she expects her baby to be wrapped in a sterilized blanket and placed in a sterile crib with all precautions being taken to minimize the amount of germs the child will in contact with.

But Mary had none of this and laid Jesus in a feed trough for animals. Jesus slept his first night in the sheep’s manger. Can you imagine the shepherd’s astonishment when they arrived to see what had been announced to them?

Of course, this wasn’t Mary or Joseph’s choice. They tried to get a room at a local inn, but there were no vacancies. Today there might be a red neon light flashing a big NO VACANCIES creating a pool of light on the parking lot (or snow).

There are times when no is the hardest word we hear. Yet Jesus has seen NO from us since the very beginning. Turn on the news and you’ll see many people don’t even want to consider him during Christmas, instead turning this time into a winter holiday. Even in the life of a faithful believer, there can be situations where we say, “Stay out of that part of my life….Keep that door closed.”

So Jesus was turned away and stayed laying in the manager, the only place available. He’s not protected from the world, but lying in it.

I pray we open our hearts and minds for Him this Christmas and into the New Year, not excluding Him from any part of our lives.

Friday Funnies

December 18th, 2015

While bougainvillea and oranges bloom, the happy snowbird steps barefoot on the warm tiles of her lanai and dials my Florida number. Knowing full well I’m currently in the Upper Peninsula, what the temperatures in Michigan are and how much snow has fallen, the temporary Florida dweller nevertheless inquiries about the weather “up there.” My friend’s concerned question is all fake, of course. There is no commiseration in the inquiry, just pure pleasure in my misery of being blanketed by mounds of snow over the next few months.

After the conversation about weather, other jokes come to mind. “If you have more miles on your snow blower than on your car, you may live in Michigan. If your local Dairy Queen is closed from November through March, you may live in Michigan.” Both are true statements.  Even when I dial 911, a recorded message says, “Phone back in the spring!”

I hear these and other semi-humorous statements now because I’ve spent more time in Michigan than Florida this year and have friends enjoying winter in Florida. I just have to accept Michigan winter comes with weather jokes.

Nonetheless, when my Florida friends tease me with Michigan jokes, I can remain unperturbed. I know that no matter where I am there would be other slights, most of them good-humored and meant to amuse. It’s their way of letting me know they miss me.

Besides, I take comfort knowing that winter driving in the U.P. is better now because snow fills in the potholes.

 

 

Christmas: Shepherds

December 16th, 2015

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. Luke 2:8

Try to imagine if you were God and could announce the arrival of humanity’s Savior. Would you send yours messengers to some shepherds out in the fields as they whiled away their nighttime watch? Why not send angels to Jerusalem instead? Or to the megalomaniac King Herod? Or Caesar? Wouldn’t that be an amazing night’s work if you were able to change everything with a few simple words?

God chose the shepherds. Shepherds were rather rough characters at that time, who performed the tedious tasks that many others were unwilling to do. They appeared ragged, smelled like goats or sheep, and were used to sleeping on the cold, hard ground.

The Bible mentions extraordinary shepherds frequently. David, the “shepherd king” of Israel, had cared for his people just as he’d cared for the sheep when he was a boy in the fields outside of Bethlehem. David wrote the incredible words of Psalm 23 because he knew what it meant to be a good shepherd, and he knew that God was his good shepherd.

Jesus, a descendant of David, came to earth to be our good shepherd. In the Gospel of John, Jesus said he knows us as His sheep. He, our good shepherd, lays down his life for his sheep.

So on the night that Jesus’ would come into this world, the process was set in place for the day he would lay down his life for the world. All of this in the fashion of a truly good shepherd. So an angelic visitation to shepherds, men who understood feeding, guiding and saving, was the best way for His life to begin.

Shepherds at Bethlehem

Sunday in Michigan

December 13th, 2015

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord” Luke 2:11

What is Christmas? If Advent is about waiting, anticipating, yearning, what is Christmas? Advent says the Baby is coming, but He isn’t here yet. During Advent Hope is on its way, but the yearning is still very real. Christmas is the response to that yearning.

To me, Christmas is the blessing of being with family, remembering, giving, and God’s promise fulfilled. Its joy, excitement, hope and delicious goodies. Christmas is remembering the love Jesus asked us to have for everyone. Christmas is giving. Sometimes we give things, and other times we offer the gift of service.

Christmas breads and carmel corns

Christmas breads and carmel corns

Christmas brittle and bon bons

Christmas brittle and bon bons

Christmas candies and peppermint bark

Christmas candies and peppermint bark

What Christmas isn’t is a date on the calendar. Sometimes the Christmas Spirit moves and all the waiting for the joy and hope is over. The time can come when family is together reading the Christmas story, goodies on the table, gifts under the tree and God’s love in the air. What a joyous, blessing of Christmas I celebrated with my brother’s family before returning to Ironwood this weekend. We found that this Christmas was right on time.

What is Christmas? It’s when we celebrate merrily with family and friends the gift our Heavenly Father gave to each of us: the birth of His Son, Jesus Christ.

P.S. Thank you to each member of my family for making this a memorable Christmas. Also, posts may be sporadic until I am able to obtain Wi-Fi at my new Ironwood home.

Friday’s Film Review

December 11th, 2015

After months of not seeing a film, I watched as Eilis, an Irish immigrant, crossed the Atlantic and landed in 1950s Brooklyn, where she quickly fell into a new romance. When her past catches up with her, however, she had to choose between two countries, the lives that exist within and make the hardest decision of her young life.

The lead actress, Saoirse Ronan, plays her role meticulously while also constantly setting the tone of the film. Her delicate and sincere portrayal makes all Eilis’s issues, however selfish or insignificant they may seem at first, materialize in your mind, and makes you hope that her pain will somehow ease.

Emory Cohen shows his sensitive and charming side of his range portraying New York Italian plumber Tony.  The natural chemistry between Eilis and Tony gives them the authenticity of a couple that you might actually know in real life.

While, Domhnall Gleeson’s characterization of Jim Farrell is haunting in a role that doesn’t call for many words or emotions. You can see the ache and pain in his movements, desperate for love and a feeling of being lost.

But what will cause viewers to fall in love is how Brooklyn was shot with a lovely yellow hue and soft palate, capturing the country and the city with stunning results. Each scene felt intimate, capturing the heart and emotion of every word spoken. The set designers captured every detail of the 50’s homes as if plucked from the time period themselves, along with transporting us to a foreign land we can only dream to visit. And finally, the music of Michael Brook’s soundtrack is a breathtaking swell of emotion, creating moments that will surely be worth purchasing.

I recommend this film is a remedy for anyone who is losing faith in good filmmaking. It is a splendidly sweet reminder that you can tell a great love story without resorting to excessive twists and effects. Brooklyn is a rare experience in today’s entertainment culture and a serious Oscar contender.

Christmas: Joseph

December 9th, 2015

This is how the birth of Jesus came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. Matthew 1:18-19

I know so little about Joseph. He’s only mentioned in the birth and childhood stories of Jesus. He was named after a famous patriarch, but this Joseph was merely a carpenter who lived in the small town of Nazareth. His ancestors were from Bethlehem. Therefore when Caesar called for a census, Joseph had to take his pregnant wife and return to Bethlehem.

The most important thing I know about Joseph is that when the time called for it, he displayed great faith and grace. He found out that his fiancée’ was pregnant. Granted, Mary had the benefit of an angel to help explain her unique conception, but Joseph hadn’t been visited yet. All he had was Mary’s word. Can you imagine that talk? “Joseph, I need to talk to you. An angel told me I would get pregnant by an act of God and that I’ll carry the savior of the world.” Why would Joseph even believe her? Why did he change his initial plan to break off the relationship? What would you have done?

This Christmas think of Joseph. Think of him looking into Mary’s eyes, hearing her shocking news, knowing in his heart of hearts it’s true, and having the courage to act on that faith even though he probably had doubts. As crazy as it seemed, he believed it. As much as the idea goes against all logic and science, Joseph knew it was possible with God. Even as risky as it was to stay with Mary and be branded by others as the dupe of an immoral woman, Joseph decided to take that leap of faith.

That’s true faith in action. It wasn’t just that he trusted Mary. Joseph trusted that God could, that God might, and that God would do what He promised.

I want to share Joseph’s courage and iron-strong faith to believe that at the birth of Jesus, God really did enter this world and is still working powerfully in it.

Sunday in Michigan

December 6th, 2015

Today’s post is dedicated to my sister Tara who suggested this adventure, but was unfortunately unable to join in the fun.

It’s that time of year again when friends and family think about Christmases past. Mom and I took it one step further by stepping back in time in one of Michigan’s most unique Christmas celebrations. Had we been able to participate in the entire weekend, we would have experienced bagpipers, a reindeer meet and greet and carolers elegantly dressed in Victorian style attire. The entire Old Christmas Weekend is filled with lovely events including Festival of Trees and guided tours of the historic Dempsey Manor. We simply enjoyed the magical experience of the beautifully decorated downtown.  http://www.visitmanistee.com/local-events/sleighbell-festival#.VmOEkzZdHIU

Manistee Carriage Ride 1 Manistee Carriage Ride 2 Manistee Christmas Elf 2 Manistee Christmas Window 2 Manistee Historical Museum 2

The Lumberjack Luncheon was first on the list for two hungry ladies. Held at the First Congregational Church they delivered enough stew over biscuits and pie to feed a lot of hungry lumberjacks (and ladies). We left very satisfied. The church itself was originally built in 1862 and a beautiful building.

Manistee First Congregational Church Clock Tower

Manistee First Congregational Church Clock Tower

Manistee First Congregational Church

Manistee First Congregational Church

Manistee First Congregational Church parlor

Manistee First Congregational Church parlor

Manistee First Congregational Church kitchen

Manistee First Congregational Church kitchen

Manistee First Congregational Church Lumberjack Luncheon Stew with Mom

Manistee First Congregational Church Lumberjack Luncheon Stew with Mom

Wanting to honor the area’s German heritage, we toured the Manistee Historical Museum with exhibits of traditions, decorations, dollhouses, miniatures, toys, trains and enjoyed the Liliputian Christmas displays. The building has remained as it was in 1905 and houses one of the most extensive collections of Victorian antiques and photographs in Michigan. www.manisteemuseum.org

At Manistee Historical Museum

Mom inside a dollhouse at the museum

Mom inside a dollhouse at the museum

The museum houses an extensive train collection

The museum houses an extensive train collection

Christmas at the museum

Christmas at the museum

Christmas at the museum

Christmas at the museum

Christmas at the museum.

Christmas at the museum.

Christmas at the museum

Christmas at the museum

My mother played an organ like this at her grandparent's house.

My mother played an organ like this at her grandparent’s house.

While exploring the museum’s second floor we came across a musical player Mom recognized from her childhood. Turns our her grandfather had one just like it and she’d not seen one since. That was a fun find.

Music box like my great-grandfather's was found in this museum.

Music box like my great-grandfather’s was found in this museum.

It was the Pennsylvania Dutch tree that had us in stiches. The story goes that when the Germans came over they brought with them their Christmas customs and decorated trees. But they also wouldn’t think of cutting down a fresh tree year after year. So the first year the evergreen was beautiful and green. At the end of the season they would shake it to remove any needles that hadn’t dropped and store it. The following year(s) the skeleton would be pulled out and each branch painstakingly wrapped in cotton. Now we know why we want to stretch every penny! We’re mostly Scotch with a dab of Pennsylvania Dutch. That explains so much! LOL

Christmas tree wrapped in cotton in the Pennsylvania Dutch tradition

Christmas tree wrapped in cotton in the Pennsylvania Dutch tradition

A short distance from the Museum stand the historic Ramsdell Theater where we strolled among creatively decorated Christmas trees, wreaths, tabletop items and other seasonal decor designed by local holiday enthusiasts. Visitors could bid on these lovely holiday treasures, decorated by area schools, community organizations and businesses. People were encouraged to vote on their favorite trees by leaving canned goods at the base of the tree, with all food to be donated to the local food pantry at the end of the weekend. www.ramsdelltheatre.org

Manistee Ramsdell Theater

Before starting south, we enjoyed a guided tour of the historic 1894 Lumber Baron Mansion, which now houses the Dempsey Manor Bed and Breakfast Inn and Victorian Tea Room.  It houses marvelous Neo-French Renaissance architecture, exquisite period furniture, artwork and decorative items owned by the current owner, Emmy winning James Colburn. www.dempseymanorbandb.com

Dempsey Manor Christmas

Dempsey Manor Christmas

Dempsey Manor Christmas

Dempsey Manor Christmas

Dempsey Manor Christmas

Dempsey Manor Christmas

Dempsey Manor Christmas

Dempsey Manor Christmas

Dempsey Manor Christmas

Dempsey Manor Christmas

Then some Christmas magic happened. When I parked the car in Tara’s driveway I noticed a candycane hanging from my keys. I didn’t put it there and I didn’t notice it there when I put the keys in the ignition. I went so as to accuse Mom of pulling a trick on me and she swears she didn’t place it there. Surely, one of us would have noticed it while driving 60 miles. We smiled at the Christmas “miracle” and took it into my sister as a magical gift.

However you celebrate, keep in mind Christmas is about sharing and spending time with family and friends. A little smile. A word of cheer. A bit of love from someone near. Or a bit of Christmas magic, it’s about creating happy memories with those you love. Merry Christmas!

Manistee Historical Museum 7 (2)

Friday Funnies

December 4th, 2015

I was able to visit with my sister Tara most of the day yesterday. Very sadly, it was in the ER. While I was there I was also able to people watch. Here are some highlights of ER admissions to Mercy Hospital Thursday:

There was the man who entered the emergency room with his two ears burned. “What happened?” asked the admissions clerk. “Well”, the man explained, “my wife was ironing clothing, behind my chair while I was watching TV. She put down the iron next to the phone and when the phone rang I answered the iron.” “Wow that is terrible” responded the clerk, “and what happened to your other ear?” “Well” the guy responded Right afterwards, the phone rang again!”

A 28-year old male was brought into the ER after an attempted suicide. It seems the man had swallowed several nitroglycerin pills and a fifth of vodka. When asked about the bruises about his head and chest he said that they were from him ramming himself into the wall in an attempt to make the nitroglycerin explode.

The most nonemergent ER visit while I was waiting was really funny: A male adolescent came in at 11 A.M. with a complaint of belly button lint. Seriously!!

Given enough time sitting in a freezing cold ER waiting room a pattern begins to emerge and almost everything can seem humorous … eventually, and after something to eat.

PS: My sister is resting and going to see a full recovery without more trips to the ER.

 

Christmas: Virgin Mary

December 2nd, 2015

The days leading up to Christmas present us with an extraordinary opportunity for us to grow in our knowledge of Jesus, who called himself the way, the truth and the life. Even if we have a sense of purpose in life, we don’t talk about it in that way.

But Jesus said he came for fulfill the Scriptures. He came to preach and proclaim, and lead us out of the darkness so that we may have eternal life. As if that weren’t enough, He said that He came in order to serve and to sacrifice.

There are many ways to study the life-changing reality of the coming of the Son of God. Over the next few weeks I’ll focus on a few key words associated with the birth of Jesus. Last year I focused on the words joy, peace and angel. Each of the chosen words are like Christmas treasure. I want to start with the virgin Mary this year:

“Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.” Luke 1:30-31

Can anyone fathom the immense faith Mary was called upon to have? She was a young virgin probably expecting to lead an ordinary life in a no-name Galilean town. Then the message came from heaven.

To be visited by an angel would be miraculous enough, but to hear those powerful words: “You will be with child,” in a way that no woman before or since has been with child. God chose Mary to be His instrument. A high favor indeed!

Mary & Gabriel

Mary & Gabriel

Mary is a pivotal figure during the Christmas season. She stands at the crossroads between the prophets of the Old Testament and the apostles of the New. She was asked to believe something that many of us struggle to imagine. Yet, from that day when she was face to face with an angel, to the cold night in the stable, to the day her son was mounted on a cross, her life witnessed Jesus’ message.

She was human as we are, with extraordinary faith. God bless you as you draw closer to the baby, born to a virgin, in a manger so long ago.

Tamara's Journeys

Journeys as great as the destinations.