Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Warm Fuzzies

I am a huge fan of warm fuzzies. Warm fuzzy sweaters (I'm wearing one now!), warm fuzzy blankets, warm fuzzy cups of hot chocolate (okay minus the fuzz)... I love it all and Christmas is the ultimate Warm Fuzzy Inducer. This was evidenced by the beautiful, jingly, wonderful candlelight evening downtown a few weeks ago!*

W-worth usually holds a candlelight walk, I think, but I'd never gone to it. Actually, I'd envisioned it as being a bunch of cold people in winter coats solemnly carrying candles down the Main St. sidewalk in silent procession. I'm weird, I know. But that little mental picture I'd drawn was certainly enough to curb my interest.

Long-story-short, they gave the candlelight walk the wrong name.
It was the Quintessential Christmas Experience. Even the real Old St. Nicholas, horrified as he may be at what Christmas has become in our day and age, couldn't help but break a smile if he'd have walked downtown that night.

Mom and I were greeted by the strains of Sinatra and his fellow crooners singing the old wonderful carols as we stepped into the festively lit square. W-worth has a quaint, beautiful little square normally, but at Christmastime it's transformed into something extra special. The lampposts are strung with garland and lights; the gazebo is decked, and next to it a huge Christmas tree graces the square. Shopkeepers try to outdo each other in their lights and decorations. The pastry shop has an intricate little train set running... it's beautiful and I can't help but smile every time I drive through town at night! But the Candlelight Walk night was even more spectacular. Even before you saw the beautiful horse drawn carriages giving people rides through the streets, you could hear the full, merry jingle of the sleigh bells attached to the horses' harness.

Stores were packed with people ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the Christmas merchandise proudly displayed' folks who evidently enjoyed displaying their own Christmas spirit with holiday shirts, crazy hats, and--in a few cases--full blown Dickens regalia! The jewelry store had a little kiosk in front of it with a woman ladling out steaming cups of hot chocolate. A number of shops had cookie trays and snacks in the back, and the antique shop beat all... with a live display of a huge jack-in-the-box, wound every minute or so by a woman we thought was a mannequin until she suddenly moved... and then out popped a real human jack-in-the-box!

As if it weren't all almost too good to be true, as mom and I passed the barber shop and glanced in the window we saw this: Yep! A real barbershop quartet right there in the shop, with their darling little outfits and appropriately gregarious personalities to match! (And, like all good barbershop quartets they had one rather tall and one rather short fellow.) With the sight of that, my warm fuzzy-odometer simply maxed out and mom and I agreed to run home as fast as we could--we live about 5 minutes from the square, but the event was closing within 15 minutes!)--and grab our cameras! (Heretofore we'd been moaning and groaning that we were crazy for not having brought our cameras... but really all I was expecting was a bunch of cold zombies walking around dark sidewalks with candles and I didn't think that would be much to take snapshots and blog about.)

So mom and I rushed home and while I grabbed the camera she made a quick cup of hot chocolate for dad, who was one of the police officers patrolling the event. We brought it to him and took a few pictures with him. He is a very good sport because police officers aren't normally supposed to have photo shoots with their daughters in the back of the police cruiser while they're on duty. Kinda' ruins their "tough cop" persona, if anyone's watching.

We got back in just enough time to snap a few pictures of the barbershop quartet before they finished for the evening...

Then--lo and behold!--the kind horse people let mom and I take a last ride in their carriage before they packed up for the night. It was very, very fun and even a bit rotic (i.e. "romantic" without the "man").
We snapped a few more shots around town:

A few last folks in the sandwich shop before closing time,

Storekeepers pausing to wave to us as they closed up shop for the night,
So doesn't this look like some sort of Kinkade painting? :) All it needs is a little old man smoking a pipe sitting on the bench out front, with a dog at his side.
And AHA! THIS is the reason it's called a "candlelight walk!"

Well, in all it was a completely unexpected evening full of joy and Christmas spirit. Mom and I couldn't stop exclaiming about it the entire way home! Thank you, W-worth, for a wonderful, beautiful start to the Christmas season. Thank you for keeping it "Christmas" and for embracing the joy this season brings without all the political correctness that is erroding at the birthday celebration of my King. I'm grateful and I will definitely be back for the candlelight walk next year if I'm around!

...Now if we could just think of a better name for it...!?

*(Yes, this was a few weeks ago meaning they were celebrating Christmas before Thanksgiving had occurred. This is usually an unpardonable sin in my estimation, but since it created such vast amounts of warm fuzzy feelings in my heart, I'll pardon the grievous misdeed.)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veteran's Day

I just want to go on record and say that it's AWESOME, what restaurants like Applebees and Olive Garden do for Veterans on this day! It absolutely thrills me that they do something like this regardless of what sort of money they may lose on it. Patriotism, honor and gratitude are alive! Applebees actually gave out free meals to Vets and I think several other restaurants were doing the same.

So, I had a date with Gramps (who was a tank operator in the South Pacific during WWII) and his friend Ed. Two rather handsome Marines; I felt pretty lucky, I must say... (wink!) The place was crowded but everyone standing in line was happy and seemed to want to talk about their war experiences or the lives of other veterans who were special to them. Marines would walk by our table and salute my Grandpa and Ed who would reply with a quick "Semper Fi!" Folks thanked them for their service, and a woman walked up to Grandpa and hugged him. He was beaming!

The entire drive home, Grandpa talked about his experiences in the war: cutting his knee open on a boat and being stitched up without any pain blocker, the natives he met on the South Pacific Islands, and the funny experiences he had like bathing in rivers and trying to hide from local women who came down to wash their clothes on Guam.

I will never grow tired of hearing his stories. I feel infinitely, infinitely blessed to be the granddaughter of a hero, and to still be able to hear him telling me his stories.

Semper Fi, Gramps. I love you.

Below: Grandpa got a little pin that said "Thank You" with his menu and I ceremoniously pinned it on. :) =

Thursday, November 10, 2011

I can't believe that ...I've joined Facebook.
What a blessing and a curse such things are.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Oh, Victorious Warrior, come and fight!
The enemy is here, and he is cunning-
The world's glint entices; it is stunning.

Oh, Great Protector, full of might!
Come bolster up my spirit; it is fainting-
Make my heart steadfast as it is waiting.

Oh, Lover Divine, come now and ravish!
Seep into each crevice of my being-
Set my soul afire, my spirit singing.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Guilt or Motivation?

We were sitting in our Wednesday evening ladies Bible study. A bunch of ladies were there; some who have little knowledge about God and others who have known God for a long time. Since our Pastor's wife was out of town, Jan--our "baby Christian"--had volunteered to lead it. I was so proud of her! Jan hasn't been a Christian for very long, but her faith is so alive; her heart is so pure and her excitement is contagious. Most of the ladies in the room, in fact, were women that she works with. She invited them to church and they came, drawn by the light and joy they see in Jan. Many of them are dealing with the same issues that Jesus delivered Jan out of not too many months ago. I think they find hope when they see the difference in her life. We sang some songs together and then Jan began to ask for prayer requests. After each lady shared, either Jan or I would lead out in prayer about the needs they had expressed.

One troubled woman shared (at deep length) about the struggles in her life. Jan listened sympathetically and then said, "We're going to pray for you." The woman agreed, but pointed to me:
"I want her to pray. I like the way she prays."

Woah. I cringed.

It was a horribly awkward moment.

What on earth do you say at a moment like that? "Why, thank-you... I'm glad I impressed you"? Or maybe "No...no....really....Jan's the better pray-er"?


Surely she didn't mean it to hurt Jan or to embarrass me, but it's amazing how quickly the devil jumps into a situation like that to completely take advantage of it. Immediately I felt condemnation sweep over me like a tidal wave. I truly didn't think I'd been trying to impress anyone with my prayers. I hadn't wanted anyone's praise or notice for it. If anything, all I wanted was to somehow make God's presence feel real through my prayers and show these women that He really was listening to us and caring about our needs. But the fact is, when the comment was made, I was hugely aware of the deficit in my life: I do NOT pray the way I should. I do not pray as often as I should. And for a long time God's been convicting my heart about that fact and I haven't done much of anything about it. My thoughts went wild:
"YOU HYPOCRITE! Here you are with these flowery prayers that impress people in public, and here God can't even get you on your knees in private. You're disgusting. God must be shaking His head at you right now. What a fake. Oh, you can sound good in front of other people but in private you're nothing."

Fast-forward a week.

I was picking Jan up from work and bringing her back to Bible Study the next Wednesday and we started to talk about--of all things--prayer. (I had just been listening to this message by Paul Washer and was really rocked by it so I was telling her about it.) "You know Dani," Jan began, "I have been asking God to teach me how to pray. I was really affected by what happened the other night....when _____ asked you to pray because your prayers are so much better than mine. She's right; your prayers ARE a lot better than mine. And I'm just so ashamed; I'm almost embarrassed to pray at all now. So....I've just been asking God to teach me how to pray. I want to learn, really. I just can't do it as well as you do."

In a flash it hit me. Good grief! Here we were at a Prayer Group, of all places. An insensitive comment was made. And suddenly the devil was ready and waiting to jump on ME with guilt for being a "hypocrite" and JAN with shame for being "ignorant." And the worst part is...it worked. (For a whole week, that is, until Jan and I communicated honestly with each other about what we were feeling.)

I was reminded again that we can have a choice of two ways we can respond to many situations in our lives: guilt, or motivation. When the incident happened I chose to wallow in a little guilt:
What a hypocrite Dani is.
White-washed little sepulcher.
Instead I should have embraced it as a reminder to keep striving in my PRIVATE prayer times and pray just as fervently then as I do when others are around and I'm being heard.

Jan, too, was struggling with guilt:
What primitive sounding prayers.
Who wants to listen to that anyhow? Not God and certainly nobody else.
And though luckily, she was doing something productive with her guilt (allowing it to motivate her and praying that He'd TEACH her how to pray,) she was still letting that guilt beat her down and make her feel ugly.

That is SO NOT God's plan for our lives!
Why on earth do we wallow in the pit of self condemnation and despair when God reveals something in our lives that He wants us to work on? Do we forget that it's only those He LOVES that He corrects (Heb. 12:6)? Or that the righteous person can fall seven times but keep on getting back up again (Prov. 24:16)? Or that, thought Satan stands before God constantly accusing us, Jesus stands before God day and night defending us (Revelations 12:10 & Romans 8:24)?

I feel like I received a definite wake-up call that day as Jan and I were talking. I could see so clearly the deceptive, wily plans of Satan to sneak into a vulnerable situation and twist it for our harm, and it angered me. It made me desire more than ever to PRAY. Not to worry overmuch about motives or how I sounded to God or anything else but just to make the effort to PRAY.

I'm helpless to describe it in any sort of eloquence or to make this post more interesting, but I felt a compulsion to write it down with the desire that it would encourage and motivate someone. I may not be able to fervently pray on my face before God for hours at a time like certain people I hear about. But even if I just set aside a few more minutes each day and make the conscious effort to draw near to God, I know my overtures will NOT be rejected and he WILL draw near to me. Already I've sensed it this week: I received an incredibly miraculous answer to prayer (another post for another time) and, more beautifully, felt God's joy and fellowship and CLOSENESS with me in a way this week that I haven't felt in a long time.

Guilt would have made that impossible. It would have continued to push me away. Motivation, though, brought me back. So I'm trying. I'm praying more. Enough? No, probably not. But MORE. And just like anything else it's going to get easier with practice. Just like any other relationship it's going to take work. But I am just NOT WILLING to live my life on earth without the closest possible fellowship I can enjoy with God. It's not worth it. He's the whole reason I exist. I don't want to try to exist without Him.

So the moral of the post for you?
I don't know.
Pray about it. :)