December JoyDare


Three gifts manger small would have to be the three Bostons.  They are the house mascots, the three musketeers, the three munchkins, etc.  Sassy, (Sassafras Teagood), (the black brindle), follows Hannah everywhere and acts much more dignified than the other two, even trying to pull the other two in with her mouth when they’re called or when she thinks they are being bad.  Yivi  (Yivi RodiJodi Rumgood),  in the middle (named by our granddaughter Kinsley, trying to say Olivia), is endearing in a cute/ugly way.  She loves to lick and stays thin because she simply cannot hold her tail end still for wagging when she is excited, which is any time she is not sleepy.  She likes to wind down by licking something, anything.   Buck (Starbuck Sirius Brewgood), is a very sweet little guy who is nuts about his toys and convinced that any company that comes here must be coming to see him.  They are great entertainers, snugglers and comforters!






Buck will bring a toy to the bed and nap beside it.

BeFunky_Bostons in window.jpg


Yivi will occasionally try to wrestle a toy from Buck’s mouth.  If she wins it, she delights in spending a good part of her day just walking around with it in her mouth flaunting her prize in front of Buck, though she really doesn’t care about playing too much.  She just loves making him jealous, but unfortunately, if her prizes are small enough she often swallows them.  We find them later (yuk) and wonder how she has survived so far.


A dog’s life has got to include much thought about the favorite napping spots.  Theirs are sunny spots and laps.


Yivi has her own special style of beauty and often her tongue is hanging out.  Guess it just doesn’t fit well in her mouth.






Buck will tolerate just about anything for attention.  Here he  is willing to be a baby for Sylvia.


Sassy is usually rather independent of the other two and she is not sure she wants Buck napping with her.  She does occasionally join them for their own little “bath” time.


We are thankful for our pets and take much pleasure in them.  I believe we can learn much about trust from them.  They are so willing, by necessity to trust us, quite willing to overlook our errors and learn a certain amount of obedience, too.




Buck smelling the flowers. He stood there and smelled almost every single one.

Buck smelling the flowers. He stood there and smelled almost every single one.


They were all sitting there watching Hannah eat.

They were all sitting there watching Hannah eat.









Job 12:7-10
“But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or ask the birds of the air, and they will tell you. Speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea tell you. Every one of these knows that the hand of the Lord has done this. The life of every creature and the breath of all people are in God’s hand.” (NCV)

December JoyDare



We are still trying to wrap our minds around the  miracle of a move and planning an addition.  Some days are easier than others.  Here is a fitting quote from today’s (in)courage blog post.   “At this point, you can’t see ‘normal’ in the rear view mirror even if you squinted hard to catch a glimpse.   And if you try to look back, to find the way back to ‘normal,’ to feel safe and familiar, you’ll wreck yourself, your surroundings, those you love and the miracle you’ve been given.”    With God’s grace and miraculous help, we keep looking forward in everything.


Here is a miraculous gift.  Where, you say?  Under the ground, out of our sight.  Peony eyes are sprouting, and come spring, they will robustly make their way up through the soil and leaves, quickly put on their greenery and begin the formation of a beautiful display.  But the toughest work for the peony, like most plants, is off season, out of sight, underground and preparing for the following season’s display.  That is where the root growth occurs, the anchoring, the thing that matters the most to carry it through the heat and droughts of the summer.  I love thinking about this miraculous gift this time of year because it makes me think of God, who sees our hearts.  All that we do in our marriages, homes and relationships both inside and outside our homes, neighborhoods, communities, work places, churches, etc.,  does not escape Him, whether it is hidden from view or most obvious.   When we so easily focus our physical eyes on the glitzy and outward beauty around us and the more obvious works and public figures, God not only sees beneath that, but wants us to, as well.  While it is natural to see and appreciate the outward things,  we miss so much if that’s all we see.   But if we pray, we have a Helper, who opens our eyes.  I love the old hymn, Open My Eyes that I May See:

Open my eyes, that I may see
Glimpses of truth Thou hast for me;
Place in my hands the wonderful key
That shall unclasp and set me free.


Silently now I wait for Thee,
Ready my God, Thy will to see,
Open my eyes, illumine me,
Spirit divine!

Open my ears, that I may hear
Voices of truth Thou sendest clear;
And while the wave notes fall on my ear,
Everything false will disappear.


Open my mouth, and let me bear,
Gladly the warm truth everywhere;
Open my heart and let me prepare
Love with Thy children thus to share.



The third miraculous gift is that of my Savior, Jesus.  As this card from my pastor and his wife says, He is the gift that fits my heart precisely.  He fits all of our hearts with precision, if we let Him.  He is the only One who can see inside them and do a work on them.  What a miracle to have heart work done anytime we want or are willing; work of the most important kind.  He can soften it, shape it, redirect it, heal it when it’s broken, fortify it, comfort it, fill it with joy, but only when we’ve made that choice to make Him Lord of it.   He knows me better than I know myself, so I am thankful for this gift and invite Him in.  The first time, at age 9, was acknowledging Him as my Savior, who stooped to come down in the lowliest way to carry out a horrendous mission on this earth,  but the joy is in a daily acknowledging Him as risen and living Lord.  As the hymn says, “Take my heart, it is Thine own.  It shall be thy royal throne.”

December 15-17 JoyDare



This is a wreath put together and given to me Sunday with much love by a friend.  Lots of gold balls, nevermind the scented, bent low part.



Despite that we have our modern, nostalgic reasons for enjoying these, Bethlehem did not sport a lit up Christmas tree, least of all in the manger.


A humorous gift from a sweet church friend (Bethlehem unlikely), but a reminder of goofy times.


My chalkboard door art would have been Bethlehem unlikely, because they did not recognize our Savior was born there that night.



December 14 JoyDare


I could spend all day going through my “special” box.  I’m fairly certain I should be more creative with these three gifts, but nostalgia is taking precedence and these gifts all came from that box that has the power to cheer me up and take me back in time.


These top pics are of cards  from special friends who took time to send encouraging and/or funny cards; some with letters.  I took a close up of one particularly fitting one.  My friend’s  husband had dropped her off in Hallmark for her first of several surprise progressive birthday stops, each where she found someone waiting to take her to the next stop.  At Hallmark, she had a designated time to select a stash of cards and said when she saw that one (upper right), she immediately thought of me and laughed out loud.  I have to admit, it reminds me of myself, also.  Scatter brained and needing an expresso pretty much sums me up.  The pear shape is fitting, too; but she kindly did not say that.  The beautiful one in the middle bottom is from a friend who I write and have lunch with at least once a year, and we love catching up with news of our big families.  We have made an art of highlighting the annual top news in an hour or two of lunch and coffee.  The upper right card is from a special friend from church.  Because she is also my pastor’s wife and that role wears many hats, we don’t get to visit as much as I’d like, but we have several special memories behind us of cool things like Beth Moore livecasts, a VOM conference, VBS and Awana events, etc.  All of my friends have been there for me so meaningfully and persistently, even during a few dark valleys  that I will never forget it and them, and I hope that I can always be there for them, even if it’s just with a special card.

1 Peter 4:8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.

 Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.


Some say writing cards and letters is a dying art.  Here is a blog about reviving that and encouraging others.  Recently I have been encouraged by a couple writers through blogging, and their words have been exactly what I needed to hear.   I don’t always understand why humble encouraging words don’t come easier to us.  It means so much.  And it can be so depressing to be deprived of needed and gentle explanations for misunderstandings.  Though it can be complicated, I think we would work harder to reduce misunderstandings or resolve them if we applied the extra mile thought to the relationship as we often do in our families.

Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.


This one represents a whole slew of cards from my very hard working man.  He is ultimately my best friend, here on this earth, and never fails to comfort me when I’m down, and I do the same for him.   Well, except a few off times.  They happen less and less often.  When I am lonely, he is a phone call away, at least if there’s a signal.   He doesn’t judge my sometimes rather emotional state, but instead seeks to understand it.   We pull each other back into balance.  He is my lover and I am his, and our anchor is a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.    Always.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.


This batch of cards represents creative and loving notes and letters from children (now mostly adults and including their spouses), grandchildren, and siblings.  I have seven children (ten, counting three spouses) and twelve grandchildren so far, but those numbers change fairly often.  I love reading their special cheery blessings.  Some of them are extremely artistic and put alot of work into their cards.  They are all so meaningful.

Three gifts stamped – My “special” box is full of them, and I am so grateful for written encouragement, that I can go back and look at again and again.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

December JoyDare



Pretty striped Christmas wrap is a “gift” for gifts.  Plaids, stripes and paisleys are competing under the tree this year.  I am glad I caught Hallmark’s early bird sale on wrapping paper this year.


Scrapbooking paper makes for great light switch covers.  All you need is a little modge podge, scissors, paper and a screwdriver.


My lightly “striped” (ruched) duvet cover that I FINALLY was able to purchase in the fall from Pottery Barn.  I am not a believer in shopping name brands, necessarily, but I couldn’t find the right color ruched duvet cover anywhere else.  I think I drooled over it for a year and every time I saved up enough money, something came up of more importance.  A special gift!  And now, I can’t wait for the new master bedroom.  Coming soon.

December 12 JoyDare



The red berries on this Deciduous holly or possum haw tree just beyond our front porch are a winter treat both for birds and for our vases and wreaths.  This faithful little tree has provided us much entertainment this year due to the consistent appetite for berries a particular pileated woodpecker has.  He announces his descent to the tree several times a day.  Try as I might, I have not been able to get the kind of distinguished picture such a creature deserves.  Partly, because I wasn’t even aware my phone camera could zoom until a couple days ago; and partly because he usually flies off when he hears me open the door to try to sneak out.  I have crawled out the door a number of times  attempting to be stealthy, but he has great hearing and patience, because he just flies off to a nearby tree until I go in.


Clearly, I will have to update this blog when I finally get a zoomed in pic of him.  He stays on the far side of the tree and has already emptied most of the berries from that branch.  Maybe he will be forced to eat on “my” side of the tree before winter is over.  Regardless, I am thankful for these delightful red berries and all the happiness they invoke.


“Berry red” may be a push here, because this dear, red book is rather faded.  Years ago, we bought everyone in our large family a hymn book (plus some extras) when we used to go to a home church and everyone brought their own hymn books for our hour long a capella singing time.  Our kids all wrote their name in their own book so they could mark their favorites.  If I remember correctly, a couple favorites of my kids were “The Trees of the Field” and “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee”.  A couple of my older kids wrote their favorites in the front and have now (as adults) asked for their hymn books.   I have so many favorites depending on my mood, I would hate to even name one.  A special friend recently told me, when I was disappointed with nearly everyone around me(I know that is telling about ME)…sing.  Just sing all day long.  Great advice.  Whether it’s by getting the old hymn book out and singing, or by turning on the radio, or Pandora, or singing at church, it works.  What we say (or sing) helps refocus our heart correctly.  But I think the dearest way of all is the old red hymn book, especially when a child is on my lap, or one or more of my kids will join in, or at least take their ear buds out.


I love this Scentsy warmer.  My daughter, Candace, started selling Scentsy before it was hardly heard of and caught on like wildfire.  Check out her link to see more.  This is one of my favorite boudoir pieces.  It is only fitting that a berry red, heart shaped warmer should be a part of the master bedroom decor, no matter if it’s the only red thing there.  It does a great job of scenting my room with my favorite romantic aromas.   It can waft Scentsy scents or essential oils for relaxing aromatherapy or massage oil.  This charming little warmer also happens to make heart shaped lights on the walls at night.   Did I say I like it?    It really is the little things.

December 10 JoyDare



An iced cold coffee is an excellent post work out gift that I look forward to gratefully!


The beautiful design of frost on my Subaru windshield is a gift that reminds me of my Designer.  I found a couple cool, (or icy cold!) “frost” poems.  The first one is exactly how I think of frost.  It is used with permission  ©Joan Adams Burchell.  Click to see her website for other beautifully done poems.

Hoar Frost

Branches were dipped in frosting this morn
and the sun cast a fairyland spell;
Each fragile twig looked feathered and white
and beckoned a heart to swell.
A winter treasure – a sight to behold –
while silence augmented the scene;
I wanted to walk through an open gate
to find the artist, supreme.
No gate could I see, the artist unseen,
awe captured my soul;
The canvas would change, as nature intended,
but I’d witnessed her morning’s goal.

The Frosted Pane

One night came Winter noiselessly, and leaned
Against my window-pane.
In the deep stillness of his heart convened
The ghosts of all his slain.
Leaves, and ephemera, and stars of earth,
And fugitives of grass, —
White spirits loosed from bonds of mortal birth,
He drew them on the glass.

Sir Charles George Douglas Robert

A third ice cold gift is seeing my holly, yucca and other plants resiliently bearing up under the ice .  To see them  remaining evergreen under such conditions reminds me of the work of remaining joyful and thankful even when my conditions are “taxing”.  There’s a grand plan even for the annuals, for in death they drop seeds for the following year.  I have a designer who gave me a way to hold up, also, but it’s a choice I have to make.  It’s a choice I often refuse to make well.   Jeanne Pierre de Caussade, author of “Abandonment to Divine Providence” said ‘You would be very ashamed if you knew what the experiences you call setbacks, upheavals, pointless disturbances, and tedious annoyances really are.  You would realize that your complaints about them are nothing more nor less than blasphemies – though that never occurs to you.  Nothing happens to you except by the will of God, and yet God’s beloved children curse it because they do not know it for what it is.’   That’s me.  A blasphemer.

As Ann Voskamp says in “1000 Gifts” about the hard stuff day in and day out,  ‘how do I tear open tear-swollen eyelids to see through this for what it really is?’  How did Jesus do it, she asks?  In Matthew 14, ‘he looked up to heaven to see where this moment comes from.’  Then he gave thanks.  ‘We don’t have to change what we see.  Only the way we see…You can’t positive-think your way out of negative feelings…The only way to fight a feeling is with a feeling…Feel thanks and it’s absolutely impossible to feel angry….We can only experience one emotion at a time.  And we get to choose – which emotion do we want to feel?…Jacob …looked into the face of his brother, that brother who had wanted to kill him, and he said, “To see your face is like seeing the face of God”…Wrestle with God, beg to see the blessings…and all faces become the face of God.’   There it is again.  Refocus.  Eucharisteo.  And wait on God.  And practice, practice, practice.  Am I willing?  Not always; I should probably say not even often!   But I can look at the icy frost on my plants and see the consequences of my choices.  I can shrivel under difficulties or reflect the Designer and shine.  I have some practicing to do.

December 10 JoyDare



 “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, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”  Isa. 9:6 KJVB  That verse packs a powerful message.  It is one our family memorized each year for our Christmas Advent for many years.  We would all would work so hard for days and days on that one and then the older ones would whiz through it (and a few other ones) each year while the younger ones got it down.  I am so glad God promises none of that will return void.


This thrift store trinket box daintily reminds me of a precious truth.  He has, indeed, made everything beautiful in its time.  If we just use the lens of the Word, we can see the beauty He has placed all around us; sometimes it is hidden and must be unearthed.  Sometimes it is more outward, but that can trip us up if we don’t use the correct lens!   “The LORD    does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”                1 Sam. 16:7b


Gourd art is time consuming but the end results are fun, pretty and practical.  The Native American style one on the left was made by my youngest son, Jacob; I made the one in the middle, and Hannah made the bird one on the right.  Jacob and Hannah enjoy art classes from a local art teacher at Little Log Art Studio.  Of course, they are embarrassed that their pictures on her website are from several years ago.

JoyDare December 8


IMAG0401I am thankful for this clock, which was a handmade gift from Tony’s dad, Bill English.  He enjoys clock making and many other creative woodworking ventures.  We don’t get to see him very often, so it is extra special, especially to Tony.   It does hourly chimes and often is set to special occasion tunes such as birthdays, etc.  This family clock has marked many days, hours and minutes, even seasons,  and is now gracing us with its presence in a second home since it was given to us.   We get so used to the sounds, we hardly even notice them, but sometimes we have to turn off the chimes for family staying over, not being used to the sounds in the night stillness.   It had a farm picture in it, but our daughter-in-law, Amber, used her talent with calligraphy to switch it to a garden theme.

I ran across this quaint little clock poem.

The Watchmaker’ Shop ~

A street in our town has a queer little shop
With tumble – down walls and a thatch on the top;
and all the wee windows with crookedy panes
are shining and winking with watches and chains.

all sorts and all sizes, in silver and gold,
and brass ones and tin ones, and new ones and old;
and clocks for the kitchen, and clocks for the hall,
high ones and low ones, and wag -at -the -wall

The watchmaker sits on a long-legged seat
and bids you the time of the day when you meet;
and round and about him there’s tickety-tock
from the tiniest watch to the grandfather clock.

I wonder he doesn’t get tired of the chime
and all the clocks ticking and telling the time;
But there he goes winding lest any should stop,
This queer little man in the watchmaker’s shop.