Never Once, Did We Ever Walk Alone

It was Christmas socks that would make a “favorite photo”, and it was that “favorite photo” that would set the tone for my New Year’s Eve reflections.   
I could spend hours writing stories about the places these feet have walked in 2018 (and in some cases I have).  These feet belong to those nearest and dearest to me.  
In our walking, we love deeply and laugh heartily.  In our walking, we face challenges and endure, together. 
The places we walk always lead us to friends, sometimes new and sometimes old.  And almost always, we walk with purpose and a mission greater than ourselves.  Some of my greatest joys and fears have come while walking “in step” and “alongside” of them. 
There are moments where we take giant leaps, but most days we plod along, one small step at a time. From the smallest feet (my sweet Haddie Lou) to the biggest feet, from the fastest feet to the slowest feet, we are…

Standing on this mountaintop
Looking just how far we’ve come

Knowing that for every step

You were with us
Kneeling on this battleground
Seeing just how much You’ve done
Knowing every victory
Was Your power in us
Scars and struggles on the way

But with joy our hearts can say

Yes, our hearts can say
Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful
Never once did we ever walk alone
Carried by Your constant grace
Held within Your perfect peace
Never once, no, we never walk alone
Every step we are breathing in Your grace
Evermore we’ll be breathing out Your praise
You are faithful, God, You are faithful!
Matt Redman Lyrics – Never Once
Christmas socks and all, we are walking into 2019 together, and never alone!
Happy New Year,
Crystal


COME TO THE TABLE



The evergreens and lanterns lining the walk-way offered a warm-glow welcome to all who entered.  Once inside, A beautiful winter-wonderland beckoned us all…
COME TO THE TABLE and Celebrate….


Friendship
Family
Joy
Sharing
Merriment
Peace
Dreams
Tradition
Giving
Creation 
Stillness 
To the wife and mother who is really gifted at creating beautiful things, but struggles at the thought of a large gathering and people she doesn’t know,  she “just happens” to sit next to the woman who makes her feel at ease and joyful.  When the night is over, a kindred spirit has been found.  


To the young professional who thanks us for including her — she also “just happens” to sit next to the woman who offers her just what she needs.  Kindness and Passion for her profession!  She later sent me a note expressing, “it was incredible to sit at a table filled with such confident, inspiring women”.  

To the woman and friend who saw fit to fill a tin with cookies, and deliver it to a friend who couldn’t be there because she is often just physically unable to get out. 

To the coordinators of the event itself,  hard work is always rewarding when you get to see first hand so many expressions of awe and joy and wonder.  As a point person for the event, I received a lot of compliments and thanks.  BUT, I learned a long time ago, it isn’t about how good “I” can be, rather, it is about the amazingly good people surrounding me.  I am grateful for the love and thanks offered towards such a fine affair, but I am beyond grateful for all the ladies who collectively and sacrificially gave of their time, their resources and their talents.  To the hostess and the table setters, to the decorators and silver polishers, to the soup makers and the bread buyers, and ALL  who expressed their joy of the season thru making invitations and baking cookies to share…YOU are the amazingly good people around me.   
 As fulfilling as it is to create fun, festive, beautiful and delicious Christmas Cookies, it is really so much more than a cookie exchange.   In the celebration, whether simple or elaborate, in our own unique styles, we find community and connection, we inspire other women, and most importantly, those places in all of us that feel void or uncertain, are encouraged.  Something very special happens when we COME TO THE TABLE with an open and willing heart, ready to celebrate.    


This Christmas Season may you savor the goodness of all those cookies, but more importantly, may you savor the gifts in COMING TO THE TABLE.  


Merry Christmas
Crystal 

Settling For More in 2017

Reading a “hot off the press” autobiography, given to me as a gift by my daughter (who completely understands my love for really good books), is how I spent much of my evenings in the days following Christmas.

Now, making my way into the office on these final pre dawn hours of 2016,  reflecting on all that has been and all that is yet to come…. these three words (which also happened to be the title of that autobiography) beat lock step with my heart…SETTLE FOR MORE!

More FAITH….because faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
More HOPE….that necessary posture of the mind that keeps us moving forward, sometimes against very difficult odds.
And,
More LOVE….because it is the greatest of all!

Settling for more is not so much an end game, rather it is an active process (and sometimes a daily choice).  Life changes, therefore, it requries that I change too.  The joyful, exhilorating moments that go perfectly and as planned speak for themselves, but when moments of stress and complacency and disappointment and unmet expectations attempt to define me,  may I find courage to risk, stand alone if necessary, shine a light thru the darkness, and SETTLE FOR MORE….a more that goes way beyond anything good that I could ever hope for or imagine.

The passing of time is marked by a turn of a calendar page, but for this moment,  here’s to a  NEW YEAR and SETTLING FOR MORE.                                

HAPPY NEW YEAR 
CRYSTAL 
   2017 

EXPECTATIONS OF CHRISTMAS–HOPE IS BORN and HIS GLORY REVEALED

EXPECTATIONS OF CHRISTMAS 

                              (originally written in 2009 when Sarah was in Africa)                                   (pulled from the archives and slightly revised in 2016 when Sarah was a newly-wed) 
One of my favorite pictures of Matt in 2009
Preparations are underway for another heart warming Christmas Eve Service as well as everything that goes along with our “usual” Christmas morning. The luminaries line the streets and as dusk draws nigh, I reflect on “expectations of Christmas”.

I make my way through the huge wooden doors to the church. Candlelight and carols fill the air, and…. so does the knot in my throat.
This is our first Christmas Eve without Sarah and the “normalcy” of expectations and traditions feel challenged, changed, and taken away. Although I may not always like it, after 40 plus years, I have finally learned (and in some ways am still learning) to “stand still and see His Glory”.
As you read the remainder of this Christmas Day blog and “Expectant Christmas Reflections” I hope you will be inspired to do the same.

For a weary, stranded traveler who exchanges a warm and festive meal around the table with loved ones, for bad weather, cancelled flights and the uncertainty of what tomorrow will hold…….hope was still born and the glory of the Lord revealed.
For the young mother who struggles to comfort the fevered brow of her child, instead of decorating, caroling and baking…….hope was still born and the glory of the Lord revealed.
Unfortunate circumstances give way to broken homes and broken hearts. Any hopes of happy and joyful Christmas times will have to be put off until next year or the next….but even in that, hope is still born and the glory of the Lord revealed.
The missionary family who embraces the “unplanned”, because there is no other choice (or electricity), exchanges fresh made enchiladas and swimming, for a rainy day and dinner out…hope is still born and the glory of the Lord revealed.
Mary and Joseph resort to a Bethlehem stable because there is no room at the inn…. HOPE IS BORN AND THE GLORY OF THE LORD IS REVEALED!! 

I’m sure there are countless other “real life” scenarios we could add to this list. But let me 

we had fun recreating the picture above….in 2016
ask you, what does Christmas look like this year compared to what you expected it to look like?  Maybe everything went perfectly and as planned, but maybe it didn’t.  

We have 17 more days before we see Sarah face to face. (Thankfully, this year, in 2016, we’ll all be together Christmas Day).   And, although we wait with great expectation, our hearts are learning to take great comfort in the unexpected, in the different, and in the HAND-PICKED, HAND-DESIGNED expectations of the Father (Just like that very first Christmas Night)!
Then and only then, is hope born and HIS glory revealed.
Merry Christmas! 
Crystal

The Gift Of A Good Neighbor, And A Christmas Cup Of Tea.


As we packed the last of our belongings into the moving truck and pulled away, my heart flooded with so many wonderful memories of that great place, the neighborhood where we raised our family.  It would be easy to spend hours talking about all the wonderful memories made and times shared.    So very much goes into making a place great!  For me, the most important, is the people, the vibe of community that is shared, expressions of love and kindness and pulling together no matter what is going on.   For as long as I can remember, my life has been enriched by the gift of a good neighbor.  
Driving away  was like closing a chapter.  But, for every chapter we close, there is another to be opened.  How will I open it,  how will I write it, what sort of people and treasures would my new neighborhood hold?  

Me and my next door neighbor, Carol

    Six years have come and gone now and we’ve done life next door to each other.  Summertime walks, vases of flowers, a crockpot of soup after surgery, shoveling snow, a morning wave, late night visits, a genuine interest and care in every detail of life….graduations, weddings, sickness, health, jobs, joys, crisis, and lots of notes of encouragement just because.


Christmas is my favorite time of all, because no matter what is going on, no matter how busy or full our lives become, we ALWAYS manage to call a time out, share a Sunday afternoon cup of Christmas Tea, and give thanks for the simple pleasures, which really are the best gifts of all.   




                               

Genuine love revealed in both giving and receiving, through flesh and blood, kinduv like I believe it did on that first Christmas.  

                   CRYSTAL

Tapestries, Thankfulness and Twenty Thirteen

There is something about the turn of the calendar page from December to January that spurs great reflection, more so than any other time.    2012 left me with a tangible list of 1000 gifts of thankfulness.   When I started this journey 365 days ago, I had no idea what an incredible birds eye view it would give to me in that time of reflection.  
Being able to step back and see the beauty adds such value, such purpose, not just in the successes and moments of celebration, but also in the pain of mistakes and regret along the way.  
I like to think of it as my tapestry of thankfulness in all things!
Sometimes in the day to day weaving, it’s hard to see anything other than a jumbled fray of knots and random tangles.   The big picture is sometimes difficult to see.  It’s not until you look from afar that you begin to see each color and texture and pattern has amazing purpose.  
“No thread of experience good or bad…….is wasted.”
#994. Kind-hearted people and good customer service. 
#995. Christmas traditions, bringing us together. 
#996. God’s WORD, affirming me, reminding me, guiding me. 

#997. Memories of you….sister.
#998. The gray of winter outside my bedroom window—-it makes the colors of spring that much more beautiful.
#999. Life…..coming full circle.  So profound!
#1000. The stroke of the clock at midnight, brings with it, a new year, a clean slate and endless possibilities.   

Here’s to 2013 and all the moments of thankfulness that will be woven together, by His grace and for His purposes!

CRYSTAL