Sunday, November 30, 2014

With Anticipation--The First Light of Advent

"...But the great thing to remember is that, though our feelings come and go, His love for us does not. It is not wearied by our sins, or our indifference; and, therefore, it is quite relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of those sins, at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him." 
~ C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

 O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Giving Thanks--for the Hymns of Old...

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Great is thy faithfulness, O God my father,
There is no shadow of turning with thee:
Thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not;
As thou hast been thou for ever wilt be.

"Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness!"
Morning by morning new mercies I see:
All I have needed thy hand hath provided—
"Great is thy faithfulness," Lord unto me!

Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside.

--Thomas Chisholm (1925)

"Join with all nature in manifold witness..."

Thursday, November 20, 2014

What's In Your Shoebox?

It's a tradition--scenes from Union University's Packing Party

We started packing shoeboxes when “He-who-is-now-taller-than-I” could fit his chunky-monkey baby legs through the slots in the front seat of the grocery cart, likely with one of those hypoallergenic seat covers.  We would fill our box with necessities--toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, and such.  Maybe some nifty socks or a hat.  Of course, you had to have a coloring book, crayons, and some candy.  Oh, and those Little Debbie Swiss Cake rolls.  Oh, stink, they will melt in transit.  Hmm...

Eager participation in this far-reaching ministry was a no-brainer for me.  Precious kids in need. Sharing the Gospel.  Beautiful faces.  Full of joy.  No matter what.  Count me in.  My boys can attest to the fact that while I rail about the lack of anticipation (Hello, that’s what Advent means!) as we rush headlong into Christmas from Halloween, the only permissible mention of Christmas before December 1 is Operation Christmas Child.  Period.  

Operation Christmas Child (OCC), better known as “The Shoebox Ministry”, was birthed in Australia in 1990.  Adopted in 1993 by Samaritan’s Purse (an international relief organization headed by Franklin Graham), the original recipients of gift-filled shoeboxes were Bosnian children whose families had been separated or destroyed by war.  Twenty years later, over 113 million shoeboxes have been distributed to underprivileged children in more than 150 countries.  Countless stories have been told about how these boxes, packed with love, prayer, and washcloths, have crossed international boundaries that have been closed to traditional missionaries for years.  Pack-n-Pray.

How does this work?  You, the packer, gets to choose whether you want to pack a box for a boy or girl--and then, you choose the age range:  0-4, 5-9, or 10-14.  Given that I am overpowered by testosterone by a 3:1 ratio in my house and rarely come across anything purposefully pink, I always pack a box for a little girl.  The boxes are filled with school supplies, toiletries (bar soap, bath scrubbies, and the like) and accessories--a new t-shirt, a pair of sneakers, or a pair of flip-flops may await the recipient.  Small games, books, yo-yos, balls, or action figures (no war-based items, please) are other great ideas.  Coloring books and crayons are a thrill for all ages--I mean it!  And, because you feel all responsible and hygienic by providing a toothbrush and paste, hard candy is always welcome.  Hooray for Tootsie Pops, we say!

There is so much more that could be said and as you all know, I am rarely at a loss for words. But, this time, I will let the pictures tell the rest of the story.   While I wipe away the happy tears. And eat my Swiss Cake Roll.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Party With A Purpose


Please plan to join us for our Fourth Annual Stella & Dot Trunk Show to support St. Jude Children's Research Hospital--and Team Belle.  This event is especially meaningful to me--and I do hope you will share a bit of your evening with us!

As many of you know, five years ago, Belle Mitchell, the youngest daughter of my long-time college friend, Kelley, was diagnosed with Choroid Plexus Carcinoma--brain cancer.  She and her family have been battling this disease since she was 2 1/2.  Because of places like St. Jude Children's Research Hospital that provide world-class health care and progressive treatment programs in a hope-filled environment--at absolutely no cost to the families, the Mitchells have been well-equipped to fight. 
Please help us support Belle--and hundreds of other precious cancer warriors--with this win-win event!  Do some holiday shopping for some special ladies in your life (or even treat yourself with a S&D happy!) and know that 100% of the net proceeds from the show go directly to St. Jude.  It's the gift that truly keeps on giving~ 

For those who may be out of town or simply have other commitments on Friday evening, have no fear, you can easily shop online!

Shop online for this "party with a purpose"
 here -

A Post-Script:  A heartfelt thanks to my dear friend, Kimberly Larsen (Stella & Dot--Star Stylist/Mentor/Trainer) for making this event possible!  

Friday, November 14, 2014

Hoops: There It Is

"He-who-is-now-taller-than-I" is playing hoops for a local, homeschool-friendly private school--and is coached by my favorite Philosopher.  Both are in their second year--as player and coach (for this program), respectively.  Simply put, the first season was a "character-building" year.  This season is looking a bit different than the last--the Knights have already beat teams who bested them by at least 20 points last year.  And, they have done this in "enemy territory", so to speak.  Middle-grades basketball in the rhinestone on the buckle of the Bible Belt is an experience.

First of all, I am learning more about West Tennessee geography.  Small towns like Hornsby, Toone, and Sharon are now fixed points on MapQuest.  In some cases, these out-of-the-way locales don't even merit a bold dot on a traditional map.  But, they love their basketball.  Boy howdy, do they ever!

The school is found in the midst of a quiet neighborhood, right around the corner from a family-owned grocery store or a Sonic.  Or, it might be in the middle of Nowhere.   Yes, there is a middle of Nowhere--and I have been there.  The marquee advertises tonight's game--and many come out just to take a shot at the half-time activities.  More on that later.

You can tell where the gym is by the number of vehicles parked in front of a nondescript, cinder block building.   And when you exit your car, you smell the popcorn.  And the hot dogs. The gym's interior glows, providing a night-light, to help you find your way.  There is an admission fee which supports the Booster Club.  Yes, elementary schools have booster clubs.  And, those manning the table are welcoming--but not too much so.  We are the opponents, after all.  They seem happy to take our money.  It's worth the four dollars.  Coaches and players are free.

There are cheerleaders--in cute little uniforms, complete with pom-poms and white sneakers.  And, spirit hands, of course.  The home team players enter the court to music--and the cheers of their fans.  Van Halen's "Jump" is this team's anthem.  The boys warm-up, the buzzer sounds, and our roster is cordially announced.  The home team roster is another story.  I feel like I'm listening to Ray Clay introducing the Chicago Bulls 1997 Dream Team! Lest I forget--there is the removal of hats, the placing of hands on the hearts, and the singing of the National Anthem.  Whether live or recorded, home-town patriots honor their flag and their country.  And, then, the tip-off.

The enthusiasm when a three-pointer is drained or a gorgeous steal that results in a textbook lay-up is unrivaled in these gyms.  (And, yes, I am now wearing my basketball mom hat which means I speak Hoop-ish.  It sounds cool, doesn't it? Like I really know what I'm talking about).   Home-grown fans are decked out in school colors, mascot-wear, and the like. And, the whole town is there.  The whole town. They chant, they shout, they take issue with the refs--unless, of course, the refs are home-town gentlemen.  Ahem.

And, then comes half-time.  The cheer squad performs for their Home audience--usually with their backs to those of us seated in the Visitor section.  Some are more "rhythmically-inclined" than others, more athletic, or simply more confident.  But, they all have spirit hands.  I adore spirit hands.  As a retired cheerleader, (my own high-school cheering career was cut heartbreakingly short by a knee injury, warming up before a JV game.  I still remember the cheer...), I feel I have earned the right to tease about such hands.  

And, then comes this school's half-time tradition:  one may attempt to make a free throw shot, from the half-court line, for $1 per toss.  If you make the shot, you win half the pot.  The rest goes to the Booster Club.  I have yet to see anyone make it--but there have been some mighty close calls.  

Say what you will about swanky athletic complexes, booster-funded workout facilities, and Whole Foods concession stands.   They attract athletes, coaches, and more moolah.  I like the feel of these middle of Nowhere gymnasiums that come alive when Johnny hits a free throw--or Katie makes her first basket of the season.  It's a small-town Tuesday night.

...That our flag was still there.  Photo Credit:  EP

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Hump-Day Hilarity--Courtesy of Taylor and the 80s

All I can say is...tubular.  Awesome.  As if.  Taylor Swift.  Aerobicise.  Gravity-defying hair.  Tights.  Oh my word, the tights.

Special Thanks to: