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The Good about the Bad

The sky hung weighty and pale. Backyard held a foggy hush, but inside the whole household glittered with candlelight and beamed with courage.

Christmas togetherness circled a long table laid with evergreen. The year had been mostly good, aside from an unwelcome medical diagnosis in the midst, and this could have disheartened the season.

But . . . joy and light and great news for all people.

In Psalm 112, the ones who fear the Lord are described as blessed and fearless. Light arises in the darkness for the upright, those who delight in His commandments (vv. 1,4).


For he will never be shaken;
The righteous will be remembered forever.

He will not fear evil tidings;
His heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
His heart is upheld, he will not fear . . . “

Psalm 112:6-8

The reason we’re not cowering in fear of more evil news, tonight or next year, is because:

“…The gospel makes genuinely good news out of every other aspect of my life, including my severest trials.” ― Milton Vincent, A Gospel Primer

Are you clothed in Christ’s righteousness? Be steadfast in heart, trusting the Lord; there’s nothing left to fear.

Think about the shepherds, faced with a reason for terror.

When the sky split, it wasn’t Christmas-pageant, Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy imagery. An angel army began shouting in the sky.

I, too, would have been stricken with fright. I think the shepherds anticipated evil reports, judgment, or end-of-the-world pronouncements. Perhaps their sheep scattered.

No wonder the angel declared “do not be afraid” first of all. Their presence necessitated it.

And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people. For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

The shepherds’ fear of bad tidings was overwhelmed by good news in a manger.

The shepherds had sinful souls destined for wrath, and so do we. It paints the bleak night stage, set for the desperately needed good news/great joy of Christ’s birth, His death, and His resurrection.

Still today we have no need to be afraid because the light arises in the darkness. Sinners are called to hear and know the gospel, which changes everything about everything. We are considered “the righteous” because Jesus bought us. Each medical diagnosis is about glory to God in the highest. And He leaves peace with us, but not the kind the world gives.

Nothing can truly shake the righteous one’s position before God. No terror of the night can steal the peace promised that surpasses all understanding.

It’s why my family doesn’t need to fear evil tidings but can rejoice in the knowledge of our eternal security, the goodness of God’s perfect plan, and the desire for gory to the Prince of Peace, come what may. This is the good about the bad.

My Childlike Taste in Books

“Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”

C. S. Lewis

My 2021 reading list may look like I got it mixed up with my youngest sister’s list. Because, once hooked, I never stopped reading fairy tale-ish adventures.

Books for the young are often the innocent entertainment, happy endings, and the clear sense of good and evil that we crave. Maybe it’s a way to return to the sweetness of childhood.

For another thing, don’t you love to absorb history through the eyes of children? Children’s historical fiction/nonfiction is more about the day-to-day burdens of growing up, rather than the complex ethical decisions behind the scenes. Children are often good at seeing the silver lining of the dark clouds, and they perceive the deepest details. Remember the first time you ventured out of country and how it engaged your five senses? This is how children observe their own cultures, with acute awareness of the sheer newness.

As I ponder the compilation of reasons for my childlike taste in books this past year, I hope you can relate to the love of wholesome literature!

A few of my favorite 2021 reads:

A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus

“Set against the backdrop of World War II, Anna, Edmund, and William are evacuated from London to live in the countryside, bouncing from home to home in search of a permanent family.” A friend gifted me this kindle book as a pleasant surprise. I absolutely loved reading every paragraph of this delightful novel. Don’t you love it when books reference books? The author gave the pages a touch of Narnia magic even though the genre is historical fiction. Such a satisfying ending, too. I bought this for my little sister’s birthday!

When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr

I enjoyed every chapter, because of the simplicity, beauty in word choice, and humor. As the family travels to escape the Nazis, we brush up against several different cultures. Another though-provoking WWII refugee book, this one is even partly autobiographical. I’m hoping to find and read the sequels. *UPDATE: I do NOT recommend the rest of the books in the Pink Rabbit trilogy. They’re not appropriate for children and not for me either!

The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

“The War that Saved My Life” is real and raw, allowing me to better understand children with traumatic childhoods. It isn’t as well written, in my opinion, as the first two I reviewed, and a bit slower paced, but still an enjoyable storyline and realistic characterization. Also set during WWII.

The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes

Wanda is a Polish girl and her classmates make fun of her for her differences. She takes solace in her “100 dresses” and in kindness. This is a brief read.

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien

What if a few lab rats escaped their cages and made their own civilization with their newfound knowledge? An interesting, quick read about the secret lives of mice and really smart rats.

A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter

By one of my favorite American authors, this story shares a young woman’s (Elnora’s) journey to funding her own college through catching moths, mending her torn relationship with her mother, and doing what she believes is right at all costs. It’s set in Indiana’s Limberlost Swamp in the early 20th century.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

I recently found a lovely hardback copy of this story after listening to it in audiobook form (which is how I intake most of my books.) This story is just sweet, wholesome, transforming and humorous. Mary finds her health and character grow as she tends the secret garden. This story is gold.

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

“A Little Princess” is one of my favorite rags-to-riches stories! How the plot unfolds is just magically enchanting and oh so satisfying. A timeless must-read!

I also enjoyed reading Elizabeth Elliot, Corrie Ten Boom, and a couple vintage career-girl novels, but fell short of my goal of reading 30 books this year. Here’s to better reading success in 2022!

What are your favorite children’s chapter books? You know, in case I try to cram in the last few books to make my goal?

Or perhaps your favorite books for adults, but that still hold a wholesome wonder?

Unfiltered Christmas

The eagerness mounted last year as I watched people all over the world bring Christmas to their hearths in golden creams and woodsy sparkle. I couldn’t wait to capture all I had learned about decorating into my first Christmas in a new home.

After Thanksgiving, I sat amidst the Walmart bags and bubblewrap wrapped around my ornaments and nativity set. My collection of childhood ornaments and hand-me-down castaways stared at me, as my vision for coco-bombs and neutral threads met . . . . what I had to work with. How could I make any theme out of mismatched snowmen, a painting of a cardinal, and ornaments chipped from my childhood? My taste in style had changed with the trends, but my decor bin hadn’t.

The feeling of unmet expectation peaked when we pulled out our sparse four-foot tree. What perched cozy and perfect in our apartment, now the most Charlie Brown tree that ever Charlie Browned.

We stood it on a table to keep it from being swallowed in our new space. “It looks like it’s trying to be something it’s not,” my husband pointed out, and then we burst into long laughter. So I made the best of our Christmasy mess and enjoyed it all December.

But I made mental notes for next year.

First, truth be told, I found a much grander tree, and today I decked the thrifted 7.5-footer with strands of red beads. It fills the room with announcement of light and honor brought to our humble ornament-shaped memories.

Secondly, remembering my decorating despair of 2020, I’m choosing to admire the lovely Christmas-card moments on “the ‘Gram,” but also pray a guard of contentment for myself. May I rejoice in my gifts of my own home and my Savior.

Material beauty will never be enough. The best of earth will never meet the deepest longing of our brokenness. We long, like pining Bethlehem, for our Mighty God to do great things for us. And He has.

I see it in the shiny gold letters that spell out the names of Christ, draping our tree. Prince of Peace. Emmanuel. Savior. Mighty God. Wonderful Counselor.

I see it in my little elfish helper, who will fully enjoy his first Christmas if cardboard boxes and people are involved.

I see it in how our Charlie Brown tree from the apartment days (now gracing the back room) reminds me unmet expectations are a mercy because they can set our eyes on God’s wondrous light. Each seasonal disappointment, shattered ornament, or sickness gives another reason to joyfully worship a perfect God who meets all our true needs.

I wish you an unfiltered, real Christmas where real truths, like “veiled in flesh the Godhead see . . . born to give them second birth” are the brightest theme of this season.

“Christ, by highest heav’n adored,
  Christ, the everlasting Lord:
Late in time behold Him come,
  Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see,
  Hail th’ incarnate Deity!
Pleased as man with man to dwell,
  Jesus our Immanuel.

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
  Hail the Sun of righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
  Ris’n with healing in His wings:
Mild He lays His glory by,
  Born that man no more may die;
Born to raise the sons of earth;
  Born to give them second birth.”
“Hark the Harold Angels Sing,” Charles Wesley

In Need of Practice and Grace

“Discipline, Winifred, Discipline!”

This line from one of my favorite Disney movies reminds me why I write tonight. Not because a torch of inspiration guides me or a clear way to say something old in a new way strikes me. At least, nothing I can pull together before my laptop battery dies!

But I need to write to practice, to stretch, to explore, and I may end up deleting all of it. But just how one workout is better than none, I’m here for the out-of-breath-ness of arranging words.

I’ve savored some beautiful writings recently, and they tasted good. They intrigued me, caused me to ponder, and stirred the familiar ache to create my own. If you are a writer, keep up the good work. We’re enjoying the sweet, salty, hot, cold, gritty, fresh, spiced or sizzling nature of your work of words. Keep delivering truth with the sweet aroma of Christ.

I must take my own advice and pick up the pen, with priority and purpose.

Discipline, Winifred.

But also grace.

If you could bundle the enchantment of Christmas, the scent of an oven warming Thanksgiving rolls, the adrenaline of a mountaintop view of jeweled lakes, the gift of a gold-pink massive sunset, a baby’s grin when he tastes carrots for his first food ever — we’d only glimpse the chasm of joy available when we begin to grasp the deepness of God’s grace.

“For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:15

No longer slaves to sin, no longer attempting performance, but as adopted heirs in God’s family, we know mercies galore. Answered prayers, endless love, light piercing darkness, eternal life.

I hope our Father receives an abound-ment of thanks in this season we’re entering. He deserves it all. My weak thanks will join a chorus of the many people who have received grace upon grace. All for His glory!

Thank YOU for following my blog as I practice, moving forward in the discipline of writing, but also in the resting enjoyment of grace.

I’d love to know — what are you thanking God for right now?

P.S. Thank you for the president

My little green prayer notebook wears a sticky syrup spot and bent cover to prove its usefulness over the last couple months. It’s not just my notebook, but my optimism for our beautiful country feels a bit worn also.

Like many of us, I’m unable to find any peace in the news or in the top leadership. A scan of cultural forecasts doesn’t bring a stillness of heart either. I’ve personally taken a break from intentionally following current events, and it’s refreshing. But there are other ways bad news slithers in. All of us have layers of personal burdens. We never lack reminders that our world groans, and we’re not home yet.

God has been showing me two areas where I’ve needed to cultivate my prayers to incorporate a new heart attitude.

Thanks for The Personal

First, it hit me when I was reciting Philippians 4 on repeat because I was trying to rid myself of anxiety about a family member’s unknown diagnosis.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

I lay awake one night, praying hard, making my requests known to God. Then I’d try to think about something pure and lovely to trap my mind into drifting to sleep. Finally dozing, the baby would wake me up, and the whole battle began at step one! The throbbing worry would edge away the peace. What was I missing in my determination to jump to the peace that surpasses and guards part of the promise (which would surely grant me the rest I needed)?

I kept neglecting to add thanksgiving to my supplication as Paul included in his instruction.

You can see this in his letter to Timothy, too — this attitude of gratefulness without complaining or fear.

 “I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did, as I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day.”

2 Timothy 1:3

Even Paul stood the late hours praying (and thanking!) the Lord.

Can it be said of me that I enter the courts with thanksgiving, even when it’s past my bedtime, and I’d rather be dreaming? Is my habit to recognize God’s riches at Christ’s expense — even in difficult waiting times? Anxiety does not have the same hold when I’m focusing on all the personal grace God has given me, including the peace He makes accessible.

My friend Lisa recently wrote something similar in her article as she was pondering this same topic of peace:

“To acknowledge His goodness in even unknowns, call for the promise of God’s peace which surpasses all comprehension. It’s what guarded my heart and mind. Praise God for the means to praise and thank Him even in troubling times…When I came to understand God to be the God of compassion and comfort, when I realized I approached him without a willingness to be consoled, and when I saw my error of withholding gratitude as I presented my concerns—that’s when I began to see my anxiety melt away.”

Lisa Dean

There are always, always traces of God’s lovingkindness even in our worst nightmares. Can we find the grace in the present moments and the past? Even if you have to squint to see, God’s mercies truly are new and clear.

Thanks for The President

Now, secondly, I found myself fretting about my country and the world at large, unprepared to apply this prayerful thankfulness to a havoc of headlines marching closer and closer to home. But there it was, catching me off-guard in I Timothy 2:2-4.

“First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

Thanksgiving on behalf of all men, all administrations? This counter-intuitive practice of giving thanks even for leaders who call evil good and good evil compels me to acknowledge and thank God for His sovereignty. It’s the only way giving thanks in this context makes sense. He’s never surprised, and His care for His people weaves through all of ongoing history, including current events.

This counter-intuitive practice of giving thanks even for leaders who call evil good and good evil compels me to acknowledge and thank God for His sovereignty.

Without a thankful heart, we can’t live a quiet, tranquil, godly life. We’d be too busy fretting about evildoers to commit our way to Him.

I’m working on praying without fretting, without wrath, and dissension (I Tim 2:8). Committing all things to the Lord in awareness of His power and provision. Trying to not just add thanksgiving as a flourished postscript, an afterthought, to my prayers, but to build a heart of humility and thanksgiving as I talk to my Hope.

It’s awkward at first. “Frustrate the plans of the wicked, Lord. Oh yeah, and Lord, thank you for our leaders.” But I can see how slowly a mind shift unfolds, one that results in deeper trust in the One who does all things well. Just by the simple act of saying “thank you,” I’m growing more grateful that He intentionally gives us our leaders and desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. It’s good and acceptable to both petition and thank God for all who are in authority, fully remembering He placed them there with purpose.

Let us devote ourselves to making supplications with thanksgiving (Col. 4:2). Prayer is better than worrying. Worn knees and worn prayer notebooks are better than self sufficiency. Peace is better than optimism and good circumstances. Learning to trust God in the dark hours is better than blissful sleep. Steadfastness of mind is better than quickly forgetting. Knowing who He is will allow us to obey and give thanks, and He promises to guard us with perfect peace.

“The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, Because he trusts in You.”

Isaiah 26:3

Photo by Andres Herrera