Friday, November 30, 2012

December Eve-- Guarding the Sanctuary of the Season

Quiet and soft and slow...

That's how He came, that's how the song goes. 



And here I am, swept up in a flurry of winter zeal, printing printables and scheming schemes and signing on for every amazing Christmas idea there is out there. 

I want Christmas to be about Him. I want our home to be a place where understanding sparks in eyes, love kindles warm in hearts, and we cherish. Truth, each other, giving. Cherish each of those things. 


Slow down, self. 

That's me, coaching my inner-Christmas-zealot to quiet down and remember not to crowd out truth with tradition. 

My question is, how do I balance truth and tradition? These ideas are rooted in truth, but I fear "doing" too many will have me focusing on the "doing" and not on the truth. 

The answer is simple, I think. 

Quiet my heart before Him, seek what would honor Him most this year. 

I'm printing printables and scheming schemes, but now I'm tucking some away for future years. I'd rather choose just a few traditions and give them space to be meaningful... than try to do them all at once, and implement chaos instead of peace

Here are my favorites, the ones I want to bring into the rotation-- the rotation, not the avalanche

Quiet, soft, slow

  • I'd like to modify this Christmas list of activities someday, create our own stash of joy-moments.
  • I'd like to implement something like this, spending the first moments of Christmas morning giving things that are truly needed, far across the world, spending the month preparing for that giving. We love the catalog that Gospel for Asia has for this. 
  • Spend the month learning about the prophecies that Jesus fulfilled, using these neat cards.
  • Spend the month learning about the names of God, discovering how personally each facet has ministered to us, using this free guide
  • Spend the month re-visiting the stories that led to Jesus' birth, with a Jesse tree. Ann Voskamp has a free downloadable book that includes meaningful application activities for each story, one-a-day for the whole month. 
  • Two years ago, we began collecting Christmas story books to re-wrap each year for our little ones to unwrap each day throughout the month. We have silly books, Nativity books, a book about the story of Nicholas to help explain where the tradition of Santa and stockings came from... and a few just wonderful stories. It makes for sweet cozy-together-moments.  If you want to hear a few favorite titles, ask away in the comments-- but beware. Once you ask about books, you've unleashed a book-talkin'- fool who doesn't know when to pipe down. 
Our book basket

Can you imagine if I tried to implement all of those at once? I'm sure there are people who do, and who do it beautifully and effectively. But for me, it's overwhelming to even think about it. I'd rather pick just one or two each year to add to the few activities we do engage in yearly, and savor that facet of our Lord. Some will probably become yearly, some we'll re-visit every few years... but no matter what, I want this to be a sanctuary-season. A time of peace, full to the brim of joy and gratefulness for the life that's been given. 

What are your favorite ideas, traditions, memories for the Christmas season? 


Monday, November 12, 2012

Hope Chronicles Giveaway Winners!

First, I'm so excited to announce the winners of the Hope Chronicles giveaways:
 (Each winner will also be notified by e-mail.)


Regina Jennings's prize bundle winner: Wendy Newcomb 
Joanne Bischof's prize bundle winner: Karen K
Amanda Dykes's prize bundle winner: Elizabeth Jorgensen
Karen Barnett's prize bundle winner: Jenny 
Sarah Sundin's prize bundle winner: Becky Guinn

GRAND PRIZE Hope Chronicles Journal: Becky Guinn



And Second:

Truly, thank you. I can't tell you how very blessed I was by all of your stories, scriptures, and songs of hope that you took the time to share in our comments this week. You blessed us tremendously, and our hearts' desire for the Hope Chronicles (to encourage through true, lasting Hope) took flight. 

If you didn't get  a chance to read the comments, all of our Hope Chronicles posts are still up. There are some amazing things in those comments*. 

Thank you for travelling the Hope Chronicles journey with us!

~Amanda

*A list of the 5 Hope Chronicles posts can be found at the bottom of Georgianna's entry

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Hope Chronicles: Georgianna Wentworth



The Hope Chronicles is a blog hop and journal between 5 historical romance authors. Our desire is to bring you lasting hope through these letters, grounded in the hope of our Lord that does not disappoint, and written from the fictional viewpoints of each book’s heroine. We’re so glad to have you join the event. Each day this week, a new Hope Chronicles post will go live, complete with a journal entry and a new giveaway for that blog post.

To read more about the project and enter to win the one-of-a-kind, hand-inscribed Hope Chronicles journal, which bounced from state to state until all five of us had spent some time with it, click here.

To find your way to the other four blog posts and enter each of the five Hope Chronicles prize bundle giveaways, read on! We have a list for you at the bottom of this post.



Inspiration picture for character of Georgianna Wentworth. Image via IMDB

Georgianna Wentworth
Summer of 1903
Stonehaven Estate
Lake Tahoe, California




Letter Inspired by Upon the Waters
Book 1 in the Stonehaven Series
by Amanda Dykes

{Authentic Lake Tahoe/Mt. Tallac postcard from the early 1900's, included in the Hope Chronicles Journal.}


A trail winds from my cottage door through the aspens and pines, letting out here. I walk it sometimes to cast my eyes on the cross in the mountainside as seen here... to remember "from whence comes my help".  ~G.W.

Dear Papa,


Tonight the aching for you is strong, so strong. I wish I could talk to you. You’ll never read this, I know, but I must write this down because I will not forget. I mustn’t. I know you would understand, if you were here.

It was dusk. As the candles shone upon the waters of the lake, and those strains of music sounded from the boathouse, my heart wrung silent anguish from its depths.

I sat on the beach with the others, among them yet alone, casting my face into to the darkness so they wouldn’t see. How could I withstand this? I was an eye of havoc in the storm of sweeping peace. The beautiful simplicity of the moment wove through them all… enveloping them and cinching me out and away from its embrace.

When the moon was high and everyone began to wander back to the estate, I stood looking at the sterling light dancing a path across the expanse.

“Coming?” Mr. McDonnell said, hand stretched to show the way.

“Soon,” I replied.

He studied me for a moment, nodded, said  “I won’t be far,” and disappeared into the boathouse.
I retreated to the shore then. Lapping waves curled over my bare feet with frigid sand, sinking me further into the gritty earth with each pass.

All was still outside, but a battle raged within.  I grappled with my thoughts in the dark, wrangling pain into prayer. Finally, words threaded around the cry of my soul:

I want peace.

I’m going to break under this tempest.

Please, Lord…

No answer. Only the washing, again and again, over my ice-cold toes. Then finally… your voice.

Yours, Papa. Almost audible in my memory, from the days when I’d fall asleep tucked in the nook of your arm, ear pressed against you to hear that steady, safe rumbling of truth as you read to me each night from the Bible:

Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast…”

Oh, Papa. Those words… they should have comforted me. 

But they paralyzed me.  

It isn’t an anchor I want. Anchors mean storms, and I’m ready to drown in this one.

It is ravenous: tossing and bruising until I’m sure I’ll go under. Or strangle in the midnight tears when I awake to thoughts of Charlie, or hear his desperate cries. Or cave under the fear that hits me anew, all day, each day, pressing its weight at every turn: 

What if we are found out?
What if we are discovered here? 

No. If an anchor means a storm, then I’d rather not have one. I crave peace. I long for rest. I yearn to belong somewhere… and now, that will never be.

I stood there, gulping shards of forest air, desperate for hope, when the words overtook me again. “Hope… anchor for the soul…sure, steadfast.”

They swept my heart until I began to see-- I’m already in the storm. There’s no escape now.

But I could have an anchor. Sure and steadfast.

The stillness then was so sudden, so complete, that I actually spun from the lake to face the forest, see what creature had sent my attacking thoughts scattering to the winds.

No creature. Only the Savior, stepping out upon the breakers of my heart to bid them be still.

Four words imprinted on me in that moment:

He is our peace.

I wish peace meant things could go back to the way they were, meant that all of this—almost all of this--  would just vanish. 

But somewhere deep down, I am beginning to understand: Peace…it is Him. God’s presence. Not the absence of turmoil, but His presence and refuge even in the darkest of hours. Even in this storm.

So this is my hope, and I will dare to cling to it, to press on:

He is my anchor. He will be my peace.

I am daring to hope.

I am,
With love,
Your Georgie girl

“Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast…” Hebrews 6:19







Georgianna's Prize Bundle:

 Letter stamp and sealing wax

 Handmade "Hope as an Anchor for the Soul" rope-and-anchor bracelet


Floating candle and antique H and Anchor jar= 
"Hope as an Anchor for the Soul" lantern


Tahoe cookies, of course! 


 Handmade mini-journal, pages made from leftover Hope Chronicles journal blank pages


Tree branch pencils


Tahoe sand in a tiny jar, to remind you that our Lord's thoughts for you outnumber the grains of sand (Psalm 139)

 Georgianna's Prize Bundle


Scroll down and join the conversation in the comments? I'd love to chat with you there, or on Facebook or Twitter (#HopeChronicles).  
I have two questions to kick us off: one serious, and one just-for-fun. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Serious:
Hope is an amazing thing, so seemingly fragile yet so very, very strong. Can you share a story where God provided a lifeline of hope in the midst of a storm for you? Or perhaps you have a scripture or song you cling to to remind you of our Anchor.

Would you consider sharing these things in the comments below, and perhaps even spreading that hope further by sharing it somewhere else today, too (in person, on Twitter, on Facebook, in your own blog post... however the Lord leads)?


Just for fun:
If we were to come up with a storyline for just how in the world the Hope Chronicles journal made it through almost a century of travel, passing from one heroine to the next, what would it be? We got a glimpse of the journal's beginning in Rosa's entry on Monday, but the rest of the story is a giant question mark, just begging to be brainstormed over. So.... ideas?

Comment away, and thank you so very much for stopping by today!


Read about the heart behind the Hope Chronicles here.



To enter to win Georgianna's prize bundle, simply fill out the form below

To join in the Hope Chronicles conversation, scroll down and leave a commentCan't wait to connect with you there!                                                                                                                                                                  ~Amanda




~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We invite you to join us each weekday this week as we hop through cyberspace and history, gleaning hope from each heroine’s journey. Each post will go live on the date indicated below. To visit each post on or after its date, click on the author name in blue.

Monday, November 5th: Regina Jennings  (Heroine: Rosa Garner, Sixty Acres and a Bride)
Tuesday, November 6thJoanne Bischof  (Heroine: Lonnie Sawyer, Be Still My Soul)
Wednesday, November 7thAmanda Dykes (Heroine: Georgianna Wentworth, Upon the Waters)
Thursday, November 8thKaren Barnett (Heroine: Abby Fischer, Shaken)
Friday, November 9thSarah Sundin (Heroine: Mellie Blake, With Every Letter)


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~





*If the comment system isn't working for you, try opening this web page in a different browser. Internet Explorer sometimes has difficulty with the comment system. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Emily Was Wrong





“Hope is a thing with feathers,” Emily Dickinson said.

I think she was wrong.


Now before you decide I’m a complete Scrooge, let me explain.

I understand what Ms. Dickinson meant when she inscribed those words back in 1861. I’ve felt it—the fluttering, buoyant phenomenon that hope can bring. The flicker of light in the dark, the feeling that your heart might just take flight. Something that seems so fragile, yet soars with strength unseen.


And so yes, I do understand the comparison to a bird.

BUT, I think hope is much, much more. I think she was almost there. She even went on to speak about Hope’s strength in the midst of a storm

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird

Now these, the lesser-known lines of her famous poem, are the ones that speak of the hope I’ve come to know. A song that keeps singing in the storm, right when you need it most. And more than that? An anchor in the storm.

Hope is an anchor for the soul. Heavy, steadying, strong and steadfast.  It is God speaking out of the storm, offering refuge of truth.

Look at this line from the final chapters of Job:

“Then the Lord answered Job out of the Storm. He said…” Job 38:1

It goes on, page after page, with reminders of God’s strength, His wisdom, His love. Those are weighty things, aren’t they? Things that can anchor us in a storm, still us from our thrashing, cover us with refuge.Things that gave Job hope for joy that would come again.

Ah. Now that is hope. Hope that speaks of eternity, of the One who gave His life for me, of the One who will never leave my side in all the tempests of life. The One who will still my soul, lead me beside quiet waters, restore me, carry me, lead me.

Hope is a thing that at once anchors us and sets us to flying.


Next week, Georgianna Wentworth will commandeer this blog from a place that never was, in 1903. That is to say, my fictional character will pay us a visit. And in her words, my desire is to paint a picture of this hope…

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. Hebrews 6:19

Join me next Wednesday for a peek inside Georgianna’s heart as she grasps to take hold of this hope? It will be my entry in the 5-day Hope Chronicles blog hop, and I have a few surprises in store to give away as reminders of that beautiful, anchoring Hope.

For more details on the Hope Chronicles, click here.

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