Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Intentional Tradition

What can I say? I love traditions.  (I should have been Jewish.)  I adore meaningful ceremonies and deliberate, annual remembrances.

The Christmas season is especially ripe for tradition.

For example, growing up in the Reed home, we pulled out Harry Belefonte's Christmas album immediately after Thanksgiving.

Christmas Eve dinner was oyster stew for the family (YUCK!) and Campbell's Chunky Sirloin Burger for the picky redhead (that would be me).

 "That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown." The Word from Linus every year....

One present could be opened on Christmas Eve.  Only one.

Almond crescent cookies dusted with powdered sugar.

Homemade bon bons.

Fudge by Mary (I had the "fudge touch").

We usually had an orange in our stocking.  (Whose idea was THAT?!)

Marriage was an eye-opener for this North-meets-South couple when our Christmas traditions butted heads.

I mean, really, how could anyone find the Charlie Daniels Band superior to Harry Belefonte?  Every time Mike played "Christmastime Down South" I envisioned goats in the front yard and a washing machine on the front porch.  (Time for our Christmas moonshine, Gertie!)

Forgive me, I hadn't yet lived in the South....

Needless to say, Christmas really tested our marital negotiation skills.

Over the course of our 19 years together, we've come up with our own set of "traditions."

Some were continuations of favorite childhood traditions:

A birthday cake for Jesus.

One present on Christmas Eve--now it's pajamas

Christmas Eve reading from Luke Chapter 2.

Some traditions were retired 
(oyster stew and oranges)

Some just sort of evolved. 

All the cousins sleeping over on Thanksgiving night.  Then they all decorate the our house for Christmas the next day. (Free labor!)

Everyone gets socks and underwear as a gift--(Whose idea was THAT?!.... Oh, I think I get it now, Mother!)

"Elf" and eggnog.  It's not really Christmas until you have watched "Elf."

My crazy husband getting up just before dawn, climbing up on the roof and trying (rather unsuccessfully) to create the effect of the "prancing and pawing of each tiny hoof."

Ahhh, tradition.

However, it has occurred to me this season that most of our traditions are, in fact, accidental.

Don't get me wrong: each accidental tradition became an annual event because of a humorous or sentimental moment that made it special.

Special, but not so Biblical, I'm noticing.

This fact is particularly troubling because of the age of my children.  With two in high school--one about to graduate-- I am painfully aware that my days of creating meaningful traditions are dwindling.

I still want Christmas to be a time of laughter, love and enjoyment--laughter is a big part of what being an Odell is all about!

However, in our laughter I don't want to lose sight of the wonder.  I want some intentional traditions that focus us on the incomprehensible marvel that God became flesh and dwelt among us.

For this year, and as many years as I have left, I want to focus on doing what I can to have Christmas be a time of awe, a time of reflection, a time of considering the love the Father has for me.

If I am intentional, that means choosing deliberately.  This year we are reading through Ann Voskamp's Jesse Tree Devotion to bring our minds daily to the wonder of Christ's coming.

It also means intentionally choosing to say no to some things that are good, but would create rush or stress.  We can't go to every party, and we can't buy every present.

And that's okay.

 "But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." Luke 2:19 


444. Friends coming together to bring joy to the end of a bad day.

445. Celebrating life by celebrating birthdays. If God gave you life, you are here for a reason!

446.  A chance to be the giver!

447.  Brother Bear's enthusiasm after a film club meeting.  Lord, help me listen with equal enthusiasm as he shares.

448. Sparkly shoes for a sparkly friend.

449.  Siblings who enjoy hanging out together.

450. Advent readings.

451. The coming of the Christ child.

452. Another three weeks to enjoy someone we love.

453. "Go Fish" French lessons.  (As-tu des trois?  Non, vas pecher...)

454. Causes worth fighting for.

455. Pioneers willing to pave the way for others.

456. Like-minded friends.

457. Cousins who are my friends.

458. Excellent role models throughout my life.

459. Past students who want me to teach them again.  Ahhh.

460. White faced heifer joining the steer brigade around the field.

461. My son's man-giggle as he watches Lilo and Stitch in French.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Holy Fire

One of the highlights of a winter trip to Montana a few years ago was a snow coach tour through Yellowstone Park. On the trip we passed through a vast area that had been consumed by fire in the late 1980's. Tall, charred skeletons of trees still remained to echo the devastation of the fire. However, in the twenty years since the fire, a new forest had grown, full of gorgeous pines that were vibrant, green and alive even in the frigid winter.

When I remarked on the contrast, our guide explained that nearly 20 million acres had been burned in the fire because it was allowed to burn unhindered. Apparently, the policy of the Forest Service is that they do not intervene with fires that are due to natural causes unless they threaten humans.

In the case of Yellowstone Park, the seeds of majestic evergreens are locked inside very dense, tightly closed pine cones. The cones fall to the ground, but the only way for the seeds to be released is for the cone to be subjected to extremely high heat.

 Like a forest fire. 

 It turns out, the forest actually needs fire if it is to reproduce and grow.


As I listened to his explanation, it occurred to me that this natural phenomenon reflects a spiritual one. So often, we see “fires” in our lives as solely destructive forces—things to be avoided at all costs. If a fire starts, we feel it MUST be extinguished, and we invest tremendous effort in stopping it.

A child with special needs, cancer, the loss of income, the loss of a loved one....all are fires that can engulf us. In our limited view we cannot see what could be good about the trial; we cannot see why a loving God would allow an uncontrolled fire to ravage us.

But just maybe God allows the fire so we can grow.

Perhaps, like the pine trees, the seeds of our growth are locked tightly away, unable to be released unless intense heat forces our hearts to open and release that which we cling to.

 In my mind, I picture those seeds as the things in my heart that I cherish more than my God. I clutch them, protect them, think I can't live without them. 

Others are dreams that God has placed in me, but out of fear or insecurity I hold them in. However, they are not doing me or anyone else any good locked away in that pinecone. 

 Yet when the heat of trials cause (or force) me to release them, lo and behold, the result is something marvelous and alive.

My Savior is infinitely creative and wild. Yet even in what seems wild and chaotic to my feeble understanding, there is order, divine purpose, and rebirth.

He can even even bring growth out of the devastation that results from the “man made” fires caused by my sin or someone else's. 

I pray that God will grant me the courage and wisdom to recognize holy fire in my life. I pray that I will trust His goodness enough to resist the urge to put out fires that will ultimately result in beautiful new growth for me or others. Oh, I pray that He when He allows fires, He would accomplish His purpose in them and make me and those around me “oaks of righteousness.”   


430. Philipians 2:13 For God is working in [me], giving [me] the DESIRE and POWER to do what pleases Him.

431. Worship with my church family. We are not perfect, but we are family.  Lord, help us grow into Your likeness!

432.  Sunday afternoon naps.

433. Working cows all together.  (Okay, so my primary job is as photographer....)

434. Caleb witnessing his first castration: "HEY!  What's the big idea?!"

435. Retirement for Kimberly, the first calf born on this farm, now 20+ years old.

436. Barn spider catching a fly without a net!  Gross and fascinating at the same time.

437. Peanut butter "lollipops" in the BBQ house with Caleb.

438. Dinner around the table after an active day.

439.  Cowboy doing research on more ways for El Torro to share the love and produce income.  Well, then.

440.  Early to bed, early to rise!

441. Overcast morning--the promise of cooler temperatures to come.

442. Surprise from friends: Dried Mangoes from the Phillipines.

443. Tenth grade girls working out a passage of Scripture

444. Rain!!!!

Monday, November 28, 2011


415. Walking across the pasture after dark, startling the sandhill cranes roosted in the marsh.  Everyone jumps!

416. Pink morning sky--rain maybe?

417. Montana waltzing into the house like she owns the place.

418. Crockpots.

420. Cows bellowing for breakfast.

421.Surprise visitor at the back door--a horse!

422. Brother bear in his beekeeper hat.

423. Thanksgiving dinner with family. Who are these big people at the "kids" table?

424. Towhead toddler (and several adults!) belly laughing at the tooting cat on the ipad.

425. Sweet little voice in the morning, "Good morning, Reed!"

426. Homemade trellises for my sugar peas.

427. The official start to the Christmas season-decorations and ELF!

428. Tiny tree frog who snuck in and is resting on my marble table.

429. Cool breeze through the window

Saturday, November 26, 2011


401. Cupcakes by Sage!  Yum!

402. Christmas hat on Juan Ciervo

403. Zuppa Toscana

404. Friendly checker at Target who informed me that the clementines I'm purchasing are good for gas.  (Good to know!)

405. Physical work when my brain is tired.

406. Autumn sunsets.

407. Dogs chasing chickens around the back yard.

408. The Lone Broccoli

409. Black eyelashes--Thanks Pilar!

410. Slow-paced mornings.

411. Happy Girl and Clive sitting in the pasture.

412. Little lizard eyeing me outside my window.

413. Lessons learned the hard way by Montana--avoid beehives.

414. Coffee around a bonfire, getting to know our neighbors.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

And It's Not Even Father's Day!

"For years I 'got' God's love in my head, checked the right answer on the 'what is God like' test, but didn't fully understand it with my heart.....The reasons we don't receive, trust, or see His love vary from one person to the next, but we all miss out because of it.  For me it had much to do with my relationship with my own father.....Don't get me wrong, not everything about my dad was bad....But I can't sugarcoat how my relationship with him negatively affected my view of God for many years."  Francis Chan in Crazy Love  

Like it or not, our most lasting and ingrained ideas about what God's love is like come from our earthly fathers.

In contrast to Francis Chan's experience, I think I "got" God's love in my heart before I ever made sense of it in my head.

Like Francis, it had much to do with my relationship with my dad.

I can't even begin to tell you how I love this man.  Suffice it to say that my dream as a parent is for my own children to love me as much as I have loved my parents.

The only men who share my heart with my dad are my husband and my son.

But he had it first.

He's had it the longest.

Even though he is not perfect, I would be hard pressed to find a better earthly example of what God's love is like.

Unlike many parents today, my father was first and foremost an authority in my life. He interacted with me, enjoyed me, played with me and shared my life, and he was FUN--but he never pretended to be my buddy.  Not only did I not talk back to him, it would not even have crossed my mind to talk back to him.

I most certainly feared my father's anger.

That fear, however, was not because my father's anger was harsh or unloving.  I can count on one hand (maybe even half a hand) the number of spankings I received in my childhood.  And when I consider what I did to deserve those spankings---I think he should have spanked me harder!

No, the reason I feared my father's anger was because I adored him and I couldn't bear his displeasure.

He was authoritative enough that I felt safe under his leadership, but a large part of his authority was earned not through position but through relationship. I knew he knew me.  I knew I was special to him and I trusted his boundaries because I knew his reasons behind them.  (Usually they were to protect me.)

Even after I was grown and left home as a single young woman, I felt safe no matter how far away I was, because I knew he was there the help me if I had difficulty.

I think I also feared his disappointment because I so desperately desired his approval.  He demonstrated (still does) unusual honor and integrity.  Because his own moral stature was so high, his approval meant something.  His integrity was important because I knew he could be trusted to take care of me.

With that kind of experience growing up, it's remarkable to me that I can have so many times of not trusting my Heavenly Father.  My dad is good, but he's not God.  If he is faithful, trustworthy and constant, how much more is God Almighty?

If I am brutally honest, I have to admit that the root of my hesitancy to trust, the core of my tendency to disobey, is just plain selfishness.

You must not get the idea that I was a model child.  Partly because I feared my father's anger and desired his approval, I had a tendency to lie and sneak behind his back.  Somehow my immature mind thought that if I didn't get caught, then it wasn't bad.  I desired his approval and relationship--but sometimes not more than I desired my own way.  I knew the  reasons for his rules, and I knew they were "good for me." They just got in my way at times.

How little I've grown!  I know that God is perfect, that His plans are good.  It's not that I don't trust His power or His purpose.  If I'm honest, I have to admit that my resistance to trust lies in the fact that I don't trust Him to give me what I want--that His way will make me happy.

Oh, God have mercy on me.

He has shown me repeatedly that His way is not only best, it is deeply fulfilling and rewarding--enjoyable even!  He as given me tastes of how satisfying He is even in times of brokenness and devastation.

I forget that, just like my father, all God really wants from me is an honest, loving relationship.  I can't have that if I don't trust Him.

Lord, help me to trust.

Monday, November 21, 2011


381. The release of writing.

382. Six-foot-five "Huckleberry Finn," complete with overalls and straw hat.

383. Quiet but industrious day at home.

384. The camaraderie of a small class.

385. Full cupboards (a rare thing, according to my children.)

386. Order--even if only until the kids come home.

387. Christmas visit?

388. Sixteen years of Happy Girl.

389. Beautiful cool day.

390. All laundry complete (for a minute).

391. Doing things that intimidate me.

392. Clearly answered prayers.

393. Beautiful words from women to show my girl how others see her.

394. Teamwork!  Mall traffic on Saturday night.

395. A teacher who will leave a legacy through the lives he touched.

396. A miracle last week to bolster me for a great sorrow this week.

397. Cilantro plants!

398. Enthusiastic teenage Bible teachers.

399. Generous people who team up to help those in need.

400. Much deserved favor for my husband.


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