... Even the worst heartaches can become heartstrings to God's hope, comfort, encouragement, joy, peace and love...

Welcome! As a fan of the cartoon character Maxine, I enjoy her witty remarks. But when I
read my blogs & other writing to her, she's not very responsive- even when I'm wearing my bunny slippers like hers! She just doesn't get it!
Although she's funnier than I am, I do pray that this site will bring encouragement to your day! I'd love to hear from you! Unlike Maxine, you can leave me a message via the Comments. Shalom, Connie


Sunday, December 25, 2016

May the power of the Christmas story overwhelm you in a new way this year.

with child

a gasp, a cry
an exhausted mother's sigh
a father's teardrops
a heavenly umbilical cord cut and tied

a sweet aroma of fresh hay
a tiny gurgle as rosebud lips find milk
a whispered prayer
a naming as God commanded

a squeak of rafters as birds and mice gather
a gentle breeze to fan the fire
a clip and clop of a donkey's feet
a quiet baa-aa and a gentle moo

a ray of starlight
a flutter of angel wings
a silence
a moment realizing God's sacrifice- His only Son

a yip of a sheepdog on the hillside
an owl's hoot as he hunts
a rowdy laugh from the inn
a braying camel on the dusty road

a mother and babe sleep
a father watches
an angel guards
a world waits

                               ~ Constance Gilbert


Growing up our family Christmas traditions included opening one package on Christmas Eve. We always knew what that pretty box held. Our new Christmas PJs! A necessary component for our Christmas morning photos.

As you can see my fleecy, cuddly new Christmas PJs are waiting for Saturday night. When I'll be listening, as I have for over 70 years, for sleigh bells and reindeer on the roof.

Not likely, I know. I live in a first (of three) floor apartment. But I'll not extinguish that child in me. 

AirFlight flies over frequently. Do you think Santa might stop by via helicopter this year?

Actually, many of my childhood Christmas memories are not happy ones. So I determined to create good ones and did! 

As Long as There Is Christmas

The first few lights glow brightly, as you watch the season start.
You know you should be happy, but don't feel it in your heart.

Instead, you think about a time when someone laughed with you
and the love you shared then filled your soul. But too soon, 
it was through.

So Christmas comes with sadness, and a yearning deep inside,
a thirst for love and peace and hope that will not be denied.
Late one night you hear a voice, so soft and without blame...
then you realize He's calling your name.
"I know your hurt and loneliness, the heartache that you bear,
I listen and I cry with you through every single prayer.

"I promised in the manger and fulfilled it on the cross.
I built a home that's filled with love for all those who are lost.
"So let me come and heal your heart and give you rest within.
For my way is kind and gentle and will bring you joy again."
His words still echo through the years, a vow that He made true
"As long as there's a Christmas, I will be in love with you."

By Jack Zavada (with permission to use)


Friday, December 23, 2016

Twas the Day Before... the Day Before


~ ~ ~

Wind-Up Needed?

Be still... take a deep breath.

And remember...

Selah ~


Thursday, December 22, 2016

Book # 6: Around the World In 72 Days

What do Canton, torture and executions, lepers, temples, and Christmas have in common?

One Nellie Bly, a 25-year-old New York investigative reporter, who left Hong Kong the evening of December 24th for Canton.

The things she saw there did not include goodwill to all men.She had to set aside her holiday merriment for empathy and sympathy as she saw the horrors the poor chinamen endured.

Only one thing was shared that day. Curiosity. She in them and them in her, a single white woman traveling alone.

Little did they know she was on her 61st day of traveling around the world.

Jules Verne's new book Around the World in 80 Days was the source of her challenge to her editor. "I can do it in 75 days." She does... in 72 days, 6 hours and 11 minutes! 

This is her story. One I recommend for women from 10 to 100 years old. Like the people along her travels, I, too, am curious about this woman. So I went on an online search about her and women in 1889.

Women's Rights

"During the early history of the United States, a man virtually owned his wife and children as he did his material possessions. If a poor man chose to send his children to the poorhouse, the mother was legally defenseless to object. Some communities, however, modified the common law to allow women to act as lawyers in the courts, to sue for property, and to own property in their own names if their husbands agreed.

"Equity law, which developed in England, emphasized the principle of equal rights rather than tradition. Equity law had a liberalizing effect upon the legal rights of women in the United States. For instance, a woman could sue her husband. Mississippi in 1839, followed by New York in 1848 and Massachusetts in 1854, passed laws allowing married women to own property separate from their husbands. In divorce law, however, generally the divorced husband kept legal control of both children and property.

"In the 19th century, women began working outside their homes in large numbers, notably in textile mills and garment shops. In poorly ventilated, crowded rooms women (and children) worked for as long as 12 hours a day. Great Britain passed a ten-hour-day law for women and children in 1847, but in the United States it was not until the 1910s that the states began to pass legislation limiting working hours and improving working conditions of women and children."

~ http://www.wic.org/misc/history.htm

Women's Fashion
"Like most upper-class ladies in Chicago in the 1880s, Mrs. Allerton changed clothes several times a day. Victorian fashion magazines and etiquette books dictated that a proper lady wear different kinds of dresses for different events, and Mrs. Allerton and her peers all had afternoon reception dresses--which were different from both evening reception dresses and afternoon "walking" dresses, also worn for shopping or paying calls.

"The basic rules were that day dresses were more covered up, especially at the sleeves and neckline, than those for evening, and indoor dresses were more delicate than dresses designed for riding in carriages or walking. Dresses for the opera or the ball were the dressiest and barest of all. 'Once you see what the component parts are, you can sort of figure out how they got through the day.'"


Events of 1889 include:
  • Benjamin Harrison became the 23rd USA President.
  • The first issue of the Wall Street Journal was published.
  • The first jukebox was installed in a saloon. 5 cents to listen.
  • 4 territories joined the States of the Union: North and South Dakota, Montana and Washington as #42.

This was the world of Elizabeth Jane Cochran (1864-1922), who wrote under the pen name of Nellie Bly. She launched a new kind of investigative (often undercover) journalism. 

Any book that stimulates my thoughts, curiosity and/or enlightens me, gets a thumbs up from me.

See Book #5 for my review of her other book, 10 Days in a Mad-House.

Both are available through www.ichthuspublications.com.

Selah ~


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, a Tradition

I hope you've read Barbara Robinson's tiny book or seen the movie  The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.

The Denver Post wrote, "The book is outrageous, lively, funny and wonderful. The Christmas story takes on a strangely moving depth of meaning and shines through with a new brilliance."

As a retired Children's Choir Director, I could relate. Bathrobes, angel wings, arguments about who would be Mary are common in small church and Christian school's no budget Christmas programs. Fortunately, I never had to deal with six lying, stealing, cigar smoking Herdman kids.

Each year had it's challenges. Yet they had their blessings, too.

One year I named the most misbehaved child in our church to take the lead role. He had lots of lines to memorize and I had a special costume made for him. Everyone including his parents were upset. He was going to ruin everything!

This boy needed attention, approval and a challenge. He was very smart, and therefore, very bored. His behaviors resulted in negative attention and fostered more of the same. My challenge to him was coupled with the expectation that he wouldn't disappoint me. He played the part with no mistakes and no misbehaving. For a few minutes, he was in the limelight.

A few years later, my dream was being fulfilled: to have every age group involved in the musical. For a church of around 200, I managed nearly 100 playing a part in the pageant to a full sanctuary. But in the midst of organizing all this, 2 children begged to be included.

They came from a very poor home environment. So bad my Pastor would not allow me to visit them. Their grandmother brought them to Sunday School as often as she could convince their mother to let them go. They always arrived filthy, smelly, hitting, biting, screaming, fighting... and those were the good days. We worked with the grandmother. We bought a set of clothes for each boy. Grandma would pick them up on Saturday evening, give them a bath and feed them. After church, she removed the new clothes to wash for the next week. They returned home in the their dirty duds.

During this process, I was working with the youngest as his Sunday School teacher. The whole class burst into applause, the first time he shared a toy. We went to great lengths to award good behavior and over time it worked. He and his brother probably only received attention at home when they did something wrong.

But to have them standing for nearly an hour in front of the whole congregation? I sat with my choir and asked their assistance and understanding. Though reluctant at first, they agreed. We had a plan.

The plan isn't important. Neither is the fact that it was successful.

As I gave the downbeat to start, I saw someone slip into a pew at the last moment. It was their mother, who never had been inside a church nor had she seen her young sons dressed up and behaving well. She had the look of a bag lady-minus the bags, but had a radiant smile for her boys.

Children's musicals take lots of time and energy, but whether or not they remember their lines, they touch hearts no one else can reach.

Until I stopped driving, I attended a Christmas pageant every year. A tradition I miss, but it could be a new one for you!

Selah ~


Monday, December 12, 2016


Today I added a bit of Christmas atmosphere to my apartment. Each item triggers memories of special times and traditions. I’d like to share a few with you.

I display this figurine each December:    

I bought it after attending a Christmas Eve mass thanks to a personal invitation from Mr. and Mrs. Claus. At the appointed time, the Clauses (my friends, Ray and Ethel) came down the aisle to the delight of all the children (no age limit). The church was filled with the sound of jingle bells ringing as Mrs. Clause carried a large birthday cake for Jesus. Santa shook his sleigh bells and filled the sanctuary with his “Ho, ho, ho!”

They stood before the priest and he blessed their night’s journey. Santa turned toward us with his fingers to his lips. “Shhh-hhhh.” And all the bells stopped ringing.

In the silence full of anticipation, St. Nick reminded everyone that the giving of gifts began when God sent His only son to earth as a wee baby. Three little kings marched down the aisle with their “jeweled” boxes- birthday gifts for Jesus, as Santa reverently climbed the altar steps and knelt before the manger. The lights dimmed as we sang “Away In the Manger”. When the lights came up, Santa was gone. A spotlight was on the baby in the bed of hay.

No further words were needed. Father Fitz just nodded and the children with their families filed out singing Happy Birthday to Jesus.

The holiness of that moment has never left me. I relive it each December.

To further recapture that feeling, my preparation with anticipation or Advent devotions this year are from Michael Card’s Immanuel: Reflections on the Life of Christ  and The Faith of St. Nick  by Ann Nichols.

Nichols wrote, “If ever the life of a Christian reflects the Lord’s, it was the one we refer to as Saint Nick. It was his faith in Jesus Christ that enabled him to do the many deeds of mercy, charitable acts, and wonders that we, nearly 1700 years after he lived, are still familiar with.”  (See http://www.stnicholascenter.org.)

My traditions include listening- sometimes, singing along- to the complete Messiah. I sang it in the community Chorales for many years. I also was in the choir that presented the premier performance, directed by the writer, of “A Song… A Star... A Son.” Both masterpieces portray the announcement by the angel Gabriel to Mary through Christ’s resurrection. His birth is meaningless with the resurrection. Is there any wonder why the audience stands during the Hallelujah Chorus !  

While resting I watch Christmas movies and read Christmas mysteries.When Christmas Day arrives, I read Ken Gire’s “An Intimate Moment with Mary and Joseph” from Moments with the Savior. It never fails to touch my heart.

What do you do to set aside the busy-ness of the season and focus on the real reason we celebrate?

This year Hanukkah starts at sunset on Christmas Eve. It is a festival of hope. One that Jesus himself celebrated.*  I will also light the Christ candle on Christmas Eve as a reminder that God always supplies our needs and that we can diminish the darkness as a reflection of His light. We don’t need three spirits to visit us… just His love within us.

My family will join me to play the Dreidel game, even though I’m a terrible spinner. We'll recount the traditional story of winning a losing battle, a one-day supply of oil lasting eight days, and studying Scripture by “gambling.” A fun game for Jesus' birthday party.

Now back to my knitting, I've a few small gifts to finish. 

I'll post some more memories in the next post. May my thoughts draw you nearer to the Christ Child.

Selah ~ 




* Read John 10:22–23 and for more detail see http://www.whychristmas.com/customs/hanukkah.shtml.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Book #5: 10 Days in a Mad-House

As a nurse who has worked as a mental health case manager, I was drawn to the title, Ten Days in the Madhouse by Nellie Bly. However, as I read it, I was more interested in Nellie, herself. She was barely 20 years old and trying to work in a male dominated world. Her risky entrance into the poor, mentally ill world took pure guts, determination and tenacity.

Besides convincing an editor to support her, the first problem was how to have two physicians declare her insane. She had had no contact with anyone who was insane and didn't know what behaviors would be convincing. Nearly half of the book covers getting into Bellevue Hospital. The remaining portion is about those ten days and her multiple roles: acting insane, getting the ladies to talk with her and fearing that something could go wrong and she'd end up there forever. Conditions in the hospital would lead to insanity if someone wasn't already mentally ill. As bad as those ten days were, I know that worse things were part of mental hospital system throughout the USA. It wasn't until medications became available that positive changes occurred. The attendants were not nurses but in today's terms minimum-wage positions.

This is a quick, interesting read for women from various backgrounds. Nellie Bly (her pen name) became an undercover, investigative reporter and championed many unjust causes for the poor and for women. She changed our world.

I was so fascinated by Nellie that I searched through Google and found a 1981 TV program: Classics Illustrated ~ Adventures of Nellie Bly. In 2015, PBS presented a documentary on her.

Nellie was an important part of our country's history, why hadn't I ever heard of her? Have you?

By the way, how would you respond to Jules Verne's book Around the World in 80 Days? Nellie replied I could "go around the world in 75 days." That's the next book I'll review.

Selah ~


P.S. $1 million in 1889 is the equivalent to $24,785,600.85 today. Read this book and you'll understand.

Available at www.ichthuspublications.com.