A Walk With My Sister

Charlotte Walk with Sister

Upon the end of my spring break away from spring in the Midwest , I had a few precious hours with one of my younger sisters. These hours are few and I treasure the time we have together. I wish to have the same amount of time, no matter how short and brief time allows, with my other siblings. Space in distance and expense upon travel does not help to make our visits frequent and planning ahead will be imperative.

This particular walk with this younger sibling was refreshing. Our conversation revolved around becoming more like Jesus and less about ourselves. I heard her voice and she heard mine. We both want more of Jesus.

We walked through her neighborhood while conversing about life. I told her about my angst in starting over in our new home and she told me how God is filling her life with more of Him. This was so encouraging for me! I thrill to hear my sister tell me how she is loving Jesus more; how God has transformed her heart. This sharpens me. Her steady and consistent relationship with Jesus motivates me to have the same.

A walk with my sister

We walked and  talked about all sorts of things that may bring angst and uncertainty to both of us. We stopped along our walk to soak in the beauty of God’s creation. I am in awe of God’s grace. So very thankful for a walk with my sister to help me focus on an omniscient God.

Our ups and downs have no comparison to those who struggle with much more. I feel less in character when I compare our [my] struggles with someone else facing far more than me.

This walk with my sister has caused me to think beyond my sweet home front.


Two Ways You Can Become a Cheerful Person (“The Cheery Tree”)

Spring Time in Charlotte

This is why I love Charlotte in the Spring Time! Yoshino Cherry Tree (iPhone Photo)

When the sky remains gray, I am compelled to do what everyone else does to soak up the Vitamin D…leave for Spring Break!

Actually, I am not on a spring break. I’m on a “break-away-from-spring-weather” break, that is. The cold snowy gray kind of spring that the Midwest is known for. I longed for a change of temperature and wanted to see a different landscape plus I had become quite homesick for my family. I began to feel grumpy and tired; not fun to be around.

So I packed my bags and headed to the place I love the most. Home!  I love this place where the sun shines bright and the sky is the color of my granddaughter’s eyes. As I was pulling into our neighborhood,  there is no way this beautiful Yoshino Cherry Tree would go unnoticed!   I rolled down the car window and snapped the above photo with my iPhone. The sky was indeed as blue as it is in the photo.

I felt so happy to be home and had a lump in my throat pulling into the drive. Ah, the sweet pleasure of cheerfulness filled my being! So much so that I nicknamed that cherry tree, “The Cheery Tree” and I am more than grateful to gaze at it everyday from my kitchen window.

The next day after that first photo of a bright blue sky, the weather changed to windy cold, rainy and quite dreary. Exactly what I was wanting to get away from! Would I grumble and complain or choose to be cheerful?

Rainy Cheerfulness

The view of my “backyard”

The more I looked at that simple (and magnificent) cherry tree, while layering up with an overcoat and grabbing an umbrella, I began to consider what it means to be truly cheerful. It’s not totally wrapped up in a blue sky with cherry blossoms and warm weather any less than those cold, rainy gray days. All of those things are temporal.

Here are a two lessons I learned about cheerfulness from “The Cheery Tree”…

1. A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.

(Proverbs 17:22) It’s amazing how much joy and hope you can find when you look hard for it. Look for the “good medicine” all around you. And when you have tasted the sweetness of God’s grace in the beauty of His creation, praise His name for all that! Joy in the Lord is what being truly cheerful is all about. I also began praying for opportunities throughout the week to be a source of encouragement and good cheer for my family. Within a few hours of praying that prayer, I received a phone call from a family member needing urgent help. Helping them was just as much good medicine for me as it was for them. A broken spirit refreshed by a cheerful heart, even on a bad weather day.

2. Sing more. 

There is a short phrase from James 5:13 that I’ve been repeating over and over again. It goes like this: “Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.” The more I sing spiritual praise songs, the more cheerful I am. Being cheerful produces more cheerfulness. Like the “cheery tree” just keeps on giving  gorgeous blooms, my heart will overflow with overwhelming joy and praise to my Savior! There are two awesome stories in the Bible that are worth reading and thinking about. Both stories are full of adventure, warfare, and victory. I remembered reading in 2 Chronicles 20  about a choir  singing spiritual hymns on the front line of the battle field. Their voices of praise and songs of worship was so honoring to the Lord of Hosts that [His] enemy was thwarted and terribly confused. So much so that upon hearing the loud choir, they were easily defeated by the good guys on God’s side.

And there is another lesson I read in Acts 16 regarding Paul and Silas, who were stripped and beaten with rods and then put in stocks in the inner chamber of a prison. They had reached rock bottom. The lowest possible place. They did what any of us would do in that situation…pray and cry to God for help! As the night progressed, they began to sing. I imagine their voices were loud and possibly cracking from shivering in the cold. Their legs and arms tensing in pain from being locked in the stocks for hours, they chose to sing. I love reading how God came to their rescue and freed them from the enemy and saved many others in the process.

The Cheery Tree

“The Cheery Tree”

Yes, I am grateful for the “Cheery Tree” and the simple lessons God has revealed to me about my heart. This place I call “Home” is not really my home. Home is where ever we live and with friends in our community. Coming away for family time is sweet and brings much cheer and respite, but it’s not the cure-all for lasting joy…true cheerfulness. I’ll head back to the Midwest in a few days, ready to sing and be cheerful through the grayness while hoping for blue skies too!

Another Front Door to Home

Another Front Door Fall

The welcome mat, with faded hues of color from years of collecting sunshine and enduring the scuffing of shoes is there, in front of a threshold. Another front door to home. A new home. A wonderful home.

Whenever I think about “home,” I have a visual reminder of the many places we have lived and recall the hundreds of times we have opened the front door to our home to welcome new friends, first time guests, and family members that have traveled long distances to visit with us.

Home is here. This is where we are. wherever we live, we purposefully say the words, “This is home.”  It’s not a house where we live. We are home.

Do we miss the place where our family first began? Of course! Does my heart long to go back to that place where I feel most connected? Yes, I feel the tug.

But I don’t call the place that tugs on my heart as “home.” It is a place I visit.

Where I live now is home. This is the right place for us to find community.

Our home is filled with peace, love, security. A place to escape and retreat from the chaos of work and conflicts. Home is the place to meet Jesus. Home is a place to write memories and journal the adventures. This home is where God has us.

If only a welcome mat could talk!

I treasure home. I love thinking about the many times our front door has opened. I love experiencing a new community of friends and especially experiencing God’s love and His incredible plan for us to have another front door…to home!

Married and Still Friends


It was 40 years ago but I remember the moment as though it just took place. It was our Senior year in high school. He gave me a single rose. It was a Tropicana Rose and it was the most beautiful flower ever given to me. It’s the small things that I remember most fondly. That one rose communicated a sweetness that grabbed my heart. We were 17 years old. Young and clueless…


We have been married for 38 years and he recently gave me a bouquet of sweetness. That single rose is now a full bouquet that represents love, family,  hope, pain, triumph, compromise, joy, trials, sadness, trust, prosperity, debt…We know that marriage is a battlefield yet  too often we have ventured into the mine fields.

We are aware that God’s enemy want’s to derail us and destroy our relationship, our marriage and our family. We remain focused on giving God the glory in our marriage because we have been rescued by Jesus. Everyday we experience more grace.

 “Faith not only sees grace, it delights in grace. Faith is not only like a homing device and radar and metal detector that spots grace in an instant. It is also like an addiction. The more grace you see and taste, the more you must have. And when you get near it, you not only spot it, you savor it, you rejoice over it!”    ~John Piper

The best part of living together for this long is that we are still friends. We have always loved each other, but we have not always liked the other. Becoming a friend to a spouse takes years to develop. Neither one of us knew what “friendship in marriage” meant until we realized that we didn’t like each other very much. Not to be confused with loving the other…you can love without liking. We like each other because Jesus has captured our hearts. The love of Christ in our personal lives shows us how to love, to live…to be in friendship with each other.

We broke through the difficulty with learning what “healthy fighting” looks like. We are still learning how to have healthy fights, arguments, disagreeing…while respecting each other’s character and integrity. Too often we attacked each other instead of attacking the problem. Wounds cut deep, feelings hurt, and we began to avoid each other. We would avoid conflicts because it was too much work and effort to solve the problem. A healthy marriage will include healthy fighting.

Future Years

I will venture to say, based on our track record, that we will be together for many years to come and that Jesus will be the center of our existence. We will nurture the young couples that want to know our secret of longevity and we will just tell them more about God’s grace and Jesus. We will continue to teach our children and their children about the wondrous deeds of God. We have a heritage in Christ alone and that will be our legacy. Our children have a relationship with the Savior, Jesus Christ…and we pray that God will endlessly call our grandchildren to want nothing more than Jesus. We are praying that the lives of our little people will be overwhelmed with more grace.

Recommended Reading

The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller

What Did You Expect?: Redeeming the Realities of Marriage by Paul David Tripp

The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman













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A poem to remember December 12, 2012

12 balls of yarn tucked neatly in a basket

12 knitted mittens for precious little hands

12 little hands lifted up toward heaven

12 songs of praise shining brightly as the stars

12 young smiles giving aged hearts laughter

12 Christmas carols of joy and jubilee

                                                                                                                                             by Donna Harris


A grand and messy Advent Eve

Gosh, I was excited for Saturday to arrive! I had been anticipating the arrival of Advent for weeks and weeks! I couldn’t wait to place our Advent wreath on the dining room table and light our first candle. I couldn’t wait  to pick out a tree with my husband. We had set aside Saturday, Advent Eve, to do this. And it was going to be a great day preparing for Advent. Even pulling boxes and boxes of decorations out of basement storage and hauling them upstairs was going to be fun.   We went to sleep Friday night with happy hearts…

We woke up Saturday morning with the grumbles…well, that’s not completely accurate…I (not we) woke up with the worse case of grumbles.

I knew what was waiting for me in the basement. Those boxes and boxes and boxes of Christmas stuff.  You see, I’ve been collecting Christmas decorations to deck the walls and halls and bathrooms and children’s rooms and family room and kitchen and…there are a lot of boxes.

How many little Christmas trees with tiny lights does one family need? I counted 12.  (It is a nice number…Jesus had 12 disciples. I happen to have 12 trees.)

And the grumbling and irritation increased with preparing for the glorious start of Advent.

There packed neatly on the basement shelves, was a large box of gold ornaments. Gold ornaments of all sizes, shapes and design. There was a box of red ornaments…and ditto what I said about the gold ornaments. And a box of  blue and purple and silver and white. Plus beads and ribbon to drape gracefully around the tree. A variety of tree skirts, too. Unfortunately, I also have plastic holly bushes, plastic holly vine, twigs with fake sugar glued on to give a sparkle to those plastic holly bushes, fake poinsettia and I can’t overlook the gold angels…wire sculptured angels and some ceramic angels with their wings opened over the overstuffed snowmen, which were guarded by wooden toy soldiers. I have a few metal reindeer, too.


And the grumbles just grew worse as I became buried under the debris of Christmases past. I seriously needed to get my heart in gear about Advent!

To wrap up this story in a neat little package, we did rummage through all of the stuff collected from years past and picked out the ornaments to use this year.

The grumbles began to go away as the lights were placed on the tree and the magic of Christmas was there. Right there in the beauty of that eight foot tree with the lovely beautiful glass ornaments and sparkling glass ice cycles hanging gracefully from branches mingled with the sweet smell of a fresh Douglas Fir.

“What a beautiful tree! I just love the beginning of Advent!”, I said happily to my sweet husband.  The grumbles had begun to disappear as I gazed at this creation. I was also quite proud of myself for deciding to unload, I mean “give away”  all of that extra Christmas stuff, plus I decided to be content with just one tree. I told God that all of  that stuff was going away and I would be content with just a little bit of stuff, such as those gorgeous beautiful glass ornaments hanging on one Christmas tree.

“Yes, now my heart is ready for Advent.” So I thought.

I was no longer mumbly grumbly.  And after a long day of “preparing my heart” for Advent (all of the above)…I was exhausted. Evening had come, a warm fire was glowing and our family room illuminated only by the glow of the fire and our beautiful tree gleaming with hundreds of white lights reflecting off of shiny glass ornaments. My husband had fallen asleep on the couch and I was enjoying the peace of gazing at our Christmas tree and thinking how sweet it is to welcome the first day of Advent. Our tree is beautiful!

And then it happened…

CRASH!  The tree fell over!


Don was jolted out of a peaceful sleep and bolted off the couch.

Yep, it was a mess with those beautiful glass things shattered on the floor, fragments of glass imbedded in the couch (the tree nearly fell on Don) broken glass and broken branches and lights hanging off and water saturating the carpet…

Don and I stood there looking at the mess and staring wide-eyed and speechless at each other. (sigh)

I spoke out loud to God and said, “I get it, God. I get it! It’s all yours! Advent is all about JESUS. This tree is not what it’s all about. Those beautiful glass ornaments do not reflect your glory.” And I began to laugh.

The messiness of Advent Eve brought my heart to a true place of worship and repentance.  Advent is celebrating God keeping his promise to send a savior, Christ the Lord. God is a covenant keeper.

“Our God in heaven, thank you that you did not remain there. You could have justly condemned us for our guilt, our devotion to idols, our constant self-seeking, self-absorbed, self-aggrandizing lives. But you did not. You came.” ~Tim Keller (from 843 Acres, The Devotional Blog of The Park Forum: Advent: The Feet That Bring Good News.

By the way, a friend told me about some families that were unable to have a decorated Christmas tree…they do now!

Advent Eve Story