No Ornaments

No ornaments. This year there were no ornaments on our Christmas tree, except the 6 ornaments we received as presents eventually we did hang on the tree.  This summer as we were packing up for a cross country move, I gave away 4 artificial trees- 2 little ones, 2 big ones (3 inherited ones, 1 that we bought).  As December rolled around, I was wondering why in the world I gave away ALL our trees. In early December whenever I was in a store, I would glance at the trees, but really just felt overwhelmed trying to decide what to buy and trying to think about where I would eventually store this tree in my basement-less house. A new friend suggested we buy a real tree for this Christmas and then buy an artificial tree on after-Christmas sales. We liked that plan. Since we had put up an artificial tree in the recent years, our youngest son, never having had a real tree, excitedly anticipated this tree. On a very sunny warmish delightful December 15th, we trekked to a Christmas tree farm.  "We hope you are looking for a small tree because that's all we have left," the tree farm worker warned us. On December 15th, we just wanted a tree-any tree! The skinny trunk was easy to cut. The light weight tree was easy to carry into the house. The small tree was easy to set up. We dubbed our tree "our Charlie Brown Christmas tree". And we loved it! Covered in multi-colored lights, it was beautiful in our eyes, and the fresh evergreen aroma filled our new home.

We decided to wait for "the boys" to arrive home to decorate the tree with ornaments.  Our tradition has been all of us working together to put up the tree-usually the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend- and each boy would hang his special ornaments-ones we bought each year to commemorate a highlight of that year. This year the boys arrived on a staggered schedule. One of few days before Christmas; one on Christmas Eve day, and one, with his wonderful wife, a few days after Christmas. The time with the boys (& girls) home quickly filled-worshiping with special church services, visiting with extended family, exploring throughout our new city, etc. And so there never was really a good time to put up the ornaments. But our ornament-less Charlie Brown Christmas tree lighted up our house and filled it with a delightful scent. (In fact after we got the Christmas tree our newly acquired house stopped smelling like "their house" and began to smell like "our house"!) Every time I walked by our special little tree, I thought about Christmas. I was challenged to think about what Christmas really is about-the coming of our Savior as a baby...Emmanuel-"God with us".

Christmas came and went, even without ornaments.  And it was truly a special December for us. Now in January, I am reaping the benefit of EASY Christmas tear down and put away. But the message of Christmas is NOT put away. The message changes our hearts every day. "Do not be afraid...good news...for ALL (this means you) people...a Savior, Christ the Lord." Luke 2:10 With or without the ornaments!

Sunshine, Sandals, Surround Sound Christmas Carols

Saturday morning, December 1, I grumpily headed to the Westin at the Domain for a CME conference. December 1, after all, is for Christmas decorating or baking or some other fun Christmas activity, not for sitting at a cardiology conference. Besides I have about 1500 boxes that arrived at my house on Tuesday by Nelson Westerberg movers that need unpacking. As I walked into the hotel, my eyes immediately fell upon exquisitely decorated Christmas trees and charming gingerbread houses.  Not so bad after all, I decided. At the break, my husband and I headed out to walk in the sunshine. Seventy degrees! At lunch, we ate outside, listening to surround sound Christmas carols, basking in the warm sunshine, wearing short sleeves and sandals. My raised-in-the-midwest-brain is trying to  synthesize Christmas time and warm weather.

My sister, Janel Ehrman, invited me to join her for an Advent Bible study. The first day's devotional was on "Joy To The World" The question for the day: "What will you rejoice about this Christmas season?" I got to thinking, why am I grumpy ever? I have so much to rejoice in!

My Saturday rejoicing:

*Christmas delights-Christmas carols, gingerbread houses, Christmas trees,
*Learning opportunity at an excellent cardiology conference by Baylor Scott & White
*Fun time side by side with my husband at the conference & afterwards furniture shopping
*Good health and able to walk 10,000 sunny steps-walking on my breaks & at lunch time
*Seventy degrees, Chaco sandals, short-sleeves
*"The joy of the Lord is my strength." Nehemiah 8:10 Especially this year!
*And SO much more!
*Ultimately the very best rejoicing is knowing that Saturday and everyday, I live in the hands of an almighty and loving God.

I invite you to join me in this Advent study Carols: A Christmas Devotional. Here is the link https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/203/together/9336891/invitation?token=ODcWRwCbeamQ4hesRA7-Xg&source=share

What will you rejoice about today?

Happy and Merry Walking

Happy and Merry Walking.
For our family, and many other people, ‘tis the season of the trifecta of holidays: Happy Halloween, Happy Thanksgiving, and Merry Christmas.  In my family we have a few birthdays thrown in there, too, along with Baptism birthdays. (We have a tradition of celebrating with Baptism brownies.) Wow - that’s a lot of celebrating...with a lot of extra calories. With the time change making dark arrive earlier and the cooler weather this season of the year becomes a time of less activity too. So how do we counter the decreased activity and increased calories, which ultimately results in the rising of the scale?
For now, I want to give you some ideas for increasing activity.
Any time a change occurs in your life, evaluating your exercise plan can be helpful.  My husband and I were very faithful with both our walking plan most days of the week and our weight lifting plan 2-3 times per week.  But suddenly with our move to TX, the change in location, the change in schedules, and not having our usual YMCA to lift weights, we struggle to exercise like we did before. So we are having to examine our exercise plan.
Use these PACE tricks to set yourself up for successful exercise in this happy and merry season:
-Plan your exercise ahead of time. On Saturday or Sunday, look at your upcoming week’s calendar and schedule when you’re going to exercise each day.  
-Ask someone to be your accountability partner. Once a  week this accountability partner asks you 2 questions.  “How many days did you exercise last week?” and “How many minutes did you exercise last week?”
-Find a co-exerciser. God created us to be in community. Just as in every part of life, we need to have people to encourage us along the way. Ask people with whom you would like to spend more time, to walk or go to the gym with you.
-In your day, every hour try to get some activity. Recent research suggests that if you take 13 minutes an hour activity break, at the end of the day you’re actually just as productive as if you worked 60 minutes straight through every hour. Set your phone alarm for 60 mins; when it rings get up and move around even for several minutes. Reset your phone for another 60 minutes. If you did 5 minutes for each hour for 12 hours, you would have 35 minutes of activity daily and better health too!
In addition to PACE, set a goal for yourself. Perhaps it is a step goal of getting at least 10,000 steps 5-6 days per week if you have a step counter. Or maybe your goal might be 150-200 minutes of exercise per week. Often having a larger goal like training for a 5K or 10K walk or run can be motivating.

If you happen to be in the Austin area, please join me at “Walk with a Doc, The Path to a Healthier You”, Saturday, November 10 at 9:00AM, Baylor Scott & White Clinic, Main Entrance 3108 S. Ranch Road 620, Lakeway, TX

Strikes, Curve Balls, and Happy Dancing

As every baseball lover knows, strikes and curve balls are great when happening to your opponent, but not so much fun when they are happening to you.  The past eight months or so, strikes and curve balls have abounded. During this time I literally wanted to just go to sleep and wake up again in eight or nine months to see the outcome. I did not want to be in the game! Thankfully during this time Kathy Pingel was leading an excellent & applicable Bible study titled “Armor of God” by Priscilla Shirer at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church and School, which was incredibly helpful to me. One day as I came out of Bible study the school children were climbing and giggling on the big snow hills near the school. On that cold day my heart was warmed as I remembered the joy of my boys playing on those snow hills. Nothing brought happiness in the winter time to my boys as much as being king of the snow pile. That night I wrote that “happy dance” moment down in my journal.  I began writing “happy dance” moments in my journal every day. The moment that brought happy dancing to me the next day was a washing machine that did not leak as I did a load of laundry - the night before when I went to bed, I noticed that for some unknown reason water was pouring out of my washing machine. I do not know why and thankfully it hasn’t leaked again. Every single day, I experienced happy dance moments: brilliant blue skies and sparkling white snow glistening in bright sunshine, flowering spring trees, beach walks, musicals and cast parties, family fun times punctuated with love and laughter.

Bring on the curve balls. James declares, “I count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” (James 1:2-3)

By writing down happy dance moments, and also going back and reading them, I have experienced peace & joy. Every single day, I have had delightful moments! I realized I didn’t have to know the future outcome of this uncertain time, but I could trust God and live in the present enjoying the blessings of this moment.

In “The Screwtape Letters” by C. S. Lewis, Screwtape, the older and wiser devil, is coaching Wormwood, his young nephew, about tempting people to worry about the future.  “He (God) would therefore have them continually concerned either with eternity (which means being concerned with Him) or with the Present-either meditating on their eternal union with, or separation from, Himself, or else obeying the present voice of conscience, bearing the present cross, receiving the present grace, giving thanks for the present pleasure. Our business is to get them away from the eternal, and from the Present. With this in view, we sometimes tempt a human to live in the Past. But that is of limited value, for they have some real knowledge of the past...far better to make them live in the Future...thought about the Future inflames hope and fear. Also it is unknown to them, so in making them think about it we make them think of unrealities.”  How often we are tempted to live in the past or future, instead of enjoying life with God and enjoying the present.

Writing down my happy dance moments has continually helped me to live in the present, enabling me to give “thanks for the pleasant pleasure”.  As I read over my happy dance moments, I see how much good happens and I’m glad I have not missed all the wonderful blessings of the present.
This morning in my devotion I loved reading about  Habakkuk’s rejoicing, in spite of all kind of trouble. “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the oil fail and the floods yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls,” -wow, that’s some serious strikes- “ yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; He makes my feet like the deer’s; He makes me tread on my high places.” (Habakkuk 5;17-19)

I don’t know what curve balls and strikes are coming your way, but I strongly encourage you to WRITE down your HAPPY DANCE joy moments every single day. You, too, will experience great joy and God will reassure you that, in spite of strikes and curve balls, there are base hits, doubles, and even home runs, too!


(If you like listening to podcasts, I would encourage you to listen to MurdyCreative.com-October 14, 2018 called "The Present".  Having written this blog post before I heard his podcast, I was surprised. I felt like he was taking the words right out of my mouth??!! Almost like we are related or something. ;) Obviously, this year in our family we have had multiple discussions about living in the present.)

I Just Want to Go Home

"I just want to go home!" cried not only the Murdy family, but also the children of Israel, hurricane victims, refugees, and maybe you?!


Why DID the children of Israel of the Old Testament want to go back to slavery? I always wondered. Suddenly I understood! They just wanted to go HOME, back to familiar territory. As I house hunt and try to adjust to life in a new city, struggling to deal with my own feelings about home, I think about those children of Israel, who left their homes. What did God have for them? “And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart before the people.” (Exodus 13:21-22) God does not depart from us either. In incredible ways, God has also been and continues guiding my family, by open doors (and closed ones, too), by words of trusted Christian family and friends, by our Bible readings and devotions, by messages from sermons and songs. God has brought us to this new place and we trust that He has a new home for us.


To the children of Israel and throughout the Bible, God reminds His people not to worry or be afraid. “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you: He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” (Deuteronomy 31:8) Almost every day I need to read this verse. What a sense of peace we have, knowing that God IS with us.


One of the many blessings of this new place is the people of Concordia High School. Last week at a Concordia  girls’ Bible study, Allie read this verse: ”For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city to come.” (Hebrews 13:14) Wow. Exactly what I needed - to be reminded that we have no lasting city or home on this temporary earth, but we seek our permanent home in the city to come in heaven.  
What about you? Are you in a place of just wanting to go home? I would love to hear your story. Feel free to email me at ksmurdy@gmail.com.


Where is home? Of course home encompasses so much more than a physical home. My husband, children, and I have been discussing home frequently these past few weeks and months. How easy it is to be connected to our earthly homes.  But God has prepared the best home for us in heaven. Let us all keep a perspective, not becoming too attached to this earthly place, but keeping our eyes on our perfect home awaiting us in the city to come, heaven.

Perspective

Just two months ago my basement was not quite filled to capacity, but pretty close, housing treasures galore!
-Two banquet tables covered with cities built of Lincoln Logs and Hot Wheels, constantly being arranged by Murdy boys and visiting boys, big and little alike!
-A huge gold column from the grand hall of "Phantom of the Opera" along with multiple other musical theater memoirs.
-The largest piece of shrink wrap you can imagine that once covered our boat (never know when you might need that😝).                              
-Papers galore and toys, some broken waiting to be used in the next project or experiment, along with shelves and shelves of beloved old books.
-Cushions and afghans of every kind that became makeshift seats for the impromptu movie projected on the wall.
-Drums, shakers, and noise makers of all sizes.
-Boxes and boxes that chronicle purchases of shoes, small appliances, keyboards, guitars, etc. that might be used to wrap a present or store something else.
-Little Tyke van, tricycles, and bicycles.
-John Deere tractors and corn planters.
-Ping pong, pool, and foosball tables.
-Guest bed, bunk bed, baby bed.
-Etc. Etc. Etc.
OH THE MEMORIES!!

But for the past seven weeks, my job has been to empty out my house! When we made the decision to move I couldn't imagine how I would ever manage to clean out the basement. Bit by bit, with the help of family and friends (a big thanks to all who helped!), slowly there was less and less left. I was ecstatic to have finished cleaning it out just in time for the last of Daniel's infamous bonfires. As the kids came over, I was excited to show off the clean basement. As I walked down the stairs with one teenager, tears streamed down her face as she mourned, "It's so sad; everything we had so much fun with is gone!" Perspective!!! After all my work, I saw clean basement. She saw end of fun times. And for a moment, I sat & cried with her!!

Perspective!! So many things in life are all about perspective. I contemplated. I was struck by an image of a cross and the perspective of that. For some, the image of Jesus on the cross was of just another person in history dying. For me the image of the cross is Jesus. Son of God, Lord of lords, my Savior, Salvation of the world!! Not only did Jesus die on that cross to pay the price of my sins, but He rose from the dead conquering death! John declares, "Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name." John 20:30-31

I pray that you seek God and will have the wonderful perspective of Jesus as your Savior! What's your perspective?

Best of Times, Worst of Times

As my family travels we like to sing along with Jimmy Buffet, “These changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes, Nothing remains quite the same…” This time of year is filled with graduations, weddings, and new babies, Changes…”Nothing remains quite the same.”
Personally my family is about to experience a major change. (More on that in a later blog!!) Changes are often both the best of times and the worst of times.


I invite you to read a blog post I wrote for WLI:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” So begins “A Tale of Two Cities”. Since my high schooler was reading this classic story, I decided to read it, too. I love the way Charles Dickens masterfully creates contrasts.
“It was the best of times…” It was Christmas Eve. “It was the worst of times.” It was Grandma Barbara’s last breaths on earth. My son, along with his new bride, Leah...continue reading here http://wlicuw.org/the-best-of-times-the-worst-of-times/


When I think of change, a few lines from a verse of one of Dad’s favorite hymns, “Abide with Me” comes to my mind:
“Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.”


As we go through changes, we cling to our Savior, who does not change. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrew 13:8


If you are looking for a speaker for your group, please contact me; I love to talk! Check out the link to my page on WLI Speaker’s Bureau http://wlicuw.org/profile/speaker-karen-sue-hinz-murdy/

The Women’s Leadership Institute educates, encourages, and equips women for Christian leadership in the home, church, workplace and the world. WLI’s vision is to develop capable and confident women who serve Christ, embrace their gifts in service and leadership, and mentor others to do the same. http://wlicuw.org/