Grief 101

Cynthia L. Eppley, MA

Grief 101

See, from His head, His hands, His feet Sorrow and love flow mingled down Did e’er such love and Sorrow meet Or thorns compose so rich a crown. (When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, Isaac Watts)

Grief is part of our world. Love and sorrow twist together in our lives.

To love, to open our hearts to others? Is to be vulnerable.

There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is hell.                              C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves

Grief takes a toll on us all: Men and women and children. So many of us are responding to this in “Social Isolation.” But how do we experience it? 

Elisabeth Kübler- Ross did extensive studies on grief, and it helps us understand what is happening to us now. She envisioned grief as an inverted bell curve, 5 stages.

Shock & Denial

In this stage we can hardly believe what is happening. It is like nothing we have experienced so we do not have a frame of reference. 

Shock gives way to surprise as news unfolds of the event. In this Pandemic, it is disturbing and unsettling. It is frightening and brings on fear. It is a jolt to our system. Trauma intertwines with distress.

Denial comes hard on the heels of shock. Certainly, these reports cannot be true. The Pandemic may be effecting Europe; but how could it ever reach America? We are a medically sophisticated society, and surely our medical community will stop this in its tracks. The facts and figures coming in from China, Italy and Spain must be exaggerated. And as we examine the statistics on American soil, it seems negligible.

And it can’t be worse than the flu—can it? A bad flu.

We experience this every winter. And this, too, will pass.


The anger stage is multifaceted. How did this Pandemic get out of control? How can it be happening here? In our Country? State? County? Borough?

The invisibility of this beast adds to out exasperation. Give me a visible enemy, and perhaps I’ll be able to take him on. But this? Just how many times do I have to wash my hands? Studies have shown we wash our hands a total of 6 seconds. So there has been a suggestion of singing verses of “Amazing Grace”, or your favorite rock song or “Happy birthday. Tell me: exactly how many verses do I need to sing? Clever methods calm my annoyance for a short time, but give way to irritation.

I become more irritable as time goes on. Do not tell me where I can go. And the distance I have to stand from my neighbor. And how I have to handle my groceries. Or when I shop.

Irritability gives way to annoyance. I may have never baked bread before, but now I insist on buying yeast and bread flour. How dare the store be sold out! Never mind that there are plenty of Pepperidge Farm loaves on the shelves. And the bread dilemma is national in scope. Yeast cannot be found throughout the land.

I may have lost my job, been furloughed, or reduced hours. My finances will be a mess.

Or, I may be working in the medical field, delivery for UPS FEDEX or supply chain. Can’t I stay home like everyone else? Just how much exposure can I have without exposing my family?


Bargaining is subtle in nature. As if we could bargain with a Pandemic! But we try. It is hard to predict how long this will last. If I pace myself for 2 weeks, perhaps the worst will be over. If the extension of “Social Isolation” is for 4 weeks, I can manage. But no longer. That is all I can promise. I’ll make an agreement for the end of April, but surely not into May.

Let’s make a deal! I promise to stay isolated, but how can I see my family? My children? Don’t tell me we can’t have Easter dinner!

Perhaps all of us can have our own Easter dinner, and meet “virtually” through Zoom. That is the solution. I’ll barter with this Pandemic.


The longevity of this Pandemic begins to wear on us. 

I want out! I want my independence back and I want my freedom! I feel dejected as my routine has been disrupted. A sadness prevails, as I pace from room to room. There is only so much that I can take of these 4 walls! Cabin fever abounds.

I’ve fallen out of the rhythm of life. I may not get up in the morning, but instead, lounge in bed in despair. After all, why get up?

I am despondent as I look at myself in the mirror. My hairdresser is not open, and my roots are beginning to show.

I’m eating or drinking to console myself, feeling guilty about the comfort foods that try to ease my internal ache and melancholy.

Being “in the dumps” has never felt so real.

The internet is ablaze with jokes:

“If I hold a glass of wine or a beer in each hand, I can’t touch my face.”

“Pretty soon I’m going to need a magician, not a beautician!”

“Breaking news: Wearing a mask inside your home is highly recommended. Not so much to prevent COVID-19 but to prevent eating.”

We laugh at them, knowing there is a deep truth here. We see ourselves. And we know that others feel the same way.


As this Pandemic drags on, we recognize that we have to do our part.

To successfully shelter in place means nothing will happen today. But the decreasing numbers of infections will be the reward of our patience. A commitment to other’s safety will become our foremost concern.

We know there will be a “New Normal.”

Learning to manage the home front, even with humor, helps us through the “daily days.”

There are innumerable sites for parents and children to engage in fun activities.

For adults? Netflix, reading, and perhaps video games. But these all point to being at home. Alone and isolated. 

The ideal: time spent in God’s Word and with Him.

And so we reframe this time: Instead of being stuck at home? We are safe at home.

The end is in Sight

Perhaps you’ve seen yourself in parts of the Grief cycle. Perhaps this is a moment, of “Aha! Me too!”

It is not linear and most often, we take “two steps forward and one step back.”

We offer grace to others, knowing that we are each on an independent journey through this time. There may be similarities. But there are also differences.

“We may never know the treacherous journey people have taken to land in the pew next to us.” (Rosaria Butterfield)

We receive this time in faith, being confident that He is at work in us, and in His world.

We trust Him to work in us and through us to accomplish His good will.

And while we may not have a definitive date for this Pandemic to end, we do know that we have a Savior who is doing all things well.

“The tomb, normally a place of endings, became a place of beginnings. Out of if came the new hope of Resurrection life.” (Paul Tripp 4/10/20.)

Let us live in this time anticipating the resurrection He is doing within us.

O Christmas Tree

Cynthia L. Eppley 12/12/2022

It is that time of year when our minds turn to decorating for Christmas. And if you’re like most of us, you have your preferences.
In viewing social media, I’ve seen many types!

Real vs. Fake

The first big decision is: real vs. artificial (Such a nicer word than fake…).
The real tree implies tromping out into the woods, often with a saw in hand, to find The Perfect Tree. (Reference to the movie, Christmas Vacation.)
Is there ever perfect tree?
Anticipating a family outing, we go with high hopes and cocoa. Sometimes the dreams materialize; sometimes they don’t.

But then there is the artificial tree. We were forced into getting an artificial tree years ago when I became allergic to the sap.
Once we removed the offensive tree, all my allergies cleared up.
But getting used to the idea of an artificial tree was difficult.

Where would the magic be?
How would we decorate it and would it mean as much?
My mother wisely counseled me: “It’s not the tree. It’s the favorite ornaments and the stories behind each one.”
She was so right.

Full vs. Scrawny

Some go for the full tree, chock full of branches and cones. One can barely fit in an ornament! But full it is.
The scrawny tree may have looked great out in the field.
But upon putting it up, the blank spots are clearly evident.

Often the side that is lacking gets turned into a corner like a naughty child. Adding the ornaments may help the final product.

Themed Trees

Bring on the decorations!
These trees often have a Christmas theme, or it may reflect a special interest of the owner. Those who have lost a loved one may decorate a tree to commemorate their memory. Poignant, bittersweet, but memorable.

In my own kitchen, I have a skinny tree that I decorate with our mother’s cookie cutters. It warms my heart as I place each ornament and think of the hours we spent together.

Themed Trees 2

Or some have taken away the old ornaments and selected one overall color scheme. My sister in law decided on a White Christmas tree.
It was a shock to say the least.
But I was quickly won over by white doves, white balls, and bows.


The traditional tree may have white lights. Forget the candles of yesteryear that were beautiful, but a major fire hazard. Battery powered taper lights are fast becoming popular, and often look very real—without the danger.
Bright white, LED, or cool, warm lights? Choices are endless!

Colored lights are popular as well, and often the same tree may have the ability to change from one to the other.
What will they think of next?

Silver Trees

Believe it or not, the silver aluminum trees of the 50’s and 60’s are making a comeback! Often decked out in one color scheme, they are beautiful in their own way. Ribbons and bows of sky blue match ornaments that have been carefully selected.
Often, there is a color wheel placed strategically in front of the tree, rotating. The tree picks up on the color and it reflects hues of red, blue, green and yellow.

Ceramic Trees:

The green ceramic tree of yesteryear has made a comeback…..or maybe it never left?

I’ve seen them selling for a pretty sum.

Tips of the tree are adorned with plastic lights that glow from an inward light.

These trees are popular because there is no muss or fuss.

Easy to put up and take down.

The Simple Tree

Then there is the simple tree. Often people apologize for its appearance, citing illness, or loss, or depression.
Often they cannot even describe the disinterest in the Season.
One year my mother declared that she wasn’t putting up a tree: “I’m not in the Christmas spirit.”

We had lost my father and my brother. It was a sad time, indeed.
But we brought a table top tree to her, with a handful of decorations.
The tree stands in defiance of the odds, and lifts its branches, even in simple glory. The simplest of trees is a testimony of hope.

The Simplest Tree

One year, we had no money. Our time during the holiday would be spent at our parents’ homes.
With no reason to put up a tree, we improvised, and taped a garland tree to the wall.
It was festive and sweet and simple and enough for us.

(See No Place Like Home, <strong>The Perfect Christmas</strong>)

The Simplest of All

Finally, the very simplest of trees we call “The Charlie Brown Tree.”
This sad little fellow gets his name from the 1965 animated Television special, “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
Poor Charlie Brown.

Charlie Brown finds himself depressed despite the onset of the cheerful holiday season. His best efforts are ignored and mocked by his peers when he chooses a real, but puny, Christmas tree.

Charlie Brown despairingly asks,

“Does anyone know what Christmas is all about?”Message

Linus says he does, walks to center stage, asks for a spotlight, recites Luke 2:8-14 and says, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

The Real Message

You’ve probably watched A Charlie Brown Christmas dozens of times….But there’s a poignant moment that you may have missed.

Watch closely as Linus is giving his speech about the true meaning of Christmas. As he says, “And the angel said unto them ‘fear not,’ for behold, I bring you tidings of great joy….”
At the moment he says “Fear not” — he drops his security blanket for the first time—because he’s no longer afraid.

Amid big, bright, colorful, shiny artificial trees, Charlie Brown chose the least of these, a little, wooden tree with just a few branches. Shortly thereafter, Linus uses his blanket to wrap about the base of the tree and says, “Maybe it just needs a little love”. In that moment, the tree “awakens,” stands tall and firm. A reminder that no matter who we are, how many mistakes we’ve made, a “little love” can make all the difference.

(Borrowed from Charlene M. Speer & Christian Life Ministry … Michael Pesina)

O Christmas Tree

So in our scurry to put up the Christmas tree, and decorate it, perhaps the real meaning of the season is not in baubles and bows, frills and flounces.
Whether our tree is real or fake, beautifully adorned, or the simplest of trees: the message of the tree is not in the tree itself.

Where can we lay down our insecurities and frailties? What do we cling to for meaning?
Where can we look to the simple manger and “fear not?”

The message of the tree is from the simplest of shepherds, to the wisest one: we can each do our part.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb; If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part; Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

The Longest Night

Cynthia L. Eppley 12/21/2022

The Longest Night

The first day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere is marked by the winter solstice,
which occurs on Wednesday, December 21, 2022, at 4:48 P.M. EST. The winter solstice is the day with the fewest hours of sunlight in the whole year, making it the “shortest day” of the year.

It is fitting, is it not, that in the cold of winter, the darkest night should come now? When we associate darkness with gloom and sadness? Sometimes, comfort if you have a warm blanket and hot cocoa.
But more often, our thoughts go to those we have loved and lost, or the loss of health, or our own deep loneliness.

For this reason, Oreland Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Oreland, PA invites you:

Loss of a Child

The Loss of a child is excruciating.
“As the holidays draw near, many feel sorrow approaching in lockstep with joy. The same storm that brings much-needed rain to the fields also threatens to wash out the picnic and the parade. And just so, as the Christmas season comes, many feel the rush that comes with giving gifts and enjoying feasts and marking celebrations, but at the same time the ache that comes when they hang fewer stockings than in years past, when they set fewer places round the table, when they see a face missing from the family photographs. Though they truly do celebrate, there is bitter mixed with their sweet, dark shadows that temper their light.” https://www.challies.com/articles/christmas-bitter-and-christmas-sweet/ Dec 20, 2021

Loss of a Baby

The loss of a child is often considered to be the most painful, wrenching experience a person can have. The loss of an infant may be sudden and shocking or follow many months of neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) visits.

It means the loss of dreams for the baby’s future. Parents may feel they were robbed of time to get to know their child. Friends and family may never have met the child.

Tiny Hezekiah died on 01/05/2021, only 16 days of age. Born 12/20/2020.
Mom Emily is posting what happened 2 yr ago; reflecting on his short but so loved life.

Isaiah 49:15

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!


In today’s society, in the cycle of human development, it is normal and natural to lose your parents when you yourself are an adult.

The death of parents is the single most common form of bereavement for adults. Depending on their ages and on yours, death is usually more or less expected.

Losing the person from whom these feelings came will deprive you of someone who loves you in a very intense and unique way.

“Oh, the love of a mother! A love that none can forget!” (Mother’s Day, 1971)

And from a friend: “You know, 30 years is a long time to go without having your mom in your life and I sometimes think what life would have been like with her in it. It’s hard not to think about how that loss has been carried with me through all the seasons of my life.”

My mother wore the scent of “White Shoulders.” Cleaning out her closet, I caught its sweet aroma as I crushed the dresses to my face. It will always be entwined with my mother

“I want them to know that grief isn’t meant to be covered up with a fake smile, but instead it’s meant to be talked about with a laugh or a good cry. I want them to know that grief isn’t a bad word or a scary word, it’s just another way of saying that some of the best grandmas live in heaven.” (herviewfromhome.com)


Often, the death of a sibling is overlooked. While the needs of the immediate family are addressed, the sibling stands by.

It should be remembered that this is a significant loss for a sibling, and they are dealing with their own deep grief or mourning.

“The death of a beloved is an amputation.” C. S. Lewis, ‘A Grief Observed’ “A sibling is the lens through which you see your childhood.” Ann Hood

Other Loss

In a real sense other loss strikes us deeply.
The loss of health. How many have received a critical diagnosis that will affect their lives and their future?
Covid and the Pandemic certainly affected so many of us.
A parent has just been diagnosed with caner. Our minds reel with the implications of it all.

The loss of employment can feel like surgically removing a part of our lives.

The loss of a dear companion: namely, our pet.
The “Rainbow Bridge” is a euphemism for this deep pain associated with the loss of our friend.

What to do?

Remember their loved one

John Pavlovitz writes, “…I want you to know that someone understands that you too have famous people who you’ve lost; legendary, monumental, household names whose passing changed your personal history irrevocably. For you their death has been more earth-shattering and path-altering than any celebrated singer or politician or humanitarian or athlete. They were the peerless superstars of your story and I know how hard it is to be without them, how much it hurts to grieve them, how much you wish the world knew of their greatness and goodness…

Bring comfort.

One very tangible way to comfort your friend is to give them an item that “covers them” with loving thoughts. Buy a blanket, the coziest throw you can find and write a note that says something like, “Praying that you will feel the love and comfort of God and friends surrounding you.”

Bring “comfort” food: cookies, breads, a meal. It is the thought that counts. Send a thoughtful card, expressing your love and concern.

Acknowledge their Loss

Acknowledge that your friend may still feel grief, even years after their loved one’s death. To remember their dear one is to signify their living and significance.

And Finally…..

There are so many losses that we remember.
Seek out help and comfort from others.
Join us tonight for our remembrance of the hard things in our lives. Be comforted in your longest night.

A Disabled Christmas

Cynthia L. Eppley 12/11/2022

Why is this Christmas Different?

As holidays come and go, we get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season. Shopping, wrapping, more shopping, returns, not to mention school concerts, church activities, and on and on.
But when you’ve had a hip replacement?

Then it becomes much different than you would expect.

My first Clue

People told me, “Oh, a hip replacement is so easy! Easier than a knee!”
And so I assumed I’d be back on my feet in a few weeks, and jump right back into the Christmas spirit.
Until….I didn’t.
Hobbling about with first a walker, and then graduating to a cane did little to encourage my sinking mood.
Resting became a way of life, and naps were required in the afternoon.


But you see, I am a Costco fan. A big Costco fan. And it was calling my name. There were things I needed. Things I had to have.
And so I ventured out with my trusty friend Paula.
Under strict orders from my husband, I was to commandeer one of those fancy electric carts. You know, the one with forward and backward.

My most recent memory of this beast was with my mother. And now it was my turn.

Am I Here?

As we ventured into the store my first hint of “Disabled World” were the people streaming by me.
No “excuse me.” Reaching over me while I tried to view the products.
You see, the beast of a cart is huge, and so edging close to displays is impossible.

But people can and do slip right between you and what you’re trying to see. And it is impossible to reach for items on the shelves.

Beware Corners

It became apparent that the corners were a “Danger Zone”. When seated in the cart, you become….shorter. And people are rounding a corner with the intent of getting that sale or that item.
Laser Focus. And apparently, they don’t see me.
I was nearly bowled over by a frantic shopper. Am I invisible? Do I count? Am I still….me? Hello?

My Introduction

And so my introduction into the “Disabled World” has been enlightening.
I know this will pass; in a short time I will drop the cane and hobble around, hanging onto my cart for stability.
But what do we make of the people who are permanently disabled? Who are permanently handicapped?

As a friend mentioned: “Welcome to my world.”
And another: “It always amazes me how people cut you off and just pretend you’re not there— like you are inconveniencing them.”

An Accident Changed Lives

My good friend Bob Wendt, is well acquainted with the disabled world. Due to a freak accident, his wife Jane had a Traumatic Brain Injury. (TBI.) He and Jane were thrust into this world abruptly and without warning.

What is “Normal?”

July 2, 2008, is burned into our hearts as the day God changed our lives and altered “normal” forever. It was the watershed moment for our faith, marriage, family and ministry. We were on the mission field hosting a volunteer team when tragedy struck. Jane and several team members were taking pictures at the base of a waterfall when a 50-pound rock came down the falls, bouncing wildly as it hit other rocks. Jane was struck in the head. She suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and now lives with symptoms of short term memory loss, logic and balance impairment, and severe chronic neurological pain down her left side.”

Abundant Honor Ministries

Bob and Jane’s lives would be far from normal. They sensed that so many in the handicapped and disabled world are marginalized, ignored, and overlooked.

With the help of a ministry support team, they formed an outreach that would bring these issues to the forefront.

How could we help the disabled in practical ways? How can the church become more educated and helpful? What do we need to learn? How can we better listen? And how can we be better equipped to help?

The Mission

The mission of Abundant Honor Ministries is to provide help, hope, comfort and guidance for families affected by disability. We do this by supporting these families with counseling and by advocating for their needs and for the use of their gifts within the Body of Christ. As advocates, we will work directly with church leadership as well as teach, preach, conduct seminars and network with other ministries to build a strong, supportive community serving the disabled.

Practical Help

Look at how this ministry comes alongside the local church: Lay counselor training. Awareness education through seminars, teaching and preaching. Crisis support. Church inclusion assessment.

Read this testimony from a Pastor:

“Abundant Honor Ministries serves as a valuable resource for Pastors to draw upon as needed among thrown congregations, but also as a personal help. To whom does a Pastor go to talk over dark thoughts of the soul? Seldom is there a friend or safe person with who to speak aloud things that are so difficult to bear personally. I have found Bob Wendt to be both a friend and a counselor with whom it is safe to articulate thoughts and feelings ranging from discouragement, anger, and fear—and how does that coexist with faith?”

Counseling is a very large part of this ministry, in practical ways: Listen to the heart of a counselor: “That’s how I am with all my clients I carry them in my heart all the time and my thoughts are constantly on them.”

The statement of a team member: “Wow! In one brief exchange with Bob, I got a powerful insight into what it’s like for him to be a Biblical counselor. He’s always thinking about how to get through to his clients. He broods over them with a burning desire for their healing. Their liberation. Their joy in Christ. I came away with a new appreciation and respect for what Bob does. He’s involved in nothing less than pursuing healing and liberation for broken, hurting people.” (Chris French)

Abundant Honor

Abundant Honoris taken from 1 Corinthians 12:23:

“Those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor.”

God takes the things we think are broken or weak and builds his Kingdom with them. Two Biblical truths which are easy to overlook in our culture;

“My grace is sufficient for you for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9) and

“God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong” (1Cor. 1:27) are at the heart of Abundant Honor Ministries. We take seriously the charge of Proverbs 31:8-9 to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.

Back to Costco

I would be happy to report that my trip to Costco was a success. Paula reached the items high on the shelves. And the good employees of Costco were more than helpful.

I made it through the store without mowing anyone down. Or destroying displays.

And there have been those who open doors: “Let me get that for you!” And still others: “Make sure you keep that cane with you…..people will be more accommodating if you do.”

Invisible…… or Seen?

But it makes me wonder how many others have faced the dilemma of being ignored or made to feel invisible?

How many families are isolated and lonely due to disability?

It would be my desire that God would use this short time in my life to teach me to honor the weak things of the world; to reveal my weakness and prove His grace.

And perhaps, along with Abundant Honor Ministries, to use the weak things of the world to confound the wise.

Abundant Honor Ministries can be reached at https://www.abundanthonor.org/ akwendts@gmail.com

No Place Like Home

Cynthia L. Eppley 12/05/22


I think I first noticed it when pictures of homes began popping up. I’m not an architect, or a designer, but I know what I like.
And so pictures of homes with wrap around porches caught my eye.
In the summer they were appealing: tall glass of frosty lemonade, a good book, and a cool breeze.

Depending on the season, pumpkins scattered around. Corn husks, lanterns, and colorful mums add to the plethora of Fall colors.

Winter Home

Winter is a different story.
During the Christmas season ornaments, sleds, skates, and miniature trees placed perfectly.
Rocking chairs, adorned with comfortable blankets and a few pillows thrown in for good measure.
Don’t forget the hot chocolate.
With the advent of outdoor fire pits and fireplaces, a roaring fire may accompany the view.

Picture Perfect

But it begs the question: what makes the “picture perfect” home?
My eye is drawn to the large country abode, frequently covered in snow. What is Christmas if it isn’t a “White Christmas?”
(And here my apologies to my friends in the Southern climates, especially Florida….)
Perhaps a white fence surrounds the property with greens draped and wreaths hanging, red bows wafting in the wind.
Almost always there is smoke swirling from the chimney, inviting us in to a warm and cozy kitchen.


I just confess that inflatables were never in my….”Vocabulary” for my Christmas decorations.

But then we had grandchildren.

And a particular little girl that saw a “Snoopy” and declared that this was Christmas”: “Snoopy!”

That very year we went out and bought a Snoopy that proudly adorns our front stoop.

Perhaps it seems out of place with our more traditional decorations. But it warms the heart of a little girl. And that is enough.

Photo courtesy @tallwoodcountryhouse
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Vare
Photo courtesy Jennifer Vare

The Gate

Often there is a gate to the entrance of the home. This is the perfect place for a swag of greens, ribbons and bows, welcoming in the weary traveler. And setting the stage for the warm home in the background.


Then there is the smaller home, perhaps with architectural features that are appealing. They might not have the stateliness of the rambling mansion. But they are appealing in their own way.

Wreaths may grace the window, or perhaps one huge wreath welcomes you to the front door.

And there is usually snow.

Smaller Yet

And then there is the smaller home—perhaps a twin or townhome. No rockers or blankets here.
But we notice a few wreaths or a tree in front of the home.
Lights may line the windows.

Lights may adorn a lowly tree.
It glows with a warm welcome.

The Apartment

I’m reminded of our earliest days when we had an apartment. No tree, because our holiday would be spent traveling to family. And no money.
But we did hang a garland in the “shape” of a tree on the wall. No mess, no fuss, no pine needles to sweep up.
And a hint of festivity.
It was enough. See http://O Christmas Tree, <strong>The Perfect Christmas</strong>

The Point

It seems to me that the homes that are most grand, or the home that is most small, can hold even the greatest of hearts and the broadest amount of love.
You see, even the smallest and humblest of homes can hold the largest degree of merriment, laughter, and fellowship.
Where does this lead us?
It leads us to a humble manger.

Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne

The hymn “Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne” was written by Emily Elizabeth Steele Elliot in 1864. It reflects this dynamic:

Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown,  When Thou camest to earth for me;
But in Bethlehem’s home was there found no room  For Thy holy nativity.

There are so many wonderful, traditional hymns that tell of Jesus birth. These theologically rich songs teach us of the great exchange in Jesus and His coming to earth; His coming to earth in the humblest of circumstances to exchange our weakness and brokenness for His grandeur and majesty.

There was no room at the Inn for Mary and Joseph, only a manger in Bethlehem. “But of lowly birth Thou didst come to earth.”

Prepare Him Room

As we prepare our homes for Christmas then, perhaps we can look beyond the glam and the glitter.
Perhaps we can look beyond the elegant mansions so tastefully decorated, and see the humble manger.

Or we can see past the meager offerings of our tiniest humble abode to the greater offering of our hearts, and see the richest and purest offering. Where is our home?

And just how elegant does it have to be?
For Jesus, our humble hearts are all He seeks:

“Oh Come to my Heart, Lord Jesus, There is room in my heart for Thee.”

Valentine’s Day

Cynthia L. Eppley 02/12/2022

Valentine’s Day Past

It is that time of year when love is in the air….Valentine’s Day!
I’ll get to that soon. For now, travel back in time with me to Jan. 1974.
My childhood friend, Cindy Bennett was getting married, and I was in the wedding.
By that time Bob was my fiancee and we anxiously awaited our own marriage in May.
The morning of Cindy’s wedding I woke up and felt sick.
Really sick.
In fact, I vomited in the trashcan.
Tears quickly followed as I wondered how I was going to get through the day?
Bob came to my side with a damp washcloth. Wiping my face tenderly, he assured me we would get through it.
He brushed my hair back from my face.

Further in the Past….

It seems that the celebration of Valentine’s Day has a history.

“Valentine’s Day also called Saint Valentine’s Day or the Feast of Saint Valentine, is celebrated annually on February 14. It originated as a Christian feast day honoring one or two early Christian martyrs named Saint Valentine and, through later folk traditions, has become a significant cultural, religious, and commercial celebration of romance and love in many regions of the world.”


Who can forget the Valentine’s Box of yesteryear? A brightly decorated box took a prominent position in the classroom.
Students anxiously watched as friends took their cards up and deposited them in the slot. Would there be one for me?

Would it be “special”?

Valentine’s cards could be purchased in packs, generally enough for each child in the classroom—including one for the teacher. Themed cards reflected the cartoons of the day. Parents trudged to the store to buy “just the right pack.”
Buzz Lightyear, Transformers, Cinderella, Frozen, you name it.

Valentine’s Day in the Present

“Many people have a kind of love-hate relationship with Valentine’s Day: the holiday is disparaged as a manufactured holiday foisted upon us by greeting card companies, and there’s often a sense that it’s only for people who are romantically paired, making it feel rooted in exclusion.”
You might think Valentine’s Day was the peak of anticipation and excitement.

“Order your favorite Valentine’s gift now.”

Bring on the sweetness (and the cheesy) for Valentine’s! We have lots of specials items available—honeys, cheeses and, of course, chocolates and locally-made cookies.”

Videos of how to make heart shaped cupcakes, with lots of pink and white icing.

“It’s not too late! Order by 4pm to get your gifts for Valentine’s Day!”


I might add a thought from Shakespeare: A strawberry by any other name would still be sweet. More to the point, any other time of the year they are just……strawberries.
But this time of year? Coat them in chocolate, add some sprinkles or embellishments, and they are “Valentine worthy.”

And who doesn’t love chocolate covered strawberries?

Speaking of Chocolate….

I must confess, chocolate is a favorite. Dark chocolate. And if it is a chocolate covered caramel?
Even better.
The custom of candy filled heart shaped boxes began in 1868 when Cadbury developed it. It is popular to this day, in any number of variations and themes.


And where would we be without the popular red rose?
Roses, at any time of year are popular, but on Valentine’s Day? They are sought after, and of course, the price goes up.

Tie it in with poetry:
“Roses are red, violets are blue. Sugar is sweet and so are you.”

If you can’t wax poetic yourself, surely there’s a card for that.

Galentine’s Day

And for those without a romantic attachment, or in some cases even if they have a romantic partner? There is always “Galentine’s Day.”
Galentine’s Day, formed by a blend of gal and Valentine’s Day, is a day in which women celebrate their female friendships. The new holiday debuted in a 2010 episode of Parks and Recreation. The term is also seeing increased use in celebrating any kind of friendship, not just those among women.”

Love in the Present

My health has been on the edge in the past 15 months. Many signs and symptoms, but it is very hard to pin down.
This came to a head as I headed into a medical procedure yesterday.
Never easy, these procedures can test our patience and fortitude.

Sometimes the procedures and preparation are ghastly.
(And please understand dear reader, I do not mean to trivialize those who suffer with countless ailments and disease.)
But as I was enduring the preparation, I knew this would not be good. It was just a matter of time…..
I headed to the kitchen and promptly vomited all over the floor. Quickly followed by christening the bathroom floor.
Innumerable towels were used for cleanup.
Not to mention clothes being washed and changes of clothing.
Wash and repeat. Wash at 3am. Transferring to dryer at 4am.


Why do I bore you with the details? (Stay with me here….)
I do it to emphasize the beauty of being married to my husband: 48 years this May. As I was hurling into the trashcan, he was patiently wiping up the floors. The kitchen. The bathroom.
Cleaning them up.
Folding the laundry. I lost track of how many loads.

Wiping my furrowed brow.
And telling me: “We’ll get through this.”
Certainly we’ve had our share of struggles and burdens.
But the stuff of life has not torn us apart; and now we encourage and support one another, even in times of sickness and health. Commitment has taken us through the years.

And so on this Valentine’s Day?
Cards, chocolates, flowers are all extra.
Romantic love is one thing.
Give me the man that I knew back in 1974 to be a Servant.
A man after God’s own heart.
A man who loves me and serves me in the pits of life, as well as the soaring heights.
I’ll take him any day.
And when my stomach feels up for it? Maybe I’ll take some chocolate covered caramels.

The Day After Christmas

Cynthia L. Eppley 01/03/2022

“Greeting cards have all been sent The Christmas rush is through But I still have one wish to make: A special one for you….”

Merry Christmas, Darling

This song was first recorded by the Carpenters in 1970. It is still popular 50 years later. And we can see why: haunting melody, heartfelt emotive vocals. And certainly, a message for all of us. We long to be with those we love.
We long to be recreating family memories and traditions.

“Merry Christmas, darling We’re apart, that’s true But I can dream And in my dreams
I’m Christmasing with you.”

We’re Apart

My very first Christmas away from home was with my fiancé Bob, in Western PA. We had spent holidays apart, but now we were engaged. And so I was with him.
But how do you explain the longing to be in two places at once?
Separating from your family to join together with the one you love? It may be the very best thing, but also the hardest thing.

“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.”

Holidays are Joyful

“Holidays are joyful There’s always something new! But every day’s a holiday When I’m near to you.”

Holidays are joyful.
Family together, fellowshipping and enjoying one another. Children laughing. Wrapping paper torn off.
But then there is the day after.

Near to You?

Not necessarily the day after Christmas, but very soon, all good things come to an end. Grown children must return to work. Youngsters have school. And so the exodus begins as they make their way home. I am reminded of this as I’ve seen my social media:“Our family is on the move! One is flying back home to SanDiego; Two are on their way to Germany for vacation. Missing them all, blessing them on their way.” 2011

“Definitely a day of the ‘blahs.’ Put one on a train bound for NYC, and then out to SanFran tonight. Seems like he just got here. The times with all of us together were precious. And when he goes back, I feel a pit in my stomach. I know this too will pass. Life will get back to normal. How many other Moms & Dads feel this after the holidays when the kids return to their homes???” 2013

“Typical Monday. Doing wash, putting things away. Except THIS Monday is after Christmas. And one flies home this afternoon. Is it any wonder that it is hard to get motivated? Holiday blues. Or should I say, post family blues???” 2014

Note: when I have posted my “Post Holiday Blues” there is often an outpouring of many feeling the same way.

I Wish you Could See!

“The lights on my tree I wish you could see
I wish it every day. The logs on the fire Fill me with desire To see you and to say:”

But our littles grow up and go on.
College calls.
Or first jobs.
They are full of anticipation, joy, excitement and apprehension. New beginnings!

Empty Nests And of course, our deepest desire is to see them succeed.
Two nieces have launched their littles into careers leaving their homes behind and somewhat “empty.” We are left at home. We become the “Empty Nesters.” How did the years fly by so quickly?

I Wish I Were with You

“I wish you merry Christmas; Happy new year too! I’ve just one wish
On this Christmas eve–I wish I were with you”

Other circumstances separate us.
Bob’s sister died just after the New Year, 2021. So this is a “First Christmas.” Another one has just recently lost her mother.

“Another year without you Mom. Celebrate by dancing among the stars tonight.”

A toddler is undergoing chemotherapy in a hospital in Florida.
There are families that are separated by distance, but also disagreements that happened years ago. Do they even remember what the squabble was all about?

Or differences in opinions on politics, or vaccinations, or you name it. There are elderly in nursing homes, and it may be impossible to visit with them. Many are serving in the Armed Forces, assigned far away. And others whose jobs require distant locales: another country, another Continent.

Cancelled Christmas?

There are so many who expressed the desire to be with family this Christmas, only to have those hopes and dreams dampened by illness—or even potential illness.

“The let down of getting excited to see family and friends and never getting to do that….it’s come and gone and it won’t happen.”

“The let down of cancellations. since we were actually sick it made it bearable.”

“The disappointment of kids getting sick and not coming is sad! But we will get together in Jan. It’s not the day but being together.”

“The Post holiday blues of having been together but it feeling less than ‘normal.’ Testing, masks, Covid talk & fear of giving it or getting it….mentally exhausted!”

“The end of the expectation and the sadness over what didn’t happen.” 

Christmas and Transitions

In this unusual time of Covid and illness, know that your expressions— our expressions of desire to be with those we love is strong and rich and deep.
We all long to be with those we love; it is our common humanity.
Our expectations run high leading up to the holiday. We build up “The Perfect Christmas” in our hearts and minds. (See The Perfect Christmas)
And so our hopes may be dashed at cancellations.
Our disappointments are shared. (See Holiday Ho-Hum)
Though isolated, we are not alone in our struggles and sadness.

Happy New Year Too

The transition is difficult. Getting back to a routine is hard.
Dragging ourselves out of bed this morning seemed harder than the year before.
But it is a New Year and we eagerly anticipate all that is ahead. And maybe Christmas 2022 will be a fuller, richer experience with family and friends close.

“I wish I were with you. Merry Christmas, darling.”

The Perfect Christmas

Cynthia L. Eppley 12/19/2021


It’s that time of year. We lay awake at night going through lists in our heads—checking it twice. This is not reviewing who is naughty or nice— it is because we don’t want to forget anything. And how do I know this to be true?
Because so many share this on social media.


There is so much to remember.
Between last minute runs to the store, Christmas cards, and decorating? It is enough to exhaust us.

Sick and Tired

All this hype for the holiday can make us run down and sick. And it does take a toll. Years ago, I could count on getting a cold as a result of pre-holiday stress. And there were many like me.
To be blunt: it was exhaustion from my own expectations to have “A Perfect Christmas.”

(I might add, this no longer happens.)

A Culture in Review

Just look at the influences on us:

Ads on TV

if you were to believe the ads, you would think everyone is home for Christmas. “Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow” are healthy and happy.
Cars arrive with a giant bow on top.

White Christmas

Everyone has a “White Christmas.”
Why, there is even a car commercial for it!

“As a desert-dwelling family drives back home, they’re in for an unusual surprise. They are greeted with snow, although the artificial kind, in front of their home—an unexpected sight for someone living in a dry climate surrounded by palm trees. Lincoln Motor Company longs for you to experience something extraordinary along with the power of sanctuary during its Wish List event.”
Of course, the car takes center stage.
This all pulls at our heart strings as we reflect on what Christmas could be; never mind that Dad has been busy creating the blanket of snow with a snow machine perched precariously on top of the house.


Perhaps Christmas movies open a window to our deepest longings; and why we enjoy them, laugh uproariously, and repeat the lines in advance.

Christmas Vacation

“National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” skewers many of our dearest traditions. From the perfect tree to the perfect dinner, nothing seems to go right for Clark Griswold. And we laugh at him and with him as we see ourselves. He just wants to have the “Perfect family Christmas.”

Christmas with the Kranks

The Kranks decide to skip Christmas one year since their daughter is away, much to the chagrin of their neighbors—until their daughter decides to come home at the last minute. Hilarity ensues as carolers torment them. They “must have” a ham, not just any ham, mind you, but a “Mel’s Hickory Honey Cooked, Boneless, Skinless ham with natural Juices and Gelatin Added.” “Borrowing” a neighbor’s tree, and the perfect chocolate—again, we laugh at them and with them as we see ourselves striving to make all things right.

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Created in 1965, this animated show has won our hearts.
“Feeling down about the commercialism of Christmas, Charlie Brown becomes the director of the gang’s holiday play. Can he overcome his friends’ preference for dancing over acting, find the “perfect” tree, and discover the true meaning of Christmas?” Even his “Charlie Brown” tree has become a symbol of frustration. He exclaims in frustration: “Isn’t there anyone who can tell me what Christmas is all about?”


And then there is Linus: His blue blanket goes with him everywhere. It is his “security blanket” and he must have it. Always.
He clings to it for reassurance and the others taunt him by taking it and running.
His role in the film is to remind all the meaning of Christmas and so he answers Charlie Brown by quoting Luke 2: 8-14:

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ And, suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’

That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

The Blanket

But there is so much more to this scene.
An article released in 2015 explains this for us:
“In that climactic scene when Linus shares what “Christmas is all about,” he drops his security blanket, and I am now convinced that this is intentional. Most telling is the specific moment he drops it: when he utters the words “fear not.”
Looking at it now, it’s pretty clear what Charles Schulz was saying through this, and it’s so simple it’s brilliant.
The birth of Jesus separates us from our fears.
The birth of Jesus frees us from the habits we are unable (or unwilling) to break ourselves.
The birth of Jesus allows us to simply drop the false security we have been grasping so tightly, and learn to trust and cling to him instead.
The world of 2015 can be a scary place, and most of us find ourselves grasping to something temporal for security, whatever that thing may be. Essentially, 2015 is a world in which it is very difficult for us to “fear not.”
But in the midst of fear and insecurity, this simple cartoon image from 1965 continues to live on as an inspiration for us to seek true peace and true security in the one place it has always been and can always still be found.

Cartoon Inspiration

It is inspiring that a simple cartoon about Charlie Brown has withstood the test of time. It still resonates with young and old alike.
And in 2021, just like 2015, and 1965, the world can be a scary place.
What do we grasp?

Fear Not How can we “fear not?”
Maybe the meaning of the blanket holds the key:
As we strive for “The Perfect Christmas,” we find that we can’t find the right ham, or the right tree, or the right gift.
Depending on where you live, you may never have a White Christmas.
Like Linus, perhaps we need to give up our aspirations that bind us to impossible goals. Perhaps we need to drop our striving and find new meanings in this changing world of 2021. And perhaps, we may find our security in more than a blanket, holiday, tradition, and ritual. Let us find our Rest in Him.

Christmas Cards

Cynthia L. Eppley December 7, 2021

That time of Year

It’s that time of year when our hearts and minds turn to Christmas. Often, that includes sending out cards—either physical or ecards.
Since I haven’t sent cards in a few years, I thought I would jump on the bandwagon and actually order prints including our family.

The Work

I suppose this should be easy. Shutterfly, Snapfish, and so many others have platforms that make this task go quickly.
Or so it would seem.


First, what pictures to choose? I carefully got permission from our grown children to include them. Our children are grown, with children of their own; friends and families want an update! But therein lies the rub.
How do we get the “Just right” picture for Christmas? You try to herd children into a picture; it’s rather like herding cats.

Best Laid Plans

I know parents choose outfits carefully before the photo shoot. Perhaps everyone is color coordinated in their “Sunday best.” Or maybe the picture was captured over summer vacation. But this we know: the best laid plans often go astray.
Who hasn’t had their family all dressed for an event…..when the baby vomits on their outfit? Or worse, a diaper leak makes that outfit fit for the trash.
And how many mothers have spit up on their shoulders?
How many toddlers are having a meltdown?

Say “Cheese!”

Generally, we want everyone smiling for the camera.
But really?
When we’re dealing with kids?
One of my friends shared the family picture, and the toddler was racing away.
They caught the image in mid stride, and as she said: “That’s the best we could do!” Or perhaps the kids are all screaming. Or in outright rebellion, looking down or away.
Besides the “Just right” picture, there is the “Looking goofy” picture. Is this the one we should choose?
With everyone making a comical face?
Which one represents reality?
What is real?

Picture Perfect The picture you see above is an actual picture of an actual family being very, very real. They are sitting for their mother, my friend and professional photographer Rae Barnes.(See raebarnes.com) Here is her take on “Getting the Perfect Picture:” “Before you start to think that my kids are perfect and just LOVE having their pictures taken by me (and always cooperate)…” (I especially love the little guy picking his nose…)

The Text

This year I chose to print a short summary of our family, to bring people up to speed.
I carefully crafted the words to describe our grown up children’s positions and activities. Spelled out our trips and tribulations—at least some of them.
And saved it on the website. Imagine my horror when I went back to retrieve it……and it wasn’t there.


All that work for naught?
My expletives were not ready for Christmas. I was not smiling for the camera.

How Real?

Which brings me to the question:
Just how real do we get with these cards?
What do we share? How much do we share? And where does the better part of discretion lie?


If we were to believe what we see on the Internet, we’d see only perfection.
Perfect family pictures, with all lined up “just right.”
Smiling members, implying that all is right with the world.
The tree manicured and every ornament perfectly placed; no lights burnt out.
The dinner table shimmers with crystal and candle light; wine flows freely, dinner isn’t burned, and the mashed potatoes actually mashed. (See Mashed Potatoes) Everyone is getting along.
No heated political discussions, no family emergencies, and no health problems….apparently. (More on the Perfect Christmas in the next few days….)

What is Real?

So what do we choose for the Christmas card?
How do we represent ourselves in one picture that we send out? Does that one picture represent our lives for the whole year? How do we choose, and write, and symbolize our lives?
Is this Real? And what is real?
This is very much reflected in the book The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams:

“You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand. Once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”

Becoming Real

Sometimes I feel like I break easily, and have sharp edges.
Most of my hair might be there, but it certainly is grey.
My eye sight is changing and don’t even begin to mention my joints.
Getting up from the kitchen floor is an exercise in managing cabinets to support me as I attempt to get vertical.
It is not an easy task. The knees don’t work so easily.

The Truth

Perhaps the greatest truth we can tell ourselves is that we all are a mixture at Christmas. No one gets it right.
No one gets it perfect.
Your Christmas card and my Christmas card are only a thin slice of reality.

We Remember

As we open our Christmas cards, as we remember friends and family?
We remember them fondly, and perhaps we do know the backstory of their lives.
Perhaps we know the smiles but also their struggles and heartaches.
Let’s remember that this becoming process takes time for all of us.
We are all in process, and we all may be shabby despite what the Christmas Card reveals. But this we do know:
Love came down at Christmas. Christ came down at Christmas.
He came to restore, renew, redeem, and forgive.
This is Real. And this lasts for always.


Steep Paths

Cynthia L. Eppley      December 4, 2021


I have a nasty habit of falling. Not on purpose, of course. But randomly I’ll find myself flat on my back. If I’m fortunate, my garden bed will catch me somewhat gently. Generally I’m trying to go too fast and furious. I need to slow down. Justin (my son) tells me I need to encase myself in bubble wrap.


And so it came as an unfortunate turn of events when I fell on vacation. Note: this was a “Cross-Country” event. Nothing local here, oh no.

Our first day in California we met our son and his two little girls for a sunny day on the Pacific beach. We would frolic in the cold water and sand! We would build sand castles!

But the beach was a steep 200 ft down, with a winding switch back trail.

“No problem!” I said. 

“There are switch backs!” I said with relief.

And so we set off down the winding trail with caution and care, when…..


Down I went.

These things happen so quickly don’t they?

I lay on my back, looking up at the clear blue sky, and catching my breath:
Was anything broken? Could I even breathe? How did this even happen?

Bob and Nate huddled around me in concern, and the grands were worried. After much ado about (not) nothing, I was assisted to my feet.

I quickly realized I could breath fine; but I was sure I had a hairline fracture in my ribs.

Great way to start vacation!


After several days we were on our way and headed to Utah and the National Parks. I could sense something wasn’t right in my breathing. Any bump was precarious as I braced my sides.

We checked into a tiny hospital with a 4 bed Emergency Room. There, I found I had pneumonia. Many X-rays later, we were on the road again with the proper medicine.

Extra Care

Since that time, I’ve been to the Doctor many times, and have found a difference in my behavior.

Am I afraid of falling? Yes.

Do I try to be more careful? Of course.

I’m more aware of the fragility of life.

“There was a kind of fear that settled over my family the day Nick died—a fear related to a new awareness of the fragility of life. And while we are doing a bit better now than we were a few months ago, we still struggle to believe that we won’t experience other sorrows and losses, that the God who ordained one tragedy for us hasn’t ordained many more.” (See Tim Challies post: 


The Doctor’s

The Gray Head Couple stood at the reception desk, clutching their papers, and their cards, and each other. 

Shakily, they asked what desk to go to?

I noted their warm hats and scarves, wrapped up to ward off winter. And her shoes were down trodden and worn on the outside heel. 

Did she not have the money for new shoes? Did she not have the energy to go the store?
The young receptionist, with a note of condescension gave directions. 

I paused at this sad interaction. It could be me. 


The tall, wide stairway looked very long indeed, and very steep.

I’m not sure if I checked for hand rails before, but I sure do now. As my friend Paula and I say: “Never leave a handrail unused.” They come in quite handy. A reassurance.

So it was significant when I came out of the Doctors office and headed to the stairs, that I first reached for the handrail. 


First, switch my purse and my papers to my right hand. I took the stairs on the left, holding the rail with my left hand. 

Very slowly I descended….and then I saw him.

A young man, head down on his phone, coming up the stairs on my side.

(Nevermind that he was on the right hand side, as he should be. Or that I was on his side coming down.)


I wondered if we would play a game of “Chicken.” Who would move first? In order to move, I had to let go of the railing. And shift to the right.

This was not my desire.  I wanted to hang on.

But when push came to shove (no pun intended here) I let go and gingerly stepped into the middle of the stairs. 


It is Us. It is Me.

We were once babes in a manger, or bassinet, or crib.

Take your pick. 

We were once young and vigorous and able to “spring back” from a fall or a stumble.

But in all reality, the turning of this life brings us to the same point:

We all have wounds that may be external; or internal.

We are all broken.

We are all aching.

Some aches are more external, but so many cannot be seen.

Love Came Down

So many Christmas carols and hymns are rich in theology and meaning. One of my favorites is:
“Love Came Down”:

Love came down at Christmas,  Love all lovely, Love divine; Love was born at Christmas, Star and angels gave the sign. 

The Advent Season

In this Advent Season, we celebrate the Babe born in a manger.

The King of the Universe, coming to a stable floor.

Psalm 126:33

He remembered us in our weakness. His faithful love endures forever.

Psalm 37:23-24

The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand.

Jude 24-25

24 Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.

Isaiah 41:10

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Jeremiah 23:23

“Am I only a God nearby,” declares the LORD, “and not a God far away?

The God Who is Near

There are times when we all may feel fragile.

The fragility of life draws closer.

But even in this:

Let us remember that God Himself stooped low for us.

He remembers us in our lowly estate.

He is faithful.

And I know, whether in California or Utah, or Pennsylvania that though I might fall, I would not be cast down; the Lord upholds us with His righteous right hand.

Mashed Potatoes

Cynthia L. Eppley December 2, 2021


One major holiday has just passed—Thanksgiving. And one is upon us soon—Christmas. And what would the holidays be without festivities and feasting?

We catch the aromas of cooking wafting through the house long before dinner time.

Our taste buds work overtime, expecting our favorite foods.


If you are going to cook, you need to shop. And if you shop, you need to store it all. 

My refrigerator was bursting at the seams. Where to put it all? I saw one post that suggested putting cooling racks in your refrigerator, stacking things high.

I, for one, simply improvise and stack things high, precariously balancing it all.


And after all this preparation, all the different foods. (SeeThanksgiving Traditions) because you can’t leave out a favorite dish—we sit down to eat. You can be assured that most children will avoid all of it—except the rolls. Where would they be without rolls and butter?


It all comes to a culmination of textures and tastes, a delight to the eyes as well as the palate.

Take the mashed potatoes, for instance. 

They fall right behind the rolls for the kids. A pot full of simmering water and sliced potatoes, waiting for the magic. Drain the potatoes, add milk and butter—lots of butter—and whip them into mountains of creamy white goodness. Add toppings.

This is, of course, unnecessary—but adds to the visual appeal. My favorite is a big dollop of butter, cut across the peaks and valleys. And if it is a holiday and you want to do it up big? Use Kerry Gold Butter.

A generous dash of freshly ground pepper, and perhaps a sprinkling of chives.

Is your mouth watering yet? And understand: my mashed potatoes, always from scratch, are delicious. Why, a good friend even said, “These are the best mashed potatoes I have ever eaten!” High praise, indeed.


You can’t forget the gravy. There are gravies, and there are gravies. Some simmer the giblets and the neck and use the essence as the base of their sauce. My particular gravy this year was spectacular. Using a new recipe utilizing my Crock Pot, it assured “the best gravy you have ever had!”  And to be honest? It was. Spectacular.

I saw visions of white mountains of steaming mashed potatoes, with gravy running courses down the sides, pooling around turkey and stuffing. Waiting to be devoured.

This was going to be a dinner.

Whipping Potatoes

Dinner was coming together nicely, and it was time to whip the potatoes. Add milk, salt, pepper, and butter. Lots of butter.

Start the mixer.

I knew immediately that this was not the creamy white mountain I had envisioned. This white mass took on the consistency of paste—wallpaper or Elmers, take your choice. “Whip it more!” I said. “Add more milk!” I said. And finally, the trump card that would save the day: “Add more butter!”

But alas and alack.

The gooey white cement would have been better suited for a food fight. Although it could easily knock you out…..And, I might add, it did take out my hand mixer. Broken. Ready for the trash. Those were some mean potatoes.

The Setup

I had been in the hospital just 2 weeks before and was still regaining my strength and stamina. Napping in the afternoon was more than a luxury, it was a requirement.

Even the Dr. had suggested I not make dinner at all. And so I compromised: Make a smaller dinner. But even so, things need to be drained, seasoned, and plated. Smaller does not equate to easier. Certainly, Bob and our son were helping.


What are we to do with disappointments? What are we to do when things don’t work out quite the way we planned?

And understand, dear reader, I sense the frivolous nature of potatoes. And the solemn weight that many carry this year for so many reasons.

This is not meant to trivialize their struggles.


In the midst of disappointment, we look for perspective.

At the end of the day, I sat with my feet up while Bob and Justin cleaned up and stored food. The refrigerator was still stacked high with precarious piles. (And Justin was going home with goodies for future meals.)


A spirit of gratitude and thankfulness go far, whatever our circumstances.

Countless hymns speak to these values, and this is one of my favorites: “Now Thank we All our God”

Now thank we all our God with heart and hands and voices, who wondrous things has done, in whom His world rejoices; Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way with countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us, with ever joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us, to keep us in his grace, and guide us when perplexed, and free us from all ills in this world in the next.

Thankful Hearts

There is so very much for which to be thankful:

Thankful that I was even home for this Thanksgiving. Thankful for good doctors and good care.  Thankful for good food, full bellies, and a full refrigerator, enough to share.  Thankful for family and friends. Thankful for our God who draws near to us. Thankful for His grace and guidance.

And finally, thankful for good gravy….

Aimee Byrd

Inside the word. Outside the box.

The Palest Ink

The strongest memory is weaker than the palest ink. I write to remember.


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