Category Archives: Personal

Christmas Traditions

With Christmas less than a week away, I am getting ready for our yearly traditions. Some of our traditions date back to when I was a kid, some of them even further than that. Some of them reflect my family’s heritage, some of them our beliefs. And some of them are just plain fun! So I thought I would share some of our traditions with you.

For as long as I can remember, someone in my family would make lefse for Christmas (pronounced lef-saw). Lefse is a soft Norwegian flatbread made from potatoes. My great grandmother, my grandmother, and my mother all would make this flatbread and we would eat it with coffee or tea. Usually lefse is topped with butter, sugar, and cinnamon, then rolled up and consumed. Yum!

Another tradition is serving snacks and finger foods on Christmas Eve. It was a tradition I brought from my family, and with Dan busy with candlelight services on Christmas Eve, it became the perfect and no-fuss way to celebrate Christmas Eve.

Also on Christmas Eve we give our children new pajamas and let them sleep under the Christmas tree. The pajama idea came from Dan’s side of the family and the sleeping under the tree was our own. The kids look forward  to sleeping under the tree every year.

Christmas Tree
My Christmas tree this year 🙂

On Christmas morning, our kids are allowed to wake up whenever they want and open their stockings (so the parents can sleep in a little bit longer). Then we join together to read the Christmas story and take turns picking one gift from under the tree to open. Opening gifts can take over an hour and everyone enjoys the gifts, both giving and receiving.

Then we spend the rest of the day playing with new toys, playing games, reading, and eating my famous lasagna. We end Christmas with a birthday cake to remember it is Jesus’ day of birth we are celebrating.

So that’s my family’s traditions. How about yours? How does your family celebrate Christmas? Are there traditions you celebrate that have been passed down each generation? When you married, did each of you bring a tradition to your new family? What is your favorite tradition?

Reader Group

Daughter of Light

Hi everyone! Due to some changes coming to Facebook in 2015, I have decided to start a closed readers group for my readers. It will be a place to connect with me, find out any news including cover reveals, book releases, etc…, and talk with each other. To sign up, just send me a request 🙂 Here is the link: Readers of Morgan L. Busse

If that is a little too personal for you, feel free to sign up to receive my posts via your email (upper left hand corner) or if you are only interested in book news, sign up for my newsletter. Looking forward to getting to know you all more and sharing some upcoming news in 2015!

The Power of a Smile

Vacations have the ability to be both wonderful and highly stressful at the same time. Things fall through and your expectations are not met, and without realizing it, the grumpy look steals across your face.

I had a great time in Oregon a few weeks ago, but there were a few hiccups during our trip. For example, we got into Portland after midnight (2am home time) and we are more than ready to check into our hotel and go to bed. But when we arrived at the counter, they told us they had overbooked and had no room for us (panic!). So we were shipped off to another hotel and finally went to bed around 1:30am.

Not a great start to our vacation.

Then the next morning I had to go get our rental car from downtown Portland (half the price if we picked it up there, so being the budget conscious people we are, we went with that option). This country girl hasn’t driven in a big city in a loooong time. Cue another panic attack, this time in the middle of traffic. By the time I got back to our hotel, I was frazzled.

Dan and I don’t fight a lot, maybe 2-3 times a year. But between energetic kids (hey, they’ve been trapped in a car for 8 hours, airport for a couple more, and now a hotel), no sleep, bad coffee, and shot nerves, we were at each other’s throats.

At one point, I stormed into the bathroom. I was done. Then I caught a glance of myself in the mirror and recoiled back. I looked awful, not because of lack of makeup or a bad hair day, but because what I was feeling inside was definitely showing on the outside. And it was ugly.

Smile.

The thought popped into my head.

No way! I don’t feel like smiling.

Just smile, the voice kept urging.

Wow, it felt like I was lifting a hundred pounds with my lips. I forced my mouth to curve upward until I looked like my old self again.

Let me tell you, it was an amazing transformation. My heart felt lighter, I looked better, I felt better.

From that moment on, I decided I was going to smile the entire trip. Every time I realized my lips had dipped down, I forced them back up. I wanted to be beautiful, both on the inside and the outside, and knew from my mirror experience that a smile could do that.

And it worked. It helped me refocus on what mattered, on enjoying my time instead of letting setbacks make me grumpy, and being an overall nice person to be around.

My trip is over, but I learned a huge lesson from it. Smiling changes us. Maybe some people can fake a smile, but I can’t. If I am going to smile, I have to change my attitude first. What a difference that little action made, both in my heart and across my face.

So I challenge you to smile today, especially when you don’t feel like it. Trust me, it will make a world of difference inside of you 🙂

 

The Beauty of Oregon

After planning and saving for over a year, my family finally went back to the state we called home for many years: Oregon. If you have never been to the Pacific Northwest, you are missing out on what I would consider one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

Many of the places in my Follower of the Word series are based on actual places I have visited or lived, including Oregon. For example, the coastal country and city of Avonai are based on the couple years I spent on the Oregon coast. In fact, watching how the ocean changed each day inspired the Avonain race and their connection to the sea (and how their eyes changed color with the moods of the ocean). For more on these people, check out my post The Sea People of Avonai.

Anyway, enough talk. It is said a picture is worth a thousand words and I have some beautiful pictures to share from my trip. Enjoy!Oregon CoastThis is the Pacific Ocean on our first day. A nice, calming gray.

Oregon CoastEnjoying a walk along the beach.

Oregon CoastA sunny day on the beach. Look at how blue that water and sky is, and all that white sand! However, you wouldn’t really want to go swimming. It was around 60 degrees while we were there.

Cascade MountainsAfter a couple days on the beach, we headed up into the mountains, far away from civilization (including cell service, internet, showers, and toilets lol). But who wouldn’t trade all that for this kind of view from the porch of your cabin? And for those who are wondering that is Mount Jefferson.

Cascade MountainsWent hiking into an area that was devastated by a wild fire a couple years ago. You can’t see it in the picture, but there were wildflowers everywhere, a reminder that beauty can rise from ashes.

Cascade MountainsLast picture. I was on another hike and found this meadow and pond. We hiked up to a lake and went swimming. Not for very long, though. The water was freezing! This particular trail intersected with the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail), a famous hiking and equestrian trail that runs the length of the US from Mexico to Canada 100-150 miles east of the Pacific coast.

So that’s my trip, and what a wonderful trip it was. I hope someday I can go back and revisit all of these wonderful places.

How about you? What is your favorite place to visit?

 

For Love or Money?

moneyA friend of mine posted a question on Facebook: “Would you rather do what you love and barely make ends meet or do what you tolerate for abundance?”

Good question. I think most people would say they would rather do what they love. After all, who wants to be chained to a mundane job day after day for forty years if they had a chance to do what they love?

The problem is, I think people view the whole “do what you love and be poor” idea with rose-tinted glasses. Sure, they would live in a smaller house and drive a cheaper car if they could just do what they wanted. However, sometimes being poor doesn’t mean having less, it means not having at all.

Dan and I are both currently doing what we love and what we believe we have been called to do. Dan is a pastor and I am a writer. We wouldn’t trade what we do for the world. But love for our work is not always enough to sustain us:

-When medical bills come in.

-When your doctor says you need a procedure done and the insurance doesn’t cover it.

-When a family member is facing death and you can’t go to be with them because you can’t afford the plane ticket.

-When the car breaks down and you don’t know how you’re going to fix it.

-When you wonder how you’re going to feed your family.

The reality is there are times when you get tired of scraping by and wondering how you are going to provide for your family every month. Sometimes the stress out weighs the love. That’s when love is not enough to sustain you.

So how do we do it?

Honestly? I cry. I pray. And God meets me where I am. He has always taken care of us. We have never went hungry, never went without a roof over our heads. Each and every need He has provided for. And I have learned to be content with what I have in the process.

Love alone doesn’t keep us going. I’m not sure if it could keep anyone going in the long run. But doing what we love and placing our love in God’s hands, trusting Him to take care of us, that is what helps us during the rough patches.

How about you? Would you rather do what you love or be secure financially even if that meant doing something you don’t necessarily enjoy?

 

True Beauty

This is a post I wrote a couple years ago shortly after I had the twins. I’m revisiting this because lately I’ve been struggling with my outer appearance (yes, I actually do sometimes) and it helped to reread something I wrote years ago. Hopefully you will find it encouraging too.

If your morning is anything like mine, you do the following: look into a mirror, evaluate the work that needs to be done and start pulling out the necessary equipment needed to transform the ugly duckling into a beautiful swan. And there’s nothing wrong with that (trust me, after being up all night with twins, I would scare people by the way I look in the morning). But a thought hit me the other day that I would like to share with you.

How many of us wish we could change one part of the way we look? Perhaps it’s your hair, your legs, your face, fill in the blank… Unless you’re really rich and can afford plastic surgery, the best makeup, and constant visits to the beauty salon, you’re stuck with what you were born with (and for those of us with short legs, science has yet to figure out how to make them longer).

FlowerBut there is a part of you that you can change. It’s what’s inside of you. God calls it “unfading beauty”. Eventually your outer body is going to age. You can color your hair, but someday it will be white. You can wear color contacts to get the eye color you always wanted, but someday those eyes will be hidden behind a pair of glasses or whiten with cataracts. You use every cream that promises to forestall wrinkles, but eventually they catch up. And your weight will change, especially if you have children (trust me, I know; been there, done that). Our bodies are fading beauties. Like flowers, we bloom. But then the petals droop and eventually fall off.

So since we really can’t change what we look like on the outside, we should start investing in that which we can change: our inside. Any woman can do it. It doesn’t require a lot of money. Just time with God, time in the Bible, and a change in our perspective of what true beauty is.

So what is this true beauty that every woman can possess? God calls it a “gentle and quiet spirit” which is so precious to Him. That’s right, this kind of spirit is precious to God. And it’s available to every woman, whether she is freckly, has frizzy hair, or weighs more than she did in high school. And it will never fade. When your outer body starts to succumb to the ravages of time, you can control what your insides look like. In fact, you can posses it now.

Jesus is the prime example of this kind of beauty. The Bible says “there was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him.” (Isaiah 53:2b NLT). Yet as we read the gospels, Jesus is one of the most beautiful people who walked the earth. His “gentle and quiet” spirit shone through to the point that people ceased to see his physical appearance and saw his true beauty within. He served others selflessly, healed those no one else would come near, and loved the world to the point of dying for it.

I don’t know about you, but that’s the kind of beauty I want. I want a gentle spirit (this word can also be translated “meek” which means power under control and I don’t know anyone who has more power than Jesus, yet his was always under control). I want a quiet spirit (this does not mean never speak; rather it means in all situations, we are quiet before God and allow Him to direct the way we respond to the situation). I want to serve selflessly, love unconditionally, and let kindness seep out of my pores. This is the kind of beauty that will never fade. This is the kind of beauty you can possess now.

Now don’t start throwing out your curling iron or mascara. It’s okay to make yourself look nice (I love to look nice for my husband). But consider how much time you are investing in your outer appearance and your inner self. One is going to fade, nothing can really stop that. But the other will last until the day you die. Not everyone can be a super model, but every woman has the opportunity to be the most beautiful woman on the inside. It’s not hard to realize which one is worth investing in more, is it?

“You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.” 1 Peter 3:4 (NLT)

Should Opposites Attract?

Should opposites attract? Should they date? Marry? Can two people who are opposite in personality have any chance at a happy and successful marriage?

In J.K. Rowling’s latest interview, she revealed to the world that she believes Harry and Hermione should have gotten together and that Ron and Hermione would need counseling. In short, they are too different and she only put them together for the sake of the plot, but in real life, they would never have had a chance at a good relationship.

First, as a writer, I echo the thoughts of my friend: Author, stick to your guns. If this is how the story played out, and this is how you envisioned the end, stick with it. Don’t keep changing afterwards. As your readers we enjoy hearing how you came up with your ideas, but not your second thoughts years after the story is finished. There is a reason you ended it the way you did. It is a good ending. It is now time to move on.

Secondly, just because Ron and Hermione are different doesn’t mean they would need “relationship counseling”. Yes, people who are opposite have a greater predisposition for conflict, but they also have a greater propensity for becoming more than who they are alone.

Case in point: my husband and me. When we became engaged, we took the Taylor-Johnson Temperament Analysis to see how we matched up. When we walked into the counselor’s office, he showed us Dan’s graph. Without even picking up mine, he simply flipped Dan’s and said that was mine.

Dan and I are complete opposites. In the DISC personality test I am a C, he is an I (“C” is slow paced, task oriented and “I” is fast paced, people oriented). Even in the Myers-Briggs we are complete opposites: I am an ISTJ and Dan is an ENFP. Yes, every letter is different 🙂

We had a lot of conflict at the beginning of our relationship and marriage. But we worked through it. We realized we each view the world differently, have different strengths, and have different weakness. We learned before reacting to sit back and look at each other’s perspective. Then to talk about it. Sometimes I had to walk away and calm down before I could talk about it.

Through the struggles brought on by our different personalities, we each grew as a person. I learned how to see people as more than projects. Dan learned how to be more responsible and why that was important to me. When I worry, I see his confidence and draw strength from that. When he doesn’t see a way to make the money stretch, I show him how we can save in small ways.

After twenty years of friendship and fourteen years of marriage, we have rubbed off the rough edges. Instead of letting our differences drive a wedge between us, we have let them bond us together like two puzzle pieces.

Do we still fight? Yes, just ask our kids. Do we still experience conflict from our different personalities? Yes. But really, who doesn’t? Even those couples with the same disposition still fight.

I believe I have become a better person by being married to Dan, and he has become a better person by being married to me. We have each been stretched beyond ourselves and learned to see the world differently, and that is a good thing.

So can opposites attract? They do all the time. Can they have a good relationship? Yes, and experience life a whole new way through their spouse.

 

2013 in Review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

What if God Answered all Your Prayers?

PrayerWhat if God answered all your prayers from 2013? What difference would that have made in your life? What significance? Perhaps there would have been an increase in your comfort of living, maybe a pay raise. A couple more “good days” and safe trips around town. A close parking spot, a sunny day for that trip to the beach. But what life changing or world changing events would have happened if God had answered all your prayers? Maybe not a lot, because we didn’t ask for those.

This is a sobering thought I’ve had for the last couple weeks. I’ve realized that if God had answered all my prayers, it wouldn’t have made much of a lifetime impact. Is praying for a pay raise bad? No. Is praying for a sunny day (or in my case, a rainy day) bad? No. But I’ve begun to realize that we pray more often about small things, and don’t go much further than that.

What if I also prayed for my church, that it would be healthy and grow and have a significant impact on my community? What if I prayed for my children, that someday they would have a faith that would not be afraid? What if I prayed that God would make me into the woman He desires me to be, even if the process means poverty and trials and many dark valleys? What if I prayed for my husband, that he would be a godly man?

I’m now looking at 2014. What will I pray for? I want to extend my prayers past myself and my comfort zone. I want to pray for more than a nicer home or food or job promotion or a higher amazon ranking. Those are not bad things, but I don’t want my prayers to be only those things. Because in the end, if that is all God did in my life, then I didn’t live much of a life. And I want it to be more.

The Heartache of Saying Good Bye

PetsI had to put my dog down a couple weeks ago. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. To own an animal is to have a small piece of your heart wrapped inside a furry creature. And when they die, that piece of your heart goes with them.

I’ve had Rory (my dachshund) for ten years. She’s been through everything with me: all our moves, the births of three of my children, the ups and downs in life. Apart from God and my husband, she has been the only constant thing I’ve had. She loved to sit on the couch with me when I wrote or watched TV. And when I wasn’t on the couch, she would sit on her over sized pet bed and keep watch over our family.

A couple years ago, she developed a skin condition that made her lose her hair and smell really bad. We took her to multiple vets, but no one knew what was wrong with her. We could either pay hundreds of dollars and have extensive testing done, or just wash her every week with a special shampoo. Since we didn’t have hundreds of dollars in our bank account, I chose the shampoo. Every week for the last three years I have bathed Rory, scrubbing the dead skin away and conditioning her poor irritated body. It wasn’t fun, but it was my way of showing love for her.

This fall, she began to have problems with going to the bathroom in the house. I thought it was because I wasn’t letting her out fast enough and tried to be more diligent. Then on my birthday, she went to the bathroom in front of me (something she would never have done, she was such a proper little dog and always went outside). It was then I realized she couldn’t control herself anymore. Since we live in a rental house, she couldn’t stay inside any longer. With tears, I went and made a place for her to live in the garage.

As the month passed, she went downhill. Her skin condition became really bad, she was disoriented half the time, and she could hardly move. I then had to make one of the hardest decisions so far in my life: to let her live this way until she was in a lot of pain, or to let her go.

For a week I battled the decision. I couldn’t put my dog down. It hurt too much to think about her being gone. But I also knew to let her live like this was selfish on my part. It was time to let my friend go.

I sat outside and watched my dog sunbath in the driveway. She could barely move by then. Instead, she just sat there and enjoyed the sun. Autumn leaves fluttered across our lawn and God spoke to me. Not in an audible way, but in a quiet, soul touching way. The leaves made me think of seasons. Life is seasons: youth and life, hard work adulthood, then the twilight years when the leaves fall from the trees and the world prepares to rest. God watches over all the seasons, His hand is a part of each one. And when fall comes, He is there to gently bring to life to rest.

There is nothing to fear in death, although death itself is the antithesis of life. God has power even over death; nothing escapes His gentle hands. And so I knew that He would hold Rory and carry her over to the other side. What happens to animals when they die? I don’t know. But I do know God, and He is love. He loves all of his creation. He will do what is best for it.

Rory is gone now. I cried when that day came, and still cry. It means I have a heart, and part of it is gone. I like to think she is running through a field of green grass with that kind of hop and jump a dachshund has when they run. But wherever she is, she is with God now, free of the groans of creation. And there is no better place to be than in the hands of God.