Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Tribute to Corey's 24th Birthday

Today is the day after Christmas, Dec. 26th to all of you.  But to the VanTilburg is a special day.  "For unto us, a child was born"...24 years ago by the name of Corey Patrick.  So for my blog today, I wish to honor Corey by posting some cute and fun pictures of his "growing" up years. It is hard to decide which pictures to I will just post my favorites and it is still way too many.  Oh well...what are blogs for anyways?  For me, sharing the good news...Good news how God has blessed us with this son, my "Phoenix" arising from the ashes.   So that being said, here is the first picture I took on Christmas morning.  This is a hibiscus plant in winter mode.  The salvia  (which I thought was an annual) is rising up and around and through the dormant branches, life that continues to bloom, despite it's harsh surroundings and experiences, a picture of Corey. blooming still to bring many more blessings, I am sure, for God is Good!.

Grandma Joyce (my mom) and Corey

Timmy, meet your new brother, Corey!


Bath time.

nap time on pound puppy                                            

Timmy and his new Baby brother, Corey.
Corey's first birthday, a "penguin" theme.

Christmas morning                                

Corey, the athlete

Corey and his first friend, Brian
  First Bike
Another Christmas...getting taller                                  

        Corey at Awana's at Church

remember the M.C. Hammer pants?
Corey with cousins Chris and John

Nap time again

A brotherly competition on the game console.

Tim, Corey and the best dog ever, "Chance"                

Corey and the Pelican (Brief-ly)...

Camping in Northern Calif.

Shootin' the rapids in Utah.    

Exploring the St. Barbara Mission            


 Went blond here, (junior high) with cousin Deanna  

Exploring Lake Tahoe

In high school here now,
Another Christmas...

Corey played a little football his Senior year at Chino High.

Corey is 15 here, the morning of my mother's funeral,              
(Timmy is 20).                                                                  
 After a complicated 4 years of high school..
and after the passing of his brother, Corey started
to make some serious decisions, the first completing
 his H.S. graduation requirements.

Here is Corey with BFF Rodney                                            
Corey enjoys cooking (and eating) like his dad

Corey and his 3 "Amigas",
the Harrison sisters                                                            

Corey and Grandma (Oma) VanTilburg

At Kristen's wedding (cousin) last spring.                                          
      Corey, Ted, Grandma, Uncle Roy, Grandpa.                

Corey, the golfer.  Tim, I am sure, is  so proud now that
 Corey has taken up the sport that he loved so much.

Danny, Corey, Ted, and Mark

Timmy's friends are now all  Corey's friends,                            
 showing up on the 4th of July.                                                      

James, Jessica, Corey, Mom, Nathan,  Kyle and girlfriend.                  
(Oh,  the stories these guys can tell)...

 The morning we went to San Diego
 Zoo, this year on Tim's birthday (Sept. 25)

Mom and Corey

Corey's Graduation at ITT Tech, Dec 10th                        
AS Degree in Architectural Drafting and Design                

                           "Thanks Mom and Dad."    "You are Welcome Corey....We are very proud of you!"

"Mom and Dad, I am going for my Bachelor's
degree, so looks like you'll be putting up with me
 for at least 2 more years."

Just for fun:

Kissin' cousins...Katie and Corey

 Katie and Corey Dec. 20th 2009

 And just some additional favorites of Corey (with Tim)...We love you Corey!  We Can't wait to see what great things God will bless you with this next year!

          at Sea World                                                                                                  
  2004 Christmas

      Corey and Ted Christmas 2009


Friday, December 25, 2009

What's missing in your Activity Center?

The storage boxes were trudged in from the garage, one by one opened up to reveal the Holiday decor. A crimson table runner would go first on my storage chest that once belonged to my mother.  I carefully placed the stable that my husband made last year, but the characters were not in that same box.  Night time came, sunrise...another day to finish the decorating.  Hey, I figured it was still Thanksgiving weekend.  I was actually ahead of the game this year.  The stable would remain empty most of the week as I took on different tasks to fill my time.  

Later in the week, one of the neighbor children would come barging in the front door.  As he looked straight ahead at the empty stable, he would inquire, "Haven't you found all the 'activity center' yet?"  

"What?", I said...

He points towards my empty stable..."We have an 'activity center' too, except ours has people in it and some sheep. ...Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus..."

I started to giggle, "You mean 'Nativity Center.'"

Embarrassed, he just said, "whatever" and asked for Corey...

A mispronounced word or confusion?  Sure it was, but I saw into this a little more.  Don't we all have the "picture" of the stable and the characters in our brain?  My question to you is, how is that stable pictured in your heart? Does it remain empty?  Is that Baby Jesus in bubble wrap somewhere only to be occasionally let into your life when He will make you look and sound "spiritual?"  My little neighbor was right.  Jesus wants to be the "activity",  centered in our lives.  Christ's love is active, His grace is active, His words are active, His promises are active.  

This Christmas time, find the Christ child, unwrap His Goodness and Peace.  Share Him with all that they may see His Glory.  When Christmas is over, you won't have to feel that "let down" because the Christmas "Activity Center" will still remain in the center of your heart, everyday!  There is no need to keep Him wrapped up.   When we center Christ into the busy activities of our everyday lives,  the blessings will be many, just like the little bubbles we all love to pop on the bubble wrap. 
Merry Christmas to all!  Coleene 

Isaiah 9:5-7 (New International Version)

6 For to us a child is born,
       to us a son is given,
       and the government will be on his shoulders.
       And he will be called
       Wonderful Counselor,  Mighty God,
       Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
 7 Of the increase of his government and peace
       there will be no end.
       He will reign on David's throne
       and over his kingdom,
       establishing and upholding it
       with justice and righteousness
       from that time on and forever.
       The zeal of the LORD Almighty
       will accomplish this.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

"Sweet Anticipation"

What will we know? What power will we find?
Sweet anticipation of a fruit divine.
The choice left us rotten,
But not ever forgotten.

For a promise was planned in miraculous love;
Sweet anticipation from Holy God above.
Could we wait? Could we see?
The Savior that was coming for you and for me?

The presents sparkle and shimmer
The stockings are covered in glitter
The cookies crumble and crunch,
Anticipating the big office party lunch.

Sweet anticipation of a nice bonus check
Didn't come this year?  What the heck?
Who's strung up the best holiday lights?
Not so sweet anticipation of stressful family fights.

Sound familiar? Anticipating more?
Do you hear a knock on your heart's closed door?
Oh it's Jesus; and He doesn't want to barge in.
But He thought He was invited when He forgave you your sin.

Double check your list, A- oh… no invite sent.
Anticipating now, everything you spent,
Can I give to the Army or some other noble cause?
What if I just play Santa Claus?

Jesus comes in and just takes a seat.
I'm anxious to know what to offer Him to eat.
"Stop doing, He says, and listen, be still,
I want to remind you to follow my Will."

“For I came to free you from your anxious days
A bonus check that for all of eternity pays.”
Sweet anticipation of a dark, Silent Night
  And a Babe who will give us salvation’s pure light.

 So renew the relationship you started that day
 And invite the Savior to come over and stay!
  Sweet anticipation of hope and true peace,
     And a Savior, whose love for you will not cease.

  Christmas 2009
 Coleene VanTilburg

 John 14: 27
 Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you.
 Not as the world gives, do I give you.
  Let not your heart be troubled,
 Nor let it be fearful.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The O.C.D. Inn Keeper and His Special Guests

Hey, take a break from the cookies, from the wrapping, from the shopping.  Go get yourself a  spicy cup of Holiday tea, some hot  coffee, whatever warms you. Sit back and enjoy a little  story I wrote for fun and an answer to my own writing challenge (for my writing group).  We all know the Christmas story and the "stars of the show."  But what about those "extras?"  We see how Christ' birth excited the world,  in both a glorious way;  unto the shepherds and the wise men and also in a threatening way as to Herod's bloody rampage.  I didn't name my character here; let's call him "Pragmatus"... (root word meaning skilled, busy, businessman)... How did the birth of a baby play into this Innkeepers  busy life?  

Business had been so slow yet still tedious, like trying to count the stars on a hot summer night.  My uncle kept watch over the books, and he was to inform me that my humble establishment, my Inn, was just breaking even.  He suggested that I cut back on the fine meals I try to serve my traveling guests, but that is actually the part I enjoy the best; that will not be happening.  I am located on the outskirts of Bethlehem, a little far from the market place and even farther still from the synagogue.  My Inn has been in the family since Grandfather inherited it from a debtor many years ago, but I have been the sole proprietor now for the last thirty years or so.  Grandfather still resides in the front room where he sits and spies on visitors, commenting to himself about Samaritans and idol worshippers.  I have tried to convince the old man that to be successful sometimes meant allowing all travelers to have safe haven for a night or two.  It didn't mean we would be taken in by their godlessness; but that we would profit from their silver just as well.  Grandfather remained the skeptic.   

My wife had died in childbirth, the baby as well.  I was thankful to have my grandfather to still look after and this little place, for if that were not the case, I am sure I would have been swept away by some caravan coming through town.  My own father had abandoned me many years ago seeking his own fortune.  So I kept myself very busy, not thinking of the love I had been denied most my whole life.  I did not have friends, rarely went to temple, and any time I spent away from the Inn was when I was at the marketplace.  Here, I was the cook, greeter, housekeeper and nurse to my grandfather.  He was way into his nineties now and I knew from his feebleness that soon I would have to say my goodbyes---but that was not today.  Today, Grandfather would be reacquainting with old friends and telling exaggerated stories. Many people would be arriving in town to register for the census, to return to their town of birth.  It was just one more way Caesar would pillage more of our hard earned money from us. Many places in town raised their price to take advantage of the many returning families, but my wife always had such a rare honesty about her, especially when it came to people.  She would have not approved and I respected her for that.  I liked to have a reputation for my fine meals, and there is where the real money was to be made.  Out back I had a few animals in my two barns and a small grazing field.  Here, you would get fresh vegetables from my own garden and the kebabs of lamb were sweet and delicate.  No one could resist once the smell of my suppers wafted into the afternoon breezes.

It was mid morning and I was in the smaller of my two stables checking on the hay supply and the donkeys belonging to some of my borders. I even tried to make the animals as comfortable as possible for some of them had made long journeys as well.  As I was busying myself with the tasks, something very powerful came over me. This presence or feeling was in my feet and my fingertips, yet it seemed to be centered in my my soul...I was not fearful yet I knew I was not alone.  I knew this was something good.  Often when I wasn't keeping myself busy enough, I thought about my wife and son and an achy loneliness would come upon me, a feeling that would sometimes leave me prostrate, devastated to the core until my knees buckled.  Time had eased those moments, or had I just replaced them with my obsessive and sometimes compulsive ways of running this Inn?  Well, only God that was another mystery.  A loving God did not exactly exist in my world.  God was a taker.  What was I feeling, what is happening?  Why all of a sudden were my thoughts on God, an entity I really did not understand and chose to turn from. God was for the old Jewish men, forever stuck in their “customs and traditions.” 

As I looked around the stable, there was this calm.  Even the animals seemed mesmerized by this same awareness I was feeling.  Then I watched as one by one each of the donkeys lowered himself to the ground.  The newborn lamb carefully buckled her already wobbly little legs and lay still, close to her mother who was not making any “bleating” sound whatsoever. The cow stood still as if at attention, not even a swish of her tail.  I was still not afraid but filled with an awe I could not understand, like I was seeing something beautiful for the very first time and understanding what true beauty was. Maybe I have died,  yes, that must be it…the heart just gave out here in the barn and…no not right now, I can’t leave the Inn right now… and besides, this feels good. I am sure God would want to deal with my attitude towards Him first…  Peace…that is what I felt…real peace for the first time in my life.

That feeling that something was moving all around me continued.  I felt something gently brush my face, and I felt as if I was being held close, like a blanket of love.  Suddenly, a pure white dove flew down from the rafters above, swooping down and landing on a manger I had just filled with fresh hay. That was it, the dove.  It must have spooked the animals a bit, that’s why they were acting so strange.  I continued cleaning and raking the hay evenly throughout the little stable but with a new refreshment, anticipating tonight’s supper and chores.

That evening as I checked in on all of my borders, satisfied that the Inn was full and contemplating my busy morning preparing their meals, I heard a commotion downstairs.  “What was Grandfather doing up so late into the evening?” Rounding the corner, I saw them; a young man with a woman, she looking somewhat in distress.  As I approached the couple I could see that she was with child, and most possible at her given time.  This couple needed a room and they needed one tonight.  Had they traveled from far to come here to Bethlehem? They told me of their search in town, how there were no rooms, how they were sadly turned away.  Could I please help them out? The door to my Inn was left ajar and I felt the evening winds push it open more. The dove from this morning came flying through the opening, landing in the niche behind me. 

“I only can provide you with my barn, but the hay is clean.  I can bring you many blankets and provide fresh water from my well.”

“Thank you, kind sir.  I am Joseph.  We will settle here, in your barn, for Mary, my wife…her time will soon be here.”

I normally would have had mixed feelings, sad memories, but again, I was feeling love, feeling purpose, feeling peace. I knew this couple was special somehow and they would remember my hospitality.   I have got to get that dirty bird out of here before it makes a mess on things…

I led the couple to my barn, supplied them with fresh blankets and warmed water from my fire stove and also some broth I had left over from supper time. Then I left them to their privacy.  As I lay down myself that night, for the first time since my childhood, I asked God to be with this young couple, and I felt that same peace. 

A beautiful baby boy was born that starry night in my barn.  Somehow, I knew the experience I had had earlier in the morning was connected and that God had heard my prayer.  That peace was still there, holding its ground on the slippery slope that once was my heart.  My Grandfather’s last breaths would come that early spring.  I thought that would have been my reason to be free, but I had already gained freedom the night that baby was born in my stable. I learned about myself that night.  It wasn’t my circumstances that were keeping me obsessive and controlling.  It wasn’t that God had left me and gone somewhere else. The wall of bitterness was built brick by brick by me, measured out in a perfect little circle around my heart.  I now know that when I stepped into the stable that day, God met me there. He loosened up the mortar, but I was the one who began to break apart the bricks.  That baby changed my purpose. I continued to be the best Inn proprietor I could be, staying instead of fleeing as I had planned when Grandfather died.  I was able to say prayers with him and share a few temple gatherings which allowed him to let go, have peace himself.  He could see that I had made peace with my real Father as well. 

So here I am, an old man myself now, still welcoming strangers who need rest, nourishing hungry travelers and helping guide many along to their next journey. So come, come feel the love born here.  It is for the entire world to share, and there will always be room for you here, at the "Holiday Inn".

P.S.  In further research, maybe our Inn Keeper's name was Thaddeus.  Let's say   " Pragmatus" was  his middle name.  


Friday, December 11, 2009

Christmas Poetry: The Fragrance of Christmas

Poetry,  probably IS my favorite thing to write.  It comes naturally to me.  Sometimes in my thoughts I am rhyming words...Maybe that is weird...I don't know...This particular poem is one of my favorites.  I wrote it for the Christmas of 2006, the last Christmas we spent as a whole family.  I had started to illustrate it, but got sidetracked with...well, life these past few years.  Since I have been illustrating my "Worm" story,  I do plan on starting to sketch out ideas again for this poem next year.  For now, I hope you enjoy the sweet aroma and may Christmas  linger in the air long after the ornament  boxes are packed away and the New Year's diets begin.  

The Fragrance of Christmas

Can you smell Christmas? Does it linger in the air?
Can it permeate your nostrils and stay in your hair?
Oh there are many scents of Christmas, I 'm sure you can think,
Of a few  in general and some so distinct.

There is good food of course, some specialties,
Like turkey and prime rib and cookie recipes.

the kitchen smells of vanilla and sugar cookie dough,
Cinnamon and gingerbread, of these you do  know.

The Christmas tree is fresh and smells oh so clean.
The pine and the sap convey a mountain scene.

Hang some candy canes on the branches of the tree;
The peppermint and the cranberries for all to see.

Or some may string popcorn to zigzag around
"Save some to eat!" (While the hot chocolate goes down).
The smell of the fire burning up the chimney,
Brings a warm glow to our cheeks, thankfully.

Let us think on Christmas, so very long ago,
In a little town of Bethlehem where the angels will behold.
The birth of One special in the still of the night,
What were the fragrances of this Holy night?

Oh, I'm sure the stable was musty and stale;
The donkeys and cows swishing their tails.
The hay in the troughs or mangers to feed;
The smell of the earth and weary travelers in need.

But a baby was born on that starry night,
As shepherds gazed up to the heavenly sight,
Announcing His birth, "what a glorious day!"
Can you smell God's love, Yahweh?

The gifts were brought from the Wiseman as told,

Sweet aroma of frankincense, myrrh and gold.
Christ the Savior brings us still today,
Salvation, forgiveness...there was a price to pay.

The stench of our sin was the reason He came;
To drench us and cleanse us in Spirit without blame.
Because we believe and confess in our heart,
Christ's Love for all mankind will never depart.

So next time you breathe deep the fragrance all around,
Be thankful to Jesus whose promise you've found.
And share please, the Good News of His sweet scent,
The fragrance of Christmas is a love present.

Have a Sweet Smelling Christmas
and now as well, Christmas 2009

I Corinthians 2:14  Thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

What does Christmas Look Like at Your House?..(Link-up)...

Well, OK...if you insist...Linking up with my blog friends here to get a glimpse of a California Christmas.  We actually did have rain all day yesterday and beautiful snow on our local mountains this morning.   For us Californians, it was pretty cold this morning.   When Ted left for work at 6:00 am, it was 29 degrees...I don't know what it was when I left, but I had ice on my windshield . 

These are the last of my banana chiles that I plucked  out of the garden on Sunday before the rain.  They looked so Christmassy, I put them in this crystal container and displayed them on my kitchen desk shelf.    

Sunday, I also started the cookie baking.  This is an important tradition.  I love to try out new recipes, but mostly stick to some old favorites that are tried and true.  I miss Tim in the kitchen at Christmas.  Staying up until 2 in the morning  making cookies, was one of our crazy,  favorite,  hyper things to do.  We always gave most of the cookies away to neighbors, work, and school.  So here is the mess still there today...I have some made, but can't show you yet...

My dining room table though looks nice and cleaned-up for once. Way in the back there is my snowman collection.  A couple of years ago, we had a secret Santa thing going on at school.  I kept getting the cutest snowmen in my box or delivered to my classroom.  That was a lot of fun since I had lost so much of my Christmas things in a fire.  


I love Snoopy.  I try and collect snoopy things when I can.  So here are my snoopy's hanging out on my stairs...The handrail garland was made by my dear friend Becky's  daughter,  Courtney (who will be getting married 12/31)  check her out at   Courtney came over and decorated our townhouse for the first Christmas without Tim,  while I was gone to church one Wed. night. (Christmas '07).  

The moose are trying to get their point across here about "personal space"...Do you think anybody's getting the message?  

2007, that was the first year, first of everything  without Tim. On Thanksgiving that year, the three of us  went to Disneyland from 7:00 a.m. opening until 12:00am  closing.  A few days later, I composed a poem about our day there, and sent it off to share with a few friends. My same friend Becky,  actually forwarded the poem to Disneyland.  They loved the poem so much, they sent us these Christmas Mickey and Minnie's and three  50th anniversary shirts.  That was very cool.  I will share the poem on  my blog some day.  These are my Timmy and Corey trees; my mom's Bible from her teenage years opened to the 23rd Psalm.  

Placed over an existing picture for the holidays, pictures of past Christmas's and winters with our son, Tim.

I have this beautiful frame with these "words" of Jesus out on my table all the time.  It just seems appropriate to have it next to the Nativity here at Christmas time, for Jesus is the Reason for the Season and the Reason why I  can have Hope and Peace in every Season of my life.  


Santa fills it with sweet memories

And of course, there is a family who lives here....Corey left for school when I was snapping these...but here is Ol' man Christmas...I mean young at heart-man Christmas...still believing in his Trojan Team!  (Well there's always next year)...Merry Christmas Ted!  

So, that is Christmas in the VanTilburg house, so far anyways,  for 2009.  It's only the 8th of December, and  no official Christmas tree yet and but if we do, you'll be the first to know!