Thursday, December 31, 2009

See you next year!



2010 sounds almost Sci Fi...doesn't it?! Nonetheless, that's when I look forward to "seeing you" next.


May God shower you w/ blessings in the new year as numerous as the


&



that rain down on New Years Eve :)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Remind me of THIS w/ every decision...





Generations will reap what I sow.
I can pass on the curse or a blessing...
to those I will never know.
Excerpt from Generations by Sara Groves



With the new year fast approaching & the "fresh start" it represents, I'm struck, once again, by how powerful even the daily/mundane choices in life are - as well as those really big & difficult ones we're required to make at times. It's almost overwhelming to consider how their ripple effects SO MANY other lives in addition to my own.

...it all reminds me of a plaque I gave Playmaker on her first day of high school

We each leave our mark on the world every moment of every day
through the choices we make and the actions we take.


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmastime Snapshots


Our kitchen window
A Christmas tea table set for a bookgroup discussion

Christmas morning Breakfast

A gift from my youngest daughter
that she bought w/ her own money & wrapped by herself

Christmas Day has just begun & we've already worn Mak out...
he cracks me up when he stretches out like this...


Gumdrop Tree
Christmas Dinner Table

Dessert - Dark Rich Chocolate-Cranberry Cake
&

a game of Guesstures
Baking cookies & decorating each other!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Joy to the World!

Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing!



Joy to the Earth! the Saviour reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy!

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found!

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders, wonders(!) of His love.

Twas the night before Christmas...


The Stockings were hung by the chimney with care

in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there....

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Official Norad Santa Tracker

Find out where he is, where his next stop is, & much more about the parts of the world he's visiting tonight - all here:



Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Warning: This jolly fellow is contagious!

Yesterday this jolly little fellow showed up in my mailbox! I should warn you that I do believe he's contagious! Here's why: When I first laid eyes on him, my eyes sparkled just like he does in this pic - & my mouth turned up like his too(!) & instantly I felt a bit flush & feverish ... as if I were warming up from the inside out.

I suspect that only snowmen made here, w/ melted glass(!), by my dear friend - could be so heartwarming. Incidentally she's the one who sent me this last year... &, in so doing, inspired me to celebrate Advent by practicing random acts of kindness (see my sidebar) - which has been so fun & meaningFULL :) - & from there it developed into a New Year's resolution.

I'm tellin' ya this thing spreads like wildfire! If you feel your heart warming, chances are you've got it too. If you want to know for sure .... see how you affect others. If it's in such a way that brings a sparkle to their eyes that wasn't there before - or causes the corners of their mouth to turn up - that's a sure sign that you've got it. ---If their cheeks flush ... well - at that point, you are highly contagious! :)

Monday, December 21, 2009

I found it! (Christmas Dessert)


Enjoyed perusing recipes for a bit today while trying to decide what to bring to our friends house for Christmas dessert. Finally decided on this "dark & rich chocolate-cranberry cake" in the lower right corner - tho' that mocha chiffon cake (upper left) seems to give new meaning to the word "coffeecake"(!) & was a close runner up that I just may try another time. I hope mine looks as pretty as the one in the pic - & that it tastes as good as it looks too. It's always risky to try something new...but that's part of the fun too :)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Living Nativity



Our church youth group performed a living nativity at church this evening. Playmaker was Mary. Her best friend was Joseph. Strike was an angel. They really did a nice job - all the kids involved. Just so sweet - especially bc they were older kids & they ran the whole program.... acting, singing/worship/speaking...the whole kit & kaboodle :) & they were so enthusiastic about what they were sharing - I really got the sense that their heart was in it.

Christmas Tree Collage

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Sooo tender .... & mild

I very much enjoyed visiting w/ those who participated in Scattering Lupine's & Yiota's Blogger Christmas Party - enjoyed chatting w/ old friends & meeting some new ones.

One treasure I found over at Everyday Possibilities (If you haven't already, stop in over there. She was a very gracious hostess w/ a lovely party post) was just too good not to share. It's been warming my heart ever since as I've been listening to it over & over. This has to be the MOST beautiful rendition of Silent Night I have ever heard... SO tender - & mild...

Friday, December 18, 2009

Handmade Gifts

The girls had a youth group White Elephant Christmas Party w/ a twist to go to tonight. The twist was that the gifts had to be handmade & the couldn't be edible. For a while we were stumped as to what they might bring but in the end they both made handmade stationery.

Playmaker took "handmade" literally & used her fingerprints to make these....


& Strike made notecards from some of her best photography.

Just thought they all turned out so nice! So nice...that I'd like some :)

Christmas Party



I've been looking forward to this party all week! My son even helped me redecorate here just in time for it :) - but, I could not for the life of me figure out what to bring! Somewhere in my search for something heartwarming, I found this....

READY FOR CHRISTMAS

Author Unknown


"Ready for Christmas," she said with a sigh,

As she gave a last touch to the gifts piled high.

Then wearily sat for a moment and read

Till soon, very soon, she was nodding her head.

Then quietly spoke a voice in her dream!

"Ready for Christmas! What do you Mean?

When only last week

You wouldn't acknowledge your friend on the street."

"Ready for Christmas, while holding a grudge!

Perhaps you better let God be the judge.

Why, how can the Christ child come and abide

In a heart that is selfish and filled with pride?"

"Ready for Christmas, when only today

A beggar lad came and you turned him away

Without even a smile to show that you cared!

So little he asked, he could have been spared."

"Ready for Christmas! You've worked, it is true,

But just doing the things that you wanted to do."

"Ready for Christmas, your circle's to small.

Why, you are not ready for Christmas at all."

She awoke with a start, and a cry of despair.

"There's so little time, and I've still to prepare!

Oh, Father, forgive me, I see what you mean;

To be ready means more than a house swept clean."

"Yes, more than the giving of gifts and a tree,

It's the heart swept clean that he wants to see,

A heart that is free from bitterness, sin,

Ready for Christmas means ready for Him!"

via


visit Scattering Lupines or Shells and Bells Flowers and Showers for a list of others participating in this year's Bloggers' Christmas Party!


Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

I'm finally going to read this - for perhaps the first time ever?! I honestly don't remember ever reading it before - tho something tells me I might have - (Yikes! It kinda scares me to even think about all that I've forgotten over the years!) Maybe it will "come back to me" once I begin :)

I must say, I'm a bit skeptical - bc, at least in my mind, ANY Christmas pageant in the running for "the best one ever" is going to be in stiff competition w/ the one the children at our church peformed last Sunday :)

Politically Correct (Ugh!) Twas the Night before ...

This is perhaps the most entertaining illustration I've read of a concept I find SO depressing... so ridiculous - that if it weren't true... it would almost be funny.

Twas the Night Before Christmas
Politically Correct

Twas the night before Christmas and Santa's a wreck…
How to live in a world that's politically correct?
His workers no longer would answer to "Elves",
"Vertically Challenged" they were calling themselves.

And labor conditions at the north pole
Were alleged by the union to stifle the soul.
Four reindeer had vanished, without much propriety,
Released to the wilds by the Humane Society.

And equal employment had made it quite clear
That Santa had better not use just reindeer.
So Dancer and Donner, Comet and Cupid,
Were replaced with 4 pigs, and you know that looked stupid!

The runners had been removed from his sleigh;
The ruts were termed dangerous by the E.P.A.
And people had started to call for the cops
When they heard sled noises on their roof-tops.

Second-hand smoke from his pipe had his workers quite frightened.
His fur trimmed red suit was called "Unenlightened."
And to show you the strangeness of life's ebbs and flows,
Rudolf was suing over unauthorized use of his nose

And had gone on Geraldo, in front of the nation,
Demanding millions in over-due compensation.
So, half of the reindeer were gone; and his wife,
Who suddenly said she'd enough of this life,

Joined a self-help group, packed, and left in a whiz,
Demanding from now on her title was Ms.
And as for the gifts, why, he'd ne'er had a notion
That making a choice could cause so much commotion.

Nothing of leather, nothing of fur,
Which meant nothing for him. And nothing for her.
Nothing that might be construed to pollute.
Nothing to aim. Nothing to shoot.

Nothing that clamored or made lots of noise.
Nothing for just girls. Or just for the boys.
Nothing that claimed to be gender specific.
Nothing that's warlike or non-pacific.

No candy or sweets…they were bad for the tooth.
Nothing that seemed to embellish a truth.
And fairy tales, while not yet forbidden,
Were like Ken and Barbie, better off hidden.

For they raised the hackles of those psychological
Who claimed the only good gift was one ecological.
No baseball, no football…someone could get hurt;
Besides, playing sports exposed kids to dirt.

Dolls were said to be sexist, and should be passe;
And Nintendo would rot your entire brain away.
So Santa just stood there, disheveled, perplexed;
He just could not figure out what to do next.

He tried to be merry, tried to be gay,
But you've got to be careful with that word today.
His sack was quite empty, limp to the ground;
Nothing fully acceptable was to be found.

Something special was needed, a gift that he might
Give to all without angering the left or the right.
A gift that would satisfy, with no indecision,
Each group of people, every religion;

Every ethnicity, every hue,
Everyone, everywhere…even you.
So here is that gift, it's price beyond worth…
"May you and your loved ones enjoy peace on earth."

Notice: This poem is copyright ©1992 by Harvey Ehrlich. It is free to distribute, without changes, as long as this notice remains intact. All follow-ups, requests, comments, questions, distribution rights, etc should be made to mduhan@husc.harvard.edu .

via

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Crippled Lamb

It's so hard to choose - but I think this is probably my favorite children's Christmas storybook of all time.


Bottom line:

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.

2 Corinthians 12:9

&

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,who have been called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28



Max Lucado is a "master illustrator." He artistically paints pictures with words and "The Crippled Lamb" is no disappointment!

Little Joshua, a lamb, feels so different from others. He bears spots while others don't. He doesn't have a mom or dad. He can't run, jump and play like the others, for he has a bad leg. Often feeling down on himself, he finds encouragement in a friend named Abigail, an aging cow.

Then one unexpected night, Joshua finds that there is a specialness about his differences. There is a unique role only he can fill.

Get the tissues ready! This is a book sure to move even the hardest heart. How vividly it portrays the love of a Father Who loves us inspite of our blemishes and sees each one of His children as special, with purpose!

Beautifully illustrated by Liz Bonham, this is a work you should not miss. This one is a "keeper" you'll wish to pass on from generation to generation. (via one customer review from Amazon.com)


I love Abigail. Thru' her character we can learn how to befriend & encourage those who are different - not "normal" (whatever that is?!).

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

This time last year ...


We were in the midst of the aftermath an incredible ice storm like nothing I've ever seen before. Snap!, crackle!, POP! was all that could be heard outside during the overnight storm that left the likes of a warzone in its wake. Occasional flashes of light accompanied some of the pops when powerlines fell or breaker boxes blew up. The school down the road was converted into an emergency shelter. Christmas break ended up lasting a month bc schools remained closed for repairs & to be used as shelters. Trees everywhere snapped like matchsticks. A good 1/4" - 1/2" of ice coated virtually everything! We were w/o power for about 8 days. Click here & here to see what our neighborhood looked like & here to see my letter to Santa.

The Last Straw

An Arab tale I recently discoverd that illustrates the humility necessary to honor the King of Kings w/ our so called good works.



A proud camel is chosen to carry the wise men's gifts to the new baby King in Bethlehem. He's reluctant & full of reasons (excuses!) he doesn't want to do it. However, when he realizes how much the younger camels admire him because he's been asked, it causes him to become much too proud & to foolishly boast of his great strength - & before he knows it, he's heading toward Bethlehem.

On the way, Hoshmakaka meets many others who have heard of his great strength & want him to carry their gifts to the new King too. How can he say no?! He begrudgingly burdens himself w/ ALL the additonal gifts & complains throughout the journey. Finally - when he feels his back is about to break & he can go no further, a small child begs him to carry his gift, just a piece of straw, for the baby King's bed. Hoshmakaka, perhaps foolishly, agrees when the child reminds him how strong he has heard he is - tho' it's all Hoshmakaka can do to put one foot in front of the other from then on. Just as he reaches the manger he realizes he can no longer carry this burden in his own strength - it's just too much(!) & falls to his knees. He's embarrassed as he sees others there he believes are mocking him - who are actually following his lead(!) - bend their knees & bow their heads. Just then - a tiny hand reaches out from the manger & touches his head. Suddenlly he can no longer feel his burden & from then on there was no burden, too great or too small, that Hoshmakaka would not gladly carry for the King.

You're invited to a Christmas Party


Take this image or one of your own and extend the invite from your own blog. Or just RSVP to Yiota or Scattering Lupines in the comments section so they can make sure everyone knows who to go visit on Friday.

Then, THIS FRIDAY give us your best Christmas celebration post! Post about anything that entails CHRISTMAS JOY for you! Ideas, music, food, memories, photos, favorite traditions, philosophies, verses, passages from movies or literature... Just bring something heartwarming and wonderful to the party and be SURE to visit around with the other "guests!"

Hope to see you there!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Silent Night

Yesterday the children at church performed a Christmas Pageant that was just too precious for words! Just SO sweet. Our Pastor played a Grandpa who read the true version of The Night Before Christmas to his grandchildren after they came to him rather confused by the traditional story. As he read, children acted out the program above them in the choir loft & on the stage nearby. We even had a real live tiny newborn baby playing the role of Baby Jesus --- & no crying he made! Actually it was a tiny baby girl - but who knew?! :) Special music & congregational Christmas carols were interspersed thru'out to help tell the story as well. Strike had a flute solo. Given her composure I'm pretty sure that, for some odd reason, I was more nervous than she was :) All I know for sure is that I practically forgot to breathe the entire time she was up there & I'm sure the entire congregation could hear my heart beating in my chest ...which must've be SO distracting!

She did a BeAutiFUL job & I trust The King of Kings was blessed by how she used her gift to honor Him.

video

Afterwards we headed to the fellowship hall for a birthday party for Jesus. The children, still in costume, circled around a birthday cake. We all sang Happy Birthday to Jesus & enjoyed sweet fellowship together.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

If I were to add another decoration to my collection.......

it would be this...



The Sweet Smell of Christmas

One scratch-n- sniff & I'm a child again!


Christmas is almost here! Little Bear can smell it—and so can you! The air is filled with the aroma of gingerbread cookies, minty candy canes, the piney Christmas tree, and yummy hot apple pie. Celebrate the holiday season with this classic Golden storybook which includes six scratch-and-sniff scents. via: amazon.com


My mom used to trace the pictures in this book to make her own Christmas Stationery for our annual family Christmas letter that she'd handwrite & photocopy to send along w/ our Christmas Cards.

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Lineage of Grace



Our bookgroup discussed this book last night...a compilation of five short stories of five unlikely women God chose to play key roles in the lineage of Jesus Christ. So timely (Advent) to reflect on how God sovereignly wove this lineage throughout HIStory into a tapestry of amazing(!) grace.

Book 1 - Unveiled

Tamar - a woman of hope. Betrayed & abused by the men who controlled her future, she yearned for justice (not retribution).

Book 2 - Unashamed
Rahab - a woman of faith. A woman w/ a past (a harlot) to whom God gave a future.
Book 3 - Unshaken

Ruth - a woman of love. As a young widow, she gave up everything, expecting nothing & God honored her.

Book 4 - Unspoken

Bathsheba - a woman who received grace. Her beauty stirred the passion of a king. Her pain moved the heart of God.

Book 5 - Unafraid

Mary - a woman of obedience. All eternity had been waiting for this moment. She responded in simple obedience to God's call.

***

To faithfully trust &/or obey God is a unique struggle for each woman yet the common denominator I find is a conscious choice each made at some point to trust & obey God despite their circumstances &/or failures. It seems, as a result of their struggles to remain faithful, their faith was actually being strengthened & perfected in that process - & "here" is where I could relate to each one of them to some degree.

The author builds her stories on biblical facts but uses creative license to fill in details that are not available there. She weaves cultural insight into each story that allows the reader to relate on a personal level to the characters portrayed. The only downside I see to reading Christian fiction of this nature is that if readers aren't familiar w/ the actual Biblical accounts, it would be difficult to decipher fact from fiction - but I really like that the author acknowledges that the Bible itself is the ultimate authority on people of the Bible & encourages her readers to read it for themselves to gain a greater understanding of its continuity, consistency & confirmation of God's plan for the ages ... that includes them!


I also like that the book includes Jesus' death & resurrection bc I've learned that when people ask questions such as Why/How could a loving God allow ______________ (fill in the blank w/ whatever comes to mind & I can assure you it will have been caused by - &/or the result of - someone's sin at some point in HIStory) one needs only to point them to the cross to help them understand the great length God went to - to provide a Savior ...

16"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.
John 3:16 - 18



A blogger friend , Yiota - who lives in Greece, accepted an invitation to read the book "along w/ us" as well. Despite that it took a long time to get there & arrived at a very busy time, evenso - she read Mary's story & posted her thoughts here: http://shellsbellsflowersshowers.blogspot.com/2009/12/lineage-of-grace.html




Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Perfect Storm (Snowday Part 2)


The "celebration" of the first snowday of this year went down all as UNplanned as the occasion itself was :)


Our neighbors allowed the neighborhood kids to slide & play in their yards - I attempted to repay one for her kindness w/ a loaf of homemade bread last night & another should receive a loaf right about lunch time today :)


Strike snow skating on the street...

Silly smiles in the snow!
Gingerbread Eggnog French Toast
w/ Cranberry Sauce & Whipped Cream for dinner...
I would not make a good food photographer!

Breakfast for dinner is a family favorite! .. .& in season we kick it up a notch by making our pancakes, french toast or waffles w/ eggnog instead of milk or water. W/ all the flavors of eggnog available now -- pumpkin, sugar cookie, gingerbread ... ooooh the possibilities :)

Other elements that contributed to the perfect storm which even included lightning, thunder & rain in the evening..... Well ***

I only had to go as far as my driveway to get my exercise
(shoveling snow is great workout!...whew!)

I only had to look out my window for some comic relief
(Cars desperately trying to maneuver w/ little success :)

Plenty of sleeping in late, snuggling under a warm blanket & reading. A round of Christmas in a cuppa for kids after playing/shoveling outdoors & I was so glad I put our gifts to the mailmen in the mailbox bc our mail lady did take a tumble yesterday ... perhaps that was a premonition I had?! Hopefully our little gift gave her a lift.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Let it snow, Let it SnOw, Let it S*N*O*W*! (Snowday!)

Having grown up out west, one thing I loooove most about living in New England is (are?!) snowdays!!! And there's something extra special (worth celebrating!) about the first one each year - which happens to be .... today :)

I'm definitely baking something (anything!) to cozy up the house, declaring it a no TV day.... (until the Christmas specials are on tonight!), letting the kids sleep in as loooong as they want & I could care less if they stay in their PJ's all day. I must finish the book for our bookgroup tomorrow...so the timing of this storm is perfect - & maybe (just maybe) I'll squeeze in some quilting too. Dinner? ... Gingerbread eggnog french toast w/ cranberry sauce & whipped cream :)

I imagine these days aren't all that pleasant for the mailmen bc of the added challenges they face just to get around w/o falling on their booty(!) so - I'll put our Christmas gifts to them (Dunkin' Donuts giftcards) in our mailbox today :)

Let it snow!....Let it SnOw!!... Let it S*N*O*W!!! ...& we'll enjoy the storm from the inside out.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Best Wishes for an IMPERFECT Christmas!

Ohhhh - how part of me wishes
you could've been there (& the other part is so glad you weren't!) - to see ALL the blooper shots - spanned over two photo shoots in as many days due to uncooperative dogs, people making weird faces or looking away, incorrect camera setting, .... Finally we threw perfection expectations to the wind & decided to throw snowballs instead(!) ... & low & behold THAT very last pic is the one that best reflects our family for real (SOooo NOT perfect!) & qualified as a Kodak moment worth capturing & worthy of the highly regarded spot on the front of our Christmas cards this year :)

Hmmm.... there's a lesson hidden in there relating to Christmas in general. If you're able to find it, you will have found our gift to you!

Having trouble? Well - we really want you to find it....so - here's a hint:


Best Wishes for an IMPERFECT Christmas!
(chances are it will be more focused/less stressful that way :)


... 14because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever
those who are being made holy.

Hebrews 10:14 (NIV)


Sunday, December 6, 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like ....


C * H * R * I * S * T * M * A * S



Please come in - out of the cold.

Can you stay awhile?

We're busy as we count down the days til Christmas...

But certainly not too busy to visit w/ a friend.

Come on in the kitchen.

Can I get you a drink?

Care for a candy cane?

or a cuppa?

Can't decide what flavor? Hmm... if
this is the most difficult decision you have to make today ...
you are having a ReAlLy good day :)

How 'bout we head into the family room & visit by the fire

My brother & his wife gave us this African Nativity. I've never seen one like it.





If you stay long enough perhaps you can help us decorate our tree!

We've only done the lights so far.

Hey - do you see what I see?.....

When you arrived it was dark & the ground was clear.
Now --- it's light out(!) & there is a blanket of S*N*O*W* outdoors!

You stayed all night, my friends.

My .... how time flies when you're havin' fun :)

I've really enjoyed your company. SO glad you stopped in.