Sunday, November 18, 2018

Sunday Afternoon Tea - My Annual Holiday Reminder

I have been re-posting this the Sunday just before or after Thanksgiving for a lot of years. It has been one of your favorites... and mine.  I have received more notes about how making such a list changed reader's Christmas seasons than any other post.  When I wrote this post for the first time, my son was still living at home.  So my Christmas list has been tweaked through the years to represent our current Season.  When I began making the list, it included a lot more in the way of "going places".  Now it much quieter.  But still good...

I remember coming to the end of a Christmas season many, many years ago and wondering at my frustration.

There were no severe money trials that season, nothing that should have kept me from enjoying Christmas but... I couldn't put my finger on it... there was this sense of a lack of satisfaction... an unsettled feeling.

Soon after that, I was reading an article (magazine... book?) about this very thing. In it, the author said she learned to write out what it was she wanted from the Christmas season, what was most important to her. When I started doing that, I realized why the previous season had been lacking in joy.

It had been a rushed Christmas, the "doing" of many activities I felt I should do and not "being" the person I wanted to be that Season. My frustrations stemmed from a lack of getting away, alone beside my Christmas tree, enjoying that which comes from prayer and study and reading of books. I also had not said "no" to some outside activities that did not bring peace and joy.

Since that time, I have enjoyed making a list each season. My list has changed since that time due to health and finances but only in the "big" things. My list back then included attending a Christmas concert that I loved each year.  However, it became too expensive even when we did have a regular income. It wasn't that much of a priority that I'd spend more for tickets to a concert then I would on a week's worth of groceries.

Another item on my list that has gone by the wayside is hosting a big Christmas party. I loved decorating the house and having a lot of people over but that season is now behind me.

I remember one very magic (Narnia magic) party in our former house when we invited over Stephanie's college group. There was a tree in the family room and one in the living room, a fire was burning in the fire place, food placed in various areas, conversations were going on in many rooms of the house.

Later that night, as the young people were leaving, one student came up to tell me that night will be one of his "perfect Christmas memories" when he leaves college. It is one of my perfect memories, too.

I have found by making a list of those things I love about Christmas, I can make certain what means the most to me (and for my family) becomes a priority for time and the budget. 

Here are a few for this year, written out on paper before transferring to my scrapbook journal. Of course, I can't do them all but any of them on the "wish list" would make my season bright.
  • Decorating the house with my beloved Christmas items.
  • Visiting my sister to see her Christmas decorations.
  • Decorating with my snowmen collection.
  • Carefully placing all my ornaments on the tree
  • Using my Friendly Village china
  • Morning quiet times in the dark, with the tree lit
  • A breakfast out at Cracker Barrel during the Holidays
  • Holiday Baking
  • Candy Cane Lane tea
  • Hot apple cider
  • Listening to the music of the season
  • Watching favorite Christmas movies
  • Reading favorite Christmas books
  • Seeing what yummies The Food Channel and PBS cooking shows come up with this year
  • Listening to concerts on PBS
  • One or two (or more) Pumpkin Spice Latte's to enjoy, switching to Peppermint Mocha as Christmas comes near
  • A morning at Panera sipping coffee and writing a real letter
  • Sending Christmas cards to our far away friends and family
  • Visiting my favorite primitive country store... breath in the scents, no purchase necessary
Most of my list in recent years involves more solitude than in the past and none require very much money.  This is only a way of thinking through what brings joy... and peace... and faith... and what lifts my thoughts to the One Who Made Me.

Little satisfactions can come in this... the most wondrous and magical time of the year.

I encourage you to brew a little pot of tea and fill your favorite tea cup, bring along a notebook and pen, light the Christmas tree if you have one, and think about those things that bring joy to your heart at Christmas.
Are you making time for them? 
Did you budget for them through the year? 
What makes your heart sing with gladness?
Have you asked God what can replace those "used to do" joys?
Are you saying "yes" to things you hate to do (and don't have to)?
Can you think of ways to save limited time (store bought sugar cookie dough?)
Have you realized that good enough accomplished now is far better than  perfect expectations left undone?

You don't need to do them all, just choose a few that will cause you to look back at this Christmas and smile... and remember, Christmas is not about the price of gifts or how many are given, Christmas is about the Giver of all gifts!

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - This and That and Thanksgiving

Pumpkin Cookies

Can you believe we are so close to Thanksgiving here in the U.S.?  I think it takes me by surprise every November as I wonder how an entire year has gone by since the last Holiday season.  This year it is an icy and snowy week before Thanksgiving but it is suppose to warm up a bit next week.

Due to various circumstances, not the least being a newborn baby, we are "doing the Holidays" different this year.  I am making a small dinner here on Thanksgiving, roasting a turkey breast instead of a big bird (not the Big Bird!) and less side dishes.

Then we will host a combined Thanksgiving and Christmas celebration mid-December which will include Mrs. Christopher's family once again.  Logistics are not as easy as they were when our son and his family lived five minutes down the road but we are all adaptable.

Okay, I must admit that this is going to be one of those rare years that I'm going to put up Christmas decorations early.  I'm ready this year and I do the decorating a little at a time so starting early makes sense... and it isn't all that early!  Is it?

Another change I'm making this year is to move our small Charlie Brown Christmas tree to the family room.  I have always set it up in the dining area that is part of the living room but Hubby is working on a project that has boxes and a file cabinet in that space.  The thought of taking those out and putting them back made the decision to move the tree easy.

The sales on turkeys this year has been phenomenal.   I will probably get one or two small turkeys for the deep freeze if the sale remains until I can afford a stock up at the beginning of December.  I like to take advantage of stock up prices, when the items are a loss leader and far below their regular cost.

I bought a few cans of pumpkin on sale, even though I will use what I had on the shelf already for this Thanksgiving.  The sale was good, although not a stock up price.  I make pumpkin bread throughout the year so a good sale helps long after Thanksgiving is over.

I thought I'd share a few of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes.  These are what I have on the "recipe blog" already:

Candied Cranberries... here.
My Mom's Thanksgiving Dressing (Stuffing) and a recipe for Broccoli Casserole... here.
Easy Cheesecake (9 x 13 dish)... here.
Chicken and Dressing Casserole... here. (Great recipe for leftover turkey)
Pumpkin Bars... here. (I made these to take half of them for our baby dinner gift)
Pumpkin Cookies... here.  (Very yummy)

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Better Mom Devotional, a review

The subtitle for Ruth Schwink's beautiful hardback devotional is, "Shaping Our Hearts as We Shape Our Homes".  Each page is illustrated with flowers similar to those on the cover, which create a pretty and feminine look to this book.

I must admit, I find some devotionals to be shallow in their message but the author has managed to write sound Bible based encouragement in each two page devotional.  Reading each devotional is like having a wise experienced mother talking to other moms about the joys and challenges of raising children and living the Christian life today.

This pretty and sturdy devotional would be a perfect gift for a new mom or one who is overwhelmed in the day to day aspects of motherhood.  I highly recommend it.

The Better Mom was provided by the publisher for the sake of review but the opinions are my own.

Further information can be found... here.

Disclaimer:  Most links to are Associate links.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Does Your Journey Have a Message?

Well, the Sunday post had to become a Monday post when I was too tired from our short trip to see family to finish tweaking it.  We did have a wonderful time together and that is the most snuggle bunny baby I can remember holding.  :)  Now for the Sunday Afternoon Tea post, just a little late.

I have been thinking a lot recently how God seems to allow people to go through certain trials so they can be of help to others.  I see it all the time in biographies.  It is certainly true in my own life.

For instance, I can pray for friends with prodigal children but, except for the usual discipline that occurs with raising children, my two have given me very little trouble.  Both my son and daughter also married people that I enjoy being around.

However, I can easily empathize with someone who has mental health issues in their family.  Whether a spouse, a child, or themselves... it has been a part of my life for a very long time and this past summer, close friends and family knew that my husband was experiencing the worst symptoms of mania that I have ever seen him go through.  While depression is difficult to watch, mania is frightening to those who care for a person for they can pose a danger to themselves and others.

For awhile this summer, we didn't know what would happen, contingency plans were made, and a lot of time was spent in prayer.  Thankfully, all is much better and it seems as if the worse is over.  My husband's symptoms may be a result of Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam. We know that a lot of people who served in Vietnam were exposed and that the permanent side affects include what he experiences.

I can look back and see how God prepared me for this specific journey so if I were to be asked if given the opportunity, would I choose a different trial... I would say definitely not.  I truly believe that God allows situations in our life that, as we walk through them throughout our life, become the message we will leave behind.

I recently wrote about the trials of my years before marriage and I am sure that... combined with those later... are the reason I have chosen to look for the Beauty.  I have long been attracted to that which is considered Beautiful in life.  Not necessarily expensive or sparkly or rare... but that which highlights God's Beauty and how He made us. 

Rest assured, there were plenty of people along the way who had never met Christians such as us with a love of great literature, art, making delicious meals, who lit a candle just for the cozy affect, and seeing our home as a blank canvas for creating a harbor in the storms of life.  (Now you know why I like Sally Clarkson and her family so much!)

When I look back, I realize that it was going through the trials we did as a family that made us spiritually stronger in general and brought about the good attributes of my kids as they grew.  When life is dark at times, one must search for Light to keep growing and in that search... roots grow deep.

That is also why we must give grace to our younger selves and to those we care about.  Mostly we need to give grace back to God, who provides it in the first place.  If we are holding on to a grudge against God for those things He has allowed in our lives to happen, then we can never use those experiences to His Glory.

Does your life have a message that will bring grace and peace to another?  Look at your journey.  See what He has brought you through and the lessons learned along the way.  Your message is found in your darkest days.  I don't believe God ever wastes one of our trials if we ask Him for wisdom.

When the healing doesn't happen or the progress is slow.  When the prodigal takes time to return.  When the relationship remains difficult and the road is rocky.  When it took awhile for dreams to be fulfilled or... if the answer to prayer was completely unlike you expected.  Most of the time people just need to know they are not alone in their suffering.

Your journey doesn't provide all the answers but it can lead one to Jesus, who does.  I'm convinced that someday when we meet Him, we can look back and understand everything we have been through.  Except I doubt once we look upon Him, anything else will matter.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Welcoming a new member of the family

I don't have very much time to write a blog post today as I'm in the midst of preparing a meal to take to my son and daughter-in-law. More importantly, we are finally getting to meet the newest member of our family as Piper welcomed a baby brother named Oliver recently.

For the sake of privacy and security, I'm not showing any recent photos but the above photo is one of my very favorites.  It is a picture of my oldest grandchild and my (then) youngest grandchild taken... maybe a year and a half ago?  Just when Piper was turning blond.  I think both of them are beautiful girls.

I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who enters Amazon to do their shopping through either the widget on the sidebar or through a link.  (You don't have to purchase the item you clicked on.) 

Your taking the time to enter Amazon through this blog is such a blessing.  It cost you and me nothing but time and while the percentage  of credit given is small, it all adds up.  I use credit to purchase items I need and birthday/Christmas gifts for my family.

I will be back tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Overcomer by David Jeremiah, a review

Pastor David Jeremiah is one of my favorite Bible teachers and the one ministry on TV that I watch most weeks.  His books have been favorites and this one is no different. 

The subtitle of Overcomer is: 8 Ways to Live a Life of Unstoppable Strength, Unmovable Faith, and Unbelievable Power.

Overcomer is written with a combination of a Scriptural foundation, stories from the Bible, excerpts from other books, examples from people he knows, and stories from his own life's journey.  This book is easy to read while the content has seriously good Bible teaching, which can cross most Evangelical denominational lines.

The chapters are:
  • Chapter 1: Overcomer
  • Chapter 2: Overcoming Weakness with Strength
  • Chapter 3: Overcoming Falsehood with Truth
  • Chapter 4: Overcoming Evil with Good
  • Chapter 5: Overcoming Anxiety with Peace
  • Chapter 6: Overcoming Fear with Faith
  • Chapter 7: Overcoming Confusion with Wisdom
  • Chapter 8: Overcoming Temptation with Scripture
  • Chapter 9: Overcoming Everything with Prayer
  • Chapter 10: Overcoming Death with Life

I thoroughly recommend Overcomer to anyone who appreciates sound Biblical teaching within an easy to read format.  

This book was provided by the publisher for the sake of review but the opinions are my own.

Further information about the book can be found... here.
Further information about the book and DVD combination can be found... here.

Disclaimer:  Most links to are Associate links.