Sunday, December 17, 2017

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Silent Night

Silent Night, Holy Night
All is Calm, All is Bright

Long before I knew what an introvert was, I craved peace and calm in my days.  I looked forward to evenings curled up on the sofa with a book to read and perhaps a cup of coffee or hot chocolate.  I didn't come to enjoy tea until much later.  ;)

There were many Christmas seasons that my husband would ask me what I wanted for Christmas and with a sigh, I would always tell him that I just wanted some "peace and quiet".  He doesn't dare ask me these days for he knows what the response will be and since he is the only other human in the house, any lack of quiet cannot be blamed on the children.

In a previous church, our pastor would give a similar sermon before each Holiday season.  He would remind people that families can be messy and that Thanksgiving and Christmas may require people to be in close contact with those that they avoid the rest of the year.

His advice was always to "be at peace as much as possible as it depends on you", to remember that relationships are more important than being correct on our opinions, and that we may only have one time a year to reflect Christ to our family. I remember that each November, even though there is no one I'm spending the Holidays with that I wouldn't love to see each day of the year.

Instead these days, when I reflect on peace, I think of how one with a chronic illness needs as many stress free days as possible.  Living in a fallen world where stuff happens makes that impossible but I do what I can in my ability to control my days.  All of these are things I write about often.

This past week I was thinking of the Nativity and what it must have been like for the Holy Family on the night of the birth of Jesus.  It was probably fairly quiet for the shepherds out in the fields with the sheep.  However, I doubt it was quiet in the town of Bethlehem with it being full of the descendants of David.

Instead of a silent night, it would not surprise me to find it was quite loud with rowdy Roman soldiers arguing with annoyed tax payers; not to mention the horses, cattle, sheep, and perhaps a few camels here and there.

I have often wondered what Mary thought in that place, probably surrounded with animals, knowing that she was in the process of giving birth to God's Child.  Did this give her peace, knowing He was taking care of her?  It may have but I'm thinking the thoughts of her teenage mind had to include fear... and not the least amount of confusion as to how God allowed her to be giving birth in these surroundings.

I have long written that we Protestants do not give Mary enough credit.  In the effort to avoid any look of worshiping the mother of Jesus, we seem to forget that she was just that... the mother of the Lord. She was one special young woman.

At least Mary had experienced some supernatural events by this time but one has to think of Joseph and what he was pondering.  Knowing how earthly fathers can be at the birth of their own children, think of how Joseph was feeling at the birth of God's child.  A child for whom he felt he would be responsible to protect and provide for I'm certain.

No, that first night was indeed a Holy night but I'm not sure it was peaceful and quiet.  Profound, yes.  Thought provoking, most definitely.  Peaceful... only if it were a God given supernatural peace that flooded the small family and those who came to visit and that is entirely possible.

The earth will not know a permanent peace until Christ returns again to set up His Kingdom for good and the enemy of our souls is locked away where he cannot roam the earth looking for whom he may devour.

Jesus did give us a gift that Christmas, when he arrived at the first Advent.  Peace in our hearts was now possible.  Before He went to the cross, He said we would receive "peace that passes all understanding".  I've felt that peace during those times when the reality of circumstances was anything but peaceful but inside there was a deep, lovely calm.

What can we give Him this Christmas?  I think one thing in our lives that would bring Him great joy was to bring peace into the fellowships in which we find ourselves.  To bite our tongue when we want to respond to a false accusation by a person well known for stirring up trouble.  To walk away from a situation that would otherwise end in great debate.

Not everyday, mind you.  For God does call us at times to stand our ground and to be His salt and light to the world.  There are those whom He ordains to forge Truth in a dark world.  But during these days ahead, when families are surrounding the dinner table, we can give Him the gift of bringing peace to the Season.

Image: Season of Peace

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Living the Pantry Lifestyle: One Week Away-ish

I enjoy finding the perfect Christmas gift for loved ones, even while on a budget.  Probably because I don't have to shop for all that many people compared to very large families.  However, there was a panic late this week as I realized Christmas was around the corner and I still had not wrapped and sent the gifts to New England.

One expected and another unexpected visit to the eye specialist took a few days away from being able "to do" and a pesky sinus headache from a fierce, wind driven front were partly to blame for the reality check.  I have two thank you letters to write that are far past due, a book review past due, baking gifts to... bake, and not one Christmas card has been sent.  They may not make it out this year.

But to be honest, I think I tend to go through this every Christmas season. I'm beginning to think the month of December goes by in double speed.  I recall a woman I admired who addressed all of her Christmas cards in October.  I thought she was a tad bit early but when I think about it... she never had a year when no cards were sent out. 

I wonder if she realized one year just how quickly December flies by and decided to spread out her To Do list over a few months instead of Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve.  Wise woman. 

I had a few gifts purchased with Amazon credit (thanks to YOU!) that had sent to New England already.  One was a cookbook I usually buy for Elisabeth (Ree Drummond's newest cookbook) but with so many young cooks in the family now, I told my daughter not to wrap it and to let everyone enjoy it immediately.

Her new book, The Pioneer Woman Cooks Come and Get It! was a huge hit with the family.  The subtitle is, "Simple, Scrumptious Recipes for Crazy Busy Lives".  (That certainly describes her family!) So we have a good review from ages seven through (shhhh... we won't tell).

One of the reasons I first began to give Ree Drummond's cookbooks to Elisabeth on Christmas or Birthdays (according to when the book came out) was because it was so good for new cooks.  With mostly easy recipes and photos of the cooking and baking process, it helps every cook to know what to do in each step.

So when I received an Amazon gift card from a blog friend via email (another thank you!)... I knew what I wanted to buy.  I now have Ree's book sitting next to me and multiple recipes have been bookmarked to try soon.  I agree with Elisabeth, each one of them looks good. 

Ree has a special "Ode to Charlie" poem in the back and anyone who followed her blog before she became famous on The Food Network will smile and cry over that.  I think Charlie was the true star of the blog.

Let's see, I really don't have anything important to say today.  Another ramblings kind of post. We did get the package sent Friday on the way home from meeting Mr. and Mrs. Christopher for lunch.  They were passing through town on their way to Chicago to see Wicked, the tickets having been purchased last Spring.

On Thursday, when I was not feeling well after the eye injections, I realized only two items on my To Do list had immediate time limits so I concentrated on them.  They were both accomplished Friday morning and I could feeeel the tension leaving.

If we are not careful, Christmas can become one more item on the To Do list after another.  I'm determined that doesn't happen and, yet... it does.  That means it is definitely necessary to spend more time reading the Word by the light of the Christmas tree on December mornings.

Mentioned in this Blog Post
The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Come and Get It!... here.

Disclaimer:  Most links to are Associate Links.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Sunday Afternoon Tea - An Audience of One

There was a very early morning this week that found me sitting on the sofa, gazing at the lights on the Christmas tree, the decorations, and just pondering how pretty this time of the year can be when one allows.

I had been reading a few emails but decided instead to tap on the Amazon Music App and bring up the music of On a Cold Winter's Day since it is perfect for quiet Christmas pondering.  The tablet was set aside so I could enjoy the peace of the morning.

Besides the light of the tree, I was also in full view of the scene above.  I suppose the amusing thing about that corner of the Living Room is that only two items were put out for Christmas.  They were the quilt and the Boyd's Bear "angel".  The small tree was only moved over from another part of the room where it resides year round.

My sister was over one Christmas and commented on my pretty Christmas artwork.  Since I love winter scenes (and winter except the whole walking and driving on ice part), they are actually there year round, too.

The good thing about my style of decorating is that it makes Christmas very easy and is another reason for not going overboard with lots of extra stuff... that is easier said than done because I do love Christmas stuff.

Since I didn't bring out the decorations I usually put on the Hutch, I had to do a bit of changing around this year.  However, I like it so much it just may have to return next Christmas.  The various bottle trees usually stand beside little buildings but this year they became a forest.

The tree sits in its' usual corner next to the sideboard, which again sparkles with my thrift store silver service.  This time of year is when it likes to show off a bit and has a very Olde English Manor feel about it.  ;)

My ponderings that morning, if titled, would be called "An Audience of One"... which is where this blog post was birthed.  I was thinking how often we do not do that little extra that brings Beauty into our life because we think no one else would see it... or not enough people would view all of it to make the work practical.

However, I learned long ago that when it comes to Beauty, there is always one person around that not only appreciates it but deeply needs it in their life.  That person is... me.

I admit that it was a struggle to decorate as I once did after Stephanie left home because she was my decorating partner.  Even in her busy University years, she made time to decorate the tree each year (and she was and still is the only other person I trust decorating "my" tree).

Then when Christopher was married and left home for good and it was just my husband and me, there was even more a sense that my decorating days were over.  We no longer had kids at home.  We no longer hosted Holiday parties for them.  Everything had... changed.

It was then that I felt the Holy Spirit whisper to me that not everything had changed.  I still loved the Beauty that Christmas brings, the music, the scents, the food, the way it makes me feel.  He reminded me that there was still an audience to appreciate what I did and that was me.  (Sometimes my husband, too.)

He also reminded me there was Another who noticed.  The One that created Beauty in the first place.  He who will always appreciate our efforts to bring Beauty into a fallen world and Light into the darkness.

He who was there with me that morning as the music played, in the midst of the Christmas decorations.  He was there as I sipped my first mug of coffee (the absolute best cup all day).  He was there when Florentine jumped on my lap and cuddled on the flannel housecoat. 

It was the One whom we celebrate this time of year that brought the peace in the room.  All I had to do was take it all in... our attitude is our choice.  Always.  How we will react each day.

We were created to sparkle, my friends. 

Mentioned in this Blog Post
On a Cold Winter's Day: Early Christmas Music and Carols from the British Isles... here

The small plates on the Hutch are from the Better Homes and Garden Christmas selection at Walmart.  I bought them last year but I think they have them again this season.

Disclaimer:  Most links to are Associate links.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Priorities at the moment

Gosh it has been difficult to write this post today.  I usually start writing on Friday but I had an appointment with my retinal specialist yesterday that took up part of the morning and then we stopped to purchase a Christmas gift on the way home since Michaels is close to my doctor's office.  Then our Internet today is s.l.o.w. and I had to restart the modem.

If you follow me on Instagram (@coffeeteabooksandme), you will have seen this photo of my Christmas washi tape collection.  I added to it yesterday with Michael's 50% off Christmas items sale.  Washi tape half price is inexpensive! I try to set aside a little in my budget at Christmas to purchase Christmas sale items.  

Ever since Thanksgiving, I have been giving priority of the budget and my time to the Holidays since they go by so quickly.   For instance, as I write the CD player is singing out Amy Grant's Home For Christmas CD.

I want to hear all the music of the season that I can at this time of year.  This CD brings back memories of when my daughter was in college and sung Breath of Heaven at our church.  It was beautiful.  Sniff, sniff.  Oh, yes... the Holidays bring memories, too.  ;)

I've been stocking the pantry with food that is seasonally on sale.  I bought a couple whole chickens but also packages of chicken legs since I tried them for chicken soup and they made a rich broth.  All at a great sale price. Cranberries went on sale and I now have two gallon size Ziploc bags, each containing three bags of cranberries... mostly for baking purposes in the next year.

I plan to purchase a bag of organic lemons soon to make preserved lemons, something I've been wanting to try for years.  All the citrus is less expensive right now.  I stocked up on cream cheese at a Holiday sale, brown sugar, white sugar, flour, and some spices at a good price.  I will be keeping an eye out for New Year's Eve specials, too.

I prioritize the food budget to stock up on these items which mainly go on sale during the Holidays.  An extra turkey resides in the deep freeze for perhaps a January Thanksgiving meal and soup while I'm sure if hams go on sale more before Christmas, an extra ham will keep the turkey company.

I've read a few articles by those who believe in prepping, all advising their readers to make certain their pantries are well stocked the closer we get to Christmas.  For there is chatter about possible terrorism, not the least of which would be North Korea trying to strike an American stronghold.  It doesn't have to be on the mainland, an attack any where in the world will cause buying panic at the grocery stores.

So it wouldn't hurt to check your basics this week.  Just in case...  I think the biggest insight I ever had about being prepared was that an event does not have to happen in your own back yard to make travel difficult in my area and especially leaving empty grocery stores.

I have shared before that my late friend, Kathy, lived in New Mexico but the shelves on her grocery store were almost empty for weeks because the food and supply trucks were diverted to the Gulf after Hurricane Katrina.

This next week, I need to begin Christmas baking and by stocking up on butter (now in the freezer) and the other ingredients on sale since before Thanksgiving, my baked goodies will be gift giving at a great price.

I have chicken soup simmering on the stove that needs my attention.  I'm hoping the Internet is behaving so I can publish this without a problem.  I do apologize for a quick and rather wordy Saturday post.  I hope you can make sense of it!  Now I remember why I usually begin these posts during the week.  Sigh...

Mentioned in this Blog Post
Amy Grant Home for Christmas... here.  (So much nostalgia in this music.)

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Stayling Stylish, a review

Candace Cameron Bure has provided a book that many young women (and some older ladies, too) will enjoy very much.  In it, she shares what she has learned through the years about dressing to look both stylish and I'd say much more modest than most women in the entertainment industry.

Candace has managed to put into one book a lot of information about putting a wardrobe together.  This includes what pieces of clothing to invest money in and which can be purchased cheaper, how to assemble a wardrobe, what shoes work best with various outfits, etc.  There is even a chapter on how to dress for traveling.

Besides clothing, there is information abut skin care, make up, eating to stay healthy, exercise and spiritual growth as Bure is well known for her Christian faith.

I highly recommend this book, especially for teenage girls and young women who are currently developing their own personal style.  Well written with a lot of photos, it is fun to read and will make a good reference book.

Staying Stylish was provided by the publisher for the sake of review but the opinions are my own.

More information can be found... here.

Disclaimer:  Most links to are Associate links.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Sunday Afternoon Tea - When Christmas isn't perfect but that is just fine

Back in my former life, when I worked in Organization Development, my boss would remind me that many of the problems we dealt with were because people wanted to "live life the way it ought to be and not the way it is".  He called it his, "is-ought" theory.

I think of that each and every Christmas Season for that is the root of any frustrations I have with the Holidays.  I have an image in my mind of the Christmas I long for and when it is compared to the actual circumstances of that particular year... well, sometimes they are closer in reality than other years.

There are some circumstances we just cannot change (or easily change) whether they be health related, finances, kids far away, no kids at all, being single, challenges with a family member,  living away from family, or a variety of ways life is far from perfect.

I have learned to meet every Holiday Season with the realization that life is not what it ought to be (actually, I have to be reminded of that every day of the year).  This isn't Heaven, yet.  The war of the ages continues on here on this fallen planet and  humanity pays the price.  Someday that will all change.  Amen and Hallelujah!

In the meantime, I do the best I can with what I have.  Sometimes alone and at times with the help of friends... humans and a favorite cow (Moo).  There are years I feel like doing nothing and have to force myself to even put a tree up and then there are Christmas seasons I decorate everything but the cat (while thinking how cute a red ribbon would look on her).

This year I'd say is... good.  Not great but good.  On one hand, I put up decorations but only about half of what is available.  I knew what I got out would have to be put away. The house still looks festive and Christmasy.  I have a stack of Christmas books, DVDs, and a few Hallmark movies are set to come on so they are not missed.

Sometimes there are those challenges that cannot be changed.  Through the years they have included grief and I'm thankful this year is not one of them.  Time doesn't take away completely that sadness but it makes it less sharp.  Health issues continue as does having to forgive people over and over (and over) due to mental health issues.

There are a few ways I replace sadness with joy and all of those have to do with remembering the True reason for Christmas.  I've been keeping my Bible on the coffee table to grab as one would take a life-giving booster shot during the day.  I am so thankful for the larger print Modern English Version Bible I bought last year (before the whole losing my sight in the right eye thing).  So far the translation has not let me down, either.

I listen to Christmas music, that which I've loved for years and some British choral music that I've come to appreciate the past few years.  There is something about music that changes the atmosphere of a room, which causes one to realize why King David's musical abilities soothed King Saul (until Saul tried to kill him later but that's another story).

Right now I'm reading Phyllis Tickle's What the Land Already Knows: Winter's Sacred Days for Advent reading.  There are times when reading from a different perspective helps me more fully get a picture of Jesus (she is Episcopalian).  The Miss Read Christmas stories offer a good balance.

I must admit, there have been prior years when all I wanted to do was hold my breath and wish the Holidays would just get over with thank you very much.  Thankfully, they have been few.  Most of the time it has been like this year when I must choose to have joy

A lesson taken from past trials is this... they can swallow you up like the enemy of our souls intended or you can fight back by doing the opposite of what he expects.

For instance, putting up a tree with pretty lights and decorations that mean so much is an act of faith.  Polishing the (thrift store) silver to look sparkly is an act of faith.  Choosing to read life giving books is an act of faith.  Deciding to dress up and visit a friend or go to a concert when you feel like staying home and suffering is an act of faith.

Baking cookies when there is no family nearby and taking them to the local police or fire department as a gift is an act of faith.  Reaching out from your own pain to help another is an act of faith.

When you choose to live as Jesus wants you to live, to have a thankful attitude instead of complaining, that is an act of faith and all of it has eternal consequences.  As I have told my husband seemingly a million times... sometimes all you have to give the Lord is your attitude.

So this year my Christmas is not perfect but that is just fine with me.  For it is good and I have learned that good can be... good enough.  There is a lot for which to be thankful and isn't it quite a blessing that we have Someone to thank?

Mentioned in this Post
Larger print MEV Bible... here
What the Land Already Knows... here.
Christmas at Fairacre... here.

Disclaimer: Most links to are Associate links.  I thank  you.

Image:  Christmas Glow