Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Year's Eve ahead!

Tomorrow evening we are having the pleasure of 11 guests at our table(s). I have set the tables with my holiday china - oh, how I love to have guests use it! It has been collected bit by bit for well over a decade, year by year as gifts from my father and step-mom, my in-laws, and my husband. This will be the first time I've had to use so many of the place settings I have. I'm also using new gifts! I am using a new hurricane lamp in my pattern from my daughter's in-loves and 12 Days of Christmas napkins from my husband's boss and wife! What delightful additions these items are to my collection for holiday hospitaliTEA.

We'll enjoy a couple of hours of fun and food before moving to another home for dessert. Our Sunday school class is having dinners at some 5 homes and then meeting together for a plethora of dessert, games, and ending with the service of communion in one home. 

While I'm preparing to roast the beef, make popovers, and prepare a cold punch or hot wassail (depending upon our Oklahoma weather) I am pondering and praying.

"What, Lord, do you want me to drop in my schedule? What focus shall I have this new month and new year? As I prepare to fill in new calendars, put away Christmas decorations, and clean up the house its a time of continuing the heart preparation of these holy days so that as I celebrate Epiphany I can enter the year with listening ears, clear mind, and a ready home.

To quote Nancy Leigh DeMoss from her "A Heart At Rest" 
daily encouragement calendar for today:

At times, the call of God on our lives may require us to relinquish things 
or people we can't imagine living without.

Each year I read through the Bible, have you ever done that? 

I did it the first time to encourage my children who had been challenged to do so by a grandfather. We started out together and 2 of the 4 of us in the family made it through. I never quit reading it through since then for I realized it wasn't difficult, impossible, or boring if one had the right tools to guide your focus as you did so. This year I begin my 17th time of doing so. Wow, I can't believe I just typed that. 
I list each year's date and means of doing so in the front pages of my Bibles. 

Have you thought about reading the Bible daily this year? 
I encourage you to do so; God speaks into your life throughout the year in ways you don't 'hear' if you aren't in tune with His Word and His voice and His ways. 

It takes 15 minutes a day, some days a bit more. 

I follow a reading plan from Walk Thru The Bible called Daily Walk
I have used Bible reading plans that were just lists of references to read and ticked them off as I read each day. I did that my first few years. *yawn* Then I used a Bible that was made for daily readings, you just read from the specially printed Bible and didn't have to search the references out as you read daily from the Old & New testaments as well as a proverb and a psalm each day. Later I read through a Chronologically printed Bible - and that was a frustration at points - 
as a Bible student it was hard to understand why some portions were put in the order 
they were, I realized there was lots of subjective juggling going on in editing. 

So, for the past 5 plus years I've used the Daily Walk, by subscription, you receive it monthly. Some use Bible Pathways (you can access that online or subscribe to receive it by mail monthly).  My husband and I use the Daily Walk and have not found anything that I prefer, though I'm always keeping my eyes open for the next means of reading the Bible through. 
I favor Daily Walk for the points it suggests you note, the history tips it provides, and most importantly, after taking in those details and reading the text for the day, there is always a suggested application, one that you can do that-very-day. 

Or perhaps you have never developed a daily habit of quietly 'meeting' with God, with a Bible, journal, pen, and devotional book. Where to begin?, you ask.
I can't recommend more highly Nancy Leigh DeMoss' book A Place of Quiet Rest.
If you have the habit of taking time each day to spend alone with God, this is still a wonderful encouragement and directing of focus in nurturing a relationship with God.

So, dear reader, consider if this is the year to read the Bible cover to cover, to read the Old Testament only, slowly, meditatively, studying it. Or is God leading you to read the New Testament in meditative fashion, or perhaps it is time to ask the Lord what book(s) of the Bible to chew upon this year. You can find reading plans and study guides for most all manners of approaching it. Whatever you consider, may I leave you with this? We are not told to read the Bible but to meditate it. What difference do you see between the meanings of reading versus meditating? 

For me, it means I can't read fast, can't read casually, 
and can't ignore what I read each day as I go into my day's list of t0-do's. 

How have I matured in my faith this past year? 
In my relationships? 
In the quality of my work and care for your co-workers, respect for my employers? 
Am I changing as I am washed by the Word? 
Have I helped another in their accepting the Lord? Their growth in the Lord?
Am I learning from others? Learning with others?

I pray that I am. I purpose to do my part in this process.

Won't you join me on the journey of growth, bathing in His Word, 
accepting, receiving the transformation of His Word 
in your way of thinking and living?

Truth For Life
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, 
nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he mediates day and night
He is like a tree planted by steams of water that yields its fruit in its season, 
and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
Psalm 1:1-3

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A picture speaks a 1,000 words

Many years ago I purchased this necklace that speaks a 1,000 words
of the story, the purpose, the celebration of our faith.
God becoming man.

It is made by Jeep Collins who no longer makes the full necklace with all the pendants but does make an annual Nativity pendant. 

Merry Christmas! 

Truth for Life
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only,
who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:1, 2, 14

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The simple message in a simple gift

Many years ago I received an ornament for our tree from our daughter. She had made it at preschool. It was but construction paper cut into the shape of a star, covered with glued on red glitter, and a small cut out portion of a coloring page was glued in the center.  

Nothing much in materials, but the message was perfect, the love put into it was immeasureable. Now that she has a child of her own, 
the value has increased two fold (at the very least) to us. 
It is a treasure of our hearts. 

We celebrate Christmas 9 hours after her and our son-in-love, and granddaughter. 
We are remembering them much these days, knowing they are celebrating the holiday 
in 80 degrees, little materialism and decor as they are accustomed to. . . 
it is a stretch to even remember it is Christmas season, 
but they are seeking Him in their days and nights 
in Nairobi, Kenya this year.

Enjoy the photo, its on our tree in a special spot this year. I'm so grateful I kept such gifts.

Truth for Life
Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you;
he is Christ the Lord.
This will be a sign to you:
You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel,
praising God and saying,
Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.
Luke 2:11-14

Monday, December 22, 2008

O Christmas Tree!

Here is where I sit each morning and evening with my Yorkies next to me. 
I am sharing a few of the ornaments upon our tree with you, dear reader.
Mary, Joseph, and Jesus in white like a sculpture, simple, and elegant
He was born for this. . . 
This last one is 1 of our 2 newest ornaments for 2008 Christmas.
I will show the other tomorrow.

O Christmas Tree!
I have never been the type to 'need' to have the perfectly decorated Christmas tree. 
Ours has ornaments from my childhood, our marriage, our children's pre-school 
creations (treasures!!!), ones I bought because of how well they depict our faith, 
and those given to us by friends over the years.

We decorate our trees and then often forget them, we hustle and bustle and don't take time to sit near it, quietly enjoying the lights. I've been taking the time to get up early enough each morning so I can sit, read my Bible, pray, and enjoy the quiet and the lights and symbols on our tree. At night I review the day and pray in the same spot. There aren't many days left before Christmas - take time, even 15 minutes each day, to sit, breathe, and focus on the reason you have prepared your tree, your home, your schedule for what we celebrate on Thursday.

Truth For Life
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:
The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, 
and they will call him Immanuel — which means,
God with us.
Matthew 1:22, 23

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Steep a cup of tea. 
Take a moment to watch this and listen, listen to the words, and
enjoy this time to be quiet, to meditate on this Christmas soon-to-be. 
(click the words "O Holy Night" above)

What are you up to right now? Is your list nearly checked off? Are you finishing the details, delivering packages, driving to see family? Are you looking forward to the greetings, hugs, laughter, candles, scents of hot apple cider, baked goods, gifts, songs, and the reading of the Christmas story? 
It is so good to have traditions in our family as we together remember God's gift to us in Christ.

Love to our son, our daughter, son-in-love, and granddaughter this Christmas!

Truth for Life
The Word became flesh
and took up residence among us
John 1:14

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Two months ago I was initiated into a new role, as was my husband. 
We became POM's, an acronym for Parents Of Missionaries. 
To celebrate this transition I realized I had one glass I saved from a purchase of POM juice last spring and on it was the acronym. The company no longer makes the glasses (wish I'd known earlier as I'd have collected more for personal use) but it is sold in plastic bottles. So off we went to find it so I could share it with fellow POM's. I'm so grateful that we have become POM's at a time that there is an organization to support and encourage us as we parent from a distance, grand-parent from afar, and pray with a greater awareness of the world's needs. 

We became Parents Of Missionaries just as a book was available for purchase at Amazon.com aptly called Parents Of Missionaries. We were able to get a copy and read it the week we saw our children and grandchild off to south Africa. It was a timely help and will be a bedside table reference for prayer, grand-parenting-from-a-distance tips, and more. 

If you should know someone who is the parent or grandparent of a missionary, this book would be a precious resource.

At Christmas arrives, look around you, are there friends, neighbors, and family who are missing dear ones due to service in the armed forces, a move across the country, a move out of the country, inability to join their family due to work / financial status?  Their loved ones may still be alive but very much 'missing' from their homes.
Let's include them, pray for them, encourage them, and be 'present' with them. 
It will lighten their hearts, give you truer joy, and bless us all.

Truth For Life
For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other's faith, both yours and mine.
Romans 1:11-12

Peeking inside the cookie plate sack, here is an edible gift ready to deliver! The one who receives it can fill the center with cookies and serve it during the holiday.

What is it? Why it is a Christmas Cookie Wreath - made from cornflakes, marshmallows, and green food coloring
Moments ago it was a green good stirred up and ready to add to cornflakes
Melted marshmallows - should look like this below:

Ingredients all set out and ready to go . . . recipe and explanation to follow . . .  

Edible Christmas Cookie Platter Wreath Border
It is Christmas cookie baking season - fire up your ovens ladies and gentlemen!
A sweet friend of mine came to my home one year to make my Christmas gift in my kitchen. She asked me to have a platter out and a bowl. She arrived with a sack of food items and went to work making the traditional cornflake wreath cookies but instead of making all the individual cookies she made one huge wreath as a border on a round platter to use as a lovely and edible cookie display. I loved it! She gave us a new tradition from her family's tradition. 
Each year I make one for our home and after a Christmas Cookie exchange with friends, I sort through and prepare a tin of cookies for a couple of people I know never have baked goods anymore and I make a platter for my own family. It is colorful, inviting, and encourages more times of talking with a cup of Christmas tea and a cookie after work, when a friend stops by, etc.
So, as I made my first one today to take to the hostess of our cookie exchange I thought I would snap a few photos with my iPhone as I made it. So step 1, 2, 3 here it is for all its worth. May it add a tradition to your family - can easily be done with kids adding the little red cinnamon red hot candies as 'berries' and putting on the bow.
*a tip, spray Pam on your hands as you shape the wreath, spoon on big spoonfuls of the cornflake mixture and shape it bit by bit, easy as can be*
1/2 cup butter or margarine
4 cups mini-marshmallows (40 large)
1 teaspoon green food coloring
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups corn flakes
Red hot candies

Zap butter and marshmallows for 1 minute, stir, 1 minute, stir, 1 minute, stir, then 30 seconds until the mixture is becoming a bit clear. Stir in the food coloring, vanilla extract, and corn flakes. Stir gently and well until cornflakes are evenly coated. Drop by heaping serving spoons around the edge of your round platter, spray your hands with Pam or oil them and then shape it gently. Now add red hot candies while the mixture is still warm, these are you 'berries'. Wash your hands and add your bow. Let it cool to set up and then wrap it and deliver it. Keep covered and in a cool place. Enjoy!

(I have made half sized ones on regular plates to give to couples so its not so overwhelming.)

As we bake and cook up storms think about the city of Bethlehem where Christ was born. "Why?", you ask. Because Bethlehem means 'city of bread' So as we bake breads, cakes, cookies, etc. we can think of that little town, chosen by God as the specific place on the entire earth for His Son to be born. The Word made flesh, Who dwelt among us. His Words are sweet to my taste, they weren't always so, but they became so as God's Holy Spirit gave me understanding as well as enjoyment. My prayer for you, precious reader, is to find His Word your life, your true food, your joy, and the sweetness for your day.

Truth For Life
How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Psalm 119:103

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Christmas HospitaliTEA

This was the smoothest preparation for a tea I've ever experienced - I must study my plans and learn just what I did differently - but I digress. 

The living room was bursting with 9 women laughing, talking, sipping, and nibbling. It was such a pleasure to see them all smiling and happen to be spending this Sunday afternoon together. It brought us together to meet one another face-to-face instead of car by car as we head off to work, school, etc. The foods came together well. The cucumber sandwiches were the favorite, as usual. The table is shown before I added the sandwiches and unpackaged the scones and added the mock devonshire and spiced mock devonshire cream. I found the peppermint icebox cake to be such a refreshing and light end. . . and a little square of fudge gave us the perfect final touch of chocolate. 

I had the assistance of my wonderful husband and son - they carried the plates of food selected by each guest from the tea table to her seat so she could safely manage her teacup and saucer, napkin, and fork. They refilled our cups, carried out our plates when we were finished, and brought in the chilled slices of peppermint ice box cake. 

Merry Christmas dear neighbors!

Truth For Life
Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: " 
'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 
This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 
'Love your neighbor as yourself.' 
All the Law and the Prophets hand on these two commandments."
Matthew 22:36-40

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Christmas Tea!
Tomorrow afternoon at 3 I will be joined by the women of my neighborhood for a Christmas Tea. I've just prepared and frozen our desert . . . want to take a peek? I took the idea of the icebox cake made with Nabisco's chocolate wafer cookies. I made a candy cane shape. 
It will be a cool refreshing dessert with chocolate, mint, and whipped cream, 
light in taste but not in calories.

It takes more time to find these chocolate cookie wafers than to make the dessert, honestly!

 See the process from completed dessert step-by-step backwards. . . . 

The final results seen above. .  
Stack the cookies up , sandwiching them with about a tablespoon of a mixture made of 2 cups heavy cream whipped with 1/2 cup confectioner sugar and 1/2 teaspoon each of vanilla extract and peppermint extract. Whip the cream until soft peaks form. Make stacks of 6 cookies, when they are used up, then lay them sideways and cover them with the remaining whipped cream.
Use 5 candy canes, crushed, and fold into the whipped cream mixture.
See the box of cookies? That is what you have to search for - be prepared to have to visit a few grocery stores in order to find them.  I bought candy canes today to hang upon our Christmas tree; the packages contained 5 that were broken -
perfect as that is what I needed for this dessert!
5 single candy canes - that is all it takes to make this delicious dessert! 
I'll photograph the cake after we cut into it to serve.

I'll post more tomorrow to show you my table, the foods I serve, etc.

I'm planning on serving:

Cucumber sandwiches on white, cut into rounds
Roast beef with horseradish cream on wheat, cut into triangles
Smoked ham with orange marmalade and cream cheese, cut into finger sandwiches

Betjeman and Barton Christmas Tea (my last!)

Pumpkin Scones (made by 2 Bite Scone company)
Poppy Seed Scones (made by 2 Bite Scone company)
Mock devonshire cream

Candy Cane Ice Box Cake

Thanks for sharing in my hospitaliTEA for the season 
.  .  . what are you planning to do?

Make Room for More
Somehow, not only for Christmas, but all the long year through,
The joy that you give to others, is the joy that comes back to you.
And the more you spend in blessing, the poor and lonely and sad,
The more of your heart's possessing, returns to you glad.
John Greenleaf Whittier

Truth For Life
If you give, you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and running over. Whatever measure you use in giving- - large or small - -  it will be used to measure what is given back to you.
Luke 6:38

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Blessed, to be a blessing
I have received much in life and that has led me to be all the more grateful. I was born into a family with 4 other children, that was a blessing in itself. I have siblings of all ages and stages and each adds something to my life, makes me more 'me' than if I was raised without them. 

I'm richer for having grown up with kids of all ages.
Blessed to be in the family whose parents took us to church and to a church that valued God's Word. 
I have that heritage that so few have these days.
Grateful to have met and married someone who likewise was raised in church, his father's church, as a missionary in Japan. 
Blessed to have children - a boy AND a girl! Now adults who love and respect us. (we are SO blessed by that fact)
Blessed by the addition of a son-in-love who was raised in the faith, who is a leader in their family, protector, and the father of our first and favorite granddaughter.
Blessed to be grandparents to Avery - what a sweetie she is!
Blessed with health, a good home, and friends.
Grateful for work - good places to work, work that satisfies and doesn't always 'feel' like work
Blessed to be a part of a Bible study - with women who desire to mature in their faith
For these things and many more I am grateful to God, and blessed, I pray I am a blessing to my family, friends, co-workers, patients, and others.

I pray you are enjoying this day with loved ones, enjoying good food, sharing life and love together. 
We will be doing so - we are blessed.

Truth for Life
. . . in the presence of the LORD  your God, you and your families shall eat and rejoice 
in everything you have put your hand to, because the LORD your God has blessed you.
Deuteronomy 12:7b

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

My thoughts on Thanksgiving expressed creatively thanks to Wordle.com, 
click below, then come back!

In the USA we are celebrating thanksgiving this week. It is a time that is often hurried past in order to watch the latest sports event on t.v., hit the stores as early as possible, begin the decorating for Christmas. How very like us Americans, to rush through life, to rarely stop to experience today, to consider how blessed we are in our country. We have been given much.

I read a quote in an email / blog I receive daily. . . it stopped me dead in my tracks today.

"If tomorrow's supply depended on today's thanksgiving,
how much would I have tomorrow?"

Think on this.

I am grateful today for sounds, yes, sounds. For using Skype I was able to hear with my ears (and thus my heart) the voice of my granddaughter and daughter. I hadn't 'heard' them since their leaving the country last week. I was able to ask her questions, hear her answers, listen to her update, and know what are their current plans and prayer requests. It was music to my ears to hear the sound of Skype indicating an active connection on her end and a symphony when I heard her voice. 
It lasted 5 minutes but was precious!

We'll be spending our Thanksgiving meal with my step-mom and her family. We are SO grateful for their invitation; it was timely! They are warm welcoming people. They are truly family to us. I'll be baking rolls, taking a cranberry salad, and perhaps something else, I'm waiting to decide. We'll share not only the meal but love and celebrate with grateful hearts what God has done for us, what He is doing in us, what He will do in the days ahead. Having them to share this holiday with means a lot to our family as things have changed in recent years and we are seeking direction for how to celebrate, with whom to celebrate, etc. 

The baton has been handed to us and God is leading.

I'll be working Thanksgiving and the rest of the week.  I'm praying to provide encouragement and loving touches to the patients and fellow staff members I'll contact. I pray for a thankful heart that is demonstrated by my words, attitude, and actions. I know that its not the usual to choose to have elective surgery during Thanksgiving week - so I'm sensitive to that fact. Some come because they have no one to be with this holiday and 'might as well get the surgery over'; they get through it and get the attention of the staff. 

Today I choose to be thankful and to consider what I am thankful for, who I am thankful for, 
and to express my gratitude to God and people to whom it is due.

Truth For Life
So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you:
compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It's your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.
Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of God - the Message - have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives - words, actions, whatever - be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.
Colossians 3:12-17

Sunday, November 23, 2008

It is time to consider having others into our homes for holiday decorating, gift wrapping, cooking baking, meals, caroling, etc. What is your style of connecting with your family, friends, and neighbors 
before Christmas day arrives?

I usually host a Thanksgiving afternoon tea for the women on our "S" shaped block but we have had many weekend trips so our November became too full for it this year. 
I have decided to change my 'usual' and host a Christmas tea - easy for me 
as I do have holiday china that I will be so happy to use. 
I'm preparing my invitations this afternoon and will also deliver them personally. I'm told the neighbors love this once-a-year opportunity to sit face to face with one another and share lives around cups of tea and treats. Its a means of hospitality that 'fits' my family well. My husband will assist as our butler, complete with a cloth draped over his arm as he serves tea, clears plates, and brings in the various courses of foods we'll prepare together and serve. I'm also hoping to get a friend to help as well.
I am looking forward to the decorating, menu preparation, tidying the house, preparing the foods, and welcoming the guests. It is our gift to the neighborhood, one that is warm and welcoming. 
That is truly a blessing! I'm thankful that we live where we do. Are you?

Truth For Life
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; 
give thanks to him and praise his name. 
For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; 
his faithfulness continues through all generations.
Psalm 100:4-5