Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Joy On Christmas Eve

I've been reading through this book this season.

It was a gift from someone a few years ago and is full of Bible verses, stories, song lyrics, quotes, and interesting facts about Christmas.  It has been a treat to read!

I love the Christmas season.  Absolutely love it.  And one of the quotes from this book really captures how I feel about the celebration of our Savior's birth and the sheer wonder of it all.  I have read and reread it often.  It goes as follows...

"Christmas at its core is larger than life, grander than we can begin to comprehend.  We cannot even imagine the scenario - God, the Son, wrapping himself in human flesh and being born in a humble stable to parents of little worldly consequence.  Perhaps that's why Christmas never loses its wonder year after year.  The story simply cannot be taken in at once.  It takes a lifetime of Christmases, and even then we remain starstruck, still unable to understand fully what God has done for us, what He has given us.

This Christmas, hold nothing back.  Look up and hear the majestic angelic choir, look out into the night in search of the brilliant Christmas star.  Cherish every expression of Christmas love, joy, and peace - immersing yourself in the wonder if it all!  Don't worry about going overboard.  In a million lifetimes, you could not grow weary of it - it's a truly eternal story."

An eternal story it is.  Because it is about Jesus, the One who was and is and is to come.  And it is a truly joyful story - because Jesus is joy!  And He is hope, and peace, and rest, and laughter, and celebration, and sacrifice, and the ultimate love, and everything we could want or need.

I hope you allow yourself to fully enJOY the celebration and be completely captivated by the wonder!  Most of all, I hope you know Jesus, because He will change your life.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas, wherever you are!

May it be meaningful and merry and wrapped in love!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

How To Build A Southern Snowman

For years my mom would get an annual Southern Living Christmas idea book ~ did anyone else grow up with those hardback books around their house?  I remember her setting up the card table in our family room, making homemade gifts and decorations late into the night using ideas she got from those books.  One year when I was in middle school we found an idea to make cookies that looked like a piano keyboard...I have played the piano since I can remember, and upon seeing the photo wanted to give them to my music teachers.  I remember her helping me make those cookies.

I now have a few of those old books and like to browse them when Christmastime rolls around.  The other day I was looking at the 2003 edition and saw an idea I remembered seeing years ago.  It was to make a "Southern Snowman" using grapevine wreaths.  My husband helped me put it together on the stoop outside our front door, and this snowman is just too cute!

Jimmy wired the three grapevine wreaths together and hung the snowman on the house.  I threw one of my scarves on him, set out an old pair of rubber fireman boots from Trevor's preschool days that I couldn't bear to part with, and cut a hat out of chalkboard crafting paper.

And just like that we had built a snowman, right down here in the South!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A Simple Thanksgiving

Together, we gathered and gave thanks.

Oh, give thanks to the Lord!
Call upon His name; 
Make known His deeds among the peoples!

Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him;
Talk of all His wondrous works!

Glory in His holy name;
Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the Lord!

Psalm 105:1-3

It was a simple, relaxing Thanksgiving this year - from the quiet, cold morning to the gorgeous, outdoor afternoon to the chilly, fireside night.

I have so much to be thankful for.  A Savior, Jesus, who gives me peace and hope and joy in a chaotic world; a husband who is my dearest and best and most faithful friend; children who add sparkle to our world and who are growing in their faith; a family who lovingly shares life with us; a small but sweet, supportive circle of friends; a caring church family and the freedom to worship; a cozy, comfortable home full of love; provision after provision; blessing upon blessing; gift after gift; grace upon grace.

Even the difficult things are reason to give thanks when I really stop to consider.  Yes, there have been circumstances that have been challenging and people who have been hurtful and personal failures and painful moments.  No, I wouldn't choose every trial, but I must acknowledge that they draw me closer to the heart of God and make me passionate for truth and driven to seek God's wisdom.  They make me stronger and more resolute in my relationship with Christ and with Christ-following friends.  They make me long for Heaven.  And I have full assurance of my home in Heaven, which alone is such a reason for gratitude.  Hope eternal.  Peace everlasting.  Glory awaiting!

Yes, we gave thanks on a beautiful November day.

And still we give thanks. Our hearts seek the Lord, and we rejoice!

Caramel Apple Dip

The weekend before Thanksgiving I made a simple Caramel Apple Dip for a church gathering and it was such a yummy treat to share with friends and family that I wanted to share it with you, in case you want to include it in your holiday gatherings!  I made this dip in a cozy pie plate and served it with gingersnaps and apple slices.

Caramel Apple Dip

2 eight oz. pkgs. cream cheese, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
12 oz. jar caramel ice cream topping
3/4 - 1 cup chopped peanuts

Mix cream cheese, brown sugar, and vanilla with mixer until blended.  Spread into 9 inch round pan (I used pie plate).  Spread caramel topping over top.  Sprinkle chopped peanuts over caramel.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.  

This dip is sweet with a touch of salty, and excellent with gingersnaps 
and apple slices!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Morning

I set out this Thanksgiving break with a different goal than usual.  Because Thanksgiving is a bit later this year and we will only have three weeks of school between this break and Christmas break instead of four,  I decided I wanted to take down my beloved autumn decorations, do some cleaning and major catching up on laundry, and get my Christmas decorating done before Thanksgiving Day.  I don't think we've ever decorated for Christmas before Thanksgiving, but I must say I am so thankful we did it.

Because this Thanksgiving morning is so calm.  The house is (mostly) clean and sparkling, with lights aglow and wassail on the stove and quiet music playing.

We had a beautiful cold front come through and woke up to sunshine and brisk temperatures.  It won't be long before we gather around the table for a bountiful feast for lunch.  The day will be slow paced and spent with family.   This weekend will involve more time with family and friends and some Christmas celebrations.  Right now I am in my chair enjoying the music and twinkling lights and scent of oranges and cloves wafting in from the kitchen.  At 25 weeks pregnant, I am thankful to put my feet up for a few minutes and enjoy the simplicity of the moment, reflect and give thanks on day I love and look forward to each year, and rejoice in the beauty of a season that celebrates the birth of Savior who changed my life.

These lyrics just flooded my home and heart a few moments ago...

Christ is the Lord! Oh, praise His name forever!
His power and glory evermore proclaim!

What a thought for this gorgeous Thanksgiving morning.

Christ is the Lord! 

Today and every day we give Him honor, praise, and thanks.

Happy Thanksgiving Morning!  Wishing you a blessed and beautiful day!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thankfulness Breakfast

Every family has traditions that are special to them.  Special breakfasts have become important traditions in our family.  I think it is refreshing to share breakfast with someone...maybe because it isn't typically the meal that we share.  There is something unique about beginning the day together, especially at home with a beautifully set table and celebration.  It starts the day off in a wonderful way! 

The past several years I have prepared a Thankfulness Breakfast for our family during the month of November.  It is a time for food and togetherness, and also to intentionally give thanks for how God has blessed us.  

The Saturday before last we began the day with our Thankfulness Breakfast and it was a sweet time together.  We laughed and ate and lingered around the table.  We gave thanks.  God was honored.  A memory was made.

This year, Madi helped me the night before with some of the decorations.  She colored and decorated "Thanks" cards with each person in mind, thoughtfully adding colors and details that would be special to each person.  She also helped me make little foam turkeys to set at each place.  It is neat to involve her in these preparations!  Children feel important when they can contribute and help!

On the menu was Sparkling Grape Juice, Orange Juice, Pumpkin Bread, S'mores Pancakes, Rotel Grits, Blueberry Peach Crisp, and Sausage Squares.

I set out a Thankfulness Tree with tag ornaments I made a couple years ago.

As I placed these tags on the tree, I couldn't help but give thanks for what the Lord has done in our lives.  He is so faithful and generous!

"Together is my favorite place to be."

When I plan special breakfasts I try to set the table the night before, after the kids go to bed.  It is always a treat for me to see the excitement and joy in my children's eyes when they see it for the first time in the morning!

I am so grateful for my parents.  God uses them on a daily basis to bless and enrich our lives.  They help us so much, and add to the family fun!

After we ate, I had everyone write down specific things they are thankful for on little strips of paper.  Then Madi and Trev took turns reading them outloud.  This time was filled with laughter and smiles and also pure tenderness.  God, I pray you will give our children thankful hearts.  Help us to live out gratitude.

I am grateful for this sweet time of thanksgiving we had as a family.  Intentional thanks is vitally important.  We so easily forget.  Remind us, God.  And thank You for all Your gifts!  May we gratefully acknowledge them each day!

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