Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Trusting in a Faithful God

As the final hours of 2008 dwindle away and we prepare to welcome the new year, my heart is full. Like so many others, this has been a year of great blessings, challenging difficulties, heartbreaking losses, surprising victories and certainly a few unexpected twists and turns. That being said, I feel blessed. My grateful heart has chosen thanks for each and every situation orchestrated by my loving Father this year. Do I understand them all? No. Do I still have questions? Many. Am I free of all worry and concern? In all honesty… no. But through these things has my faith grown stronger? Yes. Has my dependence on Him increased? Without question. Has He provided for every need? Undoubtedly. Can I trust in His grace and faithfulness to carry me through whatever lay ahead in 2009? Most assuredly.

Regardless of the highs and lows of any given year, my ultimate hope rests in Christ. Though momentary circumstances may at times threaten my calm, there is peace at the very core of my soul that comes from the knowing…I am His, and He is mine. There is no greater assurance we can have.

I read a beautiful passage this morning:

Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in Him!” ~ Lamentations 3:21-24

What a precious promise for the coming year! Not surprisingly, it brings to mind the words to a favorite hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness” -- a beautiful blend of worship, thanksgiving and continuing trust in He who is most faithful. As you reflect on the passage and the words to this hymn, consider His goodness, grace, love and faithfulness to you this year. May we then fully rest with renewed hope in Him for the year to come.

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father!
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not:
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

Chorus: Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided--
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!

Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide,
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow—
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

I pray God's greatest blessings for you and yours in the new year. I count your friendships among my sweetest gifts of 2008.

Much love,

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas Memories 2008

Here are a few glimpses of our family celebrating Christmas...

Monday, December 29, 2008

Still Savoring Christmas...

Hope you and yours had a joyous and memorable Christmas together. Many of you have crossed my thoughts over the last couple of days. While I know some are already packing up and storing your Christmas things, I always tend toward savoring it all as long as I can.

I had hoped to share some of these things before Christmas, but there never seemed to be enough hours in the day! If you're like me and not quite ready to put it all away for another year, take a peek at some more of my treasures. (Just hit the pause button if you need more time to read the captions!) By the way, that powder you see on our ornaments is not's fine, shimmery "snow." = )

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Hallelujah! Christ has Come!

Allow me to share what is one of the most beautiful Christmas songs I've ever heard. It's written and performed by Barlow Girl, on their newest cd called Home for Christmas... I've attached below a youtube clip (be sure to pause my music player.)

Hmmm my Baby
Heaven sent you to me
All the worlds been praying
Who will Save?
But who am I
That here tonight
I hold the one
Who’ll bring us life

We’ve been found
A child is born
To save us now
Hallelujah light has come
A Savior who will set us free
A Promise for those who believe

Do you hear the Angels
Sing for you my baby
Men and kings have come to
Bow to you
But here in my arms
So close to me
The son of God
Now all can see

We’ve been found
A child is born to save us now
light has come
A savior set us free
So praise to God on high
He has heard our cry...
Thanks be to God for this indescribable gift!
~ 2 Corinthians 9:15

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas from our Family to Yours

Luke 2:8-14
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

With love and prayers that you and yours will know the
joy and peace of that first Christmas...

Friday, December 19, 2008

Some Ornament Treasures...

Today, I wanted to share just a few of my treasured ornaments. These wouldn't be treasures to everyone. There are certainly more costly ornaments on our tree, many of which I love. Even more have great sentimental worth, and those are precious to me as well. These, however...are priceless.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sweet Time with Sweet Friends - The Great Cookie Exchange '08!

I had an especially sweet time on Sunday afternoon with some young, old friends. = ) My friend, Celeste (third from left) hosts an annual Christmas cookie exchange and it’s always a special treat to attend (particularly since I had to miss last year!) This year, for sake of simplicity, we opted to bake our goods and then meet at a restaurant (Olive Garden) rather than in someone’s home. It had been a good long while since I had a chance to sit a spell with these precious ladies. Four are school teachers (and I believe all but one taught Brennan at some point or another). The other is a missionary, making her final preparations to join our team of friends ministering in Dublin, Ireland. L to R - Leann, Julie, Celeste, Sue & Susan

This is a talented group of bakers! Their treats (as always) were exceptional! (I thought it was my personal responsibility to sample at least one of everything!) With their blessing, I’m sharing their recipes (and photos) in no particular order. Enjoy!

Celeste’s Baklava

This is delicate, sweet and scrumptious! I’ve made this recipe repeatedly over the last several years and though a bit time-consuming, the end result is well worth it! It’s wonderful if you’re looking for an extra special treat to take to a dinner or party.

Nut Mixture
** 4 cups ground walnuts
**1 cup sugar
**1 tsp. (ground) cinnamon
Mix together and set aside.

**1 ½ cups sugar
**1 cup water
**1/4 cup honey
**1 stick cinnamon
Mix together and boil for 5 minutes. Set aside and let cool.

1 package of Fillo (phyllo) dough
1 pound of butter

Melt all butter. Brush a large cookie sheet. Lay Fillo dough sheets one at a time, brushing each with butter. After 10 sheets, add ½ of the nut mixture. (Put a generous amount of butter on before the nuts.) Do 5 more sheets and add the rest of the nut mixture (again, generous amount of butter before the nuts). Add 5 more sheets of dough. End with butter (you won’t use all the butter). Cut into squares (important to do this before baking). Bake for ½ hour at 350 degrees. Pour glaze after its finished baking and out of the oven (you won’t use all the glaze). Let cool completely.

Note: Follow directions on the Fillo dough box to keep it moist as you work.

Susan’s Mocha Toffee Truffles

Not being a lover of coffee, I wasn’t sure I’d like these…boy was I wrong! They have a wonderful mocha flavor, and they’re so pretty, too! Definitely one I plan to make! (It would be perfect on its own or paired with a Starbucks gift card.)

1/2 cup butter (no substitutes)
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate pieces
1 tablespoon instant coffee crystals
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 4-1/2-ounce package English toffee pieces
4-ounces milk chocolate, melted (optional)

Heat oven to 350 degree F. Melt the butter and chocolate pieces in a large saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat. Stir in coffee crystals; cool 5 minutes. Stir in the granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla.

Combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Stir into coffee mixture. Stir in the toffee pieces. Drop dough by rounded tablespoons 2 inches apart onto a lightly greased cookie sheet.

Bake for 10 minutes. Let cool 1 minute on cookie sheet. Transfer to wire racks and cool completely. If desired, drizzle with melted milk chocolate; let stand until chocolate is set. Makes 30 truffles.
To store, place layers separated by waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store at room temperature up to 1 week or freeze undrizzled truffles up to 3 months. Thaw, then, if desired, drizzle with melted milk chocolate

Sue’s Toasted Coconut Cookies

These are buttery, melt-in-your-mouth delicious!

¼ butter or margarine, softened
¼ cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1 ½ cups of all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
½ cup crispy rice cereal
½ cup uncooked regular oats

BEAT softened butter and shortening at medium speed with electric mixer until fluffy; gradually add sugar, beating until blended. Add egg and coconut extract, beating well.
COMBINE flour, baking powder, soda and salt; gradually add to butter mixture, beating well after each addition. Stir in coconut, cereal and oats.
DROP dough by heaping teaspoonfuls onto lightly greased baking sheets.
BAKE at 325 for 12 to 14 minutes or until golden. Let cool slightly on baking sheet and remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Leann’s White Chocolate Chex Mix

One of those perfectly addictive snack mixtures! I literally had to take a little handful and close up the bag! It would be entirely too easy to keep helping myself to a little bit more, and a little bit more until …well you get the idea. Leann has an awesome recipe blog of her own…check it out!

5 cups cheerios
5 cups corn chex
2 cups salted peanuts
10 ounces mini pretzels
12 ounces m&m’s
2 bags white chocolate chips
3 Tbsp. oil

Microwave chocolate and oil for 2 – 2 ½ minutes. Stir often. Pour over mix.

Julie’s Chocolate-Peanut Butter Truffles

These are absolutely darling and delicious! When I looked at the recipe, I couldn’t believe there were so few ingredients. These are another that would make an elegant little hostess gift! I haven’t tried making these yet, but I think this year I’ll give them a try!

1 pkg (8 squares) Baker’s Semi-Sweet Baking
½ cup peanut butter
1 (8 ounce) tub Cool Whip or Cool Whip Extra Creamy Whipped Topping, thawed
Suggested coatings: powdered sugar, unsweetened cocoa, finely chopped pecans, sprinkles, toasted coconut, finely crushed cookies, grated baking chocolate

Microwave chocolate in microwavable bowl on high for 2 minutes or until chocolate is almost melted, stirring after 1 minute. Stir until chocolate is completely melted.

Add peanut butter; stir until well blended. Cool to room temperature. Gently stir in whipped topping. Refrigerate for 2 hours. Scoop truffle mixture with melon baller or teaspoon, then shape into 1 inch balls. Roll in suggested coatings. Store in airtight container in the refrigerator.

Tracy’s Almond Sugar Cookies

I found this recipe in an old Taste of Home magazine. It was a grand prize winner and once you taste them, you'll see why. Even better...they're quite easy to make and so pretty!

1 cup butter (no substitutes), softened
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp. almond extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
Additional sugar

1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 – 1 ½ tsp. almond extract
2-3 tsp. water
sliced almonds, toasted

In large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Beat in almond extract. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture. Roll into 1 inch balls (I just scoop out little mounds with my cookie scoop.) Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Coat bottom of a glass with nonstick cooking spray; dip in sugar. Flatten cookies with prepared glass, dipping glass in sugar again as needed. Bake at 400 degrees for 7-9 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool for 1 minute before removing to wire racks. In a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, almond extract and enough water to achieve glaze consistency. Drizzle over cookies. Sprinkle with almonds. Makes 3-4 dozen.

I'd love to hear if you try any of these recipes. Happy Baking!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas Love

Tonight, as I drove by a large local high school, the sign out front was advertising their upcoming "Winter Concert" and "Winter Break." I felt a sigh escape from my chest. It still breaks my heart when I see how the word "Christmas" has been all but eliminated in public schools. As I continued driving, I was reminded of a beautiful and touching true story I heard several years ago on a local Christian radio station. It's message resonated with me for days...I pray it does the same for you.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Each December, I vowed to make Christmas a calm and peaceful experience. But once again, despite my plans, chaos prevailed. I had cut back on nonessential obligations -- extensive card writing, endless baking, decorating, and yes, even the all American pastime, overspending. Yet, still, I found myself exhausted, unable to appreciate the precious family moments, and, of course, the true meaning of Christmas.

My son, Nicholas, was in kindergarten that year. It was an exciting season for a six year old filled with hopes, dreams and laughter. For weeks, he'd been memorizing songs for his school's "Winter Pageant." I didn't have the heart to tell him I'd be working the night of the production.

Unwilling to miss his shining moment, I spoke with his teacher. She assured me there'd be a dress rehearsal the morning of the presentation. All parents unable to attend that evening were welcome to come then. Fortunately, Nicholas seemed happy with the compromise.

So, just as I promised, on the morning of the dress rehearsal, I filed in 10 minutes early, found a spot on the cafeteria floor and sat down. Around the room, I saw several other parents quietly scampering to their seats. As I waited, the students were led into the room. Each class, accompanied by their teacher, sat cross-legged on the floor. Then, each group, one by one, rose to perform their song.

Because the public school system had long stopped referring to the holiday as "Christmas," I didn't expect anything other than fun, commercial entertainment -- songs of reindeer, Santa Claus, snowflakes and good cheer. The melodies were fun, cute and lighthearted, but nowhere to be found was even the hint of an innocent babe, a manger, or Christ’s sacred gift of hope and joy. So, when my son's class rose to sing, "Christmas Love", I was slightly taken aback by its bold title.

Nicholas was aglow, as were all of his classmates, adorned in fuzzy mittens, red sweaters and bright snowcaps upon their heads. Those in the front row -- center stage -- held up large letters, one by one, to spell out the title of the song. As the class would sing "C is for Christmas," a child would hold up the letter C. Then, "H is for Happy," and on and on, until each child holding up his portion had presented the complete message, "Christmas Love."

The performance was going smoothly, until suddenly, we noticed her -- a small, quiet girl in the front row who was holding the letter "M" upside down. She was entirely unaware, that reversed, her letter "M" appeared as a "W." Fidgeting from side to side, she soon moved entirely away from her mark.

The audience of 1st through 6th graders snickered at the little one's mistake. But in her innocence, she had no idea they were laughing at her as she stood tall, proudly holding her "W".

One can only imagine the difficulty in calming an audience of young, giggling students. Although many teachers tried to shush the children, the laughter continued until the last letter was raised, and we all saw it together. A hush came over the audience and eyes began to widen.

In that instant, we understood -- the reason we were there, why we celebrated the holiday in the first place, why even in the chaos there was a purpose for our festivities. For when the last letter was held high, the message read loud and clear:


And, I believe, He still is.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Christmas Love is a true story written by author Candy Chand. Her new book, Christmas Love is available in stores nationwide and on Amazon. You can email Candy at:

Saturday, December 6, 2008

I've Been Tagged!

I was so excited when Kristen from Over the Backyard Fence tagged me for this meme, because I LOVE Christmas!

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?
For me…definitely Hot Chocolate or better still…I’ll venture into Starbucks for a Caramel Apple Spice! What a treat! (To coin a phrase from my hubby..."It’s Christmas in your mouth!")

2.Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
Definitely wrapped under the tree. Trying to guess the gift is always part of the fun.

3. Colored lights on house/tree or white?
Both. We have little trees all throughout our house with white lights, but our main tree has colored lights. Outside, we also have both…white icicle lights along the roofline, colored lights almost everywhere else.

4. Do you hang mistletoe?
Haven’t yet…thanks for the reminder!

5.When do you put your decorations up?
Many years ago, I was selling baskets and pottery, so I decorated my house in October for a Christmas open house. That was the same year we started hosting Thanksgiving for Tom’s family. They enjoyed it so much (especially the older relatives) that we've been decorating early ever since. We usually start the first weekend of November so that we finish by Thanksgiving. I know some cringe at the thought, but for us it works and in no way minimizes our emphasis on Thanksgiving. In addition, because the house is ready, it allows for a much calmer, quieter Christmas season, too.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)?
I would have to say probably my Mom’s warm potato salad or her homemade macaroni and cheese.

7. Favorite holiday memory as a child?
Going to church and returning home on Christmas Eve to find our gifts already under the tree. We opened our gifts that night, because the following day was always spent at my grandparents house about an hour away. We always got to stay up late playing with our new toys and games. Christmas Day was so much fun, so many people packed into my grandparents little house. It was one of the few times each year I got to see my extended family.

8.When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?
I think it was 3rd grade. We were roller skating in our basement and I rolled into something unfamiliar covered with a blanket. It was sometime in the fall. I thought, hmmm…what’s this? I peeked under the blanket and saw new toys and games. I instantly realized what I had found. I think I probably suspected it before, but didn’t want to believe it. Of course, I kept mum so I didn’t ruin it for my siblings.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
Yes. After Christmas Eve service, we celebrate with Tom’s family at his sister Nancy’s house. It’s a beautiful log cabin with a stone fireplace. Perfect and homey.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree?
Traditional Hodge Podge. Each one is precious and represents a memory or story. Everything from very old antique ornaments that belonged to Tom’s grandparents, to those Tom and I had growing up, hand-made creations by Brennan and those collected every year since we were married in '84. We also use berry pics throughout. Sometimes, Tom even carefully “dusts” it with snowflakes. Gorgeous.

11. Snow. Love it or dread it?
I love, love, love the way it looks, but I really don’t like driving in it.

12. Can you ice skate?
Definitely not.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift?
Wow, it’s very hard to pinpoint one thing. I have several that stand out…my Chrissy doll, my doll bed (hand-made by my Dad), my Barbie townhouse or my Hollie Hobbie purse.

14. What is the most important thing about the holidays to you?
Time spend together as a family, reliving old memories and making new ones. Getting together with friends. The quiet reflection of our Savior’s birth amidst the busy-ness.

15. What is your favorite holiday dessert?
This is a three way tie…pumpkin bread, pumpkin roll and baklava.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
Cannot possibly choose only one. Decorating the house, writing out Christmas cards, Christmas music, spending time with family, baking, singing Christmas carols at church, watching Christmas movies, attending Christmas Eve service…

17. What tops your Christmas tree?
We actually have nothing on the tippy top. That’s where the oldest, tiny ornaments hang from Tom’s grandparents.

18. Which do you prefer giving or receiving?
Both are fun, but I especially enjoy giving. I love the thought that goes into choosing a gift, then the excitement of getting the gift, and the absolute best…seeing the joy of the recipient.

19. What is your favorite Christmas song?
SO many…I could go on for days on this one. How about my top 5? First is undoubtedly O Holy Night, then O Come O Come Emmanuel, Carol of the Bells, Christmas is all in the Heart, a little known song by Avalon called We are the Reason, It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, The Christmas Song, oops, that’s more than 5… = )

20. Candy Canes. Yum or Yuck?

21. What do you want for Christmas?
Having my son home for college...that's the best gift of all!

22. Do you attend an annual Christmas party?
Not usually. Our firm holds their holiday party in early November (before the rush), but we truly aren’t party people. We do love open house parties with friends.

23. Do you dress up for Christmas Eve or wear PJ's?
Usually a Christmas sweater and dress pants.

24. Do you own a Santa hat.
Hmmmm…I don’t, but my hubby does. ; )

25. Who do you normally spend Christmas with?
Christmas Eve w/Tom’s side of the family... Christmas morning w/Brennan at our house, Christmas Day w/my family at my parents, then Christmas night (after dinner), we go back to Tom’s parent’s house.

Now I get to tag 5 people:
Cheryl at Hope for Each Day
Cindy at 12 Arrows
Lynn at Somewhere in the Middle
Natalie at Married to the Preacher
Tiffany at Tea with Tiffany

Here are the rules:
1. Post the rules on your blog.
2. Fill out the questions.
3. Tag 5-7 people at the end of your post.
4. Pass on the tag!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Birthday Giveaway Winner...Tricia from It's All About Him!

Congratulations Tricia! I was so excited to see the name I drew was yours! You've always been such a kind encourager to me, so it's wonderful to have the opportunity to bless you!

If you don't know Tricia (or even if you do), stop by her blog It's All About Him for a visit! She's a precious young Mom of adorable twin boys. Her blog is beautiful, encouraging and truly God-honoring.

She'll be receiving a beautiful leather-bound copy of the classic devotional book "Streams in the Desert," a DVD of "The Christmas Shoes" (based on the book by Donna Van Liere), an elegant Christmas card holder, and long-beloved flavor of the Christmas season...wassail. She may just find a few more goodies, too...but those will remain a surprise. ; )

Thanks to all for playing along and for all your sweet wishes! I was thrilled to learn from Lelia that birthday rules are different here in blogworld. Apparently, there is no such thing as the "big 43" here...we're all perpetually 30! (LOL!)

For those who came by for the first time during this giveaway, I hope you come back again and again! (It's always great to meet new friends!)

Blessings to you and once again, Congratulations to Tricia! (Please send me an e-mail via my profile providing your mailing address....thanks!)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Birthday Giveaway!

Greetings! I'm celebrating my birthday today (the big 43) and you know what that means? It's time for a giveaway!!! Since so many of you have blessed my life in so many sweet ways in the last year, it seems only fitting to share the celebration with you!

I don't way to say too much, because I'd rather make it a surprise. Remember those long lines in Family Christian Store I spoke about yesterday? That's a clue.

Leave a comment anytime between now and Thursday night at 6:00 pm (Eastern). I'll announce the winner Thursday night or Friday morning.

Love & hugs,

Monday, December 1, 2008

Adventures in Christmas Shopping!

I started "day-after-Thanksgiving" shopping with my sister, several years ago, when her best friend and former shopping buddy moved to Maine. They used to meet for breakfast at 3:00 am to plan their shopping strategy. I would often tease her about this and she would explain, with 5 children, this was often the only way to get them one really nice gift they wanted at an affordable price. Well, when her friend moved, I felt compelled to offer a hand. Needless to say, she welcomed the help, and a new tradition began. Our typical approach is divide and conquer…going to the earliest store openings first, we’d split up and hopefully get what we’d come for, before moving on to the next opening store, etc. We went about our shopping cheerfully, trying to encourage and help others when we could. It was so much fun that Brennan asked one year if he could come along. The following year we were joined by my niece, Brooke. Last year, Brianna and her Mom took part in our shopping adventure and this year, we welcomed my nephew, Blake to the madness. ☺

This year, my sister had already studied the store advertisements, so we skipped meeting for breakfast in an effort to “sleep in” a little. (LOL!) The first store didn't open until 5:00 am, so we didn’t have to leave the house until 4:30! By 5:30, we had the item we had come for (Hooray!) and were on the way to the next assignment. This continued on until about 8:00 or so when we stopped for breakfast. Then, it was onto Family Christian Store. Unfortunately for them, their computers crashed and they were having to process their sales manually (hand-writing every item on carbon receipts). I felt so bad for all those cashiers! In many ways, that was the best store for something like that to happen because their customers are kinder and more understanding than most. It took about 45 minutes to check out.

Brianna’s Mom had to head off to work from there, so the rest of us piled into my sister’s van and began yet another "day after Thanksgiving" tradition "the wave game." I hesitate to even tell you about this because you might lose any respect you have for me. Here is how it works…we casually look for someone walking through a parking lot, or someone next to us at a traffic light…if they make eye contact, we will get a startled expression like I know you! and we begin waving. Most of the time, they get that same startled look and then they wave back, smiling, then the look on their face changes to “who is that?” Don’t ask me why this is so much fun. Some of the hardest laughs I have ever had were during the wave game. Our kids especially love to play. This year, we approached a traffic light and waved to a couple next to us who smiled and waved back. Then, they rolled down their window and because they looked friendly, my sister did the same. They yelled over, “how’s the family?” We were cracking up as we realized they were onto us and were playing along. It was a long traffic light, so we chatted back and forth a few times then wished each other a Merry Christmas and laughed some more. Great memories.

By the time mid-day rolled around, we were all a bit delirious and made one last stop together at Target before my team (Brennan, Brianna and myself) were ready to call it a day. We were in rare form by this time, and I simply couldn’t resist capturing some of our moments on film. I can’t imagine what the people watching the store security cameras must have been thinking. Hope you enjoy our adventure!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Glimpse at our Thanksgiving Celebration

Hope you and your family enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving! We had a great time together reflecting on God's blessings with my in-laws. Thought you might like to see a few photos...

For the first time this year, we welcomed my nephew, Alan's girlfriend, Gwyn as well as her daughter, Mia and her Dad, Randall. Gwyn and her Dad are so sweet and we definitely enjoyed the adorable Miss Mia! (It's been over 10 years since there was a baby on this side of the family!)

My sister-in-law, Sally (the only photo we got of her didn't turn out well, so I haven't posted it here) is such an amazing help in the final meal preparations. I truly don't know what I'd do without her! Even Brennan and my nephew, Aaron helped by making the gravy. My father-in-law, Bob and brother-in-law, Kenny are always the designated carvers while we finish up with all the side dishes. Tom was trying to capture photos of everything for me. It was truly a team effort all the way around! Then, as always, Tom shared a beautiful Thanksgiving blessing and the serving began!

By the time everyone headed home and the last load went into the dishwasher, it was 11:30. It was a long, tiring and wondeful day. Soon thereafter, I climbed into bed and set my clock for 3:45 am. Brennan and I were meeting my sister, my niece and nephew and Brianna and her Mom for shopping! (We had a blast and got some really fun photos...I'll post those tomorrow! )

How was your Thanksgiving?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Delayed Glimpse of an Awesome Weekend!

My hubby and I left town immediately after work last Friday bound for South Carolina! Our reason was twofold – first, to attend the wedding of a some precious young friends (Noah and Nicole), and then to bring our boy home for Thanksgiving week!

We drove almost halfway Friday night, then got back on the road Saturday morning, arriving in South Carolina around mid-day. Fortunately, we were able to check into our hotel early and get ready for the wedding (which happened to be located on Brennan's campus!) That meant we were able to hug that child's neck and spend a few moments with him before guests began arriving.☺ He was a part of the chorale singing for various portions of the ceremony and he was also privileged to read from 1 Corinthians 13.

This was truly the most beautiful and meaningful wedding we have ever seen. It took place in the campus theater (which has special significance to the bride’s family). As a gift to Noah and Nicole, the college students along with a dear family friend, built an incredible set including large trees and old Celtic ruins. The ceremony, from beginning to end, was so beautiful and God-honoring.

The fathers of the both Noah and Nicole are pastors who presided over much of this tender ceremony, which brought tears to many on more the one occassion. There was a beautiful emphasis on the covenant of marriage, and such joy on the part of these families that God has joined these two. He was undoubtedly glorified in every aspect of this touching service.

After the ceremony, the college students changed into costumes made for this occassion and served at the reception, again as their gift to Noah and Nicole. Their love for this couple is certainly evident (that's Brennan in the back row, middle).

Such a sweet moment - the newlyweds admiring their new wedding rings.

The precious couple with their beautiful cake.

Brennan's sweetheart, Brianna was in the wedding which meant she and her Mom had been in SC since last Thursday. As you can imagine, he was thrilled.

Later that night, we returned to our hotel with Brennan and I have to tell you, we could not stop smiling! How we’ve missed that boy! We shared some sweet "catch-up" time and then he went to say goodnight to Brianna and her Mom (also at our hotel).

The next morning, we began the long ride home. Brianna rode along with us (much to Brennan's delight!) After a few hours on the road, Tom suggested a we take a break in Pigeon Forge, TN. We all knew what that meant…stopping at one of our favorite restaurants of all time…The Apple Barn.

What a treat! We had such an incredible meal and such a great time together. (If you’ve never been to the Apple Barn…and you plan to be in Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge, TN anytime soon, this is something you don't want to miss!)

When you are seated, they serve you warm apple fritters with homemade apple butter, then wonderful vegetable soup and salad as you await your delicious meal. (After more than two months on Weight Watchers, Tom and I completely splurged and ate probably a week’s worth of points, but oh, was it worth it!) Between the four of us, we ordered country fried steak, southern fried chicken and barbeque chicken. Then, we learned from our server all Sunday meals include desert (at which point I'm sure I heard angels singing). We were given of a choice of apple cobbler, peach cobbler, caramel pie, and chocolate fudge cake. (I had obviously already blown any points counting for that day so I thought...why not? After all, I had resisted that beautiful and no doubt delicious wedding cake the night before!) Brianna and I savored what was possibly the most heavenly piece of chocolate fudge cake either of us had ever had. Tom and Brennan said the apple cobbler was outstanding. I cannot remember the last time I felt so miserably yet blissfully full.

Surrounding the restaurant is a working farm. You can have all sorts of goodies…fresh apple cider, fried apple pies, etc. Our favorite is always their Christmas shop. The weather was so nice -- sunny and mild. We walked and shopped for about an hour, sat in the rocking chairs on the front porch and then loaded in the car. We had one more stop to make at our favorite Christmas shop…"
The Christmas Place" before getting back on the road. What an amazing place. We've never been able to visit so close to Christmas, so it seemed particularly special. As we left, it was just beginning to get dark, so all the Christmas lights along the main entrance into Pigeon Forge were begining to glow. Postively beautiful.

We arrived back home late Sunday night, feeling travel-weary yet unmistakably blessed. Having Brennan home this week is something Tom and I are most grateful for. We have joyful hearts, indeed.

I pray that your hearts, too are overflowing with Thanksgiving, not just this week…but especially this week.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Food for Friday - Thanksgiving Favorites

With great joy, Tom and I began hosting Thanksgiving for his family 10 years ago when Aunt Helen “retired.” She had prepared it for many, many years and she was truly a tough act to follow. Not only was her food always wonderful, she took such care to set a beautiful and elegant table. She graciously passed down to me her seasonal accessories and serving pieces, that I still use each year.

The first two recipes are "must-haves" at every Thanksgiving celebrated by our family. I suspect they date back to the 1950’s or 60’s, maybe before. Both were completely new to me when I became a part of the family back in 1984.

Corn Pudding
2 cans whole kernel corn, drained
2 eggs
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
2 Tblsp. melted butter
2 Tblsp. sugar
¾ can evaporated milk

Mix all ingredients with the exception of the corn. Once well blended, stir in the corn. Bake at 350 for 1 hour. (Serves 6)

Aunt Helen’s Cranberry Salad
1 pkg raw cranberries (washed, dried, and lightly frozen for easy grinding)
2 pkgs lemon gelatin
2 cups sugar
3 apples (unpeeled, but quartered and cored for easy grinding)
3 oranges (1 peeled, 2 unpeeled, quartered and cored for easy grinding)
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped

Mix gelatin with three cups of boiling water. Let cool completely before mixing with rest of the salad. Run cranberries, apples and oranges through food grinder or processer (you can chop the walnuts and celery separately or process them with the fruit). Combine chopped ingredients with sugar and finally, combine all with the gelatin. Once well blended, pour into an oiled mold and chill until firm (takes approximately 24 hours to become solid) (Serves 10)

This last recipe is one I added a few years ago. It was from my friend Judy…a phenomenal cook, and it became an instant hit. It’s a beautiful, colorful dish on the table and you don’t have to be a bean-lover to enjoy it…I promise! The best part? You can make this as a casserole or you can cook it all day in the crock pot (my method of choice since oven space is greatly limited on Thanksgiving!)

Harvest Beans (aka Five Bean Bacon Bake)
1 pkg bacon
2 large onions, thinly sliced
¾ cup brown sugar, lightly packed
½ tsp. garlic powder
½ cup vinegar
1-16 oz. can each: butter beans, green lima beans, dark red kidney beans, baked beans, green beans

Fry bacon until done, but not crisp, drain and set aside. Reserve 2 Tblspns bacon drippings in the skillet. Reduce heat and add onions, brown sugar, vinegar and garlic powder. Stir well. Cover and cook for 2 minutes or until onions are slightly soft.

Drain and combine all varieties of beans EXCEPT Baked Beans. Then, stir in undrained baked beans and onion mixture and ½ of the bacon (crumbled). If baking as a casserole, pour into 2 qt casserole (or crock pot) and top with remaining bacon (crumbled). Bake uncovered for 1 hour at 350 degrees, or cook on low 4-6 hours in crock pot. (Serves 8-10)

I’d love to hear if you try any of these for your family!

Have a wonderful weekend! I'm extra thankful (along with countless other college parents) because my boy is coming home! Can't wait!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Fun Thanksgiving Crafts & Your Suggestions Please

I can’t believe it’s been a week since I posted! It’s a crazy-busy time both at home and at work, but I wanted to share a couple of fun things you could make with your kids, while there is still a week before Thanksgiving. We had our nieces and nephew over this past weekend and made them…lots of fun!

First, we made oreo turkeys! You need Double Stuff oreos, malted milk balls, candy corn, ½ a cinnamon redhot (or you could use a red tic tac) for the waddle, and frosting. We actually forgot the beak, which is just the tip of a piece of candy corn. I think the photos are self-explanatory, but just in case… Start with 2 oreos. Twist the top off one of them (you can either eat or discard this top piece). This is the base. Take the other oreo and press candy corn into the frosting about half way around it for “feathers”. Then press the full oreo edge into the frosting of the base. Press the malted milk ball into the oreo frosting on the base. Use additional frosting to make the eyes, to add the head, waddle and beak. (I think Josh enjoyed eating these more than making them, and who could blame him?!)

We also made turkey place cards for our Thanksgiving table from finger and thumbprints. Again, probably self-explanatory, but just in case… Take orange and red stamping ink or paint and form a semi-circle of fingerprints (feathers)…first one color, then the other just in front of it. For the body, use brown ink and one thumbprint. Draw eyes, feet, beak and waddle with black felt-tip pen (or you could glue on small googly eyes). Blaire and Jordyn jumped right in to help make to make almost 30 of these (that’s a lot of thumb & finger prints!)

If we had more time, we would have made these. Turkeys from tiny clay pots, wood beads, silk leaves, raffia and a tiny sprig of craft hair, with paint for the faces. (You could add names to use these as place cards.) Adorable!

I’ve been trying to think of a special way to share what we’re thankful for during dinner on Thanksgiving. Any ideas?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Overflowing with Thankfulness

I hadn't planned to post today. Like many of you, it's an especially busy time for me. However, I received a message this morning I simply had to share. (It may be just as much for me than for anyone else.) If you look below, you will see that just yesterday my Word-Filled Wednesday was Colossians 2:6-7. This morning as I opened this message, I immediately took note of its scriptural basis...Colossians 2:6-7. While some may call this coincidence, I know better. God's repeats are a call to take a second look, to see what I missed in this passage the first time. Maybe He intends a second look for some of you, too. Step away from your busy-ness for just a moment and hear His voice through this message.

Overflowing with Thankfulness
by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson

Colossians 2:6-7: "So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness" (NIV)
~ ~ ~ ~
I hate organ recitals. Not pipe organs, especially, but this kind:

"How are you today, Gladys?"

"Terrible, just terrible. Did I tell you about my gall bladder acting up?"

"Yes, Gladys."

She doesn't seem to acknowledge my, "Yes," but launches into a full-scale report on gall bladders around the world, and hers in particular. When she sees my eyes beginning to glaze over, Gladys falters for a moment. She knows she has to switch gears quickly to keep me from nodding off.

"And I have this terrible skin rash that drives me so crazy that I can't sleep at night."

I am trying hard to be polite. "Oh, I'm sorry…."

I attempt to stop myself, but it is too late. The ill-fated word has crossed my lips -- "sorry" -- and now I have fed Gladys her first morsel of real food for the day. She seems to take new energy, and as she describes her itching, I begin to sense little crawling things in my scalp. I unconsciously reach up to scratch my head, but nothing gets by Gladys. Oh, that's the first sign…." she begins.

You've met Gladys, haven't you? It might be a different name. Gladys goes under a number of aliases and dons many disguises. But it's the same complaining, self-centered woman.

Too often, however, I meet Gladys in me. I want people to sympathize with me, so when something is going wrong (and when doesn't it?) I begin to complain. The 49ers are having a bad season. The morals of our nation are terrible. The election was depressing. My spouse is in a bad mood. It doesn't have to dwell on the interior plumbing of a sick Gladys. Normal complaining comes all too easily to my lips.

So when I read Colossians 2:6-7 it hits home. The phrase, "overflowing with thankfulness," begins to repeat itself over and over in my mind.

"Overflowing" -- "abounding," some translations say -- brings the mental picture of the Thanksgiving cornucopia spilling out an abundant harvest blessing. Jesus said, "Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks." What is in my heart? Complaining? Selfishness? Pride? -- or Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving is the mark of a Christian, because thanksgiving points out and up while my complaining points only back to me and feeds my pride and dissatisfaction. Thanksgiving towards God and man fits the Great Commandment like a glove, to love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. What better vehicle than thankfulness to express love?

The Pillsbury Doughboy® has that endearing quality that when you poke him he doesn't flare up but automatically responds with a friendly, perky, "Oh!" I want to be like him. Not so plump, mind you, but that full of friendliness. When someone pokes me I want my first instinct to be thankfulness rather than anger. I want people to find thankfulness oozing out of me. I want thanksgiving to mark my conversation and manner. I want to abound with it, be full of it. I want to overflow with thankfulness.

How about you?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Word-Filled Wednesday

For more Word-Filled Wednesday,
please join us at the
160 Acre Woods

Friday, November 7, 2008

fPhoto Friday - Trunk or Treat

Today, I wanted to share photos from last Friday night. Our chuch is located in the midst of an old, large neighborhood community with thousands of homes. Three years ago, we began an outreach on Halloween called "Trunk or Treat." About 200 of our church families park their cars and give away candy from their trunks. In addition, we grill and give away free hot dogs, drinks and snacks, as well as New Testaments, tracts and information about our church. There are free games for the kids and also drawings for gift certificates to a local toy store. From the very first year, it's been a HUGE success. This year was no exception. It was an absolutely beautiful night and nearly 4,000 people came through! The parents often share how much they appreciate having a safe place to bring their kids. A number of these families have joined our church as a result of this outreach.

Tom and I love taking part because at our house, we never have more than 4 or 5 trick-or-treaters. (We always leave a bowl of candy on our porch for those who may come by.) My pictures will give you an indication of what we do at Trunk or Treat. In our opinion, it's one of the best jobs of all! Winnie-the-Pooh and Barney greet and hug the kids, and I get to take photos! Can you spot my "hunny?" ☺

Camera: Canon Powershot A610 (point & shoot digital).

Want to see more fPhoto Friday posts? Visit Natalie at
Married to the Preacher.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Word-Filled Wednesday

For more Word-Filled Wednesday,
please visit us at the
160 Acre Woods

I hope today finds you well, and prayerful for our President-elect. Scripture tells us we are to pray for our leaders (regardless of whether or not we personally agree with their views), as well as our nation as a whole. This is indeed a long-awaited moment in history for many of our brothers and sisters in Christ, and in that, I rejoice. May I suggest more than ever before, we commit to daily prayer for our President and our nation, whether individually, or through organizations like the Presidential Prayer Team. And may we do so with full and complete trust in He who is in control of all things.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Pray, then Vote and Trust the Lord

You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You... ~ Isaiah 26:3 (NKJV)

I wanted to share this election prayer, by John Piper...

Father in heaven, as we approach this election on Tuesday, I pray

1) that your people will vote,

2) and that they will vote with a sense of thankfulness for a democratic system that at least partially holds in check the folly and evil in all our hearts so that power which corrupts so readily is not given to one group or person too easily;

3) that we would know and live the meaning of being in the world, but not of it, doing politics as though not doing them, being on the earth, yet having our lives hidden with Christ in God, rendering to Caesar the things that are Caesars, and to God the things that are God’s;

4) that we would discern what truths and values should advance by being made law and which should advance only by the leavening of honest influence;

5) that your people would see what love and justice and far-seeing wisdom demand in regard to the issues of education, business and industry, health care, marriage and family, abortion, welfare, energy, government and taxes, military, terrorism, international relations, and every challenge that we will face in the years to come;

6) and above all, that we will treasure Jesus Christ, and tell everyone of his sovereignty and supremacy over all nations, and that long after America is a footnote to the future world, he will reign with his people from every tribe and tongue and nation.

Keep us faithful to Christ’s all important Word, and may we turn to it every day for light in these dark times.

In Jesus’ name,

Friday, October 31, 2008

fPhoto Friday - God's Spectacular Handiwork

It was the season of Autumn that prompted me to begin carrying my camera everywhere. These are images I captured in and around my hometown, as I ran my weekly errands. God's incredible artistry is breathtaking! Hope you enjoy!
These photos were taken with my Canon Powershot A610 (point & shoot digital).
For more fPhoto Friday posts, visit Natalie at Married to the Preacher.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Prayer and The Election

Some of you may have already seen this very powerful video about the importance and each and every vote. No doubt many of you are (and have been) in prayer for the upcoming election. I know we all grow weary of hearing such a constant barrage of election news, but it can’t be said too much…Pray, Pray, Pray and then please Vote next Tuesday, November 4th.

...O Lord, God of our ancestors, you alone are the God who is in heaven. You are ruler of all the kingdoms of the earth. You are powerful and mighty; no one can stand against you!
~2 Chronicles 20:6 (NLT)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Word-Filled Wednesday

For more Word-Filled Wednesday,
please visit us at the
160 Acre Woods

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Congratulations are in Order!

Thank you for all your sweet comments...they truly warmed my heart!

...the winner of the Willow Tree Friendship Angel is....
When I drew her name, I had to laugh because only a couple of weeks ago, I won her drawing! For those of you who haven't yet met Susan, please take a few moments to stop by her blog. She is one of the most precious ladies you''ll ever want to meet. She radiates God's love in abundance, as does her blog. Congratulations, sweet one!
Thanks again to all of you for your kind friendship, and for celebrating with me!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Celebrate with Me!

I'm excited to say today marks a bit of a's my 100th post!!! I had no clue, when I stumbled upon blogging (via Beth Moore) just how much it would impact my life!

My Cup Runneth Over was born out of an earnest prayer to share God's love and encouragement with others.

For quite some time, I had sensed a longing to reach beyond those I was encountering on a daily basis -- at work, on my bus, in my neighborhood, even at my church.
So many people are hurting, and in need of God's love...through a smile, a kind word or gesture, or taking the time to pray. My heart (whose blessings are many) overflows with joy and gratitude, and longs to serve the Lord, by serving others, and that certainly includes you! That is why I started blogging, and that remains the same today, 100 posts later!

What I never expected, however, was how much you, in turn would share God's love and encouragement with me! Far beyond have challenged me, humbled me, rejoiced with me, prayed for me, overwhelmed me with your kindness and generosity, and strengthened me by your example. Most of all, you've helped me love Jesus more than ever before. Thank you. I am beyond humbled you have made me a small part of your life. I am truly overflowing with gratitude that God has made you a part of mine.

Though we may never have the opportunity to meet face-to-face (in this lifetime), just wait until we all get to Heaven! Can you imagine!? Wow!

I want to celebrate by sharing this Willow Tree Friendship Angel with one of you. I wish I could give one to each of you, but alas the budget dictates that I only have one. Please leave a comment between now and Monday evening (10/27) at midnight. I will draw a name and post the winner on Tuesday.

With love overflowing,