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,