Friday, December 28, 2012


JOY has been the defining word for me this Christmas.  I've always loved the simple hymn "Joy to the World" {written in 1719 by Isaac Watts}, but this year it meant so much more to me.   As you read these lyrics, allow the richness of them to wash over your soul -  

Joy to the World, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the World, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

Doesn't that make your heart want to shout?  The Lord has come!  Joy is here!  Every heart that prepares room for Him can be filled with the unspeakable joy that only comes through knowing the Christ of Christmas. 

I want this joy to shine through my life like never before.  I want my countenance to radiate its brightness, my words to translate its beauty, and my actions to initiate its blessings

JESUS has brought JOY to my life!

Friday, December 21, 2012


December 21st.
The first day of winter.
The shortest "day" of the year.
And the birthday of the best granny a girl could have.
I miss her so much!
About 1 year ago, Christmas 2011.
Granny loved life.  She loved her family.  Most of all, she loved God.
Christmas ~ one of her favorite times of the year.
My eyes have been wet with tears many nights since April 15th.  They've been tears of sadness, tears of thankfulness, tears of hope, and tears of expectancy.   I'm sad for the loss that our family has experienced, but my memories are filled with rejoicing for the woman who allowed God to use her in the most humble of ways. 

I reminisce in the stories of those who came to pay their respects upon her death.  They each had their own unique description of the way their lives had been impacted by the quiet, little lady.  From the pastor's wife who, in long tiring days of childrearing, had received calls from granny offering to come wash her dishes or help with laundry, to the little girl (now all grown up) who would've never known the difference Jesus could make in her life had it not been for granny relentlessly showing her His love by taking her to Bible Club every Thursday night, to her friends at the Senior Center whose lives were made rich through her encouraging them to attend the Bible studies and making hymns a regular part of the music times.  God only knows the thousands of contacts that were made through her handing a tract to nearly everyone she met.  She was a woman of passionate principle, however, she never allowed bitterness or criticism to ruin her principled living. 

Here is one of the most touching stories that I was told after her death.  A mom said to me,
"When my son found out his girlfriend was pregnant, he was distraught.  We couldn't find him for awhile, but discovered that he had gone to Maxine's house.  He said that he knew she wouldn't criticize him or talk to others about his failure, but would show him love, pray for him, and keep his confidence."  Seriously, how many teenagers would run to an old saint when faced with moral failure, guilt, and shame?  Did she condone sin?  Of course not, but just like Jesus, she had compassion upon the one who had committed sin. 

So I think I'll don a red sweater (her favorite 'Friday' attire), make some peanut clusters (something she always had waiting for us at Christmas), and spend time today doing something to brighten another's day - this is the way she lived her life, and is certainly what she would encourage for the rest of us. 

"Happy Birthday, Granny.  I know this has to be the best one ever!"

The Christmas season can be difficult for those who are grieving.  The holiday atmosphere screams at us to be happy and carefree, to forget our troubles and have a light heart.  I have found that the best way to channel grief is to express it, but not be consumed by it.  Remember the moments, cry the tears, mourn the losses.  Do this as often as necessary to heal the heart.  While grieving, look outside of your grief to the looming needs of others.  With a sensitive, compassionate heart (tenderized by grief), pour yourself into making life better for someone else.  

If you have a moment, I encourage you to listen to this song from one of my favorite artists, Mandisa. 
"Sometimes Christmas Makes Me Cry"

Friday, December 14, 2012

Couple Time

If you've read my sporadic blogging for any length of time, you probably already know that I'm a big fan of married couples spending time together...sans kids...on a regular basis. Obviously, there are times where it's just not practical, like when the kids are sick or struggling, or when the family is in transition, and dates have to be put on hold for awhile.

Our family transitioned this fall, and it seems that since our anniversary get-away in August, couple time has been rare, if not completely non-existent.   I know that every marriage has different dynamics, but for our Greg and I, this "couple" time is important stuff.

Now that the kids are older and more self-sufficient, we do find it less complicated to take a date, but actually making sure it happens hasn't become much easier!  A week ago Thursday, we decided that we would take a shopping date to try to wrap up some of the loose ends for Christmas.  I can't even remember where or if we ate, but it was so refreshing to just have uninterrupted conversation!

This week's date was a bit less forgettable.  Awhile back, the president of the company Greg works for asked if we would like to attend a Christmas party in his place.  It was to be held at the most prestigious club in our area, the Shawnee Country Club.  He had a family obligation, and wanted someone to represent the company.  The invitation was from our local community college, and I took the pertinent information off of it, and didn't pay much attention to the fine print.  I thought it was the employee Christmas party for the college, and since Greg's company services many of the college facilities I figured they were reaching out to us, as well. The kids kept saying, "You're'll be hanging out with rich people and eating awesome food."  I confidently told them that these employees were middle class just like us, and we would fit right in.

About .3 seconds after receiving our guest badges and turning down tickets for "holiday" drinks, I realized this wasn't an employee Christmas dinner.  The remaining guest badges had notable names printed on them.  The first person I saw was Mr. Ayers, the most prominent photographer in the area.  He has been all over the world and won all kinds of awards in photography.  He happened to be photographing all of the couples at the event.  :-)

Greg hung my coat in the cloak room, and slipped into the restroom for a minute.  When he came out, we slowly made our way through this array of faces, many of which we recognized but definitely had no social connection with.  Once we had a second to ourselves, he looked at me and half jokingly said, "Let's go to McDonald's and get a coke." 

Greg knew it wasn't an employee dinner, but we hadn't had much communication about the whole thing.  Within a few minutes, we recognized that the mayor, city council, influential executives and business leaders, and top donors to the college were the recipients of this finery, and once we filled our plates with hors d'oeuvres and had a seat amidst the festive array of Christmas splendor, I began to feel a bit more comfortable.  Not knowing anyone at the event on a personal level, we found an empty table.   It wasn't too long before we were joined by six other friendly guests and were able to interact and mingle.  I have to say that the endless prime rib was better than any other dinner date we've had in awhile, and it was nice to have refills before having to ask.  :-)

I wanted to take pictures, but there was a marked absence of cell phones, so I snuck mine out for one shot of the room, and this is all I have.  In this ballroom, there were two beautiful fireplaces, a white baby grand piano, tons of Christmas trees (the white ones were revolving), and there was live music.  It was beautiful, to say the least. 

The exterior of the club was decorated really great as well, but I wasn't brave enough to take a pic on the way in while it was still light.  :-)

So, that's the story of our "couple time" for this week.  We finished out the evening with coffee and some Christmas shopping.  Let's just say I feel a lot more comfortable in TJ Maxx than I do at the Shawnee Country Club!  No, honestly, it was a fun evening, and we were able to meet some neat people. 

Now I'm off to find a fancy clutch in case there is a next time.  Haha!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Wrappin' Up Another Week!

A Saturday morning at home together has been pretty rare for our family for awhile! On the weekends we've been home, Greg has had the boys in the woods pretty early.

Last Saturday, my mom and I went to the craft show at the school where she works. We were in a bit of a hurry because of a wedding later in the afternoon, but it was fun and we did pick up a couple of cute things!

This morning we are having our church Christmas dinner. We've always had it in the evening, but a couple of years ago I noticed that a lot of people were talking about how difficult it is to fit everything in before Christmas. There are company parties, family gatherings, Christmas plays, etc., and only so many Friday and Saturday nights before Christmas. This year we were blessed with a bonus week, but that doesn't always happen. :-) So, a few weeks back, I mentioned that it might be nice to have it at lunch time. The idea caught on pretty quickly, and we're having it from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. today. If it's a bust, we can always switch back to evening next year! This year it will definitely be a blessing because after the dinner today, we will be preparing Sunday dinner for a college choir that will be doing a Christmas concert tomorrow morning! So, with about 10 lbs. of slow-cooked bbq pork in the crock pot and a double batch of veggie bake in the oven, I'm all set. :-)

Lima is lucky enough to now be one of the cities involved in a milk war! A Ruler Foods (kind of an outlet for Kroger) has recently opened, and they advertised milk at $1.49. Aldi says they won't be beat, so theirs is also $1.49. Not sure how long it will last, but it's definitely a bargain for now! I was a little skeptical about our town having another grocer (we have a ton of them), but this is like an Aldi (pay for a cart and buy or bring bags) and they also have brand names AND accept coupons!
Woo Hoo!

Greg and I finally crawled out of our hole and went to the mall on Thursday. Other than sporadically going into one of the anchor stores, we haven't been to the mall in months. I was happily surprised to see one of my absolute favorite kid's stores almost ready to open! I found Crazy 8 in Ft. Wayne several years ago, and probably made my biggest Black Friday purchases at their store in Florence, KY this year. They carry modest, adorable, girl's clothing at very affordable prices (when you watch sales and clearance), and they go all the way up to size 14! That makes me h-a-p-p-y!

Hope you are taking time to enjoy all the festivities this year! Some are still asking for the Veggie Bake recipe...we tend to need these kinds of things this time of year!

Vegetable Bake (Pampered Chef)
3-16 oz. bags California Blend
1 cup mayonaise
1 tsp. pepper (use more to taste)
8 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
1-14.5 oz. can cream of mushroom soup
1 clove garlic (more or less to taste)
Spread California Blend into a 9x13 inch baking dish. Combine all other ingredients in a bowl, then spread evenly over veggies.
Bake @ 350 for 45 minutes, or until the veggies are like you like them (more tender or more firm).
Add French's Fried Onions (Cheddar Onions are great, too!), and bake another 5 minutes or until golden. Let set for 5 minutes or so before serving.
***I make this alot because it is basically foolproof. Baking time can be adjusted by letting the veggies thaw before baking. If they are frozen solid, it may take more than an hour to reach desired tenderness.