Happy New Year, friends! I’ll save my New Year’s post for next week, because I can’t wait to share some favorite pics from Christmas! Instagram has a Top Nine Best Photos of the year. I’m going to share nine favorite Christmas photos from this year instead! There were just so many special moments that I don’t want to forget!
On Christmas Eve in 1980, my boyfriend asked me to marry him, and now we’re celebrating 40 Christmas’s together!
As I mentioned in an earlier post, we were blessed to have ALL of our immediate family together for the holiday. I think we each tried to squeeze everything we could out every minute of being together…getting caught up on conversations, asking questions of things we’d missed out on, and just loving being in person! I love this picture of Dale and Whitney. This was at Christmas brunch, enjoyed at our younger daughter and son-in-law’s.
Sisters, sisters, there were truly never no more devoted sisters!
When you’re decorating cookies and GREEN SPRINKLES are your favorite, a careful peek into the bottom of the container is necessary to ensure you have enough to finish your special cookie design!
We always have a time of Scripture reading and carols before we open gifts. Whitney was our pianist and Alli accompanied on her violin. I snapped this picture of Paul and Whintey while Dale was reading our Bible passage. If you don’t follow Whitney’s blog, you’re missing out on a ton of helpful organization, practical Dollar Tree tips and deep spiritual encouragement!
Meanwhile in the other part of the room, Alli and Andrew were wrangling little boys who were very anxious to get to the PRESENTS!
I kept things less decorated this year, but I definitely still felt all the “warm-cozy” vibes of this time of the year! We enjoy our fireplaces so very much on these dark, cold days, and so does Liza!
One of the best surprises was the SNOW we got on Christmas Eve and again on Christmas Day! How kind of the Lord to give us a white Christmas that just added to the beauty of celebrating our Savior’s birth! This is the front yard…
And here is the backyard…
I look forward to 2021 and all the Lord has in store for me…and you! Thanks for making my blog a part of your day! I truly appreciate those of you who read and refresh me by doing so!
The last of the laundry has been folded and put away. Beds are neatly made, bathrooms have been cleaned and the floors are swept and mopped, but still there is much that lingers in the corners of my home from our recent Family Christmas. The traces that are left from the past holiday will remain in the deepest part of my heart, I pray until the day I leave this world and enter the next. I share my memories with you now, more for my own heart to press each detail into my memory for its long-term preservation.
After this long year of severed plans, pandemic panic and so much isolation, I had held very lightly our family’s hopes for gathering together at Christmas. Proverbs reminds us that man’s goings are of the Lord. I know I can trust Him, whether what I plan comes to fruition or not. But we did make plans, and asked the Lord for His will to be done. In His grace and kindness, the Lord allowed our plans to not only come to pass, but also to surpass what we had ever imagined! Here’s how I saw that happen…
Everyone was well and able to come. No one was sick or quarantined! We were all well and able to gather together!
The Lord gave us a white Christmas that began after we were all together under our roof! The snow began to fall on Christmas Eve and left us with a few inches of fluffy snow that covered the hillsides and made the holiday so festive that even a Hallmark movie couldn’t have matched the setting (now that’s saying something!).
We created a new tradition and fun memory. The Lord brought an idea to my mind to have a cookie decorating contest. I wanted something that was easy enough for even my four-year old grandsons to participate in, so I baked snowflake-shaped cookies ahead of time, and then had the counter filled with colored icings, and a plethora of sprinkles. Everyone had been informed before they arrived what they would be given two cookies to decorate so they could gather an idea on Pinterest, or bring any aid with them, if they desired. Then in order to also include other family members in another state, we made a Facetime call to my mom so she could see the cookies on the counter and be our judge for first and second place winners! I had simple treat bags for each of the two winners. My younger daughter came in first place and my husband was second place! Everyone really put their heart into the creations and we had so much fun together!
We shared our traditional foodsour family loves. I asked everyone what they felt like was important that we have for our meals on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I made sure those things were provided. We enjoyed yummy sweets, but also savory soups and sides.
We had a family sleep-over! Christmas Day continued to bring more snow, so even our local family decided to bring things so they could just pack it in at our house for the night! Pallets were made on the floor for the twins, a couch was utelized, as well as both the day bed and our guest room. The next morning as everyone arose, it was so sweet to sit near the fireplace in the living room, cups of steaming coffee warming our chilled bodies, while our sleepy eyes slowly took in the new day with dimmed lights and hushed voices. Breakfast of French Toast was made for the whole family by my husband – the King of Breakfast! No one seemed in a hurry for the day to move forward; this was our last morning together and it was another gift from our Father’s kind hand.
Sweet moments of tenderness – Gifts – Watching four-year old’s at Christmas is a gift in itself. They were so thankful and so excited! My grandsons gave me an oven mitt with their hand prints on it. A card included the tearful reminder that their prints would last while their hands continued to grow up and one day move away. I received a beautiful hand-painted picture of our house! This home is a grace gift from the Lord and such a gift, so this painting is a precious reminder of how God answered my ten year prayer! Music – My daughters are both very musical, so Whitney played the piano and Alli played her violin so we could sing carols and hymns. How wonderful to enjoy this blessing, especially after missing church for so many weeks this year! Conversations – One of my grandsons was asking about the baby Jesus and the grown up Jesus. I had the blessing of telling him how that Baby Jesus grew up, just like he was growing up. He loved us so much that He took the punishment for our sins on the cross. I could see him processing it all in his mind. Little light bulbs are coming on, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to share the Gospel with him again! One of the boys called, “Gigi, Gigi, come see! The sun is going to bed!” He took me by the hand to show me the sun setting over the hillside. Indeed, the sun was going to bed. Chats at the table, prayers uttered as a family, Scriptures were read, hearts were shared…all these conversations are such a gift.
I’m reminded of the Scripture that says,
Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
This Christmas, our Father gave us so many good gifts, and my heart is so full of thanks. I know many who were alone. Some are suffering. Some are grieving. I don’t deserve all that the Lord did for us this Christmas, that’s why they are grace gifts. I am thankful, and give praise to my loving Father for His lavish kindness that He poured out on us this Christmas of 2020.
Come back on Friday for some photos of these memories.
Every Monday I share a recipe or two with you because I love to cook good food for my family and those I serve in my home. I enjoy it because of what a good meal does for a family. It makes memories and traditions. It binds us together. As our stomachs are nourished, so are our hearts. But there’s a whole other dimension to food that plays into each of those blessings. It’s the whole presentation.
At Christmas, Thanksgiving or Easter our dinner tables look like they’re competing for front cover of Southern Living Magazine. The tablecloth is spread out with careful, smoothing strokes. Everyone gets a matching napkin and the centerpiece is well thought out and gorgeous. But what did your lunch look like this past Saturday? Maybe it was just the leftover pizza from your family time the night before, but how was it served? Or even think about Sunday dinner…
Did everyone have a real plate?
Were there napkins for messy fingers?
Where did you sit?
If you sat at the table, did you have any kind of covering on it, like a placemat or tablecloth?
Was the blessing said?
Did you use glasses? In regards to the evening meal…
Did you add anything special to the dinner table like candles or flowers?
Did you all eat at the same time?
How was the conversation during the meal?
Good, nourishing, healthy, delicious food is important, but just as important is the way we share it together. I’m not talking about the Pinterest Perfect Presentation of holiday meals – I’m just speaking about making it obvious to the ones we’re serving that we put thought into it. It’s doesn’t have to be fancy or fussy. We don’t have to pull out the china for Sloppy Joes, but I’d encourage you to consider…
Plates – Give everyone a real plate – not paper, not a paper towel, but a plate. It doesn’t take that much more effort to wash the plate and they’re more economical, as well as easier to cut on. Pull out those pretty dishes! Use them, rather than saving them for special events. Make today special by putting them on the table for your family!
Silverware – For supper, put out a knife, fork and spoon. At lunch you can just make sure the adequate silverware is out.
Napkins – I love to use cloth napkins at every meal. One reason is because they’re so much sturdier! They’re also pretty AND economical. I have a collection I’ve gathered over the years, but you can make them easily if you have a machine, or find good deals at places like TJ Maxx.
Table cloth or place mats – Eating on a bare table feels cold, in my opinion. You can add a cute place mat or a cloth tablecloth to add a layer of decor and warmth to the table.
Centerpiece – For something pretty in the center of the table, you could add fresh flowers from the grocery store in a simple white pitcher or make a seasonal display on a tiered stand.
Glasses – Call me snobbish, but I prefer to use glasses on the table, rather than water bottles. There is one exception, and that’s our favorite carbonated beverage that tastes best in glass bottles! So, everyone has their own preferences, but if I want the table to be a little more special, I like everyone to have a pretty glass.
Serving bowls – Putting the food into bowls, rather than setting pots and pans on the dinner table is another way to keep things a little more special.
Atmosphere – Playing some soft music in the background is a way to set the tone. Keep conversation pleasant and encouraging. Maybe a “Please leave your phone on the counter” rule would help. 😉 Call everyone to the meal by giving them a heads-up about ten minutes beforehand so they can finish what they’re doing, get washed and to the table.
Blessing – We have so much to thank the Lord for! My grandsons pray for the meal by telling God thank you for what they see on their plates. It’s so sweet. Every meal should start with our gratitude for God’s provisions.
Mealtime is a time to gather, to nourish hungry hearts as well as hungry bellies. In this unsettling, strange time, how blessed is the family who can look forward to a simple, yet special time together at your table. The atmosphere is truly up to us, ladies. It will be what we make it. Let’s take the high road and the extra work to create a place where people are thankful to gather for yet another meal.
I love Thanksgiving for so many reasons, but I want to focus on three of them.
1.To spend quality time recounting my blessings from God is such a joy.
2. Time with family is wonderful.
3. The traditions we share make memories that last a lifetime.
What happens when we take those three joys and bundle them into one? We make Thanksgiving a day that honors and gives thanks to the One to Whom it is due. It’s so easy to get caught up in the food and gobbling turkeys and neglect directing our thoughts to the Lord. I think it’s so important that we include the children in each of these areas on Thanksgiving Day. It’s easy to put the children at their designated table, let Grandpa say the blessing, enjoy our adult family and idle conversation and forget to really focus on the purpose of the day. Here are a few ideas of ways you and your children can make your gratitude, family time and traditions all coincide and point to Christ.
Make a gratitude wall, chalkboard or dry erase board where family members can write down what they are thankful for during the whole week before the big day. Little ones could draw pictures of their gratitude or find magazine pictures to cut out.
Write secret notes to a family member who lives in your house and leave it for them to find. You could also tuck those notes under the plates on the day of your Thanksgiving meal.
Read Psalm 100 as a family and work on memorizing it together. Say it as a family on Thanksgiving Day.
Everyone say a sentence prayer of thanks to God before dinner. Rather than just one person praying, having each person participate makes it a special time of family worship.
Everyone share a their blessings. This a tradition my family does each year. We affectionately call it our “Puff moments.” After the meal is over, we gather in a circle in the living room and take turns sharing blessings from the past year. It always ends up on a time of happy tears. It’s a precious time together )and of course we pass the box of Puffs to dry our tears. Some people use corn kernels at each plate and drop them into a bowl as they share their blessings. I like sharing after the meal because quite frankly, the meal is hot and ready to eat! Well, the food is a huge part of the traditions! Let’s make it as memorable as we can!
These are all things that you can do with your children. Point the praise to God, spend time together doing it, and make some special memories! I pray that your upcoming Thanksgiving is a special day, and one to which you give God the glory for all He’s done for you, yes even in 2020. He has been so gracious to each of us. Give Him praise!
One lovely evening we invited friends to come over after church. We sat around our fire pit watching the flames spit embers upwards and the smoke billow into the night sky. Then to get the group talking, my husband suggested we play a game called, Two Truths and a Lie. Each person has to come up with two truths about themselves that others might not know, and then throw a lie in there somewhere. We were to guess which one was the lie. Do you know what the hardest part of that game is?
It’s not hard to come up with a lie – it’s difficult to come up with two truths to share!!!!
Not only is that true in a game – it’s also true in real life! It’s just easier for us to listen to a lie than for us to listen to (and believe) the truth!
After our game was over, the fire put out, and my week got started, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve encountered someone believing a lie in their life! Could you identify one you might be believing about your family? There are many, but here are four lies I think are running rampant in our homes:
This marriage is a mistake.
Things will never change.
My child will go through the typical phases (like terrible two’s and teen rebellion).
This stage of life is going to last forever!
Let’s counteract those lies with Truth:
This marriage is a mistake. Once you said, “I do,” you marriage became a covenant between you and your spouse and God. No matter the situation and happenings before you got married, God doesn’t want you to ditch this marriage – this covenant after you pledged your life and love! He wants you to stay married and display the Gospel – Forgiveness, mercy, and grace. When we promise to love ’til death, God desires we allow Him to work in our marriage because it IS His will. So today –Commit yourself to this marriage and stop thinking about what it would be like to be with someone else, or in another circumstance. Pour yourself into this marriage like it was the first day you were married. Make a difference in your husband’s life today!Matthew 19:6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder (separate).
Things will never change. The previous truth about marriage isn’t meant to make you feel hopeless. To say, “Things will never change” is to doubt an omnipotent God! He is able to do MORE than we can ask or think. As long as you are living – there is hope, because God is also alive and on the Throne! So today – Trust Him to answer and intervene in your life! Keep praying, believing and watching for what an all-powerful God can do! Luke 1:37For with God nothing shall be impossible.
My child will go through all the typical phases. Your child was uniquely designed and created. They were born with an old sin nature that will need to be dealt with. A strong-willed child needs a different kind of approach than a child who is withdrawn. But with biblical guidance and prayer, they could completely bypass those “expected” kinds of behavior. Every child has a will and when that will is bent towards Christ and obedience at an early age, they won’t be little angels, but could avoid much heartache they could cause for themselves. So today – Train your child in God’s Word and ways. Surround them with godly people, biblical discipline and teaching, places and activities that will be the Truth their young heart needs. II Timothy 3:15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
This stage of life is going to last forever! I know that when you’re changing diapers, chasing toddlers all day, caring for an elderly parent, or dealing with a hard season in your marriage, you think it’s never going to end, but I’m here to tell you there will could be day when you will look back and realize how quickly the time passed!
Think back to something you did two years ago. Perhaps it was a significant birthday, a special vacation or a wedding. Doesn’t that seem like FOREVER ago? Life is fleeting. Children grow up. Changes smooth out eventually. So what do we need to do? Learn to enjoy today. Look for the blessing in the opportunity before you.
When my mother-in-law had lung cancer, I cared for her in Hospice care in our home. During those long days, I was exhausted and felt very overwhelmed and wondered how I could keep going. But in six very short weeks, she was in heaven and I was thankful for each day we got to care for her and spend time with her. I look back on that time and it seems so short! I don’t remember the hard things nearly like I remember the blessings! I remember reading Randy Alcorn’s book, Heaven to my mother-in-law. I remember the night my husband and I got to go to a Bed and breakfast for a night away to rest in the middle of this time, and I remember the blessing of friends who helped by bringing meals, and came and sat with her so I could attend church. Nothing on this earth lasts forever. So today – In the midst of long work hours that your husband is pulling, leaving you alone, or while you’re waiting for God to bring you a spouse, or while you’re cleaning up chocolate milk from the walls and floors, look up and find something for which you can be thankful! Look for the blessings and keep a mind on the truth that the clock is ticking! Remember, too, that Christ could come at any moment and it will ALL be over, and forever more we’ll be rejoicing! James 4:14Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.
Thinking the Truth takes intentional effort. Keep your heart focused on that which is right. As Jesus said, The truth will set you free!