Sunday, December 25, 2011

God is Real!

Merry Christmas!!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Letter ...

***This is a re-post from last Christmas Eve. It still rings true. MERRY CHRISTMAS!***

Dear Baby Jesus,

Just over two thousand years ago you came. You came to be one of us. To be like us. We were created in your image (though we had soiled and tarnished it beyond recognition) and now, you had taken on ours. And you came for us ... you did it all for us.

You left the throne of Heaven to be placed, on a cold dark night, into a manger. You stepped off of the streets of gold onto the sod of earth. You chose swaddling cloth over lily white, shining robes of splendor. You left the right hand of the Father to be placed into the young, inexperienced arms of a mama. You brought your perfection into our filth and your innocence into our pit of sin. You did it all for us.

On a still silent night (although, with a young girl in labor I seriously doubt it was all THAT silent) you took your first earthly breath and let out your first sweet cry. Joseph's were probably the first arms that held you. Joseph, who had listened to your angel and risked it all to stand beside Mary and claim you as his own. Joseph, who would go to great lengths to protect you. Joseph, who loved you and would let you call him daddy, knowing he was not your real Father. You probably wriggled into his arms and cried as the cold night air blew against the skin that had just been warm inside Mary's womb. And you cried a holy, human cry that flooded the night. And you did it all for us.

Then Joseph probably placed you in the arms of your mama. Mary ... sweet, YOUNG Mary. How old was she? Was she really just a young teenager? How much did she know? Did she know where your road would lead? If she had not studied the Scriptures BEFORE she conceived you, she most certainly did once she knew she was carrying the Messiah. Did she know that the child in her arms, the child she had just delivered, would be the deliverer of all who would believe? Did she know that you had been there since the beginning and had created HER long before she created you? Did she know that you did it all for us?

And the shepherds? They surely had no clue what was to come. They were just doing their job when their calm night was interrupted with a Holy light and a commanding presence of Heavenly Hosts. Angels, who were created to follow your every command, had come to announce your coming and bring your good news. They could have interrupted someone of royal blood in a warm castle and sent THEM to you, but they came to shepherds. Dirty shepherds, leading dirty sheep and caring for them ... and they were sent to YOU. The one who is the Good Shepherd. But, they followed the angels direction and brought their filth and noise and their worship to your birthplace. You came to the lowly and meek ... and you did it all for us.

You could have been born in a palace. You could have just come as a king. You could have commanded the world to fall at your feet and follow and believe. You had the power to give us no choice at all, but you had the LOVE to give us the choice anyway. You let us decide if we will follow you, believe in you, LOVE you. You knew that there would be some who chose the other. And yet, still, you did it all for us.

You came as a baby in a manger, fled that place for the safety of a foreign land as Joseph protected you, grew up in a small town, studied at the feet of those who studied the scriptures YOU had written, grew in stature and favor and became a man. A man who would take the good news as far and wide as his human frame would allow. A man who would heal the sick, give sight to the blind, voice to the mute, hearing to the deaf, legs to the lame, life to the dead and HOPE to the hopeless ... and, before you, weren't we ALL hopeless? You walked the dirty soil of our world, among the dirty souls of your people and you did all without sin or blame or guilt. And then ... then ... then you took the sin of which you were completely innocent and placed it on yourself like a worn, soiled garment and took it to the cross ... and you did it all for us.

You took our blame and our sin, the wages of which are death, and you proclaimed yourself guilty so that WE could be innocent. You died on a rugged wooden cross, they placed you in a dark cold tomb, the door to which was sealed and left you there to rot, thinking that it was the end. But, really, wasn't it just the beginning. Because then ... THEN ... then, three days later, when all hope had been lost, you burst through with the glorious light of day, breaking the greatest darkness the world had ever known and brought the greatest hope the world could ever imagine. You left behind the grave and the death it stood for and brought new life. And not just new life for YOU, you brought new life for US. For anyone who would believe, anyone who would place their trust in you, anyone who would lay their sin at your feet to be forgiven, anyone who would bring their broken lives and their certain death to you. And You would take it all ... you DID take it all ... and exchange it all for life. Life in You. Life everlasting. Life ... LIFE ... LIFE! And you did it all for us.

And so today, so many years later, we celebrate Your birthday. Some have made it a big commercial festival of lights and decorations and fat jolly men in ridiculous red suits being led around by a reindeer with an ever more ridiculous red nose - and that is all fun and good. But those that know ... those that know YOU ... know that it is so much more. Tomorrow we will open presents - but the real gift is YOU. We will spend time with the ones that we love - but the real love comes from YOU. We will eat a feast set at a beautiful table - but the bread of life is YOU. We will celebrate life - but our real life is in YOU. Tomorrow, somehow, we will make it all about us - when it should be all about YOU.

Tonight we will go to church, bow our heads, celebrate your birth and sing songs that exalt You. Tonight we will share the great joy that You bring with everyone we meet. Tonight we will feel that warmth in our heart that only comes on Christmas eve when we make it all about You. And we will do it all for You.

But, when I think of all that You have done for us, I wonder why we give you just one night. And I wonder what I can do to change that. How can I love better? How can I love more. How can I bring the hope of YOU to a lost and hurting world, so in need of all you came to give.

How can I do it all for You?

Teach me Lord Jesus, teach me how.

Let that be my birthday gift to you.

Happy Birthday Baby Jesus ... and thank You for the Gift.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Face of Christmas

Christmas is my absolute favorite time of the year. I love the magic and the meaning in all that we do to celebrate.

For me, Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ ... my Savior

But, there are many faces to Christmas.

Some come with a beard

Some come riding horses that rock

Faces made of snow

Some bring Glad Tidings ...

... For all people

Some bring stories that have been passed down through generations, faces hand made by those who have come before us

Yes, there are many faces of Christmas ...

... But, really, it all comes down to One, Holy and Perfect face ...

The Face of God

Friday, December 16, 2011


*This is a re-post from last year ... and probably even they year before that. I still wonder*

How many of us started our Christmas Letter in wonder at how quickly time passes by?

We look back on a year gone by and wonder how it went so FAST?

Children were born, cut teeth, turned three, started school, made the honor roll, got the lead in the school play and, eventually, graduated, got married and started families of their own.

And we were left to look back and wonder how it all happened so fast.

I wonder if is was like that for Mary.
That night, as she held her newborn son in a barn, did she - like so many of us - look forward to each passing milestone and promise to cherish each and every moment?

Like so many of us, did the normal every day start to creep in? Did the sleepless nights of life with a brand new baby turn into the craziness of toddler proofing the home? Did she one day look at her son and realize that he just was not a baby anymore?

I wonder what it was like watching her son grow up, knowing that He was also the Son of God.

I mean, she KNEW who he was - the angel had made that clear - so she HAD to know what was in store.

Were the passing moments stored and cherished or did she turn around one day and find a man where her boy had once stood?

I cannot imagine how it felt to see him getting older, stronger, wiser ... all the while knowing that each breath he took brought him closer to the road He was destined to walk...

... and the cross He was determined to bear.

She knew when He was born that His death was imminent.

That it was predetermined.

That it HAD to be.

So, when she held her son that night...

As she watched him learn to walk ...

While she taught him how to talk ...

As she raised HER son ...

Did she cherish each moment knowing that she was holding, watching, teaching and raising God?

Or, did time fly for Mary too?

Friday, December 2, 2011

How Great Thou Art

This morning I have had O Holy Night on the brain.  Like, cannot get it out of my head.  So I went to You Tube in search of a good version of it.

Now, in all honesty, I am picky about O Holy Night.  It has to be sung RIGHT.  Don't do it if you aren't gonna do it well. I know there is a version out there somewhere with someone mocking the power voice necessity and it torks me off just a smidge.  Do NOT go there y'all ... just don't!

I also don't like the mamby pamby versions where they stay at the same intesity through out ... no. Fall on your knees needs to BRING me to my knees.  Bring it. Go big or go home.

Yeah ... I said I was picky.

Anyhoo ... I found a video of Carrie Underwood singing it ... and if she is doing it ya KNOW it is gonna be done well.  Just sayin.

BUT, I could not find one of her doing the verse that was in my head:

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His Gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother,
And in His name, all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of praise is grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His Holy Name.
Christ is the Lord, oh praise His name forever.
O night divine ... O night, when Christ was born.
O night divine ... O night ... O Holy Night.

But, what I DID find was this.....

And suddenly, there in my living room with babies playing underfoot, little girls attempting to be ballerinas, Barbie singing in the background and the craziness of daily life abounding, it all became still.  I watched as some of the greatest names in country music, hands raised and tear filled eyes, jumped to their feet in praise. And not praise of Carrie Underwood, but praise of our Lord.

And it was in that moment that I went to church.  Here in my living room, for 5 minutes and 12 seconds, it was just me and Him.

And it was beautiful.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Open Doors

In our quest for a new home, we have seen some doozies.  And I DO mean DOO-ZIES!

Remember the picture I posted asking for your ideas to help make it "pretty"? Well ... it woulda taken alot more than paint and landscaping.  It seems that, on one whole side of the house, they kinda forgot the duct work for heating and air.  And they may have even forgot the plumbing.  If I had been able to get INTO that bathroom, I could tell you for sure, but since it was full of junk and there was no way to even enter it, it shall remain a mystery.

We've also seen serious water damage, sinking basements, buckling floors and entire walls falling down.

It has been scary.  But such is the journey when you are looking at older homes and foreclosures.

So, imagine our surprise when we discovered a development of new homes - like "we will build it for you" new homes - in our price range!!!  And, believe me, I know what you're thinking - "they're gonna getcha on all the ad on's", right?  Not so much!  The price includes granite countertops throughout, flooring of choice, sod in the yard, a sprinkler system and a FULL (including washer and dryer) appliance package.  WHAT?!

Soooo, we went, we saw, we fell in love...  (and, when I say WE fell in love, I mean ALL OF US.  Hattie and Sophie picked their bedrooms, even told us what color they want them, and Soph claimed the jacuzzi tub (also included!!!) in the master bath as her own.

And now, here we are.  We are sorting out the details, looking at our options, trying to secure financing (we are looking for a VA loan and they are harder to get on a construction loan) and praying.  Praying for favor with both finances and timing and praying that we will follow and remain in God's will for our family.

We are praying that we would find open doors - possibly even some neon signs and arrows pointing us through - if it IS His will ... and tightly closed doors if it is not.

If you would be willing to JOIN us in these prayers, we would be honored.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Fun With Our Mini-Chef

We were asked to bring a couple of deserts for Thanksgiving dinner and, since there were already a couple pies, we opted for cheesecakes.  

Hello Happy ... cheesecake is one of my love languages, so I was a happy girl!

So, we got up bright and early on Thursday morning - mainly because Sophie does not understand the word holiday and was out of bed at her usual 6:45.  This is something we are working on.

Knowing her love for the kitchen I decided to let her help me make the cheesecakes.  She was EC.STA.TIC.  Seriously, so very happy.  And, because I have the strange little notion to pull a Julie and Julia kinda thing and blog my way through The Pioneer Woman's cookbook, I decided to practice food blogging with my favorite mini-chef.

So... here we go.

Classic Cheesecake

(NOTE: We didn't make a crust, we used a store bought, pre-made kind, but here it is in case YOU want to)
1 1/4 cups Graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup Sugar
3 Tbsp Melted butter

Combine all ingredients together in a bowl. Mix well. Press against bottom and sides of prepared pan. Bake 10 minutes at 350. Place on wire rack to cool.

2 (8oz) packages regular Cream cheese
1 (8oz) package fat free Cream cheese
1 1/4 cup Sugar (or Splenda *I use just a tiny bit more if using Splenda)
4 Eggs
1 1/2 Tbsp Lemon juice
pinch of salt

Place regular and fat free cream cheese together in large mixing bowl

Add sugar (or Splenda)

add salt

add lemon juice

Mix together until creamy - scraping bowl as needed

Add eggs one at a time

Beat until smooth and thoroughly mixed

Pour filling into pie crusts (we filled two regular pie crusts, if making your own crust you MAY be able to do it in one - put you would need something bigger than a standard pie pan)

Bake at 350 for 50-60 minutes - until filling is slightly firm to the touch.  Cool to room temperature, cover and chill for at least 8 hours. 
*NOTE: ours only chilled for about 4 hours and it was fine, just not as firm as it maybe should have been.

Pumpkin Cheesecake
(This is Paula Deen's recipe and it is borrowed from the Food Network, y'all!)

3 (8oz) packages Cream cheese at room temperature
1 (15oz) can Pureed pumpkin
3 Eggs plus 1 Egg yolk
1/4 cup Sour cream
1 1/2 cup Sugar
1/2 tsp Ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp Ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp Ground cloves
2Tbsp All-purpose flour
1tsp vanilla extract

Beat cream cheese until creamy. Add pumpkin (our can was a 20oz-er so we measured out 15oz)

Add the spices

Add the flour

(flour is "spill-y" ... make sure you don't miss any! this made me giggle!!)

Add vanilla and eggs & yolk

Mix until smooth then pour filling into crusts (again, it took two standard pie crusts)

Pose for A-stinkin-dorable photo op. *NOTE - this may only work if  you are as cute in your PJ's as our sweet mini-chef!!)

(seriously, I could eat HER with a spoon!!!)

Lick as many surfaces as possible!!

Bake for 1 hour at 350, until slightly firm to touch.  Place on cooling rack for 15 minutes. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours.

So, OK, I have no pictures of the finished project ... or the fact that they were set outside in the 40 degree weather (yes, we are SOOOOOOOOOO Little House On The Prairie up in here!) to chill because there was no room in the fridge. 

Have I have royally messed up my first venture into food blogging by not having a finished project?  I promise it will never happen again ... please forgive me.

I can tell you they were pretty ... and pretty yummy. 

Sophie really did do most of the work too.  We did help her with the measuring and the placing in and removing from the over (duh), but she didn't need a whole lot of help.  My girl has some baking skillz!!!  And, she was SO proud of her sweet self!  And that pride is mutual - we were proud of her too!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Of all I have to be thankful for ...

... nothing compares to the cross.

Have a Blessed day and be thankful!