Sunday, December 30, 2012

Holiday Food

Hi all, Did you survive your Christmas celebrations?  I hope so.  We have two more Christmas celebrations coming up and I have another Christmas card to hand out tomorrow.

I didn't want to do the traditional christmas card so I went with the snowman image.  We are getting a whole lot of snow today so it seemed appropriate.

So this may seem like a strange post, but I find it really interesting and amusing to see how different families celebrate holidays and the foods they celebrate with.

For our celebrations, I focus on seasonal foods and each holiday meal would include foods that are not served at other holiday meals.  My inlaws also do some seasonal food, but they also have favorite dishes that show up for every holiday meal, so there are certain dishes that we can count on having each and every holiday: winter, spring, summer and fall.

My mother-in-law puts out an awesome spread of appetizers.   The assortment above includes shrimp cocktail, garbage bread and one of my favorites -  shrimp dip and chips.  I love her chips and dip platter.  If I did a lot of entertaining, I'd want one of these.

My DH says it takes a lot of discipline to not load up on appetizers and save room for dinner.  

So here are my photos from the Christmas 2012 buffet.  First up, something we fondly call 'green stuff.'  I really don't know whats in it.  I don't eat it, but I think it's sweet and includes green jello and coolwhip.  This shows up at every meal.  It's Bob's fathers favorite dish.

Next up is sausage and peppers.  This dish is really yummy.  A classic italian entree that is great the day of the event and the day after too.
 Next up, baked beans and a veggie.  I brought these honey glazed carrots.

This next dish is stuffed shells.  Often Bob's mom makes manicotti.  She makes manicotti with hand made crepes and they are really, really good.  The stuffed shells are good too.  For this christmas there were three platters (banquet size) of stuffed shells.  Yes, there was enough food to feed a small army.

 We also had Ham and Turkey.  There was a large spiral cut ham and two large turkey breasts.
Here is a coffee cake and sweet pumpkin bread.
 My sister in law made this beautiful salad.
 And there are always deviled eggs.
 A platter of Turkey..
Lastly there was a huge pot of coffee.  My father in law really enjoys a cup of coffee immediately after a meal so we have all learned to make the coffee just as we are serving the dinner so the coffee is hot and done right after he's finished his dinner.
So I'm sure you are thinking that this meal was set out to feed 25 people or more.  Actually there were 15 of us.  But, the good news is that this food fed 15 of us for 3 days.   My MIL did an awesome job.  She must have been cooking and washing dishes for three days straight.

How about you?  What does your family do for food for the holidays?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Papertrey Ink December Blog Hop

If you are here for the Papertrey Ink Blog Hop, welcome! 
I'm so glad you stopped by to see my creation. 

The PTI blog hop challenge this week is white on white.  Love, love, love it!  Here is the inspiration photo.  So gosh darn pretty.
So for my card creation, I dug out my 'on my couch' stamp set, die and a sentiment from 'on ice.'  I used mostly white with a splash of ivory and kraft.  Isn't the herringbone texture on the white stunning?  It's really pretty in person.  I hope you get the idea from my photos.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Why Christmas?

This is my 12th post in my 12 blogs of Christmas.  Thank you for reading my blog and especially thank you if you left a comment along the way.  

So today’s post is ‘why Christmas?’  That’s a good question.  Why do Christians celebrate Christmas?  The reason for the season is Jesus, but why was Jesus born and why is that event important?

Some people agree that Jesus was a great teacher and a wonderful man who set a great example for living.  I believe that 100%, but Jesus had to be more than that.  There are many examples in history of great teachers who set great examples: Abraham, Solomon, Mother Theresa, Billy Graham.  What differentiates Jesus from these people?  Well, Jesus claimed to not only be a great guy, but the son of God.  These people listed above never claimed to be God, only messengers or servants of God. 

Why did we need the son of God to be born?  Isn’t it enough to have great teachers and great people among us?  Well, if you are familiar with the bible and the Old Testament you may remember reading that the chosen people, Jewish men and women descendents of Abraham, spent a lot of time sacrificing animals for the forgiveness of sins.  There were also a lot of prophecies about a Messiah coming to earth to rescue the Israelis.  Christians believe that Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, and his subsequent death by crucifixion, was the fulfillment of those Messiah prophecies. Jesus had to be born, only to be sacrificed to atone for the people’s sin and to bring, once and for all, the end of the need for animal sacrifice for forgiveness of sin.

So that’s pretty heavy stuff, so let me put it another way.   We were created by God to be in relationship with God.  We all sin and fall short of the standard of perfection.  We need a way to be forgiven of our sin to be in relationship with God.  God cannot be in relationship with sinners (see above.) So Jesus came to earth to atone for our sin.  That word atone simply means that he became the substitute for the animal sacrifice.  His sacrifice made it possible for all our sins to be forgiven (past, present and future.)

So, in order for us to be in relationship with God (for now and in the future in heaven) we need to accept the sacrifice of Jesus.  That puts us in right relationship with God and enables us to live with God now and forever (heaven.)

Many of us want to make ourselves right with God by ourselves, without Jesus.  We try to do good things and hope our good things out way our bad things, but what we fail to realize is that we can’t erase the bad things with good things.  We need to erase the bad things with the forgiveness that comes from Jesus.  We cannot do it alone.

So, that is why we need Christmas.  We need a savior.  Jesus is a wonderful savior.  Won’t you consider making Jesus Lord of your life this Christmas?

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Peace on earth; goodwill toward men

Today is my blog post # 11 of my 12 blogs of Christmas.  Before I share today’s post topic ‘being a peacemaker’ let me share a few more Christmas cards with you.

The other day I was talking about Rick Warren’s definition of one of the purposes of Christmas.  Rick says that one of the purposes of Christmas is to have peace on earth, goodwill to men.  When I talked about peace the other day I talked about peace with yourself, but there are other components of peace.  How about peace with others?  Do you know a peacemaker?  Sure you do.  I’m sure you have met someone (or someone’s) who go out of their way to ensure that there is peace.  There are world peacemakers who try to bring peace between nations and there are family peacemakers who are trying to bring peace within a family and yes there are workplace peacemakers who are trying to ensure everyone just gets along.

The scriptures say that we quarrel among ourselves because we are seeking our own selfish desires.  Ouch.  That is so true of me.  I find that I often have conflict with others when they are preventing me from getting what I want.  Do you ever find yourself in conflict when you are trying to help another person get what they want?  Not usually.  It’s funny how that works.   

‘For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.’
 James 3:16.

When we unselfishly work to meet others needs and not our own, somehow many of the conflicts in life disappear.  This example I’m about to share hasn’t happened to me but I know it happens.   A family member dies and the family is ‘discussing’ how to split up the deceased family member’s estate.  Have you heard of families that never speak again after that conflict?  She got the XXX and I only got the YYYY.  Hmmm, sounds like selfish ambition was at the root of that conflict.  And what about the family member that prioritizes work over spending time with their family.  That person may say they are working hard to improve the lives of their family, but sometimes those conflicts arise because the workaholic is after the satisfaction of getting the title, the car, the big house as a selfish ambition.

Ouch and double ouch.  I know that I have selfish ambitions and I know that they cause many of the conflicts in my life.  I will prayerfully seek God’s help to desire His plan for my life.  When I am seeking God’s plan, hopefully I won’t be pursuing my own selfish desires and creating conflict.  I want to be a peacemaker, but I recognize that the way for me to be a peacemaker is to get control over my selfish ambitions.  The verse I think of when I think of getting control over my selfishness is below.

‘and do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.’  Romans 12:2.

This verse reminds me that I should not let my mind be filled with ‘things of this world’ which often stir up those marketing induced selfish desires.  Instead I need to focus my mind on things of God.  Then my desires will be God’s desires and I will be better able to be an effective peace-maker.  How about you?  Do you strive to be a peace-maker and help us bring about peace on earth, goodwill to men?  What do you do to help be a better peace-maker?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Reason for my hope

‘Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason or the hope that you have.’  1 Peter 3:15

Today is post # 10 in my 12 blogs of Christmas.  Before I get to that (the reason for my hope) let me share a few Christmas cards with you.  Frrst, another creation using Taylored Expressions Woodland Forest.

Then a card using Denami's sets.

And lastly (for my cards today) a sweet bird card using Stampin Up products.

 My post today is my 'God story.'   If you have been reading my 12 blogs of Christmas you should be able to see that I am a woman of faith.  I believe with all my heart that I am a beloved child of God, completely forgiven of my past, present and future sins and in a right relationship with God.  I hope you don’t read that and think I’m perfect.  That is so not true.  Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.   You may wonder if I’ve always felt this way?  Well, no I haven’t always felt this way.  It was only in my 35th year that I started exploring my faith and it was in my 35th year that I recognized my significant need for God and found forgiveness and joy through Jesus Christ.

I wrote ‘my testimony’ a few years ago.  Testimony is just a fancy way of saying the way I became a woman of faith.  If you haven’t heard my story, here it is below:

I grew up identifying myself as a Christian, but had no real understanding of God or Jesus.  I believed there was a God and recognized him in nature and loving people, but that was it.   I certainly had no idea of my sin.   I was insecure about myself, but I never thought of myself as a sinner.  When I was a young mother, I went to a shower.  Many of the women were catholic and they were discussing going to confession.  I asked in shocked disbelief – what could you women have to confess?  It was inconceivable to me that these sweet middle aged women sitting in the living room of my daycare providers home could have anything to confess. 
I have always been a ‘planner’ – that is the nice way of saying a controlling type A personality.   I had a plan for my life as a teenager and worked hard to control my circumstances to match my plan. I worked hard in school, got a degree and started my career.   I married and had two beautiful healthy children and by the time I turned 35, I had achieved most of the things on my ‘life to do list’.  But I was not content.  I did not consider my children, husband or possessions a blessing.  I treated them as a curse.  The house needed cleaning.  The kids did not always behave.  My husband did not anticipate my every need.  I was anxious and restless and ever so busy.  Can you say selfish and ungrateful?  You bet.

I decided to go find a church.   The second church I visited was First Congregational Church of Hopkinton.  One of the first sermons I heard was about freedom in Christ.  A husband and wife shared how they were able to break free from negative thought patterns.  They were selling the book so I bought it.  I met the wife and she started meeting with me for breakfast once a week to do a one-on-one bible study.  While reading the book and meeting with Traci – I realized and confessed that I was a sinner and needed Jesus.    At the time I didn’t really understand what I had done and didn’t really believe that I was now united in fellowship with God.  It seemed all too easy.  I continued to feel very unworthy and insecure.  Traci encouraged me to rearrange my priorities as a Christ follower.  I went to my boss and switched to a part time position.  I stopped striving for the career and instead prioritized my kids.  Slowly the changes I made had an impact and the stress level in our home reduced and life started to have balance and meaning.  Traci also encouraged me to join a bible study that met weekly.  I joined BSF and through the daily study (over 8 years) learned to know and trust my God.

My husband and I have seen some very tangible situations where God’s hand was on our life.  Knowing Christ and believing God’s word as documented in the bible have given me a life of contentment and peace.  I also have purpose as a bible study facilitator.  It is such a blessing to get to know the other women in the bible study and see their lives change as they believe and trust God’s plan for their lives and circumstances.   I can’t image the chaotic and discontent life I would be living now if I hadn’t given my life to Christ 12 years ago.  Praise God that He met me where I was at all those years ago.

How about you?  Is God nudging at your heart to become right by Him?  Will you pray that God will reveal himself to you and will you talk to someone about that desire to know and find forgiveness in Jesus?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Serenity House update and a few cards

Hi all,

So last night some of the ladies from my Tuesday Eve bible study came with me to the Serenity House and we made cards with the ladies.  From what I can tell most of the ladies are recovering from drug and alcohol addictions and this is a transition house for them to get back on their feet and into a normal life.

It was a really nice evening.  the ladies (all ages) were genuinily appreciative of our efforts.  Some were crafty by nature and for others doing paper crafts was totally new.  They seemed to enjoy the creative outlet.  They have a lot of rules and guidelines (to be expected) so many of them enjoyed doing something different than the card design as a way of expressing themselves.  Katie told them 'you can do whatever you want' with the card.  They seemed to really like that.

They want us to come back so we are hoping to go back and do Valentine's cards with them.  Next time we'll keep it simpler.  They seemed to like coloring the best and having more choices, so we'll do that.

It was tiring.  We did a lot of pre-work (2 hours on Sunday cutting, cutting and more cutting) and not having been there before I was anxious all week for the event, but I think it was worth it.  I prayed before we went in that we would be 'the hands and feet of Jesus' and show some love to these ladies.    As I reflect on the evening I can't help but think of how I would handle it if I lived there.  Some of the ladies were my age and it's hard to imagine losing relationships and possessions to an addiction and having to rebuild a life from scratch.  I will continue to pray for these ladies (all of them) that they are successful at breaking those addictive bonds and really can start anew.

So before I go, let me share some of the cards I've been making.  This one was sent to my brother in Maine.  He turned 20 on Monday.  Happy Birthday Chris.

Next is a baby card for a woman at work who is expecting in January.

This next card below is a fun Christmas Card that uses the Mojo Monday Sketch Challenge.

I had fun using my October Afternoon Christmas papers with my Denami winter set.  And using the same paper pack, below is another card using my Memory Box dog sled card and die.  So darn sweet and doesn't that gingham paper make an awesome paper pieced jacket on our girl?

Thanks for visiting my blog today.  Have a great day.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Love - such a wonderful thing.

Today is blog post # 9 in my 12 blogs of Christmas.

Today's topic is love, but before I get to that, let me share my christmas card with you.  This one uses Taylored Expressions Woodland Forest.  I love this set.

Love.   Ah love, such a wonderful thing.  There is a Christmas song that is on my ipod called ‘when love came down.’  It’s a beautiful melody with inspiring words that describe how Christmas really is love because Jesus came to earth to show us God’s love for us. 

 But what really is love?  Everyone talks about love.  Everyone likes love.  Everyone wants more love in the world, but when we say love what do we mean?

Live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.'  Ephesians 5:2

I wonder if we all have the same definition of love that the bible teaches.  Many people talk about love as an emotion, as something you feel.  Like a married couple – I am in love with him so I will marry him or the opposite; I am no longer in love with him so I will divorce him.  Here love is an emotion or I like to say ‘love as a noun.’  The bible teaches that love is a verb.  It’s an action, not a state.  So, used in a sentence you would say ‘I loved him’ to describe specific actions you did to show love to him.  

It may seem like a subtle difference, but believe me, it is not the least bit subtle.  What if you ‘verb loved’ someone when you ‘noun loved’ wasn’t feeling it.  Do you agree that it would be possible to not feel the emotion of love toward someone but to act loving toward them anyway?

That is one of my objectives this Christmas.  I want to ‘noun love’ everyone I am with.  There are many who I will see at Christmas that I verb love.  Loving them will be a treat.  But I plan to take it further and verb love those who I don’t noun love.  How will I do it?   Well, I’ll start with the practical.  First, I’m going to make sure, this Christmas season, I get plenty of regular sleep, healthy food in my body and keep up my routine of exercise.  Believe me it’s going to be much easier to verb love these people when I’m at my physical best.  Second, I’m going to pray about my encounters with them.  I will start my prayers humbly acknowledging that I cannot really love anyone without God’s help.  I’ll also prayerfully consider that this person is a child of God.  And if God created them, God loved them and therefore I need to verb love them too.  Third, I’m going to encourage them and listen to them.  How better to verb love someone than that.  And along the way I may need to do a bit more forgiving.  Is my reason that I don’t noun love them because I am remembering some past hurt?  I need to let that go.

How about you?  Are there any people you’ll encounter this Christmas that you don’t noun love?  Will you verb love them?  What’s your strategy?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Panic or Prayer?

'Do not be anxious about anything, but, in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  Philippians 4:6

Today’s post is blog # 8 in my 12 blogs of Christmas and today I thought I’d talk about anxiety and worry, but before I do that, let me share my christmas card with you.

In our study of ‘the purpose of Christmas’ Rick Warren explained that one of the purposes of Christmas was to bring peace.  Jesus came to earth to bring us peace.  and he shall be called wonderful counselor, mighty God, prince of Peace.’  Rick  lists three kinds of peace that we should have because of Christmas.  Peace with God, Peace with ourselves and Peace with others.  So how is your peace with yourself?   Rick said we can worry or we can worship.  We can panic or we can pray.  What is your response?  I would be lying to you if I said I never worry or panic.  These hit me just like the next guy, but I think what is different for me as a faithful child of God is that I don’t let panic and worry linger.   I use scripture to counter these fearful thoughts and I don’t let myself dwell on them.

Trust me when I say it’s not easy to not panic or worry with my beautiful 23 year old daughter living in Eastern Europe.  I know that bad things like rape, murder and assault can happen to her anywhere, but she does have added risk living in a foreign country.  Have you seen the movie Taken?  How about Taken 2?  It’s very easy for my mind to run away with fearful thoughts of her being taken into forced prostitution or be attacked because she is perceived to be a rich American.  These are very real risks for her.    So how should I respond?  Should I live my life dealing with fearful emotions about this possible outcome?  Would my worrying help protect her from this?  Absolutely not.  So instead I focus on scripture and think ‘he who began a good work in you will see it through to completion.’  I think and pray on this scripture for Sarah and don’t let myself think of bad outcomes.  Am I naive?  I don’t think so.  I am aware of the dangers.  But can I remove the danger?  No, I can counsel Sarah in safe habits and lifestyles (which I have done – believe me) but beyond that, I can do very little to influence her risk.  I have to worship God and trust that He is in control.

So how about you?  Do you need a little peace within?   Why not start with prayer?  If Jesus is your Lord and Savior, ask Him to help with your fears.  If you don't know Jesus as your Lord and Savior why not ask someone (I'm happy to talk) about it?