Sunday, December 28, 2008
I hope you have had a wonderful time of celebration with your families. I'll post another picture or two as the week goes on and will get back to my regular posts next Sunday. Enjoy the last few days of 2008!
Thursday, December 25, 2008
As you can see, we have been making some merry Christmas memories the past couple of days :) And yes, our blonde Kelli is now a redhead! Hope you all are having fun times with your families, too. Merry Christmas to all!
p.s. If you missed reading my annual Christmas poem, scroll down to the next post and enjoy!
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Christmas Changes Everything
I love it when the seasons change
Whether winter, summer, fall, or spring,
And let’s not forget the Christmas season
For Christmas changes everything.
No other season transforms lives
Quite like Christmas does each year,
It alters everything we do
And turns our thoughts towards Christmas cheer.
We trim our homes with holiday beauty
We thrill in becoming Santa’s elves,
Our spirits soar to merry music,
With cookies and candies we treat ourselves.
These are just ways we celebrate
The night darkness was shattered by Light,
That holy first Christmas that changed everything
Keeps us rejoicing day and night.
The Light who forever changed the world
Longs to be our Savior and King,
To make the difference in your life and mine—
For Christmas changes everything.
"The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light...For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given..." Isaiah 9:2a, 6a KJV
*Flickr photo by AndrewEick
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
We were incredibly blessed this past Saturday to get to attend the college graduation of a very special young woman. I wrote about my friendship with Kayoko in my Nov. 11, 2007 post so just use the link to refresh your memory or read about it for the first time.
Not only were we blessed, but Kayoko was thrilled that we traveled to her university to be with her on her special day -- especially since her family, who live in Japan, could not attend. It also meant the world to her parents to know that we were helping their daughter celebrate her graduation.
After the graduation, we went to lunch with Kayoko and a large group of her friends -- other international students. I was a little nervous about going because communication with internationals can be challenging, and the Thai restaurant was also new to us. I'm so glad we pushed past our comfort level, though, and joined them. North America, Central America, South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa (I think) were all represented at our table. What an amazing experience to hear different languages being spoken all around us. Thankfully, they spoke English to us! :)
A couple of things: 1) Let me just encourage you to take advantage of opportunities to develop friendships with internationals. Friendships that cross borders bring rich blessings to all involved (the post from Nov. 07 elaborates). 2) Our God loves all people, knows every language and never has trouble understanding us, has crossed every border to be our Friend, and longs for us to love one another, regardless of any kinds of differences or "borders" we may have.
I'm so glad we crossed the border to enjoy friendship with Kayoko. What border is God calling you to cross?
"Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." 1 John 4:11
Sunday, December 14, 2008
You know what? It's fun adding a touch of holiday warmth to another person's life. Whether it's offering a steaming cup of cocoa after an evening of Christmas caroling or a cup of hot coffee to a homeless person taking refuge in a soup kitchen, such small acts of kindness have a way of warming not only the body but the soul as well.
I bet God will give us opportunities to touch others with His tender love and warm mercy this holiday season. The question is...will we be watching for them? Will we be ready to reach out and warm the heart of another?
Sometimes we can plan to reach out -- through ministries like Angel Tree or Operation Christmas Child, but other times the opportunities come in the blink of an eye. Things like holding the door for a frazzled mom who needs a helping hand, making eye contact with someone and offering warm thanks, or letting someone check out before us in one of those long holiday lines. Moments come and go so quickly... Let's try to be ready.
How has someone touched you with some holiday warmth? It doesn't matter if it happened two days ago or two decades ago. Take a moment and share it with us, won't you?
"And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased." Hebrews 13:16
*Flickr photo by byJoeLodge
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Temps dipped into the 30s by evening, but some steaming hot chocolate and a hot funnel cake helped keep my mind off of my icy hands and feet. And even though we missed taking in the shows because of the long lines, we loved seeing the spectacular light display that covered the city from corner to corner.
For those of you unfamiliar with this particular theme park, Silver Dollar City is a place where you can step back in time and get a taste of what life was like in the 1800s. Granted, the Christmas festival takes a bit of license with all the modern lights, but in the midst of it all, we still saw the blacksmith at work and the ladies in the candy store stretching peanut brittle. We heard the whistle of the train before seeing it round the bend as it sported its own holiday light finery. And more than all the old-time activities, the down-home friendly banter of the city's residents (aka the employees!) gave us a glimpse into the kinder, gentler America that is our heritage. I guess you could say the Christmas spirit abounds all year round in this particular corner of the Ozarks.
Today, though, I'd like to invite you to step back even further into time for a taste of something far more satisfying than a Christmas light display. Go back if you will to the time and the place that our Savior was born.
Take time to read with fresh eyes, the Christmas story as recorded in Luke chapter 2. Experience Mary's discomfort while traveling to Bethlehem at a point in her pregnancy when every step, every movement was an effort. Feel Joseph's panic rising at the "No Vacancy" news proclaimed at every inn. Imagine that holy moment when the Savior of the world tumbled into the waiting hands of those he came to save. Feel the shock and fear of the shepherds turn to hesitant joy as their routine night watch was interrupted by a host of angels delivering the news of the ages. Run with them to Bethlehem and join them as they approach the manger where Jesus lay. Be inspired along with them to share the news of a Savior's birth, and like Mary, take time to savor the wonder of it all. Take time to worship and adore. Be blessed, my friends, as you read:
"And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them." Luke 2:1-20 KJV
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Family Christmas Concerts
One tradition that enriches our Christmas Day festivities is our family Christmas concerts. Music has been part of our family for as long as I can remember, but several years ago we began a Christmas concert time that has become a yearly event.
My parents, sisters, and all of our families gather near the piano to enjoy special numbers being played or sung by various family members. Cameras flash all around, making it a real Kodak moment. As our children have grown older, the concerts have changed from simple melodies being pounded out by little fingers to more difficult arrangements being shared after much practice. I'm looking forward to this cycle repeating itself, though, as the youngest children are just now beginning to participate.
The concerts also include some singing. With my daughter Kristin accompanying me, I am the only one who has braved a solo, but we have had some impromptu group sing-a-longs that sound surprisingly good and put contented smiles on everyone's faces. Most importantly, everyone is a part of this tradition, whether it’s through playing piano, singing, taking pictures, or keeping little ones occupied. It’s truly a family effort.
Even preparing for the concerts promotes family communication and togetherness. My girls and I begin discussing possible selections for the concerts by early December and spend time practicing together if accompaniment is needed or duets are performed. Duets are fun and provide a sense of joint accomplishment. Sometimes parents perform with their children, but it’s always a treat to see the kids play together. Even though Kristin and my nephew Adam live hundreds of miles apart, they have worked up parts separately and then put them together for the concerts.
Many unforgettable memories have been made during these family concerts. Some are quite touching and worshipful, and others are just plain fun. When my younger daughter, Kelli, performed “Frosty the Snowman’ at age 5, she played with one hand and covered her eyes with the other just to prove she was really playing by ear!
A few tears are usually shed during the concerts, too. My parents are especially sentimental about their kids and grandkids, and their tears easily set off a chain reaction.
Above all, a spirit of worship is created year after year as we listen to the timeless music that proclaims the birth of our Savior. Our Christmas concerts join us together in spiritual moments that solidify and continue our family’s Christian heritage.
"And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." Luke 2:13-14 KJV
*Flickr photo by nightthree
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
As far back as I can remember, Mom made orange cakes for us on our birthdays. At least for those of us who requested them -- and that was nearly all of us because this cake is beyond delicious. I'm not sure where she got the recipe. As I remember, it was just from a small white paperback booklet of recipes, though I could be wrong (sisters, do you remember?). Regardless of its origin, it was a special cake made only on our special days, our birthdays.
Of course, I adopted Mom's orange cake recipe and have made it many times over the years myself -- again, usually only on someone's birthday. Several years ago, however, it got worked into our family's traditional Christmas fare. I believe it was Dad who suggested that we should really have a birthday cake for Jesus on His special day, and what better cake to have than the one we loved eating on our own birthdays?
The baking of Jesus' birthday orange cake somehow fell to me, and it has become my annual contribution to Christmas dinner. It's also become a great tool to show the children in the family that Christmas is in fact someone's birthday. The birthday of One so great that the world virtually comes to a standstill to join in the celebration.
And since a birthday celebration is not complete without the giving of gifts, let me be one of the first this season to give you a little gift in honor of our Savior's birthday -- the recipe for our birthday cake for Jesus. (You will find it at the end of the post below the scripture).
I'd also like to give you the opportunity to give a little gift. Maybe you'd like to tell us about one of your family's favorite Christmas treats or even give us the recipe. Or perhaps you can share one of the things your family does to focus on the birth of Jesus in the midst of all the holiday hoopla. So go ahead. What little gift can you give today?
"And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased." Hebrews 13:16
Fresh Orange Layer Cake
2 c. flour
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. soda
1 t. salt
1/2 c. shortening
grated rind of 1 orange
2/3 of 1 c. liquid (1/4 c. orange juice & 3/4 c. water)
Beat 2 minutes at medium speed and then add 2 eggs and rest of liquid. Mix well.
Pour into greased and floured 8-in. layer pans. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes (I start checking it at about 20 minutes -- my oven is crazy and I don't want to overbake it. Not sure what a regular oven would do -- I would start checking early.) Cool cake before frosting. (Go ahead and set out the margarine for the frosting so it can be getting soft.)
2 1/4 TB. flour
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. shortening (half margarine)
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 t. salt
1/2 t. vanilla
1/2 c. nuts
1 c. powdered sugar
Gradually blend milk into flour. Cook until thick. Cool till lukewarm.
Meanwhile, cream shortening (half margarine) with granulated sugar and salt, using high speed mixer. Add lukewarm paste. Beat until fluffy. Fold in vanilla and nuts. Use 1/3 for filling. To remainder blend in 1 c. powdered sugar and frost the cake.